Hi everyone! If you’ve ever considered throwing a pity party, think again. Here’s an article I wrote about that topic. It appeared on Kyria.com last week. Enjoy!
Hi everyone! If you’ve ever considered throwing a pity party, think again. Here’s an article I wrote about that topic. It appeared on Kyria.com last week. Enjoy!
In the last blog, I wrote about negative voices and how we must choose whether to listen to them or ignore them. Isaiah 36 tells the story of an official Hebrew trio who were driven to despair through an enemy’s threats. When they relayed his words to King Hezekiah, he, too responded with despair. But then he did something worth noting.
First, he went into the Temple of the Lord (Isaiah 37:1). Second, he sought help by sending his assistants to speak with the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 37:2).
I believe Hezekiah’s response shows a lot of wisdom and sets a great example for us. When we’re dealing with a negative voice – whether an actual person verbalizing his opinion or the enemy whispering lies in our heads – it’s easy to become discouraged. If or when that happens, we can turn it around by doing what the king did – take our concerns to God and if necessary, solicit the help of godly friends. Doing so helps put the situation into proper perspective and gives courage.
How did God respond to Hezekiah? He said, “Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech (emphasis mine) against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword” (vv. 6,7).
The negative voice sent Hezekiah and the official trio into a royal tailspin, but God told them not to worry about it. He reminded them that He was in control and aware of the words that were spoken. He would hold that person accountable for the message spoken against Him and His people.
Likewise, negative voices can intimidate us, make us feel as though there’s something wrong with us, or steal our joy and enthusiasm for what we believe God has called us to do – if we let them. But we can overcome by remembering that when we’re living according to His pleasure and purposes, God will take responsibility for us and come to our defense. Our job is to keep our focus on Him.
What practical advice can you offer re: rising above the negative voice and message we often hear?
I’ll always remember the voice on the phone that day: “Why do you bother doing what you do? If I were you, I wouldn’t even have tried.”
The woman was referring to my writing and speaking ministry. Her words so shocked me that I didn’t know how to respond. The conversation ended moments later and I slumped into my office chair feeling defeated to the core.
Thankfully God, in His wisdom, used that incident as a pivot-point for me. Through it, I learned the importance of choosing which voices to heed and which to ignore. I’ll bet you know what I’m talking about…
Voices that whisper fears when you debate a new venture: “You want to do what? You don’t have the know-how. What if you try and fail?”
Voices that mutter misgivings and cause you to question your worth: “You’re not as pretty or capable as other women. Move over, sister – you’re out-of-date.”
Voices that murmur doubts and cause you to query God’s character: “A good God would never allow such painful circumstances. Why devote yourself to Him? He obviously doesn’t give a rip about your well-being.”
Three Hebrew officials – Eliakim, Shebna and Joah – encountered a negative voice, too. Their story, told in Isaiah 36, began when an enemy king sent his chief of staff with a huge army to confront King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. When the three Hebrews went out to confront the army, the chief of staff made it his mission to discourage them. Here are some of the things he said:
“What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength?” (vv. 4,5)
“I’ll tell you what! Strike a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride on them! With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariot and charioteers?” (vv. 8,9)
“…Do you think we have invaded your land without the LORD’s direction? The LORD himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’” (v. 10)
“What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the LORD can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (v. 20)
As if those comments weren’t enough, the chief of staff blatantly disregarded the official trio’s request to speak in Aramaic to protect the Hebrew population from overhearing him. Instead, he shouted to the Hebrew people, “Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the LORD by saying, ‘The LORD will surely rescue us…” (v. 13-15)
Unfortunately, the Hebrew men listened to the negative voice. Despair overwhelmed them, and they tore their clothes in response to their mental and emotional state.
We probably wouldn’t tear our clothes, but depending on our circumstances and what the voice says, we might feel equally as distraught. And so we’re faced with a choice: do we listen or do we ignore? We all know the right answer, but knowing how to do it (or choosing to do it) is where the challenge lies. I’ll talk about that on Monday’s post. See ya then!
What negative voices have you encountered in your life? How did they impact you?
Meet Envy, the green-eyed monster. She admires a neighbor’s house and drools with desire. She gazes at another woman’s wardrobe and wishes hers could compare. She listens to her best friend talk about her wedding anniversary getaway and fights a twinge of anger as she fakes happiness on her behalf.
