Tag Archives: hard times

Divine Disruptions

How do you respond when your plans get disrupted? How do you feel when things don’t go according to the way you thought they were? At times, we follow God’s leading in our life, thinking it’s going to go one way, when things happen and they go another. It drives me nuts when that happens. I’ve already played everything out based on the information I have from the Holy Spirit, but then I find out that I don’t have all the information. He often has a different plan than the one I have. He has other motives that I don’t know about. So when He disrupts what I think is the plan, I often don’t recognize that it’s Him. Instead of rolling with the changes, I often push back.

In Acts 8, the Early Church was growing rapidly until Saul came on the scene and started persecuting Christians. People had to move away from their homes to escape. One person that did that was Philip. He went to Samaria where Jews were hated. He preached the Gospel and revival broke out. So many people were getting saved and healed that Peter and John went there and took over Philip’s ministry. An angel then told him to go down the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. There he encountered an Ethiopian reading Scripture. He explained it to him and he got saved. After baptizing him, the Spirit caught Philip away and transported him to Ashdod instead of Gaza where he thought he was supposed to go. That was a seven hour walk away.

In each of these cases, the plans Philip had were disrupted or changed. Because of the persecution, the Gospel spread around the world. Because he followed God’s leading after his ministry was taken from him, aN Ethiopian took the Gospel to Africa and established the Church there. Romans 8:28 says, “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together for good, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose” (TPT). Whatever disruption you’re facing right now could be from God. Even if it’s not, God can work it out for good and for His purposes. Instead of throwing a pity party, ask God what He needs from you in this time. Who knows the ripple effect of what God can do through you when you submit to His will instead of your plans.

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Restoring Your Courage

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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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other 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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God’s Refinement Process

On a recent trip, I was able to see some of Michelangelo’s work. Leading up to it, they had one of his quotes up on the wall. It said, “I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set him free.” It reminded me of another quote I had read by another sculptor named Rodin. He said, “I choose a block of marble and chop off what I don’t need.” These artists start off by seeing something hidden deep inside the rock. They then start knocking off big chunks. As it gets closer to what they’re trying to create, the take off smaller and smaller pieces. Then they sand it down to get it just right.

It reminds me of God’s refinement process. He is an artist as well looking to set free our potential and purpose. The Bible refers to Him as a potter with us as the clay. I once watched a potter work. He put the lump of clay in the center of his wheel. He molded it and shaped it beautifully. He then began to take out the middle so that it could be a vessel. Finally, he added in designs to this incredible piece. After he was done, he held it up to applause from the crowd. He then looked at us and crumbled the clay back into a ball. He said, “Until this goes through fire, it will never fulfill its purpose.”

1 Peter 4:12-13 says, “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner” (MSG). God’s refinement process includes removing big chunks from our lives, sanding, shaping and other detailed work. However, it also includes going through fiery trials. If you’re in a season of fire or feel like chunks of your life are falling away, remember that God is at work in you setting free your potential and purpose. You must goes through God’s refinement process to receive the promises of God.

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Hard Knocks University

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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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other 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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Developing Life Flavors

One of the things I enjoy doing is cooking. One of the things I’ve learned is that foods taste better if you take the time to develop the flavors. That means that instead of adding onion and garlic later, I may start with them and let them sauté a bit in order to bring out more flavor. When I create a sauce to cook in, I may let it simmer a little longer so that it reduces. Doing that will intensify the flavor. To turn a recipe into a beloved dish, you have to take the time to develop and bring out the hidden flavors with heat and time. It’s more than simply adding ingredients.

I believe our lives are the same way. God wants to create amazing flavors in our lives that point others to Him. To do that, it requires Him to do things differently than our recipe. It also requires us to be put in the fire, sometimes longer than we care to be there. It’s really our choice how we respond. Do we give Him the freedom to bring out the flavors that are locked inside of us? Or do we allow those times to produce a bitter flavor that turns people away from us and Him? God’s desire is that each one of us would have complex, well developed flavors so that we’re not just another Christian.

