Survivor or Overcomer? The Choice is Yours.

tmp475674510146666496Years ago I used to watch a television show called Survivor. I’m sure most of us are familiar with the premise of it. A group of strangers was taken to a remote location, given very limited provisions, and a predetermined length of time to figure out how to survive. Though we may not be faced with those types of challenges on a daily basis, many live in what I call survivor mode. We go through life reacting to difficult circumstances, trying to make it through each day. For some it means making it from paycheck to paycheck. Others may be enduring from one treatment to the next. It could be attempting to cope with multiple bad relationships. Generally speaking, challenges turn into crises and life becomes a battle we hope to withstand. Somehow that doesn’t sound to me like the abundant life Jesus promised He came to give us.

Of course, everyone faces difficulties; Jesus never said it would be easy. In fact, He forewarned us that this would be the case. But He never intended for us to hang on, hoping to be rescued one day. His plan was, and still is, for us to overcome. An overcomer thinks, and looks, nothing like a survivor. Those who believe they can overcome will let nothing stop them. They “grab the bull by the horns,” so to speak, using trials to propel them to new levels of growth and maturity. An overcomer runs to the battle, not from it, believing they can and will win. They meet challenges with steely determination, not dread and foreboding. Overcomers do not deny the pain, but are convinced they will conquer it. They have undaunted zeal to reach their greatest potential. Even when they get knocked down, they respond with perseverance, getting back up again and again. The Apostle Paul said it well, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

The difference between a survivor and an overcomer is in what they believe. The good news is, we get to choose what we believe! No one else can do it for us. We are not victims of our circumstances, unless we choose to be. God gave us free choice, and He will always honor whatever choice we make, good or bad. If you’ve been living in survivor mode, ask yourself these questions: Do I want to be a victim? Can I control this situation (whatever you’re facing right now)? Will I decide to react to it, based on how I feel? Will I choose to respond to it, believing God will bring good from it? Can I choose to trust God will walk with me through this?

Remember, reactions are always rooted in the flesh; responses are rooted in the Spirit. When we react to something, it comes from our feelings, which is part of our soul. We react in fear, worry, dread, anger, despair, etc. If we train ourselves to stop and think for a moment, we are more apt to respond than react. Responses are easier if we’ll immediately focus on God rather than how we feel. We must pause and ask ourselves, is He with me right now? Does He know what is happening? Does He know and care how I feel? Is He still in control? Can I trust His goodness in spite of this pain? These and similar questions will help us to quiet our soul and choose to trust Him.

Jesus has made it possible for us to overcome even the most difficult situations, for He overcame them all, including death and hell. He calls us overcomers, more than conquerors, and we can be, if we choose to see ourselves as such. We must take Him at His word, and trust His grace to enable us in our weakness. We don’t have to live in survivor mode any longer. Overcoming life is abundant life; the life He makes available to all who choose to receive it. We honor and glorify Him when we decide to use to the fullest this amazing grace!

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The Crucible of Waiting Upon God

In the mundane routine that makes up most of our days, we spend a lot of time fieryhandswaiting. Waiting for the red light to turn green, waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting in line to pick up lunch, waiting for the kids to get ready, waiting for the weekend to come. In our busyness, it seems we are relentlessly made to wait. I don’t know about you, but most days I don’t particularly like waiting. Perhaps this is the reason it seems God has had me in an extended period of waiting on Him.

What does it mean to wait upon God? The Bible has a lot to say on this subject. One familiar verse is Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  We are told to wait for Him always: “But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.” (Hos. 12:6)

There are several saints in the Scriptures who also found themselves waiting on God – sometimes for many years. God visits Abraham, giving him a promise that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age. In the process of waiting, Sarah gets impatient and decides to do it her way, causing problems that we are still dealing with today. Joseph receives a promise through two prophetic dreams and then goes through a long season of waiting on God. After many years and trials, he finally receives the promise of God when he is reunited with his family and promoted to second in command of all of Egypt.

God’s idea of waiting upon Him is not passively sitting around until He decides to move. If you look up the different words that are translated “wait,” the literal meaning of one is, “to look for; to hope; to expect; to look eagerly for.” Another word used literally means, “to wait longingly; to travail; to writhe (in travail for); to wait anxiously, to be distressed; to be pained.” Not exactly a picture of passivity!

