“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
I have been walking with Christ for over 30 years, and I can tell you that many I have felt like I was hanging by a thread, however, I’ve always managed to make it through somehow. God has kept to His promise and has yet to abandon me. He has always given me a way out of whatever mess I’ve gotten into, even when I have found myself given over to despair.
If you are like most people, this pandemic has put some serious strain on your faith. Not being able to be around other believers, the stress of the economy, the tension of being cramped up with the same people, or the loneliness of being single; everyone has had his faith tested, and yet I think it pales in comparison with what Paul, who wrote this encouragement, went through. He wasn’t just quarantined and kept from his church community, but he was beaten and locked in chains, and ridiculed for his beliefs, and yet He found God was always there to catch him and get him through the tough times.
The issue is never God not coming through, but rather that we lose heart and don’t trust in Him to have us.
Spend some time confessing where you have been given over to despair and struggled to trust in God’s provision. Take a minute to place your trust in Him again, recounting all the times He has pulled you through.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
There is major encouragement for us here. We don’t have to have it all together. God knows that we are fragile, broken vessels. He uses us to show His power through our flaws.
Being a Christian is less about us being a better person or not being a bad person, but rather it is more about us connecting and communing with God who shines through us. We should be focused less on the sin and more on having a relationship with the One who can change us from the inside out. That’s not to say we should desire righteousness but that desire should come out of our relationship with the Lord and not from us gritting our teeth.
The sad part of this is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of sin management. We become so focused on trying not to sin that we miss the whole point of righteousness–to draw us closer to the Lord.
The goal is a life changing relationship with the Lord. It is His power, and not our striving, that makes us into something beautiful.
Spend some time confessing to the Lord where you have made it more about you. Lay down your striving to be a better person. Open yourself up to the life-changing power of having a deep relationship with the Lord. Ask Him to draw you closer to Him. Open yourself up to His life-changing power.
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6
What an incredible thought! God, who spoke light into the world, has let His light shine in our hearts, so we may see the bright, illuminating beauty of Christ who saves us from darkness.
Maybe you have let the darkness of the world around you creep in to your life. In the name of the Light of the world living in you, command that darkness to be gone and pray the light of Christ to shine brighter in your life. Remember the One who brought you from darkness to light.
Spend a minute reflecting on the face of Christ. I know it might seem weird at first, but ask the Lord to open your eyes to see. If you are still struggling after a minute, take some time to read some of the stories of Jesus in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Picture the expressions on His face as he interacted with the people around Him.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” – Jesus (Matthew 6:34)
There is a difference between planning for tomorrow and worrying about tomorrow. Careful planning can help you maximize your time and can actually help you not to worry. Worrying really doesn’t help you in any way and can actually cripple you emotionally.
Most of us know worrying isn’t productive, yet we still struggle with it. So what is the Biblical antidote to worry?
The best way not to worry is to be present to God. It’s simple math–when you are focused on Him, there is less time focused on yourself. When you are not focused on yourself and your ability or inability to perform, you worry less.
Spend some time confessing your worries to God. Ask Him to show you where He is working in your life. Take a minute to stop and listen to His answer. Write down whatever thoughts come to mind. Now go and join in on what God is doing!
“O my soul, come, praise the Eternal with all that is in me—body, emotions, mind, and will—every part of who I am— praise His holy name. O my soul, come, praise the Eternal; sing a song from a grateful heart; sing and never forget all the good He has done. Despite all your many offenses, He forgives and releases you. More than any doctor, He heals your diseases. He reaches deep into the pit to deliver you from death. He crowns you with unfailing love and compassion like a king. When your soul is famished and withering, He fills you with good and beautiful things, satisfying you as long as you live. He makes you strong like an eagle, restoring your youth.” Psalms 103:1-5
When things stack up against us, when we’ve been numbed by sin, when the world creeps in, we have to remind our souls of God’s goodness.
Spend a minute praying through this Psalm of David. Remind your soul what is true. Remind you soul to praise Him with your whole being.
“Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am. Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain. Examine me to see if there is an evil bone in me, and guide me down Your path forever.” Psalms 139:23-24TV
I’ve always liked this prayer and have prayed it many times for myself, many times where I didn’t really know what I was praying. I grew up on the NIV84 version which says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Early on it seemed like just a good simple prayer to pray, but as I wrestled with my faith, it became a deeper more genuine prayer for authenticity. To that degree, this became a very dangerous prayer. One that I believe God answered in different ways than I thought and in many ways is still answering my prayer. In all the testing and strain, I believe my faith is deeper and stronger than ever before.
