WeepingintoDancing

Overcoming Difficult Trials

Archive for the category “Perseverance/Endurance”

God’s Point of View and Proportions

9When life is chaotic, painful, or full of uncertainty, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Exhaustion wears a person down, both physically and spiritually. And without time in the Word, depression is certain to knock on our door. It takes both physical and spiritual strength to weather a storm, and we require nourishment to persevere a lengthy or intense battle.

Without spiritual manna, the devil can easily establish footholds in our walk with Christ. Footholds are often secured when we doubt the goodness and faithfulness of God. Is God not constant? Is He good only when times are joyful and fruitful? Or, is God good, in spite of the trials that try to knock us sideways?

God does test our faith. But when adversity comes, He hopes the struggle succeeds in chiseling away personal impurities. Remember, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we look into a mirror, we should see Christ in our reflection.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.James 1:2-4 (NKJV)

But the devil, always the prowling opportunist, uses adversity to spread lies. His lies attack the very nature of God.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (NKJV)

In good times and bad times, we have to keep our focus on things above. By doing so, we obtain a proper perspective of our situation and correctly see things in their right proportion. Our circumstances may look grim, but Jesus walks with us through every storm!

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

When we remember God’s love for us, we can look at our situation and identify positives, if we search them out. God is all about turning bad things into good. Learning to develop God’s perspective on life is greatly beneficial, but it takes self-discipline and there is no room for self-pity.

Consider the story of David and Goliath. If David had simply looked at the proportions of size and strength when facing Goliath, he would never have approached the giant. But David put God into the equation. He knew that all things were possible with God. He also knew that God would not be mocked.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.Galatians 6:7 (NKJV)

David had God’s perspective when he accepted Goliath’s battlefield challenge. He was able to perceive things from God’s point of view. He knew God was all-powerful. He was certainly far greater than the prideful Philistine who had yelled insults at God’s chosen people. Without armor, and holding a mere slingshot, David slew the enemy who had insulted his God, tormented King Saul, and terrorized the entire army of Israel.

King Saul, David’s brothers, and the Israelite army were paralyzed with fear because they viewed the giant and his challenge with earthly eyes. When God is not added into the equation of life, the proportions of the battle before us will cause feelings of intimidation and even terror.

If you find yourself in a time of testing, where a trial of some sort presses in, add God to your equation. When you do, the obstacles Satan has planted for intimidation purposes will appear out of proportion. Circumstances that initially seemed vast and capacious will melt away and become a fraction of what they had once appeared to be. The Light of the World will disperse all darkness and expose the devil’s handiwork. Step-by-step, through every twist, bump, and turn in your road, God will walk beside you in love, grace, and mercy. Like David, you too will sleigh your Goliath because God is with you.

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11 (NKJV)

 Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.Proverbs 4:25 (NKJV)

 “So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:6 (NKJV)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Suddenly, God Moved

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There are many stories in the Bible where patience, endurance, and perseverance were necessary to obtain the promises of God. These are wonderful traits and all of them are helpful in our Christian walk. The life of Joseph and Abraham are just two examples of patient endurance. But sometimes, sometimes, God moves suddenly.

The book of Exodus tells us the story of Moses. A Hebrew by birth, he was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. Growing up, he enjoyed the luxuries of a royal household. But when he was grown, Moses was despondent over the Hebrew oppression and had compassion for his brethren. So much so, Moses killed an Egyptian after witnessing him beat a Hebrew slave. Pharaoh soon heard of the murder and sought to kill Moses, who then fled Egypt to dwell in the land of Midian.

It was forty years of desert living before God spoke with Moses. Speaking through a burning bush that was never consumed, He instructed Moses to return to Egypt.

“Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:10 (NKJV)

God promised to deliver the Israelites from oppression and bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses took God’s Word to heart. He believed God would help the Hebrews.

