November 5, 2017 – Security in our Faith

I don’t know about you, but I tend to worry.  I also have insecurities.  Did I sound like a total dork when I said that?  Is that big zit on my nose really that noticeable?  Do my thighs look fat?  What if they don’t like me?

Most of us, being human, do have these insecurities, and for some of us it turns into worry and fear, which can often be paralyzing.  Chemical imbalances too can cause anxiety and need professional treatment, but what I’m speaking of here is more of the self-consciousness that causes us to be critical of ourselves and others, compare and compete with others, and can cause indecision and missed opportunities.

Proverbs 27:1-2 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.  Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.”

The first part is a reminder that there are no guarantees in life, and often this uncertainty doesn’t make us feel any better!  We want something we can count on, we want to be able to be sure about our plans.

The second part, if I’m honest, I’m definitely guilty of sometimes.  Like for example, I clean up the kitchen, the table looks nice and pretty, the house is actually clean (well, with a toddler, a pre-teen and a teen, I can dream, ha!  But let’s just go with it.) and it looks great (if I do say so myself).  My husband walks in and if he doesn’t say anything, I say, “Do you like the way I cleaned up in here?  Looks good, doesn’t it?”  I want him to notice it and I’m going to make sure he knows how good it looks!  This is just one example.  A lot of you are probably either nodding your heads in agreement or shaking your head in disgust.  How many of us check to see how many Facebook ‘likes’ we get?  Or how many Twitter followers? Or we “humblebrag” from time to time.  Yikes, guilty again.

But God’s Word tells us that we should leave the accolades to others to give us. Or more importantly,  serve the Lord, so that we can hear him one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”(Matthew 25:23)

1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

We can take comfort in knowing that He knows the right time for everything.  We can keep working and not give up, knowing that it’s all in His hands anyway.  Even when it seems like no one notices the hard work we do, even if we feel overlooked or unappreciated at work or at home or elsewhere, God sees everything, and He notices.

We can also find security in that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday,  today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)

Politics and world events and circumstances, even the weather, may change on a dime.  Sometimes it seems like society is dictated by what’s popular, not always what’s right.  But our Lord is the same, unchanging and unfailing in His love, mercy and dependability.

“Father, today I thank You that in a world of such uncertainty, You are the same today, tomorrow and forever.  I thank You that You will never leave me or give up on me, even when I do fall short, and I do every day.  I pray that I would grow closer to You each day and more fully trust in You rather than the accolades and opinions of others.  I pray that I would work, not for the accolades,  but to honor and glorify You and tell others about You, Jesus, and of Your wonderful gift of grace.  Help my faith to be bigger than my fear.  In Jesus Name, Amen.”

God’s Words of Comfort in Times of Fear – January 3, 2016

I wrote a little bit the other day about the news of my pregnancy that we found out right before New Year’s Eve, and about living by faith in this New Year.  I write this as much for me as for my readers, and hope that these words can offer encouragement to the both of us.

I’ve had a lot of fear and anxiety the past few days, as I await speaking with my doctor’s office tomorrow to schedule my first prenatal appointment, as well as some scary symptoms that I have experienced off and on that have at times made me wonder if everything is okay.  Baby seems fine for now, but I’ve been doing a lot of praying and trying to keep God’s Word in my mind as I hope for the best, but try  to mentally prepare for the “what if” of something going wrong.  Because of the miscarriage that we suffered last August, it’s an intensely joyful yet angst-filled pregnancy this time around.

I’m studying some Bible verses on fear, and I’m finding comfort in knowing and remembering that no matter what, His strength is there, and that I am not walking alone.  Let’s take a look at some of the ones I’ve found so far:

Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (NKJV).” – This one is a great encouragement because again, it lets me know that I’m not walking through the valley alone.  Our Shepherd watches over us with great care and leads us down the right path.

Psalm 115:11 “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.” – Because of who God is, I can trust Him in the outcome.  He is my help and my shield.

