"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." Ephesians 6:13. "When a storm blows, you must stand firm. For it is not trying to knock you down, it is really trying to teach you to be strong." Joseph M. Marshall III. "Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm." Abraham Lincoln "There is only one secure foundation: a genuine deep relationship with Jesus Christ, which will carry you through any and all turmoil. No matter what storms are raging all around, you'll stand firm if you stand on His love." Dr. Charles Stanley
This time of year is what we refer to as "the season to be jolly." And, yes, it is because of the great gift that God gave to the world through the birth of his Son. We know the reason for the season. That notwithstanding, strong winds continue to blow, and for many it has been a real challenge to remain standing.
"Well, you just stand when there is nothing left to do
You just stand , watch the Lord see you through
Yes, after you've done all you can, you just stand
Lyrics to "Stand" by Donnie McClurkin
In reality, each day we face ups and downs, and depending on our resources we weather some situations better than others. Several years ago, when I started writing this blog, I was at a low place; I had experienced the loss of a loved one. Rather than question God (I was taught not to; even so, I have at times questioned. I digress), I searched the scriptures for the peace, joy and comfort that I knew were embedded there. To be honest, I was not feeling the "abundant life" that Jesus spoke about in scripture. "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10. This is a recurring topic for me because of the obstacles that present often not only for me, but for those that I love, including close friends. In no way am I complaining. In fact, the more I search and study, the more I understand what true abundance is. Being a part of a loving community of people who seek to love God and one another as God intended is abundant living. I believe that a part of letting my light shine is to enlighten and to encourage others as I gain more understanding.
We all face trials. I remember a great deacon (Deacon Scott, who has since relocated to the south) in my church, who always used to remind us after he had visited the sick and shut-in that , "it is their turn today, tomorrow may be our turn." The abundance is that as a body of believers, we do not have to go through alone. There is great consolation in knowing that we have each other and the promises of God to sustain us.
In Donnie McClurkin's song,"Stand," he is relaying that some life circumstances can knock you from your knees, and take everything you have to keep from falling on the ground and staying there. Remember Job? He lost everything. He had friends, but they were the kind who were of no help. They were of the ilk that with their bad advice, they were "knocking him off his knees." You know the kind, the ones who want to say something, so they say anything, and it makes the situation worse.
Many church folks have a mantra that they like to recite: "God is good and all the time God is good." My Pastor would say in response, "Can you still say this when the roof falls, the bottom drops out, and the sides cave in?" Many people would like to say "yes." Reciting a mantra is not living the word of God. The truth is, you do not know how you might respond until it happens. We are human. Fortunately for Job, he could say "Yes. God is good." "Job declares, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him."Job 13:15. Job did not understand what was happening to him and why, but he knew that God was good, loving and trustworthy. He further knew that his pain was not permanent. With God, there is a way of escape. The suffering of this life is temporary and will end for those who trust in the Lord. Can you respond the way Job did in times of trials? Think about it. "It is your faith that will make you stand firm." Lailah Gifty Akita
In this blessed season, we have so many reasons to rejoice and to celebrate; especially, the reason for the season: the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ who came to offer forgiveness of sin and eternal life. After this life, there is eternal life with God in heaven for all who believe. John 3:16. By God's grace, faith is all that is required to be made right with God and to receive this great gift of life. Ephesians 2:8-9. This is truly something to celebrate! But, we all know that in the midst of joy and celebrations, life happens. Sickness, depression, tragedy, death, disappointment, etc., don't stop regardless of the season. In fact, studies show that these things actually increase during this time. It is always how we respond to any given situation that makes all the difference. I am not going to make light of hardships, because they can temporarily knock the wind out of you. But, you should take the time to reflect and to respond appropriately.
