Stay the Course

“‘Go back?’ he thought. ‘No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!’ So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Bilbo Baggins sets off on an adventure with Gandalf and group of dwarves. At first he is unwilling to join the quest, but at the last minute he throws things in a bag and runs off to catch up with the group. It’s not long into the trip before he is thrown into the uncomfortable by being forced to ride a pony. It’s his first hint that the journey will be full of twists and turns, not all of them pleasant, but he keeps moving forward.

I find myself in the same boat, so to speak. I start a new knitting project so excited, picking out colors and making plans. Even casting on brings joy, but part way through the pattern we hit a snag or have problems understanding the pattern, and suddenly we want to throw the project in our bag for another day or forget it altogether.

Every April our Ladies Group does a Bible study, and this year we are studying Promises of God from Love God Greatly. The first week’s topic was God is with you. As we were discussing the lessons, a commentary mentioned that the devil uses discouragement as a favorite tool for making Christians ineffective. It keeps us from doing what God has called us to do. We also discussed that sometimes you just have to do it afraid, knowing God will be with you. Another comment was that we need to stay the course no matter what is happening because God is with us. The study suggested praying God’s words back to Him in order to combat fear and discouragement. The main verse for the week was:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

This week I put that suggestion to use and I felt the power of standing on God’s Word. Today, I began a short-term extra job to help raise funds for a newer car. Fridays are the one day that I can work an 8-hour shift, so I was discouraged when I woke up to a sinus migraine. The headache began to worsen after an hour of working, so I took a break. I came back and had to do a training set. The headache was no better, so I informed my leader that I was taking medicine and a break and would hopefully be back later. The headache finally died down to a dull ache, so I went back to work around 2:30.

Within an hour, my validity dropped and I had to do a training session and pass a training set in order to continue working. At one point, I considered just signing out for the day. In the middle of the training, my practice set was only 50% valid and I got very discouraged. I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be doing the job. I read Isaiah 41:10 back to God and reminded Him that He had put this job in place and I needed to pass in order to keep working, so I needed wisdom to answer the questions. I passed. Even then I considered quitting for the day while I was ahead despite the fact that there were 2 hours left on my shift and I had lost a couple of hours with the headache. Just then the phrase stay the course caught my eye. I knew I had to keep going. Like Bilbo I had to keep going forward.

God said not to be afraid because he would be with us, strengthen us, help us and uphold us, but He never said it would all be easy. It takes rough roads sometimes to remind us who is in control and where our help comes from:

 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

Psalms 121:1-2

When the journey is full of twists, turns, potholes, and even an occasional detour, we know we can stay the course because God is with us. Don’t let the devil use discouragement or fear to stop you. Pray God’s Word back to Him and feel the power of the Almighty begin to work. Then just like Bilbo keep going forward and stay the course. Even greater adventures still await.

Disturbances

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

In the original Star Wars movie, Obi Wan tells Luke, “There’s been a disturbance in the force.” This is an understatement if there ever was one considering that an entire planet was just blown to bits. Sometimes it feels like our world has been blown to bits, and sometimes we overstate our disturbances. Sometimes disturbances are necessary, especially when we have been in a hard season.

I was recently watching Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris with Love. One of the characters had given up hope and another character came along and said: “It’s been a long winter, but spring is coming.” He points to a flower that has popped up overnight, the first bloom of spring. We look forward to spring and the idea of new growth, but the first movements require a disturbance as the seeds burst forth from underground sprouting leaves and buds.

On Palm Sunday, Pastor Brady at New Life Church in Colorado Springs read a poem by Sir Francis Drake which I was unfamiliar with, but it sums up the idea quite well:

 Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Attributed — Sir Francis Drake — 1577

I have been inundated lately with the phrase “dream big.” What does it mean to dream big? We need to be shaken loose from the status quo and learn to think in God-sized terms. God wants to do so much more than we are able to accomplish on our own. He wants us to come alongside Him in His work, not for Him to come alongside us in our work. He has bigger plans than we ever though possible much less were able to complete.

