To Wait

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Today my husband and I celebrate 33 years married! One of the best decisions we made when we were dating all those years ago was to wait. To wait until our wedding night for sex. To wait until we were married for all sexual contact. To wait until after we were married to live together. By the Grace of God we made it! Thirty three years ago we stopped waiting, and to quote Elisabeth Elliot in Passion and Purity, “it was unspeakably worth the wait.”

We hadn’t waited so we could brag on our self control. We hadn’t waited so that in years to come we could feel superior to anyone who didn’t. We certainly hadn’t waited because of a lack of desire, believe me there was plenty of desire! We didn’t even wait because our parents told us to, Bruce and I were both adults who had each been living on our own. We waited because God’s word calls sex between those not married fornication.  And that is sin. (Not that we hadn’t sinned, mind you. I was a new Christian and had a record of plenty of sin.) We waited simply to obey God. And in the doing of that we honored each other and built our relationship on getting to know each other. On talking and reading together. On me as a new believer learning God’s word. On love and respect, not on emotions and desire. Desire wanes when the hard parts of life come your way, and physical beauty very quickly fades.

Some have asked us “what is the secret to a long and happy marriage?” My answer is to build your relationship on love and respect. If you are not married, love and respect each other enough to wait. Get to know each other. And if you didn’t wait, there is plenty of grace for that. (I Tim 1:15) Begin today to love and respect each other. Begin now to write a story with your life that you’ll be glad to tell your grandchildren.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get busy celebrating!

 

wedding day

Bruce & Sara, January 21, 1984

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By Faith, part 1

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“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews is not a book of the Bible that I would suggest to a brand new Christian to dive into and read on their own. It contains some heavy truths and deep theology. It is also written to a group of people who have been in the Christian faith for a while and been exposed to Jesus’ teaching ideas from their parents and grandparents before them. These people never met Jesus, but much like us have been exposed to the truths He taught and came to a saving knowledge through their faith.

Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians who were probably experiencing fierce persecution for denying Judaism and following Christ. They needed an extra reminder and encouragement to continue in their faith. Some of them were trying to even live a hybrid of the two faiths. They wanted to do just enough Judaism to deter persecution from the Jews while at the same time looking similar to Christ to declare loyalty to Him. The message of Hebrews is that Jesus is better, Christianity is superior, and Christ is supreme and completely sufficient for salvation and everything else. Hebrews even compares the two faiths and explains how Christianity is better not only because Christ the Messiah fulfills all of the Old Testament prophesies, but also because His sacrifice is more sufficient for our sins.

Many times I have believed how much easier it would have been to have walked with Jesus and witnessed his ministry and miracles. Who wouldn’t have been able to believe through that? But many still rejected Him who saw Him and even talked with Him. However, even Jesus told his disciple, Thomas, after the resurrection, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” Jesus was referring to us!

Faith is not belief without proof. We don’t say “I believe despite what evidence tell me.” Faith is not belief despite the evidence; rather faith is having a complete trust or confidence in someone or something. That trust or confidence we have in someone is built up over time as they prove themselves faithful time and time again.

The Bible is filled with stories of God’s faithfulness to us despite our lack of faith in Him. Faith is not just a one-time decision we make for salvation. It should become a lifestyle we hold to and do in such a way that it becomes second nature. A reason we struggle with faith is because we hardly know the God in whom we profess our faith. We would not trust a complete stranger. So, if we don’t intimately know God, if we aren’t opening our eyes to see His faithfulness in our lives, if we don’t know the Bible that He has given us to validate our faith, then a lifestyle of faith will remain a constant struggle.

So, how can we trust the Bible and the promises in it as the basis for our faith? Consider not only the Bible as God’s Holy Word, but also as a commentary of history from the beginning of the world. Not only can we see these stories through Scripture, but we have secular historical works that document the reality of these stories. There has been more evidence and information recorded about the life of Jesus than just about any other person of the ancient world.

