Tag Archives: hard times

Purposeful Preparation

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I don’t know if you ever played sports or not, but if you did, you had a coach. Some coaches are there to help you have a good time, others are there to teach you the basics and others help you elevate your game. Those coaches demand a lot out of you, and sometimes get in your face and yell at you when you’re not giving it your all. They’re so hard on you at times that you feel like quitting, but at the same time you know that would disappoint them, and you definitely don’t want to do that. Their discipline and training cause you to respect them and make you want todo more. In the end, you’re a better player because they pushed you beyond what you saw in your abilities. Those coaches you remember for life.

Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the Lord’s training of your life is the evidence of his faithful love. And when he draws you to himself, it proves you are his delightful child” (TPT). God is always training us and preparing us for our future. You might go through an intense training at 35 to prepare you for an intense battle at 50. His training conditions our mind and spirit to be ready for those times in our life. At times it seems harsh and you feel like quitting, but God encourages us through these times because He loves us. He draws more out of us and gives us the strength to endure more than we ever thought we could because His grace is sufficient for whatever you go through.

The deeper your pain or the harder your struggle is will give you greater insight into who God is because you get to experience the depth of His grace and character more. You may hit rock bottom in life, but you will never hit rock bottom of His grace. Your times of training and difficulties only prove how strong His grip on you is and how deeply He loves you. His training grounds and discipline are designed to teach you how to dig deeper in your faith so that when the really hard times come, you have an anchor of hope in Him. Instead of being driven away by the struggles, you stay firm in your faith and your relationship grows. God understands what we need in our training in order to take us to places and victories we would otherwise never know. Keep trusting Him. You are His child whom He loves and He’s drawing you closer to Himself.

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Stand Strong

One of my favorite people in the Bible is Gideon. I’m reminded of his story so often because I find myself in need of all the lessons it teaches. In Judges 6, the Bible explains that times were bad in Israel. The Midianites were destroying crops, killing animals and harassing the Israelites. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop them. The Israelites lived in fear because of all the bad things that were happening. If they had grain, they had to thresh it in hiding. If they had goats, they had to keep them hidden. Anything in the open would be taken.

Gideon was threshing his grain in the bottom of a wine press so no one would see him. An angel appeared and called out to him, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you.” Gideon, who was hiding because he was afraid of the Midianites, didn’t think twice about the angel calling him a hero. What caught his attention was that the angel said, “The Lord is with you.” He took a double take at the angel and must have thought this guy didn’t know much. How could he say that when so many bad things were happening?

He confronted the angel and asked, “If The Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Have you ever felt that way? When everything in life is going wrong and you feel abandoned by God. It’s an uncomfortable place. A dark place. Fear of the future grips your mind. You find yourself constantly worrying about things that you have no control over. You feel like God has forgotten you or worse, abandoned you in need. Your mind tells you that God doesn’t care. That He doesn’t see you in your pain.

In this verse, the angel reminds us that God’s presence in our lives isn’t proven by our circumstances. Our lives can be falling apart and God can still be with us. We’ve somehow come to believe that God is with us when things are good and has abandoned us when times are bad. His presence is with you no matter what. He is with you even when you can see His hand or feel His presence. He is with you when your life is so dark that you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. He is not only with you, He’s preparing you for greatness in those times. Greatness doesn’t come from an easy life. It’s forged in the darkness and in the fire.

Whatever you are facing today, I say to you, “Mighty hero, The Lord is with you!” You may not feel like a hero, but you’re still standing through everything. You may not feel like The Lord is with you, but He has never left your side. He has been standing next to you through everything you have faced and everything you will face because He will not abandon you. He will not forsake you. He will not forget you. He will deliver you when the timing is right. He will lead you to better times when you have learned all He wants to show you in the dark. Stand strong today because The Lord is with you.

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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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Patient Endurance

Patience. It’s not a word we like very much. We like to have results quickly without having to put in the time and effort. We want answers given to us without us having to dig for them. We want growth without risk, and we want fruit without tending the garden. We’ve heard the saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” but who really wants to wait? We live in a now society where everything is given to us quickly. The temptation is to let our societal speed carry over into our spiritual growth.

Endurance. It’s not something you get in good times. It requires pushing yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of. It takes mental toughness to get it. You have to withstand pressure repeatedly in order to attain it. Giving up can’t be an option if you’re going to increase your endurance. You have to keep your mind on the prize to keep your mind off the struggle if you’re going to build your endurance. It isn’t given to you, it’s earned.

Both of these things are required of us as Christians. The more of God you want to know, the more patience and endurance you’re going to have to have. If we are willing to give up in the struggle, we will miss the blessings God is preparing us for. Hebrews 10:36 says, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised” (NLT). When things appear to be going wrong in our life, God is preparing us to receive all He has for us.

We can’t be like Jacob and fight it. In Genesis 42, there was a famine in the land. Jacob sent 10 of his sons to get food in Egypt. Joseph wanted them all there so he pretended to not know them, sent them home with their food, and held one brother captive until they returned with their other brother. Jacob felt like he was being punished when God was just trying to get him to the land of plenty. In verse 36, he cried out, “You are robbing me of my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin, too. Everything is going against me!”

If everything is going against you, it’s quite possible that God is actually trying to bless you. Jacob waited a long time before he sent his sons back to get more food and their brother. He could have been living without fear of starvation. He could have had the relationship with his son restored had he not delayed. God was trying to use what appeared to be negative circumstances to move him into a place of blessing. Imagine what God could be trying to do for you in your situation. Work on having patient endurance instead of complaining, and see what God does.