In faith, Moses returned to Egypt and confronted Pharaoh. It took time, and several plagues to convince Pharaoh to “Let My People Go.” But sure enough, Moses eventually collected the Israelites and God (Pillar of Cloud or fire) led them to the Red Sea.

By now you must be wondering where it is that God moves suddenly. So far, Moses has had to endure a season of waiting, unlikely detours, demanding tests, and roadblocks. But God promised Moses that the Israelites would inherit a land of plenty, and He is faithful. As we continue on with the Israelite’s trek to the Red Sea, we discover an example of God working suddenly to fulfill His promise.

Pharaoh decided to pursue the Israelites, intent on bringing them back to Egypt. When the children of God saw the Egyptian army they panicked, thinking they were trapped. On one side stood the Egyptians and on the other side the Red Sea. There seemed to be no escape. They forgot God had promised them freedom and that He was faithful.

“And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Ex 14:13-14 (NKJV)

Moses did not know how God would deliver them, but he had faith God would find a way. When God speaks a promise to us, we must persevere until its fulfillment. Trusting God’s provision, when all around us we see impossibilities, can be a very difficult challenge. It is often a real test of faith. But for God, nothing is impossible. ‘Impossible’ is not in His vocabulary.

“But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NKJV)

“For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” Psalm 33:4 (NKJV)

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19 (NKJV)

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you. Genesis 28:15 (NKJV)

God then told Moses to move the people forward, toward the Red Sea. He then added,

“But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” Exodus 14:16 (NKJV)

Suddenly, when all seemed lost, God provided a way for the Israelites. He caused the sea to fall back, and with miraculous power God made a way for His children. They moved forward in their quest for freedom.

If God has spoken to your heart a promise, prompted you to move in a new direction, or awakened a desire that is of His will, move forward! Trust Him to make a way. There may be detours (Hopefully not 40 years of wilderness wandering), times of silence, and even disappointments, but keep the faith. Stand on His promise. Remember, He just might act suddenly. Will you be prepared to move, even if there is no clue He is about to act?

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”                 Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

Consider the scriptures below and pray for God’s guidance.

“Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced that God had prepared the people, since the events took place so suddenly.” 2 Chronicles 29:36 (NKJV)

“I have declared the former things from the beginning; They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.” Isaiah 48:3 (NKJV)

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

“My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.”  Psalm 89:34 (NKJV)

God will do this, for He is faithful to do what He says, and He has invited you into partnership with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 (NLT)

Alone With God

 

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There are several stories in the Bible where God calls one of His chosen into a place of solitude and seclusion. The apostle Paul, who has one of the greatest conversion stories in the Word of God, was led into the desert for three years. During that time the Holy Spirit instructed him in the ways of God. Saul, later known as Paul, had persecuted Christians with near fanaticism until his conversion along the Damascus road. God used the desert years of solitude to renew Paul’s mind and to transform him into the image of Christ. This desert interlude was a part of Paul’s roadmap, and the years of solitude were essential in preparing him for Christian ministry. Certainly, it was a time when the Lord revealed many deep spiritual truths.

“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.” Galatians 1:15-18 (NKJV)

“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.” Daniel 2:22 (NASB)

It is during those times when we are unseen, hidden away from others, that we go deeper in our relationship with Christ. There are treasures in the depths of solitude, but we have to dig them out. When we silence the chaos of the world around us and meditate on the living Word, our spirit will burn with intensity. We are quicker to recognize the Shepherd’s voice and better able to discern the counterfeit mouthpiece of the enemy. Times of solitude are seasons of absolute dependence and submission, and these characteristics ought to follow us into the daylight hours of servitude and Christian ministry.

Moses is another example of a great leader called into seclusion, but the degree of his sequestration varies. Upon his exile from Egypt, Moses lived as a fugitive for forty years in the Arabian Desert. Once a Prince of Egypt, he put on the cloak of a humble shepherd. This was not an easy life since shepherds spent most of their time outside (in all kinds of weather) away from family and friends. Moses spent many nights alone watching over his father-in-law’s sheep.

