Posts Tagged “Hebrews”

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!

Comments Comments Off on From Discouragement to Faith – Movin’ on Up!

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).

Comments Comments Off on From Discouragement to Faith – Enlist the Help of a Friend

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!

Comments Comments Off on From Discouragement to Faith – Ask God for His Strategy – Then Implement It!

Check Your Motives and Actions

1Faith 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)

When we face discouragement, one of the areas in which we’re hit is our faith. If our faith was strong, we would have confidence that God’s promises are “yes and amen!” (2 Corinthians 1:20). When our faith sags, we struggle to see our hope and future in Christ. In this series we’re looking at how to build our faith so we can naturally move further and further away from discouragement.

Faith Building Action 3 – Check Your Motives & Actions
After starting to build your strong foundation of faith with praise (Faith Building Action #1) and building your courage by remembering who you are in Christ (Faith Building Action #2), you’re ready for a bit of self-reflection. In this step we’re going to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our own attitudes and motivations to us. Begin your time with the Lord with praise and build your confidence in Him by reminding yourself who you are in Christ, then begin the exercise of looking at the things you do for the Lord.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you answer these two questions:

  • What’ your motivation – are you acting out of duty or love? Of course you love the Lord, but sometimes we take on things that He doesn’t really want us to do and they become drudgery. That drudgery becomes duty and we are no longer serving out of love. Or perhaps we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do but our own heart has grown cold and service has become duty instead of passion and love.
  • Are your actions done in your own strength or God’s?Working in our own strength instead of God’s can be the result of many different circumstances, but here are three common examples:
    • Sometimes we’re faced with serving in a way we’ve served many times before. When that’s the case, it’s easy to rely on our own abilities, personality or strategies – after all, they’ve worked so well in the past. Before we know it, we’ve moved ahead without asking God what His plans and strategies are.
    • We might be faced with a new opportunity that we’re so excited about – perhaps it’s an opportunity we’ve prayed for. We’re full of ideas, energy and enthusiasm. In those times it’s easy to jump right in making plans and motivating others to help us…again moving ahead without asking God what His plans and strategies are.
    • Still other times we find ourselves creating our own opportunities – pushing ahead of God’s timing to accomplish what we believe He’s told us to do. And perhaps He has told us but we are either out of sync with His timing or his approach. When we’re pushing to bring about God’s plans (or our plans for God) we find our selves moving ahead without asking God what His plans and strategies are…or perhaps we’ve asked but haven’t waited long enough to hear His answer.

Be honest with yourself and God as you reflect on these two questions. Don’t be afraid of it. Remember, there is no condemnation in Christ. There is conviction when we’ve sinned – and both of these actions can be sin. But the purpose of conviction is to give us the opportunity to change – to repent – and return wholeheartedly to the Lord. Ask forgiveness if you’ve begun to serve out of duty instead of love and ask God to restore your love for Him. (It’s a prayer He loves to answer.) Ask forgiveness if you’ve served in your own strength instead of God’s and ask Him what your next action should be.

After asking the Holy Spirit to help you check your actions and motivations, encourage yourself by reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’re doing it because you love Him – because He has done so much for you. King David put it this way:

1I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 2He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.

4Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. 5O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.
Psalm 40:1-5 (NLT)

Whitney Houston put it like this in the movie The Preacher’s Wife (and let it be your first taste of Christmas):

Comments Comments Off on From Discouragement to Faith – Check Your Actions & Motives

Remember Who You Are In Christ

Faith 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 is confidence…but sometimes our confidence lags a bit. My husband occasionally says that he’s shocked at how insecure I am. I usually project an air of confidence, but there are some common (that is, every day) situations that send my insecurity meter off the charts. The key to being confident (that is, faith-filled) is the object of our confidence – the object of our faith. My confidence lags when my focus changes from God to myself. How will I look to others? How will I be perceived? What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if I forget something important?

Our first faith building action refocused our attention off ourselves and onto God through praise. When we look at the One who created the universe, knowing that He is on our side, our confidence soars. Our second faith building action brings the focus back to ourselves, but in a way that allows us to see ourselves through God’s eyes.

