Changing Our Mindset About Suffering

Those of you who read my blog “Resisting the Devil” will recall the Scriptural foundation for our discussion was 1 Peter 5:8-9. At the time I was preparing that blog, I felt an urgency to continue reading to the end of that chapter. We usually quote 1 Peter 5:8-9 and don’t usually give much attention to verses 10 & 11. As I read these verses, Romans 8:28 came to mind.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 

He did indeed say ALL things. Which takes me back to 1 Peter 5:10. Even when the devil seeks to make you suffer, God uses that suffering to bring about victory and maturity in your life. Even as the devil seeks to destroy you, as a child of God the grace (unmerited divine assistance) of God causes that same suffering to perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you. Your triumph over suffering actually builds greater trust in the awesomeness of your God and you become even more committed and steadfast in your walk with Him. You see and experience God’s glory and dominion over the enemy and the destruction he sought for your life and that of your family (1 Pet. 5:11).

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 5:10-11)

1 Peter 5:10-11 has given me a new perspective, a new mindset, about suffering in the life of a surrendered Christian. With this newly found understanding of the positive work that suffering does to build character in my life and your life I am now better able to appreciate how James could link joy and trials (James 1:2-4). I used to read these verses and feel James was just a bit too spiritual for my liking 🙂 Count it all joy when you go through diverse trials? Really!? It is now my testimony, as I look back at my own life, that it was indeed through the trials and not the successes in my life that I gained the most growth in faith and character. These were painful times indeed but have worked for me a far more eternal weight of glory. So, like James, I can rejoice in my diverse trials. Look back at your own life and I am sure you can also join with me.

If we are to truly know Jesus Christ, we have to be bonded to Him by understanding some of the suffering He went through on our behalf. We gain full access to the power that has become available to us through Jesus’ resurrection only as we fellowship with Him through suffering. It is through suffering that we are perfected and come into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:10-11)

till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Eph. 4:13)

Shalom.

 

 

The Spirit of Error

I mentioned in my last blog “Resisting the Devil” that there is a spirit of error that is very subtly invading the Body of Christ. This is a plan of the devil to devour and utterly destroy the Body of Christ. Recall how subtle the Devil was in tempting Jesus in the wilderness by quoting portions of the Word of God but leaving out a critical part to convince Jesus to put God to the test (Mt. 4:6-7; Deut. 6:16). We are told in Proverbs 1:10 to be on guard against sinners that would seek to entice us. Many times these ‘sinners’ are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Satan is the master at enticement and deception. He watches us closely and knows exactly what snare to set to draw us into error. This is how the human race was plunged into sin in the first place (Gen. 3:1).

There are 2 kingdoms – the kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven) and the kingdom of Satan (kingdom of darkness). The Spirit of truth is the Holy Spirit who guides everyone who has completely surrendered themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (John 16:13). There is a difference between being saved and being surrendered. When we live outside of the influence of the Holy Spirit we are being led by the spirit of error, which is the same as being led by Satanic influence (John 8:44). Many who are being led by the spirit of error are so blinded by deception that it takes the Holy Spirit himself to intervene to bring the person into the knowledge of the truth. A prime example of this was Saul’s encounter on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9). Some of the most zealous religious leaders are led by a spirit of religion which is one of the key fruits arising from the spirit of error. We can identify those who are being led by the spirit of error by their words, their lifestyles, their actions, their friends. The main way we identify the spirit of error is outlined in 1 John 4:1-6. We are also given instruction and insight in Matthew 7:15-20).

What then is the responsibility of those who do not want to be drawn into deception by the spirit of error? We must KNOW the truth of God’s Word. Anything that does not line up with God’s Word is error. We must read the Word for ourselves and meditate upon it day and night (Psalms 1:1-2). We must not seek counsel from men without discernment. This is the proverbial “blind leading the blind”. We must be aware that Satan has increased his attack on the Body of Christ in these days as we are unveiling his schemes and are becoming more aware of the power and authority we have over all the power of the enemy and are learning more and more how to walk in that power and authority. Do not sit passively under anyone’s ‘teaching’ no matter who it is. Test the spirit behind every prophecy and every word said to be from God. Even those coming from the pulpit. It can happen to each of us so we must be on constant guard that we ourselves do not allow the enemy to use us to bring deception. Do not ignore that inner prompting from the Holy Spirit that is telling you something is not quite right. Surrender yourself completely to the Holy Spirit so He can guide you into all truth.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hos. 4:6a)

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)

Shalom.