Waiting upon God is painful and often distressing. I believe it is the greatest crucible we must endure in our journey of faith. Waiting burns up our flesh, because by nature, we are impatient creatures. God uses seasons of waiting to develop our character. He used Moses’ forty years of tending sheep to humble him. Waiting causes us to realize our great need of, and dependency upon God. Waiting caused Abraham and Sarah to understand that His ways are far higher, and better, than ours.

During seasons of waiting, God wants us to continue to hope. Biblical hope is confident expectation – not wishful thinking. He wants us to continually look for, and expect His promises to be fulfilled. Waiting requires trust, which is faith that He will do what He said He would do. Sometimes in the waiting, He will call us to travail with Him in prayer. In Scripture, this type of prayer is depicted as a woman in labor to bring forth a child. At these times, we must labor in the place of prayer, receiving the burden of His heart and “birthing” it through the Spirit. Paul spoke of this in Galatians 4:19, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” He often labored in prayer to see God have His way in His people.

Waiting is often painful, but it’s a necessary part of our journey to become like Jesus. He is the picture of perfect submission, patience, humility, obedience, and all those wonderful characteristics that we really long for in our own lives. May He teach us all how to wait upon Him!

Overcoming Temptation

No one is immune to temptation. It is familiar to us all. It entered the human temptationexperience at the beginning of time and is one of the three most common ways the enemy attacks us. The Scriptures give many examples of the temptations of the saints and provide wisdom to help us if we will heed it.

The first instance is found in Genesis 3, the story of the fall of man. No doubt, we are all familiar with the details, however; there are a couple of things I want to point out. First, the enemy lies to Adam and Eve, telling them that God has lied to, and withheld something valuable from them. (v. 4-5) At that moment, a seed of doubt was sown into their minds about the trustworthiness of their Creator. This seed of doubt, this thought, was the impetus for the temptation.

The thought, when dwelled upon, caused the first couple to consider their options. If God couldn’t be trusted and was withholding something of value from them, what was it? Eve looked at the fruit, turning her focus away from the One who had freely given them everything their hearts could long for. She chose to turn her attention to that which He had not given them, and had actually forbidden them to have. In doing so, she “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (v. 6)

There are three main areas the enemy targeted – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The lust of the flesh involves satisfying our appetites. The lust of the eyes speaks of greed, envy, and coveting that which we do not have. The pride of life includes that which we can achieve or accomplish. 1 John 2:16 further confirms this, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

Jesus was tempted in the same ways during His time in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11) We, too, have been or will be, tempted in these areas. It is not a sin to be tempted; it is a part of life in this fallen world and will be until Jesus returns. Many years ago, a former pastor said to me, “Temptation is about fulfilling a legitimate, God-given need, in an illegitimate way.” God has given us valid needs and desires that we cannot deny. He has promised to meet every need and longing of our heart when we seek Him first. Our part is to trust Him. Every temptation we face is another opportunity to trust Him.

When those seeds of doubt come and the devil whispers in our ear, “Did God really say…?” we must keep our eyes fixed on Him and remember, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin.” (Heb. 4:15) The One who overcame all temptation lives within us that we also might overcome!

The Faith of Abraham

“…Abraham is our father in God’s sight because he trusted God as the one Abrahams faithwho gives life to the dead and calls nonexistent things into existence. For he was past hope, yet in hope he trusted that he would indeed become a father to many nations, in keeping with what he had been told, “So many will your seed be.” His trust did not waver when he considered his own body–which was as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old–or when he considered that Sarah’s womb was dead too. He did not by lack of trust decide against God’s promises. On the contrary, by trust he was given power as he gave glory to God, for he was fully convinced that what God had promised He could also accomplish.” – Romans 4:17-21

If God sees and considers Abraham as my father, then it seems He would expect me to be like him. A child usually takes on the characteristics of their parents; therefore, it seems God would want me to have the same trust in Him as Abraham did. Since Abraham believed God gives life to the dead–which was his body–and calls nonexistent things into existence–which would have been his seed–then I need to believe the same things. I know He gives life to the dead because He raised Jesus from the dead. He calls nonexistent things into existence because His Word has creative power. He spoke the universe and all creation into being.

