We all have goals and desire success. How we construct and pursue our goals and what we view as success determines how we choose to live each day. It’s important for us to have a correct perspective and to build on a sure foundation.
Correctly define success. It’s important that we align our definition of success to God. Zig Ziglar said, “The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love, and loyalty.” Stephen R. Covey said, “If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.” We all want to hear those words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” but are we living each day aligned with God to bring Him honor and glory in our calling? Are you truly living to one day have Jesus say those words to you, or are you living for a pat on the back from someone else?
Submit to God. He works in the present, regardless of our past. Look at some of the major players in God’s Word—Moses, King David, and Paul. They all committed murder, yet as they sought God and turned away from themselves, God used them in mighty ways. Psalm 37:4-5 advises us all to “delight thyself also in the Lord: and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.”
Set goals. Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” God’s Word instructs us to seek Him, plan wisely, and work diligently, having our confidence in Him and not ourselves. Planning in the Lord is a must for success. Luke 14:28 asks, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”
Understand your timeline. What’s it based on? Is it set in stone or flexible? Remember that God’s timeline may not match our expectations for reaching our goal. God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”
Enjoy what you do. God’s work is not drudgery. There’s a joy and peace in knowing that you are doing what God calls you to. Charles Stanley shares in the foreword to his book God Has a Plan for Your Life, “It all begins with faith in an all-powerful, loving Savior who has your very best in mind—always. Once you place your faith in Him, nothing can hold you back from gaining the peace and contentment that He has for you.” Is your work drudgery or workplay? Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Hard work is enjoyable when you have peace and joy in your heart. That doesn’t remove difficulty, but it does take away drudgery.
Do it daily. Work diligently every day with your goal in mind. Zig Ziglar said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.” To borrow from the beloved deceased American writer and motivational speaker, Napoleon Hill, “It’s not what you are going to do, but it’s what you are doing now that counts.” Zig Ziglar also said, “You don’t have to be great at something to start, but you have to start to be great at something.” Consider the advice to the sluggard in Proverbs 6:6-8, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” The ant gets it done, working day in and day out, for the present and the future.
Develop good habits. To begin working toward your goal, “Begin with the end in mind,” Stephen R. Covey teaches in his best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He defines a habit as “the intersection of knowledge, skill, and desire.” In order to develop good habits, it’s important to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), cast “down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2Corinthians 10:5), and think on things that are “true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue and praise” (Philippians 4:8).
Don’t stop short. God calls us to work diligently in well doing and know that “in due season we will reap if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Proverbs 12:27 says, “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.” Don’t waste what God has blessed. You must finish the job, persevering to the end, to enjoy the fruit of your labor.
You reap what you sow. Effort reaps results, not perfection. Do your part and trust God for the harvest. Psalm 85:8 says, “I will listen to what God the Lord says; He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly.” If we sow peace in faithfulness to God, we will reap that peace. If we sow in folly, that will we also reap. You cannot plant green beans and expect to harvest tomatoes.
Know if you are content or complacent. Being content means knowing that you are diligently seeking God, and you are working as He leads. Complacency results from stagnating and becoming satisfied with your current success. John C. Maxwell states in his book, The Success Journey, “Complacency kills growth.”
Don’t live in the past. In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul encourages believers to persevere: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Don’t let fear freeze you. Former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton said, “Fear causes people to draw back from situations; it brings on mediocrity; it dulls creativity; it sets one up to be a loser in life.” American Businessman David Joseph Schwartz said, “Do what you fear and fear disappears.” 1 Peter 5:7 encourages, “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
Don’t be dissuaded by critics. Understand that others may not understand or support your goals. Regardless, God calls us to live peaceably as much as possible. Charles R. Swindoll says in A Life Well Lived, “Humility chooses a gentle response to the petty hostility of critics.” Psalm 119:165 says, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Rest assured that in doing God’s will, you will encounter opposition and criticism, often from surprising sources, but you can remain in God’s peace by not engaging in confrontation with your critics.
Carefully craft your circle. American Businessman David Joseph Schwartz said, “If you want to be the best, hang out with the best.” Colin Powell said, “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.” Proverbs 13:20 says, He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”
Know that you set an example, no matter what you do. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that we always affect others with what we do, good or bad: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
Pair success with leadership. According to Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “The basic task of leadership is to increase the standard of living and the quality of life for all stakeholders.” We should seek to improve our craft and share with others. Many writers who’ve “made it” with dozens of New York Times bestsellers continue to mentor younger writers. Jerry B. Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series, is just one example. “Those who continue along the path of a life well lived will not only gain the pleasure of spending their years in a worthy pursuit; they will also enjoy the crowning reward of finishing well.” (Charles R. Swindoll, A Life Well Lived).
So if you want to be successful, seek God, and the rest will surely follow, just as Jesus promises in Matthew 6:33.
