Saturday, September 10, 2016
It seems like none of us do, right? Life demands so much from us each and every day, how can we really be expected to wait for anything? It's the most difficult thing for me to do, and yet it seems to be the going trend of most of my desires in life. So, how do I convince myself to never give up?
Today may not be the day to ask me such a question... It's been a challenging couple of weeks to say the least. But, the irony of that is just two weeks ago, I taught our young adults group a lesson on perseverance/patience. Boy, was it a lot easier to talk about it then than it is today. Still, before I let myself have a total meltdown, I went and grabbed my lesson, read over it, and decided to share it with you. I'm sure I'm not the only one in need of this today. So- here goes.
Patience and perseverance go together quite well, I think. I want to focus more on the perseverance part. To me, when I think of patience, (and I get that I'm not some major brainiac), still- I think of someone just sitting somewhere waiting on something. Thinking of perseverance gives me the image of someone very active, doing whatever they can to occupy their time, while waiting. I like to think that I'll learn to lean more toward the latter.
The very definition of perseverance is: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Perseverance and/or patience is, as I stated earlier, an extremely trying battle for me. Whether I'm waiting for a struggle to end - or waiting for something to happen - I can't stand waiting. That time in the unknown can be miserable! When you're in a season of "limbo," it can be entirely too frustrating. In those moments, all you can do is cling to God's promises. That should be enough for us, but we like something tangible at times. That's normal, for sure, but if we keep longing for something we can see during those wait times the flesh can take over. (I realize that is a super "churchy" phrase, but I don't know how else to word it. What if I say, "We can give into our naturally selfish, impatient ways and think our small finite minds know what's best, and therefore we end up doing something immature, irrational, or flat out idiotic?" See... it was so much easier to hear the first way...) I have a hard time remembering not to get ahead of God when the impatience sets in. I jump in headfirst trying to handle things my way to speed up the process, but that usually does nothing but delay the progress even more and cause more issues. (Remember Sarah, Abraham, and Hagar?) We end up tripping over our own two feet and falling flat on our faces. But, that's when we have to make sure we dust ourselves off and get back to it. (The waiting on God, that is.)
I think of David all the time when I feel like I'm in that "limbo" part of life.
In 1 Samuel 16, we see God tell Samuel (the prophet of that day) to go find the next king of Israel. He sets out on his journey immediately and goes to Jesse's house. Jesse called all seven of his oldest sons to appear before Samuel, but none of them were the chosen ones. David's own father didn't even think to call for him until this point. And sure enough, David stands before Samuel and the Lord tells him that David was the guy.
(Maybe your lack of perseverance comes from lack of support or encouragement? Maybe no one has ever stood in your corner or believed something amazing would come out of you. Are you letting this disappointment keep you from trekking on? Well, if so, don't. Nothing and no one is worth you losing out on what God has in store for you.)
I would think that David would have lived the rest of his life on Cloud 9. No fear, no worries. I'm sure the waiting was difficult, but he knew what was just ahead for his life. He was anointed by God to be the next king of his country. All that power, that wealth, that security... It was going to be his. But, in the very next chapter, David had to face Goliath. He wasn't even a part of the army. He wasn't supposed to be there at all. He was simply delivering cheese to his brothers. (That's how God does things, though. He uses the strangest circumstances to bring about glorious victories that get talked about for centuries to come.) David was so adored and revered at this time, Saul (the current king) starts to resent him, as we see in the following chapter. He gets so envious of the admiration people have for David that he sets out to kill him. And it doesn't take long for the one- chosen by God- to start fearing and running for his life. The perseverance left... He ran. He hid.
When I read over those three chapters, I think of two different things:
1) God's promises to you do not stop the devil's persecution. We cannot blame God for things that go wrong in our life after He's given us a promise. His plan for us is only going to cause the enemy to pursue us harder. It's so important to remember this. There have been times in my life, just recently, I found myself questioning the God I served. I didn't understand how I could feel Him speak something to me, how I could feel peace and joy for a few days, and then be blindsided by a major punch in the face from life. The thing is- His promises remain. But, because of how precious and powerful those promises are, the enemy is not going to just sit by and watch it be handed to you. He's going to try to get you to stop, turn around, and never get that thing that is supposed to be yours.
