Archive for October, 2012

9Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NKJV)

Perhaps you’ve heard of Jabez. His name literally means “he will cause pain.” That’s what his mama named him, presumably after a difficult birth. I’ve been wondering how that affected him emotionally as he was growing up. Knowing that he’d been named “he will cause pain” – and undoubtedly personalizing it to “I will cause pain” – must have been painful mantel to wear every day of every year of his life. “Of course it must be true,” our Enemy would scream into his mind, “because your mama said so…And you’ve already done so, hurting the one person you say you love more than anyone.” Our enemy can wreak havoc with our minds and emotions and ultimately our life if we listen to him.

We recently read this verse 1 Peter in our Resting at the River’s Edge reading.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

The enemy has been on the prowl lately. Have you heard the news reports lately?

  • “58 deaths in the Caribbean attributed to Sandy”
  • “Sandy wreaks devastation – utter devastation in New Jersey”
  • “More than a dozen deaths in US caused by Sandy”
  • “Raging fire destroys at least 80 homes”
  • “Sandy could potentially affect more than 66 million Americans”
  • “The Wrath of Sandy”

I’m an adult and I understand that I haven’t caused any of this – they’ve simply named a hurricane after me. Yet each time I hear a news report or read a headline it has jolted my brain – feeling to my brain somewhat like a hard slap in the face. So I’ve been feeling a bit of a kinship with Jabez these last few days.

And God has used the experience to experientially teach me some things that I’d already learned from reading Scripture. That’s called reinforcement. It’s not pleasant but it seals the teaching in our spirits.

Words have impact and that impact has the power to change and shape one’s reality. Just as the New Jersey shore has been impacted by the waves and its shape has been significantly changed by the erosion of the beach and the destruction of roads and bridges, one who is the subject of hurtful words is subject to the effects of those words – the erosion of their confidence and destruction of their dreams.

Scripture says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21, NASB). We have the power to both destroy and give life with the words we say. Hearing repeatedly over the past few days that “Sandy” has brought devastation into millions of lives has not had a life-giving affect on me. Similarly telling a child he isn’t good for anything (or at anything) will not have a life-giving effect on him. Just like telling ourselves that we’re not good for anything or we can’t do anything right is not life-giving. Those words have the power of death.

Just as words can cause death, they can also bring life. We can pray and speak words that counter any and all words the enemy is using for destruction. Jabez’s prayer is simple and interesting. He prays “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” (1 Chronicles 4:10, KJV) Jabez very specifically speaks words of life to refute the words of death that he hears every time someone calls him by name. “Lord, bless me. Help me to do well. Keep your hand upon me. Keep me from evil. Keep me from causing any pain.”

“Jabez, would you…” a friend might have said.
“You, the one who causes pain, would you…” is what Jabez might have heard.

So he fought back – in the spiritual realm. “Lord, change my reality – make me one who does not cause pain. Bless me so that I might be a blessing to others.” You might say “Sandy, you’ve added that last phrase. It isn’t in Jabez’s prayer. He didn’t pray anything about being a blessing to others.” No, he didn’t. But the short discussion of Jabez begins with the phrase “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers” (1 Chronicles 4:9, KJV). An honorable man (or woman) is generous (following God’s laws and His heart). It is totally within the context of the few verses to presume that Jabez’s heart’s desire was to be a blessing to others.

I am blessed – my mama named me “helper of mankind.” That’s what my name means. Yet this week I’ve been hearing about all the horrible things my namesake is doing. So I am beginning to fight back as Jabez did. When I hear or read the headlines, I am turning them around:

“58 deaths in the Caribbean attributed to Sandy”

“Lord, may I bring life to 58 people in the Caribbean. I don’t now how that might happen, but nothing is impossible with God.”

“Sandy wreaks devastation – utter devastation in New Jersey”

“Lord, may I be a blessing in some way to the state of New Jersey? Enlarge my territory so that I may give more. Enlarge my influence so that I may have a greater impact for good.”

“Raging fire destroys at least 80 homes”

“Lord, may I be a builder and not a destroyer. Lord, use me to ignite a fire of passion for You that spreads faster than the raging fire of New Jersey.”

