Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Lessons from the Gym

Until recently, I’ve struggled trying to find some kind of exercise that will work for me. I tried walking and running, which I had to stop due to plantar fasciitis. I tried aerobics, which threw out my back—twice. I tried the elliptical and weight lifting, which aggravated my carpal tunnel syndrome.

Geez, I thought. Am I ever going to find the thing that I can do?

A few months ago, my husband came home from the YMCA and announced, “Hey, they’ve got these new rowing machines in the Functional Training Center. You ought to try them. You could row a little on the machine and then run a little on the track upstairs. That way, you won’t stress yourself too much by doing one thing for a long time. And, by the way, they’re having a rowing challenge—to see if anyone can row 50,000 meters by the end of the month. You should sign up for it.”

Well, I tried out the rowing and running, and I loved it. I would row 1,000 meters and run a quarter mile 5 times during my workout. It was mid-month when I started, and I figured out how many days I would need to go to the FTC in order to row 50,000 meters by the end of the month. Despite my physical challenges, I could do the exercise, and I completed the rowing challenge! I have found the thing I can do!

Life is like that. We all search for “our thing”, what God made us to do, the thing that feels right. Above all, He made us for a relationship with Him, that we might truly know Him (Isaiah 43:10) and find abundant and eternal life through Jesus His Son (John 10:10; 3:16). Yet, beyond that, He also made each of us with an eternal purpose in mind (Ephesians 2:10), and He wants each of us to find the thing we can do for His glory (Isaiah 43:7), to bring praise and honor to Him. If we are persistent in finding this thing (Jeremiah 33:3; 29:13), He will lead us to it (Psalm 32:8).

We each have our own race to run.

One day, when I was exercising at the YMCA, I started my brief run around the track and soon came up behind an older man, who was shuffling around the pathway. He struggled to walk, but he was making progress. A few minutes later, the door to the track flung open, and three high school boys emerged. They zipped around the circuit, the floor pounding under their feet.

Each of us was doing our thing at our own pace and rhythm. Hebrews 12:1, NASB, says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” and it goes on to say how we do that in verse 2: by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”  We don’t need to be comparing ourselves to others and their “things” or their pace; we just need to be doing our thing with Jesus. The joy comes from running our race with Jesus while we do what He created us to do.

We are meant to encourage one another in the great race of life.

While God created each of us for a special purpose (Acts 13:22, 36), with an individual race to run, He also designed us to do our thing in a community of believers, where we can encourage and help one another (Hebrews 10:25).

Just a few weeks ago, my son Patrick began joining me in my exercise routine. He is much stronger than me and totally dominates that rowing machine and track, but we often high five one another as we pass going to and from the track. His boundless smile keeps me going, and his encouraging words lighten the load of the workout. Hebrews 3:13, NASB, says, “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’”. That’s what I experience at the gym with my son, and that’s what I experience with God’s people.

Sometimes, when I am rowing at the same time as Patrick, I try to keep up with him, rowing at the same speed, matching his movements. It pushes me to do my best. We can do the same with other Christians. We can learn from their godly examples and try to imitate their example. Paul encouraged this practice when he said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NASB). Godly role models and mentors can be a great blessing in our lives. The Lord can use them to inspire us, just like my son inspires me at the YMCA.

Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line.

Sometimes, when I go to do my thing at the gym, my body doesn’t want to cooperate. Fatigue, tired muscles, and even pain sometimes plague me, but it’s all worth it when I finish the workout and feel that sense of physical and emotional accomplishment. Some days, I pray my way through the exercise, asking God to help me finish; other days, I race through the program, thanking the Lord for the strength and exhilaration I feel. Either way, I am doing what He led me to do with Him, and that creates tremendous joy.

An even greater joy awaits all of us who know Jesus. Despite the fact that we face limitations, struggles, heartache, and pain this side of heaven, one truth overarches it all:  Jesus is waiting for us at the finish line, when the “workout” of our earthly lives is over.

It says in 1 Corinthians 9:24, NASB, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” Lots of folks in this world are running after lots of different things, but our prize is Jesus.  We run with, for, and toward Him; as Philippians 3:14, NASB, says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus said, “‘Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also’” (John 14:1-3, NASB).

Much to my surprise, when I completed the rowing challenge at the YMCA, I was awarded a gift card. A YMCA staff member told me I had rowed the largest number of meters. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t even know there was a prize.

Yet, we are told as believers that a prize waits for us—eternity with Jesus. One day, each of us will leave the gym of life and step into eternity.  May each of us be able to say, as Paul did, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith,” knowing . . . “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NASB).

See you in the gym!

Question:  How is your “workout” going in the gym of life? How can we pray for you? Comment at the link below.

 

Isaiah 43:10; John 10:10; 3:16; Ephesians 2:10; Isaiah 43:7; Jeremiah 33:3; 29:13; Psalm 32:8; Hebrews 12:1-2; Acts 13:22, 36; Hebrews 10:25; 3:13; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 9:24; Philippians 3:14; John 14:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:7-8

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For the Weary and Weak Ones

The scripture I discovered on the mat at the YMCA

I had just finished my workout at the J. Fred Corriher YMCA and was stretching on the mat that covered most of the floor in the Functional Training Center.

“Lord, I am so tired today,” I prayed. “Please give me the strength to keep going and to do what You would have me do today.”

I glanced down at the corner of the mat, and I couldn’t believe what I saw!

Handwritten on the corner of the mat were these words: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29.”

Tears welled up in my eyes, and I whispered, “Thank you, Lord.”

All of us have times when we feel weary and weak, whether it’s physically, emotionally, spiritually, or a combination of the three. In those times, it’s comforting to know the Lord meets us there and personally provides what we need.

