I’ve combed through the book of Jeremiah looking for things to learn and grow from. What I found was a man who obeyed God, said what he was supposed to say and was rejected because of it. He was beaten, thrown into a public prison, dumped into a cistern to die, dragged off against his will and called a liar when people didn’t like the messages God gave him. Before he even gave the messages, he knew that the people were going to reject the messages. He even tried to keep quiet at one point, but he said the word of God felt like a fire trapped in his bones until he spoke it.
I can only imagine what he felt. In Lamentations 3:16-19, he described some of it for us. He wrote, “He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, ‘My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!’ The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss” (NLT). Powerful words describing a bitter time.
Even though this period of life was bitter for him, he didn’t become bitter. For me, that’s been one of my goals in life. When times get tough and all hope is lost, find a way to not get bitter through the process. When we have to endure bitter times in our lives, we have a choice. We can dwell on our losses, our disappointments, our failures and our suffering or we can choose to dwell on God’s faithfulness through it all. One choice will make you as bitter as your circumstances and one will give you strength to endure.
Jeremiah chose the latter. In the next few verses he wrote, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” No matter what you’re having to go through, God has been faithful to you and He loves you. Today, concentrate on who He is and what He’s done for you throughout your life instead of your present situation. A smooth life isn’t guaranteed to any of us, but the faithfulness of the Lord has been.
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In 2 Chronicles 20, several armies joined together to attack Judah (lower Israel in the divided kingdom). King Jehoshaphat was terrified and not sure what to do when he heard the news. He immediately sent out word to all the towns to send people to Jerusalem to fast and pray. While they were assembled, he prayed aloud for everyone to hear. In verse 12, he prayed something that is key for all of us to pray in such situations. He said, “We do not know what to do, but we look to you for help” (GNT).
Then, the Spirit of the Lord came on a Levite named Jahaziel. He spoke several things to them, but the part I want to focus on comes from verse 15. He said, “The Lord says you must not be discouraged or be afraid… The battle depends on God, not on you.” That should offer relief to you and I. The battles we are facing don’t depend on our ability, but God’s. We don’t have to be afraid of what we are facing because our God is bigger and more powerful.
The Israelites had to show up to the battle in order to win it according to the prophesy. The same is true for us. To calm his men down, King Jehoshaphat told them, “Put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will stand your ground. Believe what His prophets tell you, and you will succeed.” Faith is more than just showing up for the battle. It’s trusting what God says despite what you see. If we want success, we have to trust His report more than what our eyes and others tell us.
What happened next is incredible and also a great lesson for us. The king ordered that they praise the Lord for the victory before the battle! When they began to praise, it threw the enemy into a panic and they defeated themselves. They renamed the valley “Baracah” which means the valley of praise. Praise is one of our most powerful weapons. We need to use it before our battles because God dwells in the praises of His people. God can turn your valley of fear and desperation to a valley of praise if you will look to Him, depend on His ability, show up for the battle, and praise Him.
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Life is full of opportunities where it seems easier to just give up. Despite what you see on social media, everyone had challenges and things they face that push them to their limit. We all have a white flag of surrender that’s just itching to come out in certain situations, but there are no rewards in giving up. There is no growth in quitting. Proverbs reminds us that no matter how many times you and I get knocked down, we are to get back up. We must purpose in our hearts that we won’t be defeated and that we won’t give up or we’ll take the easy way out when it shows up.
Most of the time, our breakthrough is just beyond the point where we want to give up. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. It requires us to hang in there and stay engaged. As Ephesians 6 put it, after we’ve done everything, we should at least still be standing. When we continue to stand despite the set backs, despite the sucker punches, despite the news we receive, God honors that. Giving up is admitting defeat, but you and I fight from a place of victory that’s already been won.
Here are some verses on not giving up.
1. Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect GOD to get here soon.
Psalm 31:24 MSG
2. Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up.
Hebrews 12:3 GNT
3. Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart.
LUKE 18:1 AMP
4. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
Galatians 6:9 NLT
5. They were trying to intimidate us into quitting. They thought, “They’ll give up; they’ll never finish it.” I prayed, “Give me strength.”
Nehemiah 6:9 MSG
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When people ask where I went to school, I often say, “Hard Knocks University.” For the longest time, it seemed that life kept knocking me down. No matter what I did, I couldn’t gain ground. In fact, it felt like the bottom kept falling out from underneath me. I learned that the only way to fail Hard Knocks University is to quit. I also learned that the only way to graduate was to get closer to God. The troubles we face in life can either make us bitter or better. We get to choose by how we respond when we keep getting knocked down.
For me, I let it push me closer to God. I found myself praying more asking God for the wisdom to make better decisions. I also started reading the Bible more. I knew there were principles in it that could help with the things I was facing, so I began to consume the Bible looking for answers. What I got was a deeper relationship with God and the promise that He wouldn’t abandon me in my troubles. I began to put my focus on Him instead of my problems, and then I began telling my problems about Him instead of the other way around.
