building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Apostle Paul”

The Mini Meltdown

For the last month or so, I have been praying for a miracle. I had in mind that it should happen around Friday (due to my immediate needs). It didn’t happen. The enemy had a field day with me. I gave him every opportunity to attack me when I was vulnerable. My physical appearance didn’t change, but my emotionally charged inner child ranted and raved at God. I am so glad we serve a patient God. God let me have my say without striking down with an angered response (which He had every right to). My feelings were hurt. I was greatly disappointed. Why hasn’t He directed me out of my circumstances? Why am I still waiting for something to happen? What am I waiting on? I thought God was in this with me. But for the life of me, I don’t understand why I am in the mess I’m in. I thought I was doing what I was called to do. I thought I had been obedient. On and on; tears rolling; red eyes swollen. I just couldn’t get past it. I was stuck in that place.

Friday night, I sat down to eat my supper and tuned into one of my favorite websites for a short word on whatever the topic of the day was. I listened to Monday’s broadcast because that was the only one that really interested me. The topic was about a woman’s story of how she moved to Haiti because of God’s direction. Her story was pretty amazing… again God you did it for her, why not me? Blah, blah, blah. Pity party of one, this way please! After finishing my meal, out of the blue, one of my friends called me. She normally doesn’t call often, but on this night she felt led to do so. With her call, I got out of myself and focused on someone else’s life. We caught up on the details with one another and called it a night. When I laid down that night I was still upset about my circumstances.

I woke up once during the night, and still had the events on my mind. I got up from my bed to write a letter to get out the anger, the hurt and all the things that had welled up within. In the morning, I was feeling a bit better. I began my quiet time with an apology to God for my mini-meltdown. I opened the Word and began to listen as I read. Now that I was ready to hear, three things were brought to my attention.

First off – when I was watching the video on Friday night, the woman kept repeating this phrase “God was telling her she was not alone in her circumstances.” God reminded me that this was true for me as well. I noticed her using the phrase a couple of times, but didn’t internalize it until Saturday morning. He also reminded me of my friend’s call. Sometimes I feel so alone. My Mom used to say she didn’t have any friends, but she had so many friends who truly believed she was their best friend. It’s hard to resist the lies of the enemy when we are in that pit of despair.

Second. I began to read about contentment from Beth Moore’s commentary in the “Voices of the Faithful” for August. She wrote “Contentment has little to do with what we have or lack. It is a state of mind.” She went on to write about Paul’s explanation of contentment found in Philippians. “Paul explained that Christ had used circumstances to disciple Paul in the art of contentment. Discovering the power and the presence of Christ in every circumstance was the secret.” I am okay with my circumstances most of the time. Friday was the exception not the rule. I was disappointed. I was frustrated. And I was acting out in my flesh. God is working in my current circumstances for a greater work in me. God is working to grow me up.

The last thing that was brought to my attention was from Charles Stanley’s monthly devotion for Saturday’s reading. Again, he pointed to Paul and Philippians. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. The letter is full of rejoicing and praising God. Each sentence in this devotional was like God speaking into my heart every word on that page. The direction was to “focus on Christ instead of the circumstances – God will comfort your heart and bring you safely through the trial.” Dr. Stanley mentioned that focusing on Christ is neither a natural reaction nor an easy one. He said to dwell on His provision (even when we don’t see it) and care instead (even when we feel alone). Believe in God’s character – which never changes. All it takes is a glimmer of hope to get out of the pit of despair.

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

Adversity: The Endurance Trainer

There have been a couple of times in the last week where the devotional readings have been in 2 Corinthians 11. This chapter lists all the hardships that Paul has endured for the sake of the Gospel. There were shipwrecks, floggings, beaten with rods, a stoning incident, danger from his countrymen and from bandits; the list continues with all that he has endured (not to mention the prison time). When Paul started his walk with Jesus back on the Damascus road, did he understand what all he was going to have to endure? There is one little statement the Lord told Ananias when Ananias was given the task to open Paul’s eyes. Ananias was trying to point out to the Lord just who this Paul (or Saul at the time) was and the harm that had come to the brotherhood by his hand. The Lord sends Ananias with “Go!” Acts 9:16 the Lord says “I will show him (Saul/Paul) how much he must suffer for my name.” I wonder if we were to see how much we were going to suffer, would we still follow Jesus?

When I was growing up, I never heard that following Jesus was going to be hard. Sure, it was going to be hard to follow the rules. I tried and failed so many times. But I had no clue that when we take the steps of faith, there will be opposition meeting us head on. Adversity is our character builder. Having an easy life doesn’t give us much of a foundation in developing our faith muscles. Faith has to be built with hardships. If Paul did not go through all that he went through, would the letters he sent to the churches be in our Bibles today? If he didn’t spend time in the prisons, would he have written as many letters? Probably not, to both of those questions. He was a gifted man for sure. But his character was built on his hardships. He could impart wisdom like no one else to those he was encouraging along the way (and to us today!). He had been there, done that and lived to tell about it! Psalm 118:17 became his testimony: “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”

On Paul’s way to Rome, the shipwreck that is recorded in Acts 27 tells of the fear that the men were experiencing in the storm. Fourteen days they endured the wind and the waves and all was hopeless; they feared death was coming. However, Paul gave the men encouragement. An angel had visited him and gave him a word that no one would be lost and Paul believed that word. Paul must get to his destination to stand trial before Caesar. God used Paul mightily to get the message to the world. It wasn’t easy, but Paul was faithful in doing all that God called him to. It started with a simple message to the one who would open Paul’s eyes – “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”

No matter what we are called to do, our faith will be tested. This is not an easy life. Adversity is the building blocks for our character. Our character is essential to sustain us for our future; the future that God has planned for us. So many times I don’t want to endure the trial – the adversity. I have wanted to run in the other direction. I want out of the situation. But this is God’s way of refining my character. I need the adversity to make me stronger – to have a greater testimony. A couple of years ago, I went on my first mission trip. Before I went, Scripture kept speaking to me about suffering. I thought the trip was going to harder than it was. I didn’t suffer at all. So I forgot the message that suffering was coming. What I now understand is that we all will suffer at some point in our lives. It helps identify with Jesus and the suffering He endured for us (but not to the same extent). But it also draws us to God and develops a deeper relationship with Jesus. As Paul ends his life, he tells Timothy in the second letter (4:7): “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” In the end, this is what we are all called to do. Keep the faith for it pleases God! Isn’t that our greatest accomplishment, to please God?!

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4 (NLT)

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