Give It Up

 

Genesis 3:19 “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Humbling statement.  God’s staunch reminder to Adam that He created Adam with His own hands from the dust of the ground, and he will return the same way wasn’t just aimed at Adam, but at all of us now. When Adam and Eve chose their will over God’s Will, God rebuked them and handed down their punishment.  He didn’t pat them on the back and tell them that it was okay.  He didn’t send them to time-out to think about what they had just done.  He didn’t offer a way out.  He dished out severe punishment for what they did.  Punishment that would haunt their ancestors.  After all, if God would have handled this any other way, it would have set the precedent for all of us.

We all could sin and safely feel that God would forgive us with no repercussion whatsoever.  Some people do feel this way, but Genesis tells us a different story.

God said the serpent,

“Because you have done this,

Cursed are you more than all cattle,

And more than every beast of the field;

On your belly you will go,

And dust you will eat

All the days of your life;

And I will put enmity

Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her seed;

He shall bruise you on the head,

And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Then He said this to Eve,

“I will greatly multiply

Your pain in childbirth,

In pain you will bring forth children;

Yet your desire will be for your husband,

And he will rule over you.”

Then He said this to Adam,

Cursed is the ground because of you;

In toil you will eat of it

All the days of your life.

Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;

And you will eat the plants of the field;

By the sweat of your face

You will eat bread,

Till you return to the ground,

Because from it you were taken;

For you are dust,

And to dust you shall return.

When we begin to think that God is all kind and cuddly, we have lost the story of the Fall of Man in our hearts.  The Lenten season should be a reminder to all of us, that we live in a fallen world and we must fight our way through societal demands in order to do God’s Will.  Lent is the time to remember that we need God first in our hearts, not our own selfish desires.  Let’s face it in this day and age that is an uphill battle.  In Lent we are preparing for a battle.  The battle that Jesus fought off in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The battle that prepares us for the Crucifixion.  The battle that will arm us for the world.

So this Ash Wednesday, when you hear the words, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” keep close to your heart that God wants you to hear Him.  God has given us great instructions on how to live in this world, not of this world.  When we choose our own selfish desires, the punishment will be difficult.  God will not sugar coat it for us.  Trust me on this one.

When we choose ourselves over God, our life becomes more and more difficult.  We cannot understand why we are faced with challenges and struggles all the time.  We cannot understand how life is so unfair.  We cannot comprehend that we chose the wrong path.  We all do it.  Adam and Eve showed us the way.  Don’t allow the lesson of the Fall of Man to fall on deaf ears.

I don’t think Adam and Eve wanted to toil and labor in the fields in order to feed their family. This would have been especially exhausting when the weather and soil were uncooperative.  Talk about feeling out of control.  I know Eve had no idea what child labor would be like, but I am pretty sure when she did it was not something she wanted.

Does this mean that Lent is all fire and brimstone?  Absolutely not. Lent is hope.  We have hope that we can do better.  We have hope that God will help us back on the right path.  This is why committing to something during Lent is so important.  It shows God that we are ready for His will.  It shows God that we are ready to let go of one selfish desire (food, alcohol, social media, whatever is holding you back) in order to find God instead.

We have the opportunity during Lent to take God back into our life.  Don’t waste it on moaning and groaning about what life looks like now.

Phillipians 2:14-16  Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

Use the mistakes of the past to change the future.  Allow God to take control over something in your life and witness the change it makes.  Blessings on your Lenten Journey.

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Joyce Meyer – Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, Nobody

Powerful message today.

Daily Devotions, News and Information

Joyce meyer

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. —James 4:17, NIV

Years ago I heard a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

I once read about a shocking incident that shows the principles of this story at work—tragically—in real life. In 1964 Catherine Genovese was stabbed to death over a period of 35 minutes while 38 neighbors watched. Their reaction was described as cold and uncaring, a result of urban apathy and alienation. Later, research by…

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Meeting You Where You Are

2 Timothy 1:7   For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.

God’s message through Paul is clear.  Paul explains to Timothy to use the spirit that He gave you.  Spread His message sensibly with love and strength.

