The gospel of self-esteem and positive self-image

 

self image

 

In September 2017 while thinking of possible article topics suitable for Christian singles, I wrote in my journal several topics, including, “The gospel of self-esteem and positive self-image”.

My intention was to speak against the popular message of self-esteem and positive self-image, relating it to the life of Christian singles.

I never wrote the articles, because they were being compiled for a future time. Therefore, I completely forgot about the topic of self-esteem.

In July 2018 I was jotting down ideas and topics for a new book, whereupon flipping through my old journal I came across those topics. Because of the title of the book I intended to write, I was surprised to discover I’d ever intended to write against self-esteem and positive self-image.

I tried to think of the reason why I had had that intention, but somehow I just couldn’t remember it.

So I went on to write my book. One year after jotting down “The gospel of self-esteem and positive self-image, in September 2018, my ebook, Self-Esteem and the Single was ready for free download. It was well written. I was satisfied with the way I’d expressed my views.

THEN…

On September 14th 2018, I posted a photo of myself on Facebook with the caption having something to do with self-esteem, precisely self-liking. A new friend I’d just made, a wonderful sister in Christ, became concerned and sent me a message to correct my wrong view.

I defended myself and my opinions and we ended the chat by somehow acknowledging that each party needed to learn something new.

BUT…

There was unease in my spirit about my book. It did not begin with my friend contacting me. It had been present when I was researching and compiling information for the book.

In fact there had been moments when I’d thought to discontinue with the project. For I questioned the relevance of such a work. I even sought counseling, underneath which was the desire to get another person’s approval so I could overcome that noticeable fear and observation that the work was much ado about nothing.

I always write from my heart. If I write something amiss, during quiet time with the Lord or during night-time when I’m lying on the bed, usually I’d be made to realize where corrections are necessary. That’s basically how I work.

But writing from the heart was not the case with Self-esteem and the Single. The book was generally very hard to write, the ‘anointing’ was simply lacking, even though I prayed incessantly throughout the writing period.

Deep within me I wanted my words to be spirit-filled in order to bless my readers. But the flow was not coming on easily. I had to practically force the book to be written.

And because of that feeling of unease, I sought refuge in great writing. I also asked others for their opinion, seeking to understand if they considered my intentions worthwhile.

When I later gave the manuscript to a friend to review, she remarked about the beautiful writing style. That was one thing I enjoyed during proofreading and editing.

 

When I reached the conclusion, it even became harder to write. ‘What have I really said in these pages?’ I asked myself. ‘Is it really necessary?’

I hastily wrote the conclusion, with an awful feeling within me.

After proofreading and editing, I made the book freely available online.

But why did I go ahead to write a book when the ‘anointing’ was absent? I will explain later.

 

When my said friend contacted me with a negative opinion about self-esteem, I defended myself. But God was not yet through opening my eyes to some things which I’d wrongly conceived, or statements I’d made that could be potentially misconstrued.

Not long thereafter, I stumbled on C. S. Lewis book, Mere Christianity. One of the chapters was captioned, The Great Sin, talking about pride.

Lewis didn’t say the exact opposite of what I’d written but he made statements that caused me to begin thinking seriously about the things I had said. For example, applying to self-respect or self-dignity to overcome vices or sins.

In my book, I had stated that sometimes low self-esteem can cause singles, even Christian singles, to indulge in vices and unhealthy behaviors, for example, sexual immorality. And that is true.

But what is the remedy? Positive self-esteem? Positive self-image? NO!

The remedy is obedience to God’s Word. God-esteem!

Psalm 119:9-11

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.

10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!

11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.

 

Several self-esteem messages give this advice: do not indulge vices because they are below your dignity or self-respect. As such, sin is no longer wrong doing against God and fellow man, but wrong doing against self-respect, self-pride.

Lewis says, concerning that line of thought, “The devil laughs. He is perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride.”

Right now I’m thinking of members of a certain ministry where they are taught Identity in Christ in ways that have produced very prideful believers. They are royalty, kings and queens; that is the reason they are told to give up destructive habits.

Because of their royal status, they can’t dress anyhow, they must look catchy even if they have to borrow and strain themselves financially in order to maintain that appearance.

On the surface the royalty message sounds good. There’s some little truth there. Apostle Paul usually encourages the Christian to live holy by drawing their attention to their new status as God’s Children, with whom sinful lifestyles are incompatible.

But the fruit of the kings and queens teaching is not attractive. In my interaction with some of them, these guys hardly consider anyone out of their circle to be equal or fellow believers with them. They look at others condescendingly, as an inferior class of believers. And part of it is this self-dignity thing. Instead of glorying in God, they’ve turned to glory in themselves.

This deception is so subtle. The claim of glorying in who they are in Christ is right, but they fail to see that they are not really glorying in Christ, but in how they feel and think about themselves. Hence the pride.

You see the fruit is bad, indicating the root is bad. It’s subtle and dangerous.

 

When I read C.S Lewis’ book, I admitted to myself that my book needed rewriting, some sort of overhaul. I thought of possible changes to the title and some of the content. I then tried rewriting, but again, the anointing was absent.

I abandoned the project for a future time.

Until I read appendix 3 of John Piper’s book, Desiring God. He completely shattered one of my evidences that positive self-esteem and positive self-image is worth talking about.

 

Does your low self-esteem indicate you hate yourself?

What does it mean to love your neighbor as you love yourself? John Piper answers that question in quite a different way from how proponents of self-esteem and positive self-image have interpreted the Scriptural command to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself“.

Piper says Jesus supposed you already love yourself. From that supposition comes the command to love others the same way.

That doesn’t make sense to the self-esteem promoter, because someone with low self-esteem is usually portrayed as hating or disliking themselves, or wanting to be someone else.

But that is not true. A low self-esteem sufferer loves himself. That is why he’s unhappy with the inadequacies that make him feel inferior to others. It is love for himself that makes him feel bad about lacking what others have. It is love for his wellbeing that causes him to seek comfort in envy, viciousness, resentment, jealousy or even sexual immorality. It is love for himself that pushes him to seek the approval and acceptance of men even if it means compromise of godly principles or undue pressure on himself.

This way of loving himself is wrong and sinful, because it tends to put him in an unhealthy position. It is out of line with God’s Word. Yet we cannot fail to recognize that it is still love for his wellbeing that pushes him to do what he does to alleviate what he perceives as a problem or threat to that wellbeing.

The best way to love himself is not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to believe God’s Word and align his life in accordance with God’s perspective. That way he experiences true joy and peace.

In Romans 12, Paul talks about the individual Christian having a sober judgment or opinion of himself. The first two verses contain the encouragement for us to present our bodies, including our mental faculties, as living sacrifices to God. That way of life is our reasonable service or worship unto the Lord.

Here is verse 2 in the Amplified Version.

2 DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD (THIS AGE), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], BUT BE TRANSFORMED (CHANGED) BY THE [ENTIRE] RENEWAL OF YOUR MIND [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will.

The Christian who regularly feeds on God’s Word and lives in accordance with the same would hardly have some of the issues with low self-esteem and poor self-image. The transformation of his mind brings about a change in attitude and perspective. There’s joy to be derived from knowing your life pleases God.

Colossians 3:1-2 say, If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

You would find that a God-honoring Christian, with a proper knowledge of God’s Word, should have nothing to do with the competition and self-absorption that usually fuel feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem.

Going on in Chapter 12 of Romans, from verse 3, Paul destroys competition (and presumably feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem) by drawing our attention to each individual’s uniqueness in being endowed by God differently for different and special purposes.

Though the context applies to life within the Christian community and the use of spiritual gifts, the lessons can still be implied in our interactions with others. We’re each different. Each person would fare well to accept what God has apportioned for him, and to seek to live for God alone, instead of envying others and feeling awful about himself

Without self-absorption AND comparison of yourself with others, low self-esteem or feelings of inferiority would be dead.

Do unto others as you would want done to you.

The command, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” therefore is a call to seek the wellbeing of our neighbor the same way we seek our own wellbeing. It has nothing to do with self-esteem or positive self-image.

