How would it change the way you pray if you realized God is greater––make that far greater––than anything we can imagine, think, or dream of? That His work within us and for us is beyond our greatest imaginings? That our human minds can’t even begin to understand or imagine all He is able to do? Come explore what this means to you and your prayers!
But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!
I’m (Karen) part of a brainstorming group of roughly 10 women that has been meeting for 20 years or more. As you can imagine, we are all good friends. As believers, we spend a lot of time talking about the Lord and praying together.
In this spirit, we pray and ask God to give us a word to focus on for each year. He’s been so faithful to do this for each of us, and to confirm our individual words with Scripture and quotes and other things.
One of the women in my brainstorming group, Gayle deSalles, shared what God had shown her for her word. I was so moved and impressed that I asked her if I could use it as a basis for this podcast. She graciously agreed.
A part of what impacted me so much was that God had been stirring similar thoughts and questions in me over the past few weeks. I always love it when God whispers the same truths to different believers! And when that happens I often feel a holy “Pay attention!”, that there’s something important there not just for the person sharing, or for me, but for others.
Gayle’s word for 2024 comes from one of the most familiar passages in the entire Bible. She said she wasn’t even thinking about this Scripture or word when it came to her. She’d been uncertain what her word was, so she decided to do something that we all need to do when we’re seeking God’s guidance:
Meditate on His word, listen only to Him, and explore Scriptures as He directs.
Decisions to Make?
Do you have a decision you need to make? An issue where you’re seeking God’s guidance? Has some opportunity come to you but you’re not sure if it’s right?
Are you considering writing something different, something you’ve never written before, but can’t shake a niggling concern about doing it?
Or are you feeling that maybe you didn’t hear God right, and you’re somehow off-track with what He wants from you as a writer?
The first, wisest step to take when you’re in a situation such as this is to do as Gayle did: Meditate on God’s word, listen only to Him, and explore Scriptures as He directs.
A Guided Tour of God’s Word
You may be amazed how immersed you become in the Word as God leads you through it. Verses you’ve known all your life are suddenly alive with a new meaning or importance. Chapters you’ve read again and again suddenly seem to have sections you’ve never seen.
It’s not that you haven’t read them before. It’s just that God is highlighting them in your mind and spirit, telling you to pay attention, go deeper, take time to understand.
Remember what Hebrews 4:12 says, “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Gayle described this process well when she told the group, “I’ve been enjoying myself so much that I keep getting the kind of dopamine rush I used to get when I took off on my bicycle for a long ride on a sunny spring day. A day not too hot or cold. When I headed down a path or wove through neighborhoods I’d never explored before.”
Do you remember doing that? That sense of freedom and exploration, of excitement and anticipation?
When we come to the Word of God seeking only to hear Him, to be guided by Him, it’s the same exhilarating sensation.
Time to dig deeper
At this point in her email, Gayle shared her word: IMAGINE.
One of the confirming Scriptures God gave her was Ephesians 3:20. Some versions of the Bible render “imagine” as “think.” But the concept is one we all can embrace.
The New International Version has the verse as, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (That’s actually Ephesians 3:20 and 21.)
In the New American Standard Bible it’s: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.”
The AMPC, or Amplified Bible, Classic Edition, actually expands on what certain words in the verse mean: “Now to Him Who, by [in consequence of] the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams].
And in The Living Bible, we find: “Now glory be to God, who, by his mighty power at work within us, is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.”
GOD IS GREATER!
How exciting is that verse? In each and every translation of it, we find an amazing truth: God is greater––make that far greater––than anything we can imagine, think, or dream of. His work within us and for us is beyond our greatest imaginings. We can’t begin to ask all that our God is able to do!
Crosswalk.com shares this insight:
“Paul had just previously written of God’s marvelous plan for the Gentiles: ‘God’s love for us goes farther than even time itself…His love for us is a love that doesn’t hold back. His love gives everything, to the point of sacrificing his very own Son …This is unquantifiable, immeasurable love.’
The article goes on to say:
“God, who He is and what He does, will do, and has done is immeasurable. We only see and know a slice of the whole pie in the sky. And we can know a lot about God! He is not afraid of our questions, frustrations, and promises. When we seek Him with all of our hearts, we will find Him.“
You never need to feel alone, or that you can’t figure something out. Almighty God is always at work, in His immeasurable love, on the answer. HIS answer. For you.
