Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Advent, Storms of Life, US Elections
Volume 6 No. 383 November 11, 2016
III. Featured:
Walking With Jesus Through the Storms of Life

Handbook for Hard Times

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Scripture: James 1:1-4

We live in dangerous times.
Does anyone doubt it?

Here are a few recent headlines:

"Woman beheaded in Oklahoma."
"Mystery Virus Causes Paralysis."
"ISIS Threatens to Kill Families of US Soldiers."
"2,000 flights canceled: Airlines still recovering from Chicago fire."
"Losing the Race Against Ebola."
"Pope Francis: World War III Is Already Here."

When a friend wrote to say that his daughter was leaving to serve in the Armed Forces in Afghanistan, he asked special prayer because she would be "in harm's way." I prayed for his daughter and am happy to report that she made it back safely. But given the instability of our world, a question comes to mind: Where can you go where you aren't "in harm's way"?

Job 5:7 reminds us that "man is born for trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward." I see no way to deny that statement. We are a troubled people living on a troubled planet.

Because we live in a fallen world, nothing works the way it's supposed to. Sin has stained every part of the physical universe. And sin has deeply infected the human bloodstream. Things break. Our bodies wear out. We grow old and die. People kill each other. Marriages break up.

Children get hooked on drugs or alcohol or sex. Or all three. Babies are born with defects that cannot be corrected. Our leaders disappoint us. Our friends turn into enemies. One day we wake up to find out that we're being sued by a former colleague. Or the boss decides that we aren't the right "fit," whatever that means.

Years ago my friend Jim Warren told me, "Ray, when hard times come, be a student, not a victim." That's good advice.

A victim says "Why did this happen to me?" while a student asks, "What can I learn from this?"

These are difficult days in many parts of the world. I believe that hard times are coming to Christians who live in the West. We need to know how to survive as the culture turns against us. That is why we are beginning a study of the book of James. Though it is the earliest of all the New Testament books (written around AD 38-44), it reads like a letter for the 21st-century. Here's what we need to know about the book. James was evidently the half-brother of Jesus, meaning that he was the biological son of Joseph and Mary. We know that he wrote very early because the book is addressed to the "twelve tribes scattered abroad" (1:1), meaning the very earliest Jewish believers who had been scattered because of the persecution of the church in Jerusalem (see Acts 8:1-3). Those early Christians were Jewish, scattered, poor, and struggling.

In many ways the little letter of James is the most practical book in the New Testament. It reads like a sermon or perhaps even more like a pep talk from a football coach. When we read this epistle, we get a glimpse of Christianity in its earliest form. No theory here. Just straight talk from Jesus' brother about what works and what doesn't work in the Christian life. Someone has counted over 50 commands in these five chapters. This isn't like Paul in Romans with his intricate theological arguments. This is cut-to-the-chase, here's-the-bottom-line talk from a man who knew his readers needed encouragement to stand strong in hard times.

James begins with an exhortation about how to respond when hard times come. After 2000 years, his words still ring true today.

I. The Command

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (v. 1).

James begins by reminding us that sooner or later (probably sooner) we will all face trials of various sorts. The word "face" has the idea of falling or stumbling over a problem. Picture someone driving down the highway in a convertible. The top is down, the music is blaring, and the driver is having a blast. Not a problem in the world, not a care or a concern. Without warning there is a sudden jolt, the car swerves to the right and comes to a halt. What happened? The car hit a massive pothole and suddenly the happy journey is over. Life is like that for all of us. No matter who we are or where we live, trouble is just a phone call away. A doctor may say, "I'm sorry. You've got cancer." Or the voice may inform you that your daughter has just been arrested. Or you may be fired without warning. Or someone you trusted may start spreading lies about you. Or your husband may decide he doesn't want to be married anymore. The list is endless because our trials are "multi-colored" and "variegated" (the phrase "many kinds" has this idea behind it).

How, then, should we respond to these hard times that suddenly come to us? James offers what appears to be a strange piece of advice: "Consider it pure joy" or "Count it all joy" (KJV). That sounds so odd that one wonders if he is serious. "Count it all joy? Are you nuts? Do you have any idea what I've just been through?" It does sound rather idealistic, if not downright impossible. I confess to be being bothered by this so I decided to check it out in the Greek. No help there. The word "joy" means … joy. Pretty simple. So I decided to check out some other translations. One version says, "Be very glad" and another says, "Consider yourselves fortunate." That didn't help at all, so I turned to the translation of J. B. Phillips, hoping for some light (if not a way of escape). This is how he handles verse 2: "When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don't resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!" Even as I type these words, there is a rueful smile on my face. I think it's the exclamation point at the end that does it for me. It's not just "welcome them as friends," which would be hard enough, but "welcome them as friends!" which to me sounds positively giddy, like I'm welcoming long-lost friends to my home.

Don't Trust Your Feelings!

As I have pondered the matter, and considered my own difficulties with this concept, the thought occurs that "counting it all joy" when troubles come is not a natural response. If we want a natural response, we can talk about anger or despair or complaining or getting even or running away. It isn't "natural" to find joy in hardship. But that's the whole point. James isn't talking about a "natural" reaction. He's talking about a "supernatural" reaction made possible by the Holy Spirit who enables us to see and to respond from God's point of view. I conclude, then, that counting it all joy is a conscious choice we make when hard times come. Truthfully, it's probably a choice we'll have to make again and again and again. And to do it we'll have to take the long view of life, to understand that what we see is not the final chapter of the story. If we can make the choice to view life that way, then we can make the following statements about our struggles and our trials:

1) This is sent from the Lord.
2) This is necessary for my spiritual growth.

The first statement reflects a high view of God's sovereignty. Everything that happens to us is either caused by God or allowed by God. If I truly believe that, then I can move to the second statement and begin to look for ways to grow spiritually.

Here's a practical hint. Don't trust your feelings! When those you love are in great pain or when you face senseless tragedy or when friends turn against you or when life tumbles in around you, your feelings won't be an accurate guide. You probably won't "feel" joyful or grateful or full of trust. You are quite likely to be filled with a whole bag of negative emotions. So don't judge your circumstances by your feelings. Judge your circumstances by the Holy Spirit and by the Word of God. When you do that, a powerful conclusion emerges: These great trials give me great hope that God means a great benefit to me. Seeing things God's way doesn't cancel your trials and it doesn't turn them into non-trials, but it does transform your evaluation of those trials. You will view them differently because you believe that God intends through them to give you a great benefit that could not come any other way.

"A Wonderful New Platform"

I have a friend who within the space of two years lost his job of 30 years, found a new job that required him to relocate, and then was diagnosed with cancer. As he said, "I would have preferred to find out what's behind Door # 2." We all feel that way when trouble come our way. Unfortunately our troubles are never optional. They come when they come, and we have to cope as best we can. At the moment my friend is currently in treatment for his cancer. The doctors are hopeful but there are no guarantees. Here is part of what my friend wrote as he looked back on the upheaval:

Now that I am on the other side of those two years, I can see quite clearly what the Lord has had in mind, and I rejoice in it and praise him for the time in the crucible--how it has sharpened me, further deepened my faith in him and love for him, and multiplied my opportunities to serve him.