“Sandy could potentially affect more than 66 million Americans”

“Lord, enlarge my influence so that I may affect more than 66 million Americans for good, not for harm. It sounds like foolishness to my ears to even ask such a thing, Lord. But You tell us to ask, so I ask to be an influence for the Kingdom of God in a greater measure than I can imagine. My namesake is affecting these people for evil. Use me, Lord, to affect an even greater number for good.”

“The Wrath of Sandy”

“Lord, keep me from wrath. May my life be marked with the joy of the Lord and a consistent outward display of the love of God.”

Whew! Those are some pretty lofty prayers – prayers that even scare me; prayers that sound impossible and foolish to me. But I believe God answers prayers and I believe He encourages us to pray lofty prayers with lofty ambitions. So I, whose name means helper of mankind, choose to speak words of life to myself, to pray words of life over my life and ministry, and to believe for those words to have an impact – both in this world and in the next.

[Jesus is speaking:] Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
John 16:24 (NASB)

What words spoken against you do you need to reverse by praying life instead death?

PS: While Storm Sandy has been trying to wreak havoc in my emotions, she is definitely wreaking havoc in the northeast United States. Please pray for the victims. If you are able to help, giving to any of the following organizations is a good thing:

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

The holiday season will quickly be upon us, friends. Let me encourage you to make a new commitment to continuing your time reading through the Bible. Track your reading along with us using the table below, the half-page PDF you can download here or the November/December Bookmark you can download here.

Share with us what God is speaking you as you read this month! E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Word of God, speak to us again this month!
Sandy

Download all 2012 bookmarks here Download only the November/December 2012 bookmark here

Download a half-page PDF of the November Reading Plan here

Here’s the November reading plan:

RARE November 2012 Reading Plan JPG

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1The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3He restores my soul. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Psalm 23:1-3 (a compilation of phrases from the NLT and NASB )

My soul was a little bruised today. A sadness hovered around me, constantly bumping me and causing me to lose my train of thought.

It wasn’t a good day for working. But then it wasn’t a good day for not working either, because work provides a bit of structure and the need for focused concentration which shelters me a bit from the constant bumping.

Throughout the day I had worship music playing in the background. It kept trying to assert itself to the foreground and I kept resisting it. I was supposed to be working. I was supposed to be sad. You can take your pick of reasons. Both pulled me away from the worship music.

Finally near the end of the day my Pandora station played Chris Tomlin’s song Let Your Mercy Rain. I was swept away into worship. And God spoke to me about my own resistance to letting Him restore my soul. Psalm 23:3 is often quoted as “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” I like the New Living Translation above – “He lets me rest in green meadows.” Sure, God sometimes “makes me lie down,” but isn’t it so much more wonderful to know that He “lets” us rest? He gives us permission to step away from the world. And during that resting, He restores our souls.

As I closed my eyes and listened to the words, healing poured over my soul:

God, You have done great things
God, You give grace to the weak
And bless the brokenhearted
With a song of praise to sing
You reached down and lifted us up
You came running, looking for us
And now there’s nothing
And no one beyond Your love

And I lifted my hands in worship and petition as the chorus started:

You’re the overflow
You’re the fountain of my heart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

It lead me to expressively sign the words to the rest of the chorus:

You’re the faithful one
When the world’s falling apart
Let Your mercy rain
Let Your mercy rain on us

Yet as the song continued, I felt this internal pressure to get back to real life. It occurred to me that we often focus on living purposeful lives, accomplishing things for the Lord and “numbering our days aright” (Psalm 90:12) and seldom focus on letting ourselves rest by the green pastures God leads us to and allowing Him to restore our souls.

Sure, we give Him our devotional time in the morning (and/or evening), but often during that time we don’t allow Him to restore our souls. We rush through our reading and our praying. Even when God speaks to us and it is a special time, we don’t allow enough time for His voice and the impact of it to fully restore us. We rush on to what’s next.

I’m thinking that living without our soul being restored on a regular basis is setting ourselves up to be knocked down. Our enemy roams around like roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). When our souls are malnourished, we are easily devoured.

In God’s to do list for our day, allowing Him to restore our soul isn’t number 101. I’m thinking it might be in the top three.

Yet we push it down the list so that we can concentrate on getting our work done – our work. His work is restoring our soul so that we can bring glory to Him. A malnourished soul is a soul screaming for God. If it’s been so long since we’ve fed it properly, we may no longer recognition nutrition when we see it.

