Saturday, November 12, 2016

Lord, Keep Me From Wasting My Life

Lord, Keep Me From Wasting My Life

Lord, Keep Me from Wasting My Life
“Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my resolve to do your will with all diligence.”
Becoming diligent is hard work, but diligence is not synonymous with working hard. I know from personal experience one can get up early and go to bed late, and expend a lot of energy, and be very busy, and not watch TV or get lost in social media binges—can appear to work hard—and still not get much done that really matters.
Diligence combines a willingness to work hard with a discerning focus, a sense of urgency, a vigilant carefulness and faithful perseverance. And one of the clearest biblical calls to diligence is Paul’s exhortation:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17)

Discerning Focus

A diligent person seeks to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Based on the context, Paul isn’t referring to God’s hidden will (for instance, about if or who we should marry). He’s primarily referring to God’s revealed will regarding specific sins to avoid. We learn to “discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10).
But judging by the way Paul approached life—living as a “soldier” who avoids “civilian pursuits” in order “to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:4)—it’s safe to assume Paul would affirm applying this principle to lesser priorities that, while not inherently immoral, distract us from our focus. Both sinful and unnecessary distractions are often difficult to set aside.
As I write, an issue in my life is causing me significant concern and anxiety. There’s a mix of good anxiety, similar to Paul’s anxiety for the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28) and sinful anxiety, the kind Paul instructed the Philippians not to indulge (Philippians 4:6–7). Diligence requires that I must discern which is which and deal with sin appropriately. But diligence also requires me to discern that God’s will for me right now is to focus on completing my work for today and temporarily neglecting the demanding issue, which, while important, is not the priority at this moment.
In a very real sense, a diligent person must learn to be neglectful. There are myriad clamoring and demanding temptations and lesser priorities a diligent person must strategically neglect. This requires developing the discipline of discerning focus.

Sense of Urgency

A diligent person “[makes] the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). He realizes that time is limited. Again, the context tells us Paul likely has holiness in mind: We should not waste our time on sin. The best use of time is to be filled with the Spirit and bearing the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22–23) and not dissipating sins like drunkenness or sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3, 18).
But, again, Paul would say the same thing about “civilian pursuits.” There’s not enough time to do everything we’d enjoy doing. Even as soldiers, there’s not enough time to do all the very good, spiritually helpful things we’d like to do. But there’s sufficient time for us to do what God gives us to do (2 Corinthians 9:8).
A diligent person feels urgency over the brief time he has on earth and seeks to wisely use his brief number of days on the few things he discerns to be the most important for him (Psalm 90:12).

Vigilant Carefulness

A diligent person also looks carefully how he walks, “not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). This kind of care requires a cultivated vigilance. It does not come naturally to most of us.
Most of us have a natural inclination to coast, to fall into familiar ruts of thinking and behaving. Most of us have sinful or defective habits of emotional responses to certain situations and relational dynamics that were conditioned in childhood and adolescence. We might hardly notice them because we’re not looking carefully. Most of us don’t want to expend the mental, emotional and spiritual energy to cultivate a vigilant care over how we walk.
Which means most of us are not wise. I know I’m not by nature. I don’t have a natural inclination to this kind of vigilance. But I’m old enough now to realize the real, long-term benefits of vigilance where I’ve applied it—as well as the consequences where I’ve not applied it. This only increases my resolve to abandon the foolishness of carelessness and to look more carefully how I walk.

Faithful Perseverance

And finally, diligent people faithfully persevere in cultivating and applying a discerning focus, a sense of urgency, and a vigilant care over how they live. This is not explicit in the text, but it is surely implicit, especially in the word “time” (Ephesians 5:16).
The “evil days” describe the age in which we live. Every one of the days we live as Christians on earth, until we are taken by death or Jesus returns, are embattled with evil, which Paul makes clear in Ephesians 6. The dangers of falling into sin or giving ourselves to “civilian pursuits” do not disappear. Paul’s exhortation is one we must apply “every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of [us] may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

Whatever It Takes

All diligence is hard work. But Christian diligence goes beyond hard work to a Spirit-empowered cultivating of a discerning focus, sense of urgency, vigilant carefulness and faithful perseverance. And a Christian knows that without God’s help, we’ll miss the mark and waste a lot of life on a lot of sin and “civilian pursuits.” So we pray:
Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my resolve to do your will with all diligence.
Jon Bloom

Jon Bloom

Jon Bloom is the Executive Director for Desiring God Ministries

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Destruction Reigns as Battle for Mosul Begins