Let me leave you with these wise words from Dr. Charles F. Stanley:
“The circumstances of your life are extremely important. Never ignore them because they are exactly what God uses to direct your life and to reveal His promise to you. When God is involved, it is never a matter of luck or good fortune. There is no such thing as luck in the life of a believer. It is the hand of God that opens and closes the doors you face each day. There is no chance encounter—just the divine moments when God moves to answer your prayers and accomplish His purposes.”
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey
The Book of Joshua in the Bible
The Success Journey: The Process of Living Your Dreams, John C. Maxwell
The One Year Daily Insights, Zig Ziglar
Developing the Qualities of Success: How to Stay Motivated, Zig Ziglar
Born to Win: Find Your Success, Zig Ziglar
A Life Well Lived, Charles R. Swindoll
God Has a Plan for Your Life, Charles F. Stanley
What’s Your Kryptonite? What trips you up, gets you off-balance? Is it a relationship? Being around certain people? Your attitude or perspective? Jealousy? Competition?
Whatever it is, you’re not alone. We all have multiple disabling forms of kryptonite that seem to transform us and sap our power to represent God well in that moment.
Let’s look at how kryptonite affects Superman. According to CBR.com, green, the most common, kryptonite saps the power of Superman and all other Kryptonians. Red kryptonite turns Kryptonians evil and makes them look foolish and even insane. Pink kryptonite changed Superman to female. Periwinkle changed Superman’s appearance and made him desire only to disco dance with Lois Lane. Once the periwinkle kryptonite wore off, Superman would be embarrassed, but Lois sought to expose him to this kryptonite often as it was fun for her. This reminds me of so-called friends getting someone drunk to entertain themselves at the drunk person’s expense. All these and other kryptonites made the Superhumans vulnerable. With their superpowers weakened and funky new twists, they weren’t able to avenge evil in their usual high-powered fashion.
The effects of our kryptonites are similar in that we are weakened and vulnerable. That is why it’s valuable to honestly evaluate everything in our lives from interactions to motives and outcomes. We need to see what trips us up, so we can avoid potential damage.
Does your commitment to God and living His standard fly out the window when you are in a certain situation or around a certain person? If so, you’ve just accomplished step 1: identifying your kryptonite.
Step 2 is evaluating what typically happens in this situation or around this person. Do you get angry and let hurtful words spew from your mouth? Are you tempted by sinful pleasures? Understanding why this situation or person is a form of kryptonite for you is equally as important as identifying it.
Step 3 is distinguishing reality from personal perception: whether the problem is truly the situation or person or whether it is your attitudes and actions. If you typically sull up and seek to retaliate after critical quarterly evaluations at work, the problem is your attitude, not the evaluation nor your boss. Maybe your boss seems like a jerk with no heart, but it is still your job to follow through on his recommendations for how you can improve your job performance. It may seem that your kryptonite is the boss or the evaluation, but your most deadly kryptonite is your attitude.
Next, honestly evaluate if you experience similar trouble of confrontational feelings in other relational instances. Often it helps to ask other people if they notice these things. Don’t get mad when they tell you that you have a problem with ego, temper, etc. Take this knowledge and tuck it into your belt. By understanding that your problem isn’t just the other person not caring, you’ll be able to address what is actually making you weak. Equipped with this knowledge, you can avoid the kryptonite of self-preservation. God keeps us safe; we cannot preserve ourselves outside of Him.
Step 4 is to recognize whether this trigger situation or interaction is avoidable. Is this something you sought after but don’t have to maintain? In other words, do you have to be in this situation or interaction? Some situations are not avoidable, such as a boss’s evaluation at work. And no matter how insensitive a boss seems while giving your performance review, we all choose how we respond in that uncomfortable situation.
But let’s say the situation or interaction is something you sought to fit in or gain the attention of someone in particular. What are your motives? What are the potential outcomes? If it doesn’t align with how God directs us to carry ourselves and interact with others, stop it! You may not have a cool exit, but that’s not nearly as important as getting out intact before the kryptonite saps your power and renders you more vulnerable to sin.
What if your kryptonite seems to be the unfair criticism of a close family member? In this case, we benefit by focusing our attention on God in the relationship. If the relationship is with a parent or child, what is your God-given role? What does God’s Word say about that role? How does God say we should behave in our role?
This strategy has been a tremendous help to me personally as one of my kryptonites is criticism from a loved one with a warped frame of mind. I seek to honor God in this relationship but also know that anytime I let my guard down, I am subject to attack. I guess you could say that my real kryptonites in this particular situation are my need for approval and my transparency. Typically these things aren’t viewed negatively, but when they are the open door injury walks through, they are a type of kryptonite.
This doesn’t mean that we ought to live vaguely, falsely, and wall up against human relationships. Certainly we are created for living truthfully and connecting with others. However, it does mean that we are to be wise in recognizing patterns that may damage us, others, and our relationship with God. You cannot change another’s perspective, motives, or bad habits, but you can avoid being the victim by not casting information out there to be used against you by a misguided person.
