Sunday, April 30, 2017

WHAT IS SUCCESS? GOD IS THE JUDGE

DID I “MISS IT?
In our darkest moments we often think we have failed or that we have not lived up to our potential. To some degree this may be true for most of us. But ultimately we must do our best... and leave the judgment to God.
In a dark dungeon and about to be beheaded, John the Baptist sent word to Jesus saying, “Are you the ONE or do we look for another?” These sad words express the despair of one who, for a moment, thought he had failed. Jesus responded with words of reassurance letting John know that the work he started was going forth gloriously with signs and wonders, and that John had correctly pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world.
A FRIEND'S QUESTION:
A friend who was struggling with a sense of failure recently sent me the following message:
"Here is my question, Billy Long: If I can’t see that I have accomplished much with my life thus far for the Kingdom, and certainly not what I may have expected to back in our salad days at ORU, how realistic is it to believe my story is going to dramatically alter and start counting for something at 60 years old~?! (And don’t even get me to speculate as to whether I would be willing to endure anything like what R____ has in order for that dramatic change to occur.)" ---L. P.
MY RESPONSE
We must serve Jesus Christ in the present. Obedience now (today) is not based on what we accomplished “yesterday.” We walk with Him NOW. Tomorrow is in His hands. The fruit and the results are also all in His hands. I don’t obey and walk with Him today based on what I think I will have accomplished tomorrow. I don’t obey today based on whether or not I did yesterday. I reach out and take His hand today, and follow Him “now.”
Fruit and accomplishments are also His to judge and deal with. Pick any Israelite family during the 400 years in Egypt when God was silent, and all they knew was the routine daily trudge and toil as slaves. Subjectively it would have felt like the biggest waste and futility of life. But they HAD to just BE THERE. Even when empty, desperate, half-dead, and hurting, they had to just simply be a link in the lineage, a holder of the baton until the fullness of time came and Moses arrived to take them to Canaan. There had to be physical lineage links from Jacob and Joseph to Moses and Canaan.
GOD IS THE JUDGE OF SUCCESS AND FAILURE
David completed his course and served the purpose of God in his generation (Acts 13: 36) even though his life was not perfect. There were many incidences in his life in which he could have been called a failure, yet he still went on to fulfill God's purpose and was called a man after God's heart. David's example shows us that God, while not condoning sin and irresponsibility, does factor in our mistakes, failures, and short-comings. He probably makes more allowances for these things than we do. "He knows our frame; He remembers that we are but dust" (Psalm 103: 8-14). Therefore, He extends great mercy and abundant grace to those who sincerely desire and seek to do His will.
There are examples in the Bible of people who genuinely failed in God's service, but generally these failures are indicative of heart problems rather than competency issues. King Saul is an example. He was disqualified and removed from the throne, not because he lacked skill at being a king, but because he did not have a heart to obey the Lord (Acts 13: 22; 1 Cor. 9: 27). He failed in his obedience and faith, and he refused to surrender to the will of God. The issue comes back to the heart. A person who is rebellious at heart will fail and then use his failure as an excuse to further disobey. A person who has a heart after God may stumble but will get back up and persevere in his attempt to please God and do His will.
God is the ultimate judge of success and failure. In one phase of ministry I felt I was riding a graceful and beautiful thoroughbred. In another phase I felt I was riding a bucking bronco, tossed and thrown. A third situation felt like sitting on an old sway-back, gray mule who could barely stand up. The first seemed a success, the second a partial success and a partial failure, while the third started off slow and then gradually tapered off—basically it failed. But things are not always as they seem. Man and God do not always esteem things the same, and the mysteries of His will are not always known to us. Therefore, in all circumstances, we should endure and hold to Jesus in faith. We should do our best and let God be the judge. Sometimes we succeed in God's plan while failing in our own, while at other times we fail in our own while succeeding in His. What we think is failure may not be failure at all. But when the failure is real, God is able to work redemptively and turn our shame into double honor.
“Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.” Psalm 25:20

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Please Introduce Yourself

I am grateful for those of you who visit my blog. I am especially pleased to have so many visitors from South Korea. I am blessed that you have been reading my posts and have recommended them to your friends. I would be blessed if you would send me a message and introduce yourself, so that I may know my new friends from South Korea. My email address is broblong@gmail.com.  
Billy Long

Monday, March 27, 2017

THE LORD'S PROVISION FOR AN UNUSUAL TRIP

“Let me not be ashamed.”
During the latter part of 1972 Laurel and I and our first child were living in South Carolina. We were preparing to drive to California to attend her sister’s wedding but had only enough money for one-way. We sought the Lord and felt very strongly that the He wanted us to make the trip. However, I did not want to be irresponsible and embarrass myself by being stranded in California and having to call on family or friends for finances to return home. So we prayed and began our journey with peace and faith knowing we had heard from God. The Lord would provide for the trip back, and we were excited to see how He would do it. We agreed that we would not tell anyone of our need, but would simply pray and trust the Lord. This would give greater proof that God was leading us.
As we drove toward the west coast, I prayed two verses of scripture every day and throughout the day. Those two prayers were directly from Psalm 25.
“O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed.” Psalm 25:1
“Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.” Psalm 25: 20

