Gardening is one of my pleasures in life. This spring I’m busy transplanting rose bushes, adding hydrangeas, and calculating what herbs to grow this season. It’s my version of “crop rotation.” As we dig the holes for our shrubs I’ve learned the importance of digging a very large hole, and since we live at the coast, it’s important to amend our sandy soil with rich, fertile loam. If we don’t take that precaution our plants will never thrive. Continue reading “Soil Conditioning”
Due to years of overdoing it at the local gym, my lower back developed occasional low-grade pain. During a bout of independence, because after all, I’m a strong and physically fit woman, I was maneuvering my “at the maximum allowed weight” suitcase during a plane flight to the West coast. No thanks, I didn’t need any help. My back hasn’t been the same since.
For over a year now—a year with some doctor appointments, an MRI, a few medications, and physical therapy—this pain has been my faithful companion. Sadly, I had to give up the gym and put away the golf clubs, but my two-fold exercise instructions include a good deal of walking. I love to walk, and I soon found myself chalking up great distances and feeling some improvement. Conversely, the second treatment portion involved physical therapy, and in my mind, was boring. Plus, I didn’t see it was doing much good. All those stretches and gentle exercises when I’d rather be out and active—so I tapered off from doing them. As you may have guessed, the pain intensified until I finally hunkered down and got serious about the physical therapy routine. Now every morning I faithfully perform the stretches. The progress is snail-like slow and has gone on for a prolonged time, but my pain is currently minimal. I’m learning:
Perseverance and patience work in partnership.
Patience can mean forbearance and long-suffering. Perseverance requires discipline as you work for something despite the difficulties. Unpopular words in a culture which desires instant results. None of us like to suffer, and even more so if it’s for a lengthy period.
God’s Word has much to say about enduring and holding up. Psalm 27:14 (NIV) exhorts us to, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Did you notice this one sentence of scripture admonishes us not once, but twice, to wait for the Lord?
What are you waiting for?
- A child to accept the Lord
- A job change
- A resolution for a financial issue
- A house to sell
- An improvement in your health
As I wait, how can I be strong and take heart as scripture instructs me? By doing my spiritual exercises. Just as I have to daily do my stretches and exercises for my back, I need to stay in His Word. Diligently pouring through scripture illuminates my path of waiting. And, I’d much rather proceed in the light than in darkness.
Next, I can pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV) simply instructs, “Pray without ceasing.” By daily remaining in a mindset of prayer and communion with my heavenly Father, I am reassured of His care for me as He surrounds me in the “shadow of His wings.” (See Psalm 17:8) As you travel through your journey of prayer, don’t forget to notice the small steps and advances along the way.
And finally, seek fellowship with other believers and be an encouragement to them who may, in turn, encourage you. Be light to a world that desperately needs to see you handling the situation with grace and dignity. Fellow Christians will lighten your load and ease the pain of the process.
Strengthening my back has been a difficult, long process and it continues to be so. I have to be patient and I have to persevere, just as many of you are doing. My prayer for you is you’ll find the answers you’re waiting for, and you will “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12, NIV) The answers may not come in our timetable and they may not always be of our choosing, but God’s intentions for us are always perfect.
Father God, I’m waiting for your answers and it seems I’ve been waiting for a long time. I ask you to pick me up when I grow weary. Please sustain me and keep me patient, and strengthen me with perseverance during this season of waiting. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Isaiah 30:18 (NIV): “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
Isaiah 40:31 (KJV): “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Lamentations 3:24 (NIV): “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”
Romans 8:25 (NIV): “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
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We’ve all been there, praying for a heartfelt need and feeling there’s no answer. Perhaps it’s a needed medical healing, a loss of income, a wayward child, or for a loved one to accept Jesus. We pray, but we hear nothing. All is quiet. The doctors say it’s terminal. The unemployment marches on with no hopeful prospects. The child continues in his rebellious lifestyle. And, your beloved person still hasn’t said yes to Jesus.
Why do I continue to pray?
Scripture instructs us to pray. Prior to teaching His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus stated, “When you pray ….” (Luke 11:2, NIV) Our Lord didn’t say if, He said when—an important distinction.Furthermore, in Romans 12:12 (NIV) we’re instructed to, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” And, in case we still don’t get it, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NIV) sums it up with, “Pray continually.” Why is there such an instruction and urge to pray if our prayers didn’t matter or if God didn’t hear us?
Prayer is how we communicate with God. In the physical realm, scientists are now investigating the mysteries of quantum physics and prayer. My brain starts to hurt when I read articles on quantum physics, but research shows invisible-sized particles having visible consequences. Similarly, our prayers are not evaporating into thin air, as prayer is our means of interacting with our God who we cannot see, but still fully experience. I find reassurance knowing prayer is real.
But sometimes it feels like we pray and pray and there’s still no answer. Luke 18:1-8 tells the familiar story of the persistent widow and it gives me hope. Jesus is speaking to his disciples and illustrating why they should pray and not give up. In this parable, there is a judge who showed no concern for others and a widow who continually came to him appealing for justice against an adversary. After many refusals, he probably grew weary of her persistence. But, that tenacity is what ended up granting her the justice she desired.
It’s a tough place when our answers don’t come quickly and in our timeframe. We’re wondering what God is up to. The pause seems infinite, but we know in our hearts that we need to persevere and present those requests before our Father. Sometimes silence will be the answer as we wait on Him, and during this interval, I pray our Lord will use this as an opportunity to increase our faith. I’m realizing God instructs us to pray and desires “prayer stamina” when needed. Prayer is our method of communication with Him, so why would I not pray?