This leads us to Step 5, guarding your heart to avoid the crippling effects of kryptonite. God’s Word tells us to guard our heart with good reason. If we are seeking acceptance, attention, or feel vulnerable or attacked, we are likely behave in a dishonorable fashion. We know that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and rulers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). The person attacking us is just as much a victim being used by satan as a weapon against God.
We are instructed in Proverbs 4:23-27 to
“Keep thine heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Put away from thee a forward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”
Just by this one portion of scripture, we know to guard our heart and not engage in offensive speech or behavior. If we know our kryptonite, we are better equipped to avoid situations which render us weak. We are to stay on track with an attitude and behavior that honors God, regardless. That can be tough when seeking acceptance or when being verbally attacked, but it remains our duty as representatives of the God who liberates us from such toxicity. We are not to engage in evil. We are to focus on God and not be distracted by anything around us. We all face attacks, and satan usually attacks through other people that offend or lure us. We must remember this and render satan powerless by not engaging in evil and by praying for the person satan tries to use against us.
To recap, identify your kryptonites. Understand how they affect you. As objectively as possible, be honest about what is the root of your kryptonites, and seek feedback from others. Evaluate if and how you may avoid your kryptonites. Guard your heart to render kryptonite powerless instead of the other way around.
In God, you are strong and able to resist the wiles of satan. You don’t have to become weak putty in certain situations or around certain people. God makes us all able to stand, and He expects us to do just that, in His strength, not our own (Ephesians 6:11-13).
For more on this subject, please read last week’s blog, “Perfecting Patience” and that of 6/26, “Always Ready for Battle.” They are just a scroll down the page. ;-)
Problems, patience, and perseverance—what do these three things have in common? If you thought something along the lines of we all need patience to persevere through problems, you are right. Problems are a part of life, so must patience and perseverance be a part of a successful life.
Some problems are our own fault. Some are not. That’s why James tells believers in the New Testament to count it all joy when they fall into “divers temptations.” The word used here for temptations is translated as peirasmos and can mean problems that are our fault and those that aren’t.
Temptations, in the modern sense of the word, are our fault. The New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD) defines temptation as “the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.” Later in chapter 1, James says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (verses 13-14). We are tempted by what we lust for.
God created us and knows that we have temptations. He always makes a way of escape, whether it’s the option to swipe off a screen on our phone or to not respond to juicy gossip directed our way. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” God never creates the temptation, but He always gives us a way of escape. His watchful eye never fails to see His children in need, and He responds more quickly and more powerful than any parent in nature. He won’t make our choices for us; otherwise, they wouldn’t be choices. But He always makes a way of escape for us that will never contradict His Word.
Temptations, or trials as we think of the modern use, are not necessarily our fault. The NOAD defines the noun trial as “a formal examination of evidence before a judge,” “a test of the performance, qualities, or suitability of someone or something, a person, thing,” or “situation that tests a person’s endurance or forbearance.” The NOAD defines the verb trial as “test (something, especially a new product) to assess its suitability or performance,” “(of a horse, dog, or other animal) compete in trials.” Trials seem to just be a part of life for everyone.
God promises to be with us to bring us safely out of every trial. “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by name, thou are mine. When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:1-2).
Regardless of whether the temptation, or trial, results from our own sinful lust or is an unwarranted attack by satan, all trials are training for battle. Just as soldiers train and condition for battle, we are to recognize situations we are in as training maneuvers to correct and fortify us, honing our skills. Though God is never the author of any trials or temptations we face, He is our High Commander who guides and teaches us to endure as we make life-preserving moves on the battlefield. Jesus promised believers in John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
God offers us peace in Him we can accept or deny. We can follow His divine guidance or go with our unwise human nature. Our own thoughts and plans for ourselves can never measure up to His love for us (Psalm 40:5). Humans are stubborn creatures. We often have to experience struggles repeatedly before we learn to depend on God and honor Him with our choices. Even domestic animals seem to learn faster than some of us to avoid negative consequences.
Psychologist Edward L. Thorndike created a puzzle box as part of an experiment in 1898 to determine if animals really are intelligent. He placed a hungry cat inside the puzzle box and a juicy morsel outside, out of reach of the cat. In order to escape the box and get the morsel, the cat had to do a specific series of actions: pull a string to release one lock, step on a lever to release the second, and flip a latch upright so that the door would open.