There was a first century historian of the Roman Empire, Roman Tacitus, who wrote of Christians who suffered under Pontius Pilate. Suetonius, Roman historian and secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, wrote of a man named Christ who lived during the first century. Flavius Josephus, the most famous Jewish historian recorded about a man named Jesus who was the brother of James, a wise man who wrought surprising feats, a man condemned by Pilate to be crucified, who appeared alive again the third day as prophesied. Julius Africanus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian Samosata, Mara Bar-Serapion, and many more were historical writers who confirmed the life and details of a man called Jesus.

Not only can we see these historical, secular pieces of literature that provide evidence of who Jesus was, but we have prophesies from the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus. Over three-hundred Messianic prophesies declared hundreds or thousands of years before the Christ appeared were validated in the birth, life, death, or resurrection of Jesus.

We can also read about the Israelites of the Old Testament and the stories they can tell of God’s faithfulness. Consider when they were rescued from slavery in Egypt. They saw God perform the ten plagues on the Egyptians and spare the Israelites from harm. They were led through the desert by a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. God opened up the Red Sea for them to safely cross on dry land while their enemies drowned under the waters behind them. Through Moses, God brought them to Mount Sinai, gave them the Ten Commandments, and makes a covenant with them. Even after all the Israelites had seen as evidence and proof of God to increase their faith, they still began to grumble and long for a different perception of what God had planned for them.

Faith is substance. It is evidence. We can have proof even in history that our faith can be validated by a God who always remains faithful to us.

Stay tuned for By Faith part 2 next week when we can have evidence of our faith in our own lives.

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New Mercies

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14590422_10154782633402334_3327458929060818770_n-1I love new journals with fresh white pages. I love new calendars with empty squares to fill in.  I love mornings.  I love fresh starts.  I love January 1.  There is just something about “new”.  The new year brings new hopes, new goals, new challenges and new excitement.

I don’t know what your 2016 was like.  Mine included moving from Kentucky back to Tennessee, growth of my business, starting a new church, loss of my father-in-law and the birth of another grandchild.  It also included one of the hardest spiritual battles I have ever fought.

The interesting thing is that many of us face the ups and downs of a year in one day.  We have those moments when we fight the enemy and win and we have those moments where we lose the skirmish and end up with a few battle scars, knowing that ultimately, we win the war.

That’s where “new” comes in.  One of my new favorite verses is Lamentations 3:22-23.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.”

We don’t have to wait for the new year to experience the clean slate, we get to experiencing it every day.  His mercies – compassion, understanding, forgiveness – are available for us always.  Every morning we start with a clean slate.  The creator and our Heavenly Father is lovingly wanting to show us His mercy.  He is faithful.  We can trust that He will always show us His mercy.

As you look forward to 2017, let’s make the most of each new day.  Let’s not dwell on past mistakes or hurts.  He faithfully is waiting to give us the mercy we need to not only endure, but to live our lives victoriously.

Let’s start fresh every day with anticipation and expectation for what the Lord is going to do in our lives and through our lives as we submit to Him.

Happy New Year!

Lisa

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We Never Know What The Wait Could Mean

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Going to the doctor is never fun and is usually met with some degree of waiting. Most of us are horrible at waiting. We get antsy and easily frustrated in the wait. We carry around smart phones in our pockets to fill every void second with some type of stimulation that allows us to feel as though we are entertained in our wait or more pathetically, productive. Right?

 

On December 20th I had a surgical consult for a minor upcoming procedure. I checked into my appointment on time for my 2 p.m. appointment. I wasn’t called back to an exam room for 1.25 hours. Then, I was interviewed by a nurse and asked to wait for the doctor to see me. Exactly an hour later I had still not seen a doctor. I was 2.25 hours into this ordeal when my frustration levels were escalating upward. I was trying very hard to keep myself entertained so I tuned into a crochet lesson on YouTube. I was seriously trying to make a good use of my time and divert my thoughts away from anger and frustration. Seriously, I didn’t want to be rude and come across grouchy, but it was such a struggle after waiting and waiting with no explanation.