 

Back to my book. The reason that prompted me to write it in the first place (which I soon believed was God asking me to write the book, you see why I endured the unease?) was the experiences I’ve witnessed with many Singles. I believe some of the wrong choices Singles made, and still make, is rooted in an image of themselves that is poor. They do not have a proper value tagged on themselves.

The content of the book was not completely wrong. There were equally correct and wonderful things I wrote, like wrong ways in which people, including Singles, seek to overcome feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem. I talked about the pursuit of intimacy with God, the importance of knowing His love and grace, and living a life of purpose.

But the basis for the book was so wrong that the good things seemed to have been drowned out by the louder voice.

After reading what John Piper wrote, I just had to repent and ask the Lord to forgive me for the people I had misinformed through my book. My heart might have been in the right place, but all the same I was wrong. And I couldn’t justify myself before the Lord – that unease I’d felt, that heaviness I’d experienced during writing, had been the Spirit of God grieving over the project, communicating to my spirit that I should discontinue with the writing.

I had already unpublished the book for rewriting after reading C.S Lewis. But after reading Piper, I decided the book should be deleted.

I still want to encourage Christian singles to live right, but none of that has to do with their self-esteem or positive self-image.

 

God-Esteem

It is obedience to the Lord and the honor of His name that should motivate the Christian, whether married or single, poor or rich, ugly or attractive, educated or uneducated, to live a clean life. Any resort to self-esteem or positive self-image as a motivation to right behavior is self-centered and does not please God.

Let the world talk about positive self-image, and not the church.

While it is true that our feeling of self-worth improves with our knowledge of who God says we are, the Christian’s goal in life is not the attainment of positive self-worth. Our aim is to please the Lord, regardless of how we feel or see ourselves.

The single person dates the right way, following God’s Word, and not because of self-esteem and positive self-image. The single person abstains from sexual immorality because it is a command from God, not because of self-dignity or self-respect. The only respect here should be honor for the Owner of our lives, God, and the price He paid to purchase us to Himself.

Other challenges singles face, as I stated in my book, can be adequately dealt with by esteeming God above all else.

Low self-esteem is real, a poor self-image is real. And these are very unhealthy conditions which should not be encouraged. But their true remedy, especially for the Christian is not attainment of positive self-image through ‘techniques’ to improve self-confidence or attainment of some worldly goal that would make you feel good about yourself or gain the approval and admiration of others.

For the Christian, the remedy is God-esteem. The pursuit of God. The pursuit of intimacy with God. The pursuit of God’s will for your life.

Feelings of positive self-worth come as an accidental byproduct of relationship with God, a desire to live for Him alone, a desire to honor Him in whatever circumstances.

Instead of talking self-esteem, Christians should talk God-esteem. The focus should be shifted from self to God. The focus shouldn’t be how we feel about or think about ourselves; the focus should be living a life that honors the Lord, regardless of our feelings.

 

I can’t overstate the importance of a deep knowledge of God’s Word and a vibrant relationship with him. As stated in Colossians 3:1-2, such a relationship with God must include a heart that stays itself on the things of God.

That way, self-absorption or obsession with self-image just has no place. A heart that is constantly filled with Jesus and his amazing love and grace for us, a heart that yearns to know God more and fulfill his will, has no room for self.

Unfortunately, destructive teachings have subtly crept in among us that hardly allow the mind to be stayed on things above. We’re mostly living for the here and now. There’s so much competition among Christians on things that do not matter in the light of God’s glory and eternity.

We compete with each other, not in terms of how pleasing our lives are or should be to God, but in how far above or below us others are in the achievement and attainment of worldly goals. Hence pride or inferiority depending on which rung of the ladder you are in.

The Christian suffering from low self-esteem or feelings of inferiority needs to repent or turn away from a negative mindset. The righteous are as bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1). God has not given us the spirit of timidity but the spirit of boldness, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Our insecurities and fears do not originate from God, they originate with us staying our minds on ourselves and comparing ourselves with each other.

The Christian with low self-esteem also needs to start filling his mind with God’s thoughts; he must start staying that mind on things above, not things on earth.

Colossians 3:2-4

2 SET YOUR AFFECTION ON THINGS ABOVE, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

 

Isaiah 26:3

 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

I recommend this other article from gotquestions.org How should christians view self-esteem?

God bless,

Jane.

A Discussion On Divorce And Remarriage

Because of the increase in the cases of divorce and remarriage among Christians today, many are not willing to fight for their marriages. But God made marriage to be a life-long covenant.

I reblog this article here, from Paul Benson’s blog,  to Christian Singles especially, as an encouragement to take the time and necessary steps to make right choices, because after you say, ‘I do’, you must be ready and willing to keep your marriage vows.

Let's Get It Right!

divorce-619195_640

by Paul Benson

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. -Jesus Christ

A reader recently posed a question to me concerning my view on divorce and remarriage. Though I could have probably satisfied her request with a ‘nutshell’ answer I felt it might be a good time to share my view (and experience) in an article for all to consider.

The issue of divorce and remarriage by those professing faith in Christ is one that is frequently addressed and taught upon in the Church today. But it is my personal opinion that it is seldom addressed in a manner that is in accord with the true teachings of the New Testament. At the risk of taking a hit to my readership stats (hopefully I am more concerned about winning God’s approval than yours!) let’s take a look at what the Bible really does and does not…

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Intimacy with God, a passion worth pursuing. Here’s why

intimacy with God.jpg

 

Intimacy with God is a passion in my heart. It’s a topic I can’t stop talking about. Most of what I write here or in my unpublished books has intimacy with God as the main or sub theme. It’s a cry from my heart.

I just wish I could make someone want more of God in their lives. I just wish I could make someone abandon the dry Christianity we see today and get to a place of a vibrant relationship with the Lord.

I just wish I could make someone abandon prayerlessness and begin to discipline the flesh in the place of prayer and Bible studies.

I just wish I could make someone stop being vulnerable to false teachings and false teachers and get to being fed by the Spirit of the Lord. I just wish I could make someone prioritize the pursuit of intimacy with God, putting it at the top of their lists.

The passion in my heart is also hampered by my own struggles. It is possible for mundane activities to steal away the time and enthusiasm of following God wholeheartedly. It is possible even for busyness with Christian activities to steal away the time meant for God.

It is possible to replace God with busyness for him. Many do it. But that’s not how God wants us to go about living for him. He must be at the center of everything, time alone with him cannot be replaced with service.

It is in the secret place that we find our strength. It is in the secret place that we receive renewal and avoid burn out.

No matter what level you are in your Christian life and relationship with the Lord, there’s more of God you haven’t yet experienced.

Complacency can’t be tolerated without its consequences being felt. That is why it is possible to walk with the Lord for so many years and still end up being as carnal as the unbeliever next door.

The moment you stop desiring to know God more, the moment you stop prioritizing relationship with the Lord, you give your flesh more and more dominance. You can’t sustain today’s walk with the success of yesterday. And because the flesh is contrary to the spirit, a highly spiritual man who stops seeking God will revert to being carnal.

Dry, powerless but noisy Christianity is rampant. Complacency and mediocrity in the knowledge of God’s Word abound. The churches are full but there’s no true fire or passion for God in the hearts of the majority.

Many want to be spoon-fed, they enjoy being spoon-fed, and because false teachers leverage on such easily captivated minds to make money, many are not even aware they are being spoon-fed toxic food while being fleeced of their hard-earned money.

The discipline to seek God personally through his Word is such a huge effort that many prefer to remain spoon-fed babies for their entire Christian lives.

What will it take? Is it so hard to discipline oneself to begin seeking God earnestly on a personal level? Is it so hard to pick up a Bible and ask the Holy Spirit for enlightenment? Is it so hard to go into the closet and spend time alone with God?

It is hard, and it is not hard. Depends on your attitude towards relationship with God.

We dedicate time, money and energy to the pursuit of our passions and dreams. That mindset makes us want to succeed no matter the challenges.

Isn’t that the same mindset we should have towards relationship with God? A mindset that says I must diligently seek God. I must know him more. I must live for him. I must understand his will for me and strive to fulfill it.

Why is intimacy with God a passion worth pursuing?

When it comes to pursuing passion, it’s easier to do so because passion means something we like. Intimacy with God is not in that category because it is not something that we like in the sense of its pursuit consuming us. It is a passion we pursue because it is indispensable to our Christian life.