Faith Building Action 2 – Remind Yourself of Who You Are in Christ
Here are a just few of the ways that God sees you. Meditate on these elements of your identity in Christ to build your faith.

Forgiven – Being forgiven means there is no longer any condemnation or shame associated with your past (or present or future) life. It means all penalties or payments required to make up for your wrong actions have already been paid. Welcome to freedom! Your life sentence of being a slave to sin has been commuted.

1So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)

No condemnation, friends – and freedom from the power of sin.

Child of God – Of course that forgiveness also makes you a child of God – someone who is born not only of flesh and blood but of the spirit. Someone who has the promise of spending eternity with Him. Someone dearly loved by the Father.

3Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God…5I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.”
John 3:3, 5-6 (NLT)

1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3 (NIV)

That hope gives us confidence in today and tomorrow. What love the Father has lavished upon us!

Child of Abba-Father – There are many ways to view being a child of God. One picture that often escapes us is the intimate picture of a child reaching up his or her arms to be lifted up by their Papa. That is the image portrayed in this verse:

14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:14-15 (NASB)

We’re not given a spirit of fear – rather, when we are tempted to fear we are reminded that we have been adopted as a child of God and we can cry out for His help – “Abba! Father!” My parents were divorced when I was in my teens and I felt disconnected from my father. It was only after I grew older that I began to understand that if I needed anything and called out “Daddy!” he would do his best to move heaven and earth if necessary to come to my aid. And he was an earthly father – quite imperfect when compared with my heavenly Father. My heavenly Father actually has the power to move heaven and earth to come to my aid. My heavenly Father invites me to cry out “Daddy!” Matthew Henry writes that this verse “denotes an affectionate endearing importunity” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible.) He’s my father with whom I can be affectionate, who finds me endearing, and who encourages me to seek Him and His help.

Joint heir with Christ – When God made us His children – or perhaps I should say when God set in motion the plan for Christ to pay the penalty for our sins and when Christ agreed to leave the glories of heaven for the pain and suffering of earth and when we accepted Christ’s gift as payment for our sins – we also became joint-heirs with Christ. In the breath that Christ said “forgive them,” He said “I’ll share all that is mine with them.”

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 (NLT)

16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…
Romans 8:16-17a (NASB)

All that the Father has belongs to the Son. We have become fellow heirs, joint heirs, co-heirs with Christ.

Beloved Bride of Christ – We are not only a friend of God and co-heir with Christ, but Paul told the Corinthians that he had “promised [them] as a pure bride to one husband – Christ” 2 Corinthians 11:2 (NLT). Revelation 19 describes the wedding:

7Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. 8She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.” For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. 9And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”
Revelation 19:7-9 (NLT)

We will be the bride who has made herself ready. We are the bride who is making herself ready. We have been invited to the wedding feast not as a guest but as the beloved bride. Christ is our husband and He longs for the day when we will become His bride.

There is a passage that puts all these relationships together:

4But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT)

We have gone from slave to son. We have gone from deserving death to being an heir. Our confidence – our faith – grows as we understand who we are in Christ. This powerful video with Jason Gray’s song Remind Me Who I Am illustrates the point.

.

This has not been an exhaustive list of who we are in Christ. There’s much more! Scripture also says that we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), a chosen people (1 Peter 2:9), created in God to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). And more, and more.

Move beyond discouragement to faith – meditate on who you are in Christ.

Comments 2 Comments »

1Faith is the confidence 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 is this wonderful, supernatural, practical, every-day living thing. I’ll use a word that might offend some and say it almost seems magical. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. When you have it, you feel like nothing in the world can hold you back and nothing in the world is going to discourage you. When you don’t have it, it’s so easy to slide into defeatism and wonder if you’ll ever have enough faith, if you’ll ever be able to accomplish things, maybe even if you’ll ever be good enough for God. Of course the answer to that last doubt is no, you’ll never be good enough…but God doesn’t require that you be good enough. He’s already done the heavy lifting and is ready to forgive your sins if you just turn your life over to Him. If you’ve never done that, I encourage you – I urge you – to do so. You can learn more about it here. Or send me an email (sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com) and I’ll respond.