DON’T GET LOST
Oftentimes, though, even if we have this knowledge in our heads, our feelings overwhelm us and we end up a bit lost. In Ecclesiastes 1, we see that Solomon, a man who once enjoyed deep fellowship with God, was led astray by his feelings. And yet, even in his emotional state, he is, in the pages of this book of the Bible, finding his way back, understanding that without God as the focus, life is meaningless.
Consider what we find in Ecc. 1:1-11:
“`Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless!’
“What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again…. Everything is wearisome beyond description….
“History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, ‘Here is something new!’ But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.’”
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
Now that’s a discouraged man. Have you struggled with discouragement like this? Feeling that no matter what you do, nothing ever happens? That you have nothing new to say or write, or that the same disappointments keep happening over and over?
But how does this Solomon jive with the Solomon we see in 1 Kings 3: 3-14:
“Solomon loved the Lord and followed all the decrees of his father, David, except that Solomon, too, offered sacrifices and burned incense at the local places of worship. The most important of these places of worship was at Gibeon, so the king went there and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings. That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, `What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!’”
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Friends, what do you want of God? What is your fondest desire and goal? What would you say if Father God came to you and asked you this question?
Solomon replied this way: “’You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.
“’Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
Solomon, the great king, knew he was “like a little child, who doesn’t know his way around.” No matter how long we’ve been following Jesus, how long we’ve been writing what God asks us to write, we, like Solomon, are, in many ways, “like a little child, who doesn’t know his way around.” We love God, we seek to serve Him as best we know how. But as we saw in the verses in Ephesians, what we truly know of God is miniscule compared to who He is and what He is doing for His children. For you.
An Understanding Heart?
This great king—Solomon—wanted an understanding heart, but what, exactly, does that mean?
MinistryInsights.com has a fascinating article that explores An Understanding Heart. First it clarifies “heart,” saying, “In Scripture, the term ‘heart’ is used to denote a person’s inner self. The heart is the center of spiritual activity, moral understanding, and human will.”
We all know how powerful the heart is. Scripture underscores this truth over and over, making it clear that our heart is affected by what we treasure (Matt 6:21); that the heart is the source of our trust in God (Prov 3:5); that we must guard our hearts because every we do flows from it (Prov 4:23); that a pure heart goes hand in hand with a steadfast spirit (Psa 51:10); that God’s peace guards our hearts (Phil. 4:7).
The article on MinistryInsights goes on to say that an understanding heart, is humble and purposeful. Humble, in that it recognizes any strength we have, even in our writing, isn’t from us, it’s from God. A humble heart “invites God to work to cultivate deeper insight about those strengths.” Purposeful, in that it is “neither careless nor impulsive.” When we cultivate an understanding heart, we do so understanding our limits and God’s limitlessness, and we do so with purpose.
How to Go to God?
So when you go to God for guidance, start with meditating on His word, listening only to Him. Then, acknowledging how limited your understanding is, ask Him to give you an understanding heart. Of yourself, of others, of HIM.
How did God respond in 1 Kings when Solomon asked for an understanding heart? He replied:
“’Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.’”
THE BIG QUESTION
So ask your self: “How close do I want to go with God?”
Gayle explained, “In short, God was saying to me, ‘Gayle, to the degree you are walking closely with me, abiding with me, fixing your eyes on me, one of two things will happen. You will either, in some degree or fashion, walk in Ecclesiastes 1 and get depressed by all you see, waking up each morning and saying––if not in your words, then in your heart––’same ole, same ole.
“’Or you will embrace Ephesians 3:20 and seek me, asking me to reveal My heart. Start with boldness to ask me what is already on your heart and mind, and we’ll talk about the fact that I can do immeasurably more than that. Or than you can ever imagine.’”
LIVING IN ECCLESIASTES 1
This question––“How close do I want to go with God?”, grabbed my heart and spirit. Just the night before Gayle’s email, I’d made the mistake of watching the news. As a result, I found myself unable to sleep. Wondering how God’s creation has come so far away from Him. How such unbelievable lies and deceptions have taken root in people’s hearts and minds. That night, I was living in Ecclesiastes 1, moaning about how there’s nothing new under the sun. How evil is rampant and people are rotten and Lord, why don’t you come down and annihilate us all???
Yeah, not a great place to live. If you’ve been there, or are even there now, it’s time to step out of Ecclesiastes. To go to Scripture and seek first the Father’s forgiveness for not trusting Him, and then ask His help.
Ask Him to draw you closer to His heart. To share His understanding of the world, of evil, of all that so drags us down. Ask Him to open our eyes, to let us see the people and world around us with HIS eyes. To show us His truth and His work in our world. And to draw us deeper into an understanding heart.