The Psalmist must have graduated Hard Knocks University too. Psalm 119:71 says, “My troubles turned out for the best – they forced me to learn your textbook” (MSG). If you’re in the toughest school around, let it draw you closer to God and His textbook. He probably won’t take the troubles away as quick as you like, but you are guaranteed that He will walk through them with you. Failure can’t be an option, and you don’t want to keep taking the same course. If you want to graduate, you’re going to have to read the textbook. I recommend you start with a chapter in Proverbs each day to get the wisdom you need.
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Have you ever felt like God was a million miles away, especially when you needed Him most? I have, and so have others. Even King David felt that way. In Psalm 10:1 he wrote, “Why are you so far away, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself when we are in trouble?” (GNT) I don’t know if it’s because we are so focused on our problem or we expect God to transport us out of the situation that causes us to feel like He’s so far away in those times.
Hagar, the mother of Abraham’s first child, felt that way too. She had been run off by Abraham’s wife because she had gotten pregnant. While she was running from her problems, an angel met her and asked where she was going. She explained how hard things were and that she felt abandoned. The angel told her to name her son Ishmael which means “God hears”. He also told her to go back to the situation she was in. She named the place Beer-Lahai-Roi which means “Well of the God who sees me”.
From that, we know that God hears us and sees us. He’s not a million miles away. There’s often times when He puts us back into situations or doesn’t take us out because He is teaching us and molding us. If we run from hard times, we will miss out on becoming who He was forming us to be. A piece of clay isn’t able to be used until it goes through the fire. Until then, it will easily crumble and the potter has to start over.
Not only did God hear Hagar’s cry for help, He heard David’s. Going back to Psalm 10, David answers his own question in verse 14. It says, “But you do see; you take notice of trouble and suffering and are always ready to help. The helpless commit themselves to you; you have always helped the needy.” If God saw Hagar and David, He sees and hears you. He’s not a million miles from you. He’s right there with you, walking through this right beside you. He is the God who sees you, and He’s working things out for your good even if you can’t see it.
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This week, I’m counting down my top posts for the year. This was my most popular post written in 2017.
There’s a viral video that’s been floating around Facebook for a while now. It’s of an artist on Ukraine’s Got Talent. She has a large canvas and begins to draw what appears to be one of the judges. As she continues to work on it, the judges become impatient. One by one, they give her the dreaded X. After all judges give her the X, she takes the canvas, turns it upside down, then throws a chalky substance on the canvas. When the dust clears, it’s a portrait of someone else.
I think we are all a bit like those judges at times when God is trying to do a work in our lives. We think we know what He’s up to, and we don’t agree with it. We think we know best and we X out of His plan. We are always trying to put together the pieces of what He’s doing, and we are judging it. The problem is that we truly have no clue what He’s doing because we have the wrong perspective, and He’s not finished yet. We’ve got to learn to have patience while God works in our lives.
We’ve become a part of the culture that tries to figure everything out before it’s done. We like things now rather than later. We don’t let things develop and mature like they’re supposed to. God wants us to be patient, especially when He’s working in our lives. Isaiah 30:18 says, “But GOD’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. GOD takes the time to do everything right—everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones” (MSG).
God’s message to us today is to be patient while He works. He’s taking His time, doing the things that are necessary. You may not understand it, or be able to see the full picture of what He’s doing right now. If you will wait for Him to complete what He’s started, you won’t be disappointed. Don’t be like those judges and miss out on the art that God is trying to create in your life. God’s not finished yet. The final product is worth the wait.
By now, you’re probably familiar with the story of Apollo 13. The space capsule was supposed to do a “routine” landing on the moon and bring back rocks. Two days into the flight, there was a problem with the oxygen tank and it limited their ability to do anything. Instead of a lunar landing mission, it became a rescue mission. As they tried to figure out how to rescue them, Gene Kranz uttered the famous saying, “Failure is not an option!”
He was reminding his people that no matter how hard things got, they were not going to give up. They faced so many obstacles and hit a lot of dead ends. Instead of letting them give up, he sent them back to the drawing board to figure out another way. Many times the crew, and the people at NASA, didn’t know what to do next. While the Apollo 13 never accomplished their goal of landing on the moon, the mission was counted as a success because they found a way to get them back.
Giving up is to resign to failure. I can’t tell you how many times in life, I’ve felt like giving up. I felt like a failure, so I thought I might as well give up. I failed at life. I failed at love. I failed at work. It was easier to give up. I lacked the strength to try again. I thought I was out of options other than to give up. I had to remind myself that failure wasn’t an option. I had to tell myself to get back up. I had to pray like my life depended on it because it did.
Psalm 142:3 says, “When I am ready to give up, he knows what I should do” (GNT). When you’re at the point that you don’t know what to do next, pray that God would show you what to do. Ask Him to open the right door, to illuminate the right path. Be still, listen to His voice and look for the next step. Whatever you do, don’t ever give up because failure is not an option. Success is not earned by the outcome. It’s earned in not giving up.