Destruction Reigns as Battle for Mosul Begins

November 3, 2016
Many people in towns outside Mosul have no homes to return to, and so far Islamic State jihadists have kept most of them from fleeing.
Separating a young mother from her children and husband, Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists took her hostage when they seized Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and the surrounding villages two years ago.
"She was put in an underground hole - she said that for two years she didn't see the sun," the director of a ministry based in northern Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan said. "She was grabbed from her husband, and her husband saved the kids and didn't see her after that."
The woman escaped recently when Iraqi coalition forces retook villages outside Mosul, and then she made her way to a makeshift camp for displaced people in Kurdistan, where the director's ministry provides aid, he said.
"She told me that U.S. forces shot that place, and she was able to run away," he said. "They shot that compound and killed those terrorists, and she was able to run away."
"Now they see the true face of Islam," the ministry director said. "A lot of heart-breaking stories will come out of Mosul with people who are ready to leave Islam and beg for Christ to take their lives and give them healing."
The surviving mother is one of the few people who have been able to escape ISIS control of Mosul and surrounding villages as Iraqi coalition forces have mounted an offensive to retake the terrorists' last stronghold. Aided by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, 5,000 U.S. troops, and, on the other side of the city, the mainly Shiite, Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, the Iraqi Army this week entered Mosul for the first time since ISIS took the city in June 2014 and proclaimed it a base for its caliphate.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flee as coalition forces liberate more areas, but few have yet to escape to Kurdistan from Mosul's surrounding towns and villages, which are largely devoid of people because ISIS has forced them to Mosul, the ministry director said.
"They're keeping a lot of people hostages - anybody running away, they're killing," he said. "There were two brothers; they killed one of them while he was running out. Most of the people are hostages right now. They want to flee, they just can't. What's happening right now in Mosul is what they did to the Christians; it's genocide. They're killing everyone who's not working with them or not helping them."
United Nations officials have expressed concern at reports that ISIS took 550 families from villages around Mosul as human shields in order to prevent civilians from escaping. Citing an Iraqi intelligence source, CNN reported that ISIS executed 284 men and boys in Mosul on Oct. 20 and 21. The terrorists are widely reported to be using civilians as human shields against the coalition forces.
Iraqi coalition troops found a damaged church building in one of the towns outside Mosul after retaking it from Islamic State terrorists.
ISIS militants have left mines and bombs in formerly occupied areas that coalition forces are painstakingly disarming, and fighting has also destroyed civilian homes and other buildings in predominantly Christian areas such as Qaraqosh. The Christian leader said a young woman was attending one of his ministry's seven-day discipleship trainings recently when her eyes suddenly filled with tears. He asked her what was wrong.
"At that moment somebody had just sent her a picture of her house," he said. "She showed me a photo of her house two years ago, and then she showed me her house now, and it was totally destroyed. She used to live in a very nice house."
Many Christians have lost their homes to ISIS, and even liberated towns are not fully safe for return, he said.
"Qaraqosh is 90 percent liberated, and the other 10 percent doesn't have any soldiers but they have snipers there; ISIS has snipers everywhere," he said. "They have built tunnels from house to house so it's not 100 percent secure."
The 108,000 troops fighting to dislodge the estimated 5,000 ISIS militants could take months, with street-by-street, and in some cases house-to-house, firefights necessary to combat urban guerrilla defense tactics and limit civilian casualties. Coalition forces have begun to encounter civilians waving white flags to keep from being attacked.
In Bazwaya, the last, previously ISIS-held village before troops entered Mosul from the east on Tuesday (Nov. 1), residents hung white flags from buildings and stood outside their homes, their children flashing the "V" sign for victory with their fingers, the Associated Press reported. Hundreds of such families will be evacuated to camps for displaced persons, an Iraqi Special Forces commander told the AP.
"We're getting ready for them - if we start seeing groups coming our way, then we're going to minister to them," the Christian leader said, adding that his organization needs assistance to prepare aid supplies. "We don't have many resources. I don't have a lot of food and medicine and other items, but we're going to do as much as we can."
The ministry, which Christian Aid Mission assists, has been distributing Bibles, leading Bible studies and holding discipleship training sessions for displaced people for more than two years, with many becoming Christians. Before ISIS seized Mosul, it had the reputation as the Iraqi city that was most closed to the gospel, the director said.
"So now they see the true face of Islam, they saw the teachings of Islam and they know what it means to be under the Islamic State," he said. "I believe a lot of heart-breaking stories will come out of Mosul with people who are ready to leave Islam and beg for Christ to take their lives and give them healing."
The ministry seeks assistance to purchase food, clothing, blankets, tents, medicines and Bibles.
"I want to encourage people to supply whoever is working there, whether us or anyone else, to help these people, supply them with the Word of God, supply them with the tools they need to work with these refugees who are coming," the director said. "And if Mosul is going to get liberated, Lord willing, we will be going to Mosul to do some work there. I hope to put a Bible in every house in Mosul and declare Christ as King of kings and Lord."
To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 444IRAQ. Thank you!

Battle Ready

Iraqi coalition soldiers posing after helping clear a town outside Mosul.
Iraqi coalition soldiers recently helped clear a town outside Mosul of Islamic State militants ahead of the battle to retake Iraq’s “second city” from the jihadists, which is expected to drive hundreds of thousands civilians to camps for displaced people in northern Iraq. “We are expecting a huge number of refugees coming to our area in the coming months, as there is a lot of official talk about Mosul being liberated before the end of this year,” the director of an indigenous ministry in northern Iraq said. Besides funds for food, clothing, blankets, tents and medicines for the next three months, the ministry needs help to purchase 30,000 New Testaments at $2 each, 10,000 children’s Bibles at $5 each and 40,000 Bibles in Arabic and Kurdish. “Humanitarian aid will help us extend the hand of mercy to the people who need it with the message of healing and salvation for people with a lot of stories and tragedies that will result from this war,” he said.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Nobody Is Too Broken for the Grace of Jesus

Nobody Is Too Broken for the Grace of Jesus

This false ideology that a human can be too broken for the all-consuming grace of our Lord and Savior is incorrect.
I meet a lot of people who say they wouldn’t be caught dead inside of a church building, that their life is too messed up to be embraced by the arms of God, and that their previous failures are too monstrous to be forgiven by the grace of Jesus.
This false ideology that a human can be too broken for the all-consuming grace of our Lord and Savior is incorrect, and I pray that more churches will open up their doors to prove it so.

Nobody is too broken for the grace of Jesus.

We’ve all done things we aren’t proud of, said things that we wish we could take back, and been places we wouldn’t dare go visit again. And while many of us have found redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus, we must remember that there are millions of other people in this world who have yet to do the same.

The Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” The truth behind Paul’s words is revitalizing and scandalous—that even a man who once persecuted the church of Jesus Christ has now been redeemed and forgiven by His grace. This is revolutionary for all who hear it. The story of Paul is one we can all learn from. He is the pinnacle example of somebody who was far from God but found favor through the grace of Jesus. A second chance awaited him, and that second chance was discovered through seeking repentance, asking for forgiveness and allowing the spirit of Christ to transform him.
No matter what you’ve done in life, understand that the grace and love of Jesus is waiting for you with open arms. You don’t need to reach a certain level of “goodness” before you can pray, walk into a church or even read your Bible. God will take you where you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way. Remember, nobody is too broken for the grace of Jesus.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” —Titus 2:11
Jarrid Wilson

Jarrid Wilson

Jarrid Wilson is a husband, pastor and author relentlessly sharing the love of Jesus.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Perfect Spouse Will Not Complete You

The Perfect Spouse Will Not Complete You

The Perfect Spouse Will Not Complete You
Few pains hurt like the long ache of loneliness.
Few pains hurt like the long ache of loneliness. That experience can motivate singles to obsess over finding and keeping the perfect spouse. Sometimes it even drives people to end perfectly healthy relationships for fear of finding a more perfect choice somewhere.
Regardless, even the most laid back of the matrimonially available crowd must wrestle with the desire to find the absolutely perfect spouse.
The desire is understandable. Few decisions in life carry the weight of a covenantal commitment (Ephesians 5:22–33). If done correctly, your marriage will be a dominant influence on your decisions for the duration of its life—sometimes giving unsurpassed satisfaction and other times requiring gut-wrenching sacrifice. For most people, they have never come close to making such a long-term and life-altering decision before, and therefore they want to be as diligent as possible about making the right decision.
But sometimes we cross the boundary from merely trying to be a good shepherd of our hearts to actively trying to wrest control from the almighty and trustworthy God. A little bit of the original temptation plays out in our own lives (Genesis 3:1–7), Is God’s plan really sufficient? Does he really know what he’s doing? Can he really accomplish it without me?
Once we understand our motivations more clearly, we can bring them to the throne of grace more swiftly. Our hearts cannot help but be restless on this subject because it carries such weighty implications, yet our hearts can find genuine rest in the love, wisdom and might of a gracious God (John 14:27).

Assess Your Expectations

Motivations are one thing; expectations another. If you asked most people, they would affirm that there is no such thing as a perfect spouse. However, I’m betting that most of those same people would probably also affirm the “perfect-for-me” theory of spousal selection. That is the idea that there is some perfect person somewhere on the planet, and if they could just find them, the two would be perfectly happy together. Their interests, strengths and shortcomings would all blend in perfect relational harmony.
Let us disabuse ourselves of that expectation. No perfect person on this earth is waiting for you. Find me a potential spouse, and I’ll show you a sinner—because we are all sinners. And no matching or mixing of sins leads to perfect blessedness, because that’s not what sin does. Sin is selfish, deceitful and power-hungry. Marriages require us to be sacrificing, honest and willing to serve. Your spouse may complement you, but he (or she) will never complete you. That’s the job of Christ.
When I’m evaluating couples in premarital counseling, I’m looking for three components: character, chemistry and compatibility.

1. Character

Character is the domain that lets me know that two people value the same things. In order to be able to have a long-term healthy relationship the couple must be able to build up trust. As my friend and former professor Jim Hurley would say, “Trust comes from repeated acts of trustworthiness.” Consequently, I ask, do both partners have the same idea of what it means to behave in trustworthy ways?
Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly room for differences of opinion in every relationship, even differences of priority—but this is about fundamental commitments and worldview. This is why Paul warns against being “unequally yoked” because it is so difficult to make a relationship work when we cannot agree what is right or wrong. As Christians, we should excel here. Our morality is not built upon our instincts but upon the unassailable word of God. We have an unshakeable foundation that clearly marks what is acceptable Christian behavior and what is not (Romans 13:8–10).

2. Chemistry

Chemistry is the domain that lets me know that two people are really attracted to each other. Common refrains in counseling. One of them is when one spouse is not attracted to the other. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the most common I’ve found is that people have tried to fight against the trend in society that relationships are almost exclusively about looks and lust, so they have fallen for the opposite lie, that looks don’t matter at all.
Chemistry is not just physical attraction—it’s also emotional attraction. Are these two people at ease with one another? Do they laugh together? Do they seem to look forward to seeing each other? Genuine chemistry is the platform upon which infatuation springs, and it should remain once infatuation has begun to subside.
Without chemistry, people often find themselves sharing their life with a roommate, not a spouse. The good thing about chemistry is that it can be cultivated over time. Attraction can and does grow; it can go from smoldering ash to open fire over time.

3. Compatibility

Compatibility is the domain that lets me know that two people are able to work well as a team. Character and chemistry can both be high, but if a couple doesn’t work well together as a team, the road will be long and tough. Couples are often drawn to one another based on opposite strengths. The old adage is true: “opposites attract.”
Spenders marry savers, introverts marry extroverts, black-and-white thinkers marry gray-scale thinkers—the list is nearly endless. What I’m looking for is whether or not the couple leans into these differences or fights against them. Whereas with character I’m looking for unity, with compatibility I’m looking for diversity. Diversity can be an incredible area of strength, but only if the couple has the wherewithal to appreciate each other’s competence while working on their own incompetence.
We should be diligent about making sure we are well-coupled before heading down the wedding aisle. We should understand our motivations, we should set biblically informed standards and expectations, and we should use careful discernment. But our hope is not in finding the perfect spouse, but in resting in the perfect Savior. It is not my marriage that will complete me, but Christ.  

Josh Squires

Josh Squires (@jsquires12) has degrees in counseling and divinity. He currently serves as the pastor of counseling and congregational care at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC where he lives with his wife Melanie and their 4 children.