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – Here Jesus is talking to the disciples to let them know that it’s getting close to time for Him to be crucified and resurrected.  He is letting them know that though He is going away shortly to prepare a place for His people in Heaven, He is leaving with them His peace.  This encourages me today because I know that I can call on Him and receive His peace also.

Psalm 56:3 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” -This verse reminds me again of the word trust.  I can trust that God is good and that He knows best.

Psalm 112 begins with the verse, “Praise the Lord!  Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments.”  Then it goes on to say in verse 7, “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” – This tells me that I don’t have to be afraid of bad news because I can still trust that the Lord is good.

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness.  He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” – This shows the loving character of God, our Heavenly Father, and reminds me of His tender mercy, and also of the way in which He has already saved me through the cross.

Are all of these verses easier said than done?  Absolutely, as least for me they are.  But it’s a great comfort to know that through His Word, He has given us many reassurances that He is there, shepherding His flock and walking us through whatever life may throw at us.

Yes, I am going to keep on praying for my child, and having faith that everything will be all right, but I will commit to trust in Him no matter what because I can trust that He is good.  I will no doubt have more times of anxiety the further along I get, but I can have faith in a God who sees me, knows me, loves me and cares about the things and the people in my life.  After all, if my precious child means so much to my husband and I, how much more does he/she mean to the Creator?

I hope this has perhaps brought a little encouragement to you today, as writing this down did for me.  We serve a mighty God who loved us so much His own Son came down to endure the agony of the cross so that He could bring His children home.  And He’ll walk with you and me every step of the way along this rough and bumpy road called life.

“Heavenly Father, I thank You that You are always there, in good times and in bad.  Please forgive me when I fail to trust You.  Help me to have faith that You are good even in difficult circumstances.  Be with this pregnancy, Lord, for You know what’s best.  I pray that if it is possible, our baby would be born healthy with no complications.  Please draw me closer to You during this time, and for anyone reading this, please draw them closer to You also.  Ease our fears, Lord, and reassure us through Y0ur Word and Your Holy Spirit that You are here right beside us, going before us, in whatever we are walking through.  I pray that this situation in my life will glorify You, Father, and I thank You for Your overwhelming love and grace that You’ve already given me time and time again.  Help us to be filled with Your perfect love that casts out fear, Father.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Can Others See Christ in Us? – December 20, 2015

I’ve heard and read some really good stories and sermons lately that are centered around the meaning of Christmas.  Some have described what things must have been like for Mary and Joseph as they knelt in the smelly stable and beheld the infant Jesus that starry night.  Others are wonderful reminders that the Holy Night at Bethlehem was only the beginning of what would be the greatest Hope of all for mankind – the Savior who was ultimately born to go to the cross, and then to rise from the dead in victory over all that separated us from God, to “…proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19 NKJV).”

I think about the wonder and excitement of that night, and of the Hope in that Message, and yet I’m also convicted.  Sometimes I wonder to myself, “How well am I doing at showing others the love of Christ?  Does my life make others want to know Him more?”  Sadly, often the answer is no.  See, I know that it’s nothing I did or could do that saved me, but His Gift is so wonderful, and His love so amazing, that it should show all over my face, in my words, in my actions, and permeate my life.  So, when I do things like snap at my husband, or have a hard time forgiving someone, or want to shake my fist at that person who cut me off in rush hour traffic, when I compare them to the Christmas message, I fall far, far short.  In fact, we all do.

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But then in the next verse it says, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (emphasis mine).”  That means the gift is free.  This passage goes on to talk about how we are saved through faith, that He has forgiven our sins “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (v 26).”

What do we do once we have asked Christ into our hearts, thereby receiving this free gift?  What does the Word say about how to follow Him?

Titus 3:3-8 says, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.  But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing and regeneration of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable to men.”

That last part tells us that because we have believed (not to be saved, but as a result of Jesus’ gift), we should be “careful to maintain good works.”  We should do this because it is “good and profitable” for others. God can use us to lead others to Him and be a demonstration of His kindness and love. Conversely, the enemy can use our example to push people away if we are not walking the talk.

