Growing Pains

Perseverance and discipline have been on my mind the past few months. It’s easy to do something a few times. It’s a lot harder to maintain consistency. My weakness is never starting something new. My trouble is finishing what I start. Discipline and perseverance are a huge part of that. My prayer has been, “Lord, please help me to love discipline.” Because the Bible even says, “He disciplines those He loves.” ( Heb. 12:6).

I heard a message by Elisabeth Elliot in which she said, “If I didn’t practice discipline, I wouldn’t get much praying done.”

While on my journey to be more disciplined I came across these verses:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.

2 Peter 1:5-6

I decided to delve into these verses a bit more. I looked up the characteristics in Greek. This is what I learned.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness [virtuous thought, modesty, purity, moral excellence];

and to goodness, knowledge [general knowledge, understanding];

and to knowledge, self-control [the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites];

and to self-control, perseverance [steadfastness, constancy, endurance, in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings ; patiently, and steadfastly

a patient, steadfast waiting for; a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance];

and to perseverance, godliness [reverence, respect piety — FERVER, OBEDIENCE, DEVOTION— towards God, godliness];

Is it me or do these things get harder to do?

Goodness

Knowledge

Self-Control

Perseverance

Godliness

Each characteristic seems to be the foundation for the next characteristic. It reminds me of Romans 1:17:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Each characteristic is a step of faith. Seeking goodness in a world that feels so dark and evil takes faith.

Searching for the knowledge of God in a world that wants nothing to do with Him takes faith.

Self-Control in a world where everyone self indulges takes faith.

Perseverance regardless of the results takes faith.

Godliness in what often feels like a godless culture takes faith.

So, if you find yourself with growing pains, take heart. We might just be going from faith to faith. It reminds me of the song that says:

“We will go from faith to faith until we see you face to face”

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Colossians 1:23

Calmed, Reassured and Steadied

“He knows how to calm me… to reassure me… without Peter, I’m lost”

These words have been on my mind for the past few weeks… They are the words of Princess Margaret from The Crown on Netflix (although I can’t recommend the second season).

I watched this series months ago. Yet there is a scene that keeps coming to mind. It’s where Queen Elizabeth tells her sister, Princess Margaret, that she can’t marry the family bodyguard (Peter). Elizabeth after a long and arduous struggle realizes the crown could be harmed by her approval of this marriage. Queen Elizabeth inevitably has to tell Margaret that she would be disowned if she choses to marry Peter.

So, in a difficult heart to heart talk with her sister, Margaret says of Peter, “He keeps me calm. He reassured me. I’m lost without him.”

Have you ever felt that way? You feel lost in the midst of the mundane. Or you feel on edge because every time you turn around you hear of more bad news, more heartbreak, more illness, more pain. Sometimes, life is just chaotic. Sometimes you don’t have time to get away to think. You don’t have time to clear your head. Sometimes you just need someone to be steady for you. You need someone safe to tether yourself to.

For me, this is a beautiful picture of Christ. The crown has the final say. Everyone in the royal family must sacrifice to maintain the integrity of the crown. All eyes are on them. Peter’s assignment is to keep the family safe, to protect them at all cost. Instead of being deeply in love with just one of the royal family, Jesus is desperately in love with each of His children.

In the series, Peter sacrifices everything. Jesus sacrificed everything. And whenever Margaret feels like the pressure of being in the spotlight is too much, or being held to a different standard feels as though it might break her, or having to keep things close to their chest might just make her crack. Peter is there. He is always available to her. She still has to persevere in the every day things, but when she gets overwhelmed or feel like she can’t hold it together anymore Peter reassuring her to stay steady. He reminds her of her calling. He shares in the sacrifice and keeping as much chaos and worry, as possible, away from her.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.

Psalm 18:2 NLT

So, when this life feels too overwhelming; when you just can’t take one more doctors visit, or phone call with bad news; when you’re growing weary of the mundane; when you’re desperately searching for what the next season might hold; or you’re tired of waiting, remember… Jesus is the one who calms us. Jesus is the one who reassured us. Jesus is the one who never loses us.

His arm is not too short to grab hold of us to keep us steady. His thoughts are always towards us. He sings over us. And He prays for us. He most certainly knows how to protect us.

Scarcely Living By Faith

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

I was doing a cool down walk after a quick run to get some of my frustration out. It was the type of frustration you feel when you know where you want to be, but you have no idea how to get there.

Frustration is a part of life. There are women who desperately want to be a moms, but their bodies are unable to have children for one reason or another. Or there is the frustration of wanting a different relationship status. Or, there is the frustration of a mom who desperately wants her kids to do well and the she’s not seeing any progress. Or the frustration of a man (or woman) who has massive dreams in his hearts but he don’t know what steps to take next or how he will end up there.

It can often feel like we are banging on doors that just won’t open. That’s how I feel. The two doors that I’ve been knocking on have not opened.

So, after my cool down, and after making a pit stop at the newly named nature preserve in my neighborhood, I looked up at the sky. It reminded me of how small and limited I am. And how my limited view is often what I project on God. Immediately a word of truth, from a message I had heard a few years ago, came to mind.