 

 

Resisting the Devil

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”                                                                                                                                      (1 Pet. 5:8 -9, NKJV)

To resist the devil, we first have to acknowledge and be aware that he exists and understand his specific mission is to devour believers in Jesus Christ. Secondly, we must always be on guard, recognizing that this adversary is constantly looking for opportunities to pounce. It is no accident that he is likened to a lion. This king of the jungle is a stealthy hunter, constantly on the lookout for those who are most vulnerable and particularly targets those who have isolated themselves from others. As a master strategist, he strikes when we least expect it. Our vigilance is not meant to stop him from trying to attack, our vigilance is to make us ready to resist his attack WHEN it comes. Notice I said WHEN it comes and not IF it comes.  Therefore, like any good soldier in battle we must be armed and alert 24/7.

To resist effectively, we cannot afford to be ignorant of our enemy’s tactics (2 Cor. 2:11). We are told that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Not only does he attack when we least expect it, if we are not discerning we may not recognize his attack or those he is using to wage the attack. Our vigilance is particularly important because those we least expect to come against us are the very persons that the devil seeks to use – our co-workers, fellow ministers, and family members. But remember at all times, that you wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of darkness who are influencing those closest to you, many times without them being aware that the devil is moving them as a chess piece to bring your downfall. Note, we are warned that the deception of the devil will increase in this season so that even God’s chosen will be deceived (Mt. 24:24, Mk. 13:22).  It is critical that we grow into spiritual maturity with which comes spiritual discernment (Heb. 5:14). In fact, we need to pray for the gift of discerning of spirits to be added to our arsenal of weapons (1 Cor. 12:10). With regards to those who come pretending to be ministers of the gospel or who are ministering within the Body but have become deceived by the devil, we are told how we can identify them (1 John 4:2-6). There is a spirit of error that is very subtly invading the Body of Christ. This is a plan of the devil to devour and utterly destroy the Body of Christ. I urge each one of us to be armed and vigilant so we can discern between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (2 Tim. 2:15).

Having identified and become aware of the devil’s attack, how do we resist? 1 Pet. 5:9 says, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith”. Let’s explore this further. One of our weapons is the shield of faith that quenches all of the fiery darts of the wicked one (Eph. 6:16). Notice in this verse it says “above all”, meaning the shield of faith is among those weapons considered most important for us to have at all times. The other two “above all” weapons listed in Eph. 6:16 are the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which we know is the Word of God. All three work together – helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and the shield of faith. They cannot be separated. The helmet protects your head wherein lies your mind. This is the devil’s greatest battlefield. This is where the attack begins. To resist we must therefore first be constantly aware of our thoughts. Our thoughts evoke feelings and influence our emotions, which in turn influence our decisions and actions. We are told to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). But how do we do this practically? You must first recognize that you are not the source of many of your thoughts. Having accepted this, you must be sober and vigilant to watch over your thoughts so as to nip them in the bud when they do not line up with the “obedience of Christ”. But what is the “obedience of Christ”? How do we identify it? The “obedience of Christ” is the sword of the Spirit. We know the obedience of Christ and walk in the obedience of Christ as we study, meditate and allow the Word of God to transform us by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). We can only truly resist the enemy as we become armed with the Word of God. Jesus is our model of how to resist the devil. In Matthew 4, we see Jesus effectively wielding the sword of the Spirit against the devil. We must know the Word if we are to effectively wield it against our adversary, the devil. However, knowledge of the Word is not sufficient. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). To effectively wield the Word of God we must go beyond mere head knowledge to belief in the truth of God’s Word. We must believe it is “alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). How do we get to that place of faith in the Word? Faith comes by hearing the Word (Rom. 10:17). Constant speaking of the Word to ourselves builds faith in God and in His Word and equips us for the battle against Satan and his demonic forces.