Yet even those who are confident they are living in Christ can become discouraged. As we continue to walk with the Lord, He expects us to mature in our faith. He no longer spoon feeds us to help us get through our daily life. We learn to live in Christ and overcome the things of this world. Don’t misunderstand and think that Christ isn’t always with us. He is. Just as a loving parent, though, He allows us to grow up and confidently face the challenges and experience victory in Him.

So how do we encourage ourselves in our faith? How do we increase our faith when we feel it lagging? In this series we’re going to look at five specific actions we can take that will move us past discouragement toward faith and confidence. Each of the steps will strengthen your walls of faith. They will patch the weak spots and repair the broken edges.

Remember that if you’re at a weak point, it’s unlikely you got there overnight. You’ve probably been sliding for awhile and now you find yourself at the turnoff to discouragement valley. Or perhaps you’ve already taken the exit ramp. It may take a little time to get back to the road that leads to confidence and faith. Take your time and be consistent. Take these actions – starting today – and trust that God will restore you.

Faith Building Action 1 – Praise
There is no substitute for spending time praising God and it is the single-most important action you can take when your faith is dwindling. Often, however, when your faith is low, it can be difficult to remember how to worship and praise God. (Lord, forgive us. Lord, help us.) There are two practical things you can do to help you praise God when your heart is heavy and your mind is blank:

  • Remind yourself who God is. There are many ways you can do this.Here’s just a few.
    • Study or read about the different names of God. He Jehovah-Jireh – The Lord, My Provider. He has always provided for me and He always will. He is Jehovah-Raffe – The Lord, My Healer. He has made me whole!
    • When I’m having one of those medical tests that cause me stress I work through the alphabet identifying characteristics of God that are praiseworthy. He is the Alpha – He’s always been. He existed before the beginning of the world. He’s Big – bigger than any problem I’m facing. (He’s also Better at dealing with them than I am.) He Cares for me – like a mother hen wants to protect her chicks. You get the idea. If you’re working on faith building, don’t just do this in your head as I’ve done during uncomfortable medical tests, do it on paper – journal your way through the alphabet. It is a powerful exercise that can easily take several weeks. Make it a special time between you and God.
    • Read through the Psalms. Many of them describe God in ways that wouldn’t be on the tip of our tongues. He is the good shepherd (Psalm 23). He is a shield around me (Psalm 3:3). He is my rock (Psalm 18:3 and many others). You’ll also find example after example teaching you how to praise Him. “I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.” (Psalm 116:1)
    • I love to read the creation story in Genesis 1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said…” (Genesis 1:1-3a, NLT). I am blown away by the power of God each time I read it – His ability to create all that exists from nothing. God’s Spirit hovered, then He spoke. And the world came into being.
    • Sing praise music. This Sunday, after each worship song our pastor had us call out things we were thankful for that we had just sung about. It made us think about the words we were singing – making it impossible to treat the worship time like a songfest. Engage while you sing praise songs and pause after each one to audibly praise God for things the song identifies.
  • Remind yourself of what God has done for you. Be specific.
    • Tell yourself your “God story.” How were you saved? What prayers has He answered? How has he protected you? How has He intervened in your marriage? How has He changed your life and the lives of your children? Who has he put in your life to bless you? How have they blessed you?
    • If you’ve kept a prayer journal, re-read it. Slowly.
    • Think through the major seasons of your life and identify how God has been a part of them.
    • Think through the major events of your life and remember how God has directed them.

Our pastor said something this Sunday that I put two stars next to in my notes:

“There isn’t a wall that satan can build that cannot be torn down – demolished – with praise.”
Pastor Dan Caudill

He followed it with a second double-starred note:

“Praise disarms a complaining spirit.”
Pastor Dan Caudill

How very true this is. It’s that complaining spirit that drives us to discouragement valley. Praise takes the keys away from it and returns them to the Holy Spirit. Then He drives us to faith and confidence.

Friend, praise Him! In the morning, throughout the day and before you go to sleep every night.

It will keep you off the road to discouragement.

In a few days I’ll give you a second action to build your faith when it’s wavering. For now, let’s praise Him.

Comments Comments Off on From Discouragement to Faith – Praise Him!

