Are You an Overcomer?

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1st Corinthians 15:57Victory-in-Jesus-596x200.jpg

Victory in Jesus” is a beautiful old hymn that tells the story of The One who seeks us out and buys us with his redeeming blood on the cross. But do we stay there at the cross?

Friend, victory doesn’t end there; in fact, that is only the beginning of our stories. We have victory every day, and Scripture affirms this:

…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:4-5

Jesus spoke these words of authority: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

It is unfortunate that we sometimes forget this foundational truth. We allow the trouble of this fleeting life to weigh us down. It’s true we face many trials – and there is no small trial when you are the one facing it, but Christ says bring it to me, rest in me. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Do we bring to Him our burdens – wholly, completely laying them down at Jesus’ feet? Or do we try to keep one hand on them, afraid to let go completely? Jesus says, Trust me. This requires total surrender. We lift up empty hands because we have nothing to bring. And through a process of refining, He brings us into Kingdom Living:

1. Humility

Have you been there? Empty hands, broken heart, crushed spirit? Psalm 34:18 promises us that God is near, The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. There is nothing more humbling than the moment you finally understand that you cannot do this life on your own. Then comes reassurance that God is near, wrought from a humble heart. But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6

2. Surrender

Total and complete. And again God is near, Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6 For when we are weak, then we are strong.

Do we lay our problems at Jesus’ feet only to pick them up again? Do we raise one hand to God, while the other remains locked onto the issue? Do we grasp at the pieces as they fly centrifugally away from us?

And then the dawning of a new awareness: we were never in control of anything.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

3. Trust

So we bring the only thing we have, the only thing He asks for – this empty vessel. We say in a small quiet voice, “It’s me. Here I am Lord. Here I am. I am yours and I will trust. Not my will, but yours. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

4. Victorious Overcomer!

I’m not staying at the cross. He isn’t there, my friend. This life won’t chain me down. I am looking toward heaven because Christ is risen! I’m looking toward heaven because Christ is seated on the throne at the right hand of the Father! I’m looking toward heaven because Christ is the Sovereign Lord of lords and King of kings! I’m looking toward heaven because I am a child, an heir, of Almighty God!

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 1 Timothy 1:7

The enemy and his demons are real, and they prowl over the earth seeking to steal, kill, and destroy; but the enemy holds no power over the child of God who takes hold of this promise: You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Reading and praying through Scripture is a powerful way to Victory! So, Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:11-12

Also, Psalm 56:3-4, Deuteronomy 33:27, Psalm 112:4, 7

He is a Good Father

Psalm 139, Phillipians 4:5-7, I Peter 5:6-9

Overwhelmed by God’s great love for me, I sent a text to a friend that said: I don’t know why God loves me so much.

The reply, just these 5 simple words, made me cry: He is a good father.

Indeed. He is.

Daily, I see God’s provision. I’ve felt His presence and have been amazed and humbled by His blessings. I continue to experience His gentle patience with me as I adjust to and maneuver through major changes and losses in my life.

Life’s struggles can leave us wounded and weary. And although I am living in God’s love and grace, I sometimes lately feel isolated, and succumb to fear and stress.

In my darkest hour, when I am overwhelmed with life, overcome by despair, and operating only on emotion, no amount of reason can make me see clearly. Logic is no longer part of the equation.

You can tell me that things will get better, that my kids still need me, that a lot of people care about me – and right now I know that to be true. But the reality is that when I go over that edge, I lose hope and no longer am able to believe those things, nor do I care. Life is too heavy a burden and I begin to see the Exit ramp as a very appealing alternative.

I shared my struggle last week with a trusted friend and this was her reply:

You don’t have the right to enter into the Lord’s presence until He calls you home.

She said this gently and with love. Time and again, she has spoken wisdom and truth into my life, but this resonated with me more than anything else. Like an arrow hitting its mark, her words went right to my heart. The gravity, reverence and power in that sentence took me completely by surprise.

I don’t have the right…ouch. So true. How could I forget that God is at the center of the universe? And He is always in control!