Ultimately then, we cannot resist unless we are “steadfast in the faith”. Steadfast means resolutely and dutifully firm and unwavering. When we have faith in God and His Word we will be resolute (determined and unwavering) in our belief that he that is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). We will believe that we have all authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt us (Lk. 10:19). We will believe in the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (Eph. 1:19-21).  Hallelujah!! If God is for us who can be against us!! Let us arm and equip ourselves with the weapons of our warfare so when the enemy comes, having done all we will be found standing. Amen and amen.

Shalom.

Resisting the Devil

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”                                                                                                                                      (1 Pet. 5:8 -9, NKJV)

To resist the devil we first have to acknowledge and be aware that he exists and understand his specific mission is to devour believers in Jesus Christ. Secondly, we must always be on guard, recognizing that this adversary is constantly looking for opportunities to pounce. It is no accident that he is likened to a lion. This king of the jungle is a stealthy hunter, constantly on the lookout for those who are most vulnerable and particularly targets those who have isolated themselves from others. As a master strategist, he strikes when we least expect it. Our vigilance is not meant to stop him from trying to attack, our vigilance is to make us ready to resist his attack WHEN it comes. Notice I said WHEN it comes and not IF it comes.  Therefore, like any good soldier in battle we must be armed and alert 24/7.

To resist effectively, we cannot afford to be ignorant of our enemy’s tactics (2 Cor. 2:11). We are told that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Not only does he attack when we least expect it, if we are not discerning we may not recognize his attack or those he is using to wage the attack. Our vigilance is particularly important because those we least expect to come against us are the very persons that the devil seeks to use – our co-workers, fellow ministers, and family members. But remember at all times, that you wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of darkness who are influencing those closest to you, many times without them being aware that the devil is moving them as a chess piece to bring your downfall. Note, we are warned that the deception of the devil will increase in this season so that even God’s chosen will be deceived (Mt. 24:24, Mk. 13:22).  It is critical that we grow into spiritual maturity with which comes spiritual discernment (Heb. 5:14). In fact, we need to pray for the gift of discerning of spirits to be added to our arsenal of weapons (1 Cor. 12:10). With regards to those who come pretending to be ministers of the gospel or who are ministering within the Body but have become deceived by the devil, we are told how we can identify them (1 John 4:2-6). There is a spirit of error that is very subtly invading the Body of Christ. This is a plan of the devil to devour and utterly destroy the Body of Christ. I urge each one of us to be armed and vigilant so we can discern between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (2 Tim. 2:15).

Having identified and become aware of the devil’s attack, how do we resist? 1 Pet. 5:9 says, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith”. Let’s explore this further. One of our weapons is the shield of faith that quenches all of the fiery darts of the wicked one (Eph. 6:16). Notice in this verse it says “above all”, meaning the shield of faith is among those weapons considered most important for us to have at all times. The other two “above all” weapons listed in Eph. 6:16 are the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which we know is the Word of God. All three work together – helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and the shield of faith. They cannot be separated. The helmet protects your head wherein lies your mind. This is the devil’s greatest battlefield. This is where the attack begins. To resist we must therefore first be constantly aware of our thoughts. Our thoughts evoke feelings and influence our emotions, which in turn influence our decisions and actions. We are told to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). But how do we do this practically? You must first recognize that you are not the source of many of your thoughts. Having accepted this, you must be sober and vigilant to watch over your thoughts so as to nip them in the bud when they do not line up with the “obedience of Christ”. But what is the “obedience of Christ”? How do we identify it? The “obedience of Christ” is the sword of the Spirit. We know the obedience of Christ and walk in the obedience of Christ as we study, meditate and allow the Word of God to transform us by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). We can only truly resist the enemy as we become armed with the Word of God. Jesus is our model of how to resist the devil. In Matthew 4, we see Jesus effectively wielding the sword of the Spirit against the devil. We must know the Word if we are to effectively wield it against our adversary, the devil. However, knowledge of the Word is not sufficient. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). To effectively wield the Word of God we must go beyond mere head knowledge to belief in the truth of God’s Word. We must believe it is “alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). How do we get to that place of faith in the Word? Faith comes by hearing the Word (Rom. 10:17). Constant speaking of the Word to ourselves builds faith in God and in His Word and equips us for the battle against Satan and his demonic forces.