The hungry cat responded by trying its natural strategies of squeezing through the bars, clawing at the door, and meowing for help. When these strategies failed to release him, the cat attempted dozens of actions, until by chance, he stumbled upon the right combination. The real test was to see if the cat would repeat the specific three-step maneuver again, only faster, to show that it learned something. Remarkably, the cat took almost three minutes the first time but always less than one minute every time after. (Psycohology for Teaching, Francois, 124-125)
What can we learn from this as Christians? Will we learn that our relationship with God is the only source for peace, joy, courage, wisdom, and strength to persevere in patience when we face trials? Some of us learn more quickly and easily than others. I relate to the stubborn Christians who learn slowly, as it took my losing everything but my life for me to truly understand my brokenness and dependence on Him.
Psychologist B.F. Skinner originated operant conditioning, where the consequences of a response determined the probability of it being repeated. Simply put, behaviors reinforced with rewards or relief from a negative situation would likely be repeated, and behaviors punished by presentation (physical) punishment or penalty (removal of something desired), would occur less frequently. (Psycohology for Teaching, Francois, 130-135)
I wish real life were as cut and dry as this experiment. In real life, sometimes we get ourselves (or keep ourselves) in the same sticky situation time after time. God often gives us the way out that we need but don’t want. We might be living it up in sin city when God throws us that lifeline. We want to linger in sin longer because we know there is pleasure in sin for a season (Hebrews 11:25). Otherwise, we creatures of comfort wouldn’t seek sin. Sometimes when we resist God’s grace and go our own way thinking we can get out later, God allows us to fall flat on our face, sometimes repeatedly, to learn our dependence on Him. Other times, He knows it’s best to prevent us by circumstances. When things aren’t going your way, or circumstances seem impossible to bear, seek God, ask Him to help you know His will, and acknowledge that you cannot follow without His wisdom and strength. He will not leave you hanging; He promises to guide the steps of those who diligently seek Him (Psalm 37:23, Proverbs 16:9, Job 36:5, Isaiah 48:17). Sometimes we have to learn through our circumstances, and sometimes we see things right away. As long as you seek God, you will be safe.
Do you have a personal mission statement and coordinating goals and objectives? Companies, organizations, and many churches have carefully written out their mission statements, goals, and objectives at one time or another. Many don’t update these as necessary to meet changing dynamics. There is a power in having and maintaining these as a corporate organization, family, and individuals. That’s right; we should prayerfully consider our mission, goals, and objectives as individuals, couples, and families and carefully put them to words.
Often as Christians we understand that we are to represent Christ to a hurting world, but we don’t examine and resolve to follow specifics beyond that vague call. According to Barna Research, sharing faith is increasingly optional to Christians and almost half of practicing Christian Millennials say evangelism is wrong.
Jesus taught that a house without a firm foundation will surely fall (Matthew 7:24-27). If we don’t prayerfully choose and embrace our purpose, we are much more likely to be swayed by the lies that seek to overtake our thoughts and attitudes.
As an English teacher, I became accustomed to developing a yearly mission, monthly goals, and daily objectives for my students’ learning.
The mission was the long-term, overarching purpose, the change they should come away with at the end of the year.
The monthly goals derived from the long-term mission, or purpose, for their being in the class and broke down the mission into what I intended for them to achieve.
The daily objectives were actionable steps we would take to achieve the larger goals.
The mission is one, overarching statement regarding your purpose. You’ll have several goals and even more objectives as they outline the singular steps to accomplish your goals as you live your mission.
As a Christian, my mission affects how I live every aspect of life—professional and personal, so I will have several goals that represent different aspects of my life and are all connected back to my overarching, life-shaping mission to serve others in Christ’s love to connect them to God. I will have goals as a writer, a wife, a mother, etcetera.
How this looks for a Christian might be something like this:
My Mission: To serve others in Christ’s love to connect them to God.
Writing Goal: To write and share engaging content that will initiate or deepen others’ relationship with Jesus Christ.
Physically Healthy Marriage Objectives:
Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, I want to live according to Your will. I know Your plans are best. Help me to understand my purpose and design goals to accomplish what You have for me to do. I seek Your divine wisdom in setting my daily objectives to achieve the goals that will lead others to You. I give You all the honor and glory for all You ordain for me to accomplish. In Jesus Christ’s name, the only name with all the power of heaven, amen.
God reminded the Jews held captive in Babylon, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
God gave the captive Jews some specific things to do while waiting for their expected end:
God allowed the Jews to suffer the consequences of their choice to live apart from Him. Their selfishness and pride caused them to either be driven from their homeland or to suffer famine in their once thriving, now land of hunger. Regardless of the individual situations, there was always a corporate hope for God’s chosen people. The Jews who suffered as a result of their sin could not revoke God’s promises for blessing or punishment. God was still with them, guiding them. It was their choice whether or not to abide in and obey God or further disregard Him and His commands.
Likewise, it is our choice to embrace or reject God’s guidance. Either way, we will live with the direct and indirect results of our choices. Our disobedience never erases God’s promises but keeps us from them, and oppositely, our obedience opens the door for us to experience God’s blessings as fully as He designed.