Reading these words from the book of Titus this evening was a challenge to me – and perhaps it will be to you too, to think about ways that we can be a better demonstration of our faith in Jesus to those who may be outsiders looking in.  Maybe someone is undecided as to what to think about Christ, but because they see Him in you or me, they might be encouraged to take the step of asking Him into their heart and life also.

The good thing is, when we mess up and we fall short (which we do daily), He gives us grace and forgiveness, and he gives us His Spirit and His Word to help guide the way.  We’re never alone in any decisions we have to make, or any obstacles or crises we face.

Even the Apostle Paul testified to the fact that he struggled with not acting like a Christian at times.  He said, “…For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do (Romans 7:15).”  He then goes on to say, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! (vv 24-25).”

So, we will never be perfect this side of Heaven, sadly, but if we have Christ in our hearts, we have been redeemed and forgiven.  Let’s look at one way today that we can be a demonstration of His love to someone else.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:15).”

Lord, I thank You for the message that I read from Your Word today.  I am humbled and convicted.  Sometimes it’s so hard for me to do what You would desire for me to do, and please forgive me where I fall short, Father.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is indeed weak.  However, I know You have promised that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Please help me to lean on You and to be the demonstration of Your love and light in this world that You would have me to be.  I pray for those fellow believers who are reading this, Lord, that they may draw strength and encouragement from You as well, and that this message from Titus may have encouraged and motivated them as it did me.  I pray for those who haven’t yet made the decision to accept You into their hearts, Lord.  I pray that today would be the day.  If there is anything You would have us do today that could make a difference in someone’s life and will help lead them to You, please motivate us and move us to do so, Father.  I pray that we may bring You glory and honor in all we do.  In Christ’s most precious name I pray, Amen.

Overcoming Temptation – December 14, 2015

Do you ever have those times where it seems like it’s just one thing after another?  A sick child, the car breaks down, the roof begins to leak, a loved one is in the hospital, a deadline at work right before the holidays, or some other minor or major crisis at the least convenient time?  I have those days (and sometimes those weeks) too.

Here lately for me, it’s been a hectic time, with Christmas just around the corner, and I have a parent that has been struggling with a mental illness off and on for the past several years, but recently it’s become more debilitating, and we’ve looked into more doctors and more treatment solutions.  I sometimes just feel like my energy is zapped, and that it’s one thing after another.  Yet, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness.  He got us through a crisis late last year and early this year with our daughter’s depression, and I know He will help us navigate this too.

At those times, when we feel weak, or burned out or stressed out, is when we are most vulnerable to temptation.  The temptation to return to old habits or unhealthy coping mechanisms (in my case, for a long time it was drinking) or to try to handle things all on our own and neglect to pray and ask God for help, or to get so busy we neglect our family life– the enemy attacks us when he knows we’re at our weakest.

Today, I was reading about where Jesus was tempted in the wilderness right after He is baptized by John the Baptist and just after He heard the Father tell Him, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Jesus knew He had an important mission ahead – one that would bring about the redemption of you and me, and pay for the sins of mankind.  The devil wanted nothing more than to get Him to mess up and dishonor God so that He could discredit Jesus’ entire ministry and mission.

Beginning in Matthew 4, the Word says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’

But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:1-4 NKJV)

Boom.  Strike one.  The devil had already lost the first round.  Jesus wasn’t going to dishonor the Father by giving in to a temptation based on His physical need.

Do you ever feel like you’re in the wilderness of life?  Just kind of winging it, maybe living paycheck to paycheck, or having to improvise because things haven’t gone as planned?  It’s when we often find ourselves tempted.  Reading these verses brings a great deal of comfort in knowing that we have a Savior who was in the wilderness too, and was tempted just like we are.  And the greatest thing of all is that He overcame the temptation, and because He overcame, He gives us the strength to overcome also.