Ultimately then, we cannot resist unless we are “steadfast in the faith”. Steadfast means resolutely and dutifully firm and unwavering. When we have faith in God and His Word we will be resolute (determined and unwavering) in our belief that he that is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). We will believe that we have all authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt us (Lk. 10:19). We will believe in the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (Eph. 1:19-21).  Hallelujah!! If God is for us who can be against us!! Let us arm and equip ourselves with the weapons of our warfare so when the enemy comes, having done all we will be found standing. Amen and amen.

Shalom.

Are You Walking in the Spirit?

To answer this question, we must understand what it means to “Walk in the Spirit”.

We can live in the Spirit but this does not mean we are walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). Living in the Spirit comes with salvation but walking in the Spirit is active. We are moving in the direction in which the Holy Spirit is leading. When we walk in the Spirit we are not only saved but we are the sons of God (Rom. 8:14). If we are walking in the Spirit, we are able to resist the lust of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). We allow the Spirit of God within us to have dominion over our soul (mind, will and emotions). The Holy Spirit knows the mind of God and therefore knows the beginning from the end and will steer us away from danger (John 7:1).  The Holy Spirit keeps our feet from falling and causes us to walk upright before God (Ps. 56:13).

You can choose to walk in accordance with your own counsels (Ps. 81:12), the counsels of others (Ps. 1:1) or in the counsel of the Holy Spirit (Prov. 3:5).  God doesn’t force us. He will allow us to continue to walk in our own counsels if we want to stubbornly disobey His commands (Ps. 81:12). Of course, that comes with consequences. God will judge us for walking according to our own ways and according to our own sight (Eccl. 11:9). When we don’t walk in the Spirit we are open to God’s fury (Ezek. 20:13). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Heb. 10:31). We will walk in the Spirit not because we are forced to do so but because of our reverence and fear of the Living God (2 Chron. 6:31). It’s always our choice.

We must be careful who we choose to walk with as they can take us off track and begin leading us in their understanding (2 Cor. 12:18). Always be discerning of who and what is leading others before deciding to come into agreement with them (Amos 3:8). Walking in the Spirit is evidenced by the fruit of God’s Spirit being manifested in our lives and the lives of others.  By their fruit you shall know them (Mt. 7:20). People walking in the Spirit will display love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, faith and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 5:2). There are false spirits that lead into error (Micah 2:11). This is why we must test prophecies and words spoken in the name of the Lord as this can open us to deception (1 John 4:1). When we walk in the Spirit we have discernment of like and unlike spirits. We are walking in truth so we can spot lying and deception.

Walking in the Spirit involves walking in accordance with God’s laws and obeying His judgments – trusting in His determination of what is good and bad for us and doing what is good. To be able to do this we must have the Spirit of God within us. It cannot be done in our own strength (Ezek. 36:27). When we do not walk in the Spirit in obedience with God’s judgments we are pulled into idolatry (Ezek. 20:16). Justice is also far removed from us and we walk in darkness (having no clue where we are going; heading for destruction) (Isa. 59:9). The Lord gives us over to our own stubbornness and when we choose to do our own thing our own way it will lead to torment (Isa. 50:11). However, as we obey God’s statutes and commandments that are all God-breathed we shall have prosperity in all that we do and wherever we turn (1 Kings 2:3).

To walk in the Spirit means to walk in God’s truth. To agree with the Spirit of God and know if we are being led by the right Spirit we must know the truth of God’s Word for ourselves (Ps. 86:11). Allow the Lord Himself to teach us. The Spirit brings revelation of the truth as we read God’s Word. We need to develop ears that are sensitive to the voice of the Spirit if we are to remain in agreement with where he is leading us (Isa. 30:21). He leads by a still small voice. We must train our spiritual ears to hear. As we are led by the Spirit and walk in the Spirit our souls will be at rest (peace) (Jer. 6:16).