Some things to understand about the Babylonian Exile:
I write about pain, loss, brokenness, healing, and restoration a lot on this blog. These describe much of how I've experienced adulthood, so naturally I write about them as I navigate life. Last week, though I struggled with physical ailments, I wrote a significant amount. I finished three short pieces in one week, a real victory for me. I prayed acknowledging my needs, thanked God for the blessing of progress, and praised Him publicly for who He is. If there’s a formula for success, I would say that is it.
However, this week I haven’t accomplished much at all. I have been battling SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) for the third time in the past few years, and all quick-bandage solutions to keep me going stopped working at all. I finally was forced to deal with (and suffer) how serious the infection had become this time. One entire week has gone by without my writing.
Physical ailments and aggravations are a real part of life for everyone. We all have unwanted time-out when we feel useless and unproductive. Humans have an innate desire to be productive and useful. We lose our vision for personal prosperity and success when we don’t feel that we matter or can make a difference.
This is one of satan’s greatest weapons for many including the chronically ill. When we aren’t able to be productive in a way that we are accustomed or comfortable, we are sometimes so overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and uselessness that we become depressed. We feel hopeless and defeated. That’s just how satan wants us—powerless. He wants us feeling so left out of life and productivity that we stay there pouting, doubting, and doing without, to borrow from my former pastor.
Good news! We don’t have to fall for this trap. We know that for one reason or another, we will all face downtime from an injury or ailment, chronic or not. Since we know this, we are armed with knowledge. God expects us to put our knowledge to work on our behalf against satan’s schemes. God requires us to fight in order to win; that’s why He gives us armor. He is always with us and equips us to fight, or resist, satan’s attacks on our hearts and minds. That is why we are told in Ephesians 6:10-13 to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God in order that we may “stand against the wiles of the devil…withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (emphasis added).
First, we are to have our loins girt about with the truth. The truth is that God loves each of us, created us out of His love, cares for our every individual and corporate need, and has a purpose and plan for our lives. Furthermore, we are to know the truth that God made no mistake in regard to His creation and didn’t create anyone to suffer defeat. Therefore, we are to never feel helpless, hopeless, or alone, because the truth is that we aren’t. Certainly we feel this way at times, but that is a direct attack of satan on our hearts and minds.
Secondly, we are to have on the breastplate of righteousness. This is God’s righteousness and our choice to follow, believe, and do what God approves. We see the direct relationship between choices and outcomes throughout the Bible. The choice to believe and honor God always leads to a positive result. The choice to go our own way and determine for ourselves what is good always leads to trouble.
Thirdly, we are to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. The Greek word used here for preparation means firm footing, foundation, readiness. The gospel means the good news of the coming Messiah, or savior. Peace refers to God’s gift of wholeness, peace of mind, quietness, rest. We are to be firmly footed in the gospel of peace, so we aren’t shaken by what we experience in this life.
Above all, we are to take up the shield of faith, “wherewith [we] shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16). “The Lord Himself is our shield (Ps 7:10, 13; Zech 12:8), providing protection by inbirthing His spoken-word (rhema) of faith in the believer,” according to Helps Word-studies. The comparison is made to the oblong Roman shield used by warriors for full body protection in battle. Faith in God protects the whole person in spiritual warfare.
Finally, we are to “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Salvation gives us hope beyond not only our current circumstances but beyond this life. Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth thee.” Keeping our thoughts on God, His salvation, and the hope only He can give us protects our mind against thoughts contrary to the truth, thoughts that will inevitably cause us harm.
God’s Word is a most powerful weapon against satan. Satan will try to twist it as he did with Eve in the garden (Gen 3:1-5) and with Jesus in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11), but knowing it well is our most powerful defense. The word used for sword in this verse means “a short sword or dagger” according to Strong’s Concordance. A dagger is used for close combat. That means when the enemy is right there in your face attacking with everything He can, you are to use God’s Word as your defense. You must be very familiar with it to use it successfully. Think of King David as a young lad against Goliath. He would only approach Goliath with what he was accustomed. This is why he opted to use stones and a sling rather than a sword and armor which he had not proven (1 Samuel 17:34-42).
Additionally, we are instructed to “pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). To pray always means to keep our minds on God as already directed by the helmet of salvation but also to communicate with Him, to acknowledge Him as the all-knowing, all-powerful creator who is our help and hope. Supplication literally means to beg. God expects us to bring our needs to Him. He knows our every need, but it is important for us to acknowledge our dependence on Him.
Notice that we aren’t just to pray for our own needs. There’s a constant battle going on in which we are to pray for others. While we fight our own good fight in faith, we are to uplift others to God for their strength, focus, and determination as well.
We are instructed to have the mind of Christ and to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in [us] both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” We are told to “do all things without murmurings and disputing: that [we] may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:5, 12-15).
