If I’m a winner, why do I live like a loser?

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I can’t do anything right. I’m a failure at life. It’s not even worth trying something new because I’ll ultimately screw it up and let everyone down. Ever feel like that? I’ve had a month of feeling like that, which is utterly ridiculous because it’s been a great month. A successful month. A month full of positive momentum. Yet emotionally, spiritually, and mentally I’ve been stuck in this unending quagmire of discouragement.

God is gentle with people many times. He calls to us softly in that still, small voice of His. He beckons us closer to Him with promises of peace and assurances of unconditional love.

Well, I’m not people. And gentle promises and soft speeches rarely do anything for me except make me suspicious, and that’s probably a character flaw. But thankfully my God knows how to talk to me. He’s my Shepherd, and He knows how to get my attention. And usually it involves a two-by-four.

I was out on my morning walk yesterday, and I’d started the morning slow and draggy, uninspired, discouraged, beaten down for no real reason. I just felt mopey. But I’d decided to start walking in the mornings, so I got ready to go. To make matters worse, my MP3 player died for no reason, which put me in a bad mood. Walking my two miles was going to be harder without something to listen to.

So I just chalked it up to the kind of day I was going to have, and I started down our old loose-gravel road, struggling against a hard south wind. But because I didn’t have anything else to listen to, I just decided to tell God about all my problems.

The whole two miles, I just told Him what was on my heart and how sad I felt and alone and discouraged. Like nothing I do matters. Like nothing I try succeeds. And somewhere along that two-mile stretch, WHAM! This verse hit me like a ton of bricks:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

That’s Romans 8:37, if you care to know. And it echoed in my empty brain for about five minutes while I walked, stunned into silence. The realization that accompanied left me shaking. Because if I believe that, if I truly believe that God has made me more than a conqueror, I should be living like it. But I wasn’t. I was living as though I’d been defeated.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Why would I choose to live defeated when I have the opportunity to live victorious?[/su_pullquote]

It’s so hard to see the light sometimes. It’s so hard to focus on everything that’s right, especially when you feel overwhelmed by everything that’s wrong. That’s when discouragement hits. That’s when it takes all your strength to pull yourself out of bed in the morning. That’s when you tell yourself that you can’t win, can’t succeed, can’t do anything right. You’re choosing to see all the obstacles in your path instead of the bright, shining path God has opened up for you.

I am a conqueror.

Not will be a conqueror. Not used to be a conqueror. I AM a conqueror. Not in my own strength or abilities or talents. Not by any gift or virtue I possess but through Jesus. God has made me a conqueror through His power. So why would I choose to live defeated when I have the opportunity to live victorious?

Maybe that bright shining path Jesus provided only stretches out for the current day, and I can’t see tomorrow. Isn’t that all right? Isn’t it enough to know that you have what you need for right now? It’s difficult to live that way. It’s hard for this control freak to wrap her brain around it, but there’s no better way to live.

Why be satisfied with the little shack you can build with your own hands when God wants to help you build a mansion?

Against all odds, God has provided for me today, and He has promised to provide for me tomorrow. Do I really need more than that? Do you?

No more choosing to see the obstacles. No more choosing to see what’s wrong. No, that doesn’t mean I ignore them, but I can acknowledge an obstacle without letting it discourage me. God has made me a conqueror. God has made me victorious. Through Him, I can do impossible things.

And so can you.

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Don’t rush learning how to follow Jesus

I’m not a patient person. I’m like the least patient person you’ll ever meet. That’s why I marathon television shows. That’s why I rarely read books series until they’re complete. I don’t like waiting for stories to resolve. I want to know what happens right away.

Unfortunately that lack of patience seeps into other areas of my life. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t do well in music lessons. My mom is a crazy accomplished classical musician, but she didn’t get there overnight. It took 45 years for her to get to that place. I wanted to pick up a musical instrument and be perfect right away. I didn’t want to work at it. I didn’t want to make mistakes and have to learn from them. I wanted the benefit of the skill without the drudgery of the discipline required to achieve it.

Sound familiar to anyone? We all have our sticking points when it comes to patience and discipline. Ironically, I had to learn that I had a lot to learn, regardless of what career path I chose. I settled on writing because I thought I was a great writer when I was little.

Yeah. Wow. Looking back, I knew nothing. And all I’ve learned in 25 years of writing (yes, I wrote my first story in kindergarten) is that I still know nothing, and that I have a lot more to learn. I’ve learned that I’ll never stop learning. But learning isn’t about filling your head with information. I mean, that’s part of it. The greater part of learning is patience. It’s hard work to learn. It’s trying and difficult, but the more you work at it, the stronger you get.

S059QDGBOG_1549x1037Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:32-36.

Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

Following Jesus takes discipline. Sorry to burst the bubbles of anyone who signed on expecting an easy ride. Think of following Jesus like two magnets with opposite poles being pressed together. On one side, you’re drawn to Him because you belong to Him, but on the other side you’re repelled because you still have a dark nature that wants your own way. You have to fight yourself every step of the way if you want to follow Jesus.

And then add in the trouble our enemy throws at us. We have an enemy who hates us because Jesus loves us, and our enemy will do everything in his power to distract us, stop us, hurt us, discourage us, and slow us down. But instead of seeing all those obstacles as barriers to following Jesus, try to see them as opportunities to grow.

Don’t rush following Jesus. Enjoy it. It takes time. It takes years. Learn to see the trouble as opportunities for God to show His power. Learn to see people as family members who just don’t know Jesus yet. But the more you seize opportunities to follow Jesus, the stronger you’ll become.

Jesus says to love your enemies. That’s not easy, but that’s part of following Him. You won’t want to do it, and Satan won’t want you to either. But Jesus says it, so we do it. Loving an enemy is an obstacle because they don’t want your love, but if you treat it as an opportunity, your faith will grow. Every time you extend love or kindness or forgiveness to someone who wants to hurt you (and you get nothing in return), it demonstrates to everyone around you and even to yourself that what Jesus says matters more to you than what is commonly or popularly accepted. And God blesses an attitude like that.

 

Does God put obstacles in our path to make us turn around?

My parents and I had been planning to take a short trip to Colorado Springs for months. My tax accountant is in Colorado Springs (it’s a long story), and with all the changes I’ve had in my financial life this year, we figured we needed a face-to-face meeting with him.

I got new tires put on my car specifically expecting to drive it to Colorado Springs, but Tuesday morning, our plans changed. We’d gotten the car all loaded up, and Mom prayed over our trip for safety–and just like that, the car wouldn’t start. It just sat there like a lump. My 2012 Malibu was dead in the front yard.

We had to make a decision. Was it a sign that we shouldn’t go? Did that mean we needed to reschedule and go the week after? We thought about it, prayed about it, and then we transferred everything to my mom’s 2006 Malibu (I say we, but I mean my dad). We got on the road, and we called the local Haven dealership to come pick it up and check it out.

We got word yesterday that the battery died. I guess it’s not unheard of, but seriously? How many more unexpected expenses are going to pop up in my life now that I technically don’t have a paycheck coming in? Gosh.

And it begs the same question we faced when my car died Tuesday morning. Is this a sign that I’m going the wrong direction? Is it an indication that I’m making the wrong choice because all these things are happening? Does God put obstacles in our path because He wants us to stop what we’re doing and change directions?

Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.

IMG_20150217_065918If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This is Paul speaking. There has been a lot of discussion on exactly what his “thorn in the flesh” was, but I don’t think anyone has really come to an actual conclusion. All we really need to know is that God allowed this issue, this difficulty or obstacle, in Paul’s life so that Paul would rely on God’s strength instead of his own.

I haven’t arrived as a Christ follower. I’m still a work in progress, and I will be until I go home to be with Jesus. But I’ve picked up a few things in the years I’ve walked with Jesus, and one thing I know for sure is that if God sets you on a path going a certain direction, He isn’t going to change His mind about it. If you start following Him down a road, and a big boulder appears in your path, that doesn’t mean you stop moving forward. It means you ask Him to help you get around the boulder.

An obstacle is only an opportunity to grow stronger. Maybe you need to rely on God’s strength to move an obstacle out of your path. Maybe you need to learn patience to wait for God to move the obstacle for you. But that doesn’t mean you turn around.

In my experience, God doesn’t say no with obstacles. God says no with His Word. God’s Word is cut and dry about what is right and what is wrong and what God expects of us. Someone who throws obstacles in your path instead of talking to you is passive aggressive, and God isn’t passive aggressive.

If you’re following God and you find an obstacle in your path, first make sure your heart is right. If God is at the center of every decision you’ve made and if you’re truly seeking Him with your whole heart, don’t let that obstacle convince you to turn around.

Second, ask God what you’re supposed to do. Maybe you’re supposed to wait. Maybe you’re supposed to go around it. Maybe you’re supposed to take your mom’s car instead of yours. Whatever the situation is, God will show you what you’re supposed to do, whether it’s pressing onward or sitting still.

But whatever you do, don’t let the appearance of an obstacle in your path convince you to give up. God finishes what He starts. No, the path won’t be easy, but when you come out on the other side, you’ll be able to point to God and proclaim that He’s the one who got you through. It won’t be through your power. It won’t be because of your accomplishments. It will be because He is God and He is strongest when you are weakest.