James 1 tells us to consider it joy, even a gift, when trials and challenges come at us from all sides. In that pressure cooker, it releases hidden flavors into the world. In verse 4 he writes, “So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (MSG). When things aren’t going right and life is coming at you hard, don’t run away. God is at work in you and pulling out flavors that were locked away and hidden before. He’s not going to allow these problems to overwhelm you. He knows what you can take and how long you can stay there. Trust His judgement and let Him do His Work in your life.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other 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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More Than A Conqueror

I’ve never been a gamer, and am not to this day. I was a teenager before we got a Nintendo. It was over ten years ago when we got a Wii. I’ve only really played that with my nieces and nephews. The game of choice has been Mario Cart. I can usually compete with them, but rarely win. Sometimes I’m so far back, the game gives me the bullet to help catch me up in the race. My favorite surprise to get in the game though is the invincibility star. No matter what comes at me, or who wrecks into me, the bounce off and wreck. The problem is that it only lasts for a few seconds and then I’m able to be wrecked again. It would be great if there were invincibility stars in life we could pick up.

I love Romans 8. If there was one chapter in the Bible that summed it all up, it would be that one. As you get towards the end of that chapter, Paul starts listing things that we face in life. He asks if tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or swords can separate us from the love of Jesus. He goes on to list more things we face like death, life, angels, principalities, threatening things in the present, threatening things in the future, the powers that be, heights, depths, or anything created. All of these represent trials, situations or circumstances that we go through and can overwhelm us or make us feel abandoned by God. He assures us that going through these things doesn’t diminish God’s love for us. Not only that, they don’t have the ability to conquer us.

After talking about half these, and before listing the rest, in verse 37 he writes, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us]” (AMP). His love for us is like that invincibility star. It give us the power to have overwhelming victory no matter what we face or what attack we’re under. It didn’t say we wouldn’t feel the weight or the pressure of these circumstances. It simply assures us that they don’t have the power to defeat us or to separate us from the love of Jesus. You may be getting attacked from all sides today and feeling the weight of the world. Just remember that you’re not alone and that through Jesus, you are more than a conqueror who will gain an overwhelming victory.

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Faith Over Feelings

Everyone of us has had some dark valleys that we’ve walked through. There are those days, months, and years where we just wish we could see a ray of hope. We want to know that we are not alone. That God has a plan. That He hasn’t forgotten us. We want to know that this time won’t last forever. In those times, it’s critical that our faith over rides our feelings. Our feelings interpret circumstances, but our faith dictates them.

I remember walking through a long, dark valley. God spoke to me and said, “I see you where you are. I have not left you or forgotten you. I’m walking with you through this. I am not in front of you or behind you. I’m right beside you.” Those words boosted my faith over my feelings. They reminded me that even when I can’t see or feel God, that He is with me no matter what. When my prayers feel like they’re falling on deaf ears, He hears them because He’s a whisper away. He’s walking with us in the darkness.

In Psalm 23:4, David gave us some words to remember this truth. He wrote, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (NLT). In the valley, our feelings produce fear, but our faith produces peace and reassurance that God has not left us. We don’t have to fear or fret in the valley. God is walking right beside us each step of the way. He has not forgotten us. Trust your faith over your feelings.

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Combating Internal Lies

When you’re going through a difficult season or through a hard time, you start seeking out sympathy. One of the things you’re going to hear in your mind is, “You don’t deserve this. Why is God mad at you?” Another thing you will hear is, “No one has it as badly as you do. No one will understand what you’re going through.” I know because I’ve heard them. These are lies to get you to be upset at God, to get mad at others and to isolate you. If you’re mad at God, you won’t pray and a root of bitterness can spring up. If you’re mad at others, you won’t accept help from them. If you’re isolated, you’re easy prey for your enemy who roams like a lion seeking to devour you.

To combat the first lie, I use Romans 8:28 as a promise to hold onto. I believe that no matter how bad things get, God can always work it out for my good. To combat the second lie, I look for people who have it worse than I do. There is always someone else who is having a more difficult time than you. I’ve also come to realize that while my circumstance are unique, it doesn’t disqualify anyone from understanding and offering empathy. The pain and stages of grief are where others can connect to help me from getting isolated. I also keep at least one friend nearby who knows that during difficult seasons I may push people away, but really I want and need them close by. They know I need encouragement and to be refocused during those times.