2) Even in the roughest battles of life, God will hand you the victory IF you persevere. It took a little more time, but David did sit on that throne.
I think it becomes extremely hard to take a series of frustrating events when you're trying to live right and make the smartest decisions you can. In Psalm 73 we see where David himself penned the words, "I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." When you read the book of Psalms you can see how up and down David was. Yet, for the most part, he remained humble and faithful to the Lord. So, he looks at the kingdoms around him who don't obey God, and yet they seem strong and prosperous. That got to him, just like it sometimes gets to us. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but there's no reason to hide it. I've dealt with this feeling a lot this year. We're trying so hard to honor the Lord with our finances. We tithe, give offerings, help those in need, work hard, spend wisely, pay off debt as soon as possible... and then it seems like every time we get ahead, something unforeseen plops down in our laps. All the while, (when I get impatient and begin looking around and umm... jud...ging others), I get frustrated and feel betrayed because of their time of seemingly constant leisure. (Shake your head at me... You've done it, too.) It's easy to get off track and lose your pace when you're looking all around you in irritation. I've done it... too often. So, I know.
Think of the verse in James 1:2-4- "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance (patience.) Perseverance (patience) must finish its perfect work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Guess this means there's a good possibility that we'll have to face a lot of junk all at once sometimes?
A lot of people reference the verse "It rains on the just and the unjust," when Christians talk about hard times. Or we'll hear them quote "God is no respecter of persons." And, of course, I believe both of those things. But, God doesn't tempt us. God doesn't cause strife. He allows some of it- but who has to get permission?
The book of Job sums that up for us. God has to allow the devil to try something on us. (And let me just add here, there's so much more He shields us from than we'll ever know.) So what makes him target certain ones seemingly more than others?
A friend of mine and I were talking about this not too long ago. She said something to me that made a lot of sense. She said, "I think the devil recognizes anointing. He doesn't know our future. He can't read our thoughts. So it has to be that he recognizes something that causes him to fight certain ones so hard."
When she said that I immediately thought of Acts 19:11-16.
Some random dudes decide they're going to try and imitate Paul by attempting to cast demons out of people. The demon speaks up and says, "We know Jesus. We know Paul. But, who are you?" The story doesn't end well for the "frauds." The demon was obviously aware somehow that it was under no threat. And at the same time, we see that something about Jesus and Paul had some kind of effect on it.
This confirmed for me that the anointing is definitely what the devil wants to destroy. But it's the very thing that he has no power over. When the anointing of God dwells in you, you're unstoppable, as long you keep moving... so he sees you as a threat. This is why it's so important that we persevere even when it's uncomfortable. There's obviously something incredible just ahead that he's just dying to prevent from happening.
Think of the children of Israel when they marched around the walls of Jericho. What if they stopped marching on day 5? What if on that 7th day, on their 4th time around, they were too tired to take another step? Nothing would have happened. What if when they finished their final trip around the city they started looking over the walls and noticed there wasn't even the slightest crack in the foundation, so they didn't feel the need to shout as God commanded? The walls would have remained intact. They'd have stayed stranded in the wilderness. They wouldn't have experienced the very thing God said was theirs.
What if Moses stopped going back into Pharaoh over and over? How many times did Pharaoh reject the idea of letting the Israelites leave Egypt? 10 times! But, Moses didn't give up despite the delay in success.
What about the story of Jacob and Rachel? He worked for her father for seven years for her hand in marriage and what happens? Her father tricks him and gives him the oldest daughter, Leah. Did Jacob give up? No. He worked for another seven years until he had who he loved and what he was promised.
Blind Bartemaeus? Remember what the Bible says about him? He heard that Jesus was in town so he cried out for Him over and over. People were getting tired of him doing that, so they told him to shut his mouth. But, he cried louder and longer. Because he didn't give up, he received his sight that day.
The Bible is full of stories and instruction about perseverance. It's worth it. Even in natural things - most of the things in life we want - we have to wait for and work for. If you want to lose weight, it doesn't happen overnight. You want a promotion? Do what the boss man expects. Longing for a vacation? Save the money and make plans for it to happen. Hardly anything with value comes easily.