When I told my brother—a medical doctor--of my diagnosis, he was almost giddy with excitement, proclaiming, "Great, God has given you a wonderful new platform to tell others about him!" And he has been right, it is a great platform. Just as practically no one will tell you to go away if you ask them how you can pray for them, there is a tremendous openness to discussions with others of matters of life and faith when you have just told them you have cancer.

That's what James is talking about. My friend has decided to "count it all joy" in the midst of his cancer. No doubt our main problem comes because we misunderstand the word "joy." In contemporary parlance, the word is virtually a synonym for happiness. Joy to many people speaks of a pep rally or a champagne party or a New Year's Eve bash. To us, joy means the absence of all pain. But that's not what the Bible means. Here's a working definition: Joy is deep satisfaction that comes from knowing that God is in control even when my circumstances seem to be out of control. Joy grows best in the deep soil of the sovereignty of God. If you know that God is in control, you can be satisfied at a very deep level even while you weep over what is happening around you and to you.

II. The Reason

"Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance" (v. 3).

Every word of this verse is crucial. The phrase "you know" refers not to head knowledge (what we sometimes call "book learning") but to heart knowledge, the kind gained by years of experience. Some things we learn from books, others we learn in the School of Hard Knocks. God intends to put our faith to the test. The word "testing" refers to the process by which gold ore was purified. In order to separate the gold from the dross, the ore was placed in a furnace and heated until it melted. The dross rose to the surface and was skimmed off, leaving only pure gold. That's a picture of what God is up to in our "fiery trials." We all have to undergo some "furnace time" sooner or later. And some of us will spend an extended time in the furnace of affliction. But the result is the pure gold of Christ-like character. Job spoke of this experience when he declared of the Lord,

"He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold"
(Job 23:10).

Until your faith is put to the test, it remains theoretical. You never know what you believe until hard times come. Then you find out, for better or for worse. When the phone rings with bad news, when your son winds up in prison, when your best friend betrays you, when you lose your job, when your parents suddenly die, when life comes apart at the seams, then you discover what you truly and actually believe in the depth of your soul. Until then, your faith is speculative because it is untested. You can talk about heaven all you want, but you'll discover whether or not you believe in it when you stand by the casket of someone you love.

God's uses our trials to produce "perseverance." The Greek word is sometimes translated as "endurance" or "steadfastness" or "patience." In the book of Revelation, this word describes the faith of those brave saints who would not take the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 14:12). This is "battle-tested" faith that stands up under withering fire from the enemy and does not cut and run. William Barclay notes that in the early church the martyrs gained the respect of unbelievers because in the moment of death, they had this quality. To the very end, they died with their faith intact. Of them it was said, "They died singing."

It is the quality of Meriam Ibrahim who when pressured by the Muslim prosecutor in Sudan to renounce her Christian faith, knowing that her life was on the line, said, "I am a Christian and I will remain a Christian."

That's what perseverance looks like.
You don't get it in the good times.
You get it in the hard times.

III. The Promise

"Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (v. 4).

There is a process involved in our trials that leads to a product. Perseverance requires desperate dependence and dogged determination to hold on to our faith even when the world seems to disintegrate around us. Perseverance says, "I will not give up no matter what happens or how bad life may be. I will hold on because I promised and because I believe the Lord has something in store for me." That sort of gritty stubbornness produces genuine spiritual maturity. When trials have finished their work in us, we will not lack anything the Lord wants us to have. If we need faith, we will have it. If we need hope, we will have it. If we need love, we will have it. If we need any of the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), it will be produced in us. Nothing will be left out; nothing will be left behind.

The great danger is that we will try to short-circuit the process by running away from our problems. Eugene Peterson (The Message) translates part of verse 4 this way: "Don't try to get out of anything prematurely!" That's good advice; it's not always easy to follow. We often see the full flowering of this process in the life of an older saint of God. These days I spend a lot of my time teaching young people. Recently I spent a week teaching the book of James at Word of Life Bible Institute in Hudson, Florida. In a few months I'll teach Ezra in South Korea and then Galatians in New York. I love the enthusiasm of the younger generation for the Word of God. I'm glad to invest in them because the future belongs to the young. That said, if I'm looking for wisdom, I won't start with them. They haven't lived long enough. Proverbs 20:29 puts it this way: "The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old," and Proverbs 16:31 adds this insight, "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life" (NLT). To be sure, there are many gray-haired fools (and there are many wise and godly young people), but Solomon means that if you have walked with the Lord, you will be filled with wisdom in your old age. How do you get that wisdom? By not running away from the trials that come your way.

Many of us know the story of Elisabeth Elliot. She and her husband Jim joined a group of missionaries reaching out to the Auca Indians of Ecuador. After several promising attempts at first contact, a team of five missionaries flew to a jungle landing strip, hoping to establish friendly relations. It was not to be. Jim and his four co-workers were speared to death by the Indians. Years later Elisabeth married Addison Leitch, former president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. But he contacted cancer not long after their marriage and died slowly and painfully. What was her testimony?

The experiences of my life are not such that I could infer from them that God is good, gracious and merciful necessarily. To have one husband murdered and another one disintegrate body, soul and spirit through cancer, is not what you would call a proof of the love of God. In fact, there are many times when it looks like just the opposite. But my belief in the love of God is not by inference or instinct. It is by faith. To apprehend God's sovereignty working in that love is – we must say it – the last and highest victory of the faith that overcomes the world. (Cited by James Montgomery Boice in his "Romans" series.)

James would say Amen to that.

When trials come (and they come to all of us eventually), there is something we can't know and something we can know.

We can't always know why things happen the way they do. No matter how hard we try to figure things out, there will always be many mysteries in life. The greater the tragedy, the greater will be the mystery. God does not explain himself to us. As we go through life, we can look back and see many blanks that we wish God would fill in for us. Most of the time we will carry those unfilled blanks with us all the way to heaven.

When hard times come, we can know that God is at work in our trials for our benefit and for his glory. To say that is to say nothing more than the words of Romans 8:28. For the children of God, "all things" do indeed work together for good. Sometimes we will see it; often we will simply have to take it by faith. But it is true whether we believe it or not.

Stairway to Heaven

The Christian way is not an easy way and any representations to the contrary are false. There is an abundant life to be had, and there is spiritual victory, and there is joy in the Lord and the filling of the Spirit, but those things don't come in spite of our trials. Most often they come through and with and alongside our trials. In various ways we will all struggle every day as we make our earthly pilgrimage. In a fallen world, there can be no other way. And for the most part, we can't choose our trials nor can we avoid most of them. But we can choose how we respond. That part is up to us.