If we fall with every attack, what does that say not only about us, but about our God as well? We are to be “blameless and harmless” and “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.” It’s important for us to understand where our help comes from and how to fight and show others our source of strength for the battle because everyone will face attacks in various forms, but the armor for success on the battlefield remains the same.
As I face physical obstacles this week, satan tries to use them to attack my mind and heart. I know that he wants to halt what God has for me to do. Therefore, I will remain focused and know that hiccups and pauses are just that and nothing more unless I give satan power to use them against me. I refuse to allow satan to use them to deter my perseverance in the Lord.
I pray that you will choose to take action against satan’s attacks on you and others by taking up the armor God freely gives and enables us to use. Prove it as we learn is so important for effective use. Pray for others and earnestly petition God for your needs. He will never leave you to fight alone, and He always gives victory.
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer,” (Psalm 19:14).
We all get the same twenty-four hours, and it’s up to us how we spend it each day. I read and study God’s Word often, but what difference does it make? There’s a remarkable difference when I take more time for God versus social media or fruitless communication. However, if I leave out meditating upon God’s Word when it’s not in front of my eyes or pouring into my ears, I am a miserable, grumpy, and even foul, creature.
Recently while doing some neglected yard work, I realized that I was growling, grumbling and even cursing. The old-fashioned, bible-promoting grandmother in my conscience fussed and shamed me until I wanted to crawl in a gopher hole. Why on earth was my attitude and communication so foul? Maybe no one heard me, but maybe they did. What if a neighbor heard me growling and cursing? Besides thinking I’m insane, they wouldn’t judge me to be close to God. The privilege and responsibility of being close to God is to represent Him well to the watching, and listening, world.
The words of Psalm 19:14 cut my heart like a knife. That verse ends with acknowledging God as redeemer. My redeemer. That’s right. Let me not forget that Christ has redeemed me unto good works. He redeemed and purified me. I patiently remind myself that the purification part is lifelong, and I won’t have it down pat, not today, not tomorrow, but I am to work diligently at it at all times lest I bring dishonor to the One who saved me and is patient enough to continue sanctifying me for His purpose—to bring others to Him, to know His truth and love for all mankind.
When God commissioned Joshua to lead Israel after the death of Moses, He instructed Joshua to not let His Word depart from him, to “meditate therein day and night” to “observe to do according to all that is written therein.” For only then would Joshua be “prosperous” and “have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
Deuteronomy 6:5-8 shows God’s command to Israelites to “love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou riseth up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
This command applies to all who desire to be God’s children. We are to read and study His Word daily, and also meditate upon it constantly to where it affects our attitudes, thoughts, desires, actions, and speech.
A consistent pattern in God’s Word is a command followed by a promise, instructions for our part followed by explanation of God’s reward for us doing our part. Reading farther in Deuteronomy 6, we see that God tells of the wonderful land He will bring the Israelites to as a result of their doing their part. He highlights some major blessings in that land and reminds the children that it is a land of blessings not built by their own hands but by the hands of the wicked who God will force out of the land as a result of their wickedness in living apart from Him. God reinforces to the children the importance of fearing, honoring, and serving Him and not going after other gods “lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth,” (Deuteronomy 6:13-15).
Today we have all kinds of apps on the devices almost grown into our hands that we have no excuse for not reading and studying God’s Word. No time to read? No problem. Download or stream a podcast, audio devotional, or audio Bible. There are many free, accessible options in our land of plenty. Get a pair of earbuds as cheap as one buck, and you’re set to listen to God’s Word anywhere you go without disturbing others.
The busyness of our world makes us believe that we don’t have time to read and study God’s Word, much less to meditate upon it. Think of the busyness as a weapon satan uses against you to keep you from the only true source of power, peace, joy, wisdom, and strength—God. Even if you are in a public line, driving, mowing grass, or racing down grocery aisles, train yourself to have God’s Word on your heart at all times. You might not want to listen to scripture as you speed shop after work, but you can quickly glance at a verse before getting out of your car to remind you to be patient with others so you don’t experience shopper’s rage when you are in a game of grocery buggy bumper cars in the crowded supermarket.
I encourage you to pick up God’s Word, whether it’s an old fashioned hard copy or on your smart phone, and apply its power in your life today. I challenge you to download one app to support your relationship with God. I love The Holy Bible App by You Version, a ministry of Life Church. This app is so extensive that it’s hard to believe it is FREE and ad free! Through this app I have several translations of the bible downloaded on my phone. You also can choose from thousands of bible studies and devotionals to do alone or with a friend over your phone. You can save scripture images and even store notes for sections of your bible. You can even opt to listen to it as an audio Bible. It’s really incredible. Our Daily Bread is another great app for quick daily devotional reads. The #Bible App is an excellent resource to quickly flip through highlighted verses and biblical excerpts they update each day. In the way of podcasts, I have been blessed by the brief, encouraging Lunchtime Word on Latoya Washington’s Broken Vessels podcasts. There are many more apps and podcasts out there that can aid to strengthen your walk with Christ. Desiring a closer walk is essential; where there’s a will there’s a way. ;-)
“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:27-34)
I put off writing many years because I was busy with my own agenda: working, providing, trying to be a good example while making a difference in the lives of others. Besides a wife and mom, I was a teacher who felt such a burden to be the noble example of a productive life committed to God. I felt it was my duty to be the example of what God wants us to be.
