Life is full of challenges but one of the most difficult times we face is when the bottom falls out and you wonder how you’re going to keep going. It’s easy for people to think, “I just can’t go on.”
But you can.
After all, everyone has trials. Even the big names of the faith whose stories we read in the Bible often struggle.
For Instance, the Apostle Paul found himself alone at the end of an incredible career. He was a prolific church planter. He wrote about 1/2 of the New Testament. But he came to the end of his life alone & discouraged.
How did he respond? The key for him was the presence of the Lord.
Even David in Psalm 23 talks about this when he experienced his deepest, darkest times. He, too, was reassured by the presence of the Lord. His hope is expressed in the phrase, “You are with me.”
It’s life changing to know God is there. He is present in your life.
You may still go through the valleys, but when you have the assurance that God is there, that will make all the difference.
God is with you. You are not alone. The Creator of the Universe is by your side.
What does that look like for you?
Well, you may need to make some adjustments to give God a place in your life. You may need to find a good local church and start attending regularly. You may need to get on a Bible reading plan. You may need to make prayer a part of your thought processes throughout your every day.
You don’t have to become a spiritual giant overnight. But you do have to take some steps to take care of your inner self and give God room so He can be right there with you.
And that will make all the difference.
As we enter a new year almost everyone has high hopes for a better year over the last two. After struggling through 2020 with Covid-19 and all the lockdowns, we are ready to get back to some sort of normalcy in 2021. Then came higher gas prices, supply chain issues, the Delta variant, and rising inflation. As the year ended another variant, Omicron, arrived on the scene wreaking even more widespread havoc.
It’s as if we are being pummeled by wave after wave, one right after another. It reminds me of the time my family was at the beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. One day after swimming in the ocean, my grandfather was walking from the water when a wave came up from behind him and knocked him down, burying him underneath the water.
My grandfather resurfaced and regained his balance, but after one or two steps another wave knocked him down and once again buried him beneath the water. Eventually he made his way to shore, but he was done for the day.
Isn’t that life? Lately it seems like we can’t get a break. Have you ever felt like, “I’m done. I can’t handle another negative wave?” If so, you are not alone.
With that said, there is no single answer for those looking for hope and a brighter future. Over the course of 2022 we’ll look at restoring hope through the Scriptures. In fact, we’ll start with the illustrious King David. You may be thinking that a super hero with giant-killer status is the wrong place to begin.
However, at one difficult point in his life Joab reminded David of “the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now” (2 Samuel 19:7, ESV). Even David’s life was one of waves, one after another. Yet he was able to write, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is in him” (Psalm 62:5, ESV).
Let’s make this one of our goals: to remain calm and confident as we rely on the Lord.
Security has become a common word especially in the digital age. Everyone wants to know how to feel secure. In fact, on the back of every credit or debit card is a security code. Yet someone else is able to pick our pocket so to speak, and fraudulently use our secure card. So much for security.
All of us want to feel secure. So where do we find our security? Take your pick. Some find it in their careers. Others look in the mirror for theirs. If something is lacking there are ways to enhance what one sees!
Then there are skills and abilities. If you live in a hot climate and possess HVAC skills you should always have a job, that is, if you maintain your skills.
And of course, there is money. Perhaps that is where most of us find our security.
But think for a moment: how secure are you, really?
Recently Kendrick Norton, a professional football player for the Miami Dolphins had an arm amputated following a vehicle accident. His career is not over, as are the large paychecks which come from playing in the NFL. While many have said in jest that NFL stands for “Not For Long,” the fact is many often play far less than they expected. And none of us know what a day holds when we wake up.
The sad reality is we are only one incident away from losing our security.
Think of all the things we place our security in…that can be taken away…
Sharon Stone, once one of the hottest movie stars in Hollywood, suffered a massive stoke which took her several years to recover. During that time she had to remortgage her house and says she lost everything. So even one’s place and position in Hollywood is dependent on health and one’s ability to perform.
Life is so fragile, and so much is beyond our control, yet we continue to carry around our security blankets.
Cicero was at one time highly exalted within the Roman Republic. But even that didn’t last as he was eventually murdered due to his opposition to Mark Antony. And one day when this world end, his place in history will be gone. So in actuality, you cannot even secure your place in world history.
And then there is social security. Yet, we are told that for many it will not provide much of a future. So much for that security. Don’t look to the government for security.
So where do we look?
Think about it. The ONLY thing you can secure is the eternal destiny of your soul.
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge,
my savior; 2 Samuel 22:3
And Jesus reminded us in Mark 8:36,
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
So the question is, “How secure is your security?”