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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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Quit Panicking

One of the most common Christian myths many of us believe is that when I do what God asks me to, there won’t be any issues and things will go smoothly. For me, it seems like when I step out in faith and do what God asks, things often start going wrong. There are times it feels like I’ve jumped out of an airplane, but I’m not the one who gets to pull the cord on the parachute. The ground starts getting closer and I start to panic. I cry out, “God, where are you? Did you tell me to do this? Why haven’t you worked on my behalf yet? Don’t you care about my reputation? My family? I thought you were going to work out everything for my good.” At that point, it’s easy to start questioning if I really heard God or if I’m really in His will because I’m looking at external factors and I’m believing the myth that everything should be smooth sailing when I’m in His will through obedience.

In Mark 4, after a long day of teaching, night was falling and Jesus said, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake” (TPT). They all piled in a boat, and several people from the crowd got in boats to follow them across the lake. Being tired from teaching, Jesus decided to call it a night. He laid down and fell asleep. That’s when a ferocious storm came rolling in with violent winds that were rocking the boat and causing it to take on so much water that they were afraid of sinking. In verse 39, they had a similar prayer to mine. They woke Jesus up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re all about to die?” Jesus, once He was fully awake, steps out, rebukes the wind and calms the sea. I’m sure He gave them a disappointed look as He said, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?”

Those words are ringing in my ears today as I shift my focus from my circumstances to who He is. When things don’t go the way we thought they should after our obedience, fear creeps in. Fear of failure. Fear of being embarrassed. Fear of going broke. Fear of our own ship going down. The storm you’re in may be great, but He is greater. It may feel like He’s asleep, but He knows what you’re going through. Push through the fear and panic, and trust that if He’s called you to it, He’ll get you through it. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, and easy times never stretch our faith. Yes, it might have been a big leap you took, but your faith has so much more room to grow. Now is not the time for panic. It’s the time for prayer and faith. He hasn’t ever failed you, and He won’t start failing you today.

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The Fiery Furnace

One of the first stories in the Bible that you’re taught as a kid is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego In the fiery furnace. The king had built a statue that was 90 feet tall and expected everyone to bow to it on command. These three men were in high government positions because their friend, and fellow captive, Daniel had been able to tell the king what his dream was and meant. When they didn’t bow, it was obvious because they were in the public eye. The king demanded they bow, but they refused to his face. They would rather honor God and suffer the consequences of death than to dishonor God and live. The king heated the furnace even hotter than normal and had them thrown into it. That’s when he noticed there were four men walking around in it. In Daniel 3:25, the king said, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” (NLT)

One the first things they noticed was that the three were unbound. I think that’s important because they would have tied them up with something that wasn’t combustible. There are times in life that we go through things that we feel like we’re bound by. It feels like we will never get free and the chains hinder our progress. Even when nothing else seems to be able to set you free, God can. These gentlemen could not set themselves free by their own power, and neither can we. It takes trusting in God and putting ourselves in His hands to find freedom from the things that bind us. One word from Him and the things that have bound you for years will fall. Your freedom is in Him.

The next thing they noticed is that there was a fourth guy in the fire. I’ve noticed that when we walk through the fiery trials of life, they reveal Jesus. You are not walking through your difficult times alone. He’s always with you, but we see Him more clearly in those moments. He shows up and walks through those times with you. No matter how bad things seem, keep moving and praying. The three Hebrew men didn’t sit down in the fire and wait to be called out. They were actively moving and it caught the attention of others. You’re ability to not quit during the most fiery trial will inspire others who will go through those times in the future. Your most difficult times become your greatest testimony. Don’t quit. God is up to something and is right there with you in those moments.

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Winning Impossible Battles

In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they had defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.

The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God with you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.

In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.

As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word until we can see the victory.

Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.

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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Perfectly Peaceful

One of the things I’ve learned is that your thoughts affect how you feel. How you feel affects what you do in any given situation. So many times we’ve reacted in a situation in a way we wish we wouldn’t have. If I lose my cool, I feel like I’ve lost the battle. I don’t like that feeling at all, but at the end of the day, it all comes back to how healthy I’ve kept my thoughts. If I don’t like how I react in a situation, I need to change how I feel in it. If I want to change how I feel, I have to change my thoughts. Our thoughts are more powerful than we give them credit for. Scripture dedicates a lot of verses to our thought life because many times they are what’s standing between us and victory.

When we learn to have a healthy thought life, our outlook on life changes. When our outlook on life changes, the things that happen in our life change. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT) When we are at peace in our mind because our thoughts are fixed on God, our minds won’t be agitated by the things we’re going through. We all go through hard times, but those who have learned to keep their thoughts on God and His promises will be kept in perfect peace during those times. They won’t crumble when their world is crumbling. The thoughts of God’s promises produce feelings of peace and peace changes how we react.

Romans 8 assures us that no matter what you go through, it will not separate you from God’s love. That’s a promise I like to think about when times get tough. Through it all, you and I are still loved by God. He doesn’t leave us when times get tough. His love is not dependent on how we react in those situations. There’s peace in knowing that. It’s good to spend time in prayer when times are tough, but it’s even better to spend some time thinking about all God has done for you throughout your life. Keeping your mind fixed on Him will take you from panic to peace. It will keep whatever is going on on the outside from reaching you inside. You can have perfect peace no matter what you’re facing, and it all starts with keeping your thoughts fixed on Him instead of your situation.

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