Him [Jesus Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Serving God may require toil, the kind of hard work that wears us out. Doing God’s work can be a struggle because we are fighting an enemy (Satan) and overcoming obstacles.
Throughout our work for God, throughout the toil and struggle of our labor, we also know that it is God’s energy that keeps us going. He will work through us during our labor in a powerful way.
We must persist in the work of the Lord because others need to know the One who saved us and who is able to save them!
There is so much to fear in this world. If we let it, fear can paralyze us and render us useless. And rendering us useless in God’s battle plans is exactly what Satan is hoping for. He is a master at sidelining us. Sometimes we do not even recognize it.
For a long time I let fear paralyze me. Once I realized that fear was a problem, it took months to identify and deal with the different fears that were haunting me. The fact that I completed writing and publishing the ELIJAH study is proof that God is bigger than all our fears.
What do you fear? We worry about everything from our health to natural disaster. We worry that we can, that we can’t, that we will get hurt, that we will hurt others, that we will fail, that we will succeed. Our lives are filled with “what-ifs.” What if we followed Paul’s instruction to the Philippians?
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Paul tells us not to be anxious. Instead we are to make our requests known to God. This is more than just listing our problems for God. It includes prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. We are to talk with God, sharing our wishes with Him—that is prayer. We are to ask for His help—supplication. We are to do it all while thanking Him.
The Greek word used here for everything is pás. It “means ‘all’ in the sense of ‘each (every) part that applies.’ The emphasis of the total picture then is on ‘one piece at a time.’” When we are anxious, worried, and afraid, we feel torn apart, and our loyalties become divided. Paul encouraged the Philippians to place each part of each fear into God’s hands.
That’s exactly what I had to do. Now it is your turn. What are you afraid of? Take time to analyze your fear. Is it really more than one fear? Identify the different parts. Take a few minutes to place each of your fears into God’s hands. Do not forget to thank Him for all He is doing.
When we place our fears into God’s hands, God will replace that fistful of fear with His peace. Surpasses is the Greek word huperechó which means “to hold above, to rise above, to be superior.” The kind of peace that we will receive in exchange for placing our fears into God’s hand is a peace that rises above our fears. By holding us above our fears, God guards our hearts and minds. So as you place each part of each fear into God’s hands, allow His surpassing peace to hold you above your fear.
We would love to hear your stories of overcoming fear in your life with God’s all-surpassing peace!
Today’s post was adapted from ELIJAH: Lessons on God and Godly Living from One Flawed Human to Another by Trisha L. Knaul (Week 2, Day 4).
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a lover of God’s creation, especially plants that bloom! My family moved into our current home sixteen years ago. It sets on approximately ¼ of an acre. At the time we moved in, there were lilac bushes bordering two sides of the property, spirea bushes along the front and back of the house, a 16’ length of fence with blackberries, and six fifty year old trees (three pine, three maple). To most people that would be more than enough, but not for me! I have transformed our property to include fourteen flower beds, a 48’ x 24’ fruit and vegetable garden with an arbor wall, a pergola, and a 7’ x 20’ pond (4’ deep). My husband says that’s enough every time I add something new, but he is always amazed by the beauty and enjoyment it brings.
All of the beauty in our yard is always dependent on the weather. As I’m sure you know, the amount of precipitation, sunlight, and nutrients determine the growth of the plant. The environment that the plants are exposed to directly affects the end result. Each plant has its own needs in order to thrive. Some need dry soil, some need swampy, and yet some need a perfect blend. It can be a delicate balancing act that you ultimately have no control over. It is hard (sometimes impossible) to recover the growing season once the plant has been exposed to the harsh elements. A succulent that gets flooded and sits in soggy soil for extended time will just rot. A delicate impatient that is baked in the hot sun with no water for days on end will most likely shrivel and dry up to a crisp twig. Both will be lost forever.
If all the conditions are right in early spring, the Bearded Iris will begin to sprout from the rhizome sitting on top of the soil. The straight, blade-like leaves will grow up to 18″ tall. In a couple of weeks, you’ll start to see a stalk rise above the leaves, and buds will poke through and swell with glorious anticipation. Then one by one, as the air warms each bud’s petals, they will show their glory with a sweet scent. Weeks of growth comes to a beautiful climax that lasts just one day. That’s right, each iris bloom lasts just one day. Then, it begins to shrink and curl up. Thankfully, there are multiple blooms on each stalk giving you many days of beauty. But, sooner than later all of the blooms are gone and the greens wither away.
I watch my favorite flower go through this process year after year, and I am always amazed at God’s intricate attention to beauty. The hard, brown, ginger-like root produces one of the most delicate flowing petals bringing beauty to the garden. I would be remiss if I didn’t bring this back to the beginning when I spoke of the conditions needed for blooming and how this is so different from our ability to bloom in God’s glory.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall.” ∼1 Peter 1:23-24
In God’s garden, we are preserved for eternity. Adverse conditions won’t inhibit us from blooming, and we don’t shrivel up after one bloom. In fact, God often uses those adverse circumstances to bring the most beautiful blooms of His eternal glory. In order to bloom in God’s garden of glory, the first mandatory requirement is that we are born again believers. Once God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit, then he can bring beauty to any of our circumstances in His will. He gives us nourishment and everything we need to flourish.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” ∼John 15:16
Second, we must listen and obey. The lasting and meaningful fruit in our lives are not of our own accord. Have you ever tried so hard to make a situation thrive or recover it from despair only to find yourself busted and frustrated? Or, when we start to see it work just the way we want it, we see it wither away to nothing. In order to grow in God’s grace, we actually have to take in His living word and live by it.
