Courage and Strength

strength_-_courage_-_love_-_handstamped_solid_copper_necklace_with_sw_b6a6f3a8I started today as I do most days–with a cup of coffee and the Psalms.  As I was reading Psalms 31, I stopped to consider the 24th verse: Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
It occurred to me that God’s strength builds you up; His love fills you up; and His arms lift you.
Keep this thought with you today, and you’ll begin to know the power of God’s promise to Paul:  My grace is sufficient.

Pressing On

Pressing-OnLeeAdianez Rodriguez is a 12-year-old girl from New York, and her actions in a recent race are the epitome of “pressing on and going the extra mile.”  LeeAdianez was registered for a 5K race, but ended up running a half marathon.  About halfway through the course, she realized she was running with the wrong group. Instead of quitting, she decided to run the 10 extra miles and finish the race.

When I read this story, I wondered why this was the first time LeeAdianez had competed at this level:

  • Had her parents denied her permission?
  • Was it because her coach told her she was unprepared?
  • Did she doubt her ability?

A person can limit himself by doubting his ability and sometimes we limit God because of a lack of faith.  A little mind-shift in your cognitive approach to life is a step in the right direction, and it will help if you will:

 Recognize that doubting is normal:

  • There were times in the life of Abraham when this man of incredible faith doubted.  In each of these instances, he was focused more on his personal strength and ability than he was on the powerful promises of God.
  • When in doubt, zoom out.  Make God your point of focus:  “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6).”

Recognize the value of good friends and good principles:

  • Instead of doubting your faith, try doubting your doubts.
  • Assess your recent resources for news and information. Have you surrounded yourself with doubters and skeptics or people of faith?  “In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).”
  • Are you propping yourself up with false reasoning or trusting God?  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil ( Proverbs 3:5-7).”

Recognize that absolute certainty is an unreasonable expectation:

  • You will never have full and complete knowledge about everything. The quest to know more is the fuel that energizes honest research.
  • Just because you cannot know everything there is to know about God, doesn’t mean that you should limit yourself in seeking to know more about Him.

Recognize that not understanding is different than not believing.

  • While you may limit yourself because you don’t believe in your potential, don’t limit God by trying to constrain Him with a finite mind of rigid boundaries.
  • When the Israelites left Egypt, they thought the trip to the Promised Land was going to be an easy sprint; but, their doubt turned it into a 40 year marathon.

Doubt is to perseverance what krypton is to Superman.  Like LeeAdianez Rodriguez, you can press on when you recognize the correct message and listen to right voice—the voice of faith.

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More Than Conquerors

conquerorsHe had to know it was going to happen at some point in time, and he may have thought what life would be like without him; however when he heard the thundering voice of God, he was still shocked:  “Moses my servant is dead.

Joshua took a deep breath and began to reflect on the life lessons he had learned from this mighty man of God.  He wiggled his toes as he thought of his pilgrim journey—the past as well as the future. The one had been the geography of the land and the escape from Egyptian purgatory, but the other was just ahead and was the long-awaited “milk and honey” territory.  One had been miles of pain traveled by foot, but the other would be acres of promises claimed by faith.

His thoughts were interrupted by the unmistakable voice of God:  “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone.  Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them . . . Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do (Joshua 1).”

Like Joshua, you have an inheritance to claim.  It’s more than a piece of dusty real estate, it’s a regal estate:  It’s a relationship that promises victory.  Paul said, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37).”

When you read other translations of this verse, they speak of being “completely victorious through God; experiencing an overwhelming victory;” and, being “triumphantly victorious due to the one who loved us.”

There is not a single instance where God promised that the road of life will be completely smooth and detour free.  Moses and Joshua both experienced some trials and heartaches, and you will as well.  This is why Paul said, “We do not despair . . . even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison  because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).”

When the hard times come, “be strong and brave,” and “don’t despair” the eventual victory is yours because you will be “triumphantly victorious” in Jesus.

A Life of Mediocrity or Excellence?

rubber stamp in hand marked with excellenceHave you ever considered the difference between I should and I did?  The lives of some people are summarized with statements such as these:

  • I should’ve
  • I could’ve
  • I wish I would’ve

 Statements like these are characteristic of an unfulfilled life of dissatisfaction.

I did, however, speaks of commitment, dedication and resolve.  To live a life of fulfillment and satisfaction we need to be an I did-er like Paul who said:

“I served the Lord with humility and tears, patiently enduring the many trials that came my way through the plots of my Jewish opponents.  I did everything I could to help you; I held nothing back. I taught you publicly, and I taught you in your homes. I told everyone the same message—Jews and Greeks alike—that we must turn toward God and have faith in our Lord Jesus the Anointed (Acts 20:19-21).

As an I did-er, Paul could confidently say:  “I am already being poured out, and the last drops of this drink offering are all that remain; it’s almost time for me to leave.  I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept believing.  I look forward to what’s in store for me: a crown of righteousness that the Lord—the always right and just judge—will give me that day (but it is not only for me, but for all those who love and long for His appearing).” 

Paul lived a life of extraordinary accomplishment because he knew the difference between mediocrity and excellence is found in the enthusiastic pursuit of a life that glorifies God: “I do not consider myself to have ‘arrived’, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honor of being called by God in Christ (Philippians 3:12-14).”

You’ll never find happiness in the empty promises of the could’ve-would’ve-should’ve life, but you will find true joy when you resolve to be an I did-er.

Will You Rise Above?

riseabove Some people allow their life to be defined by  failure.  Others learn valuable lessons from their  failures and even see them as a blessing from:    Chuck Colson is one of these people, and he  recognized the benefits of his burdens:

The real legacy of my life was my biggest failure.  Being sent to prison was the beginning of God’s greatest use of my life!

Colson’s life was a living example of something that Billy Graham said: “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.”  Colson had lived the mountaintop experience as Attorney General during the Nixon administration.  When the Watergate scandal forced the resignation of President Nixon, Colson was sent to prison for the role he played in that fiasco.

During the valley years of his incarceration, Colson became a Christian, and God eventually spoke to him about the many and varied needs of his fellow inmates.  Colson would later start Prison Fellowship as an outreach ministry inside prison walls throughout the country:  This is the fruit that started to grow during Colson’s valley years.

Society is often premature in its attempt to label a person a failure.  Let me give you a couple of examples:

  • Daniel Defoe wrote Robin Crusoe while he was in prison.
  • John Bunyan wrote the Christian classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, while in the Bedford jail.
  • While he was confined in the castle of Wartburg, Martin Luther translated the Bible.

The hopes and dreams of each of these people were shattered; but, they refused to wallow in self-pity.  Seeing their faith, God turned their tragedy into triumph and their burdens into blessings.

History is full of examples of people who defied the odds and overcame their failure.  B.C. Forbes has said:

History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed.  They finally won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.  disappointments acted as a challenge.  Don’t let difficulties discourage you.

Tragedies and trials are experienced by everyone at some time in their lives.  I want to make sure you understand that last sentence, so I’ll repeat three of the words:  “experienced by everyone.”    When you go through your time of personal sorrow, loss, or disappointment, remember that this is not an experience that is unique to you—it is universal in its scope.

As a Christian, Jesus has promised to walk with you through the hard times.  He said:  “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls, and my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”