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Friday, September 29, 2023

Facing the Facts With Faith

In Romans 4:19 it says, “Abraham was almost a hundred years old, much past the age for having children, and Sarah could not have children. Abraham thought about all this, but his faith in God did not become weak.” (NCV)

Sometimes people mistakenly believe that faith means ignoring the facts. But nothing could be further from the truth!

Abraham understood this: “Abraham was almost a hundred years old, much past the age for having children, and Sarah could not have children. Abraham thought about all this, but his faith in God did not become weak” (Romans 4:19 CEV).

Abraham was 99 years old; his wife was 89. It was medically impossible for them to have children. He didn’t deny the facts. He faced them with faith.

Faith doesn’t ignore reality. It doesn’t pretend there isn’t a problem. Faith is facing the facts in your life without being discouraged by them.

There are some who believe that they should deny their problems and just smile their way through life. But that’s not the way of Jesus.

Faith will never ask you and I to deny reality. It’s not living in denial. It’s not clinging to the past. Faith is not stubborn foolishness.

We may need to do some legitimate grieving for a diagnosis that we haven’t wanted to admit or a dream for our lives that won’t take place.

But we don’t need to have a pity party. Instead, be honest with God and say, “It didn’t turn out like I wanted, but I know you have a better plan for my life.”

That’s what faith looks like. God isn’t done with our lives. God has good things in store! We can face the facts and choose not to be discouraged by them.

When she was young, author and Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom was engaged to be married. All of a sudden, the man broke up with her and married a friend. She was devastated. She never got married and ended up going through life as a single woman.

Corrie Ten Boom didn’t pull herself into a shell. She redirected her love. She became one of the most loving Christian leaders of the 20th century, influencing millions of people.

Once we face the facts, there are some things we can do to improve them, such as getting out of debt, making wise money choices and preparing for our future incomes.

She only did that because she refused to deny the facts. She trusted God and loved others through her faith. We can do the same.

For me, grieving is not the same as a pity party.  Grieving is experiencing and walking through the loss of something, and this in not only loved ones, but dreams and preconceived expectations.  A pity party is just pouting, complaining or holding a grudge over what I wanted but didn’t or will never get. 

Personally I have a medical diagnosis that will be with me for life.  It affects me physically, but with some really expensive medication I can cope and have a somewhat normal life. However, I’ll need to adjust my life and finances towards the reality of needing this expensive medication. As I consider retirement in the future I will need to adjust my finances and spending plans to match this reality.  But even with this, I know God has a plan for me, and I can share my story and experience with others sharing the same type of situation.

Also I find that facts are my friend. While the facts may not be what I want them to be, it helps deal with the reality and helps me prepare and not experience anxiety or depression.  This too is something I can use to help others face their important facts with faith.  

Monday, September 25, 2023

Stop Fearing Failure—and Trust God’s Grace

In Ecclesiastes 7:20 it says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.” (GNT)

In America, failure is almost an unpardonable sin. Everyone idolizes success. But that kind of pressure creates major stress on people. The fear of failure has many different faces. It can cause us to be indecisive, a workaholic, or a perfectionist who clings to safety. Because we’re afraid to fail, we shun all kinds of risks.

For many, the fear of failure has an iron grip on the heart. Even some of the best and brightest people in the world are the most impacted by a fear of failure.

That’s why I urge you to internalize this one simple message: We’ve all made mistakes. It’s not just a “you problem”; it’s a human problem. The Bible says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 GNT).

Not only have we made mistakes in the past, but we’ll also make more mistakes in the future. It's a guarantee. Even playing it safe and refusing to take risks is a mistake.

If we are asking, “What if I fail?”  We’ve already failed many, many times in life. We are likely a failure in some area of life right now. And we’ll fail a lot more in the future.

Even superstars stumble. The greatest professional basketball players only sink half their shots. The best professional baseball players will only get to base one out of every three at bats. Failure is normal.

We’ll never overcome the fear of failure until we can fully accept the reality that we’re not perfect.

The Bible says there is only one failure you need to fear: “Be careful that no one fails to receive God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15 NCV).