In Exodus chapter 3 we read that Moses is tending Jethro’s flock in the wilderness near Mount Horeb/Sinai. This is where the angle of the Lord appeared in the form of a burning bush. God calls His people to remote areas for several reason: to learn, to prepare, to test, to strengthen, to direct.

Later, in Exodus 24:9-18, God tells Moses to come up into Mt. Sinai to meet with Him again. This time Moses is gone for forty days. Moses needed time alone with God to receive instructions and so that he would have courage to face the opposition of men. The first time, he needed courage to face Pharaoh with God’s directive to allow the children of Israel to go free.

“So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” Exodus 24:18 (NKJV)

We read in Scripture that Jesus frequently went off by Himself to be with God. Private time with the Father is necessary for every believer.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16 (NIV)

After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led the Lord into the desert. There, for forty days and forty nights He was tempted by the devil. Jesus overcame every enticement of the evil one, and left His wilderness seclusion to begin His public ministry.

Paul, Moses, and Jesus sought out, or, were led to secluded places. Wilderness and desert locations are not easy environments to abide in. However, under the shadow of His almighty wing, there is protection and comfort. Great treasures are hidden deep in wilderness locations. Treasures that build faith and strengthen godly convictions are worth more than rubies and gold. Do not be afraid to dig deep. If God is leading you to a solitary place, He may be preparing you for a new ministry, or equipping you for the next leg of your spiritual journey.

I have decided to follow Jesus; No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow; No turning back, no turning back.

~ S. Sundar Singh.

Obstacles

_Never Give Up

Most of us have had an occasion where an unexpected trial or obstacle has knocked us flat, interrupting everyday plans and routines. And when a stumbling block appears out-of-the-blue, a bucket full of emotions is sure to follow. Since God created us with the capacity to express our true feelings, we should do so. God values honest communication.

But once we have vented our frustration, fear, anger, and confusion over the obstacle, we must pause and consider whether God is trying to get our attention. He is a master teacher, always looking for new ways to equip and instruct His children. Once we have accepted the reality of our situation and faced our unhappy hindrance, we can move forward in a way that glorifies God. How? By embracing our new circumstances with the faith that we serve a loving and compassionate God. This is not easy but by doing so, our time in the valley will prove to be a valuable lesson filled with God’s wisdom and strength.

While we work through struggles, our spiritual eyes should search, watch, and wait for the Holy Spirit to speak. Have you found yourself incapacitated, unable to move or work? Maybe God wants you to slow down, or direct you down a different path. Maybe He wants to teach you something that will better equip you for future ministry. Is a lesson of love, forgiveness, or patience in your near future? What about endurance? Do you know how to spiritually persevere? There is also the possibility He is testing your faith. He tested His disciples, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and Abraham just to mention a few.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” Ephesians 1:18 (NKJV)

 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.Romans 5:35 (NKJV)

 Whatever the obstacle, we know God will be right beside us. We can rely on Him to be our strength. He is glorified when we are weak for He often uses our weakness to shine brightly to unbelievers. They will watch as help and provisions come our way and scratch their heads as we move through our hardship without fret.

Do not fret—it leads only to evil.Psalm 37:8b (NIV)

 Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

 And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 CO 12:9-10 (NKJV)

There is no obstacle before us that has not been planned or approved by God.

He is not in the business of discouraging His children and He knows our limits. When we reach those limits and surrender our helplessness to God, we are in the right place spiritually.

Christ alone will see us through. No other but our Savior Jesus Christ will mediate our needs before God. With love, He will provide a way for us to surmount our obstacle and continue onward in our spiritual race. Do not let the challenges and heartaches in life crush you. Through Christ, we can bring the victory of heaven into our experience on earth

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.Ephesians 6:10 (NKJV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV)

If God is testing you, as He did with so many others in the Bible, be encouraged by the helps the Father provided for them as they dealt with obstacles. And if the devil has been given permission to sift you, remember God knows you have the ability (with His provision of strength and power) to overcome.