I took my eyes off of Him. I stopped trusting Him. As I prayed for God’s forgiveness, I knew He already had. God the Creator of the universe chooses to know me intimately, to have a relationship with me. He chooses to set His love on me and my worth is defined by Him:

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:1-7

He will protect me from the attacks of the enemy, provide friends to come alongside, and He will give me strength, wisdom and discernment to navigate life’s crooked path. I love Him because He first loved me…and I know He always will.

Yes. He is a good father.

Do you trust me?

Do you remember the scene from Disney’s Aladdin? Aladdin, standing on his flying carpet, reaches his hand out to Jasmine and says, “Do you trust me?”.

God wants us to have loving homes rooted in His Word where relationships are built on trust. We begin to learn about trust long before we can talk or walk. A baby cries and, in a loving home, is picked up. A child’s first steps, holding a hand to cross a street, learning to ride a bike…require trust…build trust. Dad is loving, strong, and protective. Mom is loving and gentle. Siblings you fight with at home have your back at school. Healthy families provide safety and shelter from the world, and without even realizing it, kids learn what trust is.

Trust. It’s a common word, overused and taken for granted most of the time. But it is one of the most powerful words in our language, established through a process that we don’t give much thought to. A process filled with events and conversations that, done right, establish trust as a natural outcome over time. You’re not even aware that it’s happening, but you suddenly realize that you can be yourself with this person, you can be honest – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and it’s okay. That’s trust.

On he other hand, it takes very little to break trust. And once trust is broken, it is difficult to rebuild. Sometimes trust is destroyed, and only through God can it be restored.

I am so glad that God never changes, no matter what the circumstances of life may bring. In Him I can always trust and depend. God is always faithful, patient, full of love and grace. And this I know without a shadow of doubt – His Spirit dwells within me and strengthens and comforts me. God is my protector in times of trouble. He weaves a safety net around my life.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’ Deuteronomy 33:27

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112: 4, 7

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Jesus stands before me with an outstretched hand and asks, “Do you trust me?” And I will place my hand in His with a childlike trust each day.

 In whom have you placed your trust?

Encouragement from the Body of Christ

Offering hope and encouragement to people who are only struggling with minor inconveniences in life doesn’t really test one’s ability as a counselor. Much more difficult is to offer encouragement to someone who is in a deep valley, struggling with heart-wrenching sorrow, which also usually lasts over an extended period of time. This is truly a test of patience and strength.

Paul, in his letters to the early Bible-encourage, fellowship, counselchurch however, makes it very clear that we as a church body are to reach out to those who are in crisis and struggling. And not simply reach out, but for the strong to carry the weak. We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15

To the church in Thessalonica: …encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. I Thessalonians 5:14

To the church in Philippi Paul says to be: …like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:2-5

To the Galatians: …serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

I could go on with more examples, but it is clear that we are called to come together as one body in Christ. The elders and the stronger are to lead the flock and care for the weaker, presumably until such time as the weak are healed and able to do the same. When we no longer hear the cry for help in someone’s words…when we no longer hear the struggle, feel the pain and sorrow…when we only take offense at words as they try to express the despair and grief they are feeling…then we are no longer effective. But Peter, in speaking to the church elders, says to feed the flock and remain humble. 1 Peter 5:1-6

God desires that everyone learn and grow spiritually from the things we are tested with. So …let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1-2 In the past, I have counseled those who are in crisis and hurting. There are times when it can be difficult to love the unlovable. But each of us can be unlovable, given the right circumstances.

Below is a list I have composed of some of the words of encouragement I’ve received from friends as I walk through a deep valley in my life. Each time I read through it, I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit offering comfort, peace and hope. I am forever grateful for the love, compassion and hope I have received from my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sometimes encouragement can be the simplest expression, maybe a short text message:

Ya. Hang in there.

I will pray.

Amen.

Praise the Lord.

I truly do understand your pain.

My heart breaks for you.

At times encouragement can be a prayer or blessing said over someone:

May God bless your day and lead you.

