All of us, at some time in our lives, have seen and completed the pages in children’s coloring and activity books called “Connect the Dots”. As adults, we know now that we always start with the number “1" and proceed to draw our line to the next number, which is the number “2" and on to the rest of the numbers of the picture.
To grownups, it’s understood that you have to connect the numbers in sequence or the picture that you draw is not going to be recognizable at all. It’s absurd to even imagine that you can start with number 5, proceed to number 8 and then on to number 15 and expect to be able to present a finished project. Oh - you could do it that way, if you choose to be funny - different - or just plain ornery. But you are not going to have the results intended by the one who came up with the picture in the book. You may have the satisfaction of having done it your way but no one will ever ask you to count things for them or help them with anything that has to do with numbers. You proved that you do not know your numbers and that you do not want to or do not know how to follow directions. You would probably be labeled as a slow learner, rebellious, lazy or some other negative word title.
If that scenario is true in the natural realm of “connecting the dots” in a child’s coloring book, then is it possible that it is true in the spirit realm of “connecting the dots” in God’s kingdom?
How many times has God shown you the steps to take - or dots to connect - to come out of a tough situation and you decided to go to number “6" because it looks easier and more convenient than beginning with number “1"? Or, you choose to start with number “5" because His number “1" involves going to a certain person to ask for their forgiveness? You skip that dot and go onto to number “2" so you can avoid the inconvenience, the shame, the embarrassment of what He knows to be the best and only place to start. Your stubbornness will cause you to move on to number “4" because you haven’t gotten over what that person said to you or the awful things that they did to you.
Pride will cause - actually tempt - you to look for the easiest numbers to connect instead of the right numbers to connect.
Selfishness will lure you into selecting the last numbers to connect so you can have things the way that you want them instead of the way God has designed and ordained them to be for your good and for His Glory.
Fear will push you into not wanting to connect any of the numbers at all, because you really are afraid that the picture that God has chosen for you to see will not really ever happen for you for some reason or the other. You can’t seem to believe that He would ever give you a good picture or a happy outcome if you dare to connect His “dots”.
Let’s say that the number “1" dot is to actually go to someone and tell them that you are sorry for the way you have treated them or for the awful words that you said to them in a fit of anger. Once you know that this is the “dot” that God is requiring you to begin with, the first - and only thing - to do is to pick up your pencil and place it on that number in obedience. It may be one of the hardest things that you’ve ever had to do. Your hand may be trembling and your fingers may refuse to even reach for the pencil, but inside you know that the results will be good for you and the picture that you see at the end of the process will be one that God has chosen to draw for your life.
The number “2" in this picture may be to actually begin to let go of the “feelings” that came as a result of the confrontation between you and the person you went to ask forgiveness from in dot number “1". Wow - this dot seems to be even harder than the first one. You pick up your pencil again and determine to continue to the number “2" dot. All of a sudden you feel the pencil begin to dig into the paper - tearing a hole and making a mark on the page underneath. You know that if you continue with this reluctance, you will destroy the entire page and maybe even the whole book. Not only will you never see the completed picture on this page, you may not get to go any further in this book of God’s plans for your life. You realize that the next phase of your future successes may - and likely do - depend on what you do with this number “2" dot.
Going to the person to ask for forgiveness was hard. But letting go of the feelings that are attached to what happened seems to be so much harder - even impossible. Before you saw what the next dot required, you may have actually been feeling pretty good about obeying God with the first “dot”. You were so glad to have done that and gotten it over with that you patted your self on the back in congratulations. You breathed a deep sigh of relief as you walked away from the person, thanking God that it was over - that He helped you get through it in one piece. But - now - here you are facing your own self in the mirror. You can’t say one short sentence to yourself and be done with it. You can’t get away from yourself like you walked away from the other person. You’re stuck with you. You are the number “2" dot to deal with now. This dot is not going down easy and you know it. The pencil gets heavier and heavier as you hold it in your shaking hands. You have the choice to either lay it down and give up the process of finishing the picture or you can take hold of it with a grip like a bulldog and refuse to let go of it until it makes the line from number “1" to number “2". You must decide that the line will be drawn even if it rips the entire book into pieces. You have to be determined to continue. And in this “connecting” process - no one else can draw the lines for you. It is something only you can do. Of course, God is with you - He is giving you encouragement and direction. He is reminding you of the joy that you will have in the end. He continues to tell you that you will walk in a newfound freedom if you will go on to the next number. But - ultimately the pencil is yours and the hand that holds it is yours. The action must be yours alone, too.
Before you pick up the pencil again to head toward the next dot, you sense the Lord instructing you to pick up your Bible. He leads you by His Spirit to read_________________. Let go of anger, bitterness, resentment. As you read, you hear yourself reminding Him of what this person did to you - bringing to His remembrance that they were the ones who started the whole problem in the first place - that you wouldn’t have even had to go to them to ask for forgiveness if they hadn’t done what they did. He lets you rant and complain for a while and then He shows you the completed picture on the page before you. Gently - but firmly - He tells you that this is between you and Him and that if you want to have this picture come alive in your life then you will ahve to connect the dots in the order that He has arranged them. You cannot dictate to Him how you want them in order - He knows what has to take place. He is and you are not!