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

It is very easy to get settled in our comfort zones, but we miss so much when our worlds are too small. God wants to do more than we can even imagine, but it will require a disturbance to shake us free. Just this morning, I was sitting at my desk and a spider hopped up on top of it. I had been meaning to spray the house to keep unwanted critters from invading. It only took one spider to get me up and looking for the bug spray because the spider’s presence disturbed me. Maybe it’s time for Christians to be disturbed, not by a spider or the evening news, but by the Spirit of God. We need to be disturbed to get up and be about the Father’s business.

Word of warning: don’t confuse disturbed with fearful. God wants to wake us up and get us moving not to make us afraid. He wants to stir our hearts with a vision and a dream, not make us huddle in panic. He wants to give us a heart for hurting people, not anger and resentment. You can have an adventure right where you live if you are willing to open yourself up to a God-sized dream.

What dream has God given you? What will it take to disturb you? An adventure awaits if you are willing to dream big.

Hope is Confident

I was aggravated this morning because I couldn’t seem to get everything together to write my blog post last night or this morning before my dental appointment. I wanted it all taken care of so that I wouldn’t have to think about it when I got home. The dental appointment ran late, so it was past time for lunch when I finally left, and I still had to stop by the vet’s office for cat food. I was working my way into a pity party on the drive home because the dentist had suggested a crown to go over the filling. I was just getting caught up from last year, and I had several other debts still to pay. Would I ever get ahead?

Before I broke into tears, I decided to distract myself by thinking about what I could do, which was plan out my blog and my hope notebook project. I had somehow chosen the same verse twice for the notebook, so I was one short for my 40 days. I got an idea for the 40th day as I was driving along, and in the process I remembered that God was my hope, so I could be confident that He could handle whatever comes. All of the events of last night and this morning led me to the truth God wanted me to know: He is enough.

Day 29

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Lamentations 3:24

Day 30

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

1 Peter 1:3-6

Day 31

The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

Psalms 147:11

Day 32

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

Jeremiah 17:7

Day 33

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Philippians 1:6

Day 34

For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.

Psalms 9:18

Day 35

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

As I reviewed the verses from this week, I saw God planting seeds of hope all along the way. Today was kind of like a pop quiz to see if I had learned my lessons this week. In the midst of the temptation to whine, the scriptures came back to remind me that hope is confident because it comes from a God who cannot fail. While the road will not always be easy on this journey called life, we always have a good traveling companion in the Holy Spirit and the destination is worth the struggle.

When you are tempted to wallow in pity, take a moment to list the things you have to be thankful for and it will improve your mood exponentially.  Then give that list of problems to God and ask Him to show you what to do. Sometimes that might be to just “wait upon the Lord” and sometimes it might require something on your part, but if you stay in His will, it will all work out to His Glory.

Now I’m going to go slurp some tea until feeling returns to my lip and work on my hope notebook. Today’s verse is especially timely and I am excited about the finale next week. Stay tuned to #MyHopeNotebook and remember that as long as we have God, we have a hope that give us confidence.

Hope is a Promise

The tracking information on my package said “Delivery by 8 pm today.” I went out in the dark with a flashlight to check. It was not there. I looked for it again the next day, but it was still not there. I rechecked the tracking, and it had changed delivery dates to the following day. I was beginning to lose hope that it would ever arrive, but it finally came by the end of that week. Given the state of things, it really isn’t surprising, yet it was still disappointing. This is a broken world, so we often lose hope because of broken promises; however, when we trust in God’s promises, we always have hope because he will never fail us.

I have been drawing the scripture references randomly, so I can see God’s hand directing the choice of these verses, especially when you look at all of this week’s selections together:

Day 22

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

1 Corinthians 2:9

Day 23

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Romans 5:5

Day 24

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18

Ephesians 1:18

Day 25

Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.

Malachi 3:16

Day 26

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope….Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Romans 15:4,13

Day 27

Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.