May God fill you with peace to overflowing.

I pray God be with u and bless u. May he put his hand of healing upon u and strengthen u.

Encouragement can also come in the form of reassurance, even offering a pardon when I have been unlovable:

When you wake up give it to the Lord; I also have had bad experiences at night.

Stop worrying about what people think.

We might feel alone but we are not.

No need to apologize.  It’s a tough time and I understand.

You can be out of line anytime you want;) but you weren’t – in case you were wondering.

I have heard much worse. But you are right, I don’t fully understand. [You spoke] a lot of wisdom regarding God’s forgiveness and how it is ongoing. May God continue to reveal his truth to you.

I believe that in your situation [you are making] the correct decision, in God’s eyes also.

I believe that the enemy’s forces are always attacking Gods kids, especially during difficult valleys of life.

[Sometimes we] question where God is. I have had the same struggles; all I can tell you is that even though it seems that there is nothing good that can come of this, it will.

I have grown the most in the days when I didn’t think that I could go on.

You have been carrying the load yourself; you just didn’t know it.

We just have to trust God in all things; even accepting the things that we can’t change.

This period in your life will pass; you will learn to move ahead.

The struggles you are facing now is the process of spiritual growth, and it is painful but you will make it. Expect bad days, but try to make good ones.

We can’t control what happens but we can choose how to respond. Just keep hanging on to Jesus.

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is that God is strong enough to care for the wounded and battle-scarred without ever giving up. He will not grow weary, will not become offended. He will heal our hearts with love and longsuffering, and see it through to the joyous other side of the storm. God is our perfect Counselor.

Will you offer encouragement and hope to someone today?

Proof of God’s Faithfulness

As I head toward the house, I look back at the wood, now stacked and ready for the week’s use, and I feel a sense of accomplishment at this weekly chore. Looking at my watch I see that it has only been a few hours, but I know that I couldn’t have done it without my teenage son and daughter helping. I also remember that the wood wouldn’t be split and ready for stacking without the three men from church – all in their 70’s – who split logs and cut kindling for me this fall.gods-faithfulness-wood-stacked

I recognize the Lord’s hand of provision and the blessings He has poured out. I have experienced His faithfulness in meeting all our physical needs, in part through the kindness of others. 

These physical challenges I now face are tangible evidence of the fact that things at home have changed. I have reassurance, though, that God is unchanging, His love and strength unending.  Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Less tangible but far more debilitating, are the emotional struggles. 

My sleep is disturbed by Fear creeping in and I’m constantly tired, waking up with an overwhelming sense of dread and loss. I’m adjusting to changes in finances, work, parenting, and more. With so much going on in my life right now, I’m walking a high wire and it doesn’t take much to tip me.

People who don’t know the facts (don’t need to), but think they have all the answers, say insensitive things, wrong things. I try to brush it off, pray, give it to the Lord, but it comes back (I’m working on letting go more fully). The enemy knows exactly where to attack. Pressure builds, things converge, and I begin to panic. I don’t want to free-fall again, but down I go, sinking into the mire, going under. This scares me more than anything. I look to the Father and beg for help, and I know He is with me.

I praise God that although I am weak, He is strong. He never lets go of me. God is faithful, giving comfort and hope; and blessing me with dear friends who provide encouragement, strength, love and Godly counsel. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had Romans 15:5.

Why then do I fall apart weekly? Why can’t I hold on tighter to the hope that I have in God?

We were not made to carry a weight like this alone; nor were we designed to hide it, bury it, or brush it off. God wants us to rely on His strength, to cry out to Him for help as the Psalmists did:

Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Psalm 143:7
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1-3

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17
T
he Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

I am still learning what God is teaching, and what I have learned lately is the depth of my Father’s faithfulness reaches far beyond any pit I sink into. Jesus holds me near and doesn’t let go; He stays with me through each storm and sees me through to the other side. He wipes away every tear.

I have come to understand that as I walk through this valley, it is not a test of my faithfulness to God, but, rather, it is proof of God’s faithfulness to me.