But how did Abraham know God gives life to the dead? Had he actually seen or experienced that when he decided to believe Him? How did he know He calls nonexistent things into existence? The Scriptures had not yet been written. In reading over his story in Genesis 15, we can see that he had some powerful encounters with God. Obviously, he believed God because of his relationship with Him. He had come to know and trust Him. However, he was still human. Later, he made the mistake of sleeping with Hagar, so even in trusting God, he didn’t fully understand His ways. I take comfort in knowing that God redeemed Abraham’s mistake as he was trusting Him to the best of his ability and understanding. So surely He will redeem my mistakes, because I trust Him and want to obey Him in all I say and do.

Though Abraham was past having any hope in the natural of his promise coming to pass, yet he chose to trust with hope that indeed it would. Hope and trust are choices we have to make regardless of our circumstances. In fact, if our circumstances seem favorable to our promises coming to pass, it doesn’t require us to have hope and trust. Perhaps we would trust in our circumstances rather than in God. We are called to walk in faith. To walk by faith and not by sight is something we must choose to do, for it goes against our natural tendencies.

Abraham did not deny the fact that because of their age and the condition of their bodies it was impossible, in the natural, to have a child. He took that fact fully into account. Yet his trust did not waver because of the facts. I love it though, that in this passage, God never mentions that Abraham did try to help Him out, and in the process created Ishmael. It is as though God totally forgot or chose to overlook that. God knows the heart, so I believe Abraham must have thought he was doing the right thing when he did that. Still, God credits Abraham as righteous in His sight. He is amazing!

Abraham could have looked at the reality of his situation and decided it was too difficult for God to make good on His promise, but he didn’t. As he chose to trust God in spite of the facts, and worshiped God in the midst of what looked like an impossible situation, God empowered him to believe and stand firm in his faith. When we do likewise, He will do the same for us! God cannot lie, so He will eventually make good on His promises. The question we often struggle with is, when?  Abraham waited about 25 years for his promise to be fulfilled. Obviously, God requires not only faith in Him and His Word, but also patience!

The Crucible of Waiting Upon God

In the mundane routine that makes up most of our days, we spend a lot of time fieryhandswaiting. Waiting for the red light to turn green, waiting at the doctor’s office, waiting in line to pick up lunch, waiting for the kids to get ready, waiting for the weekend to come. In our busyness, it seems we are relentlessly made to wait. I don’t know about you, but most days I don’t particularly like waiting. Perhaps this is the reason it seems God has had me in an extended period of waiting on Him.

What does it mean to wait upon God? The Bible has a lot to say on this subject. One familiar verse is Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  We are told to wait for Him always: “But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.” (Hos. 12:6)

There are several saints in the Scriptures who also found themselves waiting on God – sometimes for many years. God visits Abraham, giving him a promise that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age. In the process of waiting, Sarah gets impatient and decides to do it her way, causing problems that we are still dealing with today. Joseph receives a promise through two prophetic dreams and then goes through a long season of waiting on God. After many years and trials, he finally receives the promise of God when he is reunited with his family and promoted to second in command of all of Egypt.

God’s idea of waiting upon Him is not passively sitting around until He decides to move. If you look up the different words that are translated “wait,” the literal meaning of one is, “to look for; to hope; to expect; to look eagerly for.” Another word used literally means, “to wait longingly; to travail; to writhe (in travail for); to wait anxiously, to be distressed; to be pained.” Not exactly a picture of passivity!

Waiting upon God is painful and often distressing. I believe it is the greatest crucible we must endure in our journey of faith. Waiting burns up our flesh, because by nature, we are impatient creatures. God uses seasons of waiting to develop our character. He used Moses’ forty years of tending sheep to humble him. Waiting causes us to realize our great need of, and dependency upon God. Waiting caused Abraham and Sarah to understand that His ways are far higher, and better, than ours.

During seasons of waiting, God wants us to continue to hope. Biblical hope is confident expectation – not wishful thinking. He wants us to continually look for, and expect His promises to be fulfilled. Waiting requires trust, which is faith that He will do what He said He would do. Sometimes in the waiting, He will call us to travail with Him in prayer. In Scripture, this type of prayer is depicted as a woman in labor to bring forth a child. At these times, we must labor in the place of prayer, receiving the burden of His heart and “birthing” it through the Spirit. Paul spoke of this in Galatians 4:19, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” He often labored in prayer to see God have His way in His people.