I want to encourage you to pray this prayer. Ask the Lord to guide you into the recesses of you heart to bring out a more genuine faith that worships the Lord with everything that you have and not just part of you. You’re journey will be different than mine for sure, but it will take courage to walk it. The most encouraging part of this prayer is that the Lord will lead you and guide you the entire journey so we need not be afraid.
“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalms 9:9-10
How does this verse resonate with you? Is the LORD your refuge? With all that has been going on with this pandemic, have you found the Lord to be a sanctuary for you?
As true as these verses are, the reality is that a lot of times we find shelter in other things whether it be food, movies, video games, sports, books, or even friends and family. David, although certainly not perfect, consistently found refuge in the Lord. What was his secret? He was a man after God’s own heart. Regardless of how bad things got or how far he fell, David always got back up and pursued the Lord.
Spend some time with Him in confession about the ways you have run to other things instead of Him. Ask Him to help you to learn how to take refuge in Him. The Lord won’t forsake you, and He longs to be your sanctuary.
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Romans 13:1-2
Man, this is a tough one. I confess, at times I am comfortable with these verses, and at times I struggle with them. I also find when it comes to this topic, anger is always present in some form.
If you are like I, you probably assume that just about all government is corrupt in some way, some more than others, so when you vote, you are forced to vote for the one you beleive is the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately with this view, it can be a real struggle to trust the governing authorities, much less submit to or even respect them.
As I write this, I realize that I am not going to be able to unpack this in two minutes, so I will resolve to say that we need to pray for our governing authorities whether we agree with them or not. It can be easy to get caught up in a heated discussion with someone concerning the government, but I find when I pray for those who I disagree with, it takes the fuel out of the fire that it usually causes.
Spend a minute praying for those who are governing over you, both the ones you agree with or at least tolerate and those who you don’t agree with. Maybe you need to spend some time confessing some anger in this area. Jesus was no stranger to oppressive governing authorites, and He seemed to navigate them pretty well. Maybe you should ask Him to help you with His perspective in this area.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
The same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead is living in you! You have the power, through the cross of Christ, to overcome evil. You have the Holy Spirit living in you. Yet why do so many let evil have it’s way with us in our hearts?
The Bible tells us to, “fight the good fight” Are you fighting? Scripture also tells us to, “be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, be strong. I think sometimes we forget that we have a battle to fight. There is an enemy. We have been given the power to overcome him. What causes us to shrink back?
For me, it has been the battle in my head. The messsage that, “I am not good enough” and “I don’t have what it takes,” can ring almost daily in my head, but you know what? On my own, I am not good enough, and I don’t have what it takes; however, the One who is more than enough and who absolutely has what it takes lives inside me. The truth is that I think I need to spend less time in my head and more time with the One who is in my heart.
Spend some time with the Lord asking Him to show you what makes you shrink back from the battle. Confess to Him anything that you need to confess. Take a minute to re-establish who you are in Christ. Now go and fight the good fight!
“Christ overcame evil with good, do the same.” – John Piper
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20
It seems like the prevailing thought in our culture is that if someone wrongs you, that you should make sure he pays for it. The punishment can take many forms; shame, guilt, public disgrace, or some will turn the tide and envoke fear in their enemy.
There’s something about watching Jesus with the woman caught in adultery that seems to fly in the face of this mentality. Everyone else was either armed with a stone to throw or waiting to watch the punishent be served, but Jesus showed compassion, kindness, mercy, and grace; he took the eyes of everyone off of the woman and onto Himself and then sent everyone else away. Perhaps even more countercultural to today’s way of thinking, was Jesus’ forgiveness that He showed on the cross, when people were hurling insults at Him, yet He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
If we are followers of Christ then this type of forgiveness should be our response. I realize that a lot can get lost in translation with the metaphors in this verse, but the message couldn’t be more clear: rather than pushing shame, guilt, public disgrace, or causing your enemy to fear, show him the compassion, kindness, mercy, and grace of the One we follow. He may not need food or drink, but forgiveness might just be what changes things for him.
Spend some time with the Lord confessing where you have taken matters into your own hands. Take a minute to ask Him to help you; even now, go show kindness or compassion to those who have hurt you or are currently against you.