The devil knows he cannot destroy us. The victory is ours through Christ. But our enemy will look for every opportunity to make our time on earth unproductive. He will tempt and encourage us to sin, harass us with fear, speak lies and tickle our ears to the point where we doubt the love of God. Satan wants to steal our hope. Do not let him! Persevere while you face your trial because the testing of your faith will develop spiritual maturity, enabling you to overcome every obstacle the devil can conjure.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4 (NIV)

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

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Valley of Detours: Trusting God

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Have you ever read the wonderful book by Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet In High Places? If not, I highly recommend that you do. The main character, Much Afraid, decides to trust the Good Shepherd and travel to His kingdom, which are on the high places. He appoints two companions to assist her along the way, but they lead her up and down paths that often seem like detours.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

In reality, every twist and turn, valley and rough patch Much Afraid journeyed were necessary for her equipment. Each apparent detour trained her for the challenging ascent. As the book unfolds, Much Afraid learns that she must cooperate with God while in the valley of detours. When she lays down her self will and accepts the Shepherd’s path for her life, she finds peace and joy.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.Psalm 143:10 (NIV)

Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, which stirred the jealousy of his other brothers. Not only did their father present him with a special coat of many colors, but Joseph also had a dream that made his brothers hate him even more. The dream implied he would reign over them some future day.

“Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” Genesis 37:5-9 (NKJV)

Joseph’s life story did not play out as he would have expected. No, the hateful plan his brother’s scheme landed Joseph in Egypt, far from family and Canaan. Into slavery, he was sold and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh was his master. But God did not forget Joseph.

And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field.Genesis 39:3-5 (NKJV)

By this time Joseph had endured several detours in his valley of sorrow. The betrayal of his brothers and the passing from the favored son of a rich patriarch to a mere slave are two examples. Another detour sent Joseph to prison, simply because he maintained his morality by rebuffing the advances of Potiphar’s wife. (Gen.39:6-8) God was watching over Joseph the entire time.

Our heavenly Father cheers us on while we run our spiritual race. But the enemy is bent on harming us. The Devil does not want to see a sinful man transformed into the image of his victor, Jesus Christ. Nor does he want us to reach our eternal home. One of the fastest ways he can disrupt God’s plan for us is to tempt our morality.

Once he was in prison, God again showed Joseph favor and mercy.

But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.Genesis 39:21-23 (NKJV)

 Who would have thought that time as a slave, and years in prison necessary training for Pharaoh’s right-hand man? But then, who of us can understand the mind of God? Joseph remained steadfast in his faith. He was in an awful state, but he did not sit on his laurels and give up. He did not moan in self-pity and grow bitter.

There were many other valley detours in the life of Joseph. They made him stronger and wiser. They equipped Joseph for the jobs God had designed for him.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Haphazard Plans?

_God In Control

God’s way will turn a man’s thoughts inside out and upside down. We can’t forecast the way God works. The wisdom of the world would argue that God is haphazard, but He is not calculable in His providence. He works in ways we cannot predict or understand.

’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

God’s sovereignty is a reality. His love for us is undeniable. There is no other Father who has sacrificed His only son for the redemption of mankind. So, when life seems to be out of control, even hopeless, we must remember God is behind the scenes working things out according to His perfect will.

“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Matthew 18:2-4 and Mark 10:15 both mention children. Their innocence and faith should be our example. By taking on a cloak of humility, we can submit to the Father’s will and trust where He has placed us, even if it is within a turbulent storm. Why? Because He loves us!

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4 (NKJV)

Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Mark 10:15 (NKJV)

The ‘whys’ in life can plague a person’s heart. The proper place for our questions is at the feet of Jesus. But, when we lay them down, we can’t assume He owes us an answer. He owes us nothing. He might not reveal His reasons for our discomfort. But with the innocence of a child, we can trust our Savior and believe that our present circumstances are for our benefit.