Joy or bitterness.
Forgiveness or anger.
Trust or unbelief.
Faith or fear.
Love or hatred.
Kindness or malice.
Gentleness or stubbornness.
Mercy or revenge.
Peace or worry.
Hope or despair.

Our perspective makes all the difference. God does not intend to destroy us by the trials he allows to come our way. Those things that seem so painful now will one day be clearly seen as benefits to our spiritual growth. They are not meant to defeat us but to be the means to a greater spiritual victory. Therefore, we should not complain when hard times come. We should rejoice. And we will rejoice if we believe what God has said. Every hard trial is another step on the stairway that leads from earth to heaven.

Source: Keep Believing Ministries

When You're Up to Your Eyeballs in Trouble

by Adrian Rogers

Someone once observed that as Christians we're either in the midst of a battle, just emerging from a battle, or headed into one. Rarely do we bask in flowery meadows of peace! Perhaps in heaven we'll enjoy that, but on this earth we'll have trouble. Everyone reading this is in one of these three places or you know someone who's there.

Some people think that if revival were to break out, it would be the end of our troubles. It will be, but it'll be the front end! It's a fact of earthly life that when God opens the windows of heaven to bless us, the devil opens the doors of hell to blast us. When God begins moving, the devil fires up all his artillery. Should we then fold up and go away? No! We're to stand up and pray. God did not call us to fail but to be victorious. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ established our victory. We will have victory when we learn how to face our battles.

The people of Judah and King Jehoshaphat provide a perfect example. In 2 Chronicles 20, right on the heels of revival, incredible destruction threatens:

"...the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle...a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea...."

This wasn't a bump in the road; they faced certain death.

See Your Battle as God Sees It

When you encounter a problem, see it as it really is: a blessing in disguise. Now you say, "There you go with that happiness talk preachers always give me when I have problems." No, a blessing in disguise.

"My brethren, consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing this, that the trying (testing) of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:2)

God does not allow problems to come to you to hurt you, but to build you.

Set Your Focus: Seek the Lord

Jehoshaphat faced an attack from three wicked kings. All of us - Christian or non-Christian - face three "wicked kings." They take the form of sin, sorrow, and death.

"And Jehoshaphat...set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD."
(2 Chronicles 20:3-4)

In a convocation of fasting and prayer they came to seek God. Prayer was not their last resort but their first thought.

Many of us want to use God as the spare tire rather than the steering wheel. We wait till we have a spiritual blowout, then see if God will rescue us, rather than doing as Jesus taught: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these (other) things will be added unto you." Why does God allow us to have problems? To cause us to do exactly what Jehoshaphat did: seek Him!

If we never had problems, most likely we would not seek God. Name the times when you've grown the most. Be honest. When everything was fine? No. God was nearest and most real to you when you agonized in prayer and found Him to be faithful. That was true of King David: "Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress." (Psalm 4:1)

God allows heartache, tears, and turmoil to bring us to Him. In times of need we seek the face of God.

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
(Hebrews 4:14)

Examine Your Past

Once you set your heart to seek God, stop and remember those times before when He was with you. What He has done before, He will do again. He has never failed you, nor will He fail you.

Looking back, Jehoshaphat reminds the Lord of His power and might and what He has done in the past. "God, You have all power over the nations. You gave this land to Abraham. You drove out our enemies. You have done it before." Don't miss verses 5-7. Read them in your Bible. He is the LORD. He changes not. He did not die for you to abandon you. Remember His past faithfulness.

We're just getting started. Next, we'll see how to embrace His promises and enlist His protection. And I'll give you ten things to do when trouble comes.

What a predicament! The people of Judah faced an enemy alliance marching to destroy them. We looked last time at this dramatic event - God's people caught in an impossible situation.

We saw that the people set their faces first of all to seek the Lord in earnest prayer and fasting.

Next, the King reminded the Lord of what He had done in the past. This appeal to God is a classic. Don't miss reading it for yourself in 2 Chronicles 20:5-12, culminating in this beautiful appeal,

O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee. (v. 12)

So often that's how we feel. Jehoshaphat says, "Lord, You told us when trouble came, if we would seek Your face, You would hear and deliver us. Now I'm reminding You of Your promise. You gave us this land, and this crowd has come to kick us out of the possession You’ve given us."

Embrace God's Promises

God has given us something better than the land of Canaan: victory in Jesus Christ. The devil would love to kick you out of the land of victory into the wilderness of defeat. You don't have to take it. Embrace a promise from God and stand on that promise.

"...for He hath said, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.' So that we may boldly say, 'The Lord is my helper...' "
(Hebrews 13:5).

"He hath said...that we may boldly say." Find something God has said and say it boldly. That's what Jehoshaphat did: "God, because You said it, I'm going to boldly say it. I'm not going to let these people take away what You have given." He found a promise and stood on it.

Enlist God's Protection

"And Judah stood before the LORD with their little ones, their wives, and their children." (v.13)

See them standing with their little children, saying, "God, we don't know what to do, but we have a promise from You. Our eyes are not upon our enemy, not upon circumstances, but on You. If we die, we're going to die with our eyes on You."

Do you think God is going to forsake people like that? No.

"Thus saith the LORD to you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but the LORD'S.... And ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD...." (v.15-17)

God says, "It's all right. The battle is not yours."

Prayer and Praise are the Two Wings of Spiritual Power

The battle never has been yours. But you're going to have a part in it. Your part is praise. You can't hide until the battle is over and then praise the Lord. If you say, "When You've done it all and given me the victory, then I'm going to praise You," God replies,

"You're not going to have victory until you start praising."
"Well, I can't praise yet because I don't have victory yet."
God says, "All right. I'm not going to do anything yet."
If you say, "I can't praise God in the middle of my problems," God says,
"Okay, live with them."

Lack of praise when we pray is unbelief. Until we learn to praise God in our troubles, we will live with them.

If you're in the middle of a problem, begin to praise God, not after the victory but before. "Thank You, Lord, for the victory. I praise You for the victory." When we begin to praise before we see the answer, this is the ultimate faith. We're saying, "God, we don't know how You're going to do it, but You're bigger than this problem. And therefore, I praise You."

"Then Jehoshaphat bowed...his face to the ground: and Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem..., worshipping the LORD."

As Judah begins to worship, a strange thing happens. The enemy turns on himself.

Praise Confuses the Enemies of God

There's something about praise that sends the enemy into confusion. It's a pattern in the Word of God: when His people say "Our eyes are upon You," God sends confusion to the enemy.

A Timeless Spiritual Principle

Never forget: God allows these problems to bring us to Himself.