 

Finally, I did go to the door and peep out at the desk to ask the staff if they had forgotten me. (I was pleasant just for the record.) The nurse told me no and that the doctor had an emergency down at the other end of the clinic. I’m thinking why in the world would they not come and inform me, the patient? Still don’t get that.

 

Anyway, the doctor finally made it to my room being very apologetic for her tardiness. She was a bit distraught as she shared how she had been called to the exam room of a first time mother pregnant with a 34-week baby who was going to have to deliver a deceased baby. This young lady came for a routine check up with no family to accompany her and this would turn out to be a life-altering day never to be forgotten.

 

I was just trying to get my Christmas shopping finished and wanted to get on with my day. As soon as I realized what had happened just down the hall I felt so ashamed and grief stricken for this young mother 5-days before Christmas. Suddenly, I was thinking how unimportant shopping is at this moment. I turned my heart toward God and whispered a prayer for this lady I did not know.

 

When we are inconvenienced with a wait, remember God is control of all things and there just might be a really good reason you are waiting. Perhaps you are being protected from an accident, or maybe God will pass a special person into your path. You never know, but when the wait seems frustrating just turn your heart toward Him and ask how you might pray in that mom

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Christmas Is About Forgiveness

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For many people, Christmas is a difficult time.  Whether we are missing loved ones who are now celebrating with Jesus, dealing with the results of divorce or separation, or fighting the memories of a painful childhood.  We can acknowledge the difficulty and the pain without allowing it to consume our moments and our days and take away the joy that the forgiveness of Christmas represents.

It is a matter of perspective and choice.  I didn’t say it was an easy choice.  I didn’t say it was a choice that comes without battle scars.  Sometimes making the best choice comes through battle with the enemy and allowing God to fight with you to heal those wounds and scars.  The scars are evidence that you are strong and have fought with God and prevailed against the enemy.

In Genesis, Esau and Jacob are brothers who are “at odds” with each other.  That is putting it mildly.  Jacob stole Esau’s birthright and blessing (that’s a pretty big deal in OT times).  Jacob has fled in fear of what his brother (the hunter) might do in retaliation.  Jacob has gone on with his life but it is now time to return.  Jacob knows what he has done and in fearing the worst, has made plans to protect his family and show his remorse.  As Jacob approaches in submission, “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (Genesis 33)

In the story of the prodigal son, one of a man’s two sons turns his back on family, takes what he can and runs away to live life his way.  He has rejected everything the family stands for to enjoy what life has to offer.  When the son finally comes to his senses, he heads home, in submission.  As he approaches his father’s home, the father “felt compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  (Luke 15)

At some point, our lives are portrayed in all of these characters.  We have been Esau who has been treated badly.  We have been Jacob who needs to apologize and seek forgiveness.  We have been the prodigal son who has turned his back on what we know is truth or God.  We have been the father of two sons who knows that the intention was never to hurt us, but the pain has been inflicted.

No matter which character you identify with today, the truth is the same.  Forgiveness is essential.

Christmas is all about forgiveness.  God, knowing that we would all at some point turn our backs on Him and create separation from Him through our sin.  God, knowing that we would need forgiveness, chose to forgive us.  He didn’t have to.  He chose to.  He chose to send His Son to become our forgiveness.

As we enjoy, and at times, simply endure this Christmas season, let us remember the choice that God made on our behalf and choose to make the same choice.  Choose forgiveness for yourself and for others.

Forgiveness might be the best gift you give or receive this year.

 

Thankful,

Lisa

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Emmanuel

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I am loving everything about this Christmas.  My presents are all purchased, wrapped and under the tree.  I have two precious grand-gifts, with the third one due ANY DAY – literally.  My husband and I decided to buy three gifts per person – specifically representing gold (want), frankincense (spirit) and myrrh (body).  We had so much fun shopping purposefully.  Our schedule is less crazy this year, so we have had time to enjoy being together – we actually drove around looking at Christmas lights.

