Tag Archives: trials

Esther 8-10; John 13

It was November a lifetime ago, and I was driving to the library. I was weighted down by deep disappointment and grief. Sometime in preceding months, I had read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, and I began to keep my own thankful list. That November day, I remember specifically the golden light sweeping across the farm fields, the flocking behavior of birds like a sheet shaken in the wind. I purposed to be grateful for those things in that moment, but I didn’t know how to be grateful for the broken expectations and crushed hopes in my life. I wondered if maybe the point was to be grateful in trial, not necessarily grateful for trial.

Jesus washes the feet of all his disciples.

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:1-5, NLT, emphasis added)

Jesus shares a meal with them (including Judas, who would betray him). Jesus knew. He knew his purpose. He knew where he was from and where he was going. His purpose was not thwarted by the destructive intentions of another–his purpose was propelled by them.

Esther found herself in the middle of a purpose–a time such as that. Haman’s destructive intentions propelled her into a purpose she had not imagined.

On that same day King Xerxes gave the property of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther. Then Mordecai was brought before the king, for Esther had told the king how they were related. The king took off his signet ring—which he had taken back from Haman—and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed Mordecai to be in charge of Haman’s property … 15 Then Mordecai left the king’s presence, wearing the royal robe of blue and white, the great crown of gold, and an outer cloak of fine linen and purple. And the people of Susa celebrated the new decree. 16 The Jews were filled with joy and gladness and were honored everywhere. 17 In every province and city, wherever the king’s decree arrived, the Jews rejoiced and had a great celebration and declared a public festival and holiday. (Esther 8:1-2, 15-17a, NLT)

Haman’s hatred led to his own death and justice plays out in an unexpected way: Queen Esther is given Haman’s lands; Mordecai is given the king’s ring and wears royal robes, a fine cloak and a crown of gold.

On Earth, Jesus would be tortured, mocked and crucified by betrayal in a crown of thorns. But he knew. He knew why he was here. He knew what was going to happen. He knew where he was going.

A recent reading in 2 Peter 1 refreshed my kingdom focus. I am thankful for God’s Word. It helped me to understand that God has given me all I need to live a godly life. God gives me a focus and a purpose, and while I still experience heartache and heartbreak here, He prepares me for a grand entrance into His kingdom. An enemy wants to see destruction–but God will use that to propel (us) into a purpose. And now I’m learning to give great thanks for the trial.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 9-12; 2 Timothy 2

New routines, new seasons, new challenges. A dear friend’s words to her child reach out from the years to encourage me now–to keep focused on the goal.

“If racing against mere men makes you tired,
    how will you race against horses?
If you stumble and fall on open ground,
    what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5, NLT)

Remember the why.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things (2 Timothy 2:3-7, NLT).

Focus. Obedience. (Diligence, reward.)

15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 17 This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus … 19 But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,”[b] and “All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.”[c] (2 Timothy 2:15-17, 19, NLT)

I think long on purpose and Kingdom focus. Sideline skirmishes try to take my focus off the goal, words maim and discourage, and some obstacles seem like impenetrable blocks.

He reinforces, “Don’t give up.” Oh, if I stumble on the open ground, how will I ever traverse the thicket? He has spoken purpose in my heart and over my life.

21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work (2 Timothy 2:21, NLT).

He points the way, in the distraction and in the storm.

Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. 23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. 26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants (2 Timothy 2: 22b-26, NLT).

Lord, I lean on you for understanding. You are loving and wise and generous. You gently turn my focus and remind me: don’t forget the why.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 36-37; Ephesians 6; Psalm 76

If there’s one thing Christians have in common, it is suffering. Trials are part of God’s plan for our lives because through resistance, pain, and turmoil, our faith is proven strong and He is proven faithful. Much as I wish there were another way, real growth only comes through those times of testing.

The account of Sennacherib coming against Hezekiah and the nation of Judah in Isaiah 36-37 has a lot to teach me about how to handle persecution, suffering, and trials.

First, Hezekiah recognized that this was a spiritual fight, not a physical fight.

Isaiah 36:13-15 NIV
Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you! Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

This encounter was not about one king fighting another – it was a spiritual battle, and it was about God. In my own life I often fail to recognize God at work in my circumstances, instead chalking things up to not getting enough sleep, a day of bad traffic, someone else’s ignorance, or even dismissing things with the mindset of, “that’s just how it is.” But what if God wants to use everyday difficulties to grow me and to teach me how represent Him in every painful or frustrating circumstance? Even more, what if He wants to use my daily frustrations to defend His own power and glory through my responses?

Next, Hezekiah understood the importance of not engaging the enemy in conversation.

Isaiah 36:21 NIV
But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”

Oh. My. Goodness. Do you have any idea how hard that is? When someone attacks me, I am overwhelmed with a desire to defend myself and put them in their place. But that urge is far greater when the person attacked is someone I love and respect. Yet, when their beloved King was disparaged, the people remained silent.

