What if nobody claps? What if people ridicule me? What if nobody likes my book? What if? What if?
We have all been there at one point or another: afraid to perform a task for fear of not meeting the mark.
Our mindset determines whether our foot moves or remains immobile. Thoughts of the audience’s response to our output affects whether we put out. People are afraid of failure because they do not want the experience of not reaching their goals to bring them ridicule. They know others are watching what they do, and either they will applaud your efforts if successful or ridicule you, making you feel ashamed for even trying.
In the presidential primaries, about four more have to fail before the process is complete. And each candidate knows that failure is a great possibility. They could have let their fear of shame get the most of them. They are in the public eye. Newspapers and broadcast journalists talk about them nonstop. And everyone does not respond to another’s failure with grace. The media knows how to accentuate failure to make you feel stupid for even trying. This is the fear of failure that cripples many people.
But people who fear failure have their minds on the wrong focus. Remember when Peter tried to walk on water? Jesus called Peter out of the boat.
“And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”… (Matt. 14:30-31 NIV)
Peter took a look at his situation, began to doubt he could make it to where Jesus was standing, and began to sink.
When Jesus calls us to complete a task and we respond to his call, we must execute his plan with the same attentiveness that we gave him when he first called us. Sometimes instead of focusing on the one who called us to the task, we look at too many other things, which discourage us and cause us fear.
The people around us may not be encouragers; they may be just the opposite. They may be scoffers. If we focus mainly on those types, we may become a statistic of the fear of failure and do nothing at all. This is the tragedy of a life not lived at all.
But fear of failure does not have to cripple us. It may very well be the best response if we use that fear to inspire us to prepare with excellence. Fear of failure caused Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors to work endless hours in the gym to defy those critics who said he wasn’t strong enough to make it in the NBA. Today, this Christian young man is the top player in the league.
Even Moses handled his fear in an instructive way. God called him to lead the children of Israel and he responded with three questions and one statement (Genesis 3 and 4):
Who am I to lead the race?
Whom shall I say sent me?
What if they don’t believe me?
I’m not a good speaker.
His four attempts to get out of the assignment did not succeed.
Lessons from Moses about the Fear of Failure
All of Moses’ responses demonstrate his focus on himself. In short, he was saying I am not a big enough person to get people to follow me. God had a response for each of Moses’ fears, which is instructive for us all.
God does not expect us to throw away our thoughts, concerns, or fears. He does expect us to bring them to him: “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you” (I Pet: 5:7 NIV).
Fear of failure should deepen our faith and stretch our resolve. If handled properly, it can only cause us to work harder and draw us closer to God.
I was sailing smoothly across the seas of retirement. I had dusted off a few of the journals that I had written, and knew exactly what the next phase of my life would entail: writing.
I wondered if the writing I had been doing privately over the years was any good. I joined an on-line Christian website to find out. The responses were encouraging, but I wanted something more personal. I looked around my community but found nothing. So, I started my own Christian writing group right in my own community. The waters of life were still flowing smoothly.
During the third or fourth meeting, the smooth waters began to ripple uncomfortably. One woman had shared her very engaging writing sample. The response violated protocol. Instead of identifying the strengths and areas of weakness, we found ourselves challenging her theology.
The process agitated some group members, which created a storm for me because I allowed things to get out of hand; I realized that I had embarked on a journey without establishing clear guidelines about my responsibilities as a Christian writer. I had set sail without doing what every navigator should do before leaving port: know the route, check the waters, and inspect the navigation tools.
If I wanted to know how to get to the point of integrating faith and writing, I should have asked somebody. I didn’t know how to get to where I wanted to go.
God says, “Seek and you shall find.” I prayed for guidance and wisdom, and came across some phenomenal resources. I was not the first one to wonder about how to integrate faith and art.
Erwin Raphael McManus was confronted by the same issue and wrote a book entitled The Artisan Soul, explaining his findings. Whatever he said about art applied to my writing. From that book, I have learned that Christian writing should project courage, hope, faith and love, grace and truth. In so doing, I am reflecting the essence of who Christ is and elevating the human spirit at the same time. The writing group should be a laboratory to promote the same.
