By Pat Hodges –
How often do we find ourselves struggling to hold onto our faith in the midst of disappointment and disillusionment? A never ending cycle for some, and depending on the severity, an open door for the enemy to come in and steal one’s joy, steal one’s vision, and rob the person of all hope. Proverbs 13:12a says, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.”’
So, how do we find ourselves so easily disillusioned and discouraged from being repeatedly disappointed? Chances are we aren’t putting our faith and hope in God alone, but instead we have our faith and hope in at least one of the following: circumstances, people or problems.
We find the following promise in the Word.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? Luke 11:9-13 (KJV)
Throughout my years of ministry, I have found more often than not, that we have a strong tendency to make our request known to the Lord but with all kinds of strings attached. For instance, if we’re praying for finances, we may have fixed in our mind how we want the finances to come, and subconsciously we start identifying probable sources and means. It might be wiser to take the restrictions off of God and stop trying to work out the how and totally leave it up to Him, so that He can bring the answer as He decides.
Much of the time, we find ourselves defining how the answer is going to manifest rather than truly leaving that area up to the Lord. In the above scripture we don’t see anywhere where the how is addressed. It simply says in verse 9, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
God can get the answer to us in a million and one ways, our job is to simply trust and put an end to the vicious cycle of repeated disappointment and ongoing disillusionment.
By Diane Mayfield –
I’d like to think I conquered the Martha in me and have become more like her sister Mary. That’s what I get for thinking. Jesus, in His gentle way, showed me not to think too highly of myself lest I fall.
I recently planned my extended family’s second annual Burton Family Christmas in July. I created a schedule of events on Friday night and Saturday, hoping it was clear to all that the gathering did not start until 6:00 Friday night. That would give me plenty of time to cover all the details and be ready for the crowd. Hoping to circumvent a seed of bitterness creeping in if I was left to do all the work, everyone had meal assignments and clean up duty.
The schedule of events for Saturday included pool time and boating. Built into the plan was a break for me on the boat, so I would have a moment to relax and interact with everyone. Just so no one would forget that they had duties and responsibilities in this family event, I posted the assignments on the refrigerator door in brightly colored magnets that matched my color scheme.
Everyone did indeed have a blast, me included. They complimented me on the flow of the event, the decorations and all the planning. By the laughter and lingering conversations at the table Saturday night, it seemed the celebration was a success.
It was Sunday at 11:00 when Martha appeared in my head. I’d planned on everyone leaving by Sunday morning, noon at the latest. I wrote in an e-mail that nothing officially was scheduled for Sunday, hoping that would communicate, “the inn was closed.”
Oops. Someone didn’t read between the lines. They decided to stay and swim one more time. Then, instead of packing up and going before they left for lunch, they asked if they could come back after lunch, have dessert and then leave.
What do I say in that situation? I had a plan that I was working towards and it was about to be challenged. I politely said “sure.” And then I griped and griped as I worked to organize my house, pick up toys, clean out the refrigerator, empty the dishwasher and start the sheets and towels.
It never occurred to me to go to Jesus and listen to His words and ask for His help in stretching my capacity. I was being asked to give in a way that I had not planned on giving.
I could just hear Jesus saying, “Diane, Diane, why do you worry about getting all this done today and your life back to normal? Can’t you enjoy these people a little longer than you planned? What is really important here?”
No one who asked to change the plan knew of my inner struggle, but the One who matters most did. The good news is that His gentle revelation humbled me. I was reminded that becoming Mary isn’t just about sitting at His feet in the morning because it works for me. It’s about measuring priorities and choosing those that count for eternity. Obviously Martha is still living and breathing in me. I haven’t become Mary yet, but I’m listening.
By Kathi Woodall –
My older brothers and I have good relationships…now. That hasn’t always been the case. As children, they would team up against me. One would pin me down while the other would tickle me relentlessly. Imaginetwo older boys against an innocent little girl. In response, I learned to kick and flail until I wriggled to freedom. Then I would run for all I was worth.
Freedomthis powerful word defines us both as Americans and as Christians. Our historical battles have thoroughly ingrained freedom into our collective conscience.
Throughout history, many have cried out for freedom. Once freedom appeared on the horizon, I’m sure they also ran for all they were worth. Can you imagine a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz choosing to stay when Soviet troops liberated the camp? Would an inmate in Alcatraz refuse a boat offering passage to freedom? Would a POW at the Hanoi Hilton stay huddled in his cell when the door opened to freedom?
I’ve never been in prison desiring to be free. I’ve never been a soldier defending my freedoms on the battlefield. But I’ve fought a battle for freedom—the spiritual battle for the soul. My freedom was granted because Jesus had already paid the price required to obtain it. He opened the gates, tore down the walls, and loosened the chains. My freedom was there for the taking. Jesus made freedom available for me and for all humanity.