Hebrews 12:3 is a great Scripture to help refocus in difficult times. It says, “So consider carefully how Jesus faced such intense opposition from sinners who opposed their own souls, so that you won’t become worn down and cave in under life’s pressures” (TPT). Jesus, who is our intercessor, has been through worse things and attacks than anyone. The verse before this one reminds us that He endured all that for the joy set before Him knowing what good was going to come from it. Now He is able to be empathetic and to pray specifically for you to the Father. You are never alone in your struggles. You are never left without an intercessor who is praying for you. Don’t believe the lies you hear in your mind. Read the Word of God and stand on His promises. It may not feel like it, and you may not be able to see it, but He is working things out for your good.

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Refocusing On God

How do you respond when life doesn’t go according to your plan? How do you handle it when things go wrong? I usually complain, get mad and let my outward demeanor show it. I then start trying to fix it, figure out what I need to cut to get back on track and go faster. When that doesn’t work, the previous response get elevated and I try going faster. It’s my wife who usually has to bring me back to reality. She’ll say something like, “Remember this may not be part of your plan, but it could be part of God’s. Have you tried praying yet?” Most of the time that works. It helps me refocus on God’s plan instead of my own. When it doesn’t work, she starts praying out loud for the situation and me.

Job was the model person for how to respond when our plans go wrong. Things were going great in his life until one day when a storm knocked down the house his kids were in. Then his property was raided and the people stole his livestock and killed his shepherds. All he had worked for was gone in an instant. Instead of getting angry or blaming God, Job 1:20 says, “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (ESV). He didn’t run to his vice. He didn’t go try to fix things or make a new plan. He mourned for his losses and found a way to return his focus to God.

I love the prayer in Habakkuk 3. Verses 17-18 say, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” When everything is going wrong in your life, it’s time turn towards God and try things his way. When the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, find a way to worship and rejoice in the God of your salvation. I know this is easier said than done, but it takes a conscious effort to refocus and recognize that it’s not God destroying your life or taking things away from you. That’s not who He is. When we worship like Job in difficult times, it gets our focus back on the only one who can sustain us and help us. Remember, His plan is greater than ours and He can restore what was taken from you.

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Worship In The Valley

Two of the biggest lies we hear when we’re going through a difficult time is that no one else understands and that God doesn’t care. I remember hearing both and believing them. The first one tries to get you on a technicality because there is no one else with your exact situation. I’ve found that while our situations may be unique, the pain and the process we go through is very similar. While someone may not be able to fully understand my exact situation, they can identify with the pain. That leads us to the second lie that God doesn’t care. The lie wants you to think that if God cared, you wouldn’t be going through so much. The truth is that even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He’s there with you to guide you and comfort you. He makes all things work together for our good.

I don’t know anyone who went through as much as Paul or Job. Job lost everything including his wealth, his kids and property. He still was able to worship God in that moment. In Job 2:9, when his wife told him to curse God and die, he responded, “Shall we accept good from God and not the trouble?” (NIV) When Paul was thrown in prison with Silas after having been beat, he invited God’s presence into the deepest, darkest part of that prison in the middle of the night by singing praises. When both of these men felt abandoned by people and God, they worshipped knowing that God dwells in the praises of His people. They held to the truth that God cares for us no matter how bad things may seem.

Psalm 31:7 says, “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul” (NLT). In the darkest nights of my life, the most painful times, I turned on praise and worship music to help me worship when I didn’t feel it. God is worthy of our praise no matter what it is we’re going through. He sees the anguish in our soul and He cares deeply for us. He knows that the pain, the hurt, the sadness and the darkness will only last for a little while. He never leaves us in those times though He may feel far away. He’s there leading us into a greater joy and life that often goes through the darkest valley. Don’t listen to the lies and despair. Listen to the truth and worship.

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