There is something about Christmas that always draws my attention to God’s Word.  I have been able to spend more time in The Word, taking my time just reading and soaking it in.  Refreshed in the fact that God wants to speak to me and spend time with me.

That is what Christmas is all about.  Of course, it is about Jesus, but the whole purpose of Jesus’ birth is for God to dwell WITH us.  He chose to leave everything for a season, take on human flesh, and sacrifice himself just so we could KNOW Him.

He lovingly speaks to us every day – through His Word, through family and friends, and even through the storms and difficulties of life.  He speaks to us personally, because He loves us.  He knows us intimately and wants us to not just know about Him, but to know Him.

Christmas is the most magical time of the year.  Everything seems to sparkle. Spend some time getting to know the real reason for the season personally.  Allow Him to speak to your heart.  Let your life be an expression of His love to others as you spread a little sparkle of your own to a lost and hurting world.

 

Sparkling,

Lisa

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25 Days of Family Advent

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Christmastime is such a wonderful time of year! I absolutely love the warmth of cozy rooms dimly lit so Christmas tree lights flicker with magical delight. A fire roaring in the fireplace with a good book or a great movie are always inviting too.   But as believers we ready ourselves for so much more! We anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth in a manger. What a humble entrance for the King of the World!

I wanted a unique way to be mindful of the true meaning of Christmas while also celebrating the love I have for those God has entrusted to me as family.

I searched high and low, actually a few days on Pinterest if that counts, for the perfect Advent activity to do with my little family. I couldn’t quite find the perfect activity so I finally came up with my own and I’m dying to share it with y’all because they love it! You might want to do something similar with your special people in the future.

I bought a clear glass container for just under $5.00 at Wal-Mart and then I found the cutest little Christmas tree for $1.00 (also at Wal-Mart) for my jar. Now for the fun part! I searched for 3 different figurines ($2 each) to represent each family member that would be participating in my 25 days of Family Advent. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Greg (my hubby) – chickens
  • Kayla (our daughter) – snowman
  • Stephen (Kayla’s boyfriend) – dog with fire hydrant

Don’t ask why I chose these particular figurines because I promise the reasons are pretty lame. LOL

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They just worked…OK?

On December 1st we kicked off what I hope to be our new tradition. Whoever gets up and finds their figurine in the snow (I used sugar for snow), it’s your day! You may be thinking how is “the boyfriend” going to get up and look in the snow? Does he live with y’all? NO. My daughter will take a picture if his dog is in the snow and text him a picture. We go to great lengths for those we love. LOL

 

There is no rhyme or reason to who ends up in the snow so you have to be sure and check every morning to know whose day it is.

 

If you find yourself anchored inside the snowy wonderland there will be a gift bag or envelope sitting on the table next to the glass wintery wonderland. You will open up whatever has been left for you to see how you’ll participate that day.

You could get any of the following:

  1. A tiny gift
  2. A note of encouragement, something I appreciate about them or a great quality I admire
  3. A challenge to serve someone with a Random Act of Kindness that day! Must also share what you chose to do for someone
  4. Small amount of cash for a cup of coffee or perhaps to by someone else a cup
  5. Special prayer requests

I wanted a combination of things I could do for my little family while integrating a few things we could also do for others.  I love the perfect blend this fun activity provides and it’s FUN!  I chase the FUN!!!

Do y’all have traditions you do through the Christmas season too? I’d love to hear about them!

Merry Christmas!

Kelli

@kelliestes

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Not on Bread Alone

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My plate was piled high with a heap of rice and beans adorned with a plump chicken leg on top. This was a meal I actually like just fine though not my usual. I’m a pretty healthy eater, but on this day I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hold the entire amount of food served on my plate. It was delicious to taste and I quite enjoyed every bite, but seriously I was full at halfway.

 

Last week, I sat across the table from the thinnest, sweetest Haitian sister you’d ever hope to meet. I was given the opportunity to go and minister to almost 30 Haitian Pastors’ Wives by serving them at their first ever conference. I feel ultra blessed to have been given such an amazing opportunity!