Living in Christ’s freedom has affected my views. Subsequent changes in behavior are evidence of His freedom.
Living free is possible because Christ redeemed me. Nothing I do merits entry into heaven; most of it merits eternity in hell. Despite that, God loves me. He initiated a plan to reverse my course. He sent His Son to die for my sin. With His resurrection, hell was defeated. Satan can now claim no right over me. Resting in the surety of my salvation frees me to live fully, both now and for eternity with Him.
Living free relinquishes my control issues. God is in control, and I’m not. Not having to control every issue frees me to rest and trust in His sovereignty.
Living free shifts my focus. It’s not all about me or even those around me. It’s all about God. Seeing God as the primary focus frees me to maintain a pre-determined order of priorities. I can let go of anything that doesn’t fit within those priorities.
Living free eliminates an environment of fear. Persecution will come. God may call me to do something outside my comfort zone. I’m ok with these things. Letting go of fear frees me to do what God wants me to do.
Living free allows me to live and let live. Other believers are different than I. God didn’t make us all in one mold. He doesn’t want us to live in one mold. Rejoicing in other’s differences frees me to be who God created me to be.
Living free is possible because God extends grace. Grace is fundamental to my salvation and my relationships. Once we’ve basked in the wonder of God’s grace, imprisonment is no longer an option.
If you’re a follower of Christ, you’re already free. Are you stepping out of your prison cell and walking in the freedom He died to give you? “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31-32 NIV).
By Diane Mayfield –
When I first started coming to Navarre Beach, I was drawn to the mounds of broken shells I saw. They appeared in little groupings, like villages, up and down the shoreline. They were beautiful in their diverse colors and shapes, lying on top of each other, as if to form a whole community.
Because I was then struggling with Christian brothers and sisters at that time, I saw those broken shells as Christian communities. Like those shells, we too are broken when we come to Christ, desperate in our need for a Savior. While He does His mighty work in us, we still have weaknesses that keep us from being holy and complete.
Mercy, compassion and a good dose of humility filled my heart because of those broken shells. I saw my Christian brothers and sisters and, most of all, I saw myself, just like them.
This trip I’m drawn to the unbroken shells. Not because I’m now into being perfect. Oh no, it’s for quite another reason.
I just started Beth Moore’s study of James. The first lesson begins with quite a punch. “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (NIV James 1:2). She goes on to make the point that trials will come. That’s life. God uses those trials to perfect us. It’s our faith that gets us through those storms of life.
By abiding in Him through trust and prayer, we will come through those storms unbroken, like the shells. Hurricane Isaac sent his forceful wind, rain and storm surges up and down the Gulf Coast a few weeks before I arrived. Navarre Beach felt his impact. Debris litters the sand as a result of Isaac’s power. The shoreline eroded in places and parts of the beach vanished.
And yet, there in the sand, I discovered hundreds, probably thousands but who’s really counting, of unbroken shells. Those shells made it through the storm unscathed. They spoke to me of the lesson I began. I, too, can come through the storms of life, the various trials, unbroken. When I persevere in faith, Jesus turns those trials into joy for what He is completing in me. It doesn’t mean I won’t feel pain or experience negative emotions. But, like Louie Zamperini in the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, I will come out of my storms, whole in Jesus.
Hence, this time the unbroken shells call to me. They made it through the storm and so can we all because of our wonderful Savior Jesus.
By Richard Gammill –
It’s the afternoon of Good Friday and Noah and I are stuck in heavy traffic on I-35. I want to finish my errands so I can get to the early evening services. It’s looking more and more like I won’t make it.
I love these times in my pickup with six-year-old Noah. We talk about many things. I try not to waste these teaching opportunities. I ask, “Noah, do you know what is special about this weekend?”
“It’s going to be Easter, Grandpa,” he answers.
“Why do we celebrate Easter, Noah? What is it about?”
“Well, it’s about when a bad man got money for showing where Jesus was.”
“What was that man’s name?”
“I don’t know, but he did a very bad thing.”
“What happened then, Noah?”
“Well, they took Jesus and they put him on a cross and they pounded big nails in his hands and his feet.”
“What happened then?”
“He died, Grandpa. But then he came back!”
“Why did he suffer and die like that, Noah?”
“It’s because he loves us so much.”
“Now what does he want us to do?”
“He loves us very much. Now he wants us to love him.”
“And how do we show that we love Jesus?”
“We show it by loving people and helping people. Like when someone falls down, we don’t say, ‘What happened to you?’ We ask ‘Can I help you?’”
Our conversation moved to other things, and, as I feared, the slow-moving traffic prevented me from making it to the Good Friday service. But Noah took advantage of a teachable moment to remind me the meaning of Good Friday anyway.