I Googled, “How do you become a Navy Seal”. One of the first returns was funny to me. Wikihow said, “Visit your local Navy recruiter, rock the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, get your Navy contract, pass the Seal Physical Screening Test, get your Navy Seal contract.” Seems easy enough except passing the Navy Seal Physical Screening Test is one of the most physically and mentally tough tests on the planet. It’s five and a half days of hell week where You get less than four hours sleep, run more than 200 miles, do calisthenics in the freezing rain, fight ocean currents and physical training more than 20 hours a day. Over 75% of people ring the bell and quit.
I bring that up because there are people who go into that test without preparing or training themselves mentally or physically. I think the same could be said of many of us when it comes to preparing for pressure in life. No one is exempt from it, but so many of us are shocked when it hits and then keeps coming. We must have a firm foundation in God’s Word, a solid relationship with Him through prayer and be surrounded by His people if we’re going to survive the high pressure times of life.
Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small” (NLT). The good news is that we don’t have to fight these pressures in our own strength. Ephesians 6:10 says, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” He then encourages us to put on the Armor of God to prepare for battle and pressure. He knew that you and I were going to go through some tough battles where we would want to give up. If we’re properly prepared with our helmet of salvation, shield of faith, breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth of God’s Word, our shoes of peace and the sword of the Spirit, we can withstand whatever comes against us.
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In 2 Chronicles 14, the Ethiopians brought a million man army up against Israel. King Asa only had about half of that. He didn’t wait for the Battle to come to them either. He rallied his troops and went out to meet the Ethiopian army. After he got to the battlefield, he prayed, “O GOD, you aren’t impressed by numbers or intimidated by a show of force once you decide to help: Help us, O GOD; we have come out to meet this huge army because we trust in you and who you are. Don’t let mere mortals stand against you!” (MSG) The next verse says that the Lord defeated the Ethiopian army right in front of Asa.
As I read this story, I was reminded that many times when we look at the battles we face, we are outnumbered, outgunned, and often surrounded with seemingly no way out. I’m sure Asa’s scouts told him how big the Ethiopian army was, but he still showed up for battle. Half of any your victory is simply showing up for the battle. When everything inside screams run, we’ve got to show up or we’ll miss seeing what God can and will do. If we want to be victorious, we can’t run from our problems. We’ve got to face them head on.
The other thing I was reminded of is that our battles are not our own. Asa fully trusted God to bring the victory. He didn’t look at the battlefield through his eyes. He saw it through God’s eyes. When he prayed, he already saw the victory because he trusted in what God would do. You and I need to change the lenses that we look at things through. Victory isn’t brought about by our might or our power, but by God’s Spirit. You shouldn’t be intimidated by how big your problems are. They should be intimidated by how big our God is. Show up, pray and watch God fight for you.
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Over the past few weeks, I’ve had several phone calls, texts, messages and conversations with people who are going through some seriously dark moments in life. Their situations are causing stress, sadness, worry, anxiety, depression, confusion and lack of direction. More than that, it’s causing them to seek out God more than they were. We often can’t see it ourselves when we are walking through a difficult period in our life, but those times draw us closer to God. When we draw closer to God, He draws closer to us.
In these times where we are pressed, God brings out of us things that can’t come out any other way. He uses them to grow us and go help us reach the potential He sees in us. He doesn’t allow us to go through these periods without a purpose. The struggle may seem more than you can bear in the moment, but the reward of what God is doing in us when we endure it is immeasurable. If you’re walking through one of these times, it means God still sees more potential in you and is pushing you into a new season.
When I’m walking through a time like that, i hold onto what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. It says, “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed” (GNT). These times feel like we are going to be crushed and destroyed, but God inside of you is stronger than any force outside of you trying to crush you. Keep your focus on Him and not on the thing trying to crush you. Great is God’s faithfulness in these times. You may not always get the outcome you desire, but you will not be abandoned by God in these periods of pressing.
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One of the words God uses over and over in the Bible is courage. He wants us to be courageous when doing what He asks. One of my favorite passages is in Joshua 1. Verse 7 says, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do” (NLT). Success starts with being strong and courageous, but what does it mean to have courage?
