Tag Archives: difficult times

Passing The Test

Whenever I was in school, I remember one teacher who enjoyed giving tests. He would wear a “test tie” on the days he was giving a test, which was really an uncoordinated, loud tie. Some he would wear a red contact lens. Once he opened a bag of chips and started eating them and crinkling the bag during the test. Whenever he gave tests, I made sure I studied because I knew there would be distractions and the test would be more difficult than the other classes. I used flash cards and met with other students to prepare to make sure we passed.

It’s funny that we spend so much time preparing for school tests, but very little time preparing for life’s test. God had so much faith in Job’s ability to pass any test that Satan could give him that he agreed to allow him to be sent through the wringer. Satan even tried to get in his head to distract him with his wife and friends who constantly accused him of wrongdoing. However, Job was prepped for the test, In Job 23:10-11 he says, “But he (God) knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”

Job put something inside of him that was greater than any test he would face: God’s Word and a determination to stay on God’s Paths. When life tests us and we aren’t prepared, we may be like Job’s wife and friends who wanted to curse God and die. But if we will determine in our hearts to stick with God and trust what He’s doing in our life, we will pass any test that comes our way no matter how many distractions there are. God has enough faith in you to allow you to be tested. It’s time you trusted your faith in what you’ve been taught and pass.

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Remaining Faithful

Do circumstances determine your faithfulness to God? My mom died on a Friday morning over twenty years ago. On Sunday, we all went to church. I remember a man coming over to me and said, “Didn’t your mom just pass? Why are y’all at church? I would take this opportunity to stay home.” Honestly i was shocked by the question. We had been praying for her healing for a year, but when God didn’t answer our prayers the way we wanted Him to, it didn’t mean we weren’t going to continue going to worship anymore. I looked at him and said, “This is the only place we want to be.”

After Job passed his first test by worshipping God after losing everything, Satan went back to God for permission to take away his health. Job then got painful boils all over his body. As he sat in some ashes scraping his skin with broken pottery, his wife came up to him. In Job 2:9, she said, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?” (GNT) She couldn’t understand how he didn’t blame God or continue to worship Him when all was lost. Her faithfulness to God was dependent on circumstances rather than faith.

You and I have to learn to look beyond our circumstances to the character of God. Who has He been forever? Our circumstances don’t change who He is. I love Romans 12:12. It says, “Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.” Every one of us will face hardship in life, and that season will pass. Be patient as you go through that time. Let it draw you closer to God and to deepen your faith in Him. If our faith is only skin deep, so is our relationship with God. He’s calling us to trust Him more and to remain faithful no matter what.

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Standing In The Struggle

On a trip to California, I went to Napa Valley because I had been told that it was beautiful. As I drove through it, I was mesmerized by the straight rows of vines going for miles. I decided to pull into a winery and take a tour to learn of their process. One of the things they shared was how good seasons don’t produce good wine. The good wine comes from the years when the vines struggle. There’s something about the fight for water, the digging into the soil and the struggle to stay alive that produces a complex flavor in the grapes, which in turn, makes for a “good year”.

As they spoke, I couldn’t help but correlate that to life. There are good seasons we go through and there are bad seasons. When we look back on our life, it’s the “bad seasons” that produce the most growth in us. That’s when we learn what we’re made of and how strong our faith is. It reminds me of Romans 8:28 that says how God works together all things for our good. The good that He works is often in our life for the long term even though that season is very painful.

In Genesis 37- 41, we read of a 17 year stretch where Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, thrown into prison and was forgotten. After he was restored, he married and had kids. Genesis 42:52 says, “Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief’”. God is able to make you fruitful in the most painful times and places of your life. You must hold onto to His promises, stand strong in your faith and keep believing that He’s working things out for your good.

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Stronger Faith

When life gets tough, do you let it push you closer to God or farther away from Him? I’ve had it do both. There have been times in my life where I desperately wanted God to show up and answer prayers, and to me it felt like He remained silent. I became upset with Him and decided I wasn’t going to ask Him for anything again. Another time, I was far away from Him, and when things got bad, I turned to Him to survive. My faith became the foundation on which I rebuilt my life. In both incidents, events in my life were more than I could handle.

Each of us go through difficulties. Each of go through times where our faith is all we have left. How do you respond in those moments? Do you tell God you’ll never ask Him for anything again because He didn’t answer? Do you have faith God will see you through when there’s no visible path forward? Faith is all about trusting God in life’s most difficult moments. It’s easy to have faith when you don’t have to use it. But what about those moments when it’s all you have left?

James 1:12 gives us a promise from God that says, “If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God!” (TPT) When we hold onto our faith in those periods where it’s all we have left, we experience a depth of God’s grace we’ve never known existed. We also get to know a God more intimately because our relationship deepens in those times. When God is all you have left, your faith has the ability to grow. These times are not designed to crush you or push you away from God. Rather let them do the work of deepening your faith and relationship with God.