How does God nourish your soul? Worship music is a key element of a healthy diet for me. God’s telling me that when my soul is weary or sad I need to take in extra nourishment. His Word often nourishes my soul. Biblical fellowship nourishes my soul. Sleep nourishes my soul. Play nourishes my soul.

What we see as frivolous – a waste of time or something just for our enjoyment, God may well see as feeding our soul.

Have you allowed God to nourish your soul today?

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I have a dear aunt who is dying. [Footnote: My aunt has died since I wrote this. Thank you for your prayers for her family.]

Death is such an affront to us. It’s a slap in the face even when it is expected. When unexpected it’s a punch in the gut. Actually, it’s a punch in the gut even when it’s expected.

God didn’t intend it to be this way. And He makes it possible for death to be only a temporary separation from our loved ones. For those who accept Christ as their Savior, death is simply an entry way into the full presence of God and His eternal Kingdom.

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

When faced with death I am reminded that God uses all things – even death – for His purposes. Several things become clear to me when I meditate on the end of someone’s life.

Life and death are in the hands of the Lord. That is sometimes a harsh reality, but it is a reality. We are often tempted to ask God why a loved one is taken from us. Often too young. Always too soon. I can’t answer those questions, but I am convinced that life and death are in His hands (Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Corinthians 3:22). He determines the times and places we are to live (Acts 17:26) and He has our days numbered before we are born (Job 14:5).

God is present at every death. Whenever it occurs – or perhaps I should say each and every time it occurs – each and every time someone dies, God is there. I don’t have lots of answers but I know my God and I know His compassion and I know that the One who values life so much that He knows the number of hairs on each person’s head (Matthew 10:30) and the One who loved each one of us so much that He willingly died for us (Galatians 1:4, Titus 2:6, 1 John 3:16) – that God is present at the point of death. He grieves over sin if the death is untimely, but He is there for the dying. He is even there for the dying one who has spent a lifetime denying His existence. He gives them one last chance to recognize the reality of the One True God and submit their life into His hands.

There is a spiritual realm. That might seem like a strange statement to follow the first two, but my experience and the experience of others who have lost loved ones attest to the reality of a spiritual realm. I wrote about it this way in a blog a few months after my dad died:

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is some kind of spiritual connection among the living and when someone dies that connection is broken. When Phil’s mom died, he came up with this analogy: when a computer network is turned on, the system is always sending out impulses to other computers, checking to see if they are still connected. This is called “pinging” and it’s a continuous process. Without us being aware of it, it seems that our spirits “ping” for the spirits of those we love constantly and we receive an unconscious knowing that they are there. When someone dies, that ping goes out from us but is not returned. At an unconscious level there is a brokenness, a void, a missing connection that pushes itself into our consciousness and alerts our brain that “something is very wrong here.” Our brain then transmits that information to our emotions.

Birth and death are “holy-days” in a very true sense – days to set aside for reflecting on their purposes. Of course the fact that God is present makes them holy-days, but there is more:

  • The wonder of a newborn. The awesome creative power of God given to humans enabling us to create life. The instant and intense love that binds the newborn to his parents.
  • The crash of death. Reminding us that life has its limits that we cannot outwit, outlast or outplay. Reminding us that life is for the living and we ought not to waste time on petty, insignificant differences – or even the big ones. Life is for loving and bring glory to God. That’s the earthly side. There is a heavenly side for believers making it the most holy of holy days. It is the day in which we meet our Savior face to face. It is the day in which we worship as we’ve never worshiped before. It is the day of our true and final birth.

Lord, death is hard. Help me to introduce others to you so that they may experience not only a second birth (John 3:3-7), but a final birth into Your heavenly kingdom.

LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is.
Psalm 39:4 (NLT)

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It wasn’t a proposal I wanted to write because the last time we quoted a project for this company we lost our shirts. That doesn’t usually happen, and we praise God for the jobs we win and the ones we lose. Usually praising Him for the jobs we win is an easy thing. The last time we worked with this company it wasn’t so easy.

The porposal was due first thing this morning, so I got up early. I was tempted to skip my devotional reading. I’m so glad I didn’t. As often happens, God used today’s Resting at the River’s Edge scheduled reading to speak to me. (I always think that is so cool! It’s not like I knew what would be happening today when I created the 2012 reading schedule last December! God is so good.)