Dr. Stanley shared that he suffered a fall in his home which required surgery. He said that he had not done anything differently that day, but he fell and was injured. He said his first response was to ask: "God, what are you up to?" He believed that there was purpose in this occurrence. He says that God always has a purpose for what He allows in our life. "He will only keep us in darkness until He has accomplished His purpose. We learn more in the darkness; we are moving toward the light." Dr. Stanley. We have a saying: "Trouble don't last always." God knows when that season of hardship should end, and He does it with purpose. "And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10
You and I may have a hard time accepting this; we do not welcome darkness for any reason. But, remember God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He is omniscient, all loving, and sovereign; He sees the whole picture. His ways are higher than ours. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9. Trust Him in all things.
We can take heart because no matter what we are going through, we know that God loves us with an everlasting love. That is why we can stand. "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23. We may never understand why we are experiencing what we are going through, but as a child of God, you can be assured that God is with you. We have a saying, "trouble don't last always." The question is, "Are you willing to see things God's way and respond in kind?"
Dr. Stanley said God revealed to him in his dark hour that he needed to slow down. (Maybe God is trying to tell you something). While in the hospital, he said he met so many people who had been blessed by the word of God through "In Touch Ministries." He also had the opportunity to further witness for the Lord. He was further convinced that the lessons God teaches us in the darkness are to be shared in the light. "What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs." Matthew 10:27. Someone needs to hear it. Share your testimony. God has a divine purpose in what He does. When we don't understand (and most times we won't), ponder this: "I do not understand, now what?" Dr. Stanley says the next move is to respond the right way. There are some key points that he shared in his sermons on "darkness" and "when all hope seems to be lost." I believe some of the points apply here.
What is the right way to respond when you do not understand?
Recall what God says: "I am with you always." Matthew 28:20. "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8 If you can just take comfort in knowing that our all powerful, all loving and all faithful God has your back, you will be able to experience the peace that only He can give in the midst of a storm. Remember, too, that God has dominion over the storm, and it too will pass.
Thank God. "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18. This may feel impossible. But, wait, no one is saying to be thankful for the awful things happening to you. But, rather be thankful to God for sustaining you and for every blessing you have ever received. Initially, this required a little more thought on my part. But, as I pondered, I began to understand that my life did not begin at the point of hardship, and that God had brought me through till that point. I trust Him to take me through. I have experienced great times, love, laughter, joy, a measure of health and wealth, etc. Yes, I could thank and praise God in every circumstance (besides that little voice of my grandmother that lingers as a fresh/constant reminder, "it could always be worse." I digress). Give thanks because His word says so and because you have a lot to be thankful for. Take time to count your blessings.
God will work it out to your benefit. (Note: I did not say to your liking). "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28. This does not mean that you will not have trials, but for those who love the Lord, the end result will be that those trials will not be in vain. God works in and through all circumstances toward a specific end; toward an ultimate good that serves His purpose. His desire is to perfect, strengthen and establish us. Sometimes we have to go through something for God to get us where we need to be. Revelation 21:1-4. We are always walking toward the dawn of a new day. How about we relax and let God lead the way.
Pray. The correct response is always prayer. We should always seek God's guidance and wisdom in everything, and we do this by praying. He hears us when we pray. Run to God and His word and know that He is there. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6. Read the book of Nehemiah for some incite into the power of prayer. "We stand tallest and strongest on our knees." Dr. Charles Stanley.
There are some hard truths that we have to face in this world; like there is evil and sometimes we fall prey to it. For this, we must put on the whole armor of God, see scripture above. And there are some realities like, we are mortal and will be subjected to the frailties that come with our status. Yet, we are not without hope, and our response to living and ups and down should always be in keeping with our trust and faith in God. Be reminded that God is in control, and if you are a child of God, He is with you in all things. "But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12. God's truth (THE TRUTH) is found in the bible. It will set you free and provide a foundation that you can stand on forever, in good times and bad. Read it. God bless you!
MERRY CHRISTMAS!! May the true message of this season warm your heart and bring you joy!!
Thank you for your continued support. I remain appreciative.
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