 

As we continued to share a wonderful lunch together I became very aware of the excess food on my plate and I had no idea what to do with the portion I could not eat. I was so full! I knew for sure it was NOT going to be wasted though! Do I offer a little of my leftovers to everyone at my table so it seems fair? Do I offer it to the two ladies seated closest to me on my end of the table? If I offer it to one or two will it appear I’m playing favorites? I silently prayed and asked God to help me know what to do. In just a few moments, my sister, Edithe kept eyeballing my chicken and eventually pointed to the leg I’d barely touched. I locked eyes with her and nodded my head in the form of a question as if to ask if she wanted my chicken leg. With a huge grin, she reached out and grabbed my leg (well, my chicken leg) and immediately wrapped it in a napkin and placed it inside her purse. I felt time stand still for a brief moment. What had I just witnessed? I was told these women often eat every other day because they want to be certain their children get to eat at least one meal each day. Was this chicken leg going to be the one meal her children would share on this given day? I held my breath so not to break out in a full on sob. This moved me in ways I’ve never, y’all. I began to love this woman from a place of such deep compassion almost instantaneously. I can’t even explain what I began feeling as I was able to share such a filling meal with this precious small group of ladies that go to bed most nights with a growl in their tummy from hunger.

 

I spent the next few days reflecting on this experience. In fact, I’m home with plenty of food all around me and I’m still finding myself trying to dissect how it must feel to literally cry out to God in prayer to provide my next meal. In doing so I’m continually reminded of what God’s word says in Matthew 4:4

 

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

 

I’m convinced the lovely Haitian women God placed in my path were not depending on the bread alone to sustain their lives. They were truly depending on every word that comes from the mouth of God for sustenance one simply cannot explain.

My Haitian sisters are rich in the Lord and have so much to offer that we can learn from. I felt such a presence of the Holy Spirit as I brushed elbows with such wonderful Christian ladies for three days. Our needs look radically different, but we need each other and that my friends, is a beautiful picture of God’s Kingdom! These women have nothing yet worship God as though they have everything through faith!

 

Lord, I lift my Haitian sisters up to you and ask that you continue to provide their daily bread. Fill their bellies and their children’s bellies with life giving nutrients that come from your hands. Please bless their lives in abundant ways. Help guide our hearts to know how you would desire to use us to minister to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are located in some of the poorest locations of our globe. Help us be ready to say, yes Lord send me!  Amen.

 

Kelli

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Enough Is Enough

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god_is_enough-1694927It has been quite a while since I have posted anything.  It’s not because I haven’t been spending time in the Word, or because I have been too busy.  It’s simply because I have been in the trenches.

My husband and I moved 4 months ago to begin a new journey in ministry.  Through this journey, every pressure and attack from the enemy that you could imagine came full force.  The fact that we were planting a church was enough to draw the attention of the enemy and the battle has been a tough one.

I have shared before about my journey to recognize my identity as a daughter of The King.  I have discovered that I was only hitting the tip of the iceberg.

As women, the enemy knows the best and, sadly, easiest way to affect our walk with the Lord and our relationships with others is to somehow convince us that there is something wrong with us.  Someone hurts us and we think “if only I were…” or “if only had done…”   Layer after layer of hurt or disappointment piles on layer and layer of lies from the enemy of our souls.  These whispers are repeated every time we are reminded of a past hurt or a failure.  We start believing those lies and we find ourselves in a pit of despair or we find ourselves in competition with everyone around us to prove that there is nothing wrong with us, that we are enough.

There has never been a doubt in my mind that I am enough for God to love me.  There is nothing that I could ever do or not do that will change how much He loves me.  He loves me “beyond my wildest imagination” (my husband’s favorite phrase).

I have discovered that my issue is not whether or not I am enough, but is God enough.

Trust me, that is not an easy one to admit – I am a pastor’s wife for goodness sake.  Of course God is enough!  But my actions have betrayed my belief.