Envy is a subtle monster. The moment she discovers the door to our hearts cracked open, she sneaks in and unpacks her bags. Then she sets to work, whispering words that breed discontent:
If we let Envy have her way, she’ll mess with our minds and mix our emotions into a sour froth. The result? We develop an attitude of discontent with what’s ours. It can affect everything from material possessions to talents to marital status. Before long, nothing’s good enough. We’re not happy with what we have because someone else has more or better.
Scripture warns us against Envy. Proverbs 23:17,18 says, “Don’t envy sinners, but always continue to fear the LORD. You will be rewarded for this; your hope will not be disappointed.” In this context, we’re cautioned not to envy wrong-doers who seem to have all the breaks. But Envy can also wiggle her way into our hearts within our circle of friendships among Christian brothers and sisters. Either way, Envy is not an association we want to keep.
When Envy comes knockin’ let’s refuse her entry. Let’s keep our focus on the Lord and make a habit of thanking Him for knowing our needs and faithfully providing them. If we do this, He promises to reward us and to not disappoint our hope. Our role is to block Envy out; God’s role is to fulfill His promise. I can’t explain what that looks like in real life, but I know God is more than capable of looking after those details.
If Envy has been an unwelcome visitor in your heart, how have you encouraged her to leave?
The label Christian is a loose one. What exactly does it mean in this day and age? What sets apart those who are Christian by name only from those who are Christian indeed?
The answers to those questions could fill a library, but because I’m limited by time and space, I’m going to offer a simple answer based on Isaiah 26:8: “LORD, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.”
According to this verse, two characteristics of a true believer are obedience to God’s Word and a desire to glorify His name. Too bad our selfish nature rears its ugly head and makes these characteristics so tough to model sometimes.
I profess to be a Christian but I confess that obeying God’s laws can be challenging. When He tells me to forgive those who have hurt me, I don’t exactly grin with glee. When He tells me to give generously to others even when our monthly budget is tight, I say okay through gritted teeth. When He tells me to give thanks in everything, I balk and ask, “Even in this situation?”
That’s when the battle rages: Part of me wants to glorify God’s name while the other part wants to satisfy my own wants and desires. If I’m truly a Christian as I claim to be, then my responsibility is to obey.
Obedience isn’t always easy, but God requires it of those who say they follow Him. Doing what He commands proves that we trust His wisdom, sovereignty and love for us. As others see our willingness to set aside our own selfish desires in lieu of God’s ways, we bring honor to His name.
Yes, obedience is a litmus test of true Christianity. If we call ourselves Christians but refuse to obey God’s laws, then we’d better reconsider our claim.
How about you? Is there an issue in your life that God is addressing? Is there an area in which you’re refusing to obey Him? Consider your response and choose to show your trust in Him through doing what He says. Doing so will bring glory to His name and bring peace to your heart.
This week I heard a sad story about a family whose 14-year-old boy is dying. He’s been hospitalized in a facility that’s 10 hours’ drive from his home. Sadly, the cost of his medical bills has surpassed insurance coverage and necessitated his father staying at home to work. As the end of the teen’s life draws near, his dad has raced across two states to be with him.
I can’t begin to imagine the pain in that parent’s heart. Thankfully God can, and He’s done something about it.
Isaiah 25:6-8 says, “In Jerusalem, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears.”
At the expense of sounding morose, the shadow of death is a fact of life. Sooner or later it impacts every single person on the face of this earth. And when it does, we experience a myriad of emotions – denial, grief, anger and the sense of being abandoned by a loved one. Sometimes we feel as though we’ve died inside and can’t imagine surviving without that friend or family member. And yet there’s hope.
True to His word, God has swallowed up death forever. Jesus has conquered death once for all. The enemy has been defeated! The promise of eternal life brings hope in the midst of sorrow to those who place their saving faith in Jesus Christ. God Himself has stooped down to meet us in our pain, and He gently wipes the tears from our cheeks.
As far as I know, the 14-year-old is a Jesus follower. His physical life will soon be over, but he’s about to see the promise of eternal life in heaven fulfilled. No more sickness. No more pain. No more wishing it was finally over. His tears will be forever gone as he dances at the feet of Jesus.
