When God Brings You Out

I was reading over at Beauty Beyond Bones, and was touched by her very vulnerable post, sharing  how the enemy of our souls can use memories of dark times in our lives to discourage and disparage.  I’ve been going through some personal evaluation myself, and her story just struck a chord.

Haven’t we all been there?  We long to leave difficult seasons in the past, but we visit a place, run into someone with a really good memory, hear a song, or maybe it’s a smell?  Anniversaries come around, or perhaps we run across a belonging from that forgotten time period, and it all comes rushing back.

When God Brings You Out

It really reminds me of how God used Joshua to lead the camp of Israel across the Jordan and into their promised land. (Joshua 3 &4)  God had already brought them out of Egypt, and He could have brought them to the Promised Land through a short and uncomplicated path, but I kind of think God knew they needed time and difficult circumstances to teach them to trust Him after all those years in captivity.  They went the long way, and had opportunity to witness miracle after miracle, but because of their lack of faith they ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.

When God decided it was time for Israel to leave the wilderness, He used no less spectacular means than usual to lead them homeHe parted the waters of the Jordan for them to cross on dry land. Of those who crossed over, Scriptures tells that 40,000 of them were dressed and ready for battle.  And only after they crossed over safely did the Ark of the Lord come up out of the Jordan and allow the waters to return to their place.

Afterward, the Lord had them take 12 large stones from the Jordan, one for each tribe of Israel, and they set them up where they camped.  Likewise, Joshua erected 12 stones in the midst of the Jordan, where they would remain.

The stones?  Stones of Remembrance that God wanted them to be able to see and remember what God had done for them.  Some of those people probably wished they could just forget the past and make a new start.  But God wanted them to have Memorials to testify to them, and to their children, and to the world that the “hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

There was a time when the pain of losing my parents was still quite fresh, and the grief was still so strong that it choked.  I feared drowning in the waters when I remembered where I had come from, and who I could have been if I had followed the example that had been set for me.  I cried out to the Lord and told him I didn’t want to be that person.

Immediately He answered me, saying simply, “I brought you out.”

Simple as that.  I didn’t need to be anxious about what could have been.  My current path is different because God intentionally intervened on my behalf.  He brought me out and into His will.  

God lets us dwell in those dark periods for a time, and then like Israel, He brings us out.  He parts the waters for us, and makes straight the way for us to travel. He then brings up the rear to make sure we land safely on the other side.  He makes sure we are prepared for the battles required to take the ground He has purposed for us, giving us the Armor of the Lord, and then He fights alongside us, delivering victory into our hands a day at a time.

No matter how dark our dark places have been, or how fierce the battle is today, God promises us that He works it all together for our good as we love and follow Him.

“I brought you out,” is His reminder to us.

He doesn’t want us to forget where we came from.  He wants us to be able to look back and testify to His faithfulness, His goodness, and His loving kindness toward us.  These are faith building because there are more Jordans ahead, and we need to trust Him if we’re going to keep our bearing.

So let healing continue to take its course.  Smile when people remember who you used to be and invite them to praise God with you for what He has done and what He still wants to do.  Praise Him for being a God of Restoration. Transformation. Recovery. And Hope!

Get rid of the things that don’t speak life to you anymore.  Surround yourself with people who affirm God’s goodness in your life, as well as things that affirm truth.  Wallow in God’s Word!

When those old memories threaten to get you down, call them what they are.  They are your Stones of Remembrance.  They don’t define you.  They can’t break you.  They simply remind you that the hand of the Lord is mighty.

He is the one who lifts you up, and He Brings You Out, Safely, every single time.  He will always lead you home.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

 

 

Growing in the Fruit of Faithfulness

~This devotional was used by our women’s group in conjunction with a study from Elizabeth George’s book, A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.~

Growing in the Fruit of Faithfulness

George calls her chapter on Faithfulness, “Following Through in Faithfulness”.  She has built this picture of how love, joy and peace change hearts. As a result, patience, kindness and goodness desire the best for everyone. Then, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control bring us victory in life’s “more challenging moments,” giving us follow-through by conquering self.

In Galations, the word for faithfulness is the Greek word, “pistis,” which refers to the character of one who can be relied on.