From Discouragement to Faith and ConfidenceI’ve run into several things over the past couple of months that seem to have the same theme. That typically means God is trying to teach me something.

I read an article about never-ever-ever giving up, never-ever-ever quitting – even if you’ve been knocked down and it would seem all hope is lost. It was a powerfully written piece that stuck with me. It was an article about self defense, not our walk with the Lord.

A short time later I was watching Olympics coverage of the men’s gymnastics team. They were falling apart. The announcer began to talk about a basketball coach he had interviewed. This basketball coach repeatedly said “I’m training them for the thunderbolt.” Yes, he would drill on layups and foul shots, but he saw his primary function as “training them for the thunderbolt.” That is – training them what to do when the worst happens.

A few days later I went to a walk-thru at a commercial printer’s facility. It was their opportunity to teach us a bit about the printing industry and talk about their capabilities. One of the speakers made a statement followed by this insightful question: “Mistakes happen. The key question is what systems and processes do you have in place for recovery?”

I’m sensing a theme.

I think sometimes I am too easily discouraged. Maybe you are too. I think some times I give up too soon. Perhaps it’s because I’ve not trained for the thunderbolt. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have the proper systems and processes in place to move beyond discouragement into faith and confidence.

Because quitting too soon, my friend, is a sign of weak faith. Let’s look at a famous faith verse:

Faith 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)

When we face discouragement, there are (at least) five specific actions we can take to travel beyond that discouragement toward the faith that pleases God. We’ll look at those five actions in upcoming blogs.

Before we get to any of the actions, though, the first and perhaps most important thing for us to do is to decide that this is the time to keep moving – not to make discouragement a stop along the road. It’s time to change our destination – and that means changing our expectations. It’s time to expect to win and have the attitude that we’re in the game until we win. We’re to never-ever-ever give up. Christ assures us of the victory

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
1 John 4:4 (NLT)

If we don’t make this critical first decision, we’ll never take the five specific actions that will move us toward faith and confidence. If we don’t recognize that our steering wheel is taking the exit ramp into discouragement valley (which is just a stop on the road to depression) and put a stake in the ground and say “No! Not on my watch! Not this time! That exit ramp is closed!” we won’t see the victory we’re promised.

A few days after the walk-thru at the printer’s facility, I read a blog that encouraged…you guessed it…expecting victory. Check it out here. Then stay tuned for the five specific things you can do to move from discouragement to faith.

Comments Comments Off on From Discouragement to Faith – Make a Decision!

5I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:5-7 (NLT)

When I read this introduction to Paul’s letter to Timothy, it seems to me that Timothy was at a low point in his walk with the Lord. Paul is reminding him that his faith is genuine and he is reminding him of the faith of his ancestors. He is telling Timothy that he has confidence in Timothy’s faith. Then Paul gives Timothy a prescription for restoring the spark in his relationship with God. It’s a prescription we all need from time to time. Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you” (NLT). Other translations read “stir up the gift of God which is in you” (NKJV) and “rekindle the gift of God” (NRSV). That’s the prescription. Not quite as easy as “take two pills and rest.” What does it mean to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you”? Perhaps Paul didn’t answer the question because the answer varies from person to person.

Anyone who has experienced a down cycle in their spiritual life has wondered “how do I get back to where I was? How do I return to the passion I once had for God?” The good news is that once you’ve started asking that question, you can have confidence that God is there to help. God wants you back more than you do. Yes, He requires that you return to Him, but He’s been there waiting for you. Like the father of the prodigal son, He’s been watching for you and the moment He sees your repentant heart, the moment He sees you walking toward him, He will run toward you (Luke 15:11-32).

But how do you go about making that change – returning to God when you’ve slipped from the intimacy you once had? What are the details behind Paul’s prescription? Here’s five steps that will help restore the passion you once had for the Lord.

First. In rekindling the gift of God, first repent that you have fallen, that your spiritual disciplines have grown lax, that you have allowed the world to take a more prominent place in your heart, or that you have done things in your own strength instead of God’s and given the enemy an opening. Spend time asking God how you ended up where you are, listen for His answer, then repent of those actions or inactions that were not pleasing to Him.