God does not punish His children. However, because He is a loving Father, He will discipline us. Rooting out sin, character flaws, and transforming weaknesses into strengths will not occur overnight. And the time it takes a believer to lay aside self-will, surrendering everything to God, is different for everyone.

The more obedient we are to His leading, the faster He will mold us into the perfect vessel He envisioned. But, the transformation from sinful man to that of one reflecting Jesus Christ in every way requires time. A potter molds clay and reshapes his medium over and over until it stands out, unique and worthy of his initials. Uncomfortable pressure, painful twisting, and a dizzying spin on His wheel will eventually get us the kiln. Then, agonizing heat will purify the last of our impurities. Oh, how precious it is to share in the sufferings of Christ! We can take comfort in knowing He records each one of our painful tears. They are in His record. They are valued.

You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?Psalm 56:8 (NKJV)

God will send the perfect circumstances our way to get this job done. We won’t understand our entire journey, but we don’t have to, right? We simply need to trust in the love of God. He is our hope, and hope will never disappoint.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.Romans 5:5 (NKJV)

Hope in Christ! He has a plan for you and it is not a haphazard one. The ups and downs of your life were designed long before you were knit within your mother’s womb. God sees you, as you will be perfected, and purified. Eventually, when you look in a mirror, you will only see Jesus. Your reflection will glorify God and honor Him. Praise Jehovah!

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For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

“If you try to forecast the way God will work you will get in a muddle; live the life of a child and you will find that every haphazard occasion fits into God’s order.” ~ Oswald Chambers

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

“While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority.” ~ A.W. Tozer

Dusting Away Distractions

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Everyday life is filled with distractions. Daily goals are met with enticements and diversions that hinder or impede their achievement. Then, while slipping into bed, we review our day and roll our eyes over the many different directions our rabbit trails took us. Distractions once again sideswiped our well-intentioned plan to move forward in our ventures.

When it comes to our spiritual walk, distractions are a key strategy utilized by the devil. Whether he shoots fiery arrows of condemnation and blame in our direction or the enticements of the world call out to us, fellowship time with God is curtailed. The Bible warns believers to be alert and sober minded, lest we find ourselves devoured by this prowling lion.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

 John MacArthur sheds light on how to fight distractions.

“The more you focus on yourself, the more distracted you will be from the proper path. The more you know Him and commune with Him, the more the Spirit will make you like Him. The more you are like Him, the better you will understand His utter sufficiency for all of life’s difficulties. And that is the only way to know real satisfaction.”  John MacArthur

Focusing less time on ourselves and spending more time in fellowship with God will accomplish several things:

First, our peace of mind will increase and our stress will decrease. Meditating on the faithfulness and love of God will build up our faith and remind us that there is no life circumstance hidden from our all-knowing God. Worry and stress are a distraction. Focusing on problems is a trap. Doing so will consume our thinking, and eat us alive, leaving us with no time or energy to meditate on things that are noble and pure.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

Our time would be better spent by seeking God through prayer; asking the one who loves us most, to provide solutions and to direct our path. Then, through the discipline of self-control and patience, we must let go of our frets, trusting an answer is on the way.

Distractions also come in the form of pleasure. Taking a hike, going to a movie, shopping, getting a manicure, and having a leisurely lunch with a good friend are all pleasurable activities. But if they prevent fellowship time with God, they are distractions. Lunch with a friend is not a bad thing in itself. In fact, the Bible encourages us to fellowship with other believers so that we can lift each other up. No, lunch dates are not the problem. The trouble occurs when the cares of the world and the busyness of life cuts into our time with God. Carving out a set time to fellowship and focus on God is a good way to attack distraction issues. God needs to be a priority.