Our flesh is our number one enemy when it comes to pursuing this passion. Unlike other passions, say for example, writing, music, acting, whatever, all of our being wants it. Therefore we do our best to pursue it, ’cause we derive joy from the fulfillment.

Intimacy with God is a passion of our born-again spirits which our unregenerate flesh hates. That is where the difficulty comes in. If not of the obstacle presented by our flesh, majority of Christians would be on fire for God, desire will be turned into concrete actions, and walk will replace empty talk.

God made us for intimacy with him

This is the top reason why we must pursue intimacy with him. He made us for it. Why did Jesus die for our sins? The quickest answer might be something like this, ‘so we don’t go to hell.’ But that’s not true. He died to bring man back to fellowship with God.

We all know John 3:16 by heart. But it is not enough to say, you are born-again. That’s just the first step to a life-long relationship of pursuing God.

John 17:2-3

As You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.  3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

The knowing here is the kind expressed by Apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 3 from verse 7 to verse 14. “That I may know him”, the great apostle cries out.

This can be compared with the contrast between believing and faith. The Bible mentions in James 2:16 that the devils also believe that there is one God, they even tremble. But they don’t have faith in that one God, because their actions are not in accordance with their believing.

So too does mere knowing and intimate knowing differ. A Christian who merely knows God may even  have much knowledge ABOUT God, but is not living in vibrant fellowship with him.

While a Christian who knows God intimately talks to him and hears God talk back to him, and he walks with God in obedience to his revealed Word and to the urgings of the Spirit within. The Christian who knows God intimately wants to know him even more.

 

The Christian should not be satisfied with the mere born-again experience. There’s much more to that!

Intimacy with God keeps our Christian life ‘alive’

‘Dead’ Christianity is a product of no intimacy with God. It is the fire coming from the closet that keeps us burning on fire for God.

A Christian who doesn’t spend time with God in prayer and Bible study becomes carnal in his reasoning and actions. He lacks the force to resist sin and temptation. He lacks the boldness of the righteous.

If you want to live holy, spend time with God, knowing his ways and making yourself pliable in his hands and to the influence of the Holy Spirit. If you want to be as bold as a lion, spend time knowing God.

Intimacy with God is the springboard for our success as Christians

This is one of the problems we have in Christianity today: many are busy for God without a living private relationship with him. Many are talking about a God that is very distant from them in terms of personal fellowship.

The effort to spend time with God is just so huge many do not want to make it, yet they want a platform from which to talk about God. That’s the reason for copy-pasted ministries, shallow preaching and teaching, burn-out and self-centeredness Christianity.

Our true success as Christians only comes from an intimate relationship with God. When we get immersed in God, our talk and walk flow from that immersion and the impact of our lives must be felt by those we come across.

That way we do not worry whether we have eloquence or elegance; it’s the power of a spirit-filled life which is in constant communion with God that touches those around us.

The disciples of the Lord were ordinary men of no education, yet their speech left no small impact upon their hearers. Amazed by their talk, the Sanhedrin noted, ‘they had been with Jesus’.

These disciples talked of a Jesus that was real to them. They didn’t use high sounding eloquent speech; they spoke from a place of intimate knowledge and relationship:

“For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Peter and John said in Acts 4:20

From that place of relationship, they could not be intimidated into fear and cowardice. They so knew what they had seen and heard that they would die for it.

Does that contrast with the prevalent Christianity today that is so fearful of criticism and backlash that the message of the gospel has been watered down to accommodate man’s approval?

Full churches, few disciples

I heard someone boasts about the churches being full. This tells us how different we evaluate success from the way God does. One bible teacher I love listening to basically says as fact that most mega-churches will see their numbers dwindle if they preach the right message. If the large numbers of people thronging the churches are taught about living for God and following him all the way no matter the cost, most pews will be empty.

Some people go to church for entertainment, others in search of prophecies, signs and wonders, and others in search of lovers. A full church is no sign of success for the owner or leadership of the church. The wrong message could be attracting a seeker-friendly crowd.

The same with whatever assignment God gives us, success is not in the numbers. It is in the impact. And there would be no true impact unless we’re giving out of what we’re receiving from God. Else we experience burn out from constantly giving out of a dry well.

No greater passion

For the Christian, there should be no passion greater than the desire to know God intimately. The same way we spend ourselves to see the success of our dreams and goals, the same way we should endeavor to succeed in our relationship with God.

Knowing God more is not automatic. You can’t have it by someone laying their hands on you. You can’t have it by being prophesied to. You can’t have it by merely praying, ‘God, make me know you more’, and then doing nothing about it.

God wants you to know him. Access to him is always open. Your heart attitude is your response to God’s invitation.

Psalm 27:8

8 When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

God is no respecter of persons. He is a rewarder of anyone who diligently seeks him (Hebrews 11:6).

Those people we admire their walk with God had to face the same challenges hindering us. But they put priority on spending time with God and striving to live for him. It didn’t happen effortlessly or overnight.

It was a dedication to make the whole of their lives a pursuit of more of God. And that decision translated into acts of self-discipline, limiting distractions, and living for what counts most.

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God is the same, the supplier of the grace to live the way he wants us to.

You too can know God intimately. I can know God intimately. Let’s make it a priority, a passion worth pursuing.

know God intimately

God bless,

Janet.

Further reading:

Intimacy with God is not given, it is pursued

4 Hindrances to developing an intimate relationship with the Lord

Practical ways to cast your cares on the Lord

Do not be anxious

 

I was feeling oppressed for about two weeks or more. No matter how much I prayed, I couldn’t take away that ‘blanket’ that seemed to have enveloped my mind. Once or twice, that blanket seemed to lift up a bit and some light would come in. But that was it. My mind continued to be cluttered, I continued to feel oppressed and almost separated from the presence of God.

At one moment, I began to think “demonic oppression”. You know how easy that is to do. I think there was actually some demonic oppression, though, because I’d basically let my mind run wild, with little to no discipline.

I then determined to pray through until the veil gets off me.

I began a fast. But before I went into prayer, an idea popped into my mind to make a list of all that was troubling me at the time. AND THEN, to go to Scriptures and find out what God says about those issues.

I wrote down everything that was a problem to my relationship with the Lord. Among the list were

  • Worry, anxiety, and impatience
  • Bitterness, resentment and grumbling
  • Indiscipline in seeking God as I know I should
  • Distractions
  • And a host of ‘petty’ sins that I had let loose in my life.

I then took one at a time and began searching Scriptures for God’s perspective.

And I was delivered. I didn’t pray the way I’d earlier planned. I didn’t rebuke any evil spirit. God’s Word clearly showed me I was in sin for the kind of mindset I’d allowed to run wild.

What does God’s Word say about what is causing anxiety in me?

At the end of the day I discovered something that was going to greatly influence my relationship with the Lord for the positive. I realized that what I just did was one valid way of casting my cares on the Lord, which basically is believing God’s Word and acting in accordance, no matter the situation.

Whether we realize it or not, cares, anxieties, panic, confusion arise when we do not believe God’s Word. When we believe what we see and feel more than what God has promised us.

And the solution is not prayer alone. It is faith in God’s Word. That faith may or may not require prayer, depending on the individual situation. It may only involve a gritted-teeth kind of standing firm on what you believe from God’s Word, and refusing to be overwhelmed by the physical situation, refusing to let what you see or fear trump the goodness and faithfulness of God.

The Bible has commands for us. But many times Christians are lost as to the practical way of living out those commands. That is why I felt the need to write this blog based on my experience above.

Casting your cares on the Lord is not ignoring the situation causing the fear and panic in your heart. It means looking at it from God’s perspective.

This is very important because sometimes the solution doesn’t always come through God intervening to take care of the problem. It may sometimes only involve a change of attitude from you.  That means, your reaction to the problem is the cause of the anxiety, and not the problem itself.

That is why prayer alone may not be appropriate in every situation where you’re panicky. You need to go to God’s Word and let Him shed light on your situation. And if God’s Word rebukes you, you need to repent and start aligning your mind and actions to God’s perspective.

