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Surrendering Anxiety

Did you know that just being afraid of something is not considered a phobia? The fear must altar your behavior in some way to be considered a phobia. The same is true of anxiety. Many times we may be anxious, but when it causes us to change what we’re doing, we are considered to have anxiety. It shows up in different ways. Many times, we try to altar the situation ourselves, but that can make things worse. We don’t make the best decision when we are worried. I know that for me, it causes me to run through scenarios trying to find the right way to fix it. I lose sleep and can’t concentrate on things throughout my day. In turn, it affects every area of my life until I’m so desperate that I force the issue.

You’ve no doubt heard the Psalm that tells us to be still and know that He is God. What you may not know is that the Hebrew words for be still mean to let hang down; to be relaxed, especially the hands. It can also mean to not make an effort or exertion. Meaning take your hands off the situation and let God handle it. The Passion Translation takes that into account and writes that verse this way, “Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). So many times anxiety has altered our minds to the point that we lose sight of God in our situation. God wants to remind us that He sees us, and knows what we’re going through.

It’s tough to take our hands off the situation. It’s better to ask God for wisdom in how to handle it though. Ask God to give you peace in your mind and clarity of thought as well. Surrender your anxiety to Him, recognize He is in control and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Our behavior change in a situation should not be out of anxiety, but rather out of thoughtful prayer after we’ve handed it over to God. If you want to see God in what’s going on, be still, put your hands down and relax. Breathe. Pray. Listen. Begin to thank God for all He’s done, and all He’s going to do. Your life is in His hands and He is in charge of the outcome. Trust that He will do what’s best and grow you through it. God is at work and it’s for your good.

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Breaking New Ground

When you read the creation account in Genesis, it’s easy to think that God created everything with just His voice. “Let there be light. Let there be water. Let the land sprout with vegetation. Let the waters swarm with fish.” But in chapter two we find two things He made by hand. God formed man from the dust of the ground and He planted a garden where He then placed the man. I think it’s significant that out of all creation, He made these with His hands instead of with His voice. They were both made from the ground, but both had to be cultivated. Man needed the breath of God in him, and the garden needed Him to dig up soil so He could plant trees that bore good fruit.

If you’ve ever planted a garden, you know that the hard work begins with cultivating the soil. You have to break it up and churn it so that it is prepared for planting. Our lives are full of uncultivated soil that God wants to plant things in, but we must first be willing to till it. Many times we ask God for more, but we haven’t given Him the uncultivated parts of our lives. We tend to segregate our life into two parts: the part we let God into and the part we want to keep for ourselves. When the later part becomes unmanageable, we cry out to Him in desperation for help, but then promptly kick Him back out once the problem is under control. In reality, we should be seeking His blessings for every part of our lives and giving Him control of everything.

Hosea10:12 says, “Break up your uncultivated ground, For it is time to seek and search diligently for the LORD [and to long for His blessing]” (AMP). What parts of your life are uncultivated right now? If you’re wanting more of what God has in store for you, you’re going to have to clear away the weeds and break up the ground to prepare it for seeds of blessings. Seeds must have fertile soil to germinate in if they’re going to produce good fruit. God wants to have His fingerprints all over your life, but you’re the one who is going to have to give Him access. The Garden of Eden doesn’t just have to exist in Genesis. It can be cultivated in your life when you’re willing to break new ground.

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Being Around God

Have you ever been around someone and thought you knew what they were like? You could have been around them for years, but then you got to know them and found out they were different than you thought. I had a guy at church approach me like that years ago. I had greeted him, been in conversations in a group of people he was a part of and even spoke to him a few times. Then one year I helped take the youth to camp and his teenage daughter was on the trip. He came up to me a week or two later and said, “My daughter says you’re the funniest person she’s met. I don’t get it. I’ve never seen you be funny.” I replied, “You haven’t gotten to know me. You’ve only been around me in certain circumstances.”