I knew that in life, we are either in a storm or just getting out of one. We just have to be ready for either scenario, so we’re either praising God for victory or we’re asking, “Carest thou not that we perish?” Storms vary with intensity, but they all have the capacity to throw us off of the path to our destination, either threatening our bodies or our dreams.
We may lose our way, sink, or flounder; but if we are on speaking terms with the anchor of our souls, He can always put us back on track. We have to learn to anchor down. The Creator of the universe is in control. Let Him do what He does best. In quietness, He leads us out of the storms of life or provides the strength we need to withstand the winds.
He led me to a book that continues to open up a whole new way of thinking regarding the Christian writing life and how I should pursue it.
I have since left behind me the storm that sent me searching for answers, and I have come to cherish the navigation tools for Christian writing to which the storm has led me and continues to guide my writing every day.
Way back in 1983, I was spending the night in a spare bedroom at my grandmother’s in northwest Houston, Texas, when Hurricane Alicia roared through town and sent a large oak tree crashing into the side of the 1,100-square-foot, three-bedroom house.
Although the powerful storm included winds up to 115 mph, killed 21 people, and caused a reported $2.6 billion in damage before it was through, I slept through the whole thing.
Never heard a sound; did not lose a minute’s sleep.
If only I could ride out life’s everyday storms as easily.
In Matthew 6:34, it says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Boy, ain’t that the truth.
There’s an old saying you may have heard before that goes something like this:
If you’ve got one foot in tomorrow, and the other foot in yesterday, you are, uh – let’s see how to put this delicately – urinating all over today.
I am the king at regretting the past and worrying about the future, while forgetting to enjoy what is the only thing right in front of me – today.
As ridiculous as it may sound, I can lie awake at night, rehashing decisions I made and things I did from not only last week or last month, but 40 years ago, turning these things over and over in my mind, beating myself up over such ridiculousness. On the flipside, I also can spend hours agonizing over tomorrow’s upcoming events, even though 90 percent of the things I worry about will never happen anyway.
Sheesh. It’s hard to be me sometimes.
Matthew 6:25-27 advises: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
If hours could be added to my life through worrying, I’d be Methuselah. You know, the grandfather of Noah, who is said to have lived for 969 years.
Life is not fair, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes good things happen to bad people, which really isn’t fair.
Ecclesiastes 9 has some pretty darned good words of wisdom about all this.
“Anything can happen to any of us, and so we never know if life will be good or bad. But exactly the same thing will finally happen to all of us, whether we live right and respect God, or sin and don’t respect God. Yes, the same thing will happen if we offer sacrifices to God or if we don’t, if we keep our promises or break them.
“It’s terribly unfair for the same thing to happen to each of us. We are mean and foolish while we live, and then we die. As long as we are alive, we still have hope, just as a live dog is better off than a dead lion. We know that we will die, but the dead don’t know a thing. Nothing good will happen to them—they are gone and forgotten. Their loves, their hates, and their jealous feelings have all disappeared with them. They will never again take part in anything that happens on this earth.
“Be happy and enjoy eating and drinking! God decided long ago that this is what you should do. Dress up, comb your hair, and look your best. Life is short, and you love your wife, so enjoy being with her. This is what you are supposed to do as you struggle through life on this earth. Work hard at whatever you do. You will soon go to the world of the dead, where no one works or thinks or reasons or knows anything.
“Here is something else I have learned:
“The fastest runners
and the greatest heroes
don’t always win races
Wisdom, intelligence, and skill
don’t always make you healthy,
rich, or popular.
We each have our share
of bad luck.”
So there you go.
Get out there and do your best, one day at a time. Yesterday is gone; tomorrow has not arrived.
All we really have is today.
Nearly five years ago now, I went overseas for the first time to walk the historic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain.
It was a life-changing experience in many ways.
At first, I was scared and anxious, being 5,000 miles and an ocean away from home in a foreign country, by myself, far from my comfort zone. After a few days, I settled down and it became a magical month-long journey.
Sometime during my first week there, I was spending the night in a nice, little albergue (hostel), sitting in the backyard after a pasta dinner, talking with new friends from England, South Africa, and Norway.