The teen will celebrate, and his family will mourn their loss. My heart aches for them, but this I know – God will wipe away their tears, too. He’ll send comfort in amazing ways through a phone call from a friend, through a song, through a spoken word. He’ll reach down and speak peace in the night when sleep fails. He’ll keep the memory of their son alive in their hearts. And someday He’ll orchestrate a family reunion that surpasses our wildest imagination.
“The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears.” What an amazing promise for those who love Him. How have you seen this prove true in your own life?
BTW, Marilyn Heavilin wrote a book titled Roses in December. She knows what losing a child is like — she’s experienced it three times. Her book is a wonderful resource for parents traveling that road. Check out her website: www.marilynheavilin.com.
Be honest. How often does the fear of what others think sway your decisions, your words and your actions? A couple of weeks ago, I encountered a situation in which I collided with the fear of man and was forced to make a split-second decision.
I’d just returned home from running errands and had parked in our carport. I sat for a few minutes, listening to a favorite song on the radio. When it ended, I heard a man yelling obscenities. Then I saw the source sitting behind the wheel of a nearby van. He’d pulled up and parked on the wrong side of the road, inches from a shiny black car. When his temper tantrum failed to get the results he wanted from the driver of the other vehicle, he opened his door and slammed it repeatedly against the car. Minutes later he did it again. Finally he laughed an evil laugh and drove into our strata’s parking lot where he parked a few feet from our door.
By now I was standing behind my car with the back hatch open to remove my groceries. I watched, heart pounding, as the 20-something man picked up a large rock and headed back toward the black vehicle. And that’s when the fear of man hit me like a brick. What was I to do?
A fleeting thought zipped through my mind: If you confront the man, you face the danger of retribution. If you don’t, the car’s occupant could be seriously harmed. I couldn’t let the latter possibility come true. And so I spoke up.
“Put the rock down,” I said as the perpetrator passed my carport.
My words startled him. He stopped, suddenly aware that someone bore witness to his actions. “What?” he said.
“Put the rock down. You’ll never get what you want or need with that kind of behavior.”
Embarrassment crossed the man’s face. “I know,” he said. He turned and walked toward the car still carrying his weapon. The verbal tirade continued, but at least he didn’t use the rock. I dashed to the protection of my house but continued to watch the scene from a window in case it warranted a 911 call.
Truth be told, I was tempted to duck into my house unnoticed when I first heard the yelling and swearing. Knowing that the man is our neighbor and obviously capable of harmful behavior still scares me. But I can’t let the fear of man rule my life. Instead, I must choose to do what’s right and trust God with the fallout.
The fear of man is powerful and can impact many aspects of our lives. For instance, we might see a friend or family member make really bad choices. We recognize the consequences awaiting them but we fail to warn them because we’re afraid of losing their respect or being regarded as critical. Or we might refuse to embrace a new opportunity that’s beyond our comfort zone because we fear what others might think of us if we fail. Can you relate?
The fear of man is common to all. In fact, Peter was considered a pillar of the early Church (Galatians 2:9) and yet he struggled with it, too. Scripture says that when he first arrived in Antioch, he ate with the Gentile Christians who were not circumcised. Later, he changed his ways and refused to dine with them because he feared criticism from the people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision (vv. 11-14). He knew what was right, but his concern about what other people thought outweighed his ability to do it. Thankfully Paul came on the scene and challenged him to change his ways.
What enables us to face and overcome the fear of man? I believe it’s found in having a correct understanding of who God is. He’s holy, so he wants us to live holy lives and not compromise to avoid society’s sneers. He’s compassionate, so we ought to show mercy regardless of whether or not others misjudge our motives. He’s sovereign, so we ought to act courageously (and wisely) knowing that He’s in control of every detail of our lives. The latter was what gave me the courage to confront the angry man.
Let’s fear God rather than man. May we press hard to know Him, and may that knowledge empower us to do what’s right. May the understanding of who He is, rather than the fear of man, sway our decisions, words and actions.
How has the fear of man impacted you in the past? What changes need to take place so it doesn’t happen again?
I like to believe I’m in control of my life. In reality, nothing’s further from the truth. Take this week, for instance.
Several months ago, I made plans to take a personal retreat from September 10-20. A waterfront home, nestled among the trees on a little island, was made available free of charge. I’d never done anything like this before, and I looked forward to a rest after our busy summer, to curling up with a cup of coffee and the Word for hours on end, and to working without distractions on my next book. Sounded like bliss! But around the beginning of June, an uneasiness penetrated my thoughts every time I pondered this pursuit. It persisted until I picked up the phone and canceled my reservation.