Walking in the Spirit is walking in newness of life. This has been made possible by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 6:4). Walking in the Spirit leads to life (Ezek. 33:15). Walking in the Spirit means following Jesus’ example and bringing light to the world (John 8:12).

God delights in those who are walking in accordance with the leading of His Spirit (Ps. 37:23). It is God ordering our steps. We will live and multiply and the blessings of God shall abound (Deut. 30:16).

Shalom!

Confession that Brings Healing

Confessing, repenting and asking forgiveness of God (1 John 1:9) is only one step on the road to freedom. At the root of mine, and many Christians’ captivity is SHAME. Shame continues to have a hold over you if you have never made public the sin that was committed. Satan thrives in darkness. For true and full liberty, everything done in darkness must be revealed into the light (Dan. 2:22; Mk. 4:22; Lk. 1:79, 8:17). This brings me to the importance of the scripture in James 5:16. Confession and repentance to God is for forgiveness and cleansing unto righteousness. But the confession to others who we can see is for healing and deliverance from the spirit of shame that still holds us captive. You can be righteous and still be bound.

The test of still being captive to shame is the ongoing inability to bring yourself to the place where you can bring what was done in secret into the light. That is when the bondage of shame is broken and you come into full liberty – nothing lacking, nothing missing. We resist the enemy when we reveal his dark acts and recognize that it is sin that caused us to do what we did – sin ruling in our mortal bodies; we were slaves to sin (Rom. 6:6, 12). But sin shall not have dominion over us for we are under grace (the influence of God within us to overcome sin). We cannot allow sin to define us. Sin is separate from us (Rom. 7:17). We cast sin from us by revealing it into the light that it can no longer prosper or have dominion. The enemy must come and find nothing of him in us (John 14:30). No foothold or open door to give him legal authority to continue to oppress us.

There should be no problem revealing hidden sin if we really believe God has forgiven us and it is covered under the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. It shouldn’t even matter if others repeat our hidden sins because shame no longer has dominion over us. Remember the one to who you reveal your hidden sins is not perfect either (Rom. 3:10). Let him who has no sin cast the first stone (John 8:7). Part of the problem in the Body of Christ is that many Christians do not believe they can freely express hidden sins to other Christians for fear of being judged. The desire of God for His church is that the law of liberty would be at work among us so that we can be totally transparent without fear of judgment or condemnation (Rom. 14: 10, 13). In fact, those who take it upon themselves to hear a confession and then judge are brought into judgment themselves by God. He  holds them accountable. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).

My road to total freedom came as I allowed the Holy Spirit to shine his torch light into the deep recesses of my soul. Many past sins that I had committed, both prior to and after becoming a Christian, even from childhood, came flooding into my consciousness. These were things I had never revealed to another living soul. The Holy Spirit directed me to start by writing them down in my journal. I tried to justify why I should write them on a piece of paper then I could just throw it away after the process was finished but the Lord showed me this was part of the shame wanting to stay hidden. I must admit a tremendous struggle took place inside of me as I prepared to write down all of my hidden sins. This was further proof to me of the power that shame had over me that I hadn’t really accepted or acknowledged before. It is easy to live in self-denial when things remain hidden, to live a life behind a mask and think that because we have confessed it to the Lord that’s the end of it. Now, I understand the purpose of these support groups where you have to stand up and state things openly about yourself – it is a part of the healing process. Satan is an ‘accuser of the brethren’ and I cannot be in deliverance ministry while fearing that he will reveal my secret sins to others. He has no power over me if I have already revealed them and I am no longer a slave to shame. We have to come to that place where we must be of no reputation – get rid of the fear of what others think of us – it is a snare of the enemy. This is part of the reason why the Body of Christ continues to be crippled and is unable to manifest the ‘greater works’ that Jesus said we should be doing (John 14:12).