Why We Must Not Quit When God’s People Mistreat Us

Why We Must Not Quit When God’s People Mistreat Us

Why We Must Not Quit When God’s People Mistreat Us
“No one should ever quit Jesus when God’s people mistreat him.”
“Even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
We hear of it too frequently.
“He used to be a pastor. But the people in the churches were so mean—undercutting him, criticizing, backbiting, slandering and then kicking him out—that it ruined him forever. He vows he’ll never enter a church again.”
“If this is how God’s churches are, I want nothing to do with any of them.”
“Makes me wonder if the Lord even cares.”
The variations on that sad theme are endless.
But the result, while tragic, is needless: Some of these “wounded warriors” have given up on the Lord and His church.
No one should ever quit Jesus when God’s people mistreat him.
The Lord told us to expect this. “The servant is not above his master. The pupil is not above his teacher. If they called the Master a devil, how much more should His disciples expect it.” (See Matthew 10.)
The Lord was crucified by the religious people, convinced they were doing God’s work.
OK, perhaps not all were convinced they were doing the Lord’s work. But many were.
What would knock you out of the game?
So what would it take, we ask the Christian workers in the audience, for you to walk away from the Lord’s work and cause you to turn your back on Him?
How badly would they have to treat you to make you give up on Jesus?
That is not theoretical nor is the question rhetorical. It’s a real issue, one each of us should face and answer.
I have heard of people who were mistreated by a sibling and who, as a result, wrote off the entire family. One man told me, “He won’t even call our parents. They long to hear from this son of theirs, but he acts as if they don’t exist.”
My parents had six children. While our parents were living, I would make this point: Even if one of my three brothers or two sisters did something to end our contact, there is nothing a sibling can do that would make me quit loving my parents and going to see them.
So, how is it that someone mistreated by a church can walk away from the Lord Jesus?
Someone says, “I’m not leaving the Lord, just His church.”
Same difference, my friend.
Show me anyone in Scripture who managed to separate Jesus from His Body.
He said numerous times, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (See John 14 and 15.)
To love Jesus does not mean getting all goose-bumpy about Him, but obeying Him.
Obedience: That’s the Lord’s love language.
In the book of Job, God and Satan were discussing this very issue, what it would take for a champion of the Lord to desert Him. “Job is faithful to you because you take such good care of him,” the devil said to the Almighty.
The loss of everything dear to Job would do the trick, said Satan. “Take it all away and he will curse you to your face.” When that was proven not to be the case, Satan said, “Let him think he’s losing his life.” Nothing dearer to people than their lives, right? (See chapters 1-2 of Job. But don’t miss chapter 42.)
In all this, Job did not sin, we read.
Job was a keeper. “Even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” he said.
That’s the kind of faithfulness that honors God, blesses people and will shine like diamonds for eternity.
What would it take for you to stop going to church, quit reading your Bible and put a stop to your prayers?
It doesn’t take much for some of us.
It didn’t take much for some people.
A little opposition, a little harassment, some betrayals, and one would think we were going through the holocaust. “Why me, Lord?”
God’s people need to grow up and quit their belly-aching.
God’s preachers need to lose their Pollyanna expectation that serving Jesus was meant to be easy, churches are always going to do the right thing, denominations are the great security blanket, and if God loved you, He would give you what you pray for every time.
At the end of their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas decided to retrace their steps and return to the Christians they’d birthed and the churches they had started. “Let’s encourage them in the Lord,” they said. “And let’s tell them that it is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom.” (See Acts 14.)
“Much tribulation.” Expect it.
The problem for most is that we expect it from the world, but not from within the house of God.
The crowd that welcomed Jesus into the city on Sunday with cries of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” must have been largely the same bunch calling out “Crucify Him!” by the end of the week.
In Paul’s first missionary journey, the citizens of a town were so impressed by the miracle of healing he performed, they were ready to worship him and Barnabas as gods. Shortly thereafter, when troublemakers arrived to slander the apostle, the crowd turned to stone him.
We would do well to keep our faith in Jesus but not in the Lord’s people. They are His flock and our assignment. They are His children and our field of service. We must not look to them for affirmation, validation or a proof of our authenticity. When they show appreciation and respond well to our ministry, well and good. But when they do not, we must not conclude the Lord has betrayed us.
And so, to the victim of mistreatment at the hands of the Lord’s people, we offer this small counsel:
—If you are as human as the rest of us, you were not entirely blameless in the work which ended so badly. The person who blames everyone else for his woes without taking any of the responsibility for any portion of it himself is probably into denial. Don’t let that happen to you.
—Keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus. He is both the Author and Finisher of your salvation. Which is to say, He started it and He will end it—in His own time and way. So, keep trusting Him.
—If no church will consider you now after the way the last congregation dismissed you, start a ministry. Perhaps the Lord wants you to birth a church in your living room, or to minister at the jail or in hospitals as a chaplain. No one on earth can keep you from ministering in the name of Jesus, even if they are able to prevent you from getting a paid position with an established church.
—Many a pastor has found freedom in being bi-vocational—that is, having a full-time job during the week that pays the bills while pastoring a church at night and on weekends. In most cases, these churches are smaller than the larger, more impressive congregations. But not always. Even so, you would do well to get over having to have a full-time, paid position. Look for ways to carry out the calling God has given you.
Paul told Timothy to “fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
—Pray God will help you to get past the mistreatment at the hands of His people. No church is going to want an angry pastor. No search committee wants a preacher who is still licking his wounds from the last place he served. They’re looking for a healthy, loving pastor, and rightly so.
—Ask the Lord to use this suffering in your life to bring about good things. He specializes in that very thing.
—You are finally learning what it means to share the sufferings of Jesus. Do not miss this privilege, one not given to everyone. Let your sufferings be an offering of love to the One who redeemed you from sin and called you into His service. (See Philippians 3:10.)
We must not quit. We have been given an incredible promise. “Be thou faithful unto death,” Jesus said, “and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Two reasons not to quit
Here’s how Paul put it. “Therefore, since we have received this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart” (or quit). God has shown us mercy. God has called us into His ministry (2 Corinthians 4:1).
Mercy and ministry. He’s been so good to you, not dealing with you according to your sins and not rewarding you according to your iniquities (Psalm 103:10).  That’s His mercy. And having called you into His service, He gave you spiritual gifts to enable you to do the work. That’s your ministry.
You will stand before Him some day and give account. You want to go with confidence and not shame. So, claim this promise from 2 Corinthians 4:16-17: “Therefore we do not lose heart (and quit). For even though our outer man is decaying, yet the inner man is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is working for us an exceeding weight of glory, far beyond all comparison.”
It will be worth it all, friend. As Paul said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
So many reasons not to become a statistic, preacher. But the best one is simply: You love Jesus.
You. Love. Jesus.  