The word weary in this context actually means exhausted, fatigued, faint, and tired, while the word weak means lacking vigor [good health, energy, enthusiasm], generative power [relating to or capable of production or reproduction], wealth, or physical strength. These words focus on the energy and influence of our lives, and Isaiah 40:29 tells us that God supplies what we need to keep going and to have an impact for His kingdom in this world. Here are some of the ways He does it:

Through an encounter with His people.

This past Sunday, I had a heavy burden about something. I felt worn out and sad. A good friend of mine just happened to slip into the balcony and sit right beside me in the church pew. A gifted soloist later sang a song about trusting God, and the tears started flowing down my cheeks. My friend put her arms around me and just let me cry. It was as if the Lord, Himself, was holding me.

I believe that’s one of the reasons Hebrews 10:25 tells us to never stop meeting with other believers and to always encourage one another—because we can experience the love of Jesus in one another. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NASB). I attend a weekly ladies Bible study group, and we share about the things that make us feel weary and weak. Last week, I shared about my current burden, and those ladies loved and encouraged me and gave me strength to keep going.

Jesus said, “‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13:34-35, NASB). The love and encouragement from other members of God’s family can help us to keep going when we feel, as they say in the South, “slap worn out.”

Through an encounter with His Word.

That scripture on the gym floor spoke volumes to me. God’s Word is alive (Hebrews 4:12), and the Holy Spirit ministers it to our weary hearts and strengthens them (John 6:63).

We are told His Word “sustains the weary,” and the Lord desires to instruct us in it every day (Isaiah 50:4, NASB). The Word of God revives us and strengthens us  (Psalm 119:25, 28), and it is often in these weary and weak places that we discover new treasures from the scriptures than bless us for the rest of our lives (Psalm 119:71-72). I have been meditating on Isaiah 40:29 lately, and it is going deep into my heart. I know the Holy Spirit will bring it up again whenever I need it for the rest of my life (John 14:26).

Through an encounter with His Son.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29, NASB). He was talking about receiving what He did for us (solving our sin problem), and giving our lives over to Him, letting Him lead and take care of us.

Personally, I find I get most tired when I slip into thinking I need to do everything in my own strength. Yet, Philippians 4:13, NASB, says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” The “Him” is Jesus. He gives us the strength and power to go through our daily lives—no matter what might come—and make an impact for His kingdom.

The Lord says, “‘I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB). We receive a new strength through our relationship with the Lord. His presence invigorates us and empowers us to keep going. As it says in Isaiah 40:30-31, NASB, “Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

Jesus shows up. In His people, in His Word, and in His presence, which lives inside us in the form of the Holy Spirit (John 7:39; Acts 1:8). It’s through Jesus’ presence in us that He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).

That’s because in the end, it’s all about His capabilities and not ours.  We discover in our weariness and weakness that “the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB). He tells us, “‘I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint’” (Jeremiah 31:25, NIV). Hopefully, others will see Him working in the midst of our weariness and weakness and be drawn to Him too. We can all look for Him and know He will be there when we find ourselves down on the mat.

Question:  Are you feeling weary and weak today? Comment at the link below, and tell us how we can pray for you.

 

Isaiah 40:29; Hebrews 10:25; 1 John 4:19; John 13:34-35; Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63; Isaiah 50:4; Psalm 119:25, 28, 71-72; John 14:26; Matthew 11:28-29; Philippians 4:13; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 40:30-31; John 7:39; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Jeremiah 31:25

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Lessons from the Hummingbird

Sarah and the hummingbird

“Mom, I found a hummingbird on the floor of the garage, and I think it’s hurt,” my daughter Sarah said.

I scurried out the back door and down the steps as Sarah crouched over the tiny bird. Its legs were all tangled up in some sort of string or webbing, and its chest was heaving in and out with irregular movements.

Sarah gently removed the string-like material from its legs.

“It probably is weak from not eating,” I said. “Hummingbirds have high metabolisms, and they need to feed very frequently.”

Sarah scurried off to the kitchen to make some hummingbird nectar. I watched in amazement as she dipped her little finger into the bright red liquid and held a tiny drop up to the delicate bird’s slender beak. I was even more surprised when a sliver-like tongue curled out the bird’s mouth and began drinking the ruby-colored fluid. This process continued for an hour and a half. Then, very carefully, Sarah scooped the beautiful creature into her hands, stepped outside the garage, and raised her cupped hands to the sky. The hummingbird flew off into the distance.

Watching Sarah with that fragile winged beauty reminded me of how the Lord so lovingly cares for each of us.

The Lord stays with us

We all have times when we feel broken. The disturbing diagnosis. The terrifying newscast. The broken relationship. The financial crisis. The heartbreaking loss. When these times hit, we feel like that limp bird on the floor of the garage, weak, vulnerable, and struggling to survive.

In the midst of it all, we can rely on this truth: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NASB). When we feel numb and broken, He carries us like a loving father carries his son through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 1:31). He promises to never leave or forsake us (Joshua 1:5).

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young” (Isaiah 40:11, NLT). Whatever we are facing, we never face it alone. The Lord is always with us (Matthew 28:20). Like the little hummingbird, we are safe in a loving Hand every day of our lives, even those days when we feel overwhelmed and weak

The Lord gives us what we need

In those especially difficult places, the Lord feeds us and helps us grow stronger, just like my daughter did for the little bird. We are told in Psalm 23:1, NLT, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” The New Testament says it this way: “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NLT).

Because He loves us, He takes care of us. When the prophet Elijah was terrified and exhausted, the Lord gave him food and water and encouraged him to rest (1 Kings 19:1-8). The Lord knows what each of us needs in our current circumstances, and He provides those things for us. We are told, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29, NLT).

He also says, “‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB). The right hand is the hand of power and authority; in other words, He has the power and authority to provide everything and anything we need. He rained down bread from heaven for the Israelites so they had food every day of the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness. He is able to give us our daily bread too (Matthew 6:11)

The Lord helps us to fly

After our seasons of brokenness, after we have spent time in His presence and experienced His provision, He lifts us up to the sky and enables us to fly.