I am part of a newly formed deliverance ministry team. The Lord showed me that if we are going to be able to operate with the maximum power and authority that will be required to fight against the strong demonic forces of darkness he would be leading us to overthrow we would have to bring to light all of our hidden sins. I knew it would have to start with me. I shared with the team what the Lord had revealed to me about the bondage of shame and then proceeded to read everything I had written in my journal. I felt humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed as I brought my hidden sins into the light before a dozen women. But by the time I had finished I felt a burden lift off me. I felt light and free. Others took the plunge and began to share things that had remained in darkness for decades and experienced the same lifting of the burden of shame that I had received. We ministered one to the other following through with the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous for each other. The following day, the Lord showed me that the hearts and spirits of the women on this ministry team were being knit together in a supernatural way that has given us a heart and compassion for each other that makes us want to fervently fight for each other and our families. There is a greater trust that has been born out of our sharing that will be needed as we go into the battle field together. We must know who has our backs. This is the Lord’s work and it is marvellous in our eyes.

This is what the Lord wants for the wider Body of Christ. The process begins with you. Do not allow shame to rule over you, bring everything out of darkness into the light and come into your freedom today.

till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Eph. 4:13)

Shalom.

The Stress Antidote: Key #3

We have been exploring the three keys that are the antidote to stress contained in Matthew 11:28-30.

Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

You will recall that Key #1 was Come to Jesus and Key #2 was Take on Jesus’ Yoke.

Key #3: Learn from Jesus to be Like Jesus

What is Jesus saying that we are to learn from Him? Gentleness and lowliness of heart. You may be asking what do these have to do with stress. Let’s look at each in turn.

Gentleness

The opposite of gentleness is harshness. When we are harsh it brings strife and much quarreling. I don’t know about you but when there is strife in the home, my workplace and even at church it stresses me out. It is even worse if somehow I am the cause of it. Harshness can also be equated to anger. An angry person stirs up conflict rather than seeks to quell it. We are told in Proverbs 15:1,

            A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

It is important to remember that gentleness (meekness) is also part of the fruit of the spirit given to us in Galatians 5:23. Meekness really means ‘strength under control’. When we are gentle many people mistake it for weakness. However, it takes much more strength to decide not to be provoked to anger, not to have to always have the last word, not to always prove that I am right. Sometimes we need to just allow people to be ministered to by God and not take on all the battles and arguments that people bring to us. To rest and let God do His work. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman and who has more power than the Holy Spirit. We stress ourselves when we feel that we have to force people to think as we do and to control others. Correct in gentleness and when that doesn’t work present it to God and leave it His hands. He can do a much better job than we can. This is particularly true when dealing with our children, our spouses, our church members, and our colleagues in the workplace.

Lowliness of Heart

Although I am dealing with this separate from gentleness, the two are in fact related.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, (Phil. 2:5-9)

We need to be humble. One of the greatest stressors in our lives is trying to build an image of greatness in the eyes of men. If we are completely honest with ourselves, many times our motivation for many of the burdens we place on ourselves is so that we will be seen in a positive light by others. Because we are trying to line up with other people’s expectations. Because we are trying to be better than others. Because we are trying to build up our own status in this world. Jesus is saying to us that this is not His way. At the end of the day, He is not concerned about how you are seen by the world (your reputation) but who you really are inside (your character). Throughout the scriptures we are admonished to see ourselves as servants and not as masters. Even when we have attained great academic qualifications, positions of leadership and great notoriety we must remain humble.

Keeping up with the expectations of others is a major stressor. Keeping up with God’s expectations is not. He has wired us for the purposes He requires of us and when we are walking in those purposes it is not burdensome. Assess yourself today. What are the things in your life that are weighing you down? Did God say you were to do them? Are you doing them for the right reason? Did you even check God before you decided to take on those things? Many of us are in jobs and relationships that God never intended for us. Again, He wired us for the vocation, ministry, and life He purposed for us even while we were in our mother’s womb (Psa. 139). Pride of life will kill you quicker than anything else. Lay aside your reputation building and do what God is requiring of you. Sometimes we are doing the right thing for the wrong reason, that too is wrong in God’s eyes and that thing instead of bringing glory to God becomes a burden. Do you want to experience the peace of the Lord that passes all understanding? Be like Jesus. Obey the Lord and seek to be of no reputation and He will exalt you. That is better than any exaltation you can get from striving to meet the world’s standard for success.