Have faith in God. He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7)

It would be taken for granted that a Christian should have faith in God. But that isn’t always the case. Else the Bible wouldn’t have given the command to, ‘not be anxious’ and we wouldn’t be here talking about how to deal with worries and anxieties.

What should be emphasized here is what that faith should look to. Have faith in the goodness and faithfulness of God. Those are the attributes of God mostly attacked when negative situations overwhelm us.

We doubt His love, we doubt His word, and we question His goodness. Yet He never changes.

To cast your cares on the Lord, you must begin from a place of faith in Him.

Make your requests known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

This is where the difference between concern and worry is seen. The former leads you to take the issue to God, while the latter doesn’t, or even when you do go to God in worry, what you’d most likely do is complain, instead of praying in faith.

Make your request in faith, in view of God’s faithfulness. Expect to see the answers manifest.

To know you’ve prayed in faith, God’s peace must reign in your heart over that situation, even before you see the physical manifestation of the answer. That’s what God promises in verse 7 of Philippians chapter 4.

If you’re still anxious after making your request known to God, it is a result of doubt and unbelief, which you need to deal with by meditating on God’s Word.

However, a genuine concern may persist. In such a case, it is good to continue praying for a situation if the burden or concern persists.

Keep casting the care on the Lord!

Just because you made your request known to God, asking in faith for His intervention, doesn’t mean the tendency to worry is over. Not all answers to prayer are evident immediately. So before the answer comes, you may be tempted to get anxious again.

This is where you demonstrate your faith in God for the answer. You believed He answered when you prayed (Mark 11:24) and you continue to stand in faith until you see the resolution of whatever challenge might have occasioned fear and anxiety in you.

Refuse to take back the anxiety upon you.

Change focus

If you truly cast a care on the Lord, stop focusing on the problem. You believe God’s working, so don’t even imagine how He’s going to make it happen. It is yours to believe, and God’s to answer.

1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Yes, He does! He wants you to live free of anxiety.

 

 

Can you and should you trust God to write your love story?

 

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In this post I talked about the unfortunate experiences of some Christian Singles who ‘heard’ God tell them who to marry but it never came to pass. Those experiences have caused some to take the stance that God cannot and will not tell you who to marry.

But like I mentioned in the post God can and will tell you who to marry , that stance is an extreme that hurts the wonderful testimonies of those who were divinely led to meet their spouses.

I have decided to bring a testimony which I came across online and which I found very inspiring. For two reasons. One, it is a wonderful testimony, reflecting my personal beliefs, and second, these people’s lives are centered around the pursuit of God, a topic I’m very passionate about.

Disclaimer: These people are ministers. I haven’t followed their ministry, though I agree with their Statement of Faith. I just stumbled on the testimony.

Their site doesn’t have much on it, so I have glanced through the various topics found there, and I don’t have reservations recommending their testimony.

In this age of rampant false teachings, I constantly find it difficult recommending ministries, for fear that I might be the cause of someone finally embracing falsehood.

I pray the link remains available for a long time to come. Here it is The Match Maker.

Most times on social media, I feel oppressed by the kind of relationship advice I see dished out to Singles. I feel so because I do believe much of it factors God out of the equation and also puts the Single in a place of stress. Stress because there are so many of those advice, some even contradictory, which can be very confusing.

The advice Christian Singles should be given  should be one that is godly, so they don’t behave like the guy in this funny short story.

God is concerned about us, including our need for companionship. We can’t go about that area of our lives as if it is all up to us. We can have his help and his guidance.

The testimony linked in this post is an example of being led by God to your mate. It is the testimony of a life that is lived for God, in total obedience and trust, willing to forego man’s opinion and accept God’s direction.

Not every single who gets inspired by the testimony would get their mate the exact way as these individuals did. This is one area where some make mistakes. It is easy to hear someone’s testimony, and then look forward to its repeat in your own life.

Yet we’re all unique. The Bible contains principles, not formulas, for finding a mate.

But the testimony does show that the Christian Single can trust God to write their love story; that the Christian Single can be led of God; that the Christian Single can make living for God a whole of their lives, not just a part.

For the Christian, marriage is as much a life lived for God as is any other christian duty. It’s all woven together, not compartmentalized. You don’t go look for a wife or a husband as if it is not part of God’s business, and then try to fit the person of your choice into your Christian living.

No, it shouldn’t be so. As Christians, everything about us must be influenced by our beliefs as shaped by God’s Word.

I read John Piper’s Desiring God, the Chapter titled, Marriage, A Matrix For Christian Hedonism. It struck me how much Christians, probably influenced by our culture today, have taken the issue of marriage lightly, mostly something to do only with our emotions.

While one purpose of marriage is for sexual gratification, Christian marriage is much more than that. Marriage is compared to the union of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

It therefore follows that we can’t just take the issue of who we marry lightly. Anyone can satisfy our sexual needs, but anyone will not do to make our marriage what God wants it to be.

May you be inspired by the testimony to trust God in whatever way he chooses to lead you to your spouse.

Janet.

 

8 Simple things that can make quiet time with God consistent, enjoyable and rewarding

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You’ve set aside time to be with the Lord, either in the morning when you wake up or some other time during the day. But when you come before the Lord you feel unmotivated, tired, you constantly yawn, you feel sleepy, you may even fall asleep, your mind is going everywhere; it’s just boring. You can’t even remember what it is you prayed for or read from your Bible after you leave the place of prayer. You go for many days without time alone with God, then you get serious again, but just for a few days, and the up and down cycle just continues. You wish you were consistent and excited about prayer or personal Bible study, but that’s not always the case.

Many of us certainly will identify with this scenario. Our desire to know God more is not always met with everyday actions that see the desire fulfilled. It’s a struggle every believer faces. But it is not a struggle that many seem to overcome or know how to overcome.

Many believers would admit to being complacent and spiritually unmotivated. We don’t plan to be unserious about our relationship with God, yet it more often than not happens that we find ourselves failing behind in spiritual disciplines.

There are all these songs out there about the presence of the Lord being a place to be. I couldn’t agree more. There’s no place like the presence of God, there’s nothing more wonderful than spending time with the Lord. It brings an animation to our personal lives like nothing else will do. It is a place of refreshment, renewal, strengthening; a place to lay down our burdens and cares and take up the joy and peace of the Lord; a time to cast our fears on the Lord and have our faith in his love, faithfulness and power encouraged. No doubt the Bible says:

Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

The entire psalm 91 lists the blessings that rest upon the soul that makes the presence of God a dwelling place.

With all these promised blessings, why is it many of us do not actually enjoy the presence of God? Why is it only few actually find quiet time with the Lord an exciting moment? Why is private prayer a boring experience? Why is it that even when we are in the habit of spending time with the Lord, there are times we just can’t wait for that time to be over, so we can go do something more exciting.

They could be different answers to these questions. Two that I think of involve our heart attitude and also things we do (or don’t do) that influence how we approach and spend time with God.

If we do not consciously make a decision to fight against and overcome spiritual complacency, we would not help but be complacent.

The things I’ll mention in the points below would be of no use unless we adopt an attitude of pursuing the things of God through ‘Gritted teeth’. That means taking a conscious decision to spend time with God, to study his Word, no matter what, because we know how important that exercise is to our overall Christian welfare. If we do not discipline our bodies and act out what we know, there’s no way we can overcome spiritual complacency; we would only have the talk but no walk.

It is not enough to have time dedicated to being alone with the Lord. That time must be rewarding, else it becomes formality, a religious exercise done to satisfy our feelings and hyper-sensitive consciences.

Just so I don’t repeat some things, I recommend you read 4 Hindrances to developing an intimate relationship with the Lord and 9 Wonderful ways to ruin your quiet time with the Lord

That said, let’s look at simple things we can do to make our time with the Lord enjoyable and rewarding. Some of these are so mundane I wonder why it took me so long to realize their influence on personal time with the Lord.  I guess some may actually be funny to you depending on your culture and environment, for these are things we sometimes do, though not for the purpose of having them influence our spiritual lives.

All but two involve our bodies, because it is that part of us which poses the biggest hindrance to pursuing the things of God, for the Scripture says, ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ (Matthew 26:41). With these, I believe we can see the willingness of our spirits prevail over the weakness and hindrance that is many times our body.