If I truly believed that God is enough, the actions of sinful people, wouldn’t send me into a tailspin and give the enemy the ammunition he needs to put me in the pit.  If I truly believed that God was enough, my sinful actions wouldn’t cripple me with guilt.

When we fully discover that God is enough and our only goal is to glorify Him in the midst of the harshness of this sinful world, we can truly be who He created us to be.  Nothing that has happened to me, or that I have done has caught God off guard. He has redeemed every ugly situation in my life to be used to form me and give me the grace I need to help others.

I am in a war with the enemy to remove 50 years of “you are not enough” and replace them with “God is enough”.  I am going to fight the enemy’s lies with the Word of God by memorizing Ephesians 1.  God’s lavish love is enough!

Let’s do this!

 

Lisa

(With thanks to the love of my life for fighting with me and for me and helping me to understand what “enough” really means.)

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Does God Give You More Than You Can Handle?

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How many of you have heard a sweet, old lady’s voice in the midst of your troubles saying “God won’t give you more than you can handle?”

 

I have heard that phrase more times than I’d like to say….mostly coming from brothers and sisters in Christ. When I was younger and felt like this phrase would echo in every circumstance, I felt it to be like an encouraging boost to get me back on the path to overcoming my struggle. Surely a good God who loved me and worked out all things for my good wouldn’t give me more than I could bear….right?

 

As much as I think this may bust so many people’s bubbles, that statement is so wrong and now even makes me cringe when I hear people vehemently profess this untruth. So let’s dig in a little deeper and understand why this declaration of God’s character is false.

 

First let’s look at Job. This is a famous story in the Old Testament of a man who “was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.” (Job 1:1). People who have heard this story over and over know of a man who had it all, but then all was taken away from him. Job lost all of his animals and farm workers, his children all died (on the same day), he lost his health when boils showed up all over his skin, and his wife asked him to curse God. We know of this man because he did lose it all, but didn’t curse God and because of his faithfulness, God restored all that Job had lost. And that’s where most of us stop at when reading this story. A good guy that bad things happened to and then God gave it all back to him.

Until recently this was all that Job’s story had ever been to me….until I read chapters 3 and 6. Job speaks in this passage about how he doesn’t have the strength on his own anymore and that in his humanity, he would rather die than deal with these struggles on his own. We see Job, this blameless man of integrity who feared God say “God has allowed more than I can bear in my own strength, and because of the intensity of my struggles, I would rather be delivered from them in death than endure them any longer.”

 

In the New Testament, you can look at Paul’s words in some of my favorite verses of Scripture that remind me so often that Jesus is all I need. In 2 Corinthians chapter 12 it says, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

Paul also tells the people of Corinth about his own journey in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.

 

Paul, one of the greatest preachers of all times is admitting here that he was overwhelmed with trouble beyond his ability to endure. If God never gave us more than we could handle, why would Paul make this statement. A man of great faith acknowledged his inability to persist in his troubles apart from the dependence on the God who sustained Him through it all.

 

Even one of the most quoted verses of Scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13), reiterates our strength in Christ to accomplish anything. Apart from him, our weaknesses overpower us. But because of Him, we can find hope in the One whose might carries us along when we can no longer handle it alone.

 

 

The premise of Scripture is not to tell us that God won’t give us more than we can handle, but rather that when we are pressed in from all sides and feel like we are desperately trying to tread the deep waters, those are the times that Christ can demonstrate HIS strength best in our weaknesses. He will give us more than we can handle in order to fully rely on Him.

 

So the next time you’re in the center of despair and a friend, or stranger, or a little old lady recites this phrase to you “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” remember that when it feels like the world’s corners may be closing in on you, you may have been dealt more than you can bear. But even then, in what seems like a desolate circumstance, God is using it to draw you to see His purpose, His power, and His plan.

Posted in Christian Living, Leadership, Living Single with Christ, Ministers' Wives, Moms, Prayer, Single Women, Working Women | 1 Response