Don’t Focus on the Fire
In case of emergency—break glass. No doubt you’ve seen signs bearing these words. Painted bright red, they stand out from their surroundings to grab our attention, offering a lifeline when disaster strikes. Whether it’s a means of turning off the gas line or accessing an AED or activating an alarm, emergency signs point us to a vital source of protection.
When life feels normal, we tend to ignore these indicators. It’s not until the hallway fills with smoke that we stop what we’re doing and examine what’s on the other side of the glass. For that reason, these markers are clearly labeled and easily used.
Did you know the Bible contains similar markers? They’re not painted fire–engine red, but they are dotted throughout every hallway of Scripture. Instead of emergency, these signs are labeled remember. As in, remember what the Lord has done. When activated, they have the power to extinguish the destructive flames of discouragement.
When we focus on the fire—the obstacles we are facing—we lose perspective of the One who is mighty to save (Isaiah 63:1). Instead of calling on the Lord, we summon our own strength … and quickly lose heart. We forget that “the Lord will hear when I call to Him” and that He “preserves the faithful” (Psalm 4:1; 31:23). We fight the raging fire with a garden hose instead of calling the fire department.
Remembering God’s faithfulness breaks the glass, pulls the lever, and floods our hearts with life–saving hope.
After leading the children of Israel through the desert for forty years, Moses reached the end of his journey on the plains of Moab by the Jordan River. The young generation was ready to press forward, but Moses, his earthly life ebbing, paused to give them his last words—a series of sermons we call Deuteronomy. Although the Promised Land lay before them, Moses knew his people’s trials were not over.
There were giants in the land—literal giants descended from Anak and figurative giants in the form of doubts, fears, and discouragement (Numbers 13:25–33).
Moses urged them to remember God’s outstanding goodness across the years. He wanted them to carry the memories of God’s grace with them as they pressed forward to new heights.
- “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen…. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
- “And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand” (Deuteronomy 5:15).
- “You shall remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh” (Deuteronomy 7:18).
- “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
- “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations” (Deuteronomy 32:7).
Do you remember a time when something happened that made you exclaim: “Praise the Lord!” or, “Thank You, Jesus!”? You and I have some glorious memories, recollections of moments when the right thing happened at the right time, that cause us to instantly recognize the hand of God.
It’s therapeutic to replay these times of blessings in our mind. Imagine how often the Israelites relived the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, or the water gushing from the rock. These were outstanding moments—standout performances of God’s grace.
Whether wandering in the wilderness of discouragement or poised on the plains of Moab for a new adventure, we need to train ourselves to remember past blessings and acknowledge God’s goodness in earlier days, like Samuel who built the Ebenezer monument, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). Without flashbacks of God’s faithfulness, there’s no outlook for our future. When we recognize how God has been our help in ages past, we’ll remember He’s our hope for years to come. Let me suggest four ways of doing this.
Acknowledge God’s Outstanding Answers to Prayer
Begin by acknowledging the prayers God has answered throughout your life and thank Him for what He’s already done. More than a hundred years ago, a man in Shanghai named Ding Li–Mei was Secretary of the Student Volunteer Movement in China. During his student years, his prayer list contained 105 names, but after some years in ministry his list included 2,347 people.
Mr. Ding faithfully prayed for each one daily, keeping his prayer book within reach when he was traveling by rickshaw or train, when in his room, or even while on the platform getting ready to speak. He wouldn’t go to sleep until the last name was presented before the Throne of Grace.
“I do not know all the benefits which others may have received through these prayers,” he testified. “I cannot refrain from enumerating … blessings which I myself have experienced in the practice of this habit: 1) I am so much with the Lord that He seems my closest Friend. 2) My spiritual life is refreshed like the sprouting grain with rain…. When I talk about the Gospel in private or in public I have an unshakable confidence that the hand of the Lord is supporting me.”1
Now, don’t feel guilty if you don’t have 2,347 names on your prayer list. Mr. Ding’s story is unique. But may I suggest that over the years, as we pray faithfully for others and for our own needs, we’ll accumulate a long list of answers to prayer that will fuel our spiritual lives and leave behind a testimony of God’s outstanding goodness?
