The Illusion of No Progress

beautiful-roots

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

-Habakkuk 3:17-18

For many of us, there’s a situation in your life that shows no signs of progress, no signs of life, no signs of fruit on the tree. No indication of anything good resulting from your prayers, your obedience, your investment, your effort, your faith.

It’s easy to wonder if your prayers are working, if your obedience is worth it, if your faith is enough.

Why, God, is nothing happening though I’ve been sowing seed and watering for so long now?

These kinds of seasons will enter our lives to prompt our waiting… and require our trust.

To prepare us for what’s next.

Still, it’s easy to look at what’s not happening and assume nothing is working.

These less than favorable seasons in our lives can drag on and on, as days turn to months and months turn to years.

It’s hard enough to navigate this uncomfortable terrain, much more difficult to adapt to the monotony of the made-permanent conditions of a waiting zone. The illusion of no progress is a constant reminder. And disappointment a nagging temptation.

When God has you in a waiting zone where He is working out things you cannot see, it’s easy to assume no progress is being made.

That nothing has changed.

That God has abandoned you.

That you are getting nowhere.

But maybe there’s more progress taking place than we realize.

What if there is unseen progress underlying the barren tree? Underlying roots growing deep into the foundation of God’s promise about to bloom?

We have to look into the illusion of no progress with eyes of faith and a heart of confidence in God’s handiwork, believing that God is creating something beautiful about to bloom.

It just takes time.

But it will happen.

We must remind ourselves of what God promised, even when what we see doesn’t match up.

Abraham was a man familiar with the illusion of no progress.

Abraham was in the waiting zone every day of his life after the Word of the Lord came to Him promising him a son and descendants as numerous as the stars.

“And He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then He said to him, So shall your offspring be.”

Genesis 15:5

God promised Abraham a son.

Yet nothing happened, immediately.

“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” he says to God in Genesis 17:17.

No son.

An illusion of no progress.

Them God came to Abraham again in Genesis 18:10 declaring the same promise, “The Lord said, “I will certainly come back to you in about a year’s time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him.”

More waiting.

Still no son.

An illusion of no progress.

Altogether Abraham and Sarah would wait 25 years until this promise would become a reality.

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.”

Genesis 21:1-2

Illusion of no progress shattered.

His son was born.

God fulfilled what He had promised.

Paul writes of Abraham in Romans 4:18, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abraham is praised for his faith.

Even though he and Sarah doubted they could have a son.

This is quite interesting.

Abraham and Sarah doubted they could have a son and took matters into their own hands to have a son. Hagar, the maidservant, became their hope for having a son instead of God.

“Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said.”

-Genesis 16:2

What’s remarkable about this is that Sarah and Abraham tried to have a son through Hagar before God ever promised them a son through Sarah. Yes, God promised Abraham in Genesis 15 the that he would have an heir. But in this culture, the man having children through a maidservant or other wife was normal. Sarah wasn’t trying to disobey God as much as she was just trying to be logical and operate out of her cultural framework. And when a lady of her age could not have children to give her husband an heir, going to her maidservant for an heir woukd have been the standard next step. So Sarah took a good look at reality and said, well if I can’t have a son I’ll just have one through Hagar.

Sarah had given up.

She didn’t even have the comprehension to know that God would be kind enough to give her a son.

Sarah was just at her wits end and trying to do the best she could with the life and body she had. So she gave up and gave in to the only option she thought she had left: having a son through Hagar.

But God wanted more for Sarah.

Sarah never even knew that this would be possible.

Wow this is so powerful seeing this in the scriptures. I am overwhelmed thinking about how even after Sarah gave up that God cared enough about her to step in and give back to her what she had just given up.

God saw that Sarah gave up.

And THAT was the very point in time that God stepped in and gave her a promise of a blessing of a son who they would call Isaac (Genesis 17:19).

God is so gracious to fulfill what He promises even when we doubt. Even when we don’t see a way. Even when we give up.

Maybe God’s waiting on you to give up so He can step in and give what only He can give.

Maybe you need to humble yourself and recognize your inability to produce the progress you desire. And let God step in and produce the progress for you.

Many of us need to give up and let God intervene so He can provide His promise.

Others of us may have already received a promise from God and need to keep trusting in the waiting zone while He brings you into the Promised Land. 

The Israelites had already received their promise from God.

They were on their way to the Promised Land.

Unlike Sarah who gave up before she received her promise from God, the Israelites wanted to give up after they received their promise from God.

How ironic.

“The Israelites said to Moses: “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” in Exodus 14:11.

Again in Numbers 20:5: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

And again in Numbers 21:5: “And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

This is shocking.

Then again, maybe not so shocking.

Have you ever let the uncertainty of your circumstances and a paralyzing illusion of no progress deplete your appreciation for the promise God gave you?

Are you getting frustrated with the waiting?

I’m not getting anywhere so why keep going? kinds of thoughts can plague our minds like poison.

I’ve been there.

I’ve been so frustrated and disappointed in the waiting that I almost forget the hope of the promise God gave me. And that’s just what the enemy wants. For you to get so discouraged by the preparation journey that you want to give up on it altogether.

If only we knew how close we were!

“The enemy always sends a terrorist alert right when we get close to what God has promised us,” says Steven Furtick.

The enemy’s goal is to destroy you. And if he can’t, he’ll do everything he can to make you feel like God is torturing you instead of taking you to the Promised Land. Then you will want to give up.

The Israelites didn’t realize how close they were!