We need grace!

Only when we let go of the fear of failure will it release its maddening grip in our life. Once that happens, we can fully accept God’s grace. 

Friday, September 22, 2023

Take the Next Step of Faith

In Mark 10:52 it say, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.” (NASB)

While I don’t know what step everyone needs to take next, I do know that we need to take it.

A next step may be to accept Jesus Christ into your life or to be baptized. Maybe join a church, show more gratitude, free yourself from debt, make wise spending choices, go on a mission trip, be generous with someone in need, take time to rest, or choose to rely on God instead of yourself.

While I may not know what your next step is, I know this: You have one. God will never be finished taking you deeper in faith. There is always a next step.

For me, If I don’t take the next step, I’m going to get stuck in a rut. And the only difference between a grave and a rut is the length. If I don’t move forward in faith, my heart will grow cold, and I’ll grow more distant from God. He isn’t going to help me with steps two, three, four, or five until I take step one.

If I’m asking God to help me with something, he may be asking, “Why haven’t you done what I’ve already told you to do?” For instance, I may have been planning to do something. Stop planning and just do it.

Bartimaeus was a blind man who called out to Jesus in faith, believing that Jesus could heal him. Before Bartimaeus met Jesus, he was sitting beside the road. After he received his sight from the Lord, hebegan following Him on the road” (Mark 10:52 NASB). 

Which of those two phrases describes our life right now: sitting beside the road or following Jesus on the road? Which of those two lifestyles would be more fulfilling? Which offers more joy, more meaning, and more satisfaction? Which one do we want to represent in our lives?

There’s only one way to follow Jesus on the road: Take the next step.

Faith is more than believing. Faith is more than thinking, talking, or having convictions about Jesus. Faith is action. It is movement; it is activity. Faith is something we do. In fact, the Bible says in James 2:14, “If people say they have faith, but do nothing, their faith is worth nothing” (NCV).  

Where do we get the faith to make a fresh start? There’s only one source: Jesus Christ.

Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:30 MSG).

Bartimaeus had no idea that Jesus Christ was going to pass his way that day. To him, it was just another day. But God gave him an unexpected opportunity that offered him a fresh start.

God is giving us the same opportunity. So don’t delay. Take the next step of faith before the opportunity passes by. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Let Faith, Not Fear, Rule My Heart

In Mark 10:48 it says, “Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (GNT)

If I’m to make a fresh start with my life, then I need to face my fears, and not let them control me! Fear has an incredible ability to paralyze potential and keep me from launching out and having faith in my life.

When I choose fear over faith, it makes me skeptical—afraid of trying anything new. It makes me selfishafraid to commit to God and to others. It makes me short-sightedfocusing on the past and not on the future.

A man named Bartimaeus faced a fear that is familiar to many of us: the fear of rejection. He was blind and wanted to be healed. He knew that to shout out to Jesus over the crowd wasn’t the right thing to do. He knew that people would look down on him for it, but he was desperate. And he knew that Jesus Christ was the only one who could help him.

So he got Jesus’ attention. The Bible says, “Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Mark 10:48 GNT).

And look what happened: When he shouted out to Jesus, everyone around him told him, “Don’t do that. Be quiet. Don’t make a scene. Surely Jesus Christ isn’t interested in you. He has more important things to do.”

The devil whispers things like that to a lot of us. When an opportunity for faith comes into our hearts, thoughts like, “God surely wouldn’t be interested in me” or “Don’t make a scene” or “What would people think of me?” keep us from having faith. When I see an opportunity to change, there are all kinds of shouts from inside and around me that tell me not to rock the boat.

But God is asking me to do something greater than I’ve ever done before: He’s asking me to depend on him completely. This is going to feel a little bit scary.

When God asks something of me, I have a choice. Am I going to fall back on my fear and stay the way I am? Or am I going to tame my fear and step forward in faith?

I need to consider whose disapproval I fear the most. Why would I think that it seems easier to choose fear over faith? Proverbs 29:25 reminds me, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in GOD protects you from that” (MSG). I need to ask God to help me trust in him to protect me from what other people think.