And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
What does your Bible look like? Has it been used lately or has it been sitting unopened for a while? Is it worn and tattered from use? Or is it in “perfect” condition? My Bible was once in “perfect” condition. I thought that if I wrote in it or the pages were wrinkled I was being disrespectful to God’s word. But that was before I understood what perfect really looks like. Now, my Bible may look a little worn and it’s stuffed with notes but I have a much better understanding of what God has to say to me. I’m not saying that I’m perfect or that I have all the answers. Trust me, I don’t.
What I do have is a better relationship with God. He wants to have a close and very personal relationship with all of us. But the only way we can have that, is to get in there, read His word, pray, seek His face and draw near to Him so that He will draw near to us. (James 4:8)
Sometimes it’s difficult for us to put aside the chaos of life and make time to spend with God. There are so many distractions that pop up in a day’s time. But like any relationship it takes work for it to flourish. The time we spend with God is an investment in our future. We need to have that closeness with Him in order for our lives to have meaning. And we need to study God’s word so that we will be prepared to share it with other people.
If, like me, you struggle to find the time to read your Bible every day, I want to encourage you. Yes, our time is precious but there is nothing more precious than our relationship with God. And there is nothing more important than growing our understanding of His word. The benefit we receive from our time with God is tremendous. You see, it’s not about what your Bible looks like, it’s about where your heart is. God promises us that if we search for Him with our whole heart, we will find Him. And that is what God wants from us, our whole heart.
So, even when time seems short I hope that you will join me in setting aside time to spend with a loving Father who truly desires to know you and to be known by you. And I pray that you will turn to God’s word and reap the reward of time well spent. Much love and peace to you on your journey!
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We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-
2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Some days are hard to get through, and I’ve had quite a few of those days lately. We all face tough times. Maybe it’s the little things that add up and drive us crazy or maybe we are facing much bigger problems in life. Either way we can take comfort in God’s promises. He is faithful!
God has continued to place this verse from 2 Corinthians in front of me over the past few months. I have been facing a rather large trial in my life and the words that Paul wrote, speak volumes to me. I would like for us to take a look at the situations Paul describes and how it affects our lives today.
hard-pressed, yet not crushed…
When I think of being hard-pressed, I imagine being in a trash compactor. The walls are closing in on me and soon I’ll be pressed into a small little box. It’s a feeling of being trapped. Hard-ships will come in life but with God’s help we can face them. We may be hard pressed, but He will not allow us to be trapped or crushed by life’s troubles.
perplexed, but not in despair…
Have you ever felt so overwhelmed that you just didn’t know what to do next? I think we’ve all been there. Life can seem so complicated and confusing. There’s so much to do and so many things that demand our attention. Sometimes it feels like there is no way out. Maybe you are dealing with the grief of losing a loved one or struggling at work. Whatever your circumstance, I pray that you will be encouraged. You have a Heavenly Father who loves you. You don’t have to be in despair because God is in control and we can rely on Him fully to see us through these trials.
persecuted, but not forsaken…
There are different ways to be persecuted. It can literally mean that someone is trying to hurt you physically, or it can be in the form of a verbal attack. It can also be a general feeling that people don’t like you because of your beliefs. I know in my life I have felt this kind of persecution, sometimes even from people I’m close to. I have been questioned about my faith in Jesus on many occasions. I think questions are a great way to open up a discussion about Jesus, but when that discussion turns ugly, it can be a daunting task to keep it together and not lash out. In these times, I try to remember that I’m in good company. The Bible tells us that every Christian will face some kind of persecution. But the great news is that God promises to never forsake us! We can have complete confidence that He will never leave us!
struck down, but not destroyed…
Life is hard! Really hard. Sometimes things don’t work out the way we planned and reality hits us hard. When a huge emergency pops up in our life, it’s easy to feel like we’ve been struck down. But we are only temporarily knocked down, not knocked out. God is there to pick us up, dust us off and send us back out into the world again. We haven’t been destroyed, we have become stronger.
I have been in each and every one of these situations. I been hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. I have felt despair and sometimes it has overtaken me completely. But God has not forgotten me or left me alone to face these trials by myself. He has shown me His love and He has fulfilled His promise to see me through it every step of the way. I am so grateful that God has continued to put this verse in front of me over and over again. Every time I read it, I find the strength to face the trials of life and to have faith in hard times.
