‘Round and ’round we go

There is a question that came up a few weeks ago that got me to thinking. Here’s the question: “How can I be okay with continued struggles and suffering?”

This question is a tough one. So you have a new relationship with Jesus, you are starting to read your Bible, you think maybe this is it, maybe you’re done with sin and you can move on, move forward in your life. Until temptation comes and you sin again. Ever been there?

Being a Christian, a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, does not guarantee or even promise perfection while still living on this earth. Instead, there will be continued struggles, continued suffering, and continued failure in the face of temptation. How is that possible? Is that normal? How can I be okay with this?

Thinking back to Christmastime, do you realize that Jesus becoming a baby automatically put God’s seal of approval on a slow process? The angel announced salvation to the shepherds, but what they saw in the manger was a normal baby boy—a baby who needed time to grow up. It would take 30 years for Jesus to begin the earthly ministry that He came to do. When considering the life of a Christian, patience and process are not things we enjoy hearing about.

The fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ, in His forgiveness and grace and method, uses a patient process to make us new. We are transformed in an instant, into a new creation in Jesus Christ. We are reborn and receive the free gift of salvation. The Holy Spirit immediately comes to live in us, guiding and directing us. But, this is a new thing. It will take time to get used to, time to figure it out, and time to grow and heal and live out of the newness.

Wherever you are in your life, whether you have put your faith in Jesus or not, we are all in process. My prayer for you, if you haven’t put your faith in Jesus, is that as you move forward in the process of life, you are moving closer and closer to Jesus. I pray that you would come to know Him as your personal Lord and Savior. It is the most incredible thing you will ever experience, and the best and wisest decision you could ever make. If you already have put your faith in Jesus, I pray that you would be encouraged to know that the struggle is real, and doesn’t end until we reach heaven. Know that sin is temporary, God is forever. While on the earth, we will have trouble, we will face temptation, but God is good, God is full of forgiveness, and as time goes on, God continues to reform our hearts and minds, our desires and eventually our desire for sin decreases because of the increase in our desire for more of God.

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We still have to walk through the battle (Part 1)

Life can get pretty crazy sometimes. We can say yes to too many things, work too many hours, stay up too late, watch too much TV, spend too much time on our phones, or get caught up in the latest Facebook or Instagram posts. Sometimes life can feel like a battle between what we want to do, what we should do, and what we actually do. Honestly, sometimes it really is a battle. We have to fight for the things that are most important, because so many things strive for our attention and time. Not everything can be the most important. Not every urgent thing is the most important thing; not every important thing is always the most urgent.

We fight these kinds of battles on a day-to-day basis, but we don’t have actual hand-to-hand battles we are engaging in. Joshua, in the book of the Bible bearing his name, is engaged in an actual combat situation. He is going up against five kings at the same time, getting ready to defend a city that was not able to defend itself. As Joshua gets prepared for this war, God speaks to him to ease some of his anxiety. Here’s what happens in Joshua 10:7-8:

So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.”

This is pretty comforting, isn’t it? You’re headed into battle and God tells you not to worry because He will deliver them into your hands, a.k.a. you will be victorious and no one will be able to beat you. Talk about a confidence booster!

Even though his confidence may be sky high and he may be feeling pretty good about the battle, he still has to go through the battle in order to experience the victory. Even though God tells him they will win, he still has to fight. I think sometimes we misunderstand things here. We are victorious in Christ when we trust and believe in Him, but even though Christ is the victor, we still have to go through the battles and temptations and struggles of every day life.

As we go through these daily battles, we can live with the realization that we are victorious in Christ. We can live in victory even when our day might feel like a loss. We can live in victory even when a day or a week or a month feels like a failure. We can live in victory even if we feel inadequate as a parent, a student, a player, a Christian. The reason we can live in victory even through these struggles is because Christ is our hope.

We may feel like a failure, a loser, or inadequate, but the reality is that Jesus Christ died to give us victory over sin and to give us the opportunity to respond in faith and receive the free gift of eternal life beginning right now. We can live in that reality and walk through any battle or challenge or struggle that comes our way.

Just Do It.

Just do it

I do a really good job at psyching myself out. When I’m not really sure what to do, or if the Holy Spirit is leading me to do something, I’m really good at convincing myself to do nothing. It’s much easier to stay in my comfort zone, to not speak up, to not do anything that might make me and anyone else uncomfortable.

 

But, it’s those times when I do something that I feel led to do, something the Holy Spirit has placed in my head and is nudging me to do, that I feel alive. Those times when I decide just to do it, just to talk to that person, just to speak an encouraging word, just to speak up, are those times when I feel like I did what was right and I did what I should have done.

 

When I get out of those situations having not done what I felt led to do or encouraged to do, I second guess myself and wonder “what if”–what if I had shared my faith, what if I had invited them to something, what if I had taken the time to talk to that person and I learned a valuable lesson, what if on my way to encourage that person I actually became encouraged myself? Then I begin to wish that I had something, but now it is too late and I can’t go back to change my decision.

 

It is in these moments when I realize that when I feel led to do something, when I feel the Holy Spirit putting something not just in my head but in my heart, that I need to follow that old Nike slogan and “Just Do It.”

 

It is not always easy to share your faith; but it is necessary. It is not always comfortable to speak to someone you don’t know that well (or a complete stranger); but it can be rewarding (for both of you).

 

This entire post stems from inviting someone to the Easter services this weekend at my church:

I was at work and all the kids were asleep. The staff were talking a little bit, but normally I use this down time to finish whatever work needs to be done and then work on homework. So, I began to do my homework, but as I did I felt this overwhelming sense that I should put my homework down and talk to one of my co-workers who was there. I found a natural ending spot in my reading, set my homework down, and just kind of jumped into a conversation with a couple co-workers. From this stemmed a few conversations throughout the evening where I learned a bunch about all of my co-workers that evening. We all learned some about each other and it was a really encouraging evening. One of them the Lord had placed on my heart, so we continued to talk throughout the evening, and it just so happened I had packed a flyer in my work bag that morning. I knew the Holy Spirit was leading me to give him that flyer and invite him, but I didn’t know if it was the right place or time. I began to psych myself out and make excuses. But, finally, I resolved in my head that I was just going to do it. I had nothing to lose and he had everything to gain. So I went up and told him a bit about my church and handed him the flyer, inviting him to come on out to one of the services. He looked genuinely thankful, almost like he hadn’t been invited to a church in a long time! He even stood up and shook my hand to thank me for inviting him! It was encouraging and uplifting for both of us, and we walked away with a better relationship and basically a more positive outlook on life!

Maybe you never struggle inviting people or talking to people, but I think a lot of people can relate with the tentative nature of talking to someone about something that places us outside of our comfort zones. I hope you can relate to this. I hope it encourages you and you have the courage to ask someone from your work or friend group or family to go to an Easter service this weekend! You have nothing to lose, and they could gain the greatest gift of all, eternal life through a personal relationship of faith in Jesus Christ.

Don’t be afraid to ask. Just do it!

P.S. This being said, come on out to the Easter services at New Life Church!

NL Easter