Distractions of the flesh are probably the most common. Sex, food, wine, and a lust for money have made many a prodigal. But these distractions are manageable, if we keep our focus on God. When we commune with the Lord, He will remind us that we are to live as aliens in this world. That home is heaven. To love the world is to be an enemy of God.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15-16 (NKJV)

And the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.Mark 4:19 (NKJV)

Another distraction many of us struggle with is ministry work. Many believers get so busy with church activities that they struggle finding time to be alone with God. A thought or word God would have revealed, had time been spent at His feet, is a grievous loss. We are to serve the Lord without distraction, but to do so, we must also learn to abide in Christ. A constant awareness of His presence, a continual lifting up of praise and worship, and a daily knowledge of His desire to speak to hearts will help to eliminate our struggle with distractions.

I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.” Psalm 119:15 (NKJV)

And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.1 Co 7:27 (NKJV)

 A steadfast heart is a loyal heart of devotion. It is focused and strong. It keeps a believer from turning aside to the right and to the left. The path before them is clear and by making God our spiritual “nerve center,” forward progress happens.

Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left.” Joshua 23:6 (NIV)

If we want spiritual growth and maturity, we must consider our fellowship time with God. Is He a priority? Do we spend time meditating on His word? What distractions keep us from Bible study and how can we change things? Periodically, we all need some dusting off and a little spring-cleaning is always a good place to start.

Lessons From An Olive Tree

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The Hebrew word for olive tree is es shemen, which literally means “tree of oil.” It is from a primitive root meaning “to shine.” It is related to the word shemesh, “to be brilliant,” which is also the Hebrew word for the “sun.”

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12 (NKJV)

Jesus commands us to shine our light before mankind in hopes of glorifying the Father and leading the lost to His saving grace. The light within us is the Holy Spirit and He enables us to live righteously within a crooked and perverse world.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)

The first mention of an Olive tree is found in Genesis 8:11 (NKJV) “Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.” Olive trees and olive oil is regarded as a symbol of honor, joy, and favor. Many scriptures speak of using the oil from the olive tree as an anointing.

“You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Psalm 45:7).  

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV) 

Says the Encyclopedia Judaica, “There are trees in Israel estimated to be 1,000 years old that still produce fruit. In old age the tree becomes hollow but the trunk continues to grow thicker, at times achieving a circumference of 20 feet” (“Olive,” vol.12, Page 1361).

Have we become hollow within, like ancient olive trees? Hollow and empty of self-will and selfish desires? If so, we are in a place of spiritual maturity where the Holy Spirit can fill us beyond capacity. Have we developed strong trunks, trunks thickened by a resolve to live righteously for God, even through times of drought and suffering? Have we been filled with God’s love, wisdom, and truth or has bitterness and hate pushed aside the indwelling Holy Spirit?

Olive wood is very hard and beautifully grained. The olive was one of the most valuable trees to the ancient Hebrews. It was used by King Solomon to carve cherubim for the inner sanctuary of the first Temple.  Inside the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high.” 1 Kings 6:23 (NKJV) Our strength and beauty should call out to those who are blind, to those who no longer see beauty. Although we live in a fallen world, beauty remains everywhere; we just need to look a bit harder.

And like ancient olive trees, let us strive to bear fruit for our entire lifetime. This means producing a crop that is pressed into oil, which will hopefully heal, feed, and light the way for many. Each of is has been given a set number of days. Commit to using every moment of every year to glorify God.

Make us Olive trees, Lord! Grant us thick trunks, fruitful crops, and new shoots when we are weary from the pressing.

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise You forever because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good.” Psalm 52:8-9 (NKJV)

5 Star Book Review for FACING TRIALS Devotional

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I just had to share this wonderful book review for my book, FACING TRIALS: THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION. It is such a blessing to write words of hope and comfort for others going through difficult times.

I need book reviews for my third book, Facing Adversity. Send me a message via my FB author site and I’ll give you a free eBook in exchange for a book review. https://www.facebook.com/cherylzelenkaauthor

“5.0 out of 5 starsWonderful Encouragement and Comfort!!
ByJulie Danielsonon February 16, 2016
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

I found this book to be so helpful and comforting! I have been through a lot of trials over the past few years and it does start to wear down my hope. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do or what Scriptures to meditate on. This book solves that problem and is so full of wonderful encouragement!