10 Things to Do When Trouble Comes

• Learn to see all satanic opposition as an opportunity.
• Seek the face of God before taking any action. This may include fasting.
• Remember those times when God has already shown Himself faithful to you.
• Go to the Word of God and look for a promise to stand on.
• Let the Holy Spirit make that promise a burning reality in your heart.
• Refuse any confidence in the flesh; put your eyes upon God.
• Give yourself to worship.
• Then begin to praise God in the face of opposition.
• Expect God to send confusion to the enemy.
• Get ready for a blessing.

Source: Love Worth Finding Devotional

How to Overcome Despair

by Debbie Przybylski

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."
(Romans 12:1-2)

We live in a world that is filled with despair. The enemy strikes hard with the spirit of despair. It's deep-seated and it's everywhere - even within the body of Christ. The devil will scream in our ears, "You're no good." "God's will for you is not good." "Your situation is hopeless." It's hard to live in victory when we believe enemy lies. The dictionary definition of despair is: the complete loss or absence of hope, disheartenment, discouragement, desperation, distress, anguish, depression, misery, defeatism, pessimism, and even suicidal feelings. This doesn't sound good.

Many of us were shocked when we heard of the death of 63-year-old Robin Williams, the well-known American actor and comedian. Williams, who had all the world's comfort and fame, ended his own life tragically by hanging himself with a belt in his California home. He entertained millions on stage, film or television, wanting to make others laugh and feel less afraid. He rose to fame starring in many well-known movies such as Dead Poet Society. He was nominated for the Academy Award for best actor three times and won two Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards.

But all of this fame and fortune did not meet the inner emptiness in His life that only God could fill. Stardom in the world's eyes was not enough. The one who made others laugh was himself living in utter despair. He listened to the lies of the enemy saying, "Life is hopeless. Just end it all."

There is a shocking reality regarding despair and suicide that we cannot ignore. There are 35,000 suicides in America every year, and the suicide rate is the same among Christians and non-Christians. This is alarming. But it doesn't have to be this way. We ask ourselves, "Why is this so, and what can we do about it? How can we overcome despair within our own lives as well as within our families, friends, and co-workers?"

Transformed by the Renewing of Our Mind

We overcome despair and are transformed by changing how we think and by the renewing of our mind. We need to know what God is like, who we are in Christ (Romans 5), and what we believe.

If we were to admit it personally, there is not one of us who hasn't had the enemy strike hard at us with feelings of despair at one time or other. We live in the world system, and we fight the devil on a daily basis. There is a battlefield of the mind where we wrestle against the powers of darkness. Intercessors especially are a target of the enemy because the enemy hates prayer. He will try to defeat us through a spirit of despair.

We are called to enjoy our relationship with Jesus fully. We are equipped to experience God's transforming grace by renewing our minds with the truths that give us the assurance of how God accepts us and views us with mercy (even when we feel weak). Understanding God's mercy motivates us to give ourselves fully to God with confidence. Read Romans 1-11 and see how the truths of God's grace and mercy fill these chapters, especially Romans 5-6. See Micah 7:18.

How can we move out of despair to a transforming faith in God? How can we move from the debilitating effects of despair and hopelessness in our own heart and change our thinking?

Ways to Overcome Despair

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me? to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives?and release from darkness for the prisoners… ?to bestow on them a crown of beautyinstead of ashes, ?the oil of joy instead of mourning, ?and a garment of praise?instead of a spirit of despair."
- (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Meditating on the following truths and living them out in our personal life will bring transformation to our minds and hearts. We don't have to live in despair. It is our God-given right to live in joyful confidence. The following are ways you can walk out of despair and hopelessness, and into the transforming power of God through the renewing of your mind:

Present your body as a living sacrifice - Make it your ambition to love the Lord with all your heart (Matthew 22:37). Give yourself to the Lord in a wholehearted way. God is after your heart. When you give yourself to God in this way even though it is costly, you will find true joy. King David offered to God that which was costly (2 Samuel 24:24). Don't settle for 95% commitment. He wants you, not partially but 100%.

Know that the offering of yourself to God is holy and pleasing to Him -He accepts even the weak offering of your love, life, and service as holy because He evaluates you through mercy. It's sacred to Him and your true worship. It's holy and pleasing. The giving of yourself moves God deeply. People live in despair because they believe the lie that the offering of themselves to God is not holy or pleasing to Him.

Do not conform any longer to the world system -Know that it will not bring fulfillment. Don't listen to the world's evaluation of who you are or how important your life is. Don't measure your life by the world's values and standards. The world can never give you value; only God can. Listen and accept God's evaluation. His priority is to conform you to His image. This is more important than trying to accomplish or be something in man's eyes.

Know that God has a master plan for your life - You can be confident of this; He will complete His good work in you (Philippians 1:6). Often people are searching and trying to find God's will. Trust His leadership in your life, and be faithful in the small things. Daily faithfulness is important to God. Faithfulness in little things leads to greatness. Don't listen to what the world tells you greatness is. It will lead you down a dead-end road. You are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).

Know that God's leadership in your life is good, pleasing, and perfect -God leads you in a way that is good for you. He works all things for good (Romans 8:28). God's plan is satisfying because it is uniquely designed for your life (Psalm 139). It's perfect and can't be improved on.

Finally, learn to say no to Satan's lies. Don't agree with him because he is the father of lies (John 8:44). Pull down those strongholds in your mind by renouncing lies about God and who you are in Christ. When condemnation, shame, fear, or despair rise up in your heart to challenge what God promised in His Word, come against it by confessing the Truth and resisting His lies. Speak out loud specific verses from God's Word that combat the lie. Our words are powerful in causing fear or faith to grow in us. By learning to agree with God's Word, you release His power in your life.

It's time to take charge of negative thinking. You have power to cast down all thoughts of despair and hopelessness. You do not have to be a captive to negative thoughts that lead to despair. You can renew your mind in God's Word. It's not by trying harder to change, but by seeing more clearly how God evaluates you. Learn to meditate on Scriptures like Psalm 139 until it sinks deeply into your spirit.

As you renew your mind in these truths an amazing thing happens - Your emotions will be transformed and your behavior will change! You will begin to walk in a transforming faith with a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

My Prayer to God to Overcome Despair

"Dear Lord, I offer my body to You as a living sacrifice. I choose to make it my ambition to love You with all my heart (Matthew 22:37). I thank You that my offering is pleasing, good and acceptable to You. I give to You my feelings of despair, and I confess and renounce the lies that I have been believing [Name those lies specifically]. I renounce and pull down every stronghold about You and who I am in Christ. I ask Your forgiveness for believing these false beliefs, and I bring these lies to the feet of Jesus. I thank you that your blood cleanses me from these false beliefs. I take authority and break the spirit of despair over my life in the Name of Jesus and in its place, what do You want to give me? [Take time to listen quietly for anything the Lord may be saying to you that replaces the lie with His Truth. i.e. A Scriptural verse, a picture, a gentle thought, etc.]