Second. After repenting, have confidence that God will restore you! That’s called faith, and faith pleases God. In fact, Scripture says that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). To grow your faith, study the story of the prodigal son, first imagining yourself in the place of the son, then imagining yourself in the place of the father. This study will grow your faith by helping you see the attitude of the son and the response of the father. Then simply choose to believe that God is like the prodigal son’s father and that He will honor your actions and you will again experience His presence.

Third. If you’ve fallen lapse in your personal spiritual disciplines of reading your Bible, praying and attending church, return to them. While there are many more spiritual disciplines, these three are critical to a healthy life with God. If there are other disciplines that you once consistently practiced, return to them. Some other disciplines that may have fallen by the wayside in your journey away from the Lord are tithing, fasting, meditating, and practicing a weekly Sabbath.

Fourth. Do those things that you once did to build and feed your passion for God. Beyond the disciplines I mentioned in the third step, there are things you can do – things you probably did at one time – that fanned the flame of your passion for Christ. They might be attending the occasional retreat or conference, scheduling an extended time of study or worship periodically or getting together with fellow believers who challenge your faith. There are certain people Phil and I enjoy being around because we always leave their presence encouraged to pursue God more.

Fifth. Finally, don’t hoard what you’re receiving from God – serve Him and others by using the gifts He’s given you. If you have the gift of teaching, teach. If you have the gift of giving, give. If you have the gift of encouragement, encourage others. Consistently taking in without giving out leads to spiritual sluggishness. Being used by God is the best antidote to spiritual boredom. So step out and step up. Find (or start) a ministry that uses your gifts.

It encourages me to know that those who have gone before me – even those in the Bible – experienced down times in their walk with the Lord. It encourages me more that God and I have the same goal – for me (and you) to pursue Him wholeheartedly. Scripture says that He rewards those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). I’m looking for the reward! I’m looking for a greater intimacy with God.

Comments Comments Off on When You’re at a Low Point in Your Walk with the Lord

I have been captured by the song Word of God Speak by MercyMe this week. You can read about it in yesterday’s blog. You can purchase the CD here.

In yesterday’s blog, I included a YouTube video that intermingles images and Scriptures while the song plays in the background. The video includes great verses about God’s Word, but as the video was ending,  I realized that the song brought a different verse to my mind:

Where there is no vision (revelation, prophetic vision, divine guidance), the people perish (cast off restraint, run wild), but happy are those who keep the law (whoever obeys the law is joyful).
Proverbs 29:18

The Word of God brings vision, revelation and divine guidance. Even when He is speaking discipline, that discipline comes wrapped in a package that includes vision for a better future – that we can be more than we are currently pursuing. It holds the hope of what can come next and the promise that God will help us get there.

By the way, that’s the difference between condemnation from the enemy and conviction from the Holy Spirit. When the enemy speaks it is in condemnation and it doesn’t come packaged with the vision for a better future. It doesn’t come wrapped in hope and a promise for help. It comes wrapped only in accusation, the sense of defeat and assurance of destruction. And in the face of such a future, we cast off restraint and step into that future of defeat.

When God speaks, good things happen:

1. Hope arises in our heart as we glimpse God’s vision. When He speaks, we begin to understand things from God’s perspective.

“He cares enough to speak to me, even though I have failed Him.”

“He has a vision for my future even when my sight is blurred or failing.”

“With Him, I can become the man/woman He wants me to be.”

“He has a part for me to play – a role in His eternal plan.”

2. Faith is ignited in our spirit when His Word speaks to us.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 (NIV)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

3. Faith brings an increased measure of grace into our lives enabling us to hold onto and step into God’s vision. Our God is a God of the future. Yes, He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, but He forgives the past and enables the future. When He speaks, His message offers us an opportunity to enter into that future – that vision He has given.

Word of God speak. To me. To my readers. To Your people. We need to hear Your voice. We need Your prophetic vision. We need it to instill us with hope, increase our faith and activate grace in our lives.

We need these things because without them – without hope, without faith and without God’s grace, we see and hear only what the enemy is doing around us and whispering in our ears (“failure”, “defeat”, “no way out”) and sensing defeat we cast off restraint. We run wild because we don’t see God’s vision and our part in it. And we run into our own destruction.

Word of God Speak.