Psalms 119:114

Day 28

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:7

God has prepared unimaginable good things for those who love Him (Day 22). He put his love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Day 23). He has called us, and we will receive the riches of his inheritance (Day 24). God hears those who fear him and will put them in a Book of Remembrance (Day 25). He gives us patience and comfort through His scriptures, and fills us with joy and peace through the power of the Holy Spirit (Day 26). He is our hiding place and shield, and we have hope in His Word (Day 27). What God says, He will perform (Day 28).

We have hope through the promises of God’s Word, and His Word never fails. So, whenever you are feeling hopeless, let the Word of God and His Holy Spirit minister to your heart for they are the source of all hope. Let’s spend more time meditating on the scriptures, and less time worrying about things only God can handle. Then let’s leave those things in His capable hands.

Fear Not!

Fear. A knot forms in my stomach, I clench my jaw, and I feel the world closing in around me. I want to run and hide, but where? Then, I remember the safest place to be, so I go there and find peace and comfort. Where is that, you might ask? It is the presence of God through prayer, Bible study, and worship.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18

The enemy’s two biggest weapons are fear and anger. When we listen to the world, all we hear is a good dose of both of these. When we are under spiritual attack and sometimes verbal assault, we have a defense: the sword of the spirit, the Word of God. It is a source of comfort and the only effective means of routing the enemy. We need to remember that is not people we fight against but a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12). Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons, so use the Word of God as a source of comfort and a means of taking down our spiritual enemy, Satan, and sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

My readings for #MyHopeNotebook this week emphasized that we don’t have to fear because we have hope in God:

Day 9: The Lord is everywhere.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:9

Day 10: I will not be afraid because God can defend no matter how great the size of the enemy.

Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.

Psalms 3:2-6

Day 11: When we desire the things of God, we will be full of life and firmly planted like a tree.

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

Day 12: With God all things are possible if we believe.

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Mark 9:23

Day 13: We don’t have to fear because we have hope in his mercy.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; 19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. 22 Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.

Psalms 33:18-22

Day 14: We don’t have to fear because no matter what happens God will take us through.

But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest 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

Trials will come. That is a given; however, we don’t have to fear because God is with us. When you feel the fear or anger creeping up on you, turn off the news and social media and open the Word of God. It is a refuge of comfort, peace, and power over the enemy. While you are at it, don’t forget to grab the shield of faith because the Sword will do you no good if you are wounded by the enemy’s darts. Put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6), and let perfect love cast out fear. Then let the peace of God fill you so that it overflows into an angry world.

Fear not!

Stand and Face the Storm

Faith & Storm

Retrieved from Link

April 27, 2011 started off with a bang as straight-line winds blew through my area, downing trees and power lines. I thought the worst was over as I gingerly traversed a number of problem areas on my way to work, but it was only the beginning. I was already back home and watching the nightly news for a weather update when I saw a live feed of a tornado touching down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was shocking, but I figured it would blow out before it reached my side of the state, so I carried on as usual. An hour or so later the storm had not subsided at all and was headed toward me. I grabbed my cats and a blanket and pillow and hunkered down in the bathroom floor just before I lost power. My only communication for weather updates was through texts from a friend. The cats, who were normally jumpy by nature, were unusually calm. Meep, still a kitten at the time, burrowed under the bathroom rug at my side and was quiet. Goldie, my Maine Coon crawled into my lap and lay down in quiet dignity and purred. I felt my own fears subside as I waited for the coming storm. It hit with a fury of wind and lightning. I knew the minute it had passed because the cats got up and went to the door and looked at me expectantly. It was over. You see the cats had the right idea. I had prepared the best that I could by sheltering in place and praying for protection and peace. There was nothing else I could do except wait it out.