Don’t you wonder why Paull felt it was necessary to write to Timothy?  My guess is that Timothy was in a rut.  Spreading God’s message through his actions and words must have been exhausting.  Timothy needed a pep talk, and Paul used his amazing writing skills to do this.  Sometimes when we try hard to spread God’s message we push through our own agenda, and it becomes exasperating.  Our bodies and minds tire from all the turmoil, and we cannot understand why people aren’t listening to us.

Throughout my life I have felt God’s call to accept people where they are and meet them there.  Not only in religious settings, but also as a teacher.  Sometimes we want those around us to be exactly where we are spiritually and intelligently.  We don’t want them to be too far ahead or too far behind, but come on now, that is impossible (and quite frankly, boring).

When I find myself doing this, I encounter extreme exhaustion.  God’s Will becomes the backburner, and my will fights it way through.  My actions and words fall on deaf ears because I am pushing everyone to become just like me.  My pride sets in.  Usually at this point I am in need of a good humbling situation, and God is always quick to provide.  After this happened to me multiple times (I cannot even count how many), I came to the realization that I was not meeting people where they were in life.  I was pushing them to be just like me, to think just like me, and to become mini-me.

If we all were in the same place in life, it would get a little crowded, and I hate crowds.  Crowds make me uncomfortable. They really make me uncomfortable if we all looked and acted the same.  So why am I wanting everyone to think and act just like me?  Honestly, I don’t even like myself sometimes, so why would I think I am the role model for the perfect Christian?  Talk about uncomfortable.  Who would I look to for wisdom?  Who would provide me with new ideas and inspiration?

If I don’t want everyone to look and act like me, then what do I want?  What I have found (don’t get me wrong I still struggle with this) is that when we accept people where they are at, then we receive the benefit of their perspective.  Some of my biggest leaps in life have been because I have accepted spiritual advice from those much wiser.  Their strength, love and sensibility inspired me to be a better Christian.  Some of my biggest “aha” moments have been from those who I considered a little behind me spiritually (which I know sounds pompous, but stay with me on this).  These beautiful people reminded me of the gift of seeing Christ through a child’s eye.  It inspired me to go back and take a second look at my path.  It humbled me.

Interestingly enough some of the best conversations have been with those who had a different idea of spirituality.  These amazing friends have shown me the beauty of acceptance and love.  These friends are the ones that taught me the beauty of accepting and loving people where they are in the moment.  After all it would be boring if we all were the same.  Who would inspire us if we were all identical?

Paul sees that Timothy is struggling, so he gives Timothy an inspirational letter to go out and motivate people with strength and love, but don’t forget to be sensible about it.  I cannot help but believe that Paul wanted Timothy not only to inspire, but to be inspired.  He wanted Timothy to increase his faith.  He understood that Timothy had already learned great things from his family, and didn’t want Timothy to keep that under a bushel basket.  He also didn’t want Timothy to go ram that light down someone’s throat.  He wanted Timothy to do it with grace, with good sense, and with a strong spirit.

I know I could use a letter like that.  Here is the good news: Paul wrote that letter for Timothy, but he published it for all to see.  Paul is writing that letter to each of us.  Go spread the Good News!  Use the spirit that God gave you to do so, but don’t forget to soak in the wisdom around you.  Don’t forget to listen and hear the cries of all.  Don’t forget to nurture your own spirit with goodness and grace.  Don’t forget to meet everyone where they are at, not where you want them to be.