He promises us, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31, NASB). The idea of waiting on the Lord involves waiting confidently and expectantly, trusting in Him, relying on Him. We grow stronger in that place, and He equips us to soar to new heights with Him.

We discover in that place that He is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NASB). In other words, not only does the Lord help us to fly with Him above and beyond our difficulties, but He also equips us in the process to help others to do the same.

My daughter’s encounter with the hummingbird happened many years ago, but I still remember the truths the Lord taught me through it. May you experience His presence, provision, and power to fly wherever you are today. The Lord is faithful, and He will help you to soar!

Question: How has the Lord helped you to fly? Comment at the link below

Psalm 34:18; Deuteronomy 1:31; Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 28:20; Psalm 23:1; Philippians 4:19; 1 Kings 19:1-8; Isaiah 40:29; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 6:11; Isaiah 40:31; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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They’re Married! The Lord is Faithful

My daughter Sarah married Ben DeCelle, the love of her life, on September 16. We recently were given a “sneak preview” of their wedding photos by Irresistible Portraits (irresistibleportraits.com). (All the photos in this post were taken by Karen Goforth at Irresistible Portraits.) As I looked at those images, tears welled up in my eyes. Every photo reminded me of the Lord’s faithfulness in bringing these two together and giving them a future full of hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Sarah and Ben have a beautiful love story, and it reminds me ultimately of the great love Jesus has for each of us. Here are some truths I have witnessed in their relationship:

The Lord wants to bless us with His absolute best

I remember getting a phone call from Sarah one Saturday when she was a junior in college: “Mom, I have been reading my Bible and praying, and the Lord keeps telling me to break up with my boyfriend [not Ben—someone else]. What should I do?”

“If God is telling you to break up with him, then you need to break up with him,” I said.

We talked about it quite a while. It would not be easy. Sarah had invested years in that relationship. She was comfortable in it. But in the end, she broke up with that young man. Two months later, she met Ben. They fit and complement one another so well. They each found “the one” God chose for them.

Sarah set that other young man free to find “the one” for him. He married her, and they have a beautiful little girl together.

God knows and wants the absolute best for us. Because He is all-wise, all-loving, and all-powerful, He knows what that absolute best is, and He can make it happen—if we trust Him and cooperate with His plans. That means trusting and obeying Him, even when He challenges us to step out and do uncomfortable things.

I shared in my comments at the rehearsal dinner that Ben is the young man I have been praying about for 26 years, and the Lord truly answered those prayers exceedingly and abundantly beyond anything I could have asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20). I know he will love, respect, protect, and provide what Sarah needs, and I know she will do the same for him.

Mr. and Mrs. Ben DeCelle

The union of a man and woman is meant to reflect Christ’s love for us

Husbands are called to love, nourish, and cherish their wives, like Christ loves the church, even sacrificially. Wives are called to respect and honor their husbands like the church respects and honors Christ (Ephesians 5:25-33). In other places in scripture, husbands are told to honor their wives (1 Peter 3:7), and wives are told to love their husbands (Titus 2:4). It’s all about love and respect, seeing value in one another and recognizing the beautiful picture the Lord paints in marriage.

I shared this scripture at the rehearsal dinner: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NASB). Of course, two of those strands in the cord are husband and wife, and the third strand that holds everything together is the Lord. He loves married couples, and He works to bring them and keep them together.

The Lord tells us we are created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). In Colossians 1:27, we are told that Christ in us is the hope of glory. In the New Testament the word glory is doxa, and it means glory, as very apparent, to manifest, or give an estimation of; hence [resulting in ] praise, honor, and glory [for the Lord]. In other words, the Lord put some of His qualities in each of us, and He wants them to be seen, that others might be drawn to Him.

When I look at Sarah and Ben, I think of the scripture that says the Lord is both strong and loving (Psalm 59:16). I see the Lord blending these qualities in Sarah and Ben’s marriage.

My husband David shared in his wedding toast that “When you are around Ben, you just get the sense that everything is going to be okay.” He talked about the time Sarah and Ben went skydiving and Ben told him that he was nervous until he saw Sarah’s parachute open. “That resonated with me,” David said. “I know he’s going to look after and take care of Sarah.”

I also shared at the rehearsal dinner how Sarah was sick once, and I was trying to take care of her. Ben said to me, “It’s okay. I’ve got her.” I know he does. I know he will stand by her and lend his strength to care for her.

I also see Sarah fulfilling the “loving” component. She has a deeply caring heart that loves fiercely. I shared at the rehearsal dinner how she found a hummingbird in our garage once. Its legs were all tangled up in some sort of string or webbing. It was very weak from not feeding for a while. Sarah freed its legs, mixed up some hummingbird food, put a drop on her smallest finger, and fed that tiny bird for an hour and a half until it was strong enough to fly.

David shared in his toast how Sarah sent a letter and devotion book to a young mom who lost her baby. We were told at church how that mom kept the book and letter on the nightstand next to her bed for months.

I know Sarah will devotedly love Ben. I also know the love and strength they bring to their marriage will bless others too.

This is just the beginning

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NASB).

The Lord did something beautiful when he brought Sarah and Ben together as husband and wife. I know He will continue to work in and through their marriage to bless one another and to show the world how wonderful He is! He was faithful to bring them together, and He will be faithful to walk with them as husband and wife. I can’t wait to watch the rest of their story!

Question: How has the Lord been faithful in your life? Comment at the link below.

 

Jeremiah 29:11; Ephesians 3:20; Ephesians 5:25-33; 1 Peter 3:7; Titus 2:4; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Isaiah 43:7; Colossians 1:27; Psalm 59:16; Philippians 1:6

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Update on New Radio Ministry!