Storms are inevitable. Our first instinct is to run away from danger. We begin to imagine all of the possible negative outcomes, but riding the “what if” bus will get you nowhere because its route is an infinity loop. It just keeps taking on more passengers and going in circles. We don’t know what the future holds, and we weren’t meant to. Acts 1:7 says, “And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” Therefore, we can run or we can choose to face the storm. I recently heard a guest on a Dave Ramsey video discussing the different ways animals deal with storms. When cows see a storm coming, they try to run away from the storm, but eventually the storm will catch up with them. Buffaloes, on the other hand, run into the storm. In the end, they spend less time in the storm because it passes over them. When we face our troubles head on, then we spend less time in the situation. We can stand in peace knowing we have done what we can do, and leave the rest to God.

When the storms come, Ephesians 6:13 says, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” The verses that follow describe the armor:

  1. Helmet of Salvation – When we have salvation, we know the end of the story (John 3:16).
  2. Belt of Truth – Be cautious where you get your information (John 8:32).
  3. Breastplate of righteousness – It is Christ’s righteousness we are putting on (Philippians 3:9).
  4. Sandals of the gospel of peace – Have the peace that God gives (John 14:27).
  5. Shield of Faith – Have faith that God will work things out (Jeremiah 29:11).
  6. Sword of the Spirit – The sword is the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).

God has given us armor, but we have to put it on in order for it to be effective. Once you put it on, the only thing left to do according to the last part of verse 13 is just stand. In times like these we need spiritual armor even more than we need masks and gloves. The enemy wants to take your peace and turn you into the worst version of yourself through fear. Instead, put on the armor and do what you can do. Wash your hands, follow social distancing, and find a way to serve others. The armor only protects your front because God has your back. So, stand and face the storm secure in the knowledge that God will walk with us until the storm passes by.

Advent: Fear Not

Advent Candles

Since the end of the year is approaching, I have begun looking at goals and schedules and trying to figure out what writing projects to work on next. I was also putting all the holiday events on my calendar and deadlines for current projects. The more I looked at it, the more anxious and stressed I felt. So, I walked away and looked at the Advent readings for this week, mostly from Luke chapters 1 and 2. Angels were appearing to people to give a pronouncement from God of good news, yet each time they prefaced it with the words “Fear Not.” Why would they be afraid of good news?

The truth is that the thrill of good news is often immediately followed by fear. A couple finds out they are pregnant after years of trying and they are elated, but then they start thinking about the responsibilities and potential problems associated with parenting. You hear back from a search committee that you got the job, and after a brief moment of celebration, worries that you won’t be able to handle the job rush in to steal your joy. You find out your first published book is a success but immediately begin to worry that you won’t be able to write another one. Why is that?

Luke 22:31 says, “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The enemy wants to destroy us. He will throw everything he has at us to get our focus off of God. Satan’s greatest desire is to make us unusable to God in any way possible, so we have to keep our guard up and recognize his tactics. Fear is a favorite tool of Satan, and he wields it like a weapon. However, I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

The most common way Satan uses fear is to make us doubt our ability to carry out a calling or command of God. For instance, you may feel called to teach a Bible study class but feel you don’t know enough or that people won’t want to listen to you. However, if God calls you, He will equip you.  In Hebrews 13:21, scripture says He will “make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” As a matter of fact, God often calls us to assignments that are out of our comfort zones because He wants the world to see Him and not us and to teach us to depend on Him and not any natural talents we may possess.

So, when God gives you an assignment, believe that He will equip you and will bring about what He has said. If He has ordained it, He will bring it to pass in His time and His way. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Wait upon the Lord, and He will work out the details and your schedule. As the angels said, “Fear not…”

Advent: Fear Not

Since the end of the year is approaching, I have begun looking at goals and schedules and trying to figure out what writing projects to work on next. I was also putting all the holiday events on my calendar and deadlines for current projects. The more I looked at it, the more anxious and stressed I felt. So, I walked away and looked at the Advent readings for this week, mostly from Luke chapters 1 and 2. Angels were appearing to people to give a pronouncement from God of good news, yet each time they prefaced it with the words “Fear Not.” Why would they be afraid of good news?