“God is not a God of scarcity.”

You see, recently, I was presented with two amazing (or so I thought) opportunities. After the initial introduction to both opportunities, I said to myself, “This is it! This is what I’ve been waiting for.” The knocking began immediately after. “Yes, Lord, please make these things happen”.

Trouble is, the doors have not opened. They have hardly cracked. I’ve been asking and asking and asking for them and praying and praying and praying for them. But, the only answer I have right now is wait. Each day that goes past without a yes or a no brings me closer to discouragement. I don’t know if these things will happen and I want them to so badly.

Walking (also translated living in Hebrew) by faith doesn’t mean open doors. Sometimes it means waiting and waiting, and waiting some more; without trying to manipulate whatever I want into being.

Trusting/Living by faith means knowing God knows what’s best even if it doesn’t make sense. It means trusting when I feel behind, or out of place. It means trusting Him to be steady enough for you when I feel unsteady and very uncertain. Trusting means waiting on Him to act and not take matters into my own hands. Trusting means knowing that God, regardless of what I want, is good enough and will always be good enough.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 84:11 which says:

“For the LORD God is a sun and a shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; He withholds no good thing from those who walk with integrity.”

If God says no to these two scenarios that I’m praying for, it doesn’t mean He’s withholding good from me. The times in the past when God told me no, I wasn’t any less crushed. But, eventually I saw those no’s were actually for my benefit and or for my protection. Many times, God’s no’s only make sense in hindsight. Other times His no’s will only make sense from heavenly viewpoint— one we can’t see this side of eternity.

Either way, I am called to live by faith and not by sight. This means things won’t always make sense to me, but this is what my God asks of me. He sacrificed so much more for me than a few opportunities that I think are perfect. So, I don’t think He’s asking too much of me to trust Him. He knows how to get me where I need to be. And make me into who I need to be.

So, as I stared up at that sky feeling very small, I thanked God that He had countless opportunities even though I could only see two.

Who Is Writing Your Story?

I sat in church yesterday as the pastor stood up and gave an invitation.  He said, “When will your story become His?” That struck me. To me that sounded like an invitation for everyone.

Isn’t making His story our story an ongoing process?

I know I wrestle with how God writes stories. I have and do wrestle with how He’s been writing mine.

I can get stuck on asking “why?”. Why is this chapter of my life so difficult? Why can’t there be an end to this? Why has this or that not happened? I sometimes wonder if I am doing something wrong.

About a week ago, I saw a video by Michelle Qureshi. If you don’t know, she is the widow of Nabeel Qureshi, a well-known author, and apologist. He passed away last month at age 34 from stomach cancer. Together, they have a 2-year-old daughter. In the video, Michelle said, “I wrestle with why God chose this, but then I’m reminded that I probably still wouldn’t understand all this because I have a finite mind”.

Today I came across John 16:12. Jesus is telling his disciples about him leaving and how the Holy Spirit will come. But the disciples still don’t quite understand. Verse 12 says, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear”

Michelle was right. Oftentimes God’s story doesn’t make sense and we cannot bear it all at once. Because God created us, He knows how much we can handle.

Let’s be honest: God’s story often requires us to walk on difficult roads.

If we are called to walk as Jesus walked (1st John 2:6) our story will be hard. I’ve been reading the Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken and he frequently quotes Matthew 10:16, “”I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

“Sheep among wolves?? That sounds like a losing battle to me.

Jesus is described as the Lamb of God in John 1:29. Jesus is described in other names, but when it comes to being a sheep, He set the example for us. When tribulations come, when suffering comes, I can look to the Lamb of God who blazed the trail before me. This life is not easy and there will be trouble. There will be heartache. We will be sheep among wolves. Sometimes, part of me wants to be like Jesus, you could just take me out of here whenever (sooner often sounds better than later), but in John 17:12 Jesus prays this, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

There is a purpose for all this- even if you or I cannot see it right now.

In my search about the Lamb of God, I remembered in Revelation 12:11 it says, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

It doesn’t say, “And they (believers) overcame him (Satan) by the blood of Lion of Judah, or the blood of the King of Kings, or the blood of the Lord of Lords”. No, it says, “by the blood of the Lamb”

Jesus was gentle and kind in the midst of suffering. He, as the Lamb of God, set a precedent for us sheep to follow. His story looks like he lost. His story looks like life and people got the best of him. It looked like Satan won, but he didn’t.

Revelation 17:14 says, “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”

It’s by the blood of the Lamb that we overcome.

This side of eternity, our stories may look like we’ve lost. But in Romans 8:18 it says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” There’s a better story coming, that we cannot even compare to our story now.

So, as a human, I will wrestle. Yet, my prayer is for God to write His story for my life. As challenging as it might be it will be worth it. It will be a story of overcoming. Everyone loves the underdog story. Everyone loves a comeback story, and being a sheep among wolves would definitely fit into that category.

If we’re going to let God write our story, we’ve got to surrender the pen.

 

Song of the Week: Write Your Story, by Francesca Battistelli