Acknowledge God’s Outstanding Moments of Provision
We must also acknowledge God’s outstanding moments of provision. Henry Blackaby, the author of Experiencing God, never tired of telling how God had met the needs of a church he once pastored in Saskatchewan, Canada. The congregation needed a larger building, but the building fund had less than $750. Blackaby told his people to trust God, and he quoted from Hebrews 11, the faith chapter of the Bible. The people went to work, and slowly the structure went up. Near the end of the process, they were short by $60,000. A foundation in Texas promised them some money, but the transfer of the funds was delayed. Blackaby was puzzled. Why was God allowing a delay when the need was so urgent, their prayers so intense, and their faith so determined?
Shortly thereafter, there was a strange drop in Canada’s currency exchange rate with the United States, and it happened on the day the Texas foundation wired the money. A few hours later the Canadian exchange rate rose again, but because of the timing, the church ended up with $60,000 it would not have received otherwise. “We came to know [God] in a new way through that experience,” said Blackaby, who added, “God is far more interested in your having an experience with Him than He is interested in getting a job done.”
Our entire life is filled with endless needs, which the Lord delights in filling for us. Let’s acknowledge those moments of provision and praise God for His goodness and mercy that follows us all the days of our lives.
Acknowledge God’s Outstanding Turns of Providence
And don’t forget to acknowledge His outstanding turns of providence. We don’t use the word providence as much as former generations, but when you read the writings of America’s Founding Fathers, it seems that every other word is providence. George Washington wrote about the events of the Revolutionary War, “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.”2
What is providence? It’s simply God’s hidden oversight of all the circumstances of life from the unfolding of the history of the world to the unfolding of your day today. When we love God and live according to His purposes—He goes before us, causing things to work out for our benefit. Think back and praise God for the standout performance of His providence and blessing in your life.
Acknowledge God’s Outstanding Lineup of People
We should also acknowledge the outstanding lineup of people God has brought into our lives—our loved ones, heroes, and mentors. The Benham Brothers—David and Jason—recently wrote about a time when they were students. They were invited to the home of David Drye of Concord, North Carolina, a businessman who employed hundreds of people, operated a Christian school, and had his own television show. He asked the boys to speak to his company and school and to be guests on his program. Arriving at his home late at night, they were amazed at the size of his house. That evening they fell asleep in oversized beds only to be awakened at 4:30 a.m. by someone yelling down the hall. “Dude! What’s that?” they said to each other. The brothers crept out of the bedroom and looked down the long hallway. There was light under the door of Mr. Drye’s office, and they realized he wasn’t yelling. He was praying!
“We grew up in a family that believed in prayer and put that belief into practice,” they wrote, “but this was a whole new level—never before had we seen such emphatic prayer.” That memory left an indelible impression on the brothers and, under Mr. Drye’s mentorship, even changed the direction of their lives.3
The people who have most influenced us didn’t show up in our lives by accident. They were placed there by God as part of the array of standout performances that leave us amazed at His grace and goodness. How important to look back and thank our God from whom all blessings flow!
There are giants in our midst, and discouragement is one of them. We must look past our obstacles, lift our gaze to the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 1:3), and recollect His faithfulness.
Can you recall a standout performance of God that left an indelible impression on your life? I certainly can. His people, His providence, His provisions, and His answers to prayer have left indelible impressions on my life. We all have such memories, and they should challenge us to stand up and stand out in the outstanding work of His glorious Kingdom.
1Ding Li–Mei, “The Prayer–Life of Chinese Christians,” The Missionary Review of the World, 41, No. 1 (1918), 97–100.
2“From George Washington to Brigadier General Thomas Nelson, Jr., 20 August 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov.
3David and Jason Benham, “Benham Brothers: ‘War Room,’ Prayer Warriors and Changing the World for Christ,” February 14, 2019, https://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/david–and–jason–benham/benham–brothers–war–room–prayer–warriors–and–changing–world–christ.
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