Everyone was taking turns telling about themselves and their lives back home, the reason or reasons they decided to come and walk 500 miles across a foreign country with only a backpack full of basic supplies, and the stories were fascinating.
One young lady named Nix was originally from Cape Town, but now living in London, where she worked as some sort of home health care provider. The epitome of a free spirit, this boisterous girl in colorful clothes with a large silver ring piercing the middle of her bottom lip talked about her travels and adventures all over the world.
Paula, a British throwback to the 1960s Woodstock generation who once backpacked alone through India and lived in a treehouse in Thailand or somewhere, was carrying a ukulele in her backpack, which she used about a week later to lead a sing-a-long one evening at an albergue near Atapuerca. She started playing, “Don’t Worry; Be Happy,” and pretty soon, there was a small chorus of voices chiming in, representing the countries of Spain, France, Germany, England, and me from the U.S.
Very cool stuff.
Tom, a retired engineer, originally from Norway, was walking in honor of his late wife, who died five years prior from cancer. He was – and still is – having a hard time dealing with losing her.
All three of us became friends over there, and still stay in touch. There were so many unforgettable moments that I still think about all the time.
It was a day or two after that backyard dinner that I developed an enormous, unbelievably painful blister across the ball of my left foot. I tried different methods of treatment, but it took about a week before I could walk normally and without pain.
A week or so after that, Tom and I walked into the backyard of yet another beautiful albergue near a river, and hanging up clothes to dry was none other than a smiling Nix. We had not seen her in a while, as people generally split up and sometimes reunite as they make their way at different paces along the pilgrimage.
As we hugged and chatted, I asked Nix if she had a needle and thread that I could use to treat a couple of small blisters on one of my feet. These ampollas (Spanish for blister) were nothing compared to El Grande, and I had discovered by then that the treatment which worked best for me was to pierce the blister with a needle and then run a small length of thread through it to keep the thing from closing up and reforming before it has a chance to dry out and heal.
“Sure,” Nix said, brightly. “Would you like me to do it for you?”
She caught me a little off-guard, offering to doctor my feet like that, but I agreed, and she went inside and came back with some iodine or something and a needle and thread. And there I was, in the middle of nowhere in Spain, with my foot propped up in a plastic lawn chair, and a girl from South Africa I had known for a very short time, carefully tending to my aching feet.
It was very moving, and made me think of the Bible story about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.
In John 13: 14-15, Jesus says: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
I never washed anyone’s feet or tended to their blisters after that, but I did actually get a chance to do something for Nix in return. In fact, I had already done so, but did not know it yet.
Back at our first meeting, when we were all discussing our lives after dinner, I mentioned that I was now on my third career: first a draftsman, then a newspaper reporter, and now a school teacher. Nix was fascinated by that, and told me about a year later that she was inspired to leave a stifling occupation and pursue her dream of working as a crew member on ocean-going sailboats, which she is happily doing now.
I was humbled to find out that my story played even a small part in encouraging someone to make a difference in their life.
That was a few years ago now, and it still makes me stop and think. You never know, I guess, when those ripples you send out are going to have a positive effect on the world.
I laughed. I literally laughed when I saw the subject, “Fear of Failure,” sitting in my inbox. What’s so funny about that? Fear’s been my constant companion all my life, and I believe the Lord wants me to confront it. Currently, a play I’m writing for my church has a focus theme about fear. Therefore, when Felecia assigned this topic, I knew it was none other than Holy Spirit speaking to me.
As a child, we moved to a new residence every year. We remained in Atlanta, but the move meant a new neighborhood, new schools, and new friends. This constant change can be challenging to a child who struggled with insecurities. As I grew, the fear grew with me. What if I’m not accepted? What if I’m not liked? What if I fail to make friends? These thoughts grew into…What if no one understands me? What if I fail to attract an audience? What if no one thinks I’m worthy?
That thought process always held me back from giving my best. I didn’t think much about who I was or what I had to offer. I’ve shared many times that my husband (boyfriend at the time) was the one who discovered not only my love of writing, but my gift of writing. That was 1997. I didn’t share it with the world until 2012.
