The Next Level

In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character keeps reliving the same day over and over again. He tries everything to break the cycle, but until he learns what he was meant to learn he is stuck repeating the same things over and over again. While we may not actually repeat the same exact day again and again, I bet most of us could say we have felt stuck in some way and unable to get to the next level.

When I need a break from work, I play a computer game. I had been playing the same level for what seemed like forever when I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before: a tool. When I used that tool, I was able to complete the round and move on to the next challenge. The harder the level, the more rewards you collect. I find the same thing true in my spiritual walk. As I try to grow and mature, I find myself stuck only to find that the tools I needed were there all along.

This week I have been reading two devotional books, one for writers and one on giving your dreams to God. Thursday they both had the same general message from two different angles about committing your work to the Lord. Then I listened to a podcast that talked about working from a place of rest. When I hear the same ideas or verses of scripture coming from multiple places, I have learned to take note. Here’s what I learned:

First, if we want to move to the next level spiritually, we have to do the work, but not just any work.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

While works won’t save us, there is still work to be done. This verse points out that God already had a plan for our lives, a work we were designed to do. When we fall in line with God and pick up his yoke, we find a satisfaction and enjoyment that exceeds anything we dreamed of even when the going is difficult or the work seems mundane.

Once we find the work God has us to do, we have to commit it to God:

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:5

Psalms 37:5

Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel. We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.

Psalms 20:4-5

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.

Proverbs 16:3

When you dedicate your dreams to God, you have to trust Him and let go. It sounds simple and easy, but it’s not. We humans have a hard time trusting and letting go. He is a good Father who only wants the best for His children, so He is trustworthy. When we do let go, God always gives back more than we ever dreamed. Too often we try to hedge God in with our small ideas when He has much bigger things planned.

When we have committed it to God, then we can work from a place of rest.

For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.

Isaiah 30:15

When we let God set our boundaries, we can do the work that we were called to do but at a sustainable pace. Too often we allow the world to set the pace, one which is not healthy or meaningful. They call it a rat race for a reason. If we will let God show us which opportunities to take and which ones to let go, we can work from a place of rest knowing we are doing His will.

Then, we can look at each day as a chance to start fresh. Unlike the movie, we don’t have to repeat the same level. We can take the next step in our journey, the next level: we just need to remember:

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalms 118:24

So, let’s take each day one day at a time. If nothing else, the last year taught us that while it’s good to make plans, those plans can change. When we let God have the reins and lead the way, we know we will be going in the right direction and can just enjoy the ride. We can rejoice and be glad.

When you feel overwhelmed by your To-Do List, take a step back and lift it up to the Lord. Ask Him to show you what He wants you to do. You may find that some tasks need to come off of the list, or you may find that God makes a way for everything to get done. Either way, the road is a lot smoother when we take up His yoke instead of dragging everything by ourselves. He wants to give us the life of rest we truly long for if we will only let Him.

Is there something God wants to take off of your To-Do list?

Letting Go

 

Sometimes more is not better. At one point in time I had four part-time jobs. I had a steady job that I worked 4 days a week, plus another job working in a friend’s shop on Saturdays and some afternoons after my regular job. Then, I also taught English at an online university on a fairly regular basis and occasionally did scoring work for another company online. It seemed like I should have more than enough money, but no matter how much I made, it always seemed to slip through my fingers. I could never get ahead to the point where I could write because I was always too busy. I had too much to do.

One day I got a notice that the online school was closing abruptly due to bankruptcy. Gone was one of my backups. Then, because of the Pandemic, my other online work was cancelled that I was depending on to pay some unexpected bills. How would I cover those now?

Gideon and the 300

Gideon faced an even greater challenge than personal finances. He was called to lead the Israelites into battle against the Philistines, a strong nation with a substantial army. Gideon rallied 32,000 men for the battle, which seemed insufficient in comparison to their enemy. Yet, in Judges 7:2, God says:

“And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me…  And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place” (Judges 7:2,7).

Gideon was probably thinking too many men? What? Aren’t more men in battle better? However, God points out that if Israel went into battle with 32,000 men, then they will think they won the battle on their own merit. He wanted them to trust Him for deliverance, and not themselves. On top of cutting the army down to 300, God told Gideon to send the rest of the men home. While it wasn’t easy to hear that he should take only 300 men into battle, it was probably even harder to send the rest home, knowing he wouldn’t have any backup if things didn’t go well. He had to let go and trust God with the outcome. In the end, Gideon obeyed God and the Israelites were victorious because God went ahead of them, winning the battle using an unorthodox approach (read the rest of chapter 7 for details).

In my own life, I had been depending on the extra jobs as a backup when God wanted me to trust Him to provide for my needs. When I let go of trying to find replacement jobs and focused on writing instead, I began to see some success. I had an article, a devotional, and a Bible study published. While it wasn’t a lot of money, it added to my publication clips and increased my confidence that I was doing what I was called to do. In the meantime, other income came in to cover some of the unexpected bills. In order to move forward, I had to let go of the old so that God could open up new opportunities.

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). If we want God to do a new thing in our lives, we have to be willing to let go of the old. So, open your hands, let go, and see what God will do.