I’m afraid that’s how many of us are with God. We’ve been around Him at church. Maybe we’ve felt like He’s spoken to us before, or we’ve been in prayer meetings where everyone is talking to Him. When someone talks about who God is, it may not line up with who you thought He was. It’s hard to reconcile that, but it could be that you’ve just been around God, but have never truly gotten to know Him. You may even be able to tell me facts about Him because you were raised in Sunday School and have attended church your whole life, but if you don’t know Him, you’re missing the point of what He wants.

In Hosea 6:6, God says, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings” (NLT). God is more interested in having a relationship with you rather than you doing all the religious rituals. The way to get to know Him is to be quiet in your prayer time and listen to Him rather than speaking. Another way is to read your Bible with the intent of God speaking something to you through it rather than trying to read a certain amount for the day. Just like any relationship, it takes time to build and it requires you to listen and ask questions. As you get to know God, you might find He’s not like what you’ve imagined He’s like. His desire is for you to know Him. Ask Him today to reveal Himself to you, to speak to you and to take you into a deeper relationship with Him.

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Indestructible Faith

Growing up, I was hard on shoes. No matter what shoes my parents bought, they would be falling apart within a couple of months. It didn’t matter if we purchased expensive shoes or cheap ones, they just couldn’t hold together. Then one day I heard about Nike Ndestrukt shoes. They weren’t that good looking, but they were built to withstand whatever you threw at them. For the first time in my life, I had a pair of shoes that were able to hold up under the toughest conditions. They got stained, beat up and worn out, but they never fell apart. They are a great example of how our faith needs to be.

Life is hard, and it’s even harder on our faith. If our faith isn’t strong enough, it can fall apart under the tough conditions we face. If we’re going to have indestructible faith that endures, it’s going to have to start with a mindset that says, “God, I’m going to trust you no matter what comes my way.” If your faith is built on anything less, it will waiver when times get tough. Faith is easy to have when things are going well. It’s when you can’t feel God’s presence in the struggle that you really find out how strong it is. When you’ve made up your mind to trust no matter what, you can be like Job and worship God even in the toughest conditions. It may be bruised, stained and worn out, but a faith that endures is what we all need.

Here are some Bible verses on having an enduring faith.

1. If your faith is not enduring, you will not endure.

Isaiah 7:9 GNT

2. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

3. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “You need to be alert and pray for the strength to endure the great temptation.”

Luke 22:46 TPT

4. But as for you, be clear-headed in every situation [stay calm and cool and steady], endure every hardship [without flinching], do the work of an evangelist, fulfill [the duties of] your ministry.

2 TIMOTHY 4:5 AMP

5. For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things.

James (Jacob) 1:3 TPT

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Fighting God’s Battles

We all get into situations where we don’t know what to do. There are also times when we’re in over our heads and fighting battles we can’t win on our own. Should we turn and run? Should we seek counsel? Should we just give up? Should we stay and fight? Just because you’re in one of these situations, it doesn’t mean you’re out of God’s will. So many times our thought process is that when things are going wrong that somehow we are out of God’s will or we’ve done something wrong. While that can be true sometimes, the truth is that if you’re in God’s will, you’re going to be tested, fought against and opposed. God’s desire for each of us is to trust in and rely on Him more than we do. Often the way to a deeper faith is through situations where we can’t do it on our own.

King Jehoshaphat of israel loved God and was instrumental in turning the nation back to Him. He tore down idols, trained the people in God’s Word, returned priests to their roles and sought God. It was during this time that armies from three countries united against him. He was terrified by the size of the army, but instead of being paralyzed, He sought God through fasting and prayer. He then encouraged others to fast and pray with him. In 2 Chronicles 20:12, he finished his prayer with, “We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help” (NLT). This is the key. So many others, ourselves included, do everything we can first, then we seek God for help. When we seek God first (and His Kingdom), then we will receive wisdom, favor, help and victory.