We visited a church a few weeks ago and the preacher said something that caused me to think. His daughter is on her school dance team. Every year they spend hundreds of hours practicing and preparing for the regional competition. Once there, they only get about a minute and thirty seconds to show off their work. But, it takes all of that preparation to win it.
Sometimes even the smallest victories take a long time to get. But, nobody ever complains when they have the trophy in their hand.
Think back over the Olympics. Most of those races were over in less than 30 seconds, but they practiced for years and years for that moment. And they were nothing but smiles when that medal was placed around their neck.
Galatians 5:7- "You did run well; who/what hindered you?"
If you were running toward your promise or your purpose and you gave up for whatever reason... Maybe you were wounded. Maybe you ran out of breath. Maybe you were just exhausted. Maybe your cheering section was non-existent and that loneliness overshadowed your desire to run. Get back on track! He is always standing right next to you and He will lead you into something you can't even dream up.
Perseverance is something to be proud of and something to admire.
We all hear the analogy of a garden when we hear the scripture, "And let us not grow weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." But, there's really not a better one to use, so I'm going to stick with that one. Planting a garden takes so much time. You prepare the land, you plow, you plant, you water, you wait. Sometimes you have to fend off animals. There are times you have to do some damage control after too much/too little rain. It can be a tiring process, but you will reap that harvest if you... persevere and have patience.
But what if everything goes wrong all at once?
Remember these verses: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9- "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."
If we can just get ourselves to remember that no matter if the sky comes crashing down on us or we can barely keep our head above all the pressures of life, We are not forsaken and we will not be destroyed! The Lord continues to fight for us, and we will win!
A little over a month ago I was asked to sing and speak at a Worship Encounter our community had going on. It was an amazing opportunity for me to share what God did in my life in the weeks leading up to that night. I'm going to share them with you, too!
This year, as my blog posts have surely reflected, has been a crazy one for us. (And honestly, it's not over yet!) It's been emotionally draining, physically exhausting, mentally challenging, and spiritually trying. But, when I thought I was going to break in half, God showed up and made me listen to Him. (You can read a little about this in my previous post, "Look at Me!")
Yes, I've still had moments of frustration and impatience. I've struggled to even understand my own emotions. Still, I can tell I've grown through all of this.
We lost our foster babies suddenly. We had a pretty hefty, unfair and unexpected financial issue. I had a possibly malignant growth on my tonsil. I could add a few more things to the list, but these top the cake. When I realized I'd stopped running... When I noticed that I was just sitting on the track, contemplating leaving the race altogether, I felt God grab my hand and pull me to my feet.
Because He taught me how to persevere in prayer, in Bible study, in serving- He poured out some blessing in the midst of my "limbo." He miraculously healed my tonsil. What four rounds of meds and three doctors couldn't even diagnose, He took care of. When we had to write a check for more than $1000.00 because of something completely unfair, people came to our door with an envelope full of cash... We got every penny back. Our precious foster babies' grandma called us after months of no contact and told us she wanted us to remain a part of their lives. We've communicated a couple times a week ever since. We've gotten promotions, random love offerings, and divine healing.
Yes, we're still waiting for some things to end. Yes, we're still waiting for some things to happen. But, God has shown us that if we don't give in, He'll bless and we will see His promises fulfilled in our lives.
If you're being attacked over and over... If you can barely stand up without getting knocked down again... Know that it's because there's something in you that the devil wants destroyed. Don't let him win. Realize he's already been defeated and he's fighting us out of fear. He already knows that if we lean on Christ and keep the faith, he stands no chance.
Don't give in, friend. I know life can be so challenging. It can wear you out and drive you mad. I promise I get it. But in those moments, when I call out to my God, I feel my strength renewed and my determination refreshed. I refuse to quit fighting and it's not too long down the road that I find myself getting blessed beyond measure.
It's always worth it to persevere while waiting on God's promise. He holds time in His hands. Trust Him and watch things go smoothly. The truth is, we don't have time to NOT wait on Him.