What makes one person thrive while another barely survives? Why do some people seem to live almost effortlessly, while others go through life hanging on by their fingernails? Even Christians are not exempt. We cling to the Gospel's wonderful hope of heaven. But is that all there is? What about the problems in this present life? What do I do between now and eternity?
I believe there is a key difference between survivors and those who thrive in life. Or for Christians, between the survivors and the revivers! It's not just a difference between rich and poor. It's actually a different state of mind.
To describe this, let's look at the law of the jungle.
One of our family's favorite movies to watch during the holiday season is Home Alone. You're no doubt familiar with the storyline: 8-year-old Kevin is left behind by his rather large (and obnoxious) family when they travel to France, and ends up defending his upper-middle-class home from a dynamic robber-duo named the "Wet Bandits." Two hours of hilarious pranks and traps set by this tyke end with a Christmas day arrest of the bandits and a much-matured little boy.
What we love about this movie is the creative ingenuity of a child that outwits the "professionals." Using only the resources he has at hand, most of them commonplace in an 8-year-old's world, he masterminds a strategy that is so unexpected to the pros, it almost has to succeed! From the ice on the stairs to the toy cars in the hall, we watch Kevin outwit and - just barely - outlast the enemies, until he is reunited with his family. The cops don't show up until the boy has done his job protecting his home.
Speaking to me yet again in His unusual way, God drew my attention this week to His "Home Alone" story in the Bible. Luke puts it just after the "traditional" Christmas readings of the birth of Jesus, in chapter two:
Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.
And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus
stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,
but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey,
but then they began to search for him among their relatives and
acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem,
searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.
And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so?
Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know
that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying
that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to
Nazareth and was submissive to them.
And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Luke 2:41-52, ESV
Jesus was a boy of twelve who, like Kevin, was left behind in His Father's house. Three full days went by before his parents returned to find Him quite peacefully settled in His temple, debating with the scholars. Like Kevin, Luke tells us he grew and matured after this, due in part, perhaps, to engaging His "enemies" (the religious leaders) who would later persecute him.
In the movie, Kevin listened to the robbers and learned the very hour they planned to rob his family's house, so he had time to prepare a strategy that would defeat them. In Luke's text, Jesus is said to have both "listened" and "asked questions" of His future tormentors. Their dialogue gave Him valuable insights concerning the scribes and Pharisees. It was these very same leaders whom He would "trap" with His own questions later in life.
The boy Jesus grew, matured, and learned how to defend His Father's house - the temple - from those would would defile it. His strategies were different; He used words, not toys, as His traps, but he successfully enacted His plan to restore to God what was stolen by the enemy.
Bringing It Home
Here's what's interesting about these stories. I believe God regularly gives us "home alone" moments in life, too. We are never completely alone, of course, but God gives us moments when our normal support systems - friends, family, or even the voice of God Himself - disappear for various reasons. We come face to face with spiritual or natural enemy forces, and we learn to defend what we love from predators who would rob us. Forced to draw upon inner strength and the resources we have at hand, we learn to stand our ground and fight back.
Like David the Psalmist, we may find that using the standard "grownup armor" isn't the best strategy. We learn that the resources most familiar to us at the time can be effective, no matter what stage of life we are in. Our unique gifts and talents are surprisingly adequate, in God, to overcome our enemy. In fact, it is what enemy is not expecting from us - like our slingshots - that yield the greatest results!
Be Who You Are!
My hope is that this simple analogy will encourage you to be who you are now at this time in God, and not to belittle yourself because your faith or your gifts are too small. The truth is, none of us is fully mature yet. The wonderful thing about God is that He takes our childlike efforts and multiplies their effectiveness with His power. As my spiritual dad always says, "We win!"