Waiting is often painful, but it’s a necessary part of our journey to become like Jesus. He is the picture of perfect submission, patience, humility, obedience, and all those wonderful characteristics that we really long for in our own lives. May He teach us all how to wait upon Him!

The Value of Stillness

I love stillness. Maybe it’s because of my age, or my personality type (mostly introvertedstill waters melancholy). I haven’t always loved it, though. When I was younger I hated being alone or having nothing to do. I was more comfortable with continual noise than silence. Looking back on where I was and where I am now, I can see God has taught me the importance and great value of having regular times of being still and quiet.

Stillness is not necessarily external. I’ve discovered that one can be inwardly still when surrounded by people, loud noise, and even chaos. It has taken many years to learn this. The greatest determining factor, I believe, is learning to quiet the soul. This first requires some inner healing and deliverance from damaged emotions and tormenting thoughts. Once that has been taken care of it is easier to tune into your spirit, which is in union with the Holy Spirit. Because He typically speaks in a still, small voice, it is very difficult to discern what He is saying when we are unable to quiet our soul.

When we struggle to quiet our souls, it is easy for confusion to enter in, causing us to think God is saying something that is really coming from our own desires. I have done this many, many times, and seen others do it as well. This usually leads to inner turmoil, discouragement, and disappointment with God when things don’t turn out as we had hoped.

In contrast, a quiet soul is a trusting soul. When we learn to still the inner turmoil, we can rest in God’s faithfulness and provision. David spoke of this in Psalm 131:2, “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” A weaned child no longer cries for its mother’s milk. He has learned that his needs will be met. 

When we are able to be inwardly still and take regular time to do so, we hear God more easily and learn to trust Him as we enter into deeper intimacy. The deeper we go in Him, the greater our desire for more of Him becomes, and the more quickly we are transformed into His likeness. The stiller the water, the clearer the reflection. We can actually accelerate our spiritual growth and maturity by taking time to learn and practice stillness.

If you struggle with stillness, what is hindering you?

How to Get Free From Fear

In over 20 years of ministry I have found one of the most common issues we all struggle lovefearwith is fear. Fear is defined as, “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” Fear is debilitating for many people, paralyzing them from living a fully productive life.

Fear entered the human experience in the Garden of Eden. After eating the forbidden fruit, Scripture says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen. 3:7-8) Never before had Adam and Eve tried to hide from their beloved Creator.

There are multitudes of fears that can plague us – fear of death, fear of punishment, fear of loss, fear of the dark, fear of rejection, fear of poverty, etc. Fear stems from a lack of faith, or trust in God. I have heard it said that there are 365 verses in Scripture saying, “Do not fear,” or “Do not be afraid.” This clearly indicates that God understands our tendency to be fearful, and desires we become free from these fears. In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul states, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Fear does not come from God; it comes from the enemy. He uses it to control God’s people, hindering us from walking in obedience and thus, receiving God’s blessings.

When we walk in fear on a regular basis, not only are we being controlled by the enemy, but we also become controlling ourselves. We try to control others and our circumstances, believing that by doing so, we can avoid pain. There are many forms of control – isolation and withdrawal, anger and fits of rage, wearing a “mask,” passive aggression, passivity, taking on a victim mentality; these are just a few.  This is a great deception for we cannot control anything or anyone other than ourselves. The only legitimate form of control is self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. In 2 Timothy 1:7, quoted above, the word translated “sound mind” literally means self-control.

The good news is that God has given us a way to get free from fear and the control that comes with it! The Apostle John tells us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) God’s love is the only perfect love because He is Love. The way to get free from fear is to receive the revelation of His perfect love for you. Revelation comes from the Spirit and far exceeds mere head knowledge. If we lack this critical revelation, we must ask Him for it, knowing it is His will for us to be free – free to be loved by Him, free to love Him, others, and ourselves as He does.

The more we experience and receive His love, the more secure we will become. Our faith and trust in Him will grow stronger and deeper. We will no longer fear what others can do to us, for we will truly believe that He works all things together for our good. (Rom. 8:28) His love enables us to surrender more fully to Him, letting go of our need to control. We will be free to love and serve Him wholeheartedly. Then we can love ourselves because He does, and love and serve others with the love we have received from Him.

What effects have fears had in your life and walk with God? Comment below.