Was I disappointed? A little. But I’m learning to listen to God’s still, small voice. And I’m learning to obey even when there’s no glaring reason for doing so because there’s inevitably a divine purpose beyond my sights.
On September 10 – the day I’d planned to begin my 10-day retreat – my third grandchild was born a month before his due date. I was in the Little Rock, Arkansas, airport awaiting my flight to Dallas/Seattle when my husband phoned with the news of Caleb’s birth. My first thought was, Thank You, God, for directing my steps and nudging me to cancel that reservation. As a result of my changed schedule, I’ll be home to help Caleb’s mom with cooking, cleaning and childcare so she can (hopefully) rest and recuperate. God is good.
So what about my good intentions to work on my next book project this week? Well, I’ll do whatever I can and trust that God will do His part as I do mine. Psalm 57:2,7 says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me…My heart is confident in you, O God, my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!”
I have confidence in God because He is ultimately sovereign. He – not me – controls every detail of my life. So long as I’m in tune with Him, I can trust and not be anxious about how the pieces fit together.
How about you? Have you experienced situations like this – when God’s sovereignty over the details of your life became very obvious?
I’m sitting in the board room of “FamilyLife Today” in Little Rock, Arkansas, as I write this. Quite frankly, this feels like a surreal experience. Years ago I was a stay-at-home mom who padded our family’s budget by cleaning other people’s homes. Later, after we entered a year-round Christian camping ministry, I scrubbed pots and pans and baked umpteen dozen birthday cakes for summer staff and campers alike. Never, ever – even if I outlived Methuselah – would I have imagined that someday I’d be sitting here, typing my blog as I wait for my turn to be interviewed by Dennis Rainey and Bob LePine about my book Moving From Fear to Freedom. The only thing I can say is that God is full of surprises for those who say yes to His assignments.
I remember when I first sensed God nudging me to write this book. My human logic scoffed at the idea: “Who, me? You want me to do what? Are you kidding? I can’t do that.” It reminded me that I’d never taken a course about how to write books. And it ridiculed me with possible failure or rejection if I tried. Thank goodness God’s voice spoke louder than logic.
Relying on human logic makes sense in some cases. For example, we know that washing our hands with soap after using the toilet helps prevent the spread of disease. We understand that driving drunk will likely result in an accident. And spending money frivolously while on a limited budget will drain our bank account dry. Some facts about life never change and they don’t require the brains of a rocket scientist to figure them out. But human logic doesn’t always align with God’s method of thinking. Sometimes His ways look silly or even slightly ridiculous when measured against Human Logic 101.
How did Noah feel when God told him to build the ark? What did Joshua think when God told him to march around Jericho seven times and then blast it with trumpets? What did Moses feel when God told him to draw water from a rock for millions of thirsty Israelites? If these guys had listened to logic, their stories would have ended much differently.
Sometimes human logic is downright contrary to God’s thinking. Take for instance, the reasoning behind euthanasia or the abortion industry. Logic says inconvenience justifies the ending of life; God says all life is precious. Logic says we must have financial security; God warns us to trust in Him alone to meet our needs. Logic says we can satisfy our selfish desires in secret and get away with it God says what’s hidden in the darkness will be brought to light. Logic tells us we’re not skilled enough or smart enough or talented enough to do what God is asking us to do; God says He’ll equip us for the task.
If we want to live life as God intends for us, then we need to discern the difference between human logic and His way thinking, and we need to choose the latter. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says, “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”
When human logic fails to align with what God says, we need to call it what it is: a false argument and a rebellious thought. If we listen to it and live by it, it becomes a proud obstacle that keeps us from knowing God. Our responsibility is to destroy it using God’s mighty weapons. We need to fill our minds with the Truth of His Word and listen to the voice of His Holy Spirit, obeying what He says rather than following the logic that leads us down the wrong path.
Human logic told me that I had little or nothing of significance to offer other women. God said otherwise. If I’d listened to logic and agreed with it, I’d have rebelled against God. That would have prevented me from experiencing His amazing sufficiency and surprises.
Can you relate to what I’ve expressed today? Has human logic hindered you from experiencing life as God intends for you? If so, how?