In the NFL about this time of year, dreams die. That is, another team loses and is knocked out of the playoff race. Their dream of making it into the playoffs and hopefully getting to the Super Bowl can vanish in a weekend.
However, does that mean that the dream really died? Not at all. Pretty soon every team will begin to strategize for the next season, the next run. And the dream will live again.
Think about Joseph and his dreams in the book of Genesis:
Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words (Genesis 37:5-8).
Then through a series of incidents he found himself in an Egyptian prison. The years passed. As he sat in the prison cell I can imagine his dream continually surfaced in his mind.
I wonder, did his dream ever die? After a series of providential circumstances Joseph not only got out of prison, he rose to an unprecedented level of authority. Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground (Genesis 42:6).
Maybe your dream didn’t die. Maybe its just not the right time. As you get ready to begin a new year, maybe it’s time to dream again.
I worked for my dad’s steel erection company for years, from the time I was a teenager on into my 30’s. Being the boss’s son had its privileges, but sometimes it sure didn’t feel like it.
It was not unusual for some of the guys to hurry on a job, leaving lots of little things undone, so they could head on to the next job. Unfortunately for me, my dad sent me in after them to wrap up loose ends.
This was often very challenging. I may have to burn some welds loose, cut new holes in the roof, or move a roof vent. Sometimes I had to set up a 36′ foot ladder and climb all the way to the top.
Or I may have to throw a huge oxygen tank over my shoulder and hike up several flights of stairs. Only to return and get the acetylene tank. And then return and get the hoses. You get the idea. Sometimes I spent more time getting ready to work than actually doing what needed to be done.
But don’t miss the bigger picture. At one time someone was on the roof with all the equipment at hand. But they chose to move on before they were completely done. It took at least three times as much effort to come behind them and finish the job.
It seemed to be never ending at times. But that’s the job my dad gave me for a period of time.
One day I had just about had it. I needed a break. So at the end of the day I went by my dad’s office. I walked in and complained, “Why am I stuck with all the junk work?’
And he replied, “That’s how you get good.”
Enough said. Now I understood. After all, who doesn’t want to get better, or in my dad’s words, “get good?”
That day my complaints ended. Yes the junk work continued, but now I enjoyed it.
Sometimes you have to look beyond the mundane tasks of life to the real reasons you do what you do. And that makes it all worthwhile. The power of WHY.
Just two decades ago if you wanted to meet someone for lunch you had to plan well in advance. Not anymore. And chances are you will not call. You will text. Yes, you are only a text message away from a lunch date.
We call it a phone, but in truth it’s far more. In fact, few of us actually talk on it. But with all the positives comes the negatives.One downside is that now you can easily find out what people are saying about you. That is, if you are fairly well-known. Sports players regularly check their phones to see what others are saying about them.
Now you know that’s not healthy. After all, if you are famous, the haters abound.
Which leads me to Kevin Durant, unquestionably the second greatest basketball player in the world at this time.
“Second best!” How would you like to be the second best in the world? At anything?
However, as with every other thing on social media, things get magnified. Apparently, Kevin Durant is sulking and emotionally hurt by all the negative comments about him on social media.
So why is he reading those things? Makes no sense.
And he is not the only one. Even NFL players have been known to check their phones during halftime! Things have gotten totally out of hand.
But the only remedy is for players to avoid their phones, or at least the “mentions” about them. Otherwise their confidence will plummet and they will spend needless hours distressed by all the negative comments.
Social media can destroy the confidence of even the greatest stars of our time. So what about the rest of us? Bottom line: proceed with caution. If you sense harmful effects after your time on social media, maybe you need to think about changing how you use it.
Joseph in the book of Genesis sat in a prison cell for well over a decade, but he eventually became a ruler in Egypt.
In the 1600s, John Bunyan sat in a prison cell for twelve years because of his preaching, but it was there that he wrote one of the greatest Christian classics of all time, “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”
And there are perseverance examples outside the church world.
In history and archaeology, King Tut was almost not King Tut. What I mean is today he is known around the world…but only because one guy persevered.
In 1904 at the age of 31, Howard Carter had no job and no money, so he left the field of archaeology. In 1907 a series of fortuitous events got him connected to the wealthy Lord Carnarvon.
At the same time another archaeologist, Theodore Davis, assumed there was nothing to be found in his search and gave up his rights for his digging area. Carter took over the spot and began years of digging.
In 1922 Lord Carnarvon told Carter he was done. You have to have money, so Carter pleaded with him to reconsider.
Carnarvon agreed to ONE MORE SEASON.
So on November 1 they started digging again. And on November 4 they found the stairway that led to King Tut’s tomb!