Woe unto me so high and mighty on my pedestal! I thought of myself as humble and hard-working, yet I opted for common sense over God’s leading in my life. I allowed others’ thoughts and advice to sway my decisions when the direction God led me was the opposite of human sense and security.
I knew my health was bad and getting worse, but so far I had succeeded by living in spite of my conditions, ignoring the problems as much as possible and attending them only as much as needed to make them less noticeable in daily life. This strategy got me by for many years, and even after it no longer worked, I stubbornly tried to keep it going. Often that’s what we do: bandage ourselves to get back on the track as quickly as possible.
While perseverance is a virtue, often stubborn, self-centered pride is disguised as the same. Sometimes jumping back on the track or fighting to stay on is not what God wants us to do. Wisdom is knowing when to fight to stay on and when to acquiesce, or better yet, willingly embrace, what God wants you to do otherwise.
The important thing is to love God with our whole hearts, seek Him with all we are, and honor Him with what He has given us. Let God dictate your seasons of life and guide you as to what track He wants you on. Being on the right track at the time God appoints is what makes the difference in our own lives, the lives of others, and glorifies God.
Sometimes, we get tired of the track we are on and hop off due to our own desires, not led by God. Other times, we fight so hard to stay on the wrong track because we feel a sense of pride, significance, and even ownership.
God gives us all varying talents and gifts with which we are to honor Him and bless others. Sometimes, God wants us on one track for a while then wants us to let go, get off, and move to a different one. Folks who make major career changes move from one track to another.
I don’t want to test God’s patience like the children of Israel who followed God’s instructions to leave Egypt with the first Passover only to wander in the wilderness for forty years, refusing to take possession of the land God gave them and lamenting leaving their positions as slaves in Egypt (Exodus 11-19, Numbers 13-14). However, I feel that is exactly what I have done for so long. God called me to a different track in my life, but the safety and purpose of my old track made sense to me. I am so thankful that God has not turned me over to my own pride and lack of faith as He did the Israelites who were destined to die in the wilderness for their lack of faith and obedience.
I don’t want to die in my sorrow like that unfaithful generation of Israelites. God allowed my physical illnesses to finally boot me off track completely when I continued to cling desperately at any hope to jump back on. And I have certainly related to Jeremiah’s lamentation for the children of Israel in Lamentations 3, but the pain and suffering are not the end.
God’s mercies are new each morning. I can never earn or deserve His love and compassion, but I can thank Him by living in faith moment to moment, not trying to plan my tomorrow and work out my purpose by my limited human understanding.
Being sidelined for a couple of years really humbles you. God put me in a long time out for my own good. My health needed attention as well as did my relationship with God. I went through depression very bitterly asking God why such physical torment was happening to me.
During a time of much healing, God continually reminded me that His track for me was to focus on my health and write for Him. I still argued because writing is such a challenge with my health conditions. I kept looking ahead to what I considered the bigger picture, knowing that my health won’t allow me to write as a full-time job. There’s nothing more humbling than becoming so sick that you become truly aware of and thankful for each breath and each movement and function of your body.
What I finally had to grasp was that God was not asking me to look ahead and figure out the big picture. He was telling me what to do as I could right now, and that was writing, physical therapy, and a healthy lifestyle.
I have always found my worth in serving others, so when my existence, even after a couple years of recuperation, was all about my life continuing and my health growing stronger, God really put me in my place to know that His grand purpose will be accomplished, with or without me; I am not so important that His work will stop while I am sidelined.
Now God is patiently teaching me how to put my feet on a different wheel, one that I still am tempted to resist out of selfish pride. However, after being sidelined for so long while God nourished my heart, soul, mind, and body, I quickly push away the temptation for me to accomplish my own objectives for God. I still battle pride daily, but I know that the end thereof is death, and the result of trusting and obeying God is fullness of life in which I won’t worry about tomorrow or what I will have for provision of life.
I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.
He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into the light.
Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.
My flesh and my skin hath he made old; He hath broken my bones.
He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.
He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.
He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: He hath made my chain heavy.
Also when I cry and shout, He shutteth out my prayer.
He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, He hath made my paths crooked.
He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places.
He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: He hath made me desolate.
He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.
I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.
He hath filled me with bitterness, He hath made me drunken with wormwood.
He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, He hath covered me with ashes.
And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord:
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.
He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope.
He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach.
For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High,
To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.
Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?
Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?
Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.
Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.
Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied.
Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.
Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people.
All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.
Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction.
Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.
Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission.
Till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven.
Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.
Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause.
They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me.
Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause.
They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me.
Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off.
I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon.
Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.
Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not.
O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.
O Lord, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause.
Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their imaginations against me.
Thou hast heard their reproach, O Lord, and all their imaginations against me;
The lips of those that rose up against me, and their device against me all the day.
Behold their sitting down, and their rising up; I am their musick.
Render unto them a recompence, O Lord, according to the work of their hands.
Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them.
Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the Lord.
We never stop caring for our children, and we are always affected by their choices. My daughter and her husband moved to Denver nearly two years ago chasing freedom and a certain lifestyle far away from God and the godly influence of family. The blessing is that we can never get away from God (Psalm 139:7-8).
My daughter recently drove from Denver, CO to Alabama, without her husband’s help, to take back their two big dogs which have had a home with my husband and me from the time my daughter and her husband moved to Denver. Though she was in town only for one full night, she eagerly stretched herself in many directions to accomplish a lot in a short time. She planned to sleep at our home but never came home that night, which had me concerned. She had to wait a few hours for her mechanic father-in-law to look over her new car because his truck broke down on his way in from work. While waiting for her father-in-law, she spent time at a so-called “friend’s” home. This “friend” was a drug acquaintance; that’s how they met and why they got along. It’s strange the power we let others have over us; it’s a very easy, effective tool for satan.
After a restless night of little sleep waiting for her to come home, I searched the internet for the address of my daughter’s father-in-law before driving to see if my daughter was there. I was very concerned that she might not be there, that she may have wrecked and had not yet been found or that she never went to his house but instead had stayed doing drugs with her so-called “friend.”
I almost went to the friend’s house first, as memories of the day my daughter ran away from home three years ago seeking a lifestyle away from God and all godly influences flooded my mind. The day she ran away every part of me said to check at a particular person’s home for her, but instead of going with this instinct I ran here and there wherever my daughter said she was, only wasting precious time giving satan more opportunity to convince her that her wrong choices were absolutely right.
Now three years later, with a different dynamic but still with satan’s desperate attacks in light of his ever-weakening hold over my daughter, I went where she said she was the night before to be absolutely relieved as I drove by her in-laws’ home and saw her car safely nestled between a tractor and another family vehicle. A huge sigh of relief and thankfulness swept over me as God reminded me to never be overwhelmed by anything, knowing that He does not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). I later found out that she had fallen asleep from exhaustion mid-conversation, and the in-laws laid her over on the couch to let her rest.
All the way to the in-laws’ home I listened to Steffany Gretzinger’s album Blackout which leads my heart to worship the Creator and Lover of our souls who has it all in control even when we don’t. I thought I would have to use my asthma inhaler at first, but soon after I began worshiping and praising God, the tightness in my chest subsided. Still, false visions of my daughter passed out after using drugs at her “friend’s” home kept reaching for my focus as I prayed, sang, and worshiped my Lord who has much better than addiction in store for all those who love them with their whole hearts and seek Him with all their might (Deuteronomy 4:29, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Jeremiah 24:7, 29:13, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30).
My daughter’s visit, though shorter than the drive here and back to Denver was a blessing, a time for us to plant seeds of God’s love. Though we planted seeds of love her entire life, we struggled when it seemed all the seeds fell on hard ground to not grow. But even in the darkest hour I had to cling to God’s promises concerning those who live for Him and raise their children to do the same (Psalm 103:13, Proverbs 22:6, Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 6:1-4, 2 Timothy 3:15, 1 Peter 2:12).
My heart leaps for joy to praise my Lord who is strong enough and can always turn satan’s attacks to our benefit when we love God and seek to honor Him with our lives (Romans 8:28). Our God—the one, true God—is perfect as is everything about Him: His love, judgment, advice for living, forgiveness, renewal, justice, and His emotions, to name a few (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Psalm 18:30, Job 11:5-12, Malachi 3:6, Matthew 5:48) .
God’s emotions are real, but they are not the same as ours. Often we make decisions based on emotion, respond to others strictly on an emotional basis, and sometimes fail to respond because we are paralyzed by our emotions. God isn’t subject to any of these as His emotions are very different from our own. He is never paralyzed by fear, nor does He respond selfishly, and He is never overwhelmed. I am so thankful that our perfect Creator by His perfect love for us is bigger, stronger, and far beyond our emotional bounds (1 Corinthians 1:25, James 1:17, 1 John 4:4).
Just as our lives are affected by one another’s choices and relationship with God, our lives are all affected by the perfect love of the one, true God. We can never acknowledge nor deserve all His blessings of providence, protection, and more, but we can seek to acknowledge His presence and bless Him with our prayers and our choices. Our relationship with Him is more powerful than satan’s control in any form. It’s when we recognize this and put it to work that we see changes not only in our own lives but in the lives of those we love and those to whom we are neighbors.