They are listed in no particular order.

  1. Give your body enough rest.

This is what I am currently doing. There are days I still find it hard going to bed early enough. Sometimes because of many ideas flooding my mind, I may not quickly fall asleep in the night, and I’ll have to get up and work on the computer. But I have made a decision: no matter when I finally fall asleep, I’m going to give my body the rest it needs.

give your body enough rest

This may not be anything to someone else but from where I am coming, it’s a great step. During my legalistic years, I was actually taught that if I wake up after the Muslim call to prayer, my prayers would be useless and my day not blessed. It is a shame I believed that, but yes I did. I even read a book by a popular preacher who basically implied that a good Christian should not be in bed after 2 a.m.; you should be up praying or studying.

That mentality made me guilty each time I got up to see it was past 5 a.m. It was one reason why I hardly had morning devotions all those years, or when I did, it was all ritual to salve a guilty conscience.

Having recovered from legalism, I still wanted to wake up early in the morning to spend ample time with the Lord before I begin my day’s activities. I tried several times to keep my quiet time with the Lord at 4 a.m. Sometimes it was successful, but many times it was not. Depending on when I went to bed, my body would still be tired and sleepy, and my mind wouldn’t pay attention to what I was reading.

That way, it was difficult to be consistent in spending time with the Lord. And consistency is very important. Spending little time with the Lord on a daily basis is more effective than spending long irregular moments with him.

Any Christian discipline can be transformed into ritual. The purpose of every discipline must then always be at the forefront of why that discipline is to be engaged. That way you’d always have the right attitude towards it.

If your body is tired or sleepy, there’s no way you can enjoy your time with the Lord.

A tired and sleepy body could be a result of overeating, lack of exercise or lack of enough rest. Treat the body well. Treat the cause instead of forcing the body to go through an exercise aimlessly.

  1. Begin with singing.

I don’t say always begin with singing. But it’s good to begin with singing if your body is unmotivated or your mind is distracted. A cool worshipful song is a great way to rein in your wayward mind or stubborn body. I find that after singing for a while, the resistance of my body simply gives way and I am able to enjoy fellowship with the Lord.

  1. Find the right posture/environment.

Take a posture and/or look for an environment that will not encourage you falling asleep while in prayers reading the Bible. You may need to stand or walk around instead of lying on the bed, sitting or kneeling. You may need to leave the bedroom if the sight of your bed makes you want to go to sleep.

  1. Physical exercise

I bet all of us are familiar with that scenario where our body doesn’t just feel like it… the body is just not in the mood. Except, of course, in carnal things that need little to no motivation, such as binge eating, watching TV or aimlessly browsing the internet.

There’s a reason why physical exercise is called keep fit. It not only implies fitness in terms of health, but also in terms of agility and having a body that is light.

bodily exercise for spiritual gains

If you find morning devotions or quiet moments with the Lord boring because of your heavy body, then physical exercise is what you need to overcome that. I also find that physical exercise helps against yawning during prayer.

Remember you don’t have to be overweight to have a ‘heavy’ body. Your muscles simply need some stretching to make them agile again.

 

 

 

 

  1. Discipline your appetite

The mouth is one area in which lack of discipline affects other areas as well. An undisciplined mouth results inevitably in an undisciplined body generally. This applies to speech as well as food. One way to tell your body the spirit is the boss is by disciplining the mouth. One reason why you may find it difficult disciplining yourself to pray or study the Word could be because your mouth is undisciplined. It eats whatever the eye sees, whenever it sees it and in what amounts it wants. It vomits out whatever is in your mind without thought as to the effect of your words on your listeners and on you. There’s no control, no restriction. As such the flesh gains dominance over the spirit. The spirit’s willingness and desire for the things of God is then overridden by the body’s lack of subordination.

spiritual dieting

It is amazing what a single day of fasting and spending time with God can do in terms of taming bodily desires. That effect can and should be encouraged through a daily discipline of the mouth on what and how it eats.

When to eat is equally important. If you want to spend time with the Lord very early in the morning, don’t eat later in the evening. It’s even not advisable for your health. Don’t give your body work to do when it’s supposed to be resting, else you get up in the morning very tired.

  1. Change scenery

There’s a spot outside our house here where I love sitting and chatting with God. I sometimes resent the fact that where I presently reside there are no lonely areas where one can go to and just be alone with God. That makes me planning on when I build my house, I would designate a large room only for prayer and studies with nothing inside except a table, chair and flowers. And then I’ll have a large lawn where one can sit and just be alone, praying or studying.

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In the open air, the mind is less clouded than when in a stuffed room. You can gaze into the sky as you worship God, beholding the wonders of his workmanship.

The closet should be understood in terms of you being alone with God, not necessary a quiet place of prayer indoors. You can choose to take a walk along a less busy path, on the lawn, etc.

  1. Visit with God. Enjoy God!

That is what quiet moments should be – visiting with God. When you visit a friend, if it is a true friend, you don’t spend all the time talking. You also sit and silently enjoy each other’s presence. You don’t only talk ‘serious’ issues. You also have informal discussions.

When I started out as a new believer, one excuse I had for not spending time with the Lord was that I didn’t know what to pray for. I desired to pray, but I didn’t have what to say that was really ‘important’. If I only knew that I could just visit with God, just come away with him, sing to him, or just be and say nothing, I could have turned that desire into action, spending time alone with the Lord.

visiting with God in silence

The same could be said of fasting. We think of fasting when in dire need, but we can equally discipline our bodies and not eat, not because we have some pressing need, but because we just want to come away from all distractions and just visit with the Lord, spend time thinking about him and letting him speak to our hearts.

 

  1. Practice the presence of God

Live in the presence of God every moment. He is always with us, but we are not always conscious of that reality. But we can teach ourselves to always be in constant communion with God by being aware of his ever presence. We can talk with him as we go about our normal activities. Then, when we come to being alone with him, it would no longer be a tedious exercise to discipline our minds and our bodies.

Personal private relationship with God should be a lifestyle with believers. Our desire to know the Lord more should prompt us to look for ways to overcome whatever obstacles and hindrances are on our path. These could involve major or simple changes.

We spend time, energy and money, making changes to areas of our lives as deemed necessary. That’s the same attitude me must have concerning our personal walk with the Lord. We must put in the time and effort it deserves to succeed.

I pray this post blesses you enough to motivate you to action.

God bless,

Jane.

Going for her noble profession — Part III

 

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This is part 3 in the short story, Going For Her Noble Profession.

Cynthia is unsatisfied being a nurse; she wishes to quit  her job and to do something she enjoys, but she’s scared of the possible outcome on her relationship with her boyfriend, Frank, the love of her life who always wanted a nurse for a wife.

Read part I and 2

Going for her noble profession — part I

Going for her noble profession — part II

 

Cynthia left the pastor’s office in a lighter mood. Even though she still doubted her convictions, she knew what decision her heart longed for. She would give it some time, while she continued in prayer and counseling.

As she descended the lonely path behind the church building, she silently prayed. “Lord, I find it easier taking the risk of failure than enduring the dissatisfaction of my present job. This is not the life I want to live when I’m thirty, forty or fifty. Lord, you know the sincerity of my heart. You know exactly how much I’ve tried to love where I am, yet the dissatisfaction grows daily. I actually dread going to work and I’m happy when the day is over. I’d do it for you if you want me to continue there, but I feel like this is not where you want me to be.

“Father, I’m also scared. Quitting a job is not an easy decision, especially when people who love you and whom you love think you are making a mistake. Their concern is genuine. I wish Frank will understand but I also fear he may not.”

When she reached her place, she went straight to lie on the bed. Imaginations play a great role in decision making, for it is with the power of this God-given tool that we can anticipate the consequences of our actions and evaluate our readiness to face them. When she visualized herself quitting her job, the imagined consequences of the decision were scary: Frank walked away, her parents got angry and turned their backs on her, friends thought she was crazy…and finally, she failed in her preferred venture.

Cynthia’s heart felt heavy. She wasn’t sure she was ready for such an adventure. Not until she imagined the alternative. She saw herself in her present job at age thirty five, a totally dispirited employee. That was scarier.