One day, my husband shared with me that he did not believe I was scared to fail. I asked, “What do you mean?” He replied, “Chelle, could it be that you’re afraid of success?” I pondered that for a while. Then my faithful companion, “fear,” reared its head. It asked the question, “What success? You’re not doing anything better than or different than anyone else.”
Once again, I began to plod along at a mediocre rate, always second-guessing myself. I was very familiar with 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Yet, it never sunk in. It wasn’t until he asked, “What if?” that I began to move forward with anything. What if people do like it? What if they find inspiration in it? Would it be so bad to share it with the world? Then something my husband stated to me all those years ago in the 90’s popped up. As I nervously prepared for a job interview, fear had me in its grip. He posed this question: “What’s the worst they can do to you, Chelle? They can’t kill you. All they can do is say ‘no.’” I got that job!
If you’ve ever experienced fear in its deepest depths, you know it can be mind-numbing, paralyzing; and it can pull you into the deepest recesses of darkness. You begin to imagine preposterous things. The fear turns into anxiety, escalating to panic. It does not matter what you are facing in this life, you must believe you are never alone (Deuteronomy 31:6). Fear is the enemy’s trick; he uses it to keep you from living your best life ever! He doesn’t want you to walk in your ordained purpose. He needs to hold you back so that Christ does not get the glory He so rightly deserves.
Falling into the enemy’s trap by believing his lies gives fear power to destroy your plans, dreams, and life. It’s impossible to succeed when you believe the deception the enemy plants in your mind. You have to cast down every vain thought and anything that exalts itself against the knowledge of the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:5). Believing the enemy’s lies denies the truth of the Word of Sovereign God. We know the enemy is a liar (John 8:44). Because of God’s Word, we know He has redeemed us and we are His (Isaiah 43:1); He cares (1 Peter 5:7); He rescues (Isaiah 35:4); He is a sustainer and provider (Psalm 55:22; Luke 12:22-26); and He is there in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
There is no reason to allow the constraints of fear to hold you back. It accomplishes nothing. It protects you from nothing. Fear is simply a figment of your imagination that only holds power when you feed it. You have the authority to revoke that power and take back authority over every area of your life. You have the authority to give your best in whatever situation you’re facing, and you have the authority to walk in success. You simply must believe in yourself and trust that He knows the plans for your life. He wants to prosper you and give you peace; He desires to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
Regardless of what you’re facing, He plans to prosper you. Remember…fear is simply a trick of the enemy. You are victorious!
There’s an old song by the Clark Sisters entitled, “I Told the Storm.” The lyrics began by addressing the storms of life or the enemy: “Even though your winds blow I want you to know You cause me no alarm cause I'm safe in His arms.” Every time I hear this song, a passionate response is evoked within my spirit. I began to think of all the storms in life I have encountered. Even more passion-invoking are the outcomes of the storms, which is what cause the zeal to burst forth. I began praising Him and thanking Him for all that He has done, and it’s not unusual for tears to spring forth and for me to be rendered speechless.
Perhaps your situation is not quite like this, but you feel a certain emotion that grows strong as you think of the obstacles you’ve overcome. But why is it that although we know things have worked in our favor in the past, as soon as another storm arises, we become fearful once more? We are psychologically trained to be fearful of the world we live in, and we struggle daily to live in the glory because we know we’re not worthy.
It does not matter that we’re not worthy of His awesome glory, His omnipotent protection, or His abundant provision. We are His children, and as such He shall provide everything that we have need of to survive this life and the storms in it. We simply must ask (Matthew 7:11). He promises to give whatever we ask in His name so that the Father will receive glory in the Son (John 14:13). This does not mean that you can ask with abandon for whatever you want. It must align with His Word and promises. You must have faith that He will do what you ask, not doubting His faithfulness or His omnipotence.
There are times when you may have asked for something that did not come to pass. I know that I have. I have faced challenges that did not come out quite the way I prayed for or anticipated. Feeling let down, I succumbed to my feelings and danced the night away at a private pity party. There were no other guests invited, only myself and Holy Spirit. He stood quietly against the wall like a wallflower. Like a gentleman, He patiently waited for me to dry my tears before giving me the apparent revelation that had been there all along. The door was closed for my good, or the storm was a necessary test.