2 Timothy 1:1-8

This letter is from Paul, a missionary of Jesus Christ. God has sent me to tell that He has promised life that lasts forever through Christ Jesus. I am writing to you, Timothy. You are my much-loved son. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you His loving-favor and loving-kindness and peace. I thank God for you. I pray for you night and day. I am working for God the way my early fathers worked. My heart says I am free from sin.  When I remember your tears, it makes me want to see you. That would fill me with joy.  I remember your true faith. It is the same faith your grandmother Lois had and your mother Eunice had. I am sure you have that same faith also. For this reason, I ask you to keep using the gift God gave you. It came to you when I laid my hands on you and prayed that God would use you. For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.  Do not be ashamed to tell others about what our Lord said, or of me here in prison. I am here because of Jesus Christ. Be ready to suffer for preaching the Good News and God will give you the strength you need.

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Limitations; Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Acts 9:1-22 – The Conversion of Saul

One of my favorite stories is the conversion of Saul.  I have great respect for Saul/Paul who turned from his evil ways to follow Christ.  In fact, in many ways I relate to Saul more than any other disciple.  Whenever I seek forgiveness from the Lord for things I don’t even want to dare speak out loud, I remember Saul/Paul.  God forgave Saul for so many murderous acts and used him for His mighty and good deeds.  None of us are beyond redemption.

Yet today as I read through this scripture my thoughts came to Ananias.  When the Lord goes to Ananias with a request, Ananias freezes.  What?  You want me to go to that Saul guy and pray over him for healing.  Are you kidding?  He is one scary dude.  No way.

God continues to offer support for Ananias.  Ananias is quite aware of his limitations.  He knows personally that he cannot heal Saul.  He also knows that he can only do this with God’s strength, but even that is doubtful to him for a brief minute.  Can God really turn Saul into a disciple for Christ?

I am sure with his tail between his legs, Ananias goes to Saul and prays over him these words, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  The scales fell off of Saul’s eyes and his sight was restored.  Of course we all know how the story ends; Saul becomes Paul who becomes a great disciple for Christ.  He goes on to recruit and convert many hearts for God’s Glory.  So what happened to Ananias?  I am sure he was excited to see the great deed he was able to perform for God’s Glory.  Wouldn’t he want to stick around to see how he could help more?

What I found extraordinary about Ananias is he knew his limitations.  He did exactly what God instructed him to do and nothing more.  He didn’t continue to help Saul find his way.  He prayed over him and was the strength for Saul to recover.  That was God’s Will.  That was Ananias’ task.  Check. Done. Complete.

Today, I find that sometimes I push God’s Will.  When I do something powerful for God, I want to do more!  I want to take it one step further because my pride gets the best of me.  I surpass the limitations God gives me because that is who I am (a little competitive spirit that God gave me).  Isn’t that what God wants me to do?  Doesn’t he want me to take it a step further?  I mean I can, so why wouldn’t I continue the work?

The answer is within this scripture.  No God doesn’t.  He wants me to carry out His Will, and if I take that a step further then I have pushed my boundaries.  God might have someone else in mind for that.  In the case of Saul, Barnabas would soon take over and make the introduction of Paul to the disciples, then the disciples would take Paul from there.  Ananias was step one, the rest was to be left up to God.

Limitations are hard to decipher because we think just because we can, then we should.  Yet God is only requesting us to do His Will, not ours.  When we push the boundaries and surpass our limitations, we put dysfunction into God’s plan.

So how do we discern God’s Will?  Through prayer, constant communication with God, in scripture and by keeping ourselves in check.  Discover what it means to be prideful.  Remember your selfish desires need to be placed to the side.  Pray for God to give you wisdom.

Remember – Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

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You Just Blocked Jesus!

It was the best day ever.  At least that is what my 7 year old (at the time) would have said.  She was so excited to be at Disney World.  We had even stayed late that night just for her and her little brother to watch the Main Street Parade.  We made our way through the crowd to find the perfect spot.  Pete ran over and waited in a long line for warm chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate.  As the parade began, my kids’ excitement was bubbling over.  Megan had planted herself right in the front on the curb and TJ scooted himself next to her.  They were all smiles.  Perfect, right?