I pray that whatever trial you are facing right now, you will know that you are not alone. God understands that life is hard. And He has given you the same promise, He has given to me. He will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you and He will get you through it. All you need is a little faith in hard times.
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For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Grace is the free gift of God given to us because we believe in His Son. As Christians, we know that faith in Jesus is the only thing that saves.
But sometimes we get caught up in doing the work of the church. It seems that there are an unlimited number of opportunities to serve. Bible studies, potluck dinners, children’s church, choir, clothing giveaways, the list goes on and on. It’s enough to make your head spin! With all of that work, it’s easy to feel that we are earning our salvation. But no matter what we do, we can never earn our salvation and we most definitely cannot out work what Jesus did for us on the cross!
Even though good works don’t save us, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them. This verse in Ephesians says that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” and James 2:17 states that “faith without works is dead”. So if we can’t work our way to salvation, what does that mean? Faith and works go together. You can’t have one and not the other. If we have the Holy Spirit within us, then good works should come naturally for us. Faith in Jesus Christ is what gives us salvation, but works are the fruit of our faith.
Because of what Jesus has done for us, we should have a desire in our hearts to do good works. We have an opportunity every day to make a huge impact on someone’s life through our faith and our works. When they see us, they should see the Holy Spirit in us. Our good works should be a light so bright that they can’t help but see Jesus!
James goes on to speak of Abraham’s willingness to follow God’s instruction to sacrifice Isaac. “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:22) The footnote in my New King James Study Bible says “Faith produces works; and works makes faith perfect. Just like Abraham, our faith will be made perfect by our willingness to follow God’s instructions in our lives and through our good works.
Honestly, knowing that I can’t work my way into heaven takes a lot of pressure off. I don’t have to push myself to exhaustion working until I drop or pretend that I’m perfect, knowing that I’m not. I can just be still and know that God is in control, listen for His instructions and follow His will. And I can rest assured that God has given me the free gift of grace and salvation because I have faith in His Son.
We will never be able to live up to the selfless example that Jesus set for us on the cross. But we can show God’s grace to an unsaved world through our faith in Jesus and our love of doing good works in His name. So when we get caught up in the busy day to day work of the church, let’s remember where our salvation truly comes from and give credit to the Savior of our souls! Let’s thank God that we have been saved by grace.
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Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into submission, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
During Biblical times, there was an athletic competition similar to our Olympics. The Isthmian Games where held in the city of Corinth every two years. Athletes would train hard and devote themselves completely to the Games. Then, and only then, they would be allowed to compete in an event. Along with the bragging rights of a true companion, the winner would receive a pine wreath crown. The Apostle Paul likened the life of a Christian to that of a competitor in the Isthmian Games. But instead of bragging rights and a crown of pine, after we have run the race, we receive eternal life with Jesus.
There are certain qualities that an athlete must have in order to perform at the Olympic level. And I thought it would be fun to look at some of these qualities and compare them to what we as Christians can do to perform at a top level in our walk with Christ.
First, we need a Goal.
Every athlete has a goal in mind when they practice and when they compete. Without a goal there wouldn’t be a desire to win or a reason to show up at the competition. That goal is their main focus in life and their eye is always on it. They are always in pursuit of their goal and nothing will stop them from achieving it.
Every Christian has a call from God on their life, and each of us should set our goal on that call. We should be pressing forward or deliberately pursuing that goal. Just as an athlete sets their eyes on the gold medal or a Super Bowl ring, we must set our eyes on Jesus and make sure that He is the main focus of our lives. He is what we are pressing toward. His call on our life is the goal, and nothing will keep us from getting to that goal.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Second, we must work hard and show Discipline.
It takes hard work to get from the goal to the prize. We tend to think that people are born with a natural ability to be a top tier athlete. Either you have it, or you don’t. But an athlete needs discipline to reach the top of the podium. It is everyday practice and discipline that makes them able to train their bodies to perform at such a high level. Discipline makes them get out of bed every day and practice, even when their body is tired or injured. Discipline propels them forward when nothing else will. Discipline is what creates winners.
Just as an athlete needs discipline to go from a goal to the prize, we also need discipline in our daily lives. We should be training ourselves by praying, reading and mediating on God’s Word. These are some of the ways that we can work to put our faith into practice every day. When we do, God promises that we will be rewarded for our efforts and our goal will become closer and closer.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Third, we should have endurance and Perseverance.