Oddly enough, silence is one of our greatest tools in a trial. My gut reaction is the complete opposite – it’s to defend, accuse, cry, fuss, and demand. But when I begin to engage the enemy in conversation, I quickly find myself on a slippery slope to justifying compromise. At best, I end up overwhelmed and discouraged; at worst, I throw caution to the wind and engage in sinful behavior to deal with the pain.

Finally, Hezekiah sought God’s direction.

Isaiah 37:1, 15 NIV
When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord

Rather than engaging the enemy in conversation, Hezekiah engaged God in conversation. This chapter records a beautiful plea from Hezekiah, where He reminds God of His power and His promises and asks Him to defend His name and intercede for Judah.

Sometimes I take the “keep silent” part a little too far, and I don’t go to the Lord with my struggles. In doing so, I miss out on what God is doing in the situation because I’m not seeking His direction, and I also cut myself off from my only source of hope, as He is the only one who has the power to deliver me from what I’m going through. Therefore I have to make a conscious effort to engage God in conversation, reminding Him of His promises and asking Him to intervene in my life.

Isaiah 37:35 NIV
“I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!”

God gave Hezekiah and the people of Judah a great victory.

I want that victory, too.

So whether I’m just “having a day,” or I’m going through a months-long trial, I will choose to see what God is doing in my situation and look for what I can learn through it. I will choose to take my thoughts captive and refuse to entertain and engage the temptations that come to me. And most importantly, I will pray and plea with the Lord for His direction and deliverance.

Father, forgive me for losing sight of you in the messiness of life. Help me to see you in the things I go through, and help me to represent you well. Help me to keep my mouth shut with the enemy and my mouth open with you. Help me to seek Your glory and help me trust You for deliverance. Thank you for how you’ve delivered me before. Thank you for being loving and faithful in all you do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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2 Kings 6-8; 2 Chronicles 20; Matthew 28

2 Kings 6:15-17 (NIV)

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

My father once said fear reveals that we’re walking by sight. It’s true. It’s far too easy to get caught up in what we see and to become overwhelmed as a result.

Like Elisha’s servant, I often suddenly find myself in some circumstance that takes me by surprise and seems impossible to overcome. And much like the servant, I cry out, “Oh no! What am I going to do?!” believing it depends on me to solve the problem.

But Elisha had faith, and he calmed the servant down by encouraging him with the truth of what was unseen – “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And when Elisha prayed, the Lord opened the servant’s eyes to see what was unseen – God’s power and might that was at work behind the scenes.

Now I’ve never been surrounded by an angry army, but I’ve had plenty of other trials and problems that have felt just as intimidating. The temptation is to give in to fear and attempt to take matters into my own hands. It’s in those moments that I must choose to remember God’s promise that He who is in me is greater than the one in the world. I must choose to remember God’s promise to be with me and never to leave me nor forsake me. I must choose to remember God’s love that is working all things for my good. I must choose to remember how God has delivered me before so that I can have faith that He will do it again.  Ultimately, I must choose to surrender to God’s plan and stop trying to fix it myself.

In 2 Chronicles we see a similar situation unfold when Jehoshaphat finds out that there are three armies on their way to wage war against him. Overwhelmed, he gathers the people to stand before God and they cry out for help and direction. They remind God of His promises, and they beg Him for direction. And they refuse to act until He answers.

2 Chronicles 20:12-13 (NIV)

“Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

And God DID answer:

2 Chronicles 20:15-17, 20-23 (NIV)

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow march down against them. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

God told them they would not have to fight the battle, but to still prepare for war. And so by faith, they fixed their eyes on God’s power and promise. By faith, they suited up and set out. By faith, they sang praises to God. And when they began to sing, God began to deliver. And God is no partial deliverer, either – true to His word, by the time they arrived, there was no one to fight! Instead, they were rewarded with treasures so bountiful it took 3 days to bring everything home.

A line in a favorite song of mine says, “Come, Lord, do what only You can do – You can do anything!” I’m so thankful that God works behind the scenes in my life. God works in my praying. He works in my praises. When I choose faith, I choose Him; and He can do anything.

 

Father, please forgive me for my tendency to focus on what I see, and what I can do. Forgive me for trying to figure things out on my own and take matters into my own hands. Help me to remember that You know what you’re doing. You’re in control. You’re working in my waiting. You’re working in my praying. You’re working in my worship. Lord, I choose faith. I choose to focus on You instead of what I see, and I choose to remember that even when it looks like I’m surrounded, I know that I’m really surrounded by You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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Deuteronomy 15-18; Acts 27; Psalms 88

“Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need. When you release a male servant, do not send him away empty-handed. Give him a generous farewell gift from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Share with him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember you were once slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you! That is why I am giving you this command.” Deuteronomy 15:10-15 NLT

Remember. But, oh, how many times I forget. I think on God’s faithfulness. His provision. His constant care in my life. How can I not be generous? And share what he has given me. Sometimes it seems easier to hold on to it. Not only money, but my time, talents…all the ways he has been good to me. Sharing is to trust that God will fill the need. Many times, above and beyond what I could ask or imagine.