One of the greatest discoveries of all time was made possible ONLY BECAUSE OF PERSEVERANCE.
I write this after the first days of the playoffs. Many have predicted that the Cleveland Cavaliers will be in the finals. Time will tell. But you have to win to get there.
In Cleveland’s first game they were humiliated, losing 98-80. It was a lopsided game from start to finish.
Yet Cleveland has Lebron James, who is considered to be the best player in the NBA. Without a doubt he is the King of Basketball.
So why did Cleveland lose?
Simple. No help. Winning is a team effort. You could be the best at what you do, but if you are not getting help from the people around you, it’s a no-win situation.
That’s how it is in sports and in life. Unfortunately, many will never reach their potential because they don’t have the help of others. Which means we all have the opportunity to help someone go further in life.
Today, this week, you can help someone win. Who will it be?
Let me illustrate. When I played football as a kid, there was never an argument over whether or not someone caught the ball. We all knew what a catch was. Simple. He either caught it or he didn’t. No middle of the road, no guesses.
Well, the NFL doesn’t agree. Today no one seems to know what a catch is.
Just recently in a huge game between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers there was just such a play with 28 seconds left on the clock. The Pittsburgh receiver made a catch just over the goal line for the game-winning score.
Oh. But it was ruled a non-catch.
I will not take the time to explain the various nuances of a catch in the NFL, but most of us that day simply assumed he caught the ball. And it gets even odder. Later a spokesman for the NFL referred to the non-catch as a catch, only it wound up being a non-catch. Go figure.
Seems to me there was a time when we all knew what a “catch” was. Somehow over the years a catch was no longer a catch. Instead, it all has become incredibly and confusingly complicated.
Isn’t that what we do on a regular basis in many areas of life?
Let’s go a step farther and see how we tend to make the Bible more complicated than it really is.
Think of all the confusion around some of the words and topics in the Bible over the last couple of decades.
Just a few short years ago, no one was confused over the meaning of gender. Male and female. As soon as a baby was born, we all knew whether it was a boy or a girl. Now some want to wait until the child grows and decides which gender it chooses to be. Now that’s confusing.
Marriage is another word. Growing up there were no discussions as to what it meant.
From the time of Adam and Eve all the way through most of the 20th century, no confusion. It was always between a man and a woman. Now marriage has taken on new meanings. In fact, some have even expressed a desire to marry their computer.
I guess because they spend so much time with it.
One more example. In Exodus 20 Moses wrote that we should follow the example of God who “worked”–that is, created the earth and all that is in it over a period of six days. Pretty clear. Work six days, and then take a day off.
Not so fast. Along come some scholars to muddy the waters. All of a sudden Moses didn’t mean six days as you and I understand six days. Then why did he say six days? Now I’m confused.
Why can’t I pick up my Bible, start in Genesis 1 and read it as a ten year old? My guess is if you had a ten year old read Genesis 1 and Exodus 20 and then gave a pop quiz asking how many days it took God to create the earth, the answer would be six days…without hesitation.
Those two chapters are not complicated unless you want them to be. All the words are rather clear, that is, unless you choose otherwise.
For me, I am sticking with the simple and obvious.
And yes, I may be biased, but in that particular game, the catch was a catch!
In the recent American League series funeral arrangements were being made for the N.Y. Yankees. And of course, the blame would land on the shoulders of Joe Giradi, the manager. Which meant that his days of managing the Yankees was coming to a close.
After all they were down 2-0 in a five game series. And they were playing the hot and heavily favored Cleveland Indians. Yes, the situation was bleak.
Which reminds me of David in the book of 1 Samuel. After killing the Giant and serving King Saul his career went south. Saul was on a giant ego trip and was not about to share the spotlight with someone else. It got so bad that Saul began to make plans for taking David’s life. We find David living in a cave. Not the best living conditions, but what is interesting is how bleak David’s situation was. Notice those with him. “Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain to them” (1 Samuel 22:2 NASB). Clearly the odds were stacked against David. Yet we all remember him as the great king of Israel.
Back to the Yankees. They won game three. But the chance of them winning three in a row to win the series 3-2 was slim at best. While I am not personally a Yankee fan I became one. I love classic comebacks. And I love cheering for the underdog.
Just as David’s comeback has gone down in history so had the Yankees. General Manager, Brian Cashman, said after game 2, “We just have to keep batting. Nothing is over yet.”
One other thing to keep in mind. One of the Yankees’ top hitters struck out 16 times over the five games. In fact, he only got one hit! That in itself is a recipe for disaster. That’s where the team picked up the slack. It truly does take a team.
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