Traveling Through Tough Times

GOD’S ‘SECRET’ FORMULA

by Jackie Anderson, guest blogger

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Shortly before Jackie and Duane returned to Ethiopia, we enjoyed a Saturday morning breakfast and visit to the Farmers Market.

     My family watched the Olympics this summer and admired Michael Phelps. He overcame trials and failures. The joy of the Gold motivated him to persevere.

     Then I watched Eddie the Eagle, a movie about Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics. What an inspiring story to persevere!

     The Israelites in the wilderness do not inspire! They saw God’s miracles over and over yet they continued to complain and lacked faith. No food? No water? God just opened up the Red Sea! But they whined to Moses and God. These trials were meant to strengthen their faith. Finally, God declared they would not enter his rest because of a lack of faith. They didn’t have the faith that stayed true.

James 1:2-4: Consider it all joy when you encounter      various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith  produces endurance. And let endurance do its complete work so that you may be mature, lacking in nothing.

     Knowing implies an understanding that we see our problems from God’s perspective. We know that God has a plan, and He uses trials to produce the maturity He desires.

     It would be interesting to count how many times the Scriptures exhort us to “Stand Firm!” God values endurance!

 “Endurance is the ability to undergo a period of stress and  strain with the inner strength of Christ, emerging from it  stronger than when we entered. It’s looking squarely into the    face of discouraging circumstances without despair. It’s assuming that God is going to work all things for good.”

Robert Morgan

     Trials come to test our faith. The word testing is the idea of exercising. It is like lifting heavier and heavier weights over our heads and standing up longer and longer! Our faith can develop muscles and strength with each trial. I want to remember this so I drew a weight lifter in my journal to remind myself. It helps me to journal some of the trials and victories so that I see the ‘smaller weights’ I have handled and have hope for the heavier trials.

     In Robert Morgan’s book, 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart, he calls this God’s secret formula:

Trials>Endurance>Maturity/Proven Character

     It isn’t always easy. It isn’t easy to find joy when you have lost a child to cancer or face a brain tumor or your body aches with arthritis every day. It isn’t easy, but Jesus showed the way; He stretched His arms on the cross so that we have a new source of strength. He also promises to be with us and to work all things for good! I have to really trust that and make it my self- talk during trials. I have found that the more I think on His promises and truth, the more I can rest in those arms of love.

     God understands it isn’t easy to find joy.

     James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, ask of God. The context is connected to the trials of verse 2. God will not punish us for struggling through trials but rather encourages us to turn to Him for the wisdom to have God’s perspective so that we stand up under trials and become the child of God that gives Him the glory. He gives us the wisdom to know what to do, think or say to ourselves or someone else who is struggling.

     No one who received the Gold in the summer Olympics did so without discipline, endurance, and strength. I want to receive the heavenly Gold Crown and give God the glory!

Note: Robert Morgan’s book 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart, has been an inspiration and a source for many of these thoughts. I encourage all my friends to use this book.

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Divine Discontentment Leads to God-Honoring Humility

     During the last two Listening on the Journey… blog posts, I discussed what I call ‘Divine Discontentment.’

     Divine Discontentment is more than personal ambition, although a certain level of ambition is essential because Divine calling is never a call to “easy.” Lots of meaningful and purposeful work will be required!

     Divine Discontentment is more than the Army slogan, “Be all that you can be.” Instead, it is a deep desire to “Become all that God designed you to be.”

     Divine Discontentment isn’t about achieving success in order to earn lots of money, climb the corporate ladder, or outrun personal demons, even though any one of these might occur since God is described in Scripture as a Heavenly Father who loves to give good gifts to his children. (Matthew 7:11)

     Divine Discontentment doesn’t lead to a life of self-indulgence, but rather a life filled with the Fruit of the Spirit of self-control.

     The voice of Divine Discontentment has prompted me to say more than once: “I’m sorry, God, I know, ‘It’s not about me. It’s all about Thee!’” That’s because when I say, “Yes,” to the voice of Divine Discontentment, my motivation is to serve God and others with humility.

     So, what is humility?