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Under God’s Press

As many of you know, I went back to Israel this past summer. One of the most visited places in Jerusalem has to be the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s filled with Olive trees as pictured here. On this trip, I discovered that the name Gethsemane means the olive press. We got to see an olive press to understand how it crushes the olives to make oil. That first pressing of the Olive is holy and belongs to God. I think that’s important to know when considering what happened there the night before Jesus was crucified.

Matthew 26 tells us that Jesus went there with the disciples and that grief and anguish came over Him. In verse 38, Jesus said, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me” (GNT). He was being pressed like an olive in that moment. His prayer in the next verse is what I want to focus on today. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.”

Each of us have times in our lives when we are being crushed by problems and things going on. Just like Jesus, our first instinct is to pray, “Father, if it’s possible, get me out of this!” We cry and we pray for God to help us. But what if God wants to use that time to create a holy offering in your life? What if He is allowing you to be crushed so what’s inside comes out? I’m sure the olives in the press don’t appreciate the stone mill rolling over them, but what comes out is more useful than just the olive by itself.

Jesus understood this. That’s why His next breath was, “Yet not what I want, but what you want.” Instead of praying for God to get us out of the press, ask God that His will be done instead of ours. James 1:12 says, “Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.” Remaining under the press, like Jesus did, is the way to receive the life God promises us.

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Seasons Change

One of the things I’ve learned about life is that it’s full of seasons. There are seasons of plenty, dry seasons, seasons of doubt, seasons of pain, seasons of just enough, seasons of recovery, etc. There’s no rhyme or reason as to when they show up or how long they’ll last, but one thing is certain, they do pass. The worst seasons seem like they’ll never end and the good seasons seem to go by too fast. I believe that God will give us what we need for each season, and that each season is a time of preparation.

If God uses seasons to prepare us, then I believe that you can be fruitful no matter what the season is in your life. You can glean from each season of your life things that will grow you and produce fruit for the future. You may be looking at your life right now and see a desert wasteland, but Isaiah 43:19 says that God is about to do something new. He’ll make rivers in the desert so that you can produce fruit and grow. No matter how dark life gets or how abundant your blessings are, God has a design and a purpose to grow you through this season.

Here are some Bible verses on different seasons of life.

1. He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design, deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss, bearing fruit in every season of his life. He is never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous.

Psalms 1:3 TPT

2. Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One!

Philippians 4:4 TPT

3. And don’t allow yourselves to be weary or disheartened in planting good seeds, for the season of reaping the wonderful harvest you’ve planted is coming!

Galatians 6:9 TPT

4. But I keep calling out to you, Yahweh! I know you will bend down to listen to me, for now is the season of favor. Because of your faithful love for me, your answer to my prayer will be my sure salvation.

Psalms 69:13 TPT

5. You’ve so graciously provided for my essential needs during this season of difficulty.

Philippians 4:14 TPT

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Free In The Fire

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

One of my favorite Bible stories when I was a kid had to be of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The King ordered that everyone bow down to his golden statue when they heard the music played. Of course the three Hebrew boys refused to do it. The king summoned them and ordered them to bow or to be thrown into a furnace. They told him to his face that they wouldn’t do it. He got so angry, he heated up the furnace seven times hotter than normal, bound their hands and feet and had them thrown into it,

The fire was so hot that the men who were throwing them into it died. When the men didn’t return right away, the King went to look. He turned and asked the people around him, “Didn’t we throw three into the fire?” The people around him said, “That’s right.” He replied, “But look! I see four men walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed. And the fourth one looks like the son of the gods!” He then called out to them to come out of the fire. When he examined them, not a hair was singed nor did they smell like smoke.

Many times in this life you and I will feel like we are bound up. There are times when we feel like we are in prison. Our hands and feet are shackled. We feel like we aren’t going anywhere and we can’t do anything. Being physically tied up is bad enough, but to be mentally or spiritually tied up is worse. It’s a real feeling of helplessness. When you couple that with walking through the fires of life, it can make things feel hopeless. Even in those times, we are to trust in God and His plan.

These three guys were not alone in the fire. In fact, it was in the fire that they were set free from their bondage. The scripture says they were walking around freely in the fire. God did not abandon them in the worst of times. He was standing there with them. It reminds me of the promise He makes to you and I in Isaiah 43:2. He said, “When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – because I am your God, your personal God.”

That’s a promise you can hold into when you’re walking through deep waters, between a rock and a hard place or in the fire of oppression as the New Living Translation puts it. That version says, “You’ll not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” It goes on to say He won’t let any of these things destroy you because you are precious to Him. He gave His all for you. He loves you and will not let these present circumstances destroy you. He says you can walk freely in the fire. Trust in Him. He will not let you down. When you come out on the other side, you won’t be burned.

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