What happened next crushed this beautiful moment to pieces.  By now Pete had shown up with cookies and hot chocolate.  As I twisted around to help Pete through the crowd, the people next to us took this opportunity to plow in front of us and block my kids’ view.  Uh oh.  Instead of causing a raucous Pete and I placed the kids on our shoulders like a giraffe so they could see.  We were careful not to block those around us which meant we moved from the curb onto the sidewalk.  Of course we were spilling hot chocolate and shoving cookies in our mouth the entire way.

This memory made me think today of how many times I have blocked someone’s view of Jesus (unknowingly of course).  Although it doesn’t cause crying kids, spilling hot chocolate and shoving cookies in your mouth to bypass the blockage; it does cause a commotion.  When I help someone or say yes to something without asking Jesus if that is His will, then I become the blockage.  Jesus uses all of us in great ways, but he doesn’t need us to step in all the time.

One of my favorite sayings this Advent season is “just because I can doesn’t mean I should.”  Jesus knows that we can do anything because when it is His Will, He gives us the strength to accomplish the impossible.  The question is does He want you to do it?

Even when it seems obvious that we should step in and help, Jesus needs us to ask.  He may be right in the middle of a “main street parade” for that person, and when we step in and take over, we block the best view.  The other person’s focus may become the warm chocolate chip cookie and the hot chocolate not spilling instead of Jesus.

Isaiah 7:11    “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

Pray for God’s guidance in all things.  Certainly we don’t want to block anyone’s view from the most powerful event that is about to happen.  Remember to pray for God to reveal to you His Will.  Open your eyes and stay away from blocking the birth of Jesus Christ into the world.  It’s better than any Main Street Parade you can imagine.

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Battling Demons

Sharing this is hard.  I guess because you will know some deep dark secrets into my family.  Yet, the pull to share has been intense lately, and I truly believe I need to share it with all those out there that have struggles like me.

My daughter suffers deeply.  Sometimes as we try to fall asleep, she says to me…

“Mommy.  I think I am going to die in the middle of the night.”

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t drink enough water.” OR “Because I ate too much and I am going to throw up.” OR “Because my brain is telling me that I am going to get sick and die.” OR “Because I am afraid to go to sleep because my brain is telling me not to.”

As tears stream down her face, I can see she is hurting.  She is scared.  She doesn’t understand what is happening and how to stop it.

She has gone days without eating because she feels her body doesn’t want her to eat because she might throw up.  She will drink gallons of water each day so she doesn’t dehydrate and die.

Someone will say something about death at school or in a conversation, and her mind goes right to – what if that happens to me?

I have to be careful about what she watches on tv, at the movies or reads because it might trigger anxiety.

She has real panic attacks.  Her heart races and feels like it is pounding out of her body.  Her throat feels as though it is closing up, and her stomach feels upset.

These are serious and real situations that I have with my 10 year old almost everyday.  She suffers from anxiety and depression.

We have tried neuro-feedback therapy (which has made definite strides in the anxiety).  We have seen naturopath doctors and psychologists.  We have used pharmaceuticals, vitamins and just about everything you can imagine.  We have changed her diet.  There have been years of trials.  At times I have felt like a mad scientist experimenting with my own daughter.  It is exhausting, confusing and humiliating.

It is not uncommon for my daughter to lash out at me because her anxiety ramps up.  Her outbursts are uncomfortable for me especially in public.  I sometimes feel as though others are looking at both of us and judging what a bad mom I am, and what a brat my daughter is.  It is awkward.

I seldom help out at her school because it just ramps up her anxiety.  School work already makes her anxious, so me being there worsens the situation.  I am that mom who is never at school.  I am the mom that everyone asks, “why doesn’t she volunteer for field trips, classroom help, etc.”  Trust me I find other ways to help that don’t require my presence, but may go unnoticed by others.

My true friends have stuck by me, while others have left.  The suffering that my daughter endures is tremendous and very real to her.  It is difficult for me to understand her struggles because I am not privy to what goes on in her mind.  Sometimes I want to scream out in frustration, “These thoughts are CRAZY!”  Yet, I know to her they are very real.