Some storms are meant for us to go through. The tests and trials that come in this life are meant to shape our characters, build our strength, and mold us more into the image of Christ (1 Peter 5:10). Once we have gone through the trial and come out on the other side like gold, we can look back at the strength and wisdom gained. Only then can we begin to share our testimony with someone else in need. Only then can we truly begin to give our Heavenly Father the glory, which is due Him. When you encounter a storm in life, focus on the lesson to avoid repeating the test.
Do you not think that your Heavenly Father does not know the trials that will rise up against you? Of course, He does. He is organized and controlled. He is not a god of chaos; therefore, He will have a plan for everything that comes along. He orders and controls all things. In Mark 6:45-51, Jesus sends His disciples in the boat to travel to the other side of Bethsaida. He remains with the crowd to dismiss them as His disciples go ahead of Him. Well, we know that they began to struggle with the oars as the wind came against them. Upon seeing Jesus in the storm, they become fearful, believing Him to be a ghost. Instantly, He gave them encouragement and told them to no longer fear. He let them know that He was not only in their midst, but had control of the wind as it instantly calmed when He stepped foot into the boat.
It’s the same way today. He has control over the storms of your life and will give you peace, which surpasses all understanding, if you simply stay focused on Him. Remember when Peter came out on the water to Christ, but he began to sink? It was because he took his eyes off Jesus. We have to keep our eyes on Jesus in the midst of our storms if we plan to succeed, have peace, and overcome.
Trust Him to give you peace, and place your hope in Christ when storms arise.
Matthew 14:14 says, “Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (NLT).
Jesus gives us a great example to follow, but it is also an incredible challenge. He had just heard about the death of one of his close friends and he wanted to be alone. But he reacted with compassion. How can you respond with compassion if you do not initially feel compassionate towards someone? I will share an experience with you that might help.
I was serving as Youth Pastor in a small rural church. I had not been there for very long when a conflict developed between one of the other pastors and myself. This was more of a personality conflict. I could see that my philosophy on ministry was different than his. I could also see that this conflict had a negative affect on the rest of the church. My initial reaction to this was not compassion. It was anger.
I was upset that such an insignificant conflict would negatively affect the whole church. That is when I remembered how the Apostle Paul spoke to the Corinthian church about being a part of one body. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the church as a body and all the members are parts of that body. He tells them that when one part of the body is not working properly, it affects the whole body.
This helped me to look at the situation from a different perspective. I saw that the negative affect on the church was not healthy. I thought I was right, but I realized that being right is not important if it is going to hurt the rest of the church. That is when 1 Peter 3:8 hit me between the eyes. It says, “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”
There are several scriptures that teach unity within the church. And I realized that I needed to teach unity through my actions. So I decided to set my initial reaction to the side for the sake of the whole church. They did not even know what the conflict was about, but they could see that their pastors were not getting along. I knew what had to be done. And, though I did not want to, I took the steps toward conflict resolution.
I approached my coworker and told him that we needed to figure out how to get along or it would tear the church apart. He agreed with me and admitted that he came up with the same outcome. But he did not see how it would work. He did not want to submit to me and he thought I would not submit to him. I quickly responded that I certainly would submit to him if it meant the church would not suffer. I said, “If it means that we can put this behind us and move forward, I will definitely submit to you!”
What resulted was an excited two-hour discussion of how we would move forward. We laid out a plan for the next three months and we both renewed our passion for ministering to the church and to the community around us. My compassion was for the church. Though my initial reaction was anger, I used compassion to change the outcome. I could have remained angry and the church leaders would probably asked us both to leave. But, through compassion, I was able to overcome my anger and work out my differences with this pastor.
Now, Jesus was not in conflict with the crowd of people who came to see him. But he must have been dealing with conflicting emotions. He wanted to be alone. He wanted solitude. But when he saw how his personal desire to be alone would cause him to neglect all those people who needed his help; his compassion won out. For me, I weighed the balance of being right compared to tearing a church in half. That scale was drastically out of balance. In following Christ’s example, I was able to set aside my desire to be right for the greater good.