Are you ready to use your unique abilities to defend the Kingdom of God in your life? When you use your gifts, you do real and lasting damage to the enemy. Your confessions of faith set angels in motion. You overcome your fears and grow up a bit in the process. And God is gonna be impressed with your bravery and zeal for His house. I guarantee it!
c.Deborah Perkins, 2014
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. Follow Deborah on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins, or click here to subscribe to her blog.
There’s going to be a time, in your life as a believer, when your witness or your worship of God differentiates you so much that it infuriates the enemy. When you suffer, not because of some sin in your life, but because of something you’ve done right. It is a time when your enemy turns the fiery furnace up seven times hotter – and then throws you into it. Congratulations… you’ve just been promoted!
It's time to give the devil a one-two punch! You're familiar with the term, of course: a boxer throws a left-handed jab immediately followed by a right cross punch. The same technique is also used in fencing. It's a fast combination of two actions designed to give an athlete the upper hand. If you're a believer, you should be using a "one-two punch" strategy today. Here's why.
Current events are unfolding at an alarming pace. The war on terror is expanding, reaching many nations. Most of us lack the political influence we might feel we need to effect change. In light of this, the enemy wants us to feel hopeless. He knows that powerlessness can lead to fear. Luke 21:26 confirms that in the end times, men's hearts will fail them "from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming in the earth."
Preemptive Prayer & Compassionate Provision
The Bible offers hope, though, in the form of a one-two punch. The first punch is prayer, and the second is provision.
The Bible says that our prayers are powerful and effective (James 5:16). They work because we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places, where all things are subject to Him (Ephesians 1:20-22). As joint-heirs with Christ, we receive the blessing of being "above only and not beneath" (Deuteronomy 28:13).
This means that as we pray, no matter how impotent we may be in the natural, we rise to become agents of transformation in the Spirit. We partner with Jesus in His ministry of intercession. By tapping into the unlimited reach and resources of the Holy Spirit, we now pray and effect change at every level of government, business, education, religion and any other man-made institution.
Joseph as Prototype
The eleventh son of Jacob is a prophetic prototype for us here. After being sold into slavery and betrayed several times, Joseph was transformed from reject to ruler. He left the dungeon of the enemy and was promoted to second-in-command of Pharaoh's kingdom (Genesis 37-50). Like Jesus, he used his prayers of faith to enter in to a place of provision. Having overcome his own adversity through prayer, he then helped others to overcome, through practical provisions for a worldwide famine.
I believe we have a similar purpose. Rather than succumbing to fear, we can throw the first "punch" of prayer and follow it up with a second "punch" of provision for the disasters that do occur. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, we are wise to prepare our families in advance for whatever the "winter" season may bring, so that we are safe and can serve others in time of need. We can be "angels with skin on," ministering servants empowered by the voice of the Lord and serving humanity with practical assistance or spiritual gifts.
No More Shadowboxing
We are created to be strong spiritual athletes: to fight the good fight of the faith and to fear nothing. Paul says we are not called to be shadowboxers, Christians who throw ineffective punches at the air (See 1 Corinthians 9:26). Our faith is the antidote to fear, and our faith gives us a specific strategy for a Kingdom "win." What will you do with your spiritual authority in these dark days?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Want to know God better?
Join us! Partners receive free, inspiring articles and ongoing prayer.Click here to subscribe. Your email stays private.
In the beginning, God commanded man to “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28).
From the garden of Eden to the global marketplace, God has been actively teaching people what might be called “supernatural math.” The basic curriculum introduces the natural laws of procreation, growth and prosperity, such as sowing and reaping, which are easily understood. Yet for the New Testament believer, there’s what you might call an “AP” course. Just for fun, let's expand this analogy a bit further and imagine the Christian as a "student" of the Word.
A new believer quickly realizes that God’s standard curriculum will only get him so far. He can apply all the basic biblical rules of sowing and reaping, giving and doing good works, and find a measure of success. Then Christ comes and raises the bar, saying he can do “greater things” than the Lord Himself did on earth! How is that possible? There is no way that one man, in his own strength, can be as “fruitful” as Christ without wearing himself out!