My daughter is almost 11 years old and I can count on ONE HAND how many times she has been invited to a birthday party.  Because of her anxiety friendships are few and far between.  In third grade, she met her best pal, M.  M is amazing with my daughter.  She is kind, considerate and even-tempered.  She puts up with my daughter’s anxiety, and even comforts her as needed.  She is a Godsend to our family, and we love M dearly for what she has offered my daughter.

So today when I read the Ephesians verses below (which were given to us by our naturopath doctor), I thought immediately of my sweet daughter…

Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Each day my sweet daughter puts on her shield of faith.  I pray over her each morning that the evil that resides in her mind will leave and allow her to enjoy her day.  We take it a day at a time because that is all we can handle.  We ask for the Lord’s hedge of protection over her.  We ask God to help her see the Truth, and weed out the lies.

Her struggles involve the real deal – evil.  Her struggles are not just about “flesh and blood” but against the evil in her mind that is trying desperately to take authority over her body.

As we spend each morning in prayer, I am reminded that we are not alone.  This battle is fought by many of our families.  There are thousands out there battling demons in life.  The struggles we endure are very real.  We must fight and pray for all people.

Somehow just knowing my family is not alone in this battle makes it a little easier to persevere.

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Smile

Recently I started to think about all those smiling people in my life that just perk me up.  When things go awry and life gets complicated, those people in my life that smile and warm my heart are few and far between, yet so important to my survival.  Of course this made me think, do I offer that support to my own friendships?  Do I give that smile to others when they need it? When my friends are struggling with the truth do I help bring them back to joy?

James 5:19-20 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

The book of James is so jam-packed full of advice on friendship and relationships that I just want to encourage everyone to dive into it.  It has an amazing way of describing what characteristics we should bring to the table to help encourage others to be better people and maybe more important to encourage ourselves to be the best we can for the sake of all.

Throughout my life I have encountered struggles and trials that seemed daunting.  These storms in my life never failed to teach me lessons.  In fact, I truly believe when no lesson was learned from a trial, then I missed out on an opportunity.  It was usually my own fault if I couldn’t find the “take-away” from the struggle.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

So am I bringing joy to others with my smile?  Sad to say, but recently I have not been the “uplifter” in my relationships.  In fact, I have been the “Debby-downer.”  Living my life in the midst of chaos and struggle has brought me an attitude of selfish desire.  It is the “poor me” time in my life.  All I can see is my own issues, and I lose focus on the needs of those around me.  I need a jump start.  I need a smile.  I need joy.

So often in life we all find that accepting struggles with humility and strength is difficult.  Actually, it is demanding.  Within the book of James he encourages us to tame our tongue.  Choose our words wisely.  Use our speech to praise Him not slander others.  Yet when we choose this route sometimes we are seen as the enemy.  This is where humility kicks in.

Unfortunately, society doesn’t see the virtue in holding our tongue.  Society calls for us to defend our actions, to fight the good fight, and to speak out for our beliefs to be heard.  Society wants us to defend our good name, to ensure honor, and to protect ourself from blame. That is the exact opposite of what James tells us.

James 4:11-12 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Drinking my cup of humility today takes on a new meaning.  Do I feel encouraged and joyful? Not really.  Yet I know there is a bigger meaning for my suffering.  I know there is a deep desire to learn my lesson that God is teaching me.  Most importantly, I believe that with a lot of perseverance, I will once again be able to offer someone that smile that they need to see.

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A Lesson in Human Dignity

It has been an interesting 3 weeks to say the least.  As I continue my journey as a teacher at the Montessori school, I have surprisingly found my own identity.  Who knew?  Back in May this journey began with my own self-doubt that I was right for the job.  I wasn’t really sure that moving to middle school was the right path for me.  I pondered it, prayed about it and tried to come up with excuses why this wasn’t right for myself and my family.  Yet, in the back of my mind, somewhere deep down in my heart, I knew this was the right path.  And so the journey began.