3 Steps to Stop Wasting Your Life

3 Steps to Stop Wasting Your Life

3 Steps to Stop Wasting Your Life
“If you trust God, renounce self-reliance, and bring him into every life situation, he is going to make your paths straight.”
A few years back, John Piper recorded a series of video devotionals for the YouVersion Bible app. One of those devotions that came out of the recording was on Proverbs 3, verses five and six. What Pastor John delivered is what we are calling: Three Steps to Stop Wasting Your Life. Here’s what he said.
Proverbs 3:5–6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” That verse probably is the one that my mother quoted most often in writing me when I was in college and graduate school. Without even writing it out, she would include Proverbs 3:5–6. And I think it is because the main aim of the verse is to walk in a straight path.
That means, she didn’t want me and I don’t want you and God doesn’t want us to veer off the path into disobedience or into a wasted life or into anything that would dishonor him. That is the goal. He will make your paths straight: straight to obedience, straight to everlasting joy, straight to a God-honoring life. And he says there are three steps to get there, right?
1) First, trust in the Lord with all your heart. So, bank on the promises of God step by step in your life. Make your life a moment-by-moment trusting in a good, holy, kind, loving, all-providing, all-satisfying God.
2) And then, step two, he says: Don’t rely on your own understanding, which I think means a conscious choice not to be self-reliant. Just say to yourself: Self, you are inadequate. Brain, you can’t come up with enough wisdom on your own. You have to turn away from self-reliance. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t think and you don’t plan. It just means that you don’t bank on it. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). So, even in the midst of our planning and thinking and using our minds, we are leaning on something else. We are not leaning on our own resources.
3) And then the third one is: In all your ways acknowledge him—the Hebrew says, in all your ways know him. So, at every turn, every new choice you have to make, every new conversation you are in, you are sending up a message: God, I acknowledge you here. I know you here. I am drawing you in here. You are decisive here. I need you here. And if we follow those: trust him, renounce self-reliance, bring him into every situation, he is going to make our paths straight. He is going to keep us from wasting our lives or destroying ourselves and others in the path of sin and bringing us to everlasting joy.  
John Piper

John Piper

John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at © Desiring God.

How to Rejoice Under Dark, Dark Clouds

How to Rejoice Under Dark, Dark Clouds

How to Rejoice Under Dark, Dark Clouds
“Remember, the sun is always shining above the clouds, and the steadfast love of our God will never cease.”
Puritan writer Matthew Henry was once robbed by thieves and recorded in his journal:
“Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not someone else.”
How could Matthew Henry rejoice after being hijacked? Because he didn’t derive his joy from his circumstances, but took joy in the God of his salvation.
Paul and Silas freed a slave girl from a spirit of divination that had afflicted her for a long time. Deprived of their cash cow, her owners dragged Paul and Silas before the local magistrates and riled up a mob who proceeded to give Paul and Silas a fine Philippian pounding. Then they tossed them into prison, in the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks.
The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:22-25).
Paul and Silas are chained up in a filthy Philippian prison and they’re singing!
I have never been stripped, beaten, thrown into prison or fastened in stocks. But if I were, I don’t know if my first inclination would be to sing “I Just Want to Thank You.” That’s not usually the first thought that comes to my mind when my car starts to make a grinding sound or my wife asks if we can talk about something (and I can tell it’s the kind of “talk” that’s going to take a while).
The reason Paul and Silas could worship in the blockhouse was because they didn’t derive their joy from their circumstances, but took joy in the God of their salvation.
For believers in Christ, the source of our joy is Jesus himself. He’s our fountain of life, our chosen portion, our beautiful inheritance. He’s our meat and drink. And he never changes, no matter how much our circumstances fluctuate. I once flew from Pittsburgh to Toronto. It was overcast and snowing in Pittsburgh, but when the plane rose above the clouds, the sun was blazing in all its glory. When we descended in Toronto it was grey and snowing again. I had a flash of revelation (that’s right folks, it had never dawned on me until that very moment): The sun is always shining above the clouds. And like the sun, God is always blazing with goodness and kindness and power and love for us, no matter what our circumstances “down here” are like. He hasn’t changed any more than the sun changes when it’s raining. As it says in Lamentations 3:
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (21-23)
I’m not saying that believers in Jesus should never weep or grieve. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says that we grieve when fellow believers die. Yet in our grief, we have hope that we will see them again. Yet we grieve. We weep when our children suffer. Sometimes we grieve when we suffer unjustly because of the sins of others. Believers suffer loss, get sick and go through many different kinds of pain. Jesus himself cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” in great agony of spirit on the cross (MT 27.46). But in every circumstance and in the depths of our pain we can still give God praise and thanks for his love has not ceased for us. His mercies have not come to an end. He is still faithful to us, despite the fact that we may not sense it at the moment. He is still shining above the clouds in our lives, though they be dark and terrible. And someday we will see how he was loving and faithful to us in those moments. Someday he will personally wipe away every tear from our eyes.
If you have not yet called upon the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sins and give you eternal life, I urge you to do so right now. For those of us who do know Jesus, be glad and sing praises, like Matthew Henry or Paul and Silas, no matter what’s happening “down here” in our lives. Remember, the sun is always shining above the clouds, and the steadfast love of our God will never cease.  
Mark Altrogge

Mark Altrogge

Mark Altrogge is the original triple threat: singer, songwriter, pastor. He has been the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA for over 25 years, and is the author of many well known worship songs such as “I Stand In Awe”, and “In The Presence”. When not pastoring or writing songs, Mark can be found consuming vast quantities of coffee. Unfortunately, Mark is not particularly gifted in the area of athletics.