Imagine how hungry Jesus must have been!  I can’t imagine fasting for four days, let alone forty!   The dirt on the ground must have looked good enough to eat at that point.  Not only that, but He had the power to turn those stones into bread and make Himself a sandwich right then and there!  Yet, He refused to dishonor His Father, and He loved us too much to give us on His mission, which was to rescue us from the enemy’s clutches.

After the bread incident it says, “Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down.  For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over You.’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ‘

Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if you will fall down and worship me.’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan!  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’

Then the devil left Him and behold, angels came and ministered to Him (vv 5-11).”

The devil tempted Jesus to give into pride and the desire for material things, but Jesus still refused.  When we feel that urge to just say, “You know what, I’m done trying to do the right thing, I might as well _____ (you can fill in the blank here, it’s usually related to one of our weaknesses),” we can know that that’s not of God, but the enemy tempting us to give up on what God would have for us to do, or maybe to even give up on following God altogether.

I love what Hebrews 4:14-16 says: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Jesus wasn’t just tempted in the three points described in Matthew.  It says He was tempted in all points as we are.  This is a great comfort to know that whatever I am tempted with, our Savior was tempted also, and because He overcame, I can overcome also.  It says that we can come boldly to the throne of grace.  We don’t have to be shy, or ashamed, or afraid.  No, we can come boldly and find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.  Isn’t that wonderful?

The first verse in Hebrews 4 above tells us to hold fast our confession (our faith in Christ) because He knows what it’s like, He’s been there, and He will not fail us.  He will always be there to provide the grace that we need to overcome.  Reading this really encouraged me today, and I hope it encourages you to know that He loves you too, and will help us in our every need.  We don’t have to listen to the lies of the enemy that tell us to give up or to go back to our old ways.  Instead we can hold fast to our Savior.

“Father, I thank You for your grace that is available in every situation, and most especially in our time of need.  The truth is, though, that we need You every day, every minute, and I’m glad You’re always there.  Help us to hold fast to Your truth and not give into the temptations of the enemy to turn away from You.  Let us instead draw closer to You in these times, and ask what You would have us to do or to learn from the situation.  I thank You that You are faithful, always and forever, and that You loved us enough to overcome and win the fight for us, enough to even die and lay down Your life so that we could be set free.  Help me to live my life to honor You, Lord, and use the trials in my life for Your glory.  I give You all the praise and the thanks and the glory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Following the Good Shepherd – December 9, 2015

I’ve had times in my life when I’ve just flat-out felt like throwing in the towel.  When I’ve said, “God, I can’t do this anymore.  I’m not even going to try.”  I think a lot of us get to that point at one time or another, whether it’s as a result of burnout, or maybe because we’re discouraged that things aren’t going the way we hoped, or because we feel that we’ve been doing all the “right” things, like going to church and praying, and still we are experiencing hardship and tragedy.

In a recent study in our small group at church, our lesson asked the question, “Do you think sometimes we do good in the hopes of avoiding pain and suffering?  Sort of like trying in a way to bargain with God?”  That thought hit close to home because I know I have done this many times.  Earlier this year, when our family experienced the heartache of having a teen who was struggling with severe depression, and nothing that we were doing seemed to help, I began to get discouraged.  I was like, “God, I’m trying to do the right thing.  I’ve been praying.  I’ve been trying to get better about trusting You.  Why is this happening?”

I was reading today in the book of Jeremiah where the prophet Jeremiah was sent to a potter’s shop to warn of Jerusalem’s impending destruction.  Needless to say, his message was not popular, and because of his obedience, he was persecuted and endured a lot of ridicule and hardship.  Beginning in verse 7 of Chapter 20, he says, “O Lord, You induced me and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed.  I am in derision daily;  Everyone mocks me.  For when I spoke, I cried out;  I shouted, ‘Violence and plunder!’ Because the word of the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily (Jeremiah 20:7-8 NKJV).”

If anyone had a reason to be depressed, it was poor Jeremiah.  He was doing everything that the Lord had asked Him to do, but the message He preached put him on the haters’ top ten list of people they wanted to see destroyed.  What struck me though is in the next verse, he says, “Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’  But His word was in my heart like a burning fire; shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not (v9).”