My first week in class, I felt overwhelmed.  Here sat just over 40 of us on this same journey.  We all had the same goal, yet we were so different.  The first week was filled with late night readings and early morning coffee.  It felt good, but it was exhausting.  To my surprise that first week, I found that each of us carried such different baggage with us on this journey.  When we combined all of our baggage together, it made a beautiful collage.  Interesting because isn’t this what we want to have happen in our classrooms?

We have all these beautiful children who walk into our classrooms, all carrying their own baggage.  Yet when we accept that baggage for what it is and combine them all together, they make a beautiful team of adolescents.  As educators we need to see this beauty for what it is: possibilities.

Who knew that when I started this journey just 3 weeks ago that I would form such beautiful friendships with these 40 plus people?  Who knew that I would find myself calling them family? Who knew that I would learn to love and accept people where they are and not try to mold them into where I want them to be?

It is an amazing lesson to learn.  We are all on a journey together.  It is the cosmic education of life.   It is a lesson in human dignity.  As I begin my classes next fall with 17 adolescents, I hope to keep that in mind.  Not only will I be teaching them, but I hope to learn from them.  They deserve my acceptance and respect because teens are people too.  When we treat them that way, the results are powerful.

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Toxic Relationships

I wrote this a year and a half ago, but today I needed to be reminded again…

Making Room For God

Making Room For GodWe can avoid it as long as we want. We can take the elephant in the room and try to hide it, but let’s face it – it’s an elephant. We can try to deceive our mind into believing that everything is okay when it clearly is not. Everyone else gives us their opinion and they all seem to lack an understanding of the situation. We rationalize the situation so that it seems at least manageable, but deep down we know it isn’t.

Many of us have been in this sort of relationship whether it is with a friend, a co-worker, our office, our spouse or a family member. Many time we will hear of these toxic relationships from others. We never think of our own relationships a toxic – usually because we are so busy rationalizing why we need to stay in the relationship.

I have been there. I…

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It’s Not All About You

Yesterday I wrote about the courage, strength, and humility of Stephen.  I might have left you thinking, “Why would God allow a good man to struggle like that – especially one that is doing God’s Will?”

This morning I will continue on with Stephen’s martyrdom.  Stephen’s martyrdom was an instance that God could have stepped in and saved Stephen from a horrible death, yet He didn’t. In Acts 7:54-60 we hear the details of Stephen’s death.

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

After the stoning, people spread throughout the countryside to hide from the severe persecution of the church. Saul (also known as Paul) was working to uncover all those who had fled and send them to jail for following Christ. This is where God’s will is revealed. God allowed Stephen to be stoned to death under the watch of Saul. Later, Saul would have a change of heart on his journey to Damascus, and during this trip, Paul is blinded by a very bright light. In Acts 9:4-19 we read:

As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”

Wow! Not only did God use Saul/Paul, but several witnessed the event and Ananias proved his great faith of God during this. Do you think Stephen ever would have realized the great things God did with his death? Paul was one of Jesus’ most faithful supporters after this incident. He would go on to lead the church just after Peter. Amazing.  Ananias was used by God to lead this new disciple into the life of faith.  Two beautiful stories that unfolded only because of Stephen’s great courage and ultimate death.

Stephen’s courage to speak the truth brought us one of the greatest Christian leaders of all time.  This is how God uses a bad situation and turns it into something good.

Back to our initial question… Why would God allow a good man to struggle like that – especially one that is doing God’s Will?

Because the struggle will cause a domino effect and lead to great things for Christians.  The struggle will touch the heart of someone who God knows will be a game changer.  The struggle will turn someone who is facing away from God toward God.

God isn’t placing a struggle in your life for punishment.  It’s not all about you.  He is placing a struggle in your life for the good of another.  This is why we should praise God for struggles in our lives.  We should life up the struggle for someone who may be searching for God, but doesn’t know where to look.  We can pray that God will allow someone to witness our struggle and turn their face back to God.

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