God Used Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” to Rescue Michael Phelps From Suicide

God Used Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” to Rescue Michael Phelps From Suicide

michael phelps
After winning eight gold medals in Beijing, Phelps says he “despised the image of perfection his success had created.”
If there’s one thing the Olympics can teach us, it’s that hard work and perseverance can pay off. If there’s one thing it can’t teach us, though, it’s how to measure your life. Surely if you’ve won an Olympic medal, you would feel accomplished, right? Surely if you’ve won as many as Michael Phelps you could feasibly ride that feeling of accomplishment the rest of your life.
However, this was not the case for Phelps. Even after winning eight gold medals in Beijing, “Phelps says he despised the image of perfection his success had created.”
In an interview with SportsCenter, Phelps explains, “I was just a train wreck. I was just a time bomb waiting to go off. No self esteem, no self worth.” How does the most successful swimmer in history have a self-esteem problem?
Phelps had stumbled on to a truth many Christians know: Our sense of worth and purpose was never meant to lie in our own accomplishments or the praises of other people.
The breaking point came in 2014 when Phelps was pulled over for speeding in his hometown of Baltimore. Additionally, he was arrested and charged with his second DUI in 10 years. He spent the next five days secluded in his home. Phelps explains he even contemplated suicide: “For a moment I thought it was going to be the end of my life. Literally….Yeah, it’ll probably just be better without me. People won’t have to deal with the BS I give them or the crap I put them through…I just figured the best thing to do was to end my life.”
Enter Ray Lewis, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and friend of Phelps. Lewis helped to pull Phelps off the floor so to speak. Pulling back into his own “dark” past experiences, Lewis helped Phelps to see there was hope to turn around. Lewis and other friends convinced Phelps to seek help at The Meadows, a rehabilitation center outside of Phoenix. “I was just surrendering,” Phelps explained.
Lewis also gave Phelps a copy of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Phelps explained the book helped by turning him “into believing there is a power greater than myself and purpose for me on this planet.” The book contained the message Phelps needed to hear: It’s not about accomplishments, it’s not about praise. Life is about God and our need for him.
Phelps’s revelation sounds similar to Shawn Johnson’s—the gymnastics darling of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. After incredible success in Beijing, Johnson felt the same way: Not even an Olympic medal can mask the feeling of worthlessness that comes from not knowing God.
It’s exciting to watch these world-class athletes compete in Rio, but it’s also important to remember that any accomplishment in this world, apart from Christ, will always leave us empty and searching. Why not leverage the story of Michael Phelps to make a relevant teaching illustration this week?
You can watch the full story on Phelps and his turn around in the following video.

Megan Briggs

Megan Briggs

Megan Briggs is a content editor and passionate follower of Christ. Two things – she believes – that should be linked together more often. Her experience in ministry to youth and parents as well as the extensive amount of time she’s spent in ministry overseas gives her a unique perspective on the global church. Megan is passionate about spreading the gospel and equipping the church for holiness. When she’s not writing or proofreading, Megan likes to run.

God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

God Will Give You More than You Can Handle
“In this life, God will give you more than you can handle, but the coming weight of glory will be greater than you can imagine.”
Christians can make the strangest claims when comforting those who are suffering. What do you say to someone whose life is falling apart? If you have but few precious minutes with a person who’s lost a job, home, spouse, child or all sense of purpose, what comfort do you give?
We might turn to conventional wisdom instead of Scripture and end up saying something like, “Don’t worry, this wouldn’t happen in your life if God didn’t think you could bear it.” The sufferer may object, head shaking and hands up. But you insist, “Look, seriously, the Bible promises God won’t ever give you more in life than you can handle.” There it is—conventional wisdom masquerading as biblical truth. You’ve promised what the Bible never does.

Temptations Versus Trials

In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul writes, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” His discussion is specific: He’s writing about “temptation,” a snare that breaks a sweat trying to drag us into sin. Using a predator metaphor, God warned Cain that “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Gen. 4:7). Sin stalks us, but God is faithful. Sin desires to overcome us, but there is a merciful way of escape. Sin sets the bait, but for the believer—praise God!—sin is not irresistible.
Now if people apply Paul’s words about temptation to general sufferings, you can see where the line “God will never give you more than you can handle” comes from. I don’t doubt the sincerity and good intentions of those who use this phrase, but sincerity isn’t enough. Even Job’s friends meant well.

The Twin Errors

There are at least two errors in the unbiblical notion of “God will never give you more than you can handle.” First, it plays on the cultural virtue of fairness. Second, it points the sufferer inward instead of Godward.
1. Trials That Are…Fair?
If you give your children boxes to load into the car, you make visual and weight assessments that factor in their ages and strength. You don’t overload their arms and watch them crash to the ground with stuff splayed everywhere. That would be unfair. The saying “God will never give you more than you can handle” strikes a tone of fairness we instinctually like. There’s something pleasing about the idea that the scales are in balance, that God has assessed what we can handle and permits trials accordingly.
But there is a glaring problem with the “fairness” that undergirds this conventional wisdom: God has been unfair already, because he has not dealt with us as our sins deserve. He has been longsuffering, forbearing, gracious and abounding in love. The sun shines and rain falls even on the unjust (Matt. 5:45). God transcends the categories of fair and unfair to such a degree that we have no position to evaluate his actions or weigh his will. His ways aren’t subject to our culture’s standard of fairness.
2. The Power…Within?
Suffering doesn’t ask if you’re ready. It may come slowly or with a vengeance, but it doesn’t ask permission, and it doesn’t care about convenience. There’s never a good time for your life to be wrecked. But the saying “God will never give you more than you can handle” tells me I have what it takes. It tells me I can bear whatever comes my way. It tells me God permits trials according to my ability to endure. Think about what this conventional wisdom does: It points people inward.
Yet the Bible points us Godward. As the psalmist says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Ps. 46:1–3). When our strength is failing under crushing burdens, the answer is not within. God gives power to the faint and increases the strength of the weak (Isa. 40:29). The power comes from him to those who wait on him.