Teach me to confess Your Word out loud and resist Satan's lies every day. Help me to renew my mind in Your Truth. Help me to no longer conform to the world system. I choose to not listen to the world's evaluation of who I am. I choose to listen only to Your evaluation. I can be confident that You have a master plan for my life, and You will complete Your work in me (Philippines 1:6). Jesus, I trust Your leadership in my life. I thank You that I am transformed by the renewing of my mind. I will meditate on Your Word every day. [Meditate on Psalm 139 and pray it out loud to the Lord]. In Jesus' name, amen.

Source: Daily Update

Three Things to Remember When Hard Times Hit

By Dr. Ray Pritchard

Scripture: James 1:16-18

Life is hard.

Does anyone wish to argue about that? In a recent Sunday School class our teacher asked us to list the areas where we felt God might be testing us. Right off the bat someone mentioned health. Either we struggle or our loved ones struggle with sickness. Then someone mentioned problems on the job. Heads nodded across the room. Then we talked about stress related to our children. When our teacher asked if the challenges ended when our kids were out of the house (our class is mostly in our 50s and early 60s), we all said no. The problems change, but once a parent, always a parent. Then someone mentioned betrayal. The class got solemn when we heard that word because we've all had friends who let us down. In some cases, we had a spouse who deserted us.

When the teacher mentioned money as a cause of potential problems, he smiled and said some people have the problem of too much money. "I doubt if any of us have that issue," he said. But money (or the lack thereof) tends to be the number one cause of marital discord.

Someone spoke up to say that God fits the trial to the person so that what happens to me can't be compared with what happens to you. Our struggles are not all the same because we have a wise Heavenly Father who fits the trial to the person.

James would agree with that sentiment. In a sense his whole letter is about how to respond properly when we are under pressure. He has already reminded us that trials are a necessary part of our spiritual growth (James 1:2-4) and that there is a blessing reserved for those who respond rightly (James 1:12) and do not blame God when hard times comes (James 1:13-15).

In our text (James 1:16-18) he advances the argument by reminding us that God is good all the time, even during our hardest trials. We can say it this way: God is not on trial during our trials; we are. He uses hard times to put our faith to the test. This passage shows us three things we need to remember if we are going to pass the test with flying colors.

I. Remember God's Love

"Don't be deceived, my beloved brothers" (v. 16).

When hard times come, it's easy to blame God for our problems. Like Adam in the Garden of Eden, we are experts at passing the buck.

It's not my fault.
I didn't deserve this.
You started it.
The devil made me do it.
I couldn't control myself.
They had it in for me.
The whole thing was rigged.
I've had a string of bad luck.

If I were older/younger/richer/smarter/single/married/better educated/better connected, this wouldn't have happened to me.

In the end all our excuses lead us back to God. He is the one with whom we have to do. He made us, he gave us life, and one day we will give an account to him. All our well-oiled excuses will be exposed as lies when we stand in the blinding light of his perfection.

So don't be deceived into thinking you can blame God for the temptations you face. That's the first thing James wants us to see.

He adds an important truth when he calls his readers "my beloved brothers." That's not just a term of affection. As a practical matter, James wouldn't have known all the Jewish Christians who were scattered in many places (see James 1:1). It's not as if he's saying, "I love you guys." No doubt that was true, but the phrase means much more than that. James is reminding his readers that they were greatly loved by God. They were brothers and sisters in Christ who had experienced the love of God in a deep way. He is really saying, "When you are tempted to give up, remember how much God loves you." H. B. Charles Jr. says it this way:

"The peril of the unredeemed sinner is unbelief.
The peril of the redeemed sinner is misbelief."

We "misbelieve" when we forget what it cost God to save us.
We "misbelieve" when we forget the pit from which we were rescued.
We "misbelieve" when we accuse God of mistreating us.

There really is no cure for "misbelief" except replacing falsehood with the truth. I met a woman who came to Christ from a background of brokenness that included almost every sin you might imagine. When she came to church, she had no trouble believing she was a sinner. In an email to me she enumerated many of her sins, and then she said this:

One night I was driving home in rush hour traffic on the freeway and listening to a Christian radio station. I can't tell you exactly who was speaking, but someone was talking about the crucifixion and I didn't know what happened - I started crying and saying something like "Oh Jesus, please forgive me for sinning against you, I am so sorry, after all that you did for me, look what I have done to you - I know who you are now." And the feeling in that car was overwhelming. I didn't know what was going on them - but I know now. The Holy Spirit swooped down on me, he called me to Jesus and I came. Isn't that something - the most incredible experience of my life and it happened in a rush hour traffic jam on a cold night in November. I left the house that morning and came back that night a different woman - and I had no clue what was going on.

To quote my favorite song which seems so very appropriate, and which in one sentence certainly sums up what has happened since I came to Christ: "Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, once I was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see."

She signed her note, "Lingering at the foot of the cross." That's exactly where we ought to be all the time. As long as we linger at the cross, contemplating what Jesus did for us, we are not likely to be deceived when hard times come.

II. Remember God's Goodness

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (v. 17).

The change in subject seems abrupt, but the flow of thought is clear. We must not blame God for our temptations because evil desire leads to sin that leads to death (vv. 13-15). Twice James warns us not to blame God for our problems. When we sin, we have only ourselves to blame.

Verse 17 sets up a contrast. Everything good in this world ultimately comes from God. If it's good, God made it, he gave it, or he sent it. The familiar words of the Doxology state this very plainly: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."

I wonder if we really believe that. Not long ago I asked a friend how he was doing. He laughed and said, "I'm upright and taking nourishment." I laughed with him. But do we realize that "in him (that is, God) we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28)? Do we understand that we are alive right now because God wants us alive? We breathe because he gives us air to breathe and lungs to take it in. If God withdrew his hand of blessing, not one of us would take another breath.

We see and hear and move and think and laugh and clap and dream and cry all because of God. I suppose we all know that, but rarely do we think of it. Rarely do we stop to give thanks for the blessing of life itself. But recently we heard the sad news that Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau died at the age of 46 from brain cancer. Here is one of the most powerful men on earth, and yet his son dies of cancer. The list of the sick and suffering seems to have no end. Death comes to all of us sooner or later.

If you can read my words, you must be alive.
If you are alive, it is a gift from God.
If God has given you the gift of life, will you not give thanks to him?

We ought to ponder Paul's question in 1 Corinthians 4:7, "What do you have that you did not receive?" Do you boast of your wealth or your fame or your talent or your accomplishments? Do you think you good looks owe only to your DNA? Who gave you your talent, your strength, your creativity, your ingenuity? Who gave you the blessings you take for granted?

The Gentle Rain from Heaven

James emphasizes this when he says that every good gift "comes down" from the Father of lights. William Shakespeare reminds us that

"The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven."

These famous lines from The Merchant of Venice are true in every way. Mercy always comes down. It starts with God and moves to man, it begins in heaven and ends on earth. You don't bargain for mercy because to make a bargain you've got to have something to offer, and we have nothing to offer God. Mercy is indeed like the gentle rain that softens the hard soil of the human heart.