It is not easy to set your emotions or desire aside for others, especially when conflict is involved. But remember the comparison to the body and its proper function. If one part is not working properly, it affects the whole body. Think about how much your whole body reacts to neck or back pain. It can throw your whole body into turmoil. Resolve your conflicts—even if it means you need to set your own desires to the side—for the sake of the rest of the body.
In other words, don’t be a pain in the neck.
You wanted to do a good deed for a member of your church, so you rented him/her an apartment in your home. The tenant loses her job and refuses to pay rent and vacate the apartment. What should you do?
Maybe you sold your used vehicle to a fellow believer. You believed the recipient would make all payments and you released the car to him/her. You received two payments for the car, but the new owner says the car needed repairs, so he refuses to pay. What would you do?
Newspapers and news channels have dulled our ears to the conflicts that abound in the world. On any given day, we are assaulted with news of a variety of conflicts: husband vs wife, parent vs child, supervisor vs employee, teacher vs student, and student vs student. The list can go on. Usually, if the dispute made the headlines, the results were probably disastrous. But we have come to expect that. What shocks us, however, is when those disputes occur within our own churches or among the Christian community.
Whether it shocks or disheartens, Christians should regard a dispute in the church as an opportunity to convey a larger truth.
According to Andy Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today, all mankind are image bearers. In Genesis 1, we read that we were made in the image of God. As image bearers, we carry the potential to project a true image of God. Conflict provides an opportunity for us to make a choice. We can choose to reflect or to refract a true image of God. That is to say, our actions can mirror some aspect of God or provide a warped view.
Being kind and nice to another person is easy. Jesus says, “And if you are good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that” (Luke 6: 33 NIV). “But love your enemies” (verse 34).
Jesus makes it clear what our goal should be when we are in conflict. Whether in a dispute with a Christian or a non-Christian, our goal should always be to demonstrate love and reflect the true image of God.
“Seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11 NIV). Whenever in conflict, our first inclination should always be to resolve the matter amicably.
Matthew 18 goes even further in establishing a protocol for achieving reconciliation when Christians are in conflict.
First of all, they can insure that no one becomes a false witness to the other. Secondly, they bring more objectivity to the dispute, hearing with less emotionalism.In this position, they perhaps clarify statements that may be misunderstood, which can result in better communication, making reconciliation more possible.They may even propose solutions that are amenable to both sides. However, in the event step two fails, there is yet another step to pursue.
Where ever people convene, conflict is a possibility. Christians have the power to resolve their own disputes and achieve reconciliation and reflect the love and patience of Christ; however, when all attempts at reconciliation fail, then the offended is free to lovingly pursue justice in the secular arena.
We were never promised life would be easy. It is an emotional rollercoaster ride, filled with joy, disappointment, expectation, manipulation, desire, and deception. At times, we’re strong, hanging on and enjoying the ride, searching for that moment of anticipation, filled with hope as we seek our next adrenaline rush. Then other times, we’re drowning in the swirling waves and tides of our impairing emotions. We’re simply existing, floating on our unrealized hopes and dreams that have not manifested themselves. We yearn and pray for a life buoy to come rescue us, failing to realize it’s been there all along. Just stretch your hand out to grab hold. If you’ve ever experienced this tidal wave of conflicting emotions in life, you know it’s either sink or swim.
I believe these times in our lives are given to us to shape our character, enhance our fortitude, and mold our behavior more into Christ-like behavior. Perhaps an even greater reason for the ups and downs in life is for us to encourage someone else on that road. We all have a testimony to share that will bring hope and encouragement to someone else. Sharing that testimony or extending a helping hand is similar to being that light in a darkened room. We’re called to let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works here on Earth, and glorify our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16).
When you see a sister or brother down because of health and spiritual, financial, or relationship issues, it is your reasonable service as a Christian to help. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship.” We often look at it as keeping our physical bodies pure and our spiritual temples righteous. To me, this Scripture says so much more.
We are the hands and feet of the Body of Christ. We are called to do His work here on Earth; and as such, going forth to encourage others is offering our lives, our bodies, and the Body of Christ as the sacrifice He requires. When we share a word of hope, our testimony, or prayer, we are in essence sacrificing an intangible gift (time or talent), which pleases Christ. This worship is rewarding for others and ourselves, fulfilling His requirements, and gratifying the Spirit.