The truth is that the thrill of good news is often immediately followed by fear. A couple finds out they are pregnant after years of trying and they are elated, but then they start thinking about the responsibilities and potential problems associated with parenting. You hear back from a search committee that you got the job, and after a brief moment of celebration, worries that you won’t be able to handle the job rush in to steal your joy. You find out your first published book is a success but immediately begin to worry that you won’t be able to write another one. Why is that?

Luke 22:31 says, “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The enemy wants to destroy us. He will throw everything he has at us to get our focus off of God. Satan’s greatest desire is to make us unusable to God in any way possible, so we have to keep our guard up and recognize his tactics. Fear is a favorite tool of Satan, and he wields it like a weapon. However, I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

The most common way Satan uses fear is to make us doubt our ability to carry out a calling or command of God. For instance, you may feel called to teach a Bible study class but feel you don’t know enough or that people won’t want to listen to you. However, if God calls you, He will equip you.  In Hebrews 13:21, scripture says He will “make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” As a matter of fact, God often calls us to assignments that are out of our comfort zones because He wants the world to see Him and not us and to teach us to depend on Him and not any natural talents we may possess.

So, when God gives you an assignment, believe that He will equip you and will bring about what He has said. If He has ordained it, He will bring it to pass in His time and His way. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Wait upon the Lord, and He will work out the details and your schedule. As the angels said, “Fear not…”

The Power of Naming

 

2011-09-26 21.31.06When a little bobble-headed, tuxedo kitten showed up in my yard howling for help, I picked her up and felt ribs. She hissed when her feet left the ground but by the time she reached my shoulder she was purring like an Italian sports car. It took less than a week to realize she had chosen me as her human, so I set about trying to come up with a name for her. I tried Squeaker for a week or so because the way her cry sounded, but she categorically refused to answer to it.  She was extremely vocal and sounded like Beaker from the Muppets, like she was actually having a conversation in a high-pitched voice. It sounded like a series of “meeps”. One day as she stood with her back to me I called “Meep.” She turned around and looked at me and that was that.

There is something powerful in a name. In Genesis chapter one, God created the world by calling it into being by name. God said let there be light and there was light. Then he created man and woman and named them Adam and Eve. God even granted man the honor of naming things in the Garden of Eden. Then as Adam and Eve had children, they chose names for them as well. In Old Testament times, and even still today, great thought was taken in choosing a name. The Israelites called God multiple names based on different aspects of His character, such as Our Father or Our Provider. There is power in asking for something in God’s name and in God’s will.

There is also something about naming something that takes away fear. The unknown is scary and full of worst case scenarios. However, when we can finally name our fear or disease or problem, it calms us because until we can name it we don’t know how to fight it. I was watching a television show called Chasing the Cure. The guests were people with mysterious conditions that their doctors had been unable to identify or cure. Many had suffered for years. On the show a group of doctors work with a network of medical specialists and the general public to try and put a name to their illness and then hopefully find a cure or at least a treatment. For many of them, just finding a diagnosis was freeing after so many years of uncertainty.

The same can be said about sin. When we name our sins before God, then we can ask forgiveness and move forward.  When we just say a blanket forgive me, the “hidden” sins still taunt us as if God doesn’t already know about them. When we admit them to Him, then He can heal us and help us move forward. Identifying a problem is the first step to a solution. In this case, naming the sin and admitting it is the first step in battling it.

The same can also be said about our enemy. In the series Harry Potter, people refuse to say the name of the evil wizard Voldemort out of fear. Harry refuses to fall prey to that fear and says his name out loud, unwilling to give Voldemort any power over him. While Voldemort is a fictional character, our enemy is not. Ephesians 2:6 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” There is power in identifying the enemy and knowing that we are fighting against something more than other humans. We are fighting a battle at the spiritual level.  When we name our sins and ask forgiveness and we name our enemy and claim God’s victory, then we know we can win the battle we are facing because God has already won the war.