We need this because we are sinners worse than we know. Even the best Christian would have no hope of heaven without the shining mercy of God. If God did not forgive and keep on forgiving, if he did not continue to pour out his mercy like the "gentle rain from heaven," we would be utterly and completely lost.

What kind of God do we serve?

He's completely good.
He's constantly good.
He's unchangeably good.

God will never not be good.
God could never be less than good.
Everything he does is good.

"I am a witness"

I'm sure you've been in churches where they do the call-and-response that goes like this:

Preacher: God is good.
Congregation: All the time.
Preacher: And all the time.
Congregation. God is good.

When I mentioned this in a sermon, someone told me their church does that in a slightly different way. They say it in five parts, one for each finger on their right hand. It goes like this:

God is good.
All the time.
In every situation.
No matter what.
God is good.

You should hold up your right hand and say that right now, touching each finger in turn. Once you do it, it will stick in your mind.

When I mentioned the basic call-and-response in a written sermon a few years ago, someone in Nigeria wrote back and said that in their churches, after saying "God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good," the congregation says in unison, "I am a witness."

That's really good because it brings the truth home. It's one thing to say "God is good" as an abstract statement, almost like a theological cheer for the home team. It's even better if you think about those other statements, "In every situation" and "No matter what." But best of all is to make it personal by adding, "I am a witness."

Sometimes it's hard to say. Even when we think we know what will happen tomorrow, life can turn on a dime. No one knows what a day may bring forth. That's a solemn fact. Life is not just one thing. It's good and bad, sickness and health, weeping and rejoicing, life and death, war and peace, all mixed together.

That's why we need a God in whom there is no shadow of turning. He is the still point in our changing world. He is not good today and bad tomorrow. He does not capriciously change his mind and decide to be kind today and harsh tomorrow.

We are like that.
God is not.

When you are tempted to give up, remember the goodness of God.
When you feel like giving in to temptation, remember the goodness of God.
When you want to resign from life, remember the goodness of God.

III. Remember God's Grace

"Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (v. 18).

As James thinks of the goodness of God, he naturally turns to an illustration his readers would understand. The phrase "brought us forth" translates a Greek word that means "to give birth."

What do we know about this divine birth?

It Starts with God.

The text says God saved us "of his own will." Whatever else we can say about our "free will," let's be clear on one key point. Salvation doesn't start with us; it starts with God. I'm reminded of the new convert who rose with great joy in a prayer meeting to share his testimony of how Jesus saved him. Afterwards, an older Christian, thinking to admonish him, said, "My brother, what you shared was wonderful, but you didn't say anything about your part in salvation." The new convert replied, "My part in salvation was to run from the Lord as fast as I could. God's part was to pursue me until he found me and saved me by his grace." James would agree with that answer. Salvation is of the Lord. We sometimes say, "I found the Lord," which is perfectly true. But if the Lord didn't find us first, we would never find him on our own.

It Produces New Life.

Why do we need new life? The answer is simple. We need "new" life because the "old" life we were born with is filled with sin and disobedience. As James has just said in verses 14-15, lust leads to sin and sin leads to death.

Warren Wiersbe says it this way:

"By granting us a new birth, God declares that he cannot accept the old birth. . . . He rejects your first birth (no matter how noble it might have been in the eyes of men), and he announces that you need a second birth"
(Be Mature, p. 53).

That's why Jesus said, "You must be born again" (John 3:7). The new birth is not an option if you wish to go to heaven. Even the best among us need to be born again.

  • It is a gift of God, given by grace and received by faith.
  • It Comes by the Word of Truth.
  • This is why we preach the Word!

It is not our words that bring life. I can talk until I'm blue in the face, but my words can never give life. My words are human words. They have all the limitations that go with my flesh. My words may amuse or comfort or anger or embitter. They may instruct or they may challenge. But my words in and of themselves have no power to give life.

But the Word of God is different. Because it comes from God, it has ultimate authority. Because it is true, it is 100% reliable. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that the Word of God is "alive and active." It is a sword that lays bare the hidden secrets of the heart. When we preach God's Word in the power of God's Spirit, it penetrates every heart, reveals every sin, exposes every excuse, shows us our need, and then leads us to the cross of Christ where we can be forgiven.

It Utterly Transforms Us.

The Jewish readers in the first century were familiar with the concept of "firstfruits." Each year the early part of the harvest was set aside for the Lord as a testimony that the whole harvest belonged to God. To call us "firstfruits" means that we are a sign to the world that a great harvest is underway. God intends to use us to display his grace to the whole world. We are to be "Exhibit A" of what God can do in through fallible, broken people.

You might say our job is to be fallible and broken. We've got that part nailed.
God's job is to show his grace through people like us. He's working at that day and night.

That puts our trials in a new perspective. Recently I came across this quote on a friend's Facebook page: "When it is all finished, you will discover it was never random." If your life seems random at the moment, you may be sure that it is not all finished. We are never really "finished" in this life because God always has more work to do in us.

As we come to the end of this message, let's wrap up by reminding ourselves of truth we've heard before:

It's not about me. It's about God.
It's not about now. It's about eternity.

No Halfway Hope

Very often the here-and-now won't make sense to us. I have no magic formula to give you that will dispel your fears, clear away your confusion, and wipe away your tears. We are reminded over and over that into each life some rain must fall. Sometimes it sprinkles, sometimes it pours, and sometimes the flood waters threaten to overwhelm us. Said another way, if you ever get to the place where all your questions are answered, all your problems are gone, and all your trials have vanished, sit back and relax. You've made it to heaven. Between now and then, there are "dangers, toils and snares" ahead of us. No one is exempt from the troubles of this life. But the grace that has taken us this far will safely lead us home to God.

Someone going through a hard time posted this on Facebook:

Hope is tough. You can't really halfway hope. Either you hope for something or you don't.

Then came this insight:

Our God is good, and faithful, and gracious, and he loves to show those attributes to us if we pay enough attention to catch them. We have been trying to pay attention to those attributes, to hope more in what is unseen than in what is seen.

What a beautiful way to put it. I'm glad our hope doesn't depend on the fickle sway of circumstances but on the solid rock called God. That's what James is talking about in this passage.

When hard times come . . .

Remember God's love,
Remember God's goodness, and
Remember God's grace.

A good memory of the right things will keep you strong when hard times hit.

Copyright © 2015 Keep Believing Ministries, All rights reserved.

How to Overcome Past Pain and Let Hope into Your Life

by Whitney Hopler

Each new day of your life is a gift from God that He wants you to live fully. But if the pain you've suffered in your past is sti But if the pain you've suffered in your past is still impacting your life now, you can't fully embrace the new life God offers you because you'll be stuck in a frustrating cycle of brokenness that leaves you feeling hopeless.