I am pleased to announce that my weekly radio Bible teaching broadcasts, as well as the scriptures shared on them, will be available on my website susanjaneking.com beginning this Sunday, September 17. (Click on the Radio tab.) That way, you can have access to them any time after they are on the radio. This offering has been made possible through my tech-savvy son Patrick. Thank you, Patrick!

Also, I have received some updated information about the radio broadcasts, and here it is:

The programs will air every Sunday, including this coming Sunday:

6:30 to 7 am on WSAT 103.3 FM and 1280 AM, Salisbury, NC

9-9:30 am on WTIX 98.3 FM and 1410 AM, Concord, NC

You can also listen live by going to either radio station website and clicking on the LIVE button:

1280wsat.com

memories983.com

Thank you for your continued prayers for this new ministry. May God’s Word would go forth with power to let people know how much He loves them and to impact them to shine His light into the world.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB

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Armed and Dangerous!

My grandson Landon, walking with his “knife” and his Papa

This summer, my husband David and I enjoyed some time in the Blue Ridge Mountains with our grandson Landon and his parents. One day, we decided to take a walk, and Landon insisted on taking a knife from his kitchen playset with him.

“He wants to be armed and dangerous,” David said, winking at me.

As I looked at my “fierce” grandson during our walk, it reminded me of how the Lord calls His Word “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17, NASB). When we know His Word and live it out, we are armed and dangerous ourselves, and we have a powerful weapon for fighting the enemy.

In His Word, we also find truth. Real truth. Psalm 119:160, NASB, says, “The sum of Your Word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.”

I know this from experience. I attended my first Bible Study 21 years ago. I felt like I had been a beggar on the street, and someone had brought me inside and seated me at a huge banquet table full of food. I fell in love with the Word of God because it taught me so much about the God of the Word, who He is and how He feels about us. The Lord’s Word is a valuable gift from Him to us. We are told, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Psalm 119:72, NASB).

 

Since I know the power and worth of God’s Word, I am thrilled to let you know that the Lord has opened a door for me to share it on the radio every Sunday at these times on these stations, beginning this Sunday, September 10:

6:45 – 7:15 a.m., WSAT 1280 AM, Salisbury, NC

9 – 9:30 a.m., WTIX 98.3 FM, Concord, NC

You also can listen live online at 1280wsat.com and memories983.com.

 

I would appreciate your prayers for this new ministry. I pray others will come to know the Lord better and love Him more as we walk through His Word together.

Why is it important to engage with God’s Word?

We encounter the Lord in His Word.

Psalm 138:2 tells us the Lord has magnified His Word according to all His name. For the Hebrew people, the word name represented the authority, power, character, nature, and ways of a person. So, in this scripture, we see that everything God says is backed up by everything He is. His Word is on the same level as His very existence. Because He is God, He can keep His Word. In Jeremiah 1:12, NASB, He says, “‘I am watching over My word to perform it.’”

In the Word of God, we can discover all the attributes of God—through what He says and how He acts. For example, in Exodus 34:6-7, He says of Himself, “’The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet, He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’” [He hates sin because He has to deal with sin’s consequences on future generations.]

The Lord makes over 8,000 promises to us in His Word. He can keep them because He is God. Those promises reveal a great deal of His heart toward us, and we can know this: “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ and through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for His glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NLT).

In His great love, the Lord sent His Son Jesus to us to solve our sin problem (John 3:16). We can learn about Jesus in the Bible too, and when we do, we learn even more about our Father who loves us. As He (Jesus) said, “‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!’” (John 14:9, NASB). According to the will of God, Jesus “became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30, NASB). We learn a great deal about our Father when we learn from His Word what He accomplished for us through His Son Jesus. All these truths makes us armed and dangerous.

God’s Word transforms us.

Romans 12:2, AMP, says, “be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind.” The word renewing carries the idea of renovation. When we renovate a house, we throw out the old and bring in the new. In a spiritual sense, we get rid of the old, worldly thinking, and replace it with the truth from God’s Word.

Scripture changes us. It is alive, and it acts on our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 6:63). It works to make us more like Jesus, sanctified [set apart unto God for His purposes], clean, “having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but . . . holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:26-27, NASB). God’s Word moves to accomplish that purpose.

When we expose ourselves to the Word of God, we open our lives to be transformed by the God of the Word. Second Timothy 3:16, NASB, says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The word inspired means, God-breathed. Just as God breathed life into man (Genesis 2:7), He also breathes life into His Word. He says, “’So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it’” (Isaiah 55:11, NASB).

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB). It points the way, showing us how to live: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

God’s Word repels the enemy.

In Ephesians 6:17, NASB, we are told, “And take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” That word take means, to take with the hand, take hold of, take up. In other words, we are to use the Word of God in combat against our enemy. We are warned about our enemy in 1 Peter 5:8, NIV: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”

The word for Word (of God) in Ephesians 6:17 is rhema, and it means a specific word for a specific situation. The Lord has specific scriptures to fight specific attacks of the enemy. You can see how Jesus demonstrated this truth as He used scriptures to combat the devil in Matthew, chapter 4. The truth and power of God’s Word slice away at the lies of the enemy (John 8:44). The enemy cannot gain any territory in our lives if we resist him by putting our faith in what God says in His Word. We triumph over our enemy by the blood of Jesus and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:10).

I loved watching my grandson walk through the woods with his “knife”. Very soon, when he can understand, I will teach him how to take up the sword of God’s Word—and then, he truly will be armed and dangerous!

Question: How have you made God’s Word a priority in your life? What advice do you have for others to incorporate God’s Word into their lives in order to become armed and dangerous? Comment at the link below.