ARE YOU READY TO STOP?
So how about you? How close do you want to go with God? Are you ready to stop accepting “the same ol’, same ol’”? Are you ready to refuse to accept that’s just the way the world is, or that’s just the way publishing is, or that’s just the way the church is? Are you ready to shift your focus and understanding when trials come, because we all know they will come. Boy howdy, will they ever come.
Our books won’t sell the way we want or hope.
Pirates may steal our fair earnings.
Contracts we’re expecting may not materialize.
Projects we’ve been counting on may disappear with no explanation.
Books we turn in may be rejected.
We may fall sick and can’t meet a deadline.
Family crises may leave us too battered to write.
And that barely scratches the surface of all that can go wrong in our writing journeys. And if we walk in Ecclesiastes 1, we’ll just moan and groan and complain and ask why. But friends, don’t do that! Instead, prepare for the inevitable trials of life and publishing, with an understanding heart.
GET READY FOR AMAZING!
When we do that, something amazing happens. Those hard Scriptures, the ones we read and wonder how on earth we’re supposed to follow them, take on a new meaning and impact.
Consider James 1:2-4:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Pure joy? You bet. Because an understanding heart will let you see what’s happening to you with God’s eyes. You’ll understand every trial will only draw you closer to Him. And it will help prepare you for eternity with the Father!
When we ask God to grow in us an understanding heart, Romans 8:28 resonates as never before:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
How often have we asked, “All things? Really?” I know I’ve asked that. Physical limitations. Diseases and Illnesses. Relationship struggles. Financial hardships? All those things are for my good?
Yes, in any and every thing, God is working for our good. And he’s not just wringing his hands going, “Oh dear, how am I going to fix this?” No, he’s had a plan all along to shape and refine us. To give us compassion and understanding. To make us a reflection of Him to a world that so desperately needs to know Him.
OUR UNWITTING WITNESS
Don and I live in a remote area of Washington. There’s one highway that comes to our town, and the traffic on that highway is atrocious. I joined a Facebook group for my small town, and noticed how people would ask about the traffic situation on a regular basis. So when Don and I were stuck in a loooooong line of traffic, I hopped onto Facebook and posted about it to let folks know.
Many of the responses to my post were nice, even grateful. But some of them. Holy cow! I had no idea I’d get blasted with sarcastic, angry, and insulting posts. That I’d be told to “go back to whatever city you came from if you don’t like the traffic!” I considered unleashing some verbal abuse of my own in response, but God got hold of me.
Instead, I responded to a few people telling them it seemed they were having a tough day so I’d pray for them. And then I thanked the people who were kind and grateful in their responses. Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t follow that first instinct because the woman who lives behind us sent me a private message telling me where to post about traffic without getting blasted.
Then she said, “Some people just have to be mean. But your responses to them were wonderful!” Thank God He moved me to turn my hurt and frustration into kindness. I shudder to think the kind of witness I’d have been to her if I’d responded in kind.
THE BEAUTY OF AN UNDERSTANDING HEART
That’s the beauty of cultivating an understanding heart. It turns us around. And it turns 1 Peter 4: 12-19, from one of those hard Scriptures to a wonderful strategy filled with promise and purpose:
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? …
“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
Trails coming? Be overjoyed when God’s glory is revealed!
Suffering attacking you? You are blessed and the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you!
Miseries reaching for you? Don’t be ashamed! Praise God that you bear His name!
Carrying burdens? Commit yourself to your faithful Creator and continue to do good, because he will make you able.
Imagine. Imagine living that way.
Imagine seeking God in His word, listening only for His loving, powerful voice.
Imagine surrendering to Him and His work in everything you are and do.
Imagine what it means to ask Him for, and open yourself to, Him creating in you an understanding heart.
Imagine coming to Him and asking for whatever abundant, unfathomable, inconceivable blessing He wants to share with us!
Start today, friends. Don’t spend any more time in an Ecclesiastes 1 life. Instead, step into a life steeped in Ephesians 3:20, and let your imagination soar.Meditate on God’s word, listen only to Him, and explore Scriptures as He directs. #amwriting #Christianwriter Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
What’s one thing you can do to live in Ephesians 3:20?
Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!
A big thank you to our February sponsor of the month, Wendy L. Macdonald. She’s a writer, poet, podcaster, photographer, and nature lover, and I know you’d enjoy getting to know her! She has a free, special gift for you: 10 Good Habits to Help You Become a Great Listener!
Many thanks also to the folks at PodcastPS for their fabulous sound editing!
Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.