Stop looking back — look ahead!

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

Luke 9:62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Some time ago, I wrote a devotional about not worrying for tomorrow because tomorrow holds its own worries. But it occurred to me recently, that just about as often as we worry for tomorrow, we fret about yesterday. How many times do we find ourselves saying, "I wish things could be the way they were, I wish I was younger, I wish I could fit into those jeans again, I wish I didn't make that terrible mistake … you fill in the blank"?

The Lord doesn't want us constantly looking back at what once was. Our enemy does — he wants us to feel discouraged and helpless and ruminate over and over on what we can never change. Sure, if we need to repent or make something right, we ought to go ahead and do it. But God doesn't want us drowning in self-pity or regret about past mistakes, or hopelessly longing for what can never be again . He wants us to look ahead. He wants us to say, "Forget what was – the future is where my destiny lies and I will meet the Lord there in His purposes for me." That's faith. And it's well based in everything Yeshua (Jesus) has done for us, promised us, and called us to.

So, let's stop looking back in fear or bondage to the past – it's long gone already. Let's move ahead and press toward the new things that the Lord has for us in our lives. Our God is always making things new, and redeeming what was before.

Press through the Swamps!

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

Psalms 107:2-6 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.

In his book, Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan has written one of the most beautiful allegories about the journey we all travel as a believers.  The book describes the hero, Christian, and his journey from the City of Destruction to his heavenly destination, the Celestial City. Now there's one part of Pilgrim's Progress that I want to focus on today — walking through the Swamp of Despondency!

At one point during their travels, Christian and his companion suddenly find themselves there….in the Swamp of Despondency. Still bearing his burden, Christian, begins to sink in the mire.  His traveling companion manages to get out, but he returns to the City of Destruction without giving aid to Christian.  Christian is left all alone and sinking even deeper in the mire, until Help, the allegorical figure for the Holy Spirit, pulls him free from the swamp.

Christian then asks Help why this dangerous plot of land has not been mended so that poor travelers might go safely to the Celestial City. Help replies, "This miry slough is such a place that cannot be mended."

How true it is in real life!  As hard as we try to avoid them, whether young in the Lord, or spiritually mature…swamps of despondency seem inevitable, and we must struggle through them!

Charles Spurgeon once wrote to his students in the book, "Lectures to my Students", "Fits of depression come over most of us.  Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down.  The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.  There may be here and there men of iron…but surely the rust frets even these."

There are times in our lives when we will struggle through the swamps of despondency — but praise God that He has provided us a helper for those times of need!  We need to press through, seeking and trusting the power of the Holy Spirit to pull us out of those nasty swamps, and set our feet back upon the Rock of our salvation.  Let's also look around us to see our brethren who may be struggling in the swamps of despondency, so that, rather than abandoning them, we might give them a hand on their journey to the celestial city!

Seeking Victory by the Power of His Spirit!

Judges 14:5-6 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done.

Judges 16:20 And she (Delilah)said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.

Samson is a powerful example of a man of God who won his battles over and over again because the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. Yet when he was finally defeated by Delilah's temptations he didn’t realize that the Lord had left him, so effective was the woman's spell.

The enemy is subtle and the temptations of the flesh can so quickly quench the presence and power of God's spirit that we may not even realize it has happened. But this anointing of the Holy Spirit is our Life….and our victory. Opposition can be destroyed and burdens can be lifted when His wonderful Presence fills and rests upon us. Our greatest battle is maintaining that internal communion with Him by His Spirit. Temptations, bad habits, our sinful nature, demonic attacks, all these collaborate to rob us of this holy anointing, our communion with God, and our only real power over every enemy!