The Unknown

Unknown

I am a planner. I like to plan out things for maximum efficiency. For instance, if I know I have several errands to take care of, I will plan out what order of attack will be the most efficient based on the locations of errands in relation to home, each other, and traffic patterns (such as left-turn signals or busy roadways). I also take into consideration if I need to go to one place first, such as the bank. Then I implement my attack. I get great satisfaction in ticking off my list as I go. It makes me feel productive. What I don’t like is going into the unknown, whether it is a new grocery store or a new career. I want to know the plan and the best way to get there; however, God often has other ideas.

When I was called to serve as a short-term missionary to Seoul, South Korea, I was excited and a little nervous. There were all kinds of plans to be made, such as what to do with my car while I was gone or what to pack to take with me. I thought I had everything under control; however, there was a hiccup in the transportation plans. I wrote to the mission about my arrival, but I never received a response. I had a plane ticket and my passport, but I had no idea what would happen once I arrived at the airport, such as who, if anyone, was picking me up. The last and main leg of the journey was a 15-hour non-stop flight, and I spent 90% of that flight trying not to worry about what would happen when I got there. When I stepped through the doors of customs into the waiting area, I searched the crowd, my heart racing. At first, I only saw a mass of strangers rushing to greet other passengers, but then I spotted a group of people holding a welcome sign with my name on it and felt a wave of relief wash over me. God had provided a way even though I did not know of the plans He was making in my behalf.

When Abraham left his country in Genesis 12, he had no idea where he was going. He went by faith. When God told Noah to build a boat when it hadn’t even rained, it took faith. When the Israelites left Egypt and walked into the desert, they didn’t know where they were going either. I did not know what would happen when I got to the airport, but God did. The reason God leads us into the unknown is to build our faith and force us to trust in who He is instead of in ourselves.

We want to know the plan, but God just wants us to know Him. The goal of this life is a relationship with God, to know Him better, to trust Him. The only way to do that is to step out in faith from the known path into the unknown, to cast out into the deep away from the seeming safety of the shore, knowing that whatever He has planned for us is better than anything we can dream up.

While planning has its place, we also need to be open to following God into the unknown believing in faith that He knows what lies ahead and will be with us all the way. If we follow His lead, we will never go astray. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God.” The phrase “be still” can be translated “cease striving” or “release your hold” or “relax.” God is in the driver’s seat, and He knows more than any GPS about what lies ahead, so relax and enjoy the journey. God’s got this!

Fear is not Faith

Recently, I read The Crossroads by Beverly Lewis. The main character, who was in the midst of trials, tells herself that fear is not faith in order to bolster her courage. It becomes her motto of sorts. I have encountered a seeming multitude of stressful situations in the last year or so, and I am trying to adopt the motto myself. When faced with trials, our first response is often fear. We worry about the future and wonder what we will do, but this is not the life of faith.

In Mark chapter 4, the disciples are with Jesus in a boat away from shore when a storm arises. Jesus is asleep, and they wake Him up in fear. In verse 40, “Then he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Jesus then calms the storm. Despite the fact that Jesus was on the ship with them, the disciples were still afraid. How often is this true of our own behavior? As Christians, Christ is always with us, along with the Holy Spirit, yet we often cry out in fear.

When I feel fear and anxiety trying to overcome me, I repeat the phrase fear is not faith to remind myself that Jesus is present and that God is in control of the situation. I have nothing to fear. Faith is trusting that God will take care of us and our situations in His own way and that we only have to rest in His strength. It is a lot easier said than done because we live in a fallen world that is prone to fear and turmoil, but if we keep our eyes on Him, then we can overcome.

Already today, even before writing this post, I have had to repeat the phrase several times. Each time I think of it I am reminded of God’s love and presence, and it changes my focus from my circumstances to where it ought to be…on God. It is a daily struggle, sometimes even minute by minute, but with God’s help it can be done. So, whenever you feel overwhelmed and afraid, remember that fear is not faith and look to God for help. He will never fail to give it.