I personally find it rewarding to bless someone else with a word of prayer or encouragement. While I often don’t always have what I believe are the right words to say, I ask Him to speak through me. I pray that He would give me the words to say to that person’s situation. Regardless of the mountain they face, I encourage people to understand this particular life storm is just for a season. We don’t always understand why things are happening in our lives, but we can take comfort in knowing He has something greater in store. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
In this current life, we experience our share of heartache and trial. Yet, all of this is just for a season. There will come a day when our physical and mental sorrows will be no more. And if we remain faithful, He will erase it all in the end, allowing us to live jubilant lives.“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Some will say, “You don’t know my heartache. You don’t understand how hard I fight to do right, and it seems that the cards are stacked against me.” Encourage them not to give up in giving their best and working hard now. Although it may not feel like it at times, there is a greater purpose to it all. While we may not always gain understanding in this life, we will soon be rewarded when He says: “…‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).
Regardless of the issues you face, or the obstacles someone you desire to encourage faces, let them know there is a greater plan and purpose in store. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Have you ever been a part of a church when one of the pastors leaves? No matter if it is due to retirement, another calling, or because they were fired, there is always difficulty in the wake.
I had the opportunity to preach a sermon on the last Sunday at one church. It was emotional and exciting at the same time. It was an amazing opportunity to share a message of hope with the congregation.
To give a little background, I had served at this church for over a year. It was a small, struggling church in a little town. But there was life at the heart of it. There was a core group who enjoyed reaching out into the community and engaging the culture around them. It was a work-in-progress.
About eight months into my work there, I noticed that many of the initiatives and ideas I presented to the leaders were getting bypassed. Not because there was a better plan, but because there was no motivation to implement them. This certainly speaks to my leadership abilities at the time. (Confession time for me: not all pastors are great leaders).
Had I realized this sooner, I would have addressed the problem of my poor leadership tactics. Since I didn't, there were several people on leadership who did not think I was capable of fulfilling my role as pastor. Though the transition period/learning curve was obvious to many of the volunteers and other church members, the leaders agreed that I should look for a different ministry. So, after a year and a half, I was asked to resign.
I mentioned that I had the opportunity to preach on the last Sunday I was at this church. I found it to be an amazing opportunity, because of the circumstances that led to me leaving. The title of my sermon was, “What do we hope for?”
I will not share the entire sermon here, but I will share some of it. I started the message by looking at things that tend to come to our mind when we think about that for which we hope (i.e., a better job, a pay raise, a nice house, a new car, presents, etc.). Then I went to 1 Corinthians 15:9. It says, “If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”
You see, the hope that Christ offers in not limited to earthly blessings. Our reward from God is not in this life alone. With Palm Sunday approaching, I think about the people waving Palm branches and shouting as Jesus entered Jerusalem, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”
Do you know what Hosanna means? It means “save.” They were shouting “Save! Save! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” They knew that Jesus was the Messiah, and they knew that Jesus was there to save them. However, their perception of what it meant to be saved was a little off. They thought that Jesus was going to overthrow the Romans, set up a physical kingdom, restore the throne of David, and save them from religious oppression. The hope they had in Christ was “in this life.” So as Jesus looked over the city that day, he wept. He pitied the Jewish people of Jerusalem. He even predicted right then that Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed.
How does that story offer any hope? Romans chapter 5 talks about our hope of salvation. In verse 5, it says, “That hope will not disappoint.” The hope of Salvation offers us so much. If we are looking forward to an everlasting place, which Jesus promised to prepare for us, then anything this life has to offer should not distract us from that hope.
2 Peter 1:4 says, “Because of God’s glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” This hope tells us that this life is temporary. The reward Jesus offers is eternal.
So, to give hope to a congregation on my last Sunday, I offered this message. Hope can come out of bad situations. Just because bad things happen in our lives, we do not have to lose hope. God will not leave us nor forsake us. Jesus promised to always be with us to the very end. Let’s not lose our hope in Christ. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
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