                                                *

Paul was sailing to Rome. He was a prisoner, under the custody of a Roman officer. He didn’t have a choice, but to rely on friends to take care of him. How humbling that must have been. I am thankful for the times that God has used other people to provide for me and my family. My prayer is that I would do the same for others who have a need.

“The next day we docked at Sidon, Julius was very kind to Paul to let him go ashore to visit with friends so they could provide for his needs.  The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. No one had eaten in a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.” Acts 27 NLT

Paul never gave up hope.  He kept encouraging the people, even after they didn’t listen to him.  His faith and courage had to be contagious.  When I feel alone, I want to be like Paul. Remembering that God is with me.  And reach out to those around me, while proclaiming my belief.  Knowing that the God who got me through the trial before, will be faithful again. 

Dear Father, thank you for your goodness. Help me to remember that everything I have comes from you. Help me to live with open hands. Thank you that you rescue me. Amen.

“O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out to you by day. I come to you at night. Now hear my prayer; listen to my cry.” Psalms 88 NLT

Amy(amyctanner)

 

 

 

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Exodus 2-4; Luke 17; Psalm 88

Exodus 2:11-15a NIV

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian…

Moses was clearly troubled by what he saw and he wanted to rescue his people. However, rather than seeking God, Moses sought his own intellect and decided to take matters into his own hands. It didn’t work. Instead of things improving, they worsened – not only with the Egyptians, as Pharaoh wanted to kill Moses, but even with his own people, who disrespected and challenged him.

Like Moses, I find it so tempting to take matters into my own hands. When I see someone else suffering, or if I, myself, am feeling overwhelmed, my gut reaction is to jump into action and attempt to work out deliverance for myself. The problem is that my thoughts and my understanding are tainted by sin and emotions that frequently are running out of control. Therefore my actions make things worse rather than improving the situation. I’ve learned that deliverance can only come from God’s hands, not my own.

Moses reacted to the situation by running away – again, I so easily identify with that instinct! However, God used the next 40 years to work in Moses’ heart and develop in him a humility and dependence on the Lord rather than himself. It was a tough lesson to learn, I’m sure – it always is. However, we all must learn it because humility is the prerequisite for being used by God.

In chapter 3, God spoke to Moses and invited him to join Him in delivering the Israelites from slavery. In a shocking contrast to chapter 2, we read that Moses began to argue with God about his inability to rescue the Israelites.

I’ve found that it’s easy to confuse humility with insecurity. I may think I’m acting humble when, in reality, I’m giving into my insecurities. Insecurity causes me, like Moses, to still rely on my own understanding, abilities, and judgment. Humility, though aware of my inability, doesn’t fixate on my failures, but instead trusts in God’s understanding, abilities, and judgment.

While insecurity causes me to question and doubt, humility causes me to say, “Yes, Lord. I know you are able; I will trust you to do what you say you will do.” And that humble surrender is exactly what allows me to begin experience deliverance and, ultimately, victory.

Father, please forgive me for believing the lie that deliverance depends on me. Help me to trust your abilities, your understanding, and your plan in my life and in the lives of those I love. I surrender to what you’re doing and will wait for your direction before I speak or act. Thank you for loving me and being patient with me, even in my failures and when I interfere with what you’re doing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Bethany Harris (drgnfly1010)

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Deuteronomy 1-3; Psalm 36; Luke 5

I bet after forty years of circling that mountain, it was pretty familiar territory. The Lord was telling them to move on.

“When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on (Deuteronomy 1:6, NLT).

I consider these verses in light of change and challenge.

29 “But I said to you, ‘Don’t be shocked or afraid of them! 30 The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. 31 And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.’ (Deuteronomy 1:29-31, NLT)

He looked for the best places to camp and guided with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day.

If you need food to eat or water to drink, pay them for it. For the Lord your God has blessed you in everything you have done. He has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the Lord your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing.”’ (Deuteronomy 2:6-7, NLT)

David’s psalm touches on good and evil. And I know from Deuteronomy (and my own life), God goes before me. He fights for me. He is just. I find peace in his goodness.

Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
    your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.
    How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter
    in the shadow of your wings.
You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
    letting them drink from your river of delights.
For you are the fountain of life,
    the light by which we see. (Psalm 36:5-9, NLT)

I can trust him. Oh, if he is willing, will I not be healed?

 12 In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. (Luke 5:12-13, NLT)

Or:

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 23 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 24 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[d] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

25 And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!” (Luke 5:22-26, NLT)

If he says to go out deeper, will I not see his miracles?

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. (Luke 5:5-11, NLT)

Lord, I live in wonder and delight of you. Thank you for your faithfulness, love, provision and protection. Thank you for fighting for me and loving me tenderly and deeply.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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