Worn Out From Your Struggles? Be Encouraged!

Do you ever go through those times where problems seem to pile up?  I mean, you get one challenge solved only to have two more waiting in the wings.

You’re running to keep the other shoe from falling only to see a bus heading at you?

And no matter how fast you run the behinder you get?

Well I have good news and bad news.

The bad news is, well, welcome to life.

The good news is you can find encouragement in the midst.

Jesus never sugar coated the struggles of this life.  Yet, he offers an antidote.

He said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take confidence!  I have overcome this world.”

He doesn’t say struggle on until you get to Heaven.

No he says, “Right now, in this world, in the midst of the struggle, be encouraged.”

Wait, what?  Why?

Because no matter what you face Jesus’ power is greater.  No matter the challenges that seem impossible Jesus has the power to overcome them.

No matter the discouragement you feel, Jesus sees your circumstances and loves you.

So he says, “Put on confidence.”

Look at his power rather than the world’s.

And then you’ll overcome this world in that power.

But I’d still watch out for the bus.

 

*John 16:33

Supersize Your Confidence and See Your Dreams

I’ve sat through way too many sermons where the preacher said, “We all need to suffer for Jesus.”

I remember a whole series on “Fox’s Book of Martyrs”.  Talk about looking forward to Sunday.

And how many times have I heard some church saint say about her problems, “Well, it’s just my cross to bear.”

Then Christians wonder why new people don’t crowd in their doors yelling, “Wow, supersize me with a helping of that misery.”

Yet, I see something completely different.  Yeah I know, not the first time someone noticed that about me.

A promise that says exactly the opposite and fills me with confidence.

“‘For these are the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord.  ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.'”

Wait, what?  You mean God isn’t spending his days snoozing and then wakes up looking for opportunities to swat you?

Rather he has plans for you to prosper.  He has plans to give you success and abundance beyond what you can imagine.

Nowhere does he say, “I plan to make you miserable.”

What do you think would happen to your confidence and happiness if you truly focused on that promise?

And what do you think would happen in your life out of that confidence?

Supersize me with that!

 

*Jeremiah 29:11

How to Walk Clearly in the Darkness

Life is challenging isn’t it?  It seems like half the time you have no idea where you’re going.  And the other half, you don’t want to go.

I mean between financial, career, relationship and health challenges you sometimes feel like the ball in a pin ball machine.

You struggle to make it through one challenge only to find two more waiting.

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Can I get off this merry-go-round for a while?”  I sure have.

That’s what I love about this promise David writes.

“If the Lord delights in a person he makes his steps firm; though he stumbles, he won’t fall for the Lord holds him up.”

That gives me so much comfort.  It seems like I’ve spent a lot of time stumbling in the dark.

Yet, God knows the path.  He sees in the darkness.  He guides you step by step even when you’re lost.

And when you catch your toe on a tree root in the trail and stumble he grasps your hand to keep you from falling.

I’ve seen this so many times.  God led us through the darkness into the light again.  And in the darkness I felt his steadying hand.

I’m glad.

Now, where’s that light switch?

 

*Psalm 37:23-24

What To Do When You’re Striving for Your Goals and Failing

Do you ever have those times it feels like you’re dancing?  You know the old two steps forward, three back routine?

It might be your career or a business you’re building.  Or maybe a ministry you’re struggling to get traction with.

You’re focused on a great goal that would help people and your family but you just can’t break through.  You’ve stretched to reach it and now you feel exhausted.

I’ve had those times, a lot of them.   Yet, I’ve also learned a reverse truth.  See that’s how my brain works which is sometimes scary .

Often the harder I try the behinder I get.  Yeah, I know, pretty profound.

See, when I finally give in to God and say, “Ok Lord, I give.  If you want me to be successful you need to act.  I’ve got nothing left.”

Then surprisingly I see a sliver of light through a door that cracks open.

I cling to a promise that so often is my anchor.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Wow, how can I miss?

Why am I stressing and striving?

I’m not sure.  I’m taking a break.  We’ll talk tomorrow.

 

*Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

You Can Have an Amazing Fruitful Life

In college I had it wired.  Lived the fraternity life with parties and friends.  Eked out good grades, drove a nice car and had a family business waiting.

Yet somehow it wasn’t enough.  I often felt like I was running.  I couldn’t stop and think about my life.  If I did I saw only emptiness.

I look back now years later and can’t imagine my destiny if I’d not miraculously found a relationship with God.

I wouldn’t have my wife because we’d have never met.  I wouldn’t have our kids we because, well you know.

I wouldn’t have had our life adventure that though at times certainly challenging always has been fulfilling.

I thought about that as I read a promise of Jesus.

He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.”

What an amazing offer.  Far from curtailing your life, living in a relationship with God brings richness you simply can’t create.

And I can tell you it has little to do with living it perfectly.  Believe me, I know.

God, in his love, simply says, “Join me.”

Then the adventure begins.

Never one day have I looked back with regret, only relief.

 

*John 15:5 (NIV)

How Do You Find Peace in this Hurtful and Chaotic World?

