Posted in Character, Faith

Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

pexels-photo-54377-large

Life can be tough. We live in a fallen world, and there is a devil whose mission is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). But can I just be honest with you? Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. I can be so skilled at sabotaging myself, the devil doesn’t have to be around for me to mess things up. I don’t want to dismiss the presence of evil. However, as a human being, I prefer blaming someone else when I should take responsibility for my own actions. The devil may be the tempter, but I’m the one who takes the bait.

I am so grateful for God’s promise of victorious love in Romans 8:38-39:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When I’m steeped in self-sabotage mode, I believe that circumstances or people in my life block my ability to experience God’s love. If God loves me so much and His love is so powerful, why can’t I see it? I fail to realize that I, through incorrect thinking, have separated myself.

Thankfully I’m learning to detect some of my self-sabotaging attitudes more quickly these days. I am more aware of when the negative thoughts begin, and then I turn my attention to Jesus.

What are some of these self-sabotaging attitudes?

Self-pity. I adopt a victim mentality. Nothing about my situation is good and there is nothing I can do about it. Because nobody really understands the depth of my pain, I dismiss anything they say to help me as invalid.

Pride. I question God’s sovereignty and wonder if He is really in control. After all, I think that my plans, purposes, and priorities are better than His. I know what my life should look like. I am impatient with His timing and resent the detours along the way.

Unbelief. Ultimately I don’t trust the Lord with my life. I lose sight that He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving. As a result all I can see are limitations and lack. Fear or discouragement takes over as I assume the worst.

After recognizing self-sabotage, how do I turn my attention to Jesus?

Exchange self-pity for gratitude. God doesn’t “owe” me anything. He provided the way for me to be in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. That is enough, and I am truly blessed. The Lord has given me everything I am and all I that have. No matter how tough my situation, I can experience joy and peace through the Holy Spirit. I determine to be content and grateful.

Exchange pride for humility. I confess that I really don’t know what is best. I surrender my life anew to God and acknowledge that apart from Him I can do nothing. I ask the Lord for a teachable spirit and look for opportunities to serve others.

Exchange unbelief for trust. I can identify with the father in Mark Chapter 9 who begged Jesus to deliver his son. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief” (v. 24). I rely on grace to trust Him more. I pray for the Lord to empower me from his glorious, unlimited resources with inner strength through His Spirit. I ask for Christ to make His home in my heart, for my roots to grow down into God’s love and keep me strong (Ephesians 3:17).

Do you recognize self-sabotage in your life? How will you turn your attention to Jesus?

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you (Psalm 9:10).

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that You never leave me where You found me. Thank You for giving me new life and teaching me new ways of living. Help me to see when I have attitudes or do things that sabotage myself. Help me to exchange negative thoughts and actions for thoughts and actions that honor You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Help My Unbelief!

One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. And whenever the spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grind his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.

“How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.

He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

“What do you mean, ‘if I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:17-18, 20-24 NLT)

Sometimes it seems like the longer we follow Jesus the more questions arise. We may face heart wrenching problems, and our prayers go answered. As we are surrounded by trouble, we have a choice to make.

  • We can isolate ourselves from God and others, and try to power through on our own. After awhile this approach leads to discouragement and giving up.
  • We can push beyond our pain and seek the Lord. As we declare our trust in God, we also acknowledge the areas in which we struggle with unbelief.

I love the authenticity of this story. The father had endured years of heartache, as his son suffered with an incurable condition. Despite his attempts to find a cure, his son grew worse. When he heard that the Healer was in town, he rallied courage to seek help one more time. Jesus wasn’t available, but perhaps the disciples would have the answer. However, once again the son found no relief, and disappointment set in.

And then Jesus entered the scene. The father had heard hundreds of accounts of the miracles worked through Jesus. He knew the Son of Man could heal his son. And then, the boy started convulsing in the presence of Jesus! Doubts crept in as the dad reached out.

The man cried out, “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

Jesus gently guided him, challenging him to look beyond the circumstances to believe in His power to save.

The man, beaten down by years of disappointments, acknowledged that he did believe. Asking Jesus for help was an act of faith. At the same time, he was acutely aware that his faith was battered and bruised.

In desperation the man cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

I often find myself in a similar place, although the circumstances are vastly different.

I believe that nothing is impossible with God, however, my experience is filled with unanswered prayers and undelivered miracles. If ever there were a time for God to intervene, it should have been then. But then it didn’t happen.

I join the man in honest confession, “Help me, O Lord, to overcome the barriers that keep me from trusting you more fully.”

Are you aware of the belief barriers you face? If not, ask the Lord to reveal them to you. If so, ask the Lord to walk you to freedom.

The humble acknowledgement of our struggles is an invitation to Jesus to show up in our lives. He is the answer we desperately need.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. I have placed my trust in You, and You have shown Yourself faithful to save and deliver me. Yet I continue to have doubts that plague me, areas in my life filled with unbelief. I do believe, Lord Jesus, but help me overcome my unbelief!

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Two Ways to Amaze Jesus

What does it take to amaze Jesus? How do we capture the attention of the Son of God, the One who took part in creation, walked on water, and calmed raging storms with His words?

Recently the following passages leaped off the pages of my Bible during my devotional reading.

The first passage is found in Matthew 8:5-13.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”

Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”

But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!

Great faith amazes Jesus. He notices with joy when we trust Him in the midst of impossible circumstances, believing that He is in control and will provide what we need.

The second passage is found in Mark 6:5-6.

And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Great unbelief also amazes Jesus, but not in a positive way. The word “stunned” could be an appropriate substitute. We allow what we see and how we feel to place limitations on the Lord. When we doubt His goodness and power, it grieves His heart and often ties His hands.

As leaders, we are challenged to model faith to others. They are watching to see our responses to difficulties and trials. How real is our faith in Jesus? How much are we willing to risk in obedience to Him?

Will we throw up our hands in despair, because it is all too impossible? Or will we throw up our hands in surrender and trust?

I don’t want to amaze Jesus by my lack of faith. I want to amaze Him because of my great belief in who He is and what He can do, and my willingness to simply trust Him no matter what.

What about you?