Have you ever had times like that?  Where you just felt like saying, “God, I’m done with this whole Christian thing.  I’ve tried to follow You and it’s just too hard.”  I have too.  But I’ve found that even when I wanted to give up, even in the worst of times, His word was always there in my heart, “like a burning fire,” as Jeremiah describes.

See, the thing is, we can walk away from God, but He never walks away from us.  He is always there, calling and beckoning us to come to Him and find peace, rest and healing.  Sometimes we may experience suffering because of our obedience, and it’s not that we did or are doing something wrong.  Or suffering may come because of someone else’s bad choice, or simply because we live in a world that is imperfect, and there is sickness and pain as a result.  Doing good and obeying the Word is no guarantee that we won’t experience pain, but it is through his Word that we find strength to endure.  He does promise that He will walk beside us every step of the way.

Psalm 23 says in part, “The Lord is my shepherd;  I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;  For You are with me;  Your rod and Your staff they comfort me (vv 1-4).”

I found an interesting article describing the purpose of both the rod and the staff.  It can be found at:

 http://www.antipas.org/commentaries/articles/shepherd_psa23/shepherd_07.html

It says that shepherds use a rod to gently correct the sheep if they veer off the path, and for careful examination of the sheep, to make sure each sheep is okay and accounted for.  It is also used as an instrument of protection by the shepherd on behalf of the flock to drive off wolves and other predators.

A staff is used to draw sheep together in an intimate relationship.  Sometimes they use a staff to bring a newborn lamb back to its mother if they become separated, so that the ewe won’t reject the lamb because of the smell of the human’s hands.  It is also used to reach out and catch sheep so that they can be examined for injuries and to tend to their well-being, similar to the rod’s use at times.  The third use for the staff described in the article is that of guiding the sheep particularly onto a new path, or along rough, dangerous terrain, and to help free the sheep from entanglements in thorns and brambles.

When we get stuck in the “thorns and brambles” of this life, we can take comfort in knowing that we have a Shepherd who is always there to help us get free.  God keeps us on the right path, and takes a careful interest in our lives, even when the enemy tries to get us to give up.  His Word is like that “burning fire” there in our hearts, waiting to spill out on our lips into words of prayer.  Like the Good Shepherd that He is, He goes out to rescue His lost sheep, and bring us back safely into the fold.

“Father, I thank You that You are the Good Shepherd that never leaves us alone.  I am so grateful for the times that You have brought me or my loved ones out of the darkness of depression or hard times, and that You have been beside us every step of the way.  I pray for anyone who is struggling with depression right now.  Comfort and encourage them, Lord, as only You can, and fill them with the hope of Your presence through Your Son, Jesus.  I pray that Jesus’ gift of hope and salvation would be real in all of our lives, and that we will use the comfort and the hope that You provide us to comfort and provide hope to others.  May we all know the Way of Hope today, and be encouraged not to grow weary in following You and doing good.  Thank You for Your love and mercy, and may we praise the name of Jesus as the Name above all Names.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Work in Progress – December 4, 2015

I like what Joyce Meyer says frequently, in her talks and in her writing.  She says, “I’m not where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”  That about sums up my thinking today.

Do you ever feel woefully inadequate to do what you feel like God is leading you to do?  Or do you wonder what it is exactly that He is leading you to do?  If so, you’re not alone.  With me, it’s a little of both.

Sometimes when I write, I don’t know exactly what I’m gonna say, or I look over what I’ve just written and I think, “Can anyone make sense of that?”  Yet, writing is something I really enjoy, and I especially enjoy sharing my studies of the Bible and what I’m learning as I read.  I’m also working on a fiction novel, which has been decidedly slow-going.

Another quandary I find myself in is wondering exactly what it is I’m supposed to do as in career-wise.  I graduated back in May with my MBA, and when I started school originally, had all of these big plans about how I was going to try and get a high-paying job that would help us get the house paid off quickly and save up money so that we wouldn’t have to worry about finances anymore.