The Lord’s Promise
We arrived in California, attended the wedding, visited with Laurel’s family and spent time with friends from the church there. Soon it was time to return home. We had no money and I was getting nervous. We told no one about our situation, and no one knew our “pockets were empty.” So one night after everyone went to sleep at Laurel’s parents’ home, I went downstairs and began to pray. “O my God, I trust in You, let me not be ashamed. Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.” I also told the Lord that I had to leave the next day. After spending some time praying, I opened my Bible to Isaiah 53 and read to the end of the chapter. Then suddenly I felt a very strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence. And in my heart I heard Him say, “I am about to speak to you.” So I very carefully looked at my Bible and began to read Isaiah 54. The words in verse 4 leaped out at me like an audible voice:
“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame.”
I began to rejoice, praise, and thank the Lord. He was assuring me that Laurel’s and my prayers were being answered. He was going to provide, and I would not be put to shame.

The return trip begins
The next day, Laurel’s sister Mary gave us $50 as a “thank you” for a gift we had given her the year before.  We were grateful to the Lord for this provision and drove across the California desert feeling like Israel on their journey across Sinai. The Lord was going to provide on this trip the same way He provided for Israel— “manna” one step at the time, as it was needed.

Our first stop was in Phoenix, Arizona. We spent the night with friends who were on the board of regents at Oral Roberts University. I told Laurel, “They are wealthy. The Lord will probably tell them to give us a gift for our trip.” We did not tell them we needed money. They provided us a place to stay and wonderful fellowship, but no gift. We enjoyed the visit and departed the next morning with the little bit of money we had left over from the $50 received from Laurel’s sister. The Lord was not going to send help from where we expected it. He was going to do it His way.

On to Lubbock
Our next stop was Lubbock, Texas. We had dear friends there and they were expecting us to visit them on our way back home. We drove into Bud and Doe Housour’s yard with only a couple dollars in my pocket and a quarter tank of gas in the car. We visited with them a couple days and had Thanksgiving dinner with them. I was sure they were going to ask me to speak at a meeting or at church, and I would receive an offering. But they did not. The night before we were to leave, I went into the closet to pray after everyone else had gone to sleep. I reminded the Lord that we needed funds to resume the travel, and that He had promised I would not be put to shame. Once again the Holy Spirit came into the room in such a powerful way and reassured me of His provision to come. Once again I rejoiced in faith knowing He was going to provide.

The next morning, Laurel and I loaded our suitcases and got into the car to drive off. We only had the couple dollars and the quarter tank of gas. But we were trusting the Lord. Bud had already left for work and Doe was saying goodbye. As I put the car into reverse and started to back out of the driveway, she stopped me and said, “Billy, Bud said to give this to you. He thought it might help you out on the trip.” She handed me a 20 dollar bill. I thanked her and told her it would help more than she realized. She had no idea that we were leaving her home with only that $20 and the other $2 in my pocket.

On to Baton Rouge, then to SC
As we drove past Dallas I called a cousin thinking we could visit with him, but he was on his way out of town. So we kept driving. Our next stop was Baton Rouge where we were to visit with George and Toya Anding who were dear friends from my first year in college. When we arrived at their home I had less than a couple dollars in my pocket and about a quarter tank of gas left in the car.

As we unloaded the suitcases, George said to me, “Billy, I know it’s none of my business, but how are your finances on this trip?” I looked at him and said, “George, the Lord has led us in a very unusual way. I have about $2 in my pocket and a quarter tank of gas. His face lit up and he began to praise the Lord with a couple enthusiastic “hallelujahs.” He proceeded to tell me that he and Toya had been praying for us a couple days before we arrived, and that Jesus had spoken to them. With a big smile George said, “He told us to give you this when you arrived.” He then handed me a check that had already been written for $145.

Laurel and I rejoiced and thanked God for this provision. It was sufficient for the remainder of our journey. It covered the cost of gas, one night in a motel, and food to eat. God was faithful.
We arrived home with a fantastic testimony of how God had led us, how He had spoken to us and provided for us one step at a time along the way. We learned a great lesson in faith and obedience.

Lessons to consider
I must say here that we don’t recommend anyone presumptuously attempt to do what we did. We had a very clear word from God at the time and knew He was leading us. Faith is a response to God’s word and to knowing His will and direction in a matter. We are able to act in faith when we know the Lord has spoken or made His will and plan very clear. We should not try to create an adventure in faith by presumptuously attempting to do something foolish. But rather, we cultivate our relationship with the Lord Jesus, study His written word, fellowship with Him in prayer and worship, and be prepared to walk as He leads us. Adventures in faith may be in arenas totally different from the trip Laurel and I made. Since that time we have had many adventures in our walk with God. We have faced hard times and strange times. We have been on the mountain top and trudged through the valley floor. We have experienced great success and also what seemed to be great failure. But through it all we maintain our walk with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

The one thing that was so real to me during that trip of faith was the special sense of Jesus’ presence with us. The goal is not simply to do great things, but to know Him and His presence. From that special place we will know the reality of God’s word to Jeremiah— “Call unto Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3. The adventure is in walking with Him.