Where Trials Direct Us

Trials come in all shapes and sizes, but they don’t come to show how much we can take or how we have it all together. Overwhelming suffering will come our way because we live in a broken world with broken people. And when it comes, let’s be clear ahead of time that we don’t have what it takes. God will give us more than we can handle—but not more than he can.
The psalmist asks, “Where does my help come from?” (Ps. 121:1), and we must be able to answer like he did. We must know and believe, deep in our bones, that “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (121:2). When trials come, trust that the Lord’s help will come. This news is helpful to sufferers since we’re saying something true about God instead of something false about ourselves.
Paul recalled a time when God gave him more than he could bear. In a letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Cor. 1:8). Paul and his associates had been in circumstances that transcended their strength to endure: “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death” (1:9).
Then he provides a crucial insight into his despair. Why were he and his companions given more than they could handle? To “make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9). God will give you more than you can handle so that his great power might be displayed in your life. Indeed, a greater weight of glory is still to come: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).
You might not consider overwhelming sufferings to be “light” and “momentary,” but think of your trials in terms of a trillion years from now. In the middle of affliction, sometimes the most difficult thing to hold onto is an eternal vision. Paul isn’t trying to minimize your affliction; he’s trying to maximize your perspective.
Suffering doesn’t get the last line in the script. In this life, God will give you more than you can handle, but the coming weight of glory will be greater than you can imagine.

Mitch Chase

Mitch Chase (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the preaching pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church and an adjunct professor at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s the author of Behold Our Sovereign God (Lucid Books, 2012). You can follow him on Twitter.

Is Your Passion for Ministry Fading?

Is Your Passion for Ministry Fading?

Is Your Passion for Ministry Fading?
“Just like a campfire, your passion will dwindle without new fuel and intentional cultivation.”
Think of your first opportunity in ministry. You were fired-up, enthusiastic and ready to take on the world! We all start that way or close to it! After all, you said yes! Right?! You said yes to God, and yes to a leader who invited you on the team. Even if you were a little nervous or unsure, you were in!
Even with a great start it’s surprisingly easy for your passion for ministry to fade. It can become common place, and routine. It’s not uncommon for a leader to slide into a comfortable zone and not realize it. This often leads to status quo and complacency. In time, this skews your perspective, and eventually your heart is no longer on fire to serve!
Long ago we used to say, “Fan the flame of your calling.” Those are old fashioned words, but the meaning is still substantial. If you don’t tend to the fire, it will go out. That’s just a fact of leadership and ministry life. Just like a campfire will soon go to embers, fade and go out, your passion will dwindle without new fuel and intentional cultivation.

4 Practices to Keep Your Passion High: 

1) Remember your conversion.

You were not saved by works, but you were saved to do good works.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10
Your call to serve and lead can never be separated from your conversion. Your salvation through Christ is the foundation of your call to ministry. If your faith is shaky or becoming “same old same old,” your call can turn to mechanical duty. It can become a routine where you merely go through the motions. This leaves you dangerously close to operating on your own talent, rather than the power of the Holy Spirit.
Regularly reflect on your experience of conversion. Thank God for that grace. Soak in that truth and the amazing love of Christ; just two minutes is all it takes. What He did for you provides fuel to share that grace with others.

2) Be clear on your calling.

It’s important to know if your call to serve in ministry is part of your Christian life as a volunteer leader, or if it is to full-time vocational service. You may do nearly the exact same function, for example, teaching, but the context is very different. If your professional work life is where you live out your faith, and you volunteer at your church, that’s one kind of call. If you are paid to lead full-time in a local church, that’s a different calling from God.
These two are very connected, and there is overlap, but I’ve known too many men and women who push against what God had in mind. There are some who fight “the call” and resist vocational ministry, and others who force it when God wants them in the marketplace.
Until this is clearly settled, you will lack the inner peace and rest in your soul that is needed to keep your passion burning bright for ministry.

3) Love what you do.

When you love what you do, three things are added to you and your ministry that contribute to passion.
• Energy – You will always have energy for what you love. If you love your work, you’ll care about it, and when you care, that generates personal energy. We often call that internal motivation. It’s a fire that burns within!
• Joy – When you love your work and your energy is strong, a sense of joy pervades! This doesn’t mean every day is an easy day, but the practical translation is that even on the tough days, it’s worth it! This makes the majority of your work fun and you truly can enjoy it. This continually re-ignites your passion.
• Improvement – It’s absolutely vital to keep growing while you keep going. The goal is to get better at what you do. My son John-Peter is a software developer at Georgia Tech Research Institute. He’s also working on his Master’s in Computer Science at Georgia Tech. He’s getting better at what he does! How about you? How are you improving? Improvement increases passion!

4) Love the people you serve with.

It isn’t always easy to love the people you serve with, but it’s infinitely easier if you choose to love them!
Whether you serve as a volunteer or on staff full-time, here are three practical guidelines to a caring connection with your team.
• Close to a few – You were never designed to be close buddies with everyone on the team. Human chemistry doesn’t work that way. But there should be one or two people, or perhaps even three or four, that you share a special bond and close relationship with.
• Connect with all – If you are part of a large staff, or part of a group of volunteer leaders, it’s healthy to experience an easy and comfortable connection with everyone. It’s more casual than close, but there is a sense of team, and you enjoy each other even if the interactions are brief. You feel like you are all “in this” together.
• Conflict with no one – Since there will be conflict even on the healthiest and most successful of teams, the key here is none unresolved. If there is a rift between you and a teammate, take the initiative to make it right. Don’t let it sit and fester and become a poison in the team chemistry. Have the conversation today.
These three simple guidelines will help you love genuinely, which always leads to greater passion for your ministry!  

Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety

Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety

“Having friends and loved ones who are OK with all of this stuff is priceless.”
This article originally appeared here, on Tim Challies’ website. 
For seven years I have lived with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder and Social Anxiety. It has completely changed my life. I have written and drawn about these things before and the response has proven to me that there are tons of Christians who relate to my story. This probably includes people you know. I also know that many are hesitant to tell others about their struggles. So for them, based on my experience, I compiled a little list of things you should know about your Christian friends and family who struggle with anxiety.
It changes us.
Before I had these issues I was an outgoing, type-A extrovert. I fed off social situations and loved being the center of attention. Today I’m a serious introvert who struggles mightily with social situations, unfamiliar settings, having any attention on me, meeting new people, talking on the phone or even writing an article like this one. More often than not, I just can’t do it. I’ve been unable to leave my house for stretches of time. I’ve almost crashed my car while having a panic attack. I hate going to the doctor or the barber shop. I can’t do small groups with people I don’t know. I’ve tried so, so hard to go to conferences (I wanted to go to T4G so bad this year!), but I’ve never been able to go through with it. I’m a mess, really.
It’s not a Matthew 6 or Philippians 4 issue—it’s a physiological issue.
Pre-anxiety-me would probably have scoffed at this. But having an anxiety disorder is not the same thing as being a worrywart. Most people with anxiety don’t go to the doctor and say, “I dunno doc, I can’t stop worrying about stuff.” Most of us go to the doctor with troubling physical symptoms, and only then do we learn that anxiety is the cause. In my case, I went to the doctor thinking I was having a stroke or some major brain issue. In reality, I was having my first panic attack. When the doctor told me it was anxiety I thought he was crazy or that he was not taking me seriously. I was convinced I was experiencing medical trauma! My entire central nervous system was telling me so. And then this guy tells me I have anxiety. It was surreal. I’ve had tons of people tell me that this is their story as well. This is not the same type of anxiety that manifests mainly as nagging worry. We have a mental disorder, not a control problem.
We know it doesn’t make any sense.
It doesn’t make sense to you—or us, most of the time. It’s called a disorder because it is a disorder—our brains are malfunctioning. We know our thoughts are illogical. We know there is no good reason for our adrenaline to be pumping like we’re running from a T-Rex. We know it’s just the anxiety messing with us. But knowing that doesn’t help a single bit.
Having anxiety doesn’t make us overly concerned about things as much as it makes our brains short-circuit as a feeling of certain impending doom envelops us. Being in an anxiety pit is a feeling that can’t be explained, and in bad times it’s a feeling that’s with us from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep. It’s our life.
The feeling of doom is very real to us. As real as anything else.
You can tell us everything is OK, and sometimes we know it’s true. But the monster of anxiety will still assure us, louder than anything else, that everything is wrong, nothing is right, every bad thing that could possibly happen is certainly going to happen and there’s simply no other alternative. We are convinced we’ve ruined everything we’ve ever touched, worked on or looked at. It’s so real, and in our state of panic, it feels more real than anything else. Have you ever been in a temporary state of seriously elevated anxiety? That feeling that your heart is in your throat and your stomach has dropped through the ground—it’s that real to us. It’s panic. When panic hits us, it takes over, and invokes an immediate and overwhelming need for escape. We have to live with it.
We’re exhausted all the time.
Think back to a very high-stress situation you’ve been in, when your fight-or-flight response took over. Adrenaline flowing, heart pounding, vision altered. You probably collapsed into your bed shortly thereafter, your body depleted from expending all of its energy reserves. That’s our life when we’re going through a bad anxiety spell. It’s utterly draining to get through even a non-eventful day. Many days we’re ready for bed by lunchtime. Our brains are clouded. We’re experiencing derealization. We can’t think straight. We can’t process information. We can’t focus. We can’t remember things. We’re sorry for sometimes being grumpy or irritable because of this.
Please know we’re not just blowing you off.
We know it seems like we are, but we’re not. We’re sorry for canceling plans. We’re sorry for declining invitations. We’re sorry for leaving early. We’re sorry for not following up. It’s not you, it’s us. It’s our anxiety. Upcoming events, even minor ones, can foster a serious sense of dread for people with anxiety disorders. Sometimes the only way to relieve the pressure so we can get back to living is to eliminate the source. We live in constant fear of anxiety triggers and snowballs. And need to be alone much more than most people. Social situations quickly exhaust us, and we re-energize with solitude. It’s not that we don’t like you.
Having friends and loved ones who are OK with all of this stuff is priceless.
To have those few beloved friends who know we have anxiety and know it makes us act weird, but they’re cool with it and they still love us and pray for us and let us deal with it the best we know how—this is such a blessing from God.
All we can do is be honest with you.
If someone tells you that they have an anxiety disorder, they’re being brave. If someone cancels plans with you and openly tells you it’s because their anxiety is through the roof right now, they’re choosing to tell the truth and be vulnerable with you, instead of trying to save face by telling a half-truth or looking for a scapegoat. The best we can do is be open and honest about our struggles with anxiety. And if we do that, we’re doing well.
The gospel is everything to us.
We live a life in which our feelings actively try to kill us. It’s a strange existence. We know better than most that feelings can be filthy, stinking liars. While subjective feelings try to do us in, the objective truth of the gospel is what sustains us. It’s our life raft.
The fact that God chose us before the foundation of the world, sent His Son to die on a cross for us, taking upon Himself the punishment for our sins, granting us eternal life in perfect bliss with Him in heaven—this is what sustains us through many dark times. I don’t know how I could go on without this truth sustaining me. This is the anchor of our soul: That our status before God is secure because it’s not dependent on our turbulent feelings, it’s dependent on the finished work of Christ, and when God looks at us, even when we’re being smothered by a wet anxiety blanket, he sees a beloved child, perfectly clothed in the full righteousness of Jesus Christ.
When you know we’re struggling, send us a little reminder of the beautiful truth of the gospel. It might be a blessing bigger than you know. Tell us what Christ has done. Tell us “it is finished.” Tell us what He accomplished on our behalf. But please, don’t call—a text or email will do just fine. 🙂