Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

hope reflected Archive

Monday

24

June 2019

The Necessity of Prayer

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Prayer does not change God, it changes us. Prayer is action.

Through our prayers – through Christ – we open ourselves up to new opportunities for contentment, focus, forgiveness, hope, trust, peace, provision, transformation, glorifying God, and growing deeper in our relationship with Him.

It’s easy to see the consistency in Christ’s character as we look at His life through each Gospel account in the New Testament. During His ministry here on earth, Jesus lived a life filled with action – He didn’t just speak life; He showed us how to live life by His example, including teaching us how to pray.

In Luke 11, the disciples ask our Lord to teach them how to pray, and He responds, “When ye pray, say…” and goes on to pray what we recognize today as the Lord’s prayer.

Now, I realize that there are some who don’t believe that prayer is action or relative to our character – perhaps because not every body sees it or perhaps because it can take time before we see results – however it’s important to remember that prayer is action, and it is relative to our character. Prayer is a surrender of our own abilities and power, and the realization and recognition that it is not our prayers that are making changes – it’s Who we’re praying to that makes changes. Jesus knew this, and we see His reverence toward God in how He prayed.

He addressed God as Father. “Our Father which art in heaven,” (Luke 11:2). Wes recently finished a book called “Father Hunger,” by Douglas Wilson, in which Wilson addresses the importance of fathers. While I haven’t read it myself, the book explores the impact that fathers – or a lack thereof – have on us as society as well as us relating to our heavenly Father. God is our Father, and the ultimate Father at that. He provides all our provisions; He satisfies all our needs and wants. He loves us more than our earthly Fathers ever could.

Jesus also sought time alone to pray. “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23). Jesus purposefully set time out in His day to be alone to pray. “And he withdrew himself into the wilderness and prayed.” (Luke 5:16) “And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:46). While you can pray anywhere, anytime, seeking time alone and away from distractions can help you concentrate as you still your heart before the Lord.

Beyond seeking time alone, Jesus taught us that in our prayers, we should give thanks to God. We should give thanks when God answers and hears our prayers, “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” (Matthew 11:25). We should give thanks before we eat, as Jesus taught us at the feeding of the five thousand, “And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks…”. We should give thanks in every thing, as Paul did from Christ’s example in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Time spent in prayer is one of the most important parts of life. As C.S. Lewis once said, “I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. Prayer does not change God – it changes me.”

Originally published as “The Necessity of Prayer.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate, Walkerton Herald-Times. February 7, 2019: 6. Print. Web.

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Monday

1

April 2019

Endurance

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Because of God, we can find encouragement in endurance

Often used interchangeably with its synonyms tolerance and patience, endurance is one of those things that we get tired just thinking about. Associated with challenges, hard times, and periods of suffering, endurance is not for the faint of heart.

We weren’t called to enjoy this life; we were called to endure it. Some of you reading this will balk, thinking rather that we are here on earth to enjoy our life. The reality is that you can spend your whole life searching and seeking enjoyment and happiness, but without the Lord you will come up short and end up empty-handed. You know what we are called to enjoy? God. As the Westminster Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” You can disagree, but thankfully the Christian faith is based on facts that date back far earlier than you or I.

When you become a Christian, your life is probably not going to be easy. People are going to make fun of you, belittle you, laugh at your expense, and depending where you live in the world, persecute you. The good news is that we aren’t the first to endure hardships, and if we’re being honest, ours are “first world problems” compared with what Christians in many other nations have to endure.

So where’s the encouragement in endurance? The Bible is filled with accounts of men and women who lived in faith before us. Abraham, Moses, Noah, Sarah, Isaac, Joseph, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Samson, David, – I could go on. By faith they endured (Hebrews 11:27). By faith, they “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, and out of weakness were made strong (Hebrews 11:33-34).