 

Ephesians 6:17; Psalm 119:160, 72; 138:2; Jeremiah 1:12; Exodus 34:6-7; 2 Corinthians 1:20; John 3:16; 14:9; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Romans 12:2; John 6:63; Ephesians 5:26-27; 2 Timothy 3:16; Genesis 2:7; Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 119:105; 1 Peter 5:8; John 8:44; Revelation 12:10

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God Gives Us One Another

Some of my family at the lake: Front row–my sister Jennifer and my mom; Middle row–my sister Brenda and I; Back row–my sister Renee, sister-in-law Tonda, cousins Mary Ann and Helen, and Aunt Kathy

I looked around at the many different faces surrounding me, and I whispered a quiet prayer of thanks. “Lord, I love each one of them so much. Thank you for making them a part of my life.”

The many faces belonged to my relatives—strong, loving, wise, gentle, witty, and  compassionate souls I had known for most of my life. We all had gathered at my sister’s lake house for a weekend of fun and fellowship. My mom, sisters, sisters-in-law, aunt, and cousins were in attendance, and we had already laughed and shared our hearts a great deal.

Family. Whether it’s the one we grew up in or the church members we love, family remains a great gift from God. My weekend at the lake in Ohio reminded me that family is a place where we can:

Be Changed

Proverbs 27:17, NASB, says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” In other words, we are shaped by the people around us. We learn from and respond to both the good and bad qualities of other people. We aspire to be the like the good people we know, and hopefully, we desire to be different from the difficult ones.

The Spirit of God aims to develop the qualities of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” in us (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB). Often, He allows us to experience those qualities in others so we will be motivated to become like them. My mother is one of the most kind, compassionate, and loving people I know. I’ve always said I want to be like her when I grow up! My sister Brenda and I joked once that it would be impossible to be as great as Mom, but it’s a good goal to set for ourselves.

Here’s something I have learned:  If I want to be a kinder person, I need to hang around someone who is kind. If I want to be wiser, I need to spend time with someone who is wise. I pray a lot to know the Lord better and love Him more. He gave me my friend Phyllis for a season (before she went home to be with Him) because she knew and loved Him with her whole heart.

I have prayed to be more hospitable, and the Lord has allowed me to spend time with my sister Jennifer, who always knows how to make people feel welcome and comfortable. Once when I stayed at her house, she presented me with two bed pillows and asked if I preferred the flat or fluffy one! She created several gluten-free foods for me when I visited her recently because I am gluten-intolerant. How kind and thoughtful. I want to be like her too when I grow up!

I’ve learned about patience and gentleness from my sister Renee, courage and facing life with a sense of humor from my sister Danielle, and hard work and perseverance from my sister Brenda. (This is not an all-inclusive list.)

Just like our family of origin, God’s family is called to “encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NASB. That’s what we are supposed to do for one another. That’s why we are told to keep spending time with each other (Hebrews 10:25) so that we can “consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24, AMP).

We also are changed when other Christians share God’s Word with us. We are transformed as our minds become renewed and renovated with the truth (Romans 12:2). We come to know the truth of God’s Word, and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).

Be the Change

Just as we are changed by God’s people around us, we can allow the Lord to use us to impact others for His kingdom. My grandma told me a story once about her son, my Uncle Pat. She said he was hanging out with “a young hooligan” in town during high school. One of her friends took her aside and asked her if she was worried that her son would start becoming like the young man who was always getting in trouble.

My grandma told me she replied to the friend, “I’m not worried one bit. My son is not going to be changed by him. He is going to be changed by my son.” My grandma looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, “That’s exactly what happened!”

Jesus says He wants us to be good influencers in this world. He tells us we are salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Salt is full of flavor and acts as a preservative, stopping the spread of decay. Light dispels the darkness and points the way out of it. If we listen to and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, He can use us to point others to Jesus, who says, “’I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me’” (John 14:6, NASB). As we allow the Holy Spirit to develop His fruit in our lives, Jesus can be seen more clearly in us, and hopefully, more people will be drawn to Him.

Since we know and love the God of the Word, we can dedicate ourselves to learning and applying the Word of our God.  Over time, we can become living epistles, known and read by all (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). As my pastor once said, “Your life might be the only Bible someone ever reads.” Of course, the Holy Spirit can also lead us to speak God’s Word in love to others, and that can impact their lives as well (Ephesians 4:15). God’s Word is alive, powerful, life-changing, and full of the Spirit (Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63). When we fill our hearts and minds with it, then God’s Word can flow out of us to be the change in a world that needs it.

Look for Jesus

All the wonderful qualities we experience in others are a reflection of the beautiful and profound qualities found in Jesus. They give us a glimpse of Him. The word Christian means “little Christ”. The Bible says here’s the mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, NASB).

The word glory in the New Testament means to manifest, give an estimation of; hence [resulting in] praise, honor, glory. In other words, the Lord wants Jesus to be seen in us so others can come to know Him too. He wants us to look for His Son in others too so we can experience more of Him every day, so we can be encouraged and continue to grow.

It’s an ongoing process. Second Corinthians 3:18 (HCSB) says it this way, “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

That’s why the Lord tells us He can use everything in our lives to make us more like His Son Jesus (Romans 8:28-29), especially the people around us. God gives us one another for this reason. May we continue to bless and be blessed by the presence of Jesus in our lives.

Question: How have you experienced Jesus through the lives of others? Comment at the link below.

 

Proverbs 27:17; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24-25; Romans 12:2; John 8:32; Matthew 5:13-16; John 14:6; 2 Corinthians 3:2-3; Ephesians 4:15; Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63; Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:28-29

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The Woman on the Plane

“I think they double-booked our seats.”

I looked across the aisle at the petite, curly-haired woman, who appeared to be about my age. She was talking with a young couple, who were occupying two seats together on the airplane. After studying their tickets, everyone realized the young woman from the couple was supposed to be seated next to me.