1“When you divide the land among the tribes of Israel, [the Lord said to Ezekiel,] you must set aside a section for the LORD as his holy portion. This piece of land will be 81/3 miles long and 62/3 miles wide. The entire area will be holy. 2A section of this land, measuring 875 feet by 875 feet, will be set aside for the Temple. An additional strip of land 871/2 feet wide is to be left empty all around it. 3Within the larger sacred area, measure out a portion of land 81/3 miles long and 31/3 miles wide…5The strip of sacred land next to it, also 81/3 miles long and 31/3 miles wide, will be a living area for the Levites who work at the Temple. It will be their possession and a place for their towns. 6Adjacent to the larger sacred area will be a section of land 81/3 miles long and 12/3 miles wide. This will be set aside for a city where anyone in Israel can live.”
Ezekiel 45:1-6 (NLT)

Now you’re wondering what in the word did she get out of that! 81/3 miles long! 62/3 miles wide! 875 feet by 875 feet! 871/2 feet wide! Our God is a God of exactness. Not 8 ¼ or 8 ½ miles long. Not 87 or 88 feet wide.

As I read this, I was so encouraged – God used this passage to remind me that He is a God I can trust to create my proposals!

Imagine, friends, that the God who placed each star in the sky and knows them each by name – that God is a God of exactness. That is a God I can trust to help me determine how many hours to estimate on any given project. That is a God I can trust to help me establish my home budget.

That is a God I can trust. You can too.

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Circus TentsAnd I can’t wait! I’ve been looking forward to it since the last time I went – about four years ago! Phil and I were so surprised at how much fun we had that we’ve been watching the circus schedules ever since and this is the first opportunity we’ve had to go back.

I’ve been telling everyone about my upcoming plans. The Animal Open House starts at 5:30. The Circus Pre-show starts at 6 and the circus starts at 7. We plan to arrive by 5:15. I don’t want to miss a bit of it.

And God’s been speaking to me about it for the past few days. He’s been tapping me on the shoulder and asking questions like this:

“Are you this excited about our times together?”

“Do you tell everyone how much you’re looking forward to our time together?”

Our God is such a wonderful God. He isn’t bringing condemnation upon me – there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He’s gently nudging me toward the person He created me to be. His calling is so much higher than my calling. So he’s asking me if I’ve lost my first love and if I’m willing to tell others about my first love…or if I’ve started to take my time with God for granted.

Now granted, going to the circus is something I’ve only done a couple of times before, and only once in the past thirty years. But even so, I have the awesome opportunity to hear from the God of the universe every day. To hear Him say (usually through His Word, not through an audible sound) how precious I am to Him. To learn about what He has in store for me in this life and beyond. To discover some of the mysteries of the Godhead. To be myself and know I am totally loved.

So I’m excited about going to the circus tomorrow. It will be an evening of fun and adventure.

But even before then, I get to have an adventure with God – today, tomorrow and every day! How about you? Are you as excited about your time with God as other things in your life? If not, spice things up a bit by trying something new – a different pattern to your time with God, a different Bible translation, a different type of prayer, a different activity…or just sitting and listening more. Blessings on your adventure!

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Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.
Psalm 57:1 (NLT)

This verse from today’s Resting at the River’s Edge readings caught my attention. It was the last phrase that made me stop. “I will hide beneath the shadow of Your wings until the danger passes by (emphasis mine).

I wonder –

> how often do you cry to God for help – “Lord, have mercy on me. Lord, I look to You for protection.” –

> then hide yourself in Him

> and then fail to stay there until the danger has passed?

How often do you come out of hiding long before the danger has passed only to get beat up by the storm?

I’m sure there are many times I do that. It’s both a symptom (the coming out of hiding too soon) and a result (getting beat up by the storm) of a nature that hasn’t matured in patience and effective prayer.

What does it mean to “Hide Beneath the Shadow of [God’s] Wings?”
Most typically, it means that we remain engulfed in God because of the continual, effective prayer we offer. I am safe within God because I am not allowing the world and its influences to pull me into temptation. That temptation might be to worry or to respond in an ungodly manner. Either way, I have removed myself from the shelter of God’s protection by stepping into the world’s way of doing things.

It also means following His ways, including His approach to the situation at hand. Knowing what God wants us to do means knowing His Word and knowing how to hear His voice.

