Years ago, when I served with my husband as volunteers on a church launch team, I heard about another church in the area that had made a call to the church office to make an inquiry about our new launch. Unlike the other churches in the area calling to congratulate us, this particular church asked questions with a competitive agenda. Clearly, they felt threatened by another church joining the community and drawing possible new members.
A sad but true reality is that competition and envy abound even in ministry settings. I can personally give many stories from my years serving in music ministry where ugly feelings of jealousy invaded my own heart. Times I watched other people get the solo I wanted or watched other people get promoted to places I wanted to go. I wondered in those moments if God had forgotten me. How could I celebrate with others when I felt jealous that God hadn’t elevated me in the same way?
In particular, recently I have been feeling some anxiety over the fact that I am waiting on a promise that hasn’t yet been fulfilled in my life. As I was reflecting on this, I opened up Facebook to a ministry site with a few words on believing God concerning His promises.
I don’t even follow this person’s ministry, but read this message on a sponsored post. Obviously, I know we must exercise caution in just opening up whatever it is — a blog post or Facebook feed — and attributing that to the Lord. However, I am quite sure this was from the Lord for me. I burst into tears and felt my heart buoyed up for the first time that day. You see, the antidote for competitiveness and jealousy is trust. Trust that God is going to do what He said. When we feel anxious about where God has us in relation to where He has others, we can repeat this over and over to ourselves: The plans God has for me will come to pass.
Abraham and Sarah: A Lesson in Trusting in Impossible Circumstances
A couple that tells us much about waiting on the promises of God is Abraham and Sarah. They had to wait so long for their miracle child. Sarah had already gone through menopause. Abraham was an old man. However, God had promised a child to them and not even Abraham’s age or the fact that Sarah’s body had already undergone changes that made it impossible for her to carry a child prevented God from giving them what He had promised.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is when the Lord and two angels visit them and give them the heads-up that the promise is about to happen. Abraham runs to greet them and bring them a meal made from His finest flour and meat.
As they sit and eat, one of the men tells him that in a year’s time his wife will bear a child. Abraham listens quietly, but Sarah overhears from the tent, laughing to herself, saying, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure [of a child]?” (Genesis 18:12). The Lord, hearing this, says: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son” (Genesis 18:13, 14).
While Abraham calmly accepts God’s words and claim that the child will come within the year, Sarah thinks about the fact that she is old and laughs in disbelief at the men’s words. The difference between Abraham and Sarah’s response is that Sarah looks at their impossible circumstances and Abraham just focuses on God.
But despite her unbelief, in one year’s time, she gives birth to a son and the promise comes true just as God had said. Can you imagine the incredible temptation that presented itself over those long stretch of years to give up, turn back, lose faith, or take offense at those in their lives that had been blessed with children when they had not?
How to Trust When We Fear the Promise Won’t Come True
Perhaps as you are reading this, you can think of a promise that hasn’t come true for you. Around 20 years ago, I received a prophetic word at a youth group meeting that God was going to use me in music. A man who had spoken to our youth group and had a strong prophetic gifting prayed for young people after his message. He walked up to me and asked me if I liked music. When he posed that query, the presence of God came on me so strong that I felt a burning sensation in my throat, and I could not speak in response. I simply nodded.
The man told me I had a craving for the stage, and that I had been given that desire by God. I accepted the word with joy, but life happened. I didn’t forget the word, but I felt led to go to college and get a degree in teaching. I went through a period where I began to doubt I would ever be used in music. Then, six years into my teaching career, God called me away to pursue that music dream He had given me so long before. Except, after I left, He led me on an unusual route to start a women’s ministry and tested me with painful hardships and trials – the most painful of all being is that He asked me to give up music for a season during that period.
The journey has been difficult and long. I have been out of music for more than three years. I have looked into a few opportunities, but each time God has said no. Though I have often found myself fretting about how God is going to open up an avenue, I have the assurance of what God told me before I left teaching and long before that at the youth group meeting. In addition, I can look to Abraham here in his impossible situation and note that “against all hope” Abraham believed and God “credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:18).
It’s in the wait when it’s far too easy to look at someone else and want what they have and let wrong attitudes fester that eventually become wrong actions. Remember how I mentioned earlier that trust is the antidote for envy — and we should speak God’s promises over ourselves? These statements actually have a biblical basis. James 4:1-3, 7 says:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures … Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
In this passage, James gives a practical look at what it means to fight against the desires that war inside us and trust God instead: we submit to God’s plan and resist the devil’s schemes. The word “submit” in the passage in the Greek is “hupotassó” and means to be “under God’s arrangement” (HELPS Word-studies). Essentially, there can be no submission without trust. When we submit to God’s plan, we don’t have to make up our own plan and resort to fleshly strategies (like turning on others) to try to get even or make happen what God has said.
In addition, the word “resist” in this passage in the Greek is “anthistémi.” This word was actually a military term used in classical Greek that meant to “strongly resist an opponent” or hold one’s ground (HELPS Word-studies). When the enemy whispers lies in our ear or stirs up fears about the promises God has given us, speaking aloud to others and ourselves the truth that God will do as He said is taking a firm position against the fear and lies of the enemy!
Circumstances and hardship may try to dictate to us what our calling is, but God has the final say in the matter. What He said is eternal. It will happen. He decided it long ago. Our work is simply to trust when envy threatens to steal our hope and joy. We demonstrate our trust in God’s promises when we submit to His plan and resist the enemy, even when the way looks dark. These actions put us back on the right pathway and out of the grip of fear and jealousy.
What promise in your life is as “good as dead” at the moment? Share with us in the comments and let us pray for you!
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*Updated January 17, 2017