“Lord, this was never my choice,” she sobbed. “It was my parents’ counsel. Please, let me give change a try. If I fail, I will learn my lessons, plus I can always retract my steps. I’d still be a qualified nurse.”

It seemed like she could see God nodding to that arrangement. The doubts and heaviness in her heart began to give way as she believed change was the right thing to go for. There and then she mentally made the decision. Fear of the criticisms of those who mattered most to her would cause a delay in its implementation, but she was going to do it one day or another.

Getting up from bed, she went to a local grocery where she got herself treated to some ice cream and biscuits, happiness and joy radiating her entire being.

———————————————————————

Two weeks later, Cynthia was in Pastor Wills’ office again. The visibly happy and excited young woman spared no details in narrating to the pastor what she had arrived at and how the constant frustration and dissatisfaction had disappeared even before the final decision had been taken.

The Reverend let her talk out her mind; then he proceeded to asking her pertinent questions.

“What about Frank?”

“Pastor, I’m still praying God to touch his heart to see with me.”

“What if he doesn’t see with you?”

Cynthia broke the knuckles on her fingers, even though her face expressed no sadness. After a long silence, she answered. “Pastor, I’ve been thinking. If tomorrow while I’m married to Frank, I’m frustrated in my job – which is likely to happen – I would tend to direct the frustration at him. Because I would feel like if it wasn’t for him, I’d have made a change. Being with him and remaining in my present job will be difficult. Quitting and losing him will also be difficult. I know which option to choose, but I’m not so bold to verbalize it. I’m like, ‘what’s in a particular career option, anyway? Does he want a wife or a nurse?’”

Pastor Wills smiled; he was used to counselees’ dilemmas. Without offering his assistance to help her make a choice between the mentioned options, he proceeded to the next question. “What about your parents?”

“Pastor, I love my parents, but for God’s sake, I’m a grown up! I’ve lived on my own for four years now. I know they will be disappointed, but I’m no longer dependent on them for sustenance. It hurts to know they aren’t proud of my choice, but I have to wake up to the fact that this is my life. I’m the one facing the frustration and dissatisfaction at my job, not my parents. I really feel like this is what God wants me to be.”

The pastor’s next question was not something Cynthia’s imagination hadn’t anticipated. “Are you really ready to face the challenges of venturing into new horizons?”

“Yes!” was the immediate reply that came. “To me, that’s easier to handle than remaining where I am.”

“Okay, Cindy. I’ll give you a DVD teaching series from a very trusted friend. You go watch and after that whatever decision you make, go for it. New horizons are always scary because we do not know exactly what might happen, but to experience more of God you may just need to get out of the boat and walk on the waters by faith, looking up to the Lord and following his guidance.”

———————————————————–

 “How are you?”

Cynthia would have given the casual, ‘I’m fine’ but the thought immediately came to her mind to seize the opportunity to tell Frank exactly how she was. It was a month after the day she took the decision against indecision.

“More dissatisfied in my job,” she replied, looking away from him.

A painful silence followed. One, because Frank hadn’t expected that kind of answer, and two, because he wasn’t sure what satisfactory comment to make about her complaint. Had he not done his best to convince her she was in the right place? In an enviable profession? A noble profession? But here she was, talking of more dissatisfaction.

Cynthia broke the silence, “I already talked with Pastor Wills, seeking his counsel. You know, it’s hard not to doubt oneself when you are considering major changes such as quitting a job. I don’t just want to be a fanatic. So I’ve been praying and asking God for wisdom and help.

“There’s been this growing dissatisfaction all these years; I don’t see it going away anytime. I keep asking myself if this is how it’s gonna be for the rest of my life. One is not growing any younger; if there are decisions to make, the earlier the better. Sometimes I’m confused, other times, I wished I could just make the decision and damn the consequences.

“I was just thinking that the next vacation could be a no-return time and…”

She went on talking and talking, trying to prevent a possible awful silence from ensuing, and also seeking to give him as much justification for her decision as to make him have nothing more to say to the contrary.

But you can only say as much; she finally stopped talking.

Seated by her side, Frank fixed his stare on his black-polished shoes, a sign he was in deep thought. Cynthia’s heart was pounding, the same time a tiny part of her mind was regretting the decision.

“It’s okay,” Frank finally said. “You shouldn’t be in a job you don’t like. You can’t live like that for the rest of your life.”

And? Won’t you say more? There was one more thing she desperately wanted to hear.

After a long silence he spoke again, “If Decorative Arts is what God wants you to do, I encourage you to go for it. Do what you find satisfaction and fulfillment in. We can’t always think things should be done the way our logic understands, right?”

Not yet right. I haven’t heard what you think about our relationship.

Probably, he was saying it, but Cynthia wanted speech that left no room for doubts and varied interpretations.

She decided to dismiss the doubts. “What becomes of our relationship then?”

Frank was shocked to the core. He had not expected she would think it possible that he could let her go because of a change in career path. He had not understood how his desire to marry a nurse had so much affected the particular nurse he had chosen to be with.

But before he could utter a word in reply, Cynthia was excited for the look of surprise on his face – it was all she needed to rest her anxious heart.

“Cindy, I love you,” he said, “and yes, I always wanted a nurse, but I love you enough to be happy with your happiness. I think I need to have a reshaping of my desires as to the kind of profession I want my wife in. After all, it’s you I want, not your profession.”

She wanted to jump on his neck, but his mouth gestures indicated he still had more to say.

“I’m taking you out tomorrow.”

She understood exactly what he meant. He had been planning for it for some time now.

——————————————————————

Years later, a certain Cindy Frank stood at the entrance of her Decorative Arts shop one afternoon, amazed and feeling fulfilled. She had just closed for the day after a wonderful work day. Besides regular normal clients, a local NGO involved in the rehabilitation of destitute single mothers had contracted her to help train some of the women, seven in all. It was a golden opportunity to be part of the recovery process for the women, all of whom had had very traumatic experiences, which made many among them open to the gospel.

The Good News flowed so freely from her lips and genuinely from her heart. It was no longer an exercise done to add more value and reason to a job she hated.

Cynthia had found her place of fulfillment; her noble profession. She was grateful to the Lord for the way he had caused things to turn out for her. Almost stress-free.  It was unlike other people’s success stories where the challenges were much more difficult than hers. Yet, she still told herself that finding fulfillment is worth the challenges, no matter the level of difficulty; and when God truly leads, success is inevitable even after a long period of apparent limbo.

And there remained yet another wonderful advantage to being at the place her heart had longed for. She couldn’t wait to have the active girl in her tummy come to the world. Great was the joy of knowing she would happily take care of the little lily herself, without the need for a nanny to fill her absent hours. It would be one of her much anticipated joys of motherhood.

She was truly amazed, silently thanking the Lord as she walked away.

Janet Bengan

Fiction for Teaching, Inspiration and Entertainment.

Fiction for Teaching, Inspiration and Entertainment.

What complaining reveals about the believer’s state of heart

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I recently found myself complaining a lot to God, because I expected certain things to go a certain way and he was seemingly not into that idea.

I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my attitude because I believe in being open to the Lord about my feelings.

Most of the time, I talk to the Lord as I would talk to someone seated across from me – very informal. And knowing that he loves and cares for me, some of my best quiet moments with him are when I tell him exactly how I feel and think about whatever situation.

There’s so much relief when you pour out your heart to the Lord like that, instead of behaving ‘religious’ before God, and never really talking to him from the heart.

In this post I made a distinction between pouring out your heart to God and complaining. While the former is done in faith, the latter is done in anger and resentment.

What happened these days didn’t quite strike me early enough that I was complaining instead of pouring out my heart to the Lord. I thought I was just being honest with him. I wasn’t going to stifle my feelings and refuse my thoughts. So I just let him know how I felt and thought!

It’s the result that made me realize that what I was doing was not right. A sincere pouring out of the heart to God is done in faith, with the view of God as the loving caring Father. This results in emotional relief – peace – even if your physical situation remains the same.

Complaining is a fruit of discouragement, anger and resentment, and the result is more discouragement. After complaining and welcoming more discouragement, it just spoils the atmosphere and you can no longer truly enjoy quiet time with the Lord.