Comments Comments Off on God Speaks…Hope, Faith and Grace Come Alive

Cracked Foundation of Brick Wallsby guest blogger Pastor Dan Caudill

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.’
Isaiah 28:16, NIV

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 3:11, NIV

Some time ago our church offered to the congregation a “Foundations” Bible study series, a sort of “Christianity 101,” revisiting the basics of the Christian faith. We were hoping that it would be a valuable tool for those in our body that were “young” in the faith. Our desire was to give them that firm foundation upon which they could build their walk with Christ for generations to come.

The strange thing is that many of our “seasoned veterans” of the faith looked forward to plugging in as well. I guess you could say they wanted to “check the foundation” for cracks or leaks. After all, we do that for our physical homes don’t we? You don’t have to be a contractor to know that if the foundation crumbles, the rest of the house is sure to follow. The same is true spiritually. If our foundation is weak or has gaps, chances are at some point in time, when tested by the storms of life, our faith will crumble. If our hope is in anything but Christ Jesus, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12 NIV, “I know whom I have believed, an am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” That’s the kind of faith and foundation I want. How about you?

Let’s take a quick look at five things we are easily tempted to build our foundation and faith upon other than Christ. Of course, none of these will stand up to the storms of life, so if our foundation is in one of these, it’s not a matter of if, but when, our lives will crumble around us.

Self
You’ve heard the old saying, “We have found the enemy, and it is us!” I don’t know about you, but I’ve sure found that to be true. The only thing that can really keep me from an intimate walk with God is ME! Satan can tempt all he wants, but he has no authority to make me do anything. This flesh, along with my feelings and emotions, just can’t be trusted. Besides, the best “game” I’ve got can’t hold a candle to the awesome power and wisdom of the most High God. I need Jesus’ resurrection power in my life. Truly Lord, “I Need Thee Every Hour.”

Money
I don’t know where you do your banking, but mine’s got a hole in it! My money leaks out as fast (or faster) than I can put it in. And in case you haven’t been watching the news or reading the papers in the last year or so, fortunes have been lost because of economic downturns and uncertainties. The world economy has more ups and downs than a roller coaster. At best, money is a gamble. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It can’t be trusted for the long haul. Easy come, easy go.

Religion
The Scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were poster boys for what empty, powerless religion looks like. If you are like me and have tasted some of the same, you know it not only leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it certainly leaves you unfulfilled and wanting something more. Only Jesus satisfies, and a close, intimate relationship with Him will bring that deep abundant life that religion cannot deliver. Instead of just believing in something, I’d rather walk with Someone who has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.

Church Tradition
Just because we’ve “always done it that way” doesn’t automatically make it the way God would have us do it. We need to check everything we do to make sure it is founded upon Scripture and is Holy Spirit led and divinely appointed. God isn’t looking for good Methodists or Baptists or Catholics or Lutherans or any other denomination. He is looking for warriors, soldiers in the army of God, servants and followers who will seek His will, put on His armor, and rush headlong into battle against the enemy, at His command.

Popular Opinion
Sin is still sin even if everyone is doing it, and right is still right even if no one is doing it. God has never conducted an opinion poll. He, and He alone, is the Sovereign God. He gets to decide what is right and what is wrong. He doesn’t cut deals, or do favors, or just sweep things under the rug on the back porch. The Lord is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). In the end, we will give an account to Him. God will not have to submit to the vote or opinion of the masses. Opinions ARE like belly buttons, everyone has got one, but in the end, God’s is the only one that counts – and the only one that can be counted on. Lead us, O Lord, in paths of righteousness.

I guess this leaves each of us with a question that begs an answer. How is my foundation? On what or who have I built? Is my life staked upon The Rock, who is Jesus, or am I trusting in one or more of the false pillars mentioned above? Those pillars will crumble and let us down.

Hang onto the Lord, friends. He is our solid foundation. Tomorrow we’ll look more closely at pillars that build that firm foundation in Christ. For today, I proclaim the words of the hymn by Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury:

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Proverbs 18:10, NIV

Comments Comments Off on A (Less Than) Firm Foundation

© copyright 2009-2013, Data Designs Publishing and Sandra J. Hovatter