The key to overcoming your past pain is making choices that invite God's hope into your life. Here are some choices you can make to heal from your past and enjoy hope from now on:

Transform your pain instead of transferring it.

If you don't find ways to learn from your past pain, you'll likely be doomed to repeat the mistakes you made in the past and transfer your pain to everyone with whom you interact – from your friends and family members to your coworkers and neighbors. So ask God to break the hold that your past has over you and show you what useful lessons you can learn from it so you can begin moving forward. God is much more powerful than your history, and when you trust Him, God will start to transform your pain into healing and wisdom in your life.

Leave shame behind.

Silence the voice of shame in your life so it won't block the healing that God wants to give you. Listen to the Holy Spirit's voice telling you that God loves you completely and unconditionally, regardless of what has happened in your past. Even though God knows the worst about you, He wants to redeem you anyway. Let go of shame and accept God's invitation to healing.

Overcome your regrets.

Holding onto regrets from your past will only lead to more regrets unless you break the unhealthy cycle by releasing your regrets to God. Realize that it's pointless to dwell on your regrets, since you can't go back and change your past – all you can do is keep moving forward. Pray specifically about each of your regrets while envisioning Jesus on the Cross. Leave every one of your regrets at the foot of the Cross as a symbolic way of entrusting them to God's power to redeem them for good purposes.

Confess that you're not okay.

Don't waste any more time or energy pretending to be fine when you're really hurting, lonely, confused, or frightened because of your past pain. If your pain was caused by some sin of yours in the past, confess that to God, repent from the sin, and ask Him to forgive you. If your pain was caused by someone else sinning against you, admit to God that you need to forgive the person who hurt you, and ask God to empower you to do so. Ask God and some fellow believers you can trust to help you start the healing process.

Pursue healing.

Turn to the ultimate Healer, Jesus Christ, to help you heal. Seek Jesus' guidance for every step of your healing journey, knowing that He specializes in taking what's broken and restoring it to how it should be.

Embrace your past.

Accept the reality of what happened in your past that has caused you pain, without denying it or minimizing its effect on your life. Let go of your desire to have life go the way you'd planned it. Surrender your past to God, so He will take it and use it for good purposes. Talk openly about your past with other people who are struggling with similar types of pain, if you sense God leading you to share what you've learned with them. Doing so can usher hope into their lives as well as your own.

Choose trusting God over pleasing God.

Instead of trying to make up for your past failures by working hard with religious rituals you hope will please God, choose to trust God's promise that He loves and accepts you unconditionally. Rather than trying to reach God through your own efforts, trust in His grace.

Accept God's surprising gift of radical grace, and be graceful with others.

Unlike the limited, strings-attached grace that other people (even those in church) offer you, God Himself wants to give you completely unconditional grace – grace you can count on, no matter what you've done in the past. That grace is surprising, yet real. God sees past your past sin when He looks at you; He focuses on the fact that you're one of His beloved children. No matter how others may label you as a second-class person due to your past mistakes, God always sees you as a first-class person. Express your gratitude to God by following His command to forgive the people who have hurt you in the past – relying on God's help to do so.

Discover the true meaning of God's will for you.

You can free yourself from the burden of worrying about aligning your decisions with God's will when you realize that knowing God's will is simple. God's will isn't about figuring out specific details about your circumstances, such as which job you should pursue or where you should live. Instead, God's will is simply about giving your best effort to loving God and loving people in any circumstances. Recognize that God has given you the freedom to make your own decisions about specifics in your life, as long as you follow the basic principle of God's will, which is to choose the most loving course of action while trusting God. Don't worry that poor decisions you made in the past may have caused you to miss out on God's will for your life. You can always get back in line with God's will for your life when you trust God to redeem your mistakes and try to make loving decisions from now on.

Be grateful.

Choose to be grateful for all the good gifts that God constantly pours into your life. The more you choose gratitude, the less power your painful past will have over you.

Overcome fear.

You can move past your fear of the unknown and into a hopeful future when you ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind each day. Then you'll be able to approach any situation from a faithful perspective. Focus on God's love, which drives out all fear, and you'll experience more hope in your life.

[Editor's Note: Adapted from Let Hope In: 4 Choices That Will Change Your Life Forever, copyright 2013 by Pete Wilson. Published by W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN.]

About The Author:

Pete Wilson is the foundAbout The Author:

Pete Wilson is the founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Pete desires to see churches become radically devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to one another, and relentlessly dedicated to reaching those outside of God's family. Visit his website at:

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a contributing wri is author of 'the new Christian novel Dream Factory', which is set during Hollywood's golden age.


The More You Are Meant For

by Gwen Smith

Today's Truth

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
(2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

Friend to Friend

It was a photo of a waffle iron.

Her status update on the social media site said seven simple words about the picture:

"I want these two buttons for life."

The buttons of reference were two settings: RESTART and A BIT MORE.

There it was – in stainless steel simplicity – the longings of a friend who has complicated challenges that were bravely alluded to. She's a private person, so I was surprised by the honesty and courage of her post… even if she only intended to share her thought tongue-in-cheek.

I understood right away.

Her fingers, bent and disfigured by an uninvited disease, struck the keys to post her status. Her hands no longer cooperate much. Neither does her body. The medical chains of her diagnosis now limit activities that used to be normal and easy for her.

It's not fair. It's not fun. It's painful and it stinks.

My sister suffers from a similar health challenge. Though she rarely ever complains I see the discomfort when she winces, thinking no one is looking. And when she winces my heart aches with her because I know she's hurting. And I hate that.

So, yeah, I get my friend's post… and I share in her longings for a restart… for a bit more. Not just for her and for my sister – but for me too.

Because life is full of pain that stirs our hunger for something better. Something new. Something fresh. Something more. Something miraculous and full of promise. We want the hurts to stop and the healing to start.

We want God's kingdom to come. Now.

For some the challenge is physical pain. For others it's upside down finances, toxic relationships, depression, stressful employment (or unemployment), prodigal children, broken marriages, tangled feelings, or emotional emptiness.

If only we could overcome our trials by pushing a few buttons.

We do try, though. We try so hard to anesthetize our pain with things of this world, don't we? With wine, with men, with shopping, with status, with service, with sleep, with eating, or even with working out… none of which point us in the direction to the more we long for.

The pressure drives us low, and burdens us with a weight that we are not meant to carry. And in the heaviness of it all, the Bible points to a hope that remains in Christ. When we call to the One who is all about restarts and more – His grace meets us there. In the pain. In the disappointment. In the bitterness. In the anger. In the hopelessness.

When the apostle Paul pleaded with God to make his life "more" by removing the thorn in his side, the Lord told him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

I love God's grace and am grateful for salvation. So grateful. But I wonder just how much of God's strength, how much of His grace – how much of His more – goes untapped in my life because I simply fail to ask for it or because I don't believe He actually cares enough to intervene. If His strength is made perfect in my weakness, as it was in Paul's, then why do I often still feel weak?