God is the only one that can work blessings from hardships—blessings that will grow for eternity. Let me share how God tilled his grace into the garden of my life during some of the harshest conditions. My husband and I have been married for more than twenty years, and it has been a journey of love, joy, and adventures. But, like most marriages, it has had its fair share of trials, sickness, death, and despair. I became a born again Christian five years into our marriage. My husband grew up in the church but chose not to have a relationship with Christ. Our marriage was not created on the foundation of God and, until I became a Christian, neither of us cared.
I must have believed on some level: how could God fix something that he’s not fully a part of? My belief was full of unbelief. My fears continually won over my faith. A couple of years ago, we almost ended our commitment to each other. We had worked so hard through the years to save it by attending seminars and counseling and participating in exercise after exercise. None of our efforts made any lasting changes, until God stepped in when I finally stepped aside.
In my unbelief, I used to secretly ask God to give me an out. “Please, Lord, just make this long suffering end!” I longed for it to be over. I was so weary of trying everything known to man to save a relationship that seemed doomed from the beginning. Then, in the beginning of 2017, I had a complete breakthrough with God. I finally believed without a doubt, leaving no room for fear, that God loved me. This broken, bruised, tarnished, and tattered soul was actually whole, beautiful, blessed, without blemish, and strong. The circumstances in my life could not change it. No matter the outcome of whatever it is I face, I know that God has my best interest at hand. My Heavenly Father would not leave me.
So with this said, the night that my husband forced me to leave our home I had first thought, “Well, this is my out.” But was it? I was not even completely out of the driveway when I felt this sinking feeling in my gut that said this was wrong. I knew I was not to be leaving. I felt it at the core of my being. I knew that I could not just turn around and walk back in, but I also knew that it wasn’t going to be forever. The very thing that I had been begging for to end my marriage was going to be the one thing that healed it.
Within the next few months, God brought women into my life who were going through similar struggles. We started meeting weekly as a group to encourage each other, pray for each other, and support each other. We cried a river of tears and laughed so hard we cried again. We began seeing blooms through the ice as pictured in Isaiah 35.
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” ∼Isaiah 35:1-2a
Joy and gladness returned where there was only sorrow and strife. But what changed? Our circumstances were still the same. Our lives were full of the same struggles. Then what made the difference? It was our obedience to God. God used a group of five broken women to bring blossoms of beauty in the most arid of desserts.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. ∼Galatians 6:2
I encourage you to join me in God’s garden. If you allow him to give you living water by his word and feed you with his Holy Spirit, I can promise you that you will be blessed. The blessings may not be exactly what we want, but if we look between the thorns, we’ll see the beautiful rose blooming for all to see.
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. ∼Psalm 31:24
I was down in the basement the other day, getting out my Christmas decorations. For some unexplainable reason I had this surge of energy and thought to myself; “I think I’ll clean up the basement then next year it will be easier to find what I need at Christmas.” Brilliant!
I get that urge ONE day every year, and it usually results in a partially clean office, or closet, or spare room. This year, the basement was about to become the recipient of my good intentions.
I had no idea at the time; God was going to turn my burst of energy into a teaching opportunity.
While I was rooting around in the dust and cobwebs through the bowels of my house, In the back of a closet, I found some old clothes. You have them too, that favorite dress, or a coat from a time and “size” long gone by.
Now, I try to follow that rule that says, “If you haven’t worn it in a year, then get it out of your house”. Still, when I had the dress folded up and about to go into my donate box, I just couldn’t put it in. A voice inside was saying “Just because I can’t fit into it now, doesn’t mean I won’t someday”.
It occurred to me that I’d had that conversation with myself before, many times in fact. And since these old favorites were old enough to almost be back in style again, it looked like I had that conversation with myself LOTS of times. So with a sigh, I let go and into the box everything went.
Moses had his God encounter on the top of the mountain and the disciples were in a garden. Me? Well I was climbing the stairs out of the basement with a box of old clothes in my arms. That’s when I heard that small voice of the Spirit whisper to me.
“There are somethings you find very hard to give up on, aren’t’ there?”
I’ve walked with God for a long time, now, so I like to think I recognize his voice. It’s not some bright light. He doesn’t break apart mountains or burn up bushes. It’s just this firm idea that once I think about it, it won’t go away. It’s like when your kids “Mom” you over and over and over.
So God and I have been having a conversation for a week now about that box of old clothes. It’s gone something like this:
God: There are somethings you find very hard to give up on, aren’t’ there?”
Me: Well, it’s hard to accept you will never be a size six again
Me:Alright, Nine. Are you happy?
God: The real question is, ‘Are YOU happy?’ You hold on so ferociously to something that matters so little, while you let go of important things so easily.
Me:I don’t know what do you mean?
God: Yes, you do. Why do you miss a couple days reading your Bible and praying, call yourself a failure, and give up all together?
Why do you stumble in a sin, one more time, and then throw in the towel, convinced you are not worthy?
Why do you have a few arguments, and surrender your relationships?
Why do you give up so quickly on becoming who I know you can be?
Aren’t these things much more important than old clothes?
Me: Um…Yes, Sir
God: Don’t give up on us.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9; 16-18 : We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…Therefore we do not loose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day, for our light an momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on what is unseen, not on what is seen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.