They were on the outskirts of the Promised Land!

Right on the very edge of it!

Yet discouraged…

…because they were presently in a waiting zone…

…looking straight into an illusion of no progress…

So they wanted to turn back.

And it made them wander around in the wilderness for 40 years.

The enemy wants us to wander around in the wilderness like the Israelites and miss out on God’s promise. We can’t let that happen.

It’s crucial we hold onto the promise and yield to the Lord in the uncomfortableness of the journey.

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

I have to believe that God cares about me and that this difficult path is an inevitable step of my journey towards where He is taking me ultimately.

I know don’t want to wander around in the wilderness for even one second longer than God planned for me to.

God knows what He’s doing.

His direction is purposeful.

His leading, although confusing to me, is perfect to Him.

It takes us giving up our rationality to trust in His command and do what He says without telling God, “but what if…”.

We can’t give up on where God is taking us out of discouragement for being in a drought that precedes the Promised Land.

A drought always precedes the Promised Land.

Because God is calling you out of what is mediocre into what is a surplus.

Thus, there will be a contrast of environments.

It’s natural for there to be hardships, struggles, testing, trials and drought right before you come into the Promised Land because God is preparing you to be able to handle the blessing He wants to give you.

God will not give you a blessing that you would take for granted and not appreciate.

Thus, He lets you go through the lows of the drought so you will appreciate the highs of the Promised Land.

God lets you endure the pain of the human experience so that you will give glory to Him as you enter into the blessings of a divine inheritance.

It’s in this process that God becomes great and we become not the focus anymore.

He must become greater; I must become less.”

John 3:30

While we are in the illusion of no progress, we know that there is indeed progress. There is.

There are roots growing deep into the foundation of the promise God is growing in your life.

We may not see any progress yet but if we were to glimpse all the progress that is being made in unseen places we would be astounded at all God is doing!

Praise be to God who is creating beautiful things in our lives and restoring hearts. Praise be to the God who is constantly working for our good. There is always progress taking place in our lives, even in the unseen places.

I pray you would cling to His promises. I pray you would let Him redeem the broken places in your life that have given up hope. God sees you and He’s on the way to give you a promise. Seek Him. Though the journey may be weary, His spirit will strengthen you as God leads you into what He’s promised. Hallelujah. Thank you Jesus for never giving up on us.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

– 2 Corinthians 4:18

 

Questions for Today:

  • What situation in your life seems to show no progress?
  • Am I in the position of Sarah, who needs to give up so God can give me His promise? Or am I in the position of the Israelites who have already received a promise from God and need to keep yielding to God in the waiting of the journey?
  • What is my response in what I see as an illusion of no progress?
  • How can I be thankful for God preparing me even in the waiting?
  • How can I remind myself daily that God always fulfills His promises?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“Love of God,” by NCU Worship LIVE

Your Achilles Heel is God’s Secret Weapon

achilles-heel

I’m finding that God uses the very thing in our lives that makes us feel like a failure to help us recognize His power to accomplish things and not our own means. The same thing you see as a weakness to you is actually the very thing God will use to make you strong for His kingdom. He created you and I that way for a reason.

I have one little boy in my classroom who can be a challenge at times. And I’m beginning to see how this is a good thing.  How it reveals his strengths. Even in his weakness to be talkative and disruptive in my classroom.

One day he decided to stand up on the chair and start coyote howling in class. It wasn’t before long that everyone else followed his lead.

Yet, I see a lot in this student.

Even in his weakness.

I see how the same weakness that inspires Sebastian to confidently communicate and gain everyone’s attention to start coyote howling in the middle of my lesson is actually a strength that will make him a confident leader one day. He’s just got to learn how to harness this strength and use it in the proper place and time. And he will.

It’s easy to feel like the thing that makes us weak is going to be our Achilles heel our whole life. But what if it’s not?

What if your Achilles heel is actually God’s great secret weapon?

God let you be weak in that area so that you could learn how to seek God to find real strength in that area.

He’s making you strong.

But He lets you be weak.

Lest you forget that He’s the one who has the power to make all things happen. Like Paul, your thorn in your flesh will be covered by his grace (2 Corinthians 12:7) . And you will be strong because of the Lord. What a comfort to know it’s God who makes us strong and not ourselves.

“In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation.”

-1 Peter 5:10

If we did not have an Achilles heel or a weak area, we would think we were the ones who accomplished everything.

And God does not want that.

God does not want us to assume we are the powerful ones who accomplished everything on our own.

So maybe, our Achilles heel is God’s secret weapon to keep us close to Him.

Where we can be strengthened by the real source of strength.

Comforted by the real comforter.

Find power from the real power source.

Be great through the only One who is truly great: God.

We must turn to Him in the midst of our weaknesses or else our weakness will remain weakness. If want to find strength in the Lord we must seek Him. It involves repentance, humility, surrender and a desire to want to do things God’s way and not our own.

Seeking Him will never leave us drained.

It will refresh us and calm the anxiety that accompanies an undealt with Achilles Heel. But dealing with it through seeking the Lord will heal our hearts and renew strength we need.

Let God encourage your heart with the wonder of His power making us stronger through even our weakest places. Hallelujah.

“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? – the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me on the heights.”

-Psalm 18:32-33

Questions for Today:

  • What are weaknesses?
  • Why did God let me be weak?
  • How can the Lord convert my weakness into strength?
  • Why is my Achilles heel God’s secret weapon?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?