If you’re like me, sometimes you cry out for help “Lord, protect me!” and then immediately leave His presence to go about your day. Sometimes I don’t wait to hear what God has to say about it and sometimes I leave my prayer time and immediately attack the situation in worldly ways. (Lord, forgive me.)

So today’s Scripture is a reminder to:

Cry out to God when I am in trouble…

Wait on Him to hear His plans for my deliverance…

Stay under the shelter of His wings until the danger has passed.

I need that reminder every now and then, how about you?

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From Discouragement to Faith - FinalFaith is the confidence, assurance and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

The past week or two God has highlighted the word “perspective” for me – perspective in the sense of “how we choose to view things.” I want to choose to view things from a position of faith. That position is one of hope and confidence. That position is one of peace and calm. That position means living in the positive instead of the negative.

The key to living in the proper perspective is choosing to do so. My first blog in this series was all about making a decision not to camp out in discouragement but to move on to faith. I want to reiterate that important point in this last blog of the series. Faith isn’t a feeling. It is a choice.

It’s not a blind choice. It’s a choice made on evidence, experienced in both this realm and in the spiritual realm. Everything cannot and will not be explained in the physical realm in which we live. Otherwise there is no need for faith. There is, however, plenty of evidence that direct the reasonable person to choose faith. Having done so, God gives ample spiritual evidence – that is, the witness of His Spirit to our spirit.

Having chosen faith at some point – that is, having chosen to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins so that we might share eternal life with Him, let’s choose to live by faith. Let’s choose to believe the whole Word of God and act upon it. Let’s choose to believe that God’s promises are real and that they were made by a God who delivers on them.

That means choosing to step away from discouragement. Discouragement hits everyone. It’s what we experience when what we were hoping for isn’t being immediately experienced. That happens. A lot. And it’s not fun. But we don’t have to react the way the world does. We can choose to respond by believing that God is good (He is, He really is!) and that He has our good in mind. Then we choose to wait expectantly for those good things to come.

Discouragement is a slippery place to be. It’s like a small plateau from which we can so easily slip over the edge and slide down into the valley, or we can purposefully look toward the hill and climb up to the next resting place. The valley will take your discouragement and turn it into depression. It’s not the place God wants you to settle. His desire is for you to dig deep and begin climbing up. Just as it does in the natural, climbing takes purposeful action and it takes energy. Sliding into the valley will happen on its own. If we want God’s best, we must make the choice to pursue it.

When you find yourself on that plateau of discouragement, don’t let yourself slip into the valley. Be purposeful in returning to a strong faith by taking these actions:

It’s time to go hiking! Let’s climb higher!

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From Discouragement to Disappointment - Enlist a FriendFaith is the confidence, assurance and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

Faith, at its core, is confidence in God and what He has promised. My experience is that sometimes when we’ve been slammed by life that faith waivers. This series has been about specific actions we can take to strengthen or rebuild a waivering faith. We’ve looked at four specific actions so far:

There is a final action that will help you with these first four steps.

Faith Building Action 5 – Enlist the Help of a Friend
Don’t go it alone. Especially when you’re feeling your faith begin to slip. Find a friend and share your struggles with him or her. Then ask for help in three specific ways:

  • Ask them for encouragement. Ask them to remind you when you can’t remember about the goodness of God and about your own worth and value. Choose to believe them when they remind you how important you are to God. Choose to believe them when they remind you that God has gifted you uniquely and specifically for the things He’s called you to. Choose to accept their love when they offer a hug or an arm around your shoulder.
  • Ask them for prayer. Ask them to commit to pray for you throughout the coming month. Share specific situations in which the enemy is most likely to bring discouragement. Share weaknesses and sins that need to be exposed so that the enemy’s power is diminished or cut off. (Note that weaknesses are not necessarily sins – don’t beat yourself up because you can’t do things God didn’t create you to do, but be aware that certain situations may highlight those weaknesses and cause you to respond in sin or disbelief.)
  • Ask them for loving accountability.We all need someone who will lovingly tell us when we’re not making good choices – choices that build our faith. Give your trusted friend permission to do so and heed their words.
    • Perhaps we’re not remembering to praise (or have slidden further down the slope into complaining). A trusted friend can often spot our slipping behavior before we do and remind us gently to return to praise.
    • Perhaps we’re not embracing our identity in Christ. Your trusted friend can be a tremendous encouragement to you reminding you that you are a forgiven, redeemed, child of the Most High God and bride of Christ.
    • Perhaps we’re still working in our own strength or to please others. Allow your trusted friend to challenge you without taking offense.
    • Perhaps God has given us His strategy but we’re backing away from it. Our retreat may be from fear or simply poor priorities. A trusted friend can help us see what’s happening and encourage us to begin walking in the right direction.