Beyond our ancestors before us, because of God, we can find encouragement in endurance. Our chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Even when we are at our worst, God’s goodness endures forever. “Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? The goodness of God endureth continually.” (Psalm 52:1)

Even when we doubt, God’s truth endures forever. “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)

Despite our ruthlessness, God’s mercy endures forever. “Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalm 106:1)

Regardless of our immorality, God’s righteousness endures forever. “His work is honourable and glorious: and His righteousness endureth for ever.” (Psalm 111:3)

Even though we think we’re in charge right now, His dominion endures forever. “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” (Psalm 145:13)

Originally published as “Endurance.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. November 29, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Friday

8

February 2019

Hope for the Anxious Heart

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In the midst of how you’re feeling, it always helps to remember the facts

While the degree to which may vary, anxiety affects each of us in some shape or form. It can be easy to get caught up in the events of the day, to find your mind wandering and replaying in the middle of the night, or playing out possible scenarios to all kinds of situations that haven’t even happened. Anxiety, fear, and worry happen to us all. In the midst of how you’re feeling, it always helps to remember the facts. There is hope for the anxious heart.

Feeling worried? Remember what Jesus asked the disciples in Luke 12: “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26) The only thing that worrying accomplishes is wearing you out. Jesus also said that we should, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:34). When you’re tempted to worry, take it to the Lord and He will give you peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

Beyond worry, fear is also a reality for many people. When Joshua became Moses’s successor, it was a daunting task. He was commanded to “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Or consider David, who penned Psalm 34 from the cave of Adullam while fleeing Saul. In the midst of his fears, David said, “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4) “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

Hope for the anxious heart is never too far away, in fact, God promises us that He is always with us (Isaiah 41:10) and He will never abandon us (Hebrews 13:5-6). “In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19) What are God’s comforts? His love is eternal, His promises are never broken, and He is the surety of our salvation. As Thomas Horton said, “The little world within us is, like the great world without full of confusion and strife; but when Jesus enters it, and whispers “Peace be unto you,” there is a calm, yea, a rapture of bliss. Let us turn away from the mournful contemplation of the oppression of man and the present predominance of the wicked, to that sanctuary of pure rest which is found in the God of all comfort.”

Originally published as “Hope for the anxious heart.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. November 8, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Monday

7

January 2019

Hope Reflected | Do you work out?

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A strong spiritual life requires strength training.

Do you work out? "This is the way, walk ye in it." (Isaiah 30:21) | See more at hopereflected.com

Recently, Wes and I have heard about the daily fitness regimens of several of our friends. While we don’t consider ourselves to be fitness buffs by any stretch of the imagination, Wes and I do enjoy engaging in moderate physical activity.

Even more important than keeping your physical body in shape, we need to keep our spiritual life strong and in shape. People often talk about how important the food is that we feed our bodies, and even more important is the soul food.

Like physical exercise, working out spiritually should be pursued thoughtfully, mindfully, and most importantly, with consistency. “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.” (Isaiah 40:31) A strong spiritual life requires strength training.

Lift up your eyes, your praises, and your requests to the Lord. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2) When it comes to weights, lifting is best done with a spotter. When it comes to your spiritual well-being, you’ve got more than just a spotter. Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and there is no place we can go without His presence (omnipresent). As the Creator of Heaven and Earth, our Lord should be the first place we go to – not just for help, but with our thanksgiving – for every thing. “In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)

More so than the sports themselves, the thing the sticks with me most from the ’92 Summer Olympics in Barcelona is the pictograms that were used for each sport. That summer, javelin and shot put were two of the highlighted sports. That act of casting, launching an object to see how far you can throw it is a great work out. We’re told in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast all our cares upon Christ because He cares for us. The act of casting isn’t just handing something over, or letting it go, no, casting requires us to exert some effort and throw our cares at Christ’s feet. Take off your burdens, and leave them with the Lord.