Life will always have some degree of stress. It’s a part of our growth and development. But there is a level of stress that is unhealthy, over which we have control because many times we bring it on ourselves by being disobedient to God’s Word for our lives. Therefore, make the decision today to:

  1. Come to Jesus
  2. Take on Jesus’ Yoke
  3. Learn to be like Jesus

Shalom.

The Stress Antidote: Key #2

We have been exploring the three keys that are the antidote to stress contained in Matthew 11:28-30.

Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

You will recall that Key #1 was Come to Jesus.

Key #2: Take On Jesus’ Yoke

A yoke is a device (some would say a contraption) that straps oxen together so that they go at the same pace and they are able to work together in unison to make the work quicker and less burdensome than if it were being done by a single ox. Also, the yoke allows the farmer to control the pace and direction of the oxen. So, what are we to take away from Jesus’ instruction to “take My yoke upon you”? He is saying to us, “give up control”. Stop trying to be head cook and bottle washer for your own life. Trying to do things alone, in your own strength. The more you need to control things the more stressed you become. The yoke allows the load to be shared so that it can be lightened. Some of us have paired ourselves to people and to things that have added burden to our lives rather than lightening the load. If this is you, then it’s time to partner with Jesus. Partnership with Jesus Christ will lighten your burden since He alone knows the plans and purposes for your life (Jer. 29:11) and knows the beginning from the end (Rev. 22:13).

 Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psa. 55:22)

Being in partnership with Jesus Christ allows us to literally cast our burden Him because that yoke automatically causes the burden to be shared with one who is stronger than we are. It’s by no means a 50-50 sharing of the burden. He takes on the greater proportion of the weight because He knows just how much we can bear and He cares for us even more than we care for ourselves (1 Pet. 5:7). That’s why it is so important to be yoked to the right person. It is a moment by moment exercise. Allow Jesus to take control and give you guidance.

It is critical to recognize that when you are yoked to Jesus you have to go at His pace and in His direction. Therefore, we can conclude that when you are not yoked to Him you will be at continual risk of going too fast or sometimes too slow (which can also be stressful) and go in a path not in keeping with God’s plan for your life. Stop trying to keep up with others and with the world’s agenda. It will literally burn you out. Jesus is your pacesetter, not the world. Jesus is never in a hurry.  He knows the right time and the right season for everything that is to happen in your life so there is never any last minute rush.

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Gal. 5:25)

You cannot walk in the Spirit unless you are being led by the Spirit. There is no better way to do this than to allow ourselves to be completely submitted to the leading of Jesus Christ by His Spirit; to partner with Him and relinquish control of our own lives. Your agenda or God’s agenda? We need to observe further that Matthew 11:30 tells us that Jesus’ yoke is easy. The word ‘easy’ here is interpreted ‘perfectly fitted; customized according to God’s purpose for your life’. We need therefore to replace some of the yokes we have placed around our own necks with Jesus’ yoke. Many of us are stressed because we are trying to do things we were never shaped to do. Don’t do things just because others are doing them. Ask the Lord what He requires of you and do only that. God has equipped and enabled you for whatever mission He has ordained for you in this season. Pull back and spend time with Him so He can direct your paths (Prov. 3:6).

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34, emphasis mine)

We need to stop trying to meet the expectations of others and focus only on what the Lord requires of us. He never gives us more than we can bear. So, if you feel overburdened you are operating outside of God’s will for your life. Either you are doing something wrong or doing something right but in the wrong way.

GIVE UP CONTROL!!

Join me next week as we explore the 3rd and final key.

Shalom.

The Stress Antidote: Key #1

Well, you may have noticed I have been missing in action from my blog postings for a few weeks. The Lord had me in the mission field with the powerful Elijah Movement ministry to reach and deliver Jamaica’s children. It has been a humbling experience!! Also a stressful one!! So, when I discovered some notes on stress management I had written on some sticky notes hidden in a book I decided to read to further empower myself for the battle, I felt them worth sharing for such a season as this.