Scripture says this about the value of a trusted friend:

9Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

Enlist a trusted friend to help you strengthen your faith, and be intentional about making it a triple-braided cord – that is, one that includes God. When you enlist your trusted friend, be sure that you both agree that your goal is to grow in faith and pursuit of God. Develop your relationship to be one in which you spur one another on to the good works God created you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

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Ask God for His Strategy - Then Implement ItFaith is the confidence, assurance and substance of things hoped for – things we confidently expect to happen. It is the conviction and evidence of things not yet seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (expanded translation using NLT, NASB, NKJV, NRSV and Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary)

This series is about moving from discouragement to faith. We’ve discussed three faith building actions that each of us can take to move our journey forward:

Let’s move on to the exciting, two-part fourth action.

Faith Building Action 4 – Ask God for His Strategy – Then Implement It!
Discouragement can come from many sources. Logically, then, Rebuilding our faith might take the shape of any of a number of different strategies. Here are some examples:

Rest – If your discouragement came from overdoing, you need rest. If you’re a fan of the Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum you’ll recognize the quote “Rest is a weapon.” It is a true statement.

Becoming overtired or overworked, opens a door that the enemy loves to run through. Often, havoc comes into our life and in our condition of being overtired, we can’t stand against it and we become discouraged. So if you’ve just finished a season of extraordinary effort for the Kingdom (whether from obeying God or simply taken more than He required upon yourself), a period of rest may be the best strategy to return to full faith strength.

Change – Sometimes discouragement comes simply because we’ve become bored with our routine. God can use such a time to nudge us into starting something new. Faith, by definition, means moving before we see God’s whole plan laid out before us. God’s strategy to rebuild your strength may be to point you in a new direction, giving you opportunities to trust Him. Experiencing the result of that trust builds your faith to trust Him more.

Persevere – There are faith lessons to be learned when we are required to simply persevere – which basically means to gut it out! Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines persevere as “to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement.” Perseverance is defined as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.” Despite failures, opposition and difficulties, sometimes we’re called simply to persevere.

Paul speaks of persevering in many different ways, but most notably as finishing well.

6As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.
2 Timothy 4:6-8a (NLT)

Persevere, friends – a crown of righteousness awaits you!

Seek healing in some other way – God’s plan for healing often takes us on a path to deal with past hurts and woundedness and He often uses others to help in our healing. His strategy for you might be to see a Christian counselor or sit under the teaching of a specific minister for a period of time or attend a specific conference. He might have you get involved in a small group outside your church. Or he may take you on a more personal journey to wholeness by having you write a book, create an art series or pursue one or more spiritual discipline more intentionally.

Our God is a creative God and He knows you better than you know yourself. Seek God for His strategy during this time. Once you have a hint at the first step in His strategy, implement it! Don’t wait around until you have the whole plan. Many, many people get stuck in this stage of their healing. All that accomplishes is the prolonging of their discouragement. You won’t fully see God move in your life until you begin to move as He directs.

Let me add that if you have fallen from discouragement into depression, you may not hear God speak. Your emotions are so overshadowing your ability to hear God that you may need to rely on someone else to hear God for you! I am not saying that God is not able to speak to you. I am saying that no matter how loudly God speaks you may not hear Him. If you stubbornly wait until you hear Him, you may hinder your own healing. So when a trusted advisor or friend suggests something that makes no sense to you but is witnessed to by another trusted advisor or friend – do it! (By the way, stubbornly waiting until you hear God is the equivalent of requiring that God speak to you in the way you want Him to. That’s called placing your own wisdom/desires above God’s. That’s called pride. That’s called sin and it’s putting yourself in opposition to God. Don’t go there!)

To stagnate in the place of discouragement as you wait to hear new things from God puts you perilously close to becoming lukewarm. God is not pleased with those who are lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). So don’t get stuck – step out in faith!

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