“Why would they give us seats that are across the aisle from one another?” she asked the young man who was with her.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Well, I don’t mind sitting in your seat,” said the older woman, “if it’s okay with everyone else. Is it okay with you?” she asked, directing her focus to me.

“Sure. That’s fine,” I said.

She settled into the aisle seat next to mine.

“My name’s Dawn,” she said. “Are you going to Canton on business or for pleasure?”

“My name’s Susan,” I said. “This is definitely a pleasure trip,” I added. “I am meeting my mother, sisters, sisters-in-law, aunt, and two cousins for a long weekend at my sister’s lake house. I am really looking forward to having some time with family.”

“Me too,” she added. “I’m going to my nephew’s wedding.”

We talked about our families and where we lived for a while, and somewhere within our conversations, we discovered we both loved Jesus. After that, our talk took a decided turn toward joy. We shared how we came to know Him. We talked about our trials and how He made Himself known in them. We talked about the Lord’s faithfulness and our gratitude for His presence in our lives. We expressed our desire for others to know His wonderful love for them. We were jump-up-and-down happy to praise God together.

Then it hit me: There it is—another kindness from the Lord. I remembered that just last week, I was telling the Lord how much I missed my friend Phyllis. She went home to be with Him suddenly and unexpectedly a few months ago. Phyllis and I used to have lots of these jump-up-and-down, praise-the-Lord moments together. Now, at 30,000 feet, I was having another one of those experiences with a newfound friend.

“Thank you, Lord,” I silently prayed.

Dawn and I talked and talked until the plane landed in Canton, Ohio. The flight seemed to only last a few minutes. I was overwhelmed by the Lord’s kindness. He taught me some valuable lessons through the woman on the plane:

God’s blessings are all around us.

I know the Lord brought Dawn and me together. He decided to bless us just because He can. He blessed mankind when He first created them (Genesis 1:28), and He still desires to bless His own (Psalm 3:8; Matthew 23:37). We can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the Lord’s activity around us, to give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart tendered to His voice (Matthew 13:13).

Halfway through our conversation, Dawn said to me, “It wasn’t a mistake that I got to sit next to you. That was God’s plan all along.” She saw the blessing, what God had done. She heard the blessing, in the encouraging words we spoke to one another, and she felt the blessing in her heart.

At a women’s conference years ago, the speaker shared that the Hebrew word for happy is asher or esher, which means a psychological awareness of the movement of God. Seeing God at work around us truly can make us happy. I know I experienced that on my American Airlines flight.

God wants to use us to bless others.

I told Dawn, “The Lord says to ‘encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called Today,’ (Hebrews 3:13, NASB), and that’s what He is leading us to do for one another. It can be a hard world out there, and we need this as God’s people.”

Dawn agreed.

Jesus Himself said, “‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35, NASB). When the Lord uses us to bless someone else, we discover a profound and often unexpected joy. I remember one year on Valentine’s Day when my daughter Katie was discouraged because she didn’t have a boyfriend. I challenged her to find someone she could bless on Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on her plight. She and several friends offered to prepare dinner and babysit for a young couple in our church. They all received a blessing from the experience, and Katie announced after it was over, “This has been the best Valentine’s Day ever!”

Whether we are in a happy or sad place, we can always ask the Lord, “Please show me someone I can bless today in Your name.” When we do, we take the focus off ourselves (getting) and focus instead on giving. In the end, both parties get blessed. The Lord promises His people in Genesis 12:2 that they will be a blessing. He empowers us through His Holy Spirit to be so. We just have to allow the Spirit to lead and operate through us.

I once heard it explained about the Dead Sea this way: It is dead, and there is no life in it because it has an inlet (always receiving) and no outlet (never giving). People can be that way too. If we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), and He is a Giver, then we should be too (1 John 4:7-12). He gave the greatest gift of all—His only begotten Son Jesus—to save us from having to pay the penalty for our own sins (John 3:16).

It’s all for God’s glory.

After the plane landed and Dawn was getting ready to disembark, I prayed over her the prayer I would always speak over Phyllis before she left our bi-weekly prayer and praise sessions: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, NASB).

I told her, “The Lord named you Dawn for a reason. Matthew 5:16 (NASB) says, ‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.’ Keep shining for Him.”

“Oh, I wish my life were like that,” Dawn said. “Sometimes, I wonder if I’m making any difference for Him.”

“Oh, you do!” I said. “You did exactly that for me today. I see Him in you, and I am praising Him that He allowed our paths to cross.”

Dawn smiled.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8, NIV).

The Lord grants us unending blessings and makes us glad with the joy of His presence; His unfailing love keeps us going (Psalm 21:6-7, NIV). That’s what I encountered through the woman on the plane. She revealed more of the Lord’s kindness to me. The Lord used her to show me some of His glory.

That’s the greatest blessing of all—to know Him better and love Him more as we experience Him in the world around us. He can always take us to new heights—whether we are at 30,000 feet or have our feet firmly planted on the ground. Look for Him today, beloved. He is all around you and wants you to see, hear, and feel His great love for you . . . and then share it with others.

Question: How have you experienced the Lord’s blessings in your life? Comment at the link below.

 

Genesis 1:28; Psalm 3:8; Matthew 23:37; 13:13; Hebrews 3:13; Acts 20:35; Genesis 12:2; 1:26; 1 John 4:7-12; John 3:16; Numbers 6:24-26; Matthew 5:16; Psalm 34:8; 21:6-7

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Inside the Furnace

Do you see how well she is teaching these girls? She is so clever and relatable. You are not. These girls are going to be so bored when you teach!

The ugly voice snarled inside my mind and caught me by surprise. I was getting ready to teach the last of three Bible Study sessions to a group of high school and college girls.

And who do you think you are anyway to teach others? You have lots of faults and weaknesses. You shouldn’t even be here.