I know our attention span is very short nowadays. That’s why I have decided to give this to you in 3 brief blogs covering the three keys outlined in Matthew 11:28-30.

Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Key #1: Come to Jesus

Jesus says you are to turn to Him for rest. Not just for your body but rest for your soul i.e. emotional rest. The antidote for stress is peace. You will have perfect peace when your mind is stayed on Jesus and you place your trust in Him (Isa. 26:3). Additionally, we are told that those who wait on the Lord will have renewed strength (Isa. 40:31). If you are waiting this means you are not running ahead of God’s agenda and timing. Many times that is why we become stressed.

See you next week for Key #2.

Shalom.

 

 

Are You in the Lion’s Den? (Pt 2)

Lions Den

In Part 1, we answered the question “What is the Lion’s Den?” and began looking at “How Do We End Up in the Lion’s Den?” I stated that there are various pathways to the lion’s den and we would be focusing attention on four main ways, namely sin, God’s testing, enemy attack, and persecution. I shared the first two already and we will now continue with enemy attack and persecution.

Enemy Attack

Satan is always launching attacks on us, to gain a foothold and set up strongholds in our lives. Through the strongholds he is able to gain control over our attitudes and emotions. He also wages physical attacks on us to try and debilitate and weaken us with illnesses and disease to distract us from our Christian walk.

Persecution

Webster’s dictionary defines persecution as ‘unjust opposition based on one’s opinion or belief.’ We recall that Daniel ended up in the lion’s den as a result of persecution from his enemies when he took a stand to obey the Lord instead of King Darius’ decree (Daniel 6, Matthew 5:10). Daniel was trustworthy, neither corrupt nor negligent. We see through Daniel’s life, therefore, that taking the decision to be uncompromising with God’s word can place us in the lion’s den.

HOW DO WE GET OUT OF THE LION’S DEN?

The first thing to recognize is that not everyone who ends up in the lion’s den will be devoured. 1 Peter 5:8b says: “…seeking whom he may devour” (emphasis mine). ‘May’ is an expression of possibility, permission, uncertainty, and hope.

The second thing to be aware of is how we came to be in the lion’s den. If the reason is either sin or persecution, these are more easily discerned. Where we may have difficulty, and require special discernment, is to differentiate between the enemy’s attack and God’s testing. The only difference is that there is prior negotiation between Satan and God in the latter case. But either way we always need to recognize that every attack of the enemy is an opportunity to prove ourselves, through God, to be victorious. No matter how we ended up in the lion’s den the only way out is through the power of the Holy Spirit (Zec. 4:6), but there are conditions that we have to meet.

In the case of sin, repentance and taking heed to obeying the word and commands of God will be two requirements. In the midst of God’s testing, Job continued to praise the Lord and to wait with expectancy for God’s deliverance. He was rewarded in that God gave him even more than he had lost during the testing.  To resist Satan’s attack, we see in 1 Peter 5:5 – 9 that we must submit to authority, trust in God, and be humble, sober, and vigilant. (See also 2 Corinthians 10:4 for how we can tear down strongholds of the enemy). It is essential that we engage in warfare prayer, thus exercising our belief in the power that God has given us to “tread upon the lion and the adder….” (Psalm 91:13).

In the midst of his persecution, what was it about Daniel’s attitude that activated God’s action on his behalf? We can point to two things. One has to do with Daniel’s relationship with God prior to entering the lion’s den and the other has to do with his attitude in the lion’s den. Both are instructive. Daniel said to King Darius (Daniel 6:22), “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight” (emphasis mine). In Daniel 6:23b we read: “And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God” (emphasis mine).

CONCLUSION

Finding ourselves in the lion’s den is not always the result of something we have done. On the other hand, getting out of the lion’s den is dependent on our actions and attitude. We must ask for and apply discernment to recognize why we are there and then meet God’s conditions as laid out in His word to ensure that our lion’s den experiences work together for our good (John 10:10; Romans 8:28).

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19).

Shalom.