In his word, the Lord cautions against complaining and murmuring. 1 Corinthians 10:10 makes reference to the Israelites’ complaining and grumbling attitude in the wilderness and how that attitude cost many of them their lives. It did finally cost the entire population that left Egypt, save for Caleb and Joshua, entry into the Promised Land.

And if Christians are called upon to look at that example and learn not to complain, it is important to take the command seriously. It says clearly and loudly that God hates complaining and grumbling. Why?

It’s about the heart attitude from which complaining comes.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Revised Edition) defines Murmuring as the outward expression of deep inward discontent and rejection of one’s lot. That sounds pretty heavy but it is absolutely true.

As God’s follower, someone seeking to live for God alone, when you complain about what God is doing in your life, there’s something you are communicating to him that you may not even mean it verbally. You may not even realize what you are doing; you would be shocked if God showed you your heart condition that grieves him.

Matthew 12:34

…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

If wasn’t just the fact that the Israelites complained verbally; it wasn’t just their little grumbling groups and conspiracies against Moses that got the Lord annoyed. It was the heart attitude that gave birth to the physical expression. Which is what the believer needs to consider when taking the command in 1 Corinthians 10:10. That verse isn’t only calling for a cessation of words but a change in heart attitude towards the situation at hand.

Whether discontent is verbally expressed or not, the result of complaining is always there – discouragement, despair or actions that are contrary to what the Lord would want of you.

Complaining questions the faithfulness and wisdom of God. He’s not truly trustworthy. He’s not doing things the way you think he should be doing. If given the reins you would do a better job.

No one wants to tell God that, but that’s what complaining says.

Questioning God’s faithfulness

When they left Egypt triumphantly, after having experienced God’s spectacular power in the plagues that ravaged Egypt while sparing them, one would think the Israelites should have had no problem believing God when they found themselves caught between the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptian Army. God had unmistakably proven to them that he was with them and that he was more than enough for every situation. He had promised to bring them out of the land of bondage to a land flowing with milk and honey. The desert was not a land flowing with milk and honey. It was the route to that land. They should have therefore eagerly looked forward to the next miracle with no fear.

But they panicked and complained. They actually saw themselves being killed. They accused Moses of bringing them out to die in the wilderness. They completely forgot what God had done in order to bring them out. They didn’t believe he was able to save them there. At the bottom line, they didn’t believe he was faithful to his word to bring them to a land of their own, the land flowing with milk and honey.

When you follow God, things will not always going to be rosy. In fact, expect hardship when you step out with God. This message is hard to receive in our Christian culture today where aversion to adversity is rife. I have seen some of those religious skits where the message is basically saying, ‘if you want the affluent life your neighbor is living, then become a Christian like him’. That gospel appeals only to the flesh and is the reason for so much discontent in the lives of some professing Christians, which makes them vulnerable to the schemes of con artists disguised as men of God, who rip them off of their hard-earned money in exchange for promises of effortless prosperity.

Adversity is never a sign of God’s inability to deliver and to save. It is never a sign that he has stopped being faithful; that he made a promise which he is unable to deliver.

Complaining therefore questions God’s faithfulness. It says he’s not able to fulfill his promises. It forgets the victories of the past.

Look at the Lord’s disciples in the midst of the storm while he was asleep. Instead of calling on him for help, they complained and accused him of not caring. When he got up and calmed the storm, he rebuked them by asking, ‘how is it you have no faith?’

The reason for their complaint and cries was because of a lack of faith. That is what makes complaining detestable to the Lord. It is a sign of unbelief.

Questioning God’s wisdom

Even if I’m being killed, I will shout it loud and clear: God is faithful; he never fails, he never disappoints. Never. I know that I know that I know, God IS faithful. But what about his wisdom and the way he chooses to prove his faithfulness?

Well, not verbally expressed, but complaining and being discontented with the way God does things says exactly that: you don’t believe his wisdom is right. And beneath your discontentment lies impatience. You know God is faithful, and he has to demonstrate that faithfulness, NOW, or else, you’ll doubt his word.

How familiar that sounds!

Questioning God’s wisdom could also be in the sense of not seeing his instructions as logical. That’s what finally stopped the Israelites who left Egypt from entering the Promised Land. How could God expect them to face the dreadful giants? The better option was to choose a leader and return to Egypt!

How in our complaining state, thinking we are more rational than God, we take decisions that only result in our hurt!

No matter what way we look at it, complaining grieves God. He hates it.

Complaining is a sin. It reveals the state of a heart that is not stayed upon God; a heart that doesn’t trust him; a heart that questions his faithfulness and wisdom. A heart that thinks it knows better than God.

Situations that provoke complaining are always there. Giving into the temptation is our choice. Life above complaining may be hard but it’s possible. The possibility is the reason why God commands us to learn from the Israelites’ example.

How to stop complaining

  • Make a decision to keep away from complaining, no matter the situation
  • Stay your mind on the Lord by meditating on his person, his might and his goodness
  • Seek his wisdom when you are confused or discouraged
  • Remind yourself of his faithfulness in the past.
  • Do what his word says to do. Refuse the negative feelings and the urge to speak them.

Going for her noble profession — Part II

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This is part 2 in the short series, Going for her noble profession.

Cynthia is unsatisfied being a nurse; she wishes to quit  her job and to do something she enjoys, but she’s scared of the possible outcome on her relationship with her boyfriend, Frank, the love of her life who always wanted a nurse for a wife.

Read part 1 HERE

Three weeks later, after much praying, much contemplation, much confusion, and fear too, Cynthia went to see her pastor. She didn’t plan to become emotional, but a tear or two fell off her eyes, as she narrated to the Reverend her longstanding lack of job satisfaction and a desire to effect a change in career path.

His plain theological face expression while he listened to her wailing voice, made her heart begin to fail for fear that he would tell her to stop being stupid and to be grateful to God for a job many were scrambling to have. To be grateful to God for not having had the opportunity to experience the sting of joblessness in an economy where unemployment and underemployment were more normal than the contrary.

The green cloth hanging on the wall, to the left of the pastor’s desk, bore an inscription that made Cynthia’s heart the more miserable.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

An advice she dreaded being given, again, for she had personally taken it up herself many times and it never did seem to give her the consolation her heart needed. Contentment, someone had advised, was what she needed, plus a consideration of the well-known quote, ‘the end justifies the means’, which in Cynthia’s case was translated, ‘if the job helps meet your life’s needs, there’s no need for a change.’ For to get food, raiment and shelter, isn’t that the reason why we work after all? Should the type of job therefore matter if it meets the objective for working?

Cynthia had felt bad getting the insinuation, which basically said that financial advancement is the only rational reason for a change of job.

Pastor Wills’ long silence after Cynthia stopped talking was to a purpose which the worried young woman immediately judged and concluded that her coming to seek his counsel had been in vain. That she had just given one more mind the opportunity to realize – and possibly criticize her for – her failure to appreciate the worth of what she had in hand. And that if she let it go, inevitable would be her regret in the future, for the saying must come true: you don’t know the value of what you have until you lose it.

But she had misconstrued his silence. Rev. Wills was a very objective man, not prone to giving hasty answers, especially in such sensitive issues. You can’t just tell a young woman who comes into your office asking for counsel to go quite her job. Not if you are supposed to be a caring and careful spiritual leader. Not when the distressed look on the counselee’s face says she would take every word from your mouth as gospel truth.

Cynthia’s desperate wish for an answer was not going to move the man of God. He took his time to properly comprehend the situation and know what answer to give.

He finally said, “Cindy, I understand”, to which she replied with a weighty heave of her chest and a faint smile on her face.

“Pastor,” she immediately said, having received enough motivation from his reassurance, “working in the hospital and coming in contact with people who have various kinds of problems, I usually find opportune moments to introduce them to the Savior. When people ache, they easily give a listening ear to spiritual issues.

“My fear is really that if I quit, I may lose such opportunities and find myself in environments where I’m not truly helping people as far as their eternal destinies are concerned. I want to quit but I’m uncomfortable with that thought.”

“Cindy,” Pastor Wills replied, “your concern is genuine and understandable. What I’d say is that sometimes our wisdom is not godly. What we think is not help may be only from our own perspective. Let me tell you a story about one of my friends and former colleague in ministry.