The Lord then speaks Jeremiah 29:11 to you. ________________ He is the only One Who knows the plans that He has for you. Not you. Not the person that you had to go to with the first dot. He knows. Not your Mom or Dad. Not the neighbor - the one you told all about the problem when it happened - and then rehashed it several times. He knows the plans. And - He is the One Who will empower you to follow those plans. Connecting these dots before you is part of those plans. The sooner you willingly pick up the pencil and head toward the number “2" dot, the sooner you will be able to get on to the other numbered dots.
As you stare at the number “2" dot, it seems miles and miles away from the number “1" dot. You wonder if you will live long enough to ever get that distance. Taking a deep breath, you pick the pencil up once more and place it on the number “1" dot. You feel you hand grip the pencil again but it’s not quite as tightly as before. The resolve to be obedient to God is making it easier to start toward the number “2" dot. The pressure eases some and you see the line start to come into view. The feelings of anger seem to be lifting and the feelings of stress seem to be dissolving as you get closer to the next dot. Fear of being hurt again is fading. Pride begins to be consumed as you watch the pencil come closer to number “2" dot. As you finally make it to the destination, you feel the satisfaction of submitting your feelings to the Lord in this. You take a deep breath. It feels good to feel His pleasure in your obedience. Oh - you know that there may be - probably will be - other times that you find yourself in this same process of connecting the number “1" dot to the number “2" dot in forgiveness and feelings. But - for now - you are ready to move on to the number “3" dot.
Ah - number “3" dot. This dot includes maintaining the mark that you made on the number “2" dot. It is where you get to resist the “feelings” that you just gave up and took off of your life. The neighbor may call and ask how you’re doing - how’re you’re getting along since you were hurt so badly by this other person. They may want to have you fill them in on the details of your journey through this horrible instance. Connecting the number “2" dot to the number “3" dot means you will have to resist opening up the garbage can to this neighbor again. You will have to tell them that you have asked for forgiveness - you have let go fo the feelings that resulted from what happened and you are ready to move on with your life in God. Or - you may not have to tell them anything. You may just tell them that “all is well” and forego any explanation. You are not required to give a report of the Lord’s work in your life to everyone that asks for details. Unless God wants to use your journey and process of walking with Him to share with someone, you do not have to tell the neighbor - or anyone - what’s going on in your life. This picture you are working on with Him is His plan for your life and not the business of the neighbor who may truly love you. Perhaps the “talks” with the neighbor is what got the issues to the depth of trouble that you found yourself dealing with in the first place. Selah...
After deciding to forego the reopening of the saga with the neighbor, you quickly and boldly move on to make the mark to the number “3" dot. Good job!
Now - number “4" dot. Seeing the person who offended you in the grocery store. What will you do? Move immediately to the next aisle - backwards? Or do you start digging in your purse so you can have your head down and not see the person as she or he gets closer to you? Do you pretend that your cell phone is ringing so that you can be occupied and not be required to acknowledge that they are even there? Or - do you purposely walk pass them and say nothing? You have asked them to forgive you - isn’t that enough? In some cases, all you will be required to do concerning the other person will be to forgive them - from a distance. Maybe God will not even require to go to the person and ask them face to face to forgive you. It may be something that you and He can take care of privately in your prayer closet. But - in this case - you have gone through the steps - connected the first 3 dots that He showed you. And here you are - in the same building with them - and they are getting closer to you by the minute. What will you do?
If you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, you will do exactly what He asks you to do. It may be that He will have you to speak to them kindly, shake their hand graciously, maybe even give them a hug. He may only require that you smile at them and keep on going. If you hear His voice and ignore it you will not be getting the number “4" dot connected. And - most likely - you will have this encounter once again in the future. So - if you want all the dots connected, go ahead and do what He asks you to do the first time you see them. You may feel like pushing your cart in their direction - but resist doing that! This would cause you to have to go back to the number “1" dot and start all over again! ( smile! )
Ok - you willingly did what He asked you to do. You connected number “3" dot with the number “4" dot. Now you have only 3more to go to complete the picture.
On to number “5" dot. Prepare your heart so that you will not have to connect the dots on this particular page again.
The Lord begins to talk to you about not being “offendable”. Oh, man. You would almost rather be able to go through connecting the first 4 dots over and over again. It seems impossible to ever get yourself in the shape to not be offended again - especially if you have to have the same family members - work at the same job - or even attend the same church.
But - God is not letting you off of the hook. You have told Him that you want to finish your race - that you want to please Him in all of your ways. You want to someday face Him and hear Him say, “Well done” instead of just, “Well...?”
All of a sudden, Scriptures that teaches you about walking in the Spirit are coming at your from every available resource - tv, books, your Pastor, Godly friends, etc. First Corinthians 14 - the “Love” chapter. Love is patient.........love is kind........ speaks to you wherever you go - even iin your sleep!