The simple definition is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s the ability to keep going when things aren’t going the way you thought they should. It’s the most difficult thing to have when you need it the most. If you’ve lived life at all, you’ve been discouraged. You’ve lost battles you thought you should have won. You’ve suffered defeat after defeat and wondered where the strength comes from to keep going. How do you find courage in those times?
In those moments, I simply prayed that God would just help me to take the first step, which was survival. We often think of courage as this great thing, but I believe it’s found in facing a new day, taking one more step or breathing one more time. It says, “I’m not going down. I’m not giving up!” Where do we get that courage from in those moments? As I’ve said, I found it in prayer and through God’s help.
Psalm 3:3 says, “But you, O Lord, are always my shield from danger; you give me victory and restore my courage” (GNT). God will restore your lost courage and give you the victory when you ask. Quit worrying about trying to win the war, and focus on getting courage from God to win today’s battle. Keep God’s Word in your heart, and be careful to obey it. Then, as Joshua 1:7 says, you will have success and victory.
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Growing up, I spent countless hours playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on the Nintendo. The goal was always to go through the progression of fights so you could fight Mike Tyson. At times in the game, I would swing away at the characters hoping to connect a knock out punch. All of a sudden, my guy would drop his hands and start panting. All of a sudden, he became vulnerable in those fights, and I had to dodge punches to keep from getting knocked out. After a few seconds, his strength would return and I could start fighting again.
To be honest, I never beat Mike Tyson. I got to the point where I could get to him every time, and could even go several rounds with him. At some point, my character would get tired and Mike would knock me out. I would get so frustrated because the guy would get winded at the worst times, and there was nothing I could do about it. I actually can relate to that guy a lot more now that I’m getting older. Battles seem to get more difficult, and I seem to get winded more quickly.
There’s a famous portion of Scripture in Isaiah 40 that speaks to this. Israel had begun to think that God had abandoned them in their battles, and they were tired. God spoke and asked how they could think that. Then in verses 29-31, He said, “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (NLT).
If you’ve been getting winded in your battles, and you’re starting to wonder where God is, these verses are for you today. Don’t get anxious and swing away, which only wears you out. Wait on and trust in the Lord. He will give you the strength you need to endure, and He will help you knock out your biggest opponent. Whatever your Mike Tyson is in life, God is there with you to help you fight it without growing weary. He is the everlasting God. He never grows weary or weak.
People draw their strength from many things. In sports, you’ll often hear of a team who had a big comeback to win. They will draw on that later in the season and it will give them strength to keep trying the next time they’re down. In business, many companies draw their strength from how much they have in the bank. If a company invests in themselves and their future along with a big bank account, we would say that’s a strong company.
For us, there’s inner strength and outer strength. Outer strength comes from lifting weights and exercising. Inner strength is much different. You can be strong on the outside, but weak on the inside. You can’t exercise anything to become strong on the inside. When adversity comes, many people tend to worry and become anxious. Some just try to weather the storm. Those with an inner strength seem to be able to handle anything though.
When my life was flipped upside down and the storm wouldn’t seem to quit, I remember just trying to make it through each minute. I thought if I could survive that minute, I could survive the storm. As I lay in bed one night, I remembered a song from my childhood. I began to sing softly, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” I sang it over and over. I was reminding myself that on my own, I didn’t have the strength to survive, but through God’s strength I did.
As I read Psalm 84:5, I think about those long, sleepless nights. The Psalmist wrote, “What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord” (NLT). He knew that you can find joy in the midst of your pain and suffering if you find your strength in God. That strength comes first by handing Him your problem. Admiring you can’t do it on your own is the first step. When we give it to Him, the sufficiency of His grace washes over our life and we find strength in Him.
From my experience, the storm will not end when you do that. What changes is how you see the storm and how you respond to it. God can give you His joy in the midst of sorrow. He can give you the strength to walk on water even when the storm rages if we keep our eyes on Him. The strength of the Lord will not fail you in your time of need. It’s something you can rely on over and over no matter how bad things get. Don’t try to go through your storm alone. Find your strength in the Lord and let Him provide you with the shelter you need.