A track runner is trained to only see the hurdle in front of them, not to look past it for the next one. They jump over the first hurdle, then move on to the next. Eventually they get to the last hurdle and then the finish line is in sight. They show perseverance through each hurdle until the race is over.
That’s how we need to be, focused on what God has put right in front of us. There will always hurdles to overcome in life and many things will distract us from our goal. At times the finish line will seem to be just out of sight. But when we have perseverance and look to Jesus, “the finisher of the faith” we will be able to run with endurance and see the finish line clearly up ahead.
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
It’s easy to feel weighted down and discouraged. When you don’t see any forward movement the finish line seems so far away. But Jesus has already won the victory for us! And when we set our goal on Him and run the race before us, we will receive everything we need to make it to that goal. We can race to the finish with confidence in our Savior Jesus Christ.
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Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen
Wait, I say on the Lord.
Waiting is hard! We’ve all heard the saying “patience is a virtue”. Well, it’s not a virtue that comes naturally to me. I hate to wait. I hate waiting in line at the grocery store, in traffic and yes, if I’m honest with myself, I hate to wait for that thing I’ve been praying about. When I pray and God tells me, “Wait”, I sigh inwardly. It’s not the answer I was hoping for. Sometimes I feel like my life is in a constant holding pattern waiting on the Lord. Every part of me is crying out to do something! Anything!
God has spent the last few years gently guiding me and teaching me patience. And it’s been a long, hard lesson. He asks me to wait, so I do it. But I admit, there have been many times that I wasn’t too happy about it. Through the waiting, God has taught me a few things and I’d like to share them with you. I hope they will give you a little bit of encouragement during your wait.
#1 Rely on God
Waiting on God has made me seek Him instead of relying on myself. I’m sure that’s the reason He has asked me to wait. Because when I’m waiting, I’m praying more and spending more time reading my Bible. My relationship with God has grown and I can feel the closeness with Him that I long for.
#2 God’s Timing is Perfect
Waiting on God doesn’t mean that God isn’t listening or that He doesn’t care. It simply means that we have to wait for His perfect timing. Although it may seem like the waiting will never end, in Psalm 27, God promises that He will strengthen our hearts. When the time is right, He will move us in the right direction. He will get us through the wait, all we need is a little patience.
#3 God has a Plan
To wait on God means that we accept His will for our lives and not our own. God has a plan for each one of us. A plan to give us the very best of Himself. Sometimes I feel like I know exactly what God wants me to do and other times I feel completely lost. But God’s plan isn’t about how I feel, it’s about His perfect will for my life. I just need to get out of the way and let His will for my life take hold. But I can’t do that if I’m constantly running ahead of God and trying to make it happen on my own. So God asks me to wait, to be patient and to be still and know that He is God.
#4 God is Pretty Amazing
I’m in awe of how God works everything out to fit within His will. He can do some pretty amazing things sometimes! I’m so thankful that God, who is full of grace and mercy, is patient with me, even in my impatience. And I’m so grateful that He loves me, even when I’m downright unlovable. He understands that waiting is difficult for me and when it becomes too much for me to bear, He shows His lovingkindness to me.
I know that I will never be perfect, and my ability to show patience will probably always be a work in progress. But I choose to wait on God because I know that He wants to give me His best and that He will bless me for waiting on Him. I want to have the will of God in my life more than I want anything else and if waiting a little longer will get me there, then that’s what I will do.
How about you? Are you waiting on God for something in your life right now? Are you having trouble being patient? I promise you this, God is right there listening to your prayers. He has not forgotten that you are waiting on Him and He has a plan for you. Yes, waiting on God can be hard sometimes, but He has a reason for everything that He does. His timing is always perfect. And your wait won’t last forever. So, I pray that today your heart will be strengthened and filled with courage. And that you will see God’s lovingkindness in your life. May you be blessed while you are waiting on God!
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About the Artist
Connie Rowland is the Artist and Blogger behind Master's Hand Collection, a series of Christian artwork that depicts God's hand in our lives. Each picture features an inspirational word spelled out in American Sign Language with a corresponding Bible verse. Check out the About page for more info on Master's Hand Collection and Connie.
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