     I contemplated this question a few months ago after several conversations with a friend. The woman is attractive. She’s smart and well educated. She’s talented and has enjoyed numerous successes. She enjoys a good marriage and rich relationships. The voice of Divine Discontentment is speaking to her, and yet she feels uncertain of and insecure about taking the next step.

     My friend has an aversion to being prideful, which is commendable. I wonder, however, if this aversion prevents her from seeing the gifts and strengths she possesses as tools God desires to use rather than potential liabilities.

     As a result of conversations with my friend and wrestling with thoughts about the essence of God-honoring humility, I arrived at this definition:

Humility is grasping clearly my strengths and my weaknesses, being neither impressed nor distressed with either.

     Often, it’s easier to acknowledge our weaknesses and inadequacies than to assess accurately our gifts and strengths. That has certainly been a powerful, recurring theme in my story! One portion of Scripture helpful to me comes from the practical chapter of Romans 12. Verse 3 says in part, Do not think of yourself more highly [my addition: ‘or more lowly’] than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…

     I want to conclude today’s post with another practical portion of Scripture. The New Testament book of James has a way of summarizing succinctly God-honoring principles. Regarding the matter of humility, James says:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. (James 4:10 NLT)

     If the fear of becoming prideful is keeping you from saying, “Yes” to the voice of Divine Discontentment, I hope these brief thoughts have encouraged you.

Blessings as you journey toward “Yes!”…

Sue Reeve

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Same Place – Different Perspective…

Small Steps to Hear the Voice of Divine Discontentment

     The sun was setting as Ron and I exited a favorite downtown restaurant the other evening. The beautiful late summer evening beckoned us to take a walk. Lake Coeur d’Alene was still. The boardwalk was quiet, almost empty—distinctly different from a few short weeks ago when crowded with summertime tourists. The almost-full moon, haloed in a starless sky, hung magnificently over dark-shadows of pine trees

     Have you heard the term Heaven on earth? Well, I imagine this was it!

     I asked Ron to take a picture of the moon. He said it wouldn’t work well since he had only the camera on his phone. I asked him to humor me and take it anyway.

     As we stood atop the draw bridge on the boardwalk, overlooking the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Marina, I noticed a huge collection of spider webs loaded with spiders. I’m not a fan of spiders, but Ron loves taking their pictures. From the exact same spot, Ron took these two photos. (I’m SO glad I whined a bit about the moon shot, which I think is stunning! Our daughter, Sarah, called the spider photo, “gross, but amazing!”)

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     Even though taken from the same place, these photos show vastly different perspectives.

     This is kind of what happens when we determine to listen to the voice of Divine Discontentment instead of voices speaking from our perceived inadequacies, our human logic, well-meaning family and friends, faith skeptics, negative news, ‘expert’ advisors or clanging cultural noise.

     Even though our position doesn’t change, our perspective does. Instead of feeling like we’re caught in the web of ‘same old same old,’ we grow excited by the beauty of new possibility.

     In the last post, I asked the question: What do we do when the voice of Divine Discontentment is bugging us? I told you I’m all about prudent actions and practical steps. Here are some I’ve discovered.

  • Rather than running from the voice of Divine Discontentment, lean into it. Don’t permit voices warning, “You should …,” “Yes, but…,” “Remember when…,” or “What if…” douse the flickering flame guiding you toward significant transition.
  • Beware of paralyzing “I’m too________” voices. You’re not “too young, too old, too out of shape, too uneducated, too shy, too broke, too busy, too unattractive, too messed up.”
  • Seek the assistance of trusted advisors who will help you discover what the voice of your Divine Discontentment may be saying and will hold you accountable when you make the decision to do something about it.
  • Keep making and taking “Action Steps,” including ones not so glamorous but necessary, related perhaps to issues like debt reduction, wellness, building networks or honing skills. Various types of steps are needed to get you where you’re called to go.
  • Enjoy each day of the journey while not losing sight of whatever awaits.

     Recently, I read a Scripture from the Amplified Bible. These words, with which I’ll close, gripped my imagination.

He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.   (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

I’m praying for you as you discover what the voice of Divine Discontentment is saying

Sue Reeve

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