Ephesians 6 where the Apostle Paul teaches about wearing the full armor of God becomes your daily instruction manual. You see that the shield of faith is especially important to you in being unoffendable every day. The Lord shows you that if your keep this shield of faith covering up your life, you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the enemy. If you are able to quench the darts of the devil, then the fire of hell will not get on your tongue and your life will not be full of destruction and damage by the devil because of what you say. James then becomes your continual confession as you seek to get control of what you let come out of your mouth. God says that “life and death is in the power of the tongue”.
Satan brings offenses into your life so that he will be able to steal, kill and destroy you. He sets up circumstances and situations so that you will follow after your flesh and not after the Spirit of God. Again - the Bible says that to focus on the flesh - to be carnally minded is death. To follow the Spirit is Life and peace.
The number “5" dot is vital! It may take a longer time frame to go from number “4" dot to “5". It may take more time spent with God - letting Him mold you and transform you before yo can make a mark that cannot be erased. But in the end, you will know that the finished picture will be one that you can frame - one that will become reality in your life. It will be a permanent and eternal Lifestyle for you! Make the choice to focus on this number “5" as if your life depended on it - because in all reality - it surely does!
And - now the next to the last number! Number “6" dot. This is a dot that is easier to get to - one that will begin to stir the Glory inside of you. It is one that will open the gates of God’s goodness to you more and more. Number “6" dot is “Thanksgiving and Praise”. The Bible says that we “enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with Praise”. We are to thank God in all things - not for all things - but “in” all things. No matter what situation that you find yourself in - thank God for what He has done for you through Jesus Christ! No matter how bad people treat you - thank God that He will always treat you right! Thank Him for the people who do treat you right and respect you and celebrate who you are. As you do that, you’ll discover that whatever the person did that offended you in the first place will fade in comparison to what God has done for you, in you and through you. Giving thanks to God will move you into the position of receiving even more goodness from Him. It causes His favor to increase in your life. It will even cause you to love the people who seem to be out to hurt you. You may never be required to fellowship with them again, but you will not fear or dread seeing them . You will be able to hear their name and not have that twisting inside of your belly that makes you want to run and hide. Being grateful to God for sending Jesus to be your Savior is enough to make everything all right again. The situations may remain the same and horrible things may be happening all around you, but you know that - no matter what - you will be ok!
The other part of this number “6" is “Praise”. If you want to be in His courts - in His wonderful and awesome presence - you must get there by praising Him. If you give voice to the problem all the time, you are praising the evil one who created the problem and the hurt in the first place. If you want to complete the picture God has carefully drawn for you, then praise Him for drawing it! Praise Him that He is the only One Who can empower you to finish the picture - that He has perfect plans for you and that His can and will finish what He began in you!
The Bible says that God inhabits the praises of His people. If you want to have God come and reside in your life and make His presence and power known in you - then Praise Him. If you need to get out of a situation - Praise Him that He is strong enough and wise enough to get you out! When you praise God, you are building a Throne for Him to sit upon in your Life. He already sits upon a Throne in Heaven. But - you can enthrone Hiim in your life - He will rule and reign in your personal affairs when you praise Him continually! This doesn’t mean that yo have to sing praise songs all day long out loud. It doesn’t mean that you have to have praise music playing all the time ( even though this is a good practice! ). It simply means that what you think, what you speak, what you do, and how you act shows that you are aware that He is Lord. That He is the One Who loves you and will help you with every thing in your life. Praising God creates an atmosphere where God can create His goodness for you with out being hindered by your negative attitudes, words and actions.
Connecting the number “5" dot to the number “6" dot will bring you to the final stage of working on this picture.
Now you’re ready to move on to the number “7" dot. The last dot to connect! As most Christians know, the number “7" is symbloic of “completion”. In this Dot to Dot Connection process, the number “7" represents “Worship”.
Again, worship is not slow songs, soft instrumental music, or soothing melodies that make you feel close to God. All of those things can help you create the platform for worship. But worship is actually is a lifestyle. It is relationship with God. It is honoring the covenant that He has made with you through Jesus Christ. It is moving toward Him continually. It is moving with Him in harmony. Worship is embracing Who He is, dancing to His music, stepping in line with His walk.
Worship is being intimate with the One Who loves you - the One Who created you - the One Who wants to reveal Himself to you more and more. Worship is allowing Jesus - the Vine - to cause His life giving substance to flow into you constantly so that you can enjoy the Blessing that He paid for with His Blood. Worship is being one with the Lord Jesus Christ by allowing His Spirit to entwine Himself with your “self”.
Now that you have connected all 7 dots - look at the picture before you! It is full of the abundant life that Jesus came to give to you! As you went through each step - connected each dot - God has caused the picture to become Eternally yours to see - to dream of - to watch over and guard.
There are many situations that happen in life. Not all of them deal with those described and portrayed in this analogy. You may have gone through a devastating loss, a destroying divorce, a traumatic disease. There are different “Dots” to connect for different issues - different details to deal with obviously. But God will describe each one of the dots of your picture to you. He will instruct you in each connection. And in the end, the picture will be the same - it will show you His goodness - His mercy and it will reveal the Person of Jesus Christ each time!!