My mind staggered under the assault. All those flaming arrows were aimed right at some of my greatest vulnerabilities. The enemy knew where to aim. I hate to admit it, but some of those arrows hit their target, even after I just wrote a blog about “Taking Thoughts Captive” a few weeks ago. It all happened so fast that I was in the middle of it before I realized what was happening.

Sometimes, you can be going along in life, and all of a sudden, the enemy turns up the heat. You find yourself inside the furnace, and after you are exposed to the heat for a while, you feel sort of weak and trembly. That’s what happened to me on that Sunday night.

I knew I needed help. I slipped into another room and prayed, “Lord, please help me. I know these feelings are not from you. I know you called me to teach these girls. I am just going to step out and be obedient. I am going to seek to please you rather than people because I am Your bondservant (Galatians 1:10),” I said.

I did teach those girls, and they were very receptive to God’s Word. It thrilled my soul, but I felt shaky part of the time I taught and even afterwards. I had to get alone with the Lord and ask Him to help me process what had happened. Here’s what He showed me:

Condemnation is NOT from God

When we experience thoughts that make us feel horrible, dirty, bad . . . those are not from God. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NASB). The word for condemnation is katakrima and means a damnatory sentence. If we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, there is no sentence against us. We are free and “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6, KJV). There is no charge against us. We are not condemned, because God has justified us (declared us to be righteous in His sight) because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.

So when condemnation comes, we have to consider the source. Our salvation cannot be taken from us, but we do have an enemy who would like to make us ineffective for the kingdom of God. In the Bible, he is called “your adversary, the devil” (1 Peter 5:8, NASB), “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10, NASB), and “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, NASB). He comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). We need to recognize his voice and his tactics toward us.

One thing I learned from my encounter is that he can come at us with an ugly voice, speaking words of criticism and strong disapproval, denouncing what God has called us to do. When this happens, we are called to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10, NASB). That phrase stand firm in the Bible is a military term, which means to hold one’s position. So we hold our position in Christ, knowing “in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, NASB), and we choose to move forward in His power and grace (Philippians 4:13).

Conviction IS from God

In contrast to the accuser’s voice, I have found God’s voice to be gentle and loving. He convicts me instead of condemning me. He guides, teaches, and disciplines me in order to help me. Even when I mess up and sin, He loves me with an everlasting love that never changes based on what I do or don’t do.

When I came out of the side room at the Bible Study, the first teacher was finished. The organizers told everyone to take a break and visit for a while before I started teaching. I ended up speaking with the first teacher. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned something about comparisons, and the Lord gently reminded me, “Don’t compare yourself to other people” (2 Corinthians 10:12). “I made you unique (Psalm 139:13-14) for My special purposes (Ephesians 2:10). I did the same with her. Be who I made you to be, and leave the results to me (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).”

The Lord was lovingly convicting me that I was walking outside of His Word, His truth (Psalm 119:160). I thanked Him for making me aware of it. I knew He only had my best interests at heart (Hebrews 12:10-11). The Lord is gentle and kind. Through conviction, He seeks a restored relationship with Him, where we know Him better and love and trust Him more. In Psalm 32:8, NASB, He says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Conviction is a sign of our Father’s great love for us (Hebrews 12:5-6).

So when conviction comes, it is a great opportunity to learn what a loving Father has to teach us. It is an opportunity to draw closer to Him. A wise man in my Sunday School class recently shared, “Condemnation seeks to pull you away from God; conviction seeks to pull you toward Him.” So . . .

Run to God

If I could have done anything differently at that Bible Study, I would have run to the Lord immediately when the negative thoughts started and asked Him to help me. I wasted valuable time trying to fight the battle on my own, when the battle was the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47). In Isaiah 41:10, NASB, the Lord says, “I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

When I did go to the Lord, He gave me scriptures to fight the enemy, much like Jesus did in Matthew 4. We are told God’s Word is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17, NASB), an offensive weapon to use against the enemy. We are also told the Holy Spirit will bring to our remembrance the scriptures we need when we need them (John 14:26). That’s why it’s so important to be in God’s Word—before we find ourselves in a battle.

Finally, the Lord also showed me how we need one another in the body of Christ, His church. Once I got home after teaching, I still felt a little shaky. I picked up a devotion book written by my late friend Phyllis Keels. In it, she said if we are struggling, we should tell someone.  I texted two of my friends, and they both called me. They encouraged me in the Lord and reaffirmed my calling to teach. What a blessing! Two of the young women in the Bible Study also sent me a note that week thanking me for teaching and relating how the Lord had met and blessed them in the study. I was so thankful for their reassurance and their thoughtfulness in taking the time to write to me.

1 Peter 5:8, NASB, says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Experts on safari have observed that the lions do not go after the pack of animals. They go after the lone creature that has distanced itself from the pack. The one off by himself, alone and vulnerable. We need to stick together as God’s people and help one another.

In Ephesians 6:16, NASB, we are told to take “up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” In Biblical times, shields were as big as doors, and it took several people to hold one up together. Sometimes, we need the help of others to hold up our shields of faith against the enemy’s attacks. When we step in and fight the good fight of faith with and for one another, everyone gets a blessing (1 Timothy 6:12).

When we find ourselves inside the furnace, it is a comfort to know that the Lord and our friends are willing to stand in the flames with us and help us to come out whole, undamaged, and more prosperous from the experience (Daniel 3:25, 30).

“O God, You have refined us as silver is refined” [in the fire] (Psalm 66:10). May we experience that refinement when we encounter condemnation and conviction and the help provided by the Lord in the midst of them. He is faithful, beloved (Lamentations 3:23). He will see us through and produce something beautiful from the encounter.

Question:  What has the Lord taught you in times of condemnation and conviction? Comment at the link below.