Where's the MORE I was meant for?

I wish there was a button to push.

Perhaps the strength God provides through His grace is about a lot more than my feelings and my failures. One thing I know for sure is that my emotions are unreliable. And I KNOW God! I know that He is faithful, He is always with me, His ways are higher and His thoughts are more comprehensive than mine. And I know He lifts my head when I'm downhearted and that His compassion for humanity – for you and me – is white hot like a flame.

The more we are meant for is not found in an empty bottle or a man's arms. It's not found in a clean medical chart or in that promotion at work. It's not found in a home that shows like an HGTV showcase, in well behaved children, or on the buttons of a waffle iron – but in Jesus Christ.

He took on death so you and I could take on life. A life of more.

God's grace invites us to a restart that begins with repentance and faith. It is essential that we acknowledge the brokenness of sin in our lives and believe that Jesus came from heaven to bring forgiveness and hope to mankind.

Then after the restart, God calls each of His children to more.

His more.

A more that is fueled by His Spirit and embodied by Jesus himself.

Yes, you need grace. Yes, you need strength. Everyday.

But more than anything, you need Jesus.

HE is the more you are meant for.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord,

You are who I need. Thank You for allowing me to experience a restart of grace because of Jesus. Bind my choices, my thoughts, my affections, and my longings to the more of You.

In Jesus' name, Amen

Now It's Your Turn

Which button would you push today if you could?

One way we can move toward God's more is to yield our hearts to the leading and molding of His Spirit. Read this verse and then pray through it responsively: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:2)

RESPONSIVE PRAYER: Holy Father, Please keep me from conforming to this world. You know my heart and know that my biggest struggles are ______________. Transform and renew my mind with Your Spirit and Your Word. Help me to recognize truth, to respond in grace, and to walk in Your will. Thank you for loving me where , amen.

Source: Girlfriends in God Devotional

Four Simple Ways You Can Turn Worry into Wonderful

by Cortni Marrazzo

A few weeks ago, I woke up in a great mood and felt ready to face the day with joy. The sun was shining, my family was healthy, and it seemed like it was going to be a great day. On my to-do list that day was to take my 4 year old son to the children's dentist (which he loves), and afterward get coffee from the coffee stand next door (coffee for me, chocolate milk for him). We got in the car, drove to the dentist, checked in, went to the back for the check-up, and then my whole day turned around.

The dentist told me that my son had 8 cavities and needed multiple fillings and crowns and that was going to cost us over $2000. To say I was in shock would be an understatement, especially because we religiously brushed his teeth every night before bed! Unfortunately, he seemed to have inherited his parents' very porous teeth. Now he was facing a lot of invasive dental work, and we were facing a very high bill, neither of which gave me any warm fuzzies. We left the dentist and I felt sick to my stomach, so much so that I didn't even want my anticipated coffee that I had planned to get. I was sick with worry the rest of my day, and the next few days were just a blur of worry and doom.

Has this ever happened to you? You are going about your day and everything seems good, and then you get some bad news or someone says something negative. Then it seems like a switch is flipped in your mind and you are overcome with worry about. Suddenly your good day and happy demeanor are overshadowed by this fog of worry which seems to infiltrate every thought and experience from then on. This is what happened to me on the day of the dentist visit, and I find it frustrating when I can't seem to snap out of it.t.

Whether it's news of a sick friend or family member, an unexpected bill you don't know how you are going to pay, or a harsh word from someone you love, it can be extremely difficult to not let bad news ruin your attitude and your day. It's especially difficult when there are multiple sources of worry upon you at the same time. When we get that uneasy feeling that causes a heavy weight on our hearts and minds, how can we get free from it? Thankfully, God has a solution for us that will free us from the tyranny of worry and anxiety in our lives.

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus"
(Philippians 4:6-7).

I love encouraging scriptures like this because they not only give us hope of a fresh outlook, but they also practically tell us how to walk it out! So how do we go about really experiencing this peace of God in our hearts?

1. Pray

The beginning of the verse tells us not to worry. Wouldn't it be great if we could simply tell ourselves not to worry, and then we stopped worrying? Life would sure be easy if this were the case!

However, easy lives don't lead us to Christ and his strength; rather the difficult moments are the ones that draw us closer to him. The best way to stop doing something is to start doing the opposite. If we don't replace negative behavior with positive behavior, the negative behavior will linger around like a bad odor. So when you are faced with worry, pray! Different versions of this verse tell you to "tell God what you need" (NLT) and "[let] God know your concerns" (MSG) and "make your wants known to God" (AMP). The bottom line is to get with God and talk to him about what is troubling you. He obviously already knows, but he wants you to come to him and ask him personally for his help!

2. Be Thankful

After telling God what we need, we are instructed to thank him for all he has done. It's amazing how focusing on all the blessings of God in your life can really turn your perspective around!

If you are facing financial troubles, thank God for financial blessings he's given you in the past. Simply being alive and having the ability to face your worries is something to be thankful for! Having an attitude of thankfulness not only blesses God, but it also blesses us by reminding us of God's faithfulness in the past. I personally know how easy it is to forget all the ways God has come through for me in the past when I'm facing a giant problem. The problem seems so big, but having a thankful attitude puts the problem into perspective and reminds me that God will come through again, because he always has in the past.

3. Lean into God's Peace

Once we pray and thank God for all he has done, he promises his peace for us, which exceeds anything we can understand! When we experience peace in the middle of troubling circumstances, it really is beyond our understanding because it simply doesn't make sense. That is exactly what God wants to give us, though.

The Message Bible puts it like this: Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down."

Wow! When I am consumed with worry, that is what I'm really looking for - for God to settle me down! I have experienced first-hand how God can change my heart and give me peace even when my stressful circumstances remain the same, and it is amazing. The Amplified version defines that kind peace for us as: "that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace."

4. Live in Christ Jesus

For some people, simply praying and thanking God will immediately bring them peace and their worry will be gone for good, but the majority of us (myself included) we have to walk this out over and over again. God's peace comes as we "live in Christ Jesus." I can pray and be thankful, but unless I choose to continually do so and surrender my worry over to God, the worry creeps back in. God's ways are not a one-and-done kind of deal. He is not like a candy machine where you put a prayer in, get an answer, and then walk away. God's Word works in our lives as we walk with him and continually work on renewing our minds to his Word. It's a process, but if we submit to the process, we will be richly blessed!

The good news is that as we grow and mature in God, setting aside our worry and anxiety gets easier over time. The bad news is (bad for our flesh anyway) is that we probably won't ever get to a point where we will no longer deal with it. While we are on this earth in our human flesh, we will always deal with temptations and fight against our human nature, but God's Word always works and he will always be there to help us through anything we face.

About The Author:

Cortni Marrazzo has a Degree in Biblical Discipleship and has a passion for ministry and encouraging the body of Christ. She and her husband currently serve as small group directors at their local church.


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