I really liked that the book is broken down into sections regarding things that could be bothering one. Whatever you find yourself struggling with, this book probably has the help you need. There are twenty chapters and some of the titles are, “Facing Trials”, “Broken”, “Endurance and Perseverance”, and “Healing”. Each chapter gives instruction, encouragement and wisdom to help us deal with the situations we may find ourselves in or that we’re trying to get past. There are Scriptures for each chapter to meditate on and put in our hearts.

I highlighted so much of this book! I found the wisdom and comfort of this book so wonderful! It has helped me to heal in so many ways and it will definitely be a book I refer back to time and again when I’m feeling the need to get that comfort I need. The book is very Biblical and definitely pointed me back time and again to God’s Word. I really loved this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Waiting On God

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God often asks us to wait. Waiting builds patience in our lives and transforms our character. It also deepens our dependency on God.

Moses is a wonderful example of someone whose character was transformed through the discipline of waiting. After his exile from Egypt, Moses spent 40 years in the desert of Midian. He went from being a prince of Egypt to a shepherd. God fed him lessons in humility and patience. Moses probably felt he was doing nothing worthwhile in life, but God was equipping and training him to be a leader, and that included desert survival skills. At the age of 80, Moses returned to Egypt and delivered Israel through the power and will of God. Then, for forty additional years, Moses endured a desert existence, leading a stiff-necked people God called His own.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

The story Joseph is another example of waiting on God and trusting in His provision. After his brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph was taken to Egypt. Once there, Potiphar, who was in charge of the Pharaoh’s kitchen, bought him. He made Joseph his personal attendant and placed him in charge of his entire household. Unfortunately, his master’s wife tried to seduce him and when Joseph resisted her advances, she lied about the encounter thus prompting Potiphar to send him to prison.

“Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and show him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.” Genesis 39:20-23 (NKJV)

For two years Joseph sat in prison. God was with him the whole time, preparing him for a job that would save many people.

That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;  strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” Colossians 1:10-11 (NKJV)

It wasn’t until the Pharaoh experienced bad dreams that Joseph was remembered and called to interpret their meaning. Eventually, Joseph rose from slave and prisoner to Pharaoh’s second-in-command. He was able to rescue many Egyptians from a famine by stockpiling grain during seven years of plenty. Because of the famine, Joseph was once again reunited with his family and in a position to save them, by providing much needed grain.

After Jacob died, his brothers feared for their lives regretting having sold him into slavery. But Joseph assured his brothers that God had always intended that he go to Egypt so He could him to save many people. Therefore, he wanted to take care of his brothers, their children, and his father’s household. Joseph believed God had a divine plan for his life. He had to get to Egypt some how, and his brothers took care of that step. Learning leadership skills were also necessary, and learning them in a prison was also a part of God’s plan.

The means by which God equips His children may seem strange, even brutal. But, we must trust that our loving Father knows the best way to discipline, refine, and equip us for the works He wants us to accomplished. Moses and Joseph waited a long time to see the fruit of their labor. We can learn from them. Patience is an act of faith and takes a good measure of self-control. Let the following scriptures encourage you while working through your personal sanctification process. Let the dross come to the surface! In time, you will look into the crucible of melted gold and the reflection you see will be the face of Christ.

Do not let the loud utterances of your own wills anticipate, nor drown, the still, small voice in which God speaks. Bridle impatience till He does. If you cannot hear His whisper, wait till you do. Take care of running before you are sent. Keep your wills in equipoise till God’s hand gives the impulse and direction.“ ~Alexander MacLaren

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I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning— Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.” Psalm 130:5-6 (NKJV)

 “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faith.” Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.Psalm 37:34 (NKJV)

 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

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