While it’s not the exercise for everyone, long distance running requires a great amount of endurance, patience, and proper form. The same can be said of our spiritual state. “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Those who are truly seeking after the Lord will confirm that running this race called life requires a great deal of patience. We don’t suddenly just ‘get there’, or achieve spiritual success – it’s a journey. Like long distance running, we need to learn the art of patience. “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; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Wes and I enjoy walking. While we’re all running this race through life, we need to remember that our walk with the Lord requires consistency and it is one of the most important parts of staying strong spiritually. There are many Bible verses that reference the importance of walking with the Lord, including Isaiah 30:21, which says, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” We are also commanded in Micah 6:8 to “walk humbly with the Lord.” Walking is a critical component of staying spiritually fit. Lifting, casting, running, and walking are all important activities when it comes to staying strong spiritually. At times it may be scary, and we’re never guaranteed that it will be easy, but remember to stay the course when it comes to staying spiritually fit. Be consistent, be faithful, and the Lord will bless. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Originally published as “Do you work out?” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. November 1, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Wednesday

12

December 2018

Esther | An Excellent Example

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"The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness." Proverbs 21:5 | Esther: An Excellent Example | Read more at hopereflected.com

Esther: An excellent example

We can learn many lessons from the life of Esther

 

The Bible is filled with many amazing examples of men and women who went before us, their testimonies, and the examples and legacies that they have left for generations to learn from and to follow. One such example is Esther, or Hadassah, the maiden who became the queen of Persia.

Esther’s story is unique in that out of all the books in the Bible, not once in the book of Esther is the Lord mentioned. Esther’s story gives reference to the origins of the feast of Purim, and also provides a unique viewpoint and record of an important part of Jewish history. Esther’s story is also an awesome testimony of a woman of influence. We can learn many lessons from the life of Esther that are still practical and relevant for women and men today.

After both her parents died, Esther was raised primarily by her uncle, Mordecai (who many speculate actually wrote the book of Esther that we read in the Bible). Esther was an orphan. Even though her background was not necessarily conducive to her becoming queen, it’s evident that she didn’t let her past didn’t define her. It’s an important reminder for each of us that our past shouldn’t dictate our present, or our future. It’s never too late to start fresh; while we can’t go back, we can move forward. As Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14, “…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” Mordecai said of Esther, “who knows whether you’re come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther lived with purpose.

Another example we can learn from Esther’s life is that she was prayerful. Esther didn’t rush into decisions and she certainly wouldn’t be defined as hasty. Proverbs 21:5 says that “the thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.” Esther was diligent in her thoughts. In fact, before one of the biggest decisions of her life, Esther fasted for three days, and she asked everyone close to her to fast as well. When it comes to decision making, is your first inclination to consult others first or to consult God? Esther didn’t make decisions lightly; she made them very prayerfully because she recognized that prayer changes things. As we’re told in James 5:16, “…pray for one another…the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Esther was a woman who was quietly confident, but she also stood up for what she believed in, and was willing to risk her life for it. While she first caught people’s eyes with her beauty, she commanded respect with her wisdom and confidence. Esther is an excellent example of knowing when to speak and when to hold your tongue. She was quick to listen and slow to speak, but when she spoke, she stood her ground. Each of us can learn from this. Meekness doesn’t mean weakness. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 16:13 to “be on guard; stand fast in the faith, be strong.”

Originally published as “Esther: An Excellent Example.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. October 25, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Tuesday

11

December 2018

Hope Reflected | The Purpose of Pruning

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"Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." (John 15:2) The Purpose of Pruning | See more at hopereflected.com

The Purpose of Pruning

Pruning requires effort

 

People have varying opinions about fall; F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that “life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” John Burroughs once said, “how beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and colour are their last days.” Whether you look at fall as a new, exciting season, or you look at fall as the time when plants die and go dormant, autumn is a beautiful season that is not without its charms. It’s also a time of year when green thumbs – and wannabe gardeners – prepare their plants for winter. Wes and I usually take our cue from our neighbours when they trim back their hostas.

The type of plant determines the time of year in which you’ll prune – either late winter/early spring, or in the fall – and the purpose of pruning differs depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. This process that we go through with plants reminds me so much of the process that God goes through with us. Jesus said in John 15:1-2, “I AM the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

Pruning encourages plants to thrive. Pruning can help to improve a plant’s health, to promote growth of more flowers or fruit, and also higher quality and larger quantity of blooms. The same can be true in our own lives. When we prune away unhealthy habits or poisonous people, or when God removes certain things from our lives, the results can be incredible. We may not always understand why God