I resigned my full time job last November so that I could focus more on my school work, as a lot of it was very time-consuming, and I was getting close to the end, where I was going to have to write a lengthy report for my capstone class.  Not to mention, the classes on math and finance were challenging to this English major, to say the least.

Then, in December of last year, and for the next several months, we went through a major crisis with our teenage daughter.  She has asked me not to go into detail out of respect for her privacy, but I’ll just say she struggled with depression and had a really rough time, and really needed my care and attention, so it ended up being a blessing in disguise that I quit my job at the time that I did, even though it ended up being for a different reason that what I thought it was going to be.

Throughout that time, my husband and I were driven to our knees in search of answers, and had to lean heavily on the Lord to get us through.  I went through a period of asking God, “Why?” and at the same time, begging Him to please help my little girl.  It’s a strange thing, being powerless.  When you get to the absolute end of anything you can do, you get your loved one (or yourself) all of the help that you can, and then from there on out it is between them and God.

And God is faithful.  My daughter received inpatient help for her depression a few times, and during her last stay, she met a tech there who encouraged her from the Word of God, and even bought her a Bible with her name on it.  The tech told her that though it was against policy for her to distribute Bibles to the patients, she felt like it was something that the Lord had laid on her heart to do for these kids, and that she was willing to risk losing her job if found out.  As far as I know, that lady is still employed there, and I am so very thankful that God put that angel in our daughter’s path.  You see, my daughter was a Christian, but was, much like I’ve been at the lowest points of my life, really discouraged and in need of being reminded that God was still there, that He hadn’t left her alone.

And He was reminding her of exactly the same thing that Paul was speaking to the believers about in Philippians chapter 1.

So, when I was reading from this book today, and thinking of the uncertainty of my future career, and how far I still have to go before I’m anything like Joyce, for example, I read where the apostle Paul wrote in Chapter 1, verse 6, “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.”  No matter where I falter, or am unsure, or feel that I lack the resources, it says He who has begun a good work in me (and in you) will complete it.  It says it won’t get done by my (or your) strength, but through His.

Because of this, I don’t have to worry about knowing exactly what I’m to do next month or next year, but just to follow where He leads.  I’m His work in progress.

Further on in the chapter, Paul writes, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (vv 12-14 NKJV).”

Paul saw the bigger picture.  Yes, he had been imprisoned, but many saw the power of God working in Paul’s situation, and this gave the believers of that day more courage to be outspoken for Christ.

Sometimes, I can look back on things that happened in my life, and I can see God’s hand in the situation.  I can see how God was there for me and for our daughter earlier this year.  I also see that though I am now only working part time and am nowhere close to the big salary that I had dreamed of when I started school, God has given me this gift of time.  Time for me to take a break from the rat race, and time to think about what’s really important in my life.

Paul didn’t know how things were going to turn out for him either.  But he was able to say, even as he sat imprisoned, and even with the possibility that he could lose his life, “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (vv 19-21).”

No matter where you or I are in life, God has given us through His Word, the great hope of Jesus Christ.  He promises that the good work He begins in us, He will continue until the day He calls us home.  He gives us the hope that no matter our situation, things are going to turn out all right in the end.  And, like Joyce, we can thank Him that even though we haven’t arrived yet by any means, we can look back with deep gratitude at the things that He has brought us through so far.

“Father, I thank You for Your provision in our lives.  Lord, I pray that I would give You the glory in all that I do, and that I would seek Your will day by day.  Take our feeble human efforts and use them for Your glory and Your praise.  Help us to look for ways in which we can encourage one another today.  I thank You for the testimonies of other believers, including the words and the testimony of the apostle Paul, and of course, for Your life and Your example.  I pray that we as believers would depend on You, knowing that You are faithful in all things, and that we would not worry about provision from one day to the next, being confident that You are able to open doors no man can shut.  Thank You for all of the ways in which You have been faithful to me, to us all.  I love You Lord, and I praise Your holy Name.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”