God responded to King Jehoshaphat the way He responds to us. In verse He said, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” I have to wonder how many times we try to fight God’s battles thinking they’re our own. When we seek God, and wait for His reply, we’ll know which are His and which are ours. In both cases, God expects us to dress for battle and show up to the fight. Sometimes He delivers victory while we watch, and other times He asks us to fight and He supernaturally gives us the victory. Whatever insurmountable thing you’re facing today is no match for God. Seek Him through fasting and prayer. Ask Him what to do, then listen for His voice. Sometimes He’ll speak through His Word, sometimes through others and sometimes through His still, small voice. No matter how pressing the situation is, there’s always time to seek God first for wisdom.

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Controlling The Outcome

We’ve all been in a situation where we were outnumbered, outgunned and facing nsurmountable odds. It’s stressful to be in that place. Questions fill your mind causing you to doubt and to wonder if you’re in God’s will or not. Your fight or flight mechanism begins to kick in and it likes the flight option. In those moments, we have to be guided by our faith and not our fear. Moments like these are designed to build our faith and to grow our trust in God. If we run, we not only give into fear, but we lose an opportunity to grow our faith. God allows us to be in situations like this because He’s looking to grow our relationship. These pressure situations should cause our roots to go down deeper into Him.

In 2 Chronicles 14, Asa became king of Judah. After a long line of kings who disobeyed God, he changed course. He tore down the pagan altars his predecessors had built and turned the people toward God. There was peace during much of his reign, but it didn’t last. An Ethiopian came out against him with a million man army compared to his of just over half a million. He was thrust into one of those, “God, what’s going on? Aren’t I doing everything right” moments. He was outnumbered and outgunned, but his faith remained strong. He went out to meet the Ethiopian army head on knowing God was able to bring victory, and was willing to stand firm and fight even if God didn’t show up.

In verse 11 he prayed, “O LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and the weak; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in and rely on You” (AMP). Not only did he show up for the battle, he placed the outcome in God’s hands instead of his. There is an underlying peace in the turmoil when we give up our control of the outcome. It doesn’t make sense to let go, and often it goes against everything in us, but either God is going to step in or He’s not. Is your faith prepared either way? Even if he doesn’t deliver you or cause things to go “your way”, will you still trust Him? That’s the point we all must come to in faith. If we trust God is in control of the outcome, then we must determine ahead of time that whatever happens should deepen our faith not destroy it.

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1 VS. 100

Do you ever get to the point where your problems become overwhelming? There are times and periods in life when I just can’t seem to shake free of a cycle of problems. It depletes my energy and saps my spirit. To stop and look at everything in front of me and see a never ending line of things coming at me can easily leave me feeling depleted. It feels like I’m on that show “1 vs. 100” sometimes, except there’s no cash prize at the end of the line of things I’m facing. What I usually forget during those times is that I’m not facing it alone.

In II Kings 6, the king of Aram was trying to attack Israel, but God kept showing Elisha their plans and Israel averted them. The king was angry and wanted who in his army was the traitor. When someone told him that it was Elisha who was giving away their position and plan, he mobilized his entire army and went to attack Elisha. That next morning, Elisha’s servant woke up and went outside. When he saw an entire army camped against them, he panicked. He was overwhelmed and didn’t know what they would do.

I love Elisha’s response to him in verse 16 when he comes outside and sees the army. He said, “Don’t be afraid! For there are more on our side than on theirs!” (NLT). Then Elisha asked God to open his servant’s eyes, and he saw an army of horses and chariots of fire. The army didn’t defeat Elisha that day because God was on his side. Elisha remained calm under the pressure of being in a 1 vs.100 type situation because he knew that God was with him. He didn’t panic, but instead trusted.

When facing those insurmountable odds, instead of panicking, we need to remember that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (I John 4:4). In those moments when I feel overwhelmed and outnumbered by my problems, my prayer is that God would open my eyes to see He’s on my side. I need to know that I’m not going to be defeated and that God has everything under control. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1 vs 100 or 1 vs 1,000,000, when God is on our side, there are more on our side than on theirs!

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Throwback Thursday is a 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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