So God leads His student to an “advanced” principle, found in John 15:1-10: “without Me you can do nothing.” Abiding in Christ - in other words, living a life led by the Holy Spirit - causes him to bear much more fruit than trying to live life on his own. Relying on the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and listening to an omniscient teacher’s insights causes him to increase beyond what is humanly possible. A supernatural law takes effect, with God’s power exponentially multiplying all that the man does.
Suddenly, the Christian’s efforts at home and in the marketplace are immensely successful. He now knows that he is fulfilling the original mandate to “be fruitful and multiply,” but realizes that this goes far beyond siring children or planting vegetables! He has a new understanding of God’s methods and purposes, to bring in a spiritual harvest. Supernatural mathematics have taken effect.
However, the believer’s work will next be tested. As he meditates on Christ’s example in the Gospels, and follows the apostles through the book of Acts, he will see a second law at work, one upon which the law of multiplication sometimes depends. It is the law of division.
The first example God gives him is of Christ on the cross. Here is God’s most faithful "student," both disciple and son, being persecuted and broken. To the natural mind, it makes no sense. Even Christ’s disciples did not see, after three years, why their Master and King must die; it would seem to end his fruitful reign. (Division). Prior to the resurrection, they did not have a grasp of supernatural division. But the Lord knew it would be better for Him to be broken, so that all, not just a few, would experience the power of the indwelling Spirit. (Multiplication).
Their only previous point of reference was the feeding of the 5,000, found in all four Gospels. Christ had “tested” Phillip, his disciple and student at the time, to see how 5,000 men could be fed with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. (John 6:5-6) The disciples’ sole solution was to try and buy more food, something they could not afford. The Lord’s answer was to multiply by dividing first. (Taking the bread, he blessed it... broke it... distributed it…) As He divided and distributed, the food multiplied. There was such an increase that everyone ate as much as they wanted, and afterwards, there were still 12 baskets full!
As our Christian continues to study, he realizes that there is a biblical pattern of division leading to multiplication. A young boy’s loaves were divided and then multiplied. Christ, the bread of life, was broken, resulting in Pentecost and the multiplication of the Spirit. And in Acts, more supernatural math occured: persecution arose against the church through Herod, scattering the believers, and they were divided from Jerusalem and each other. But the Word of God multiplied and was distributed “everywhere” (Acts 8:4), ultimately reaching the Gentiles and the ends of the earth. Phillip himself became a faithful distributor of the Word, preaching the Gospel and doing miracles himself! Amazing!
A final lesson for our student is found in 2 Timothy 2:15. Paul writes to his student, Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” What an interesting choice of words! Here's Timothy, a young disciple of Christ, learning division. He is being trained to “rightly divide” (or interpret and distribute) the Word for his audience, providing accurate teaching. Right understanding and distribution of the Word would directly counter the “unprofitable strivings” and deceptions that could hinder the gospel’s multiplication. (2 Tim. 2:14).
“Supernatural math” students realize that division is sometimes necessary in order for multiplication to occur. A fruitful branch undergoes pruning in order to increase still more. (John 15:2). There are times when God allows us to be divided, even persecuted, and yet His Kingdom continues to grow. The underground church in China is a good illustration of this.
Is God applying supernatural math principles to your life right now? After experiencing a time of fruitfulness, are you now wondering why there is division? Has abiding in Christ brought unanticipated separation or persecution? Sometimes what we perceive as negative attacks on our faith are necessary divisions or pruning designed to make us more productive. In those times, our teacher, the Holy Spirit, can show us how to pray until we reach the place of fruitfulness again.
c.Deborah Perkins, 2014; All references NKJV
Like what you see here?
Pull up a chair and join me
for weekly conversations about following God!
To subscribe, click on the photo at left.
Thanks for reading!
Free Link to the Subscriber Resource Library when you join His Inscriptions!
A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.