George teaches that a woman of faithfulness:

  • always comes through, no matter what
  • shows up for others, “whether a message or a meal”
  • keeps her word,”her yes means yes, and her no means no” (James 5:12)
  • doesn’t cancel out of commitments or appointments, and “successfully transacts business—carrying out any instructions given to her,”
  • “discharges her official duties in the church”–and is still committed to worship,
  • and is devoted to duty just as Jesus was in His example here on earth.

Elizabeth George also pointed out the struggle involved in being faithful… feeling tired or lazy ever get the best of you?

Or how about feeling discouraged?

Procrastination?  I might be looking forward to the devotional on self-control.

Rationalizing?

What about apathy… sometimes we just don’t care, even when we really do.  Life can get hard.  Some may drift from God.  Sometimes we just plain ole’ rebel, and we can develop a spiritual numbness.

As a Fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness is something God is responsible for cultivating in our lives. Charles Stanley, in his book, The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life, says that when we’re living life led by the Spirit, that these characteristics come about with little effort.   Yet reading over this list left me feeling overwhelmed and a little discouraged.

But wait. . .

This word pistis, which is used in Galations 5:22, can also be interpreted as faith; that’s how the King James Version interprets it.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galations 5:22,23 KJV

Faith is:

1.) the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ.

2.)  a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God

3.)  belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same

Faith, like faithfulness, is provided to us by the Holy Spirit, and isn’t possible for us to experience in our own power.

“. . .  no one can say, “Jesus is [my] Lord,” except by [the power and influence of] the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3 Amplified Version

By the grace of faith, God grows the character of faithfulness, or reliability, in our character.  He helps us be faithful to Him, and faithful to our calling.

 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2,3 NIV

That list of “works” that Elizabeth George explained personifies a woman of faithfulness… it’s possible, if our work is produced by faith in Christ Jesus.  Obedience becomes a labor of love for our Savior, and we can persevere even when we feel tired, discouraged, unmotivated or apathetic because of the hope we have in Christ.  That hope, Hebrews tells us, is anchored to the Throne of Grace in heaven; it pulls us onward.

Hands And Leaf Purpose

If you are a believing child of God, then you have been given Spiritual Gifts to use in whatever way that He has determined you should serve; God also gives each of us the faith to use those gifts.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:3-8 NIV (emphasis, mine)

Do you know how God has wired you to serve?  If you’ve never given thought to this, you can visit www.spiritualgiftstest.com to learn more about the different Spiritual Gifts.  Your results will be based on your current experience, and can help you identify your areas of strength so that you can pray about how God wants you to use the gifts He has given you.  Don’t be surprised if different strengths rise to the top of the list in different stages of your life, depending on how your experience changes and on how God wants to use you at in different seasons.  He will gift you appropriately for your purpose.

God also wired you with personality, learning style, love languages, skills and talents, ministry style, resources and experiences to compliment your service within the Body of Christ.  They make you unique.  I would love to give you resources to explore each of these areas in a future post.  Don’t compare yourself to others!  Each individual is equally important to the function of the Church, and God’s plans.  Comparison is a trap that can discourage you, or it can lead to an inflated ego. . .  but, humility is what God requires.

If you struggle with following through on your commitments, it may be wise to prayerfully re-evaluate the tasks you have undertaken and ask God if what you are trying to do is suited to your gifts.

I’m not talking about the marriage covenant, responsibilities as a parent, or promises made–if you have made them, God will give you the strength to keep them.  What I do mean is, for example: that someone with a gift of helps, who likes working in the background, may not be cut out to be an up front teacher! The areas we choose to serve within need to compliment our Spiritual Gifts.  They also need to compliment the season of life we are currently in.  The Proverbs 31 woman did a LOT of good things, but I often think she probably didn’t do them all at once!

Be intentional about doing good.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 NIV (emphasis, mine)

When you feel discouraged, remember that your help is always with you.  God poured His Holy Spirit out on you, generously!  And He will never leave you.  Being faithful does not have to be tedious.

Choose your commitments carefully, and don’t try to do more than is truly possible.  When we leave others in the lurch, we damage our testimony.  When we follow through, we are blessed too. (James 1:25)

 

Work produced by faith in a faithful God.

Labor prompted by love for a loving Savior.

Endurance, inspired by hope in Savior who gave what He had for the hope that was set before Him–securing your eternity.