 

Galatians 1:10; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:6; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:10; John 8:44; 10:10; Ephesians 6:10; Romans 8:37; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 10:12; Psalm 139:13-14; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; Psalm 119:160; Hebrews 12:10-11; Psalm 32:8; Hebrews 12:5-6; 1 Samuel 17:47; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 4; Ephesians 6:17; John 14:26; Ephesians 6:16; 1 Timothy 6:12; Daniel 3:25, 30; Psalm 66:10; Lamentations 3:23

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The Tight Squeeze

I caught my breath as the measuring tape cinched around my waist.

She’s pulling it awfully tight, I thought.

Oh well, I reassured myself, I’m going to lose some weight anyway. It will be okay.

I was getting measured to order a dress that I planned to wear to my daughter Sarah’s wedding in about 4 months.

Fast forward to a little less than 3 months later (which was last week). The dress arrived, and I went to try it on. My daughter Katie, who went with me, helped me zip it up.

“I can barely breathe,” I told her. “It feels super tight in my waist.”

That’s it! I thought. Time to get serious about shedding these extra pounds!

Honestly, those “extra pounds” had been with me for quite a while, hanging out around my midsection. I knew that was an unhealthy place to carry extra weight. I felt convicted to do something about it several times, but I kept brushing it off. Maybe later, I kept telling myself.

Then came the ill-fitting dress. God used it to finally get my attention. I think God allows us to experience the tight squeeze in our lives for several reasons:

God uses the tight squeeze to shape us.

The Lord wants us to experience abundant life right here and now (John 10:10), but He needs our cooperation in that process. He teaches us the best way to live, for our own good, in His Word (Deut. 10:13). When we head off in another direction than what He recommends, He often allows us to encounter a tight spot to try to get us back on track. I have encountered that scenario many times in my life, and I am grateful for it. It shows how much God loves me. He loves me too much to let me do damage to myself without trying to get my attention and direct me into His best for me.

 

As far as the tight dress goes, the Bible says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20, NASB). I have known for months that my “temple” was getting run down. I had put on extra weight. I wasn’t eating right or exercising. The Lord had been gently nudging me to do something about it.

I asked the Lord to help show me how to eat better and exercise in a way that would be good for me with some of my physical limitations, and He did. I am asking Him to help me be consistent with these things, and He is helping me. (I sure would appreciate your prayers too, because this is an area where I struggle.) I’m glad the dress was too tight. It caught my attention and reminded me of what I knew all along: I need to commit to being healthier.

Yet, this whole idea goes way beyond physical health. God also concerns Himself with our personal character. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a tight place because He is shaping us spiritually. Romans 5:3-5, NASB says, “We also exult in our tribulations [a word that means pressure, distress], knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” We can become more of who God wants us to be in the tight places. This past Sunday at church, our pastor said, “So many times, we ask God to change our circumstances when God is using our circumstances to change us.”

Finally, the tight squeeze is a place where we can know God better. I never would have known He was the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3) unless I had needed comforting. I never would have known His Word as complete and utter truth (Ps. 119:160) unless it had spoken to me in the midst of my struggles. His Word reflects and is backed up by everything He is (Ps. 138:2). The Lord intends so much good for us in the tight squeeze.

God uses the tight squeeze to help others.

Other times, the Lord uses the tight squeeze to move or shape us so that we might help others. When it is time for her babies to fly, the mother eagle starts putting sharp, pointed sticks and briars in the nest. Eventually, that nest becomes so uncomfortable that the babies leave and start flying on their own. When they fly, they mother eagle stays under them to make sure they don’t fall too far or get into trouble.

In the same way, the Lord often orchestrates circumstances to move us out of a comfortable place into His plan to help others. Things become uneasy in a certain situation or relationship, or something happens to make us change. I experienced this in 1987, two weeks before I was supposed to get married. My boss called me into his office, told me they were downsizing, and said they were letting me go. It was a tight spot for me and my fiancé David. He was in optometry school, and I was our sole source of income.

Well, I enjoyed the two extra weeks I received off work for wedding preparations, and I got on the job search as soon as I returned from our honeymoon. Within a few weeks, I landed a job with Merrill Publishing as a book editor. My experiences there helped me 27 years later when my son Patrick and I wrote our book, “Optimism for Autism.” We’ve received a lot of feedback about how our book is helping others in the struggles of life and encouraging them to trust the Lord in their challenges. In never would have known how that was going to happen when I took the book editing job, but God did.

Of course, it takes prayer and seeking God’s wisdom about whether He is working on our character or calling us to move. But He tells us, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jer. 33:3, NASB), and “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8, NASB).

God uses the tight squeeze to reveal Himself in us.

Romans 8:28-29, NASB, says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” In other words, the good that God often is working out in our tight places is to make us more like Jesus, so He can be seen in us.

That’s why Philippians 2:12b-13, NASB, says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” It emphasizes to put forth effort to align yourself with whatever God is doing, because He has a plan, because He is working out something that is part of His wise and loving design. We’re told that His will is always “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2,NASB).

So I’m glad the dress was a tight squeeze. It helped me remember God’s great faithfulness and ability to use the pressures in my life to do something big—something for me, others, or Himself (and often, a combination of the three). I wish I would have listened to His promptings about my health earlier, but I even learned something in that. He is infinitely patient and loving, a Faithful Father, who waits for me to trust and move according to His best intentions.

He says, “’ In the world you have tribulation [again, a word that means pressure, like a tight squeeze], but take courage; I have overcome the world’” (John16:33, NASB).

So trust Him in the tight squeeze beloved. He has so much for you there.

Question:  How are you experiencing a “tight squeeze”, and how is God meeting you there? Comment at the link below.

 

John 10:10; Deut. 10:13; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 1:3; Ps. 119:160; 138:2; Jer. 33:3; Ps. 32:8; Rom. 8:28-29; Phil. 2:12b-13; Rom. 12:2; John 16:33

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