“Brother Edward is a fervent servant of our Lord. When he got born-again, immediately in his heart was born the desire to serve God with all his heart. He soon enrolled into the Bible School – he was my classmate – where he spent four years training for ministry. When we graduated, he was called to the pastorate of a good church, where he spent a few years.

“Then one day, I got a call from him. He told me he was quitting ministry to return to the business world. My first reaction was to believe that the challenges of ministry were more than he could bear. But he replied that he had found out God never called him into the ministry, it was his interpretation of serving God that had led him to take the decision to go into ministry.

“Not a few people saw his decision wrongly. Some considered it a carnal step, you know, abandoning ministry for business. Some said he had thought to find treasure in ministry, which he had not found, and so was going back to the world to make money.

“But Brother Edward was so sure God had opened his eyes to what he should have been doing that he ignored the misunderstandings of others and quit the ministry. He rebuilt his business and got it going.

“Cindy, do you know what? Brother Edward is encountering people in the business world he never would have encountered otherwise. His being a businessman has not stopped him from preaching the gospel and leading others to the Lord. Some of these converts are becoming ministers, others are finding God’s purposes for their lives; others are finding simple joy and peace in life, some are having their marriages improved and restored. And you know what, all of that is worth the decision he took.”

Cynthia nodded in agreement, most of her fears now gone.

Pastor Wills continued, “One example that stands out conspicuous to me is one businessman, Brother Edward’s colleague. This man is rich but he was also laden with lots of problems, inner frustration and all the turmoil that accompanies a life out of the Lord Jesus Christ. The man was even considering suicide when his and Brother Edward’s paths crossed. He was led to the Savior, got so happy and overjoyed with God’s amazing grace upon his life that he dedicated his life to the sponsorship of evangelistic outreaches. Our church recently benefitted from his largesse.

“Cindy, do you know what? the fruit of that man’s work is also being credited to Brother Edward’s account.”

The encouragement Cynthia had received by now was overflowing, except for one last worry.

“Pastor, as I told you, I do not want to lose Frank. I love him dearly, but he’s always wanted a nurse for a wife.”

“Cindy, I advise you to pray and know what the Lord would have you do. Then you do it and let him handle the rest.”

“Even if it means the end of my relationship with Frank?”

“Yes. But don’t conclude yet; I know your fear, but trust God. Remember you can count on me anytime you need help.”

“Thank you, pastor.”

Story continues Going for her noble profession — Part III

Janet Bengan
Fiction for Teaching, Inspiration and Entertainment

9 Wonderful ways to ruin your quiet time with the Lord

 

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The importance of spending time alone with the Lord cannot be overemphasized. It should be the life of the believer if he has to succeed in his walk with the Lord. If he has to lessen the pull of carnality and to live a life of victory over sin and the world. If he has to dig deeper into his Word to mine the treasures contained therein.  If he has to get acquainted with God’s voice.

Spending time alone with the Lord should be a priority. A conscious pursuit. The Christian must seek to overcome complacency in this area. Pursuing intimacy with God must be one of the top goals of the individual believer.

I wrote about the , in a bid to encourage the reader to do so. Yet at the same time, there are attitudes that can make that time with the Lord useless or not as beneficial as it should be.

I have once been a victim of most if not all of these attitudes. It was not until I abandoned them that I began to reap the benefits of spending time with the Lord.

Some of these are common place among believers.

  1. Be time-conscious. Set an alarm clock.

I used to set an alarm clock when in prayers as a discipline to my flesh. Five minutes in prayer can seem like an hour, and I wanted to spend longer time than my flesh was willing to tolerate. So I went for the alarm clock.

The result of using an alarm was that I worried more about the time than paying attention to prayer. I frequently checked my phone to see if I did really set the time correctly. It would seem to me that the alarm should have come on but the time was apparently longer than what I had thought. I would be relieved when the sound finally came on.

That activity didn’t benefit me the way it should have because time consciousness turned it into a formality.

The best way is to come before God with the goal of spending quality time with him. Quantity is useless without quality. Spending five minutes in true fellowship with the Lord is better than spending an hour while constantly checking or waiting for the alarm clock to sound.

  1. Seek an emotional or supernatural experience

Most of us will love it if during and after prayer we feel like we’ve really prayed. If during prayer we experience a trance like the apostle Peter. If we have an angelic visitation like Cornelius. If we can have visions and hear God talk to us in spectacular ways.

So we sing and we pray in the spirit while waiting for that emotional high or supernatural experience to come on.

That is not only spiritually dangerous, but useless as far as reaping the benefits of spending time with the Lord. In seeking an experience, you can open up yourself to demonic spirits.

Prayer is an act of faith. You believe God exists, that he hears you and that he can talk back to you. You should praise and worship him because he is worthy, not doing that as a means of preparing your body and mind for an emotional or supernatural experience. You should pray to God because he is a person, not a force you are trying to invoke to manifest to your carnal satisfaction.

  1. Talk to God as if he’s some force or influence

This is in accord with the last sentence in point two above.

God is not weird. He is a conscious being. That is how we must approach him. He is not some force like wind, fire or an inexplicable emotion. He is a conscious being, although he is spirit. We can’t see him, but he’s real. By faith we can approach him and speak with him as we would normally speak with our fellow humans.

  1. Use high-sounding words

God is a caring Father. He loves us; he cherishes the fact that we spend time with him.

He is also friendly. While respect for him must be emphasized, protocol is not necessary.  You can talk to him in your own parlance.

Talk to him from your heart, in simple language. He knows and understands what you have to say even before you say it. So calm down, put away the dictionary, and just talk to your Father.

  1. Don’t pour out your heart to him

It is possible to come before God and not really pour out your heart; and not tell him how you really feel and think. Coupled with using high-sounding words, you might find yourself acting before God like a superhuman, especially if you have been made to believe that it is wrong to admit negative feelings to God.

Well, God knows already. You can’t pretend before him. If you are aching, pour out your heart to God. If you are confused, tell him. If you are depressed, talk to him about the situation.

You’ll be amazed at how much relief you’ll receive after doing that. For me, Bible verses or encouraging thoughts come to my mind when I do that.

To avoid turning this into complaining, you need to pour out your heart to God in faith, not in anger and resentment towards him. You must believe that he cares about you and expect him to give you the help you need at that particular moment.

  1. Parrot until you say, “In Jesus name, amen”. Then get up and leave.

That’s not fellowship. It’s recitation.

God wants to talk with you. As you come to spend time with him, make the effort to listen for his voice. Don’t just talk until you are through, then you rush out. Learn to wait before the Lord. In silence. In studying his word.

  1. Allow your mind to wander. Do not discipline it.

You shouldn’t be talking to God or apparently reading the word when your mind is out shopping, dating or watching TV. Discipline your mind.

  1. Talk to the devil instead

Devil and demon-consciousness can make you spend lots of time addressing the devil. Some believers put much emphasis on the devil’s activities that their consciousness of the evil one is more than their consciousness of God, even in the closet. It ought not to be so.

Time with the Lord is just what it is – time with the Lord.

  1. Only read the Word; do not study it.

Just read and tick the daily record. That’s what I did the first time I went through the entire Bible. The only benefit I got from the exercise was the pride of having gone through the Bible. I wasn’t taught, I wasn’t blessed, I couldn’t even remember what I’d read once I closed the book.

The Bible was written for us, not for God. When we read and study it, we are the ones who get blessed. God is not impressed by our Bible reading; he wants us to know him and his will through his word.

Merely reading the Bible will not benefit much; studying will. You need to stop and reflect in the course of reading. Ask yourself what the passage is saying, read similar verses in other portions of Scripture; make use of commentaries and Bible dictionaries to get the historical and cultural context and full meanings of some of the words. That is studying.

You’d be amazed at how much treasure you can find in the Word when you study instead of merely reading.

I doubt if my list is exhaustive. In summary, there are attitudes we adopt that make our time with God a waste of time, an activity done out of formality, instead of quality time of fellowship with the heavenly Father.

Time alone with God is an awesome time when we have the right mindset: fellowship with a conscious being who loves us. We can communicate our hearts to him in the friendliest and most intimate way.

Recommended reading:

4 Benefits of spending ample time with the Lord