Father God, Teach me to pray. Help me during the times I don’t hear you. Enable me to be persistent in my prayers and please give me the confidence to know you hear and you care and you answer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Proverbs 15:29 (NIV): “The Lord is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”
Ephesians 6:18 (NIV): “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Philippians 4:6 (NIV): “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
James 5:16b (NIV): “The prayer of a righteous [woman] is powerful and effective.”
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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV)
Here in the south college football is king—particularly the SEC. Our alma mater, which we watch and root for, happens to bear the colors of maroon and white and has a handsome collie dog, Reveille, as its mascot. What is it about our team, or do other teams do the same thing? All of a sudden, with fans behind them and millions viewing on TV, they start running out of oomph in the fourth quarter. They don’t finish strong. Why do we vigorously give our best in something and then all of a sudden we falter and fail?
Numerous times in my life, I’ve taken on an endeavor that starts out with a bang with which I later grow weary. More often than I care to admit, I give it up, take some time off, and then turn my attentions to something new. I realize our Lord takes us through different seasons, and our circumstances and focus will shift as He directs, but all too often my mind wanders and a lackadaisical attitude starts slipping in. That’s when I’m vulnerable and easily sacked.
Or, we’re going strong and arrogance muscles in. Usually we’re thinking a particular project is impressive—wow, look what I did! Our reliance on God lessens as we perform in our own power. Taking credit for ourselves for what God has done, it usually doesn’t take long to start fumbling.
Why do we squander our lead? Is it due to pride and thinking we have everything under control? Or, are we simply lazy?
Today’s scripture passage sets the stage of an athletic stadium filled with former champions of the faith, including Abraham and Moses, cited in Hebrews 11. I refer to them as the Faithful Hall of Fame, and they’re not merely spectators, but examples for us, exhorting us to give our best. They are cheering us on!
The writer instructs us to get rid of the encumbrances that get in the way. Just as the opposing team tackles us and keeps a hold on us until we’re down, sin is waiting to snare us. The enemy doesn’t want us to finish and he will use any means to distract us, including pride and difficulties. Sin is a heavy weight that slows us down and clings to us. A winning team throws off the opposition when being tackled.
Whether you’re envisioning a track and field event or a football game, the calling of an athlete is to exhibit endurance, to stay the course, and to finish strong. Strong athletes don’t abandon the game, but rather grind it out. Also, we can’t assume victory. The race requires stamina and we are to remain faithful, as our Christian saints who went before us did.
Remaining centered and concentrating on Jesus Christ, we will find Him as our source of strength and ability. He alone mobilizes us in our race. Pride and looking to do the task in our own power just doesn’t work. We complete the pass when Jesus is our quarterback.
Only prayer, abiding in God’s Word, and relying on the Holy Spirit will disqualify the opposition. The enemy wants us to become careless and not give our best, and eventually give up. Let’s remember what Jesus suffered for us and stay focused on Him. His opposition was hostile.
Kickoff has occurred. Now we need to catch the pass, run with the ball, and cross the finish line. Touchdown!
Father God, I submit my intentions to you. I cannot run this race without you as my champion. Help me when I grow lethargic or prideful. I do this for you and I desire to complete the task and finish strong—I do not want to squander my lead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Proverbs 16:18 (NIV): “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV): “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
Hebrews 6:12 (NIV): “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
Hebrews 10:36 (NIV): “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
© 2016 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord …. (Jeremiah 29:11-14a, NIV)
Earlier in my marriage and when our children were young, we experienced several moves due to my husband’s corporate career. Even though there was a certain amount of excitement about going to a new place, I was still fearful and apprehensive about what my future would look like. What would my new church home be like? Would I make new friends? Would we find a comfortable home in a nice neighborhood? And, of course, there was the all-important question of where I would shop. During the first time of transition I discovered and applied Jeremiah 29:11 knowing God did have plans for me that would not harm me and they included hope and a future. This verse became my life verse.
Years later, though, I continued reading and wondered why we just claim the promise portion in verse 11 and leave off the next few verses. God instructs us to call upon Him. The promise and the instruction are both intertwined; this is a two-sided interaction with our Lord. Am I doing my part by prevailing upon Him in prayer and seeking Him with my whole heart? Or, am I dining and dashing—when someone enjoys a nice meal at a restaurant and then leaves before paying their tab?
Am I grabbing the promise and running, then neglecting to seek the Promise Giver?
And yet, there’s an even greater blessing when we’re faithful to beseech God. His Word tells us we will find Him. But how do we practically accomplish this? Scripture reveals, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)
Throughout the day God waits for me. By committing to connect with Him in prayer and to search the scriptures, and then doing it faithfully, we find God. God speaks to us through His Word and in those quiet times of prayer, reflection, waiting on Him, and praise. As a prospector seeks and searches for gold, I’m to whole-heartedly pursue God and dig for His treasures. This is how we discover Him. And, He will listen to us. During this process He reveals His plans, purposes, and hopes for us in His perfect timing, but we need to seek Him with our time, commitment, and perseverance.
I love the familiar lyrics to the hymn “Standing on the Promises” which encourage us to listen to our Lord and confidently rest in Him, so we may stand on His promises:
Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.
Father God, Thank you for your promises that continue to hold true through time for those who call upon you and seek you. Thank you for providing hope and a future for me. Help me to seek you with my whole heart so I may find you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Psalm 9:10 (NIV): “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
Psalm 145:18-19 (NIV): “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.”
Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV): “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
© 2016 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.