Samson's victories vividly demonstrate the tremendous power of the anointing. His power over the Philistines was legendary and truly heroic. But when he lost his anointing, they nearly destroyed him. How critical it is in these days to keep our lamps burning with the holy "oil" of Yeshua's (Jesus') anointing. His goodness will defeat the evils around us…His light will banish darkness…His joy will annihilate our depression…His forgiveness will root out all bitterness…His love will overcome our natural hatred…and every subtle deception will be exposed by His excellent TRUTH! Seek HIS ANOINTING, the fullness of the Holy Spirit — He will equip you to break every yoke of bondage and defeat every internal and external enemy.

And, please don’t find yourself in the condition of Samson, in the arms of his lust, not even realizing that the anointing had left him. The cost was enormous, even though he was restored. Instead, guard yourself against the subtle temptations of this world seeking more and more of His indwelling Presence. That anointing will produce one victory after another. Amen.

Work it out!

Php 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

One of the paradoxes of our walk is that God’s gifts often require work on our part. After He delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, the Lord led them to the Promised land and told them He was going to "give" it to them. It wasn't long before they realized, however, that they were going to have to fight battles and overcome fortified cities in order to inhabit the land. God did promise that they would not have to fight the battles on their own, but even with this divine advantage the Israelites themselves would be required to destroy their enemies – they would still need to fight.

They might have preferred that God just give them the land, without having to do anything; to just walk into already built cities and houses without any conflict or opposition. But this was not God’s plan. He desired and expected their full cooperation, expecting them to take serious responsibility for the destiny He had prepared for them, and to grow in faith, thereby.

Our situation is similar. Though the gift of our salvation is free, the Lord requires us to work it out…with fear and trembling! [Phil. 2:12] We are not automatically or supernaturally filled with knowledge of the Bible, or faith to move mountains, or the power to pray without ceasing. Instead, we discover that we have to fight the fight of faith, taking serious responsibility for the destiny He has prepared for us.

Are you discouraged because the walk of a believer is more difficult than you imagined and the challenges greater than you expected? Don’t be! God is calling you to the simple responsibility of working out your faith and participating in your own destiny. You can be grateful that He doesn't treat you like a helpless infant who has no part in shaping his/her life, but as a growing adult who can rejoice in his/her participation with a loving and powerful Creator.

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

It happened to the best of them!

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

Psalms 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

David is called a “man after God’s own heart.” Considering that he lusted after his neighbor's wife, committed adultery with her, and had her husband murdered, the Lord's description of him is remarkable. How could a man who was convicted a murderer and an adulterer also be called one after God’s own heart?

The answer is simple but profound: God did not regard David according to the actions of his sinful nature, but according to the deepest motivations and disposition of his heart and will; and these were revealed by David's response to the conviction which Nathan the prophet brought upon him; a conviction which brought immediate total confession and repentance, and a broken and contrite heart. This response exemplified the shepherd king's walk with God throughout the entire journey of his life .

If, after David had fallen he made excuses, rationalized, or resisted the clear message of his sinfulness it would have been a totally different story. His heart would have revealed a self-justifying, self-righteous attitude with no realization of his absolute need for God's mercy. This would have defeated and defined him as a man after his own heart. But the immediacy and completeness of David's confession qualified him for the Lord's forgiveness and mercy, saving him from death and restoring him to that most treasured relationship of his life, his relationship with YHVH.

The consequences of his sin were very serious and followed David all the days of his life. But he demonstrated the genuineness of his repentance by never railing against God for the troubles which followed him as a consequence of his sin with Batsheva. David always rose up, submitted, and humbly praised God, writing wonderful psalms and pouring out his heart before the Lord. He served God and worshiped Him all his life. So the Lord God didn't reckon David’s life by his fall – but by his walk, and by his heart.

We all stumble in many ways, but God does not define us by our failures. It's our love for Him and our honesty before Him that reveals a true walk of faith! So if you fell, you messed up, your sin got the best of you, then come clean. Make your confession. Accept the consequences without complaining, allow the Lord to forgive and restore you completely, and continue on your journey with Him. That was David's heart. His example is worthy to follow. May you also be one of those that lived their life “after God’s own heart!”