Does it ever feel like the bad guys are running the world and you’re a helpless pawn caught in some cosmic chess match?

I mean all the fighting and wars and corruption in government and business.  Someone else keeps winning and you keep getting the short straw.

Maybe you don’t need to look that far away.  There’s enough chaos and hurt going on in your life that you stop and wonder at times, “Will this madness ever end?”

Well, I have good news and less than good news.  The less than good news is it probably won’t completely end.

The good news is God wins.

David writes, “For the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.”

See God looks at those sowing hurt and says, “Their time is coming.”

Then he looks at you and says, “I see your hurts.  I love you and will take care of you.”

I look back occasionally at some with power who chose to hurt me.  Today, they’re gone or their power is dissipated.  And God just continues to bless my life.

The lesson I’ve learned continually is to trust a lot more in God’s power and love.  And to fret a lot less.

Now that’s a trade I win.

 

*Psalm 37:17 (NIV)

How to Discover Peace and Power When You Feel Helpless

Have you ever been personally attacked?

Maybe not physically, though that could be true.  But certainly verbally and emotionally.

And attacked by someone you trusted?  Someone who had power over you like a boss, parent or spouse?

How did you feel?  Angry, hurt, vengeful, helpless?

I’d guess all of those and more than once.  Welcome to life.

Yet when we stew in our anger we damage ourselves more than the other person.  Kind of like slapping yourself to get back at who slapped you.  Not exactly effective.

That’s what I love about this verse after David talks about being helplessly attacked.

“But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.”

Wait, what? You mean when you stop fighting back you find peace?

See the word meek doesn’t mean wimp.  It means trusting in someone who does have the power.

Kind of like facing down an attacker in school when a bunch of your buddies walk up.  Suddenly you’re the big man on campus.

Only God is your powerful buddy.  So when you trust in his power you find peace.

And confidence that no matter how powerful your adversary they can’t keep you from God’s promises.

Nice to remember when you feel overpowered.  Remember, whose buddy is biggest.

 

*Psalm 37:11 (NIV)

Find Peace When You’ve Been Attacked and are Powerless to Win

We’ve all had times we’ve been treated unfairly.  Perhaps in your marriage, job, family or a friendship, someone you trusted attacked you.

Yet, you felt powerless to defend yourself because they held the power.  It left you knowing you ought to forgive but feeling more like you’d rather slap them, of course in the most spiritual way.

What do you do when you simply can’t win?

David writes, “For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.”

I had this happen recently and when I reread this promise I thought, “Yes, that’s it.”

See no matter what power that person has it pales in comparison to God’s.

And God promises success and prosperity, what the promise land meant.

So when you hope in God for that, you can rest that eventually he’ll provide it.  No matter how powerful your attacker they can’t thwart one ounce of God’s promise.

When I came back to resting in that I discovered good in the midst.  I have confidence that they may have one this skirmish but God will win the war.

And for today that’s enough.

Well, actually I still want to slap him, but in the most spiritual way.

 

*Psalm 37:9 (NIV)

What Do You Do When Your Dreams Crash and Burn?

I just had a writing project crash that I’ve been working on for a year.

A couple of weeks ago I had a breakthrough and was getting great traction.  Then suddenly, without any indication, a key player pulled the plug sending me a form letter.

I felt stunned and ticked.  My first reaction was, “Really?  Are you freaking kidding me?”

My second response was, “Why God?  This project furthers your ministry.  Why aren’t you blessing it?”

This is so fresh I don’t have answers.  So it’s perhaps a great time to write.

Because we all face those setbacks when there seems to be no end and no answer.  Maybe you face one now.

I reread a verse this morning which shines some light though.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed . . . . (and) carry out their wicked schemes.”

Now I can tell you patience isn’t my strongest gift.  And yes my wife would concur.

Yet, uncharacteristically, I’ve found a level of it.

I’m choosing to just be still and wait.  I’m trusting that God has a better plan and won’t be thwarted.

So I turn it over to him to let him work.

Well actually, occasionally I also want to scream.

 

*Psalm 37:7 (NIV)

Would You Like a Fresh New Start in Life?

“It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.”  (Galatians 6:15, NLT)

Have you ever had times you thought, “Man, I’ve blown it now.  God will never forgive me?”

I have, more than once—in an hour.

Then you continue to beat yourself up running through your mind all the “If only’s”.

Yet in reality, we don’t get Mulligan’s like in golf do we?  As our moms used to say, “You’ve made your bed now you get to live in it.”

Yet, God does offer us do-over’s.  Oh, you may still wrestle with natural consequences but God offers a fresh beginning.

It doesn’t depend on following religious rules.  It comes as we turn to God and say, “Ok, I want to walk with you in the daylight.”

Then he forgives your stumbles, picks you up out of the mud and tells you, “You are my child.”

He forms in you new desires and leads you by the hand out of the chaos into the light.

I’ve seen it in my own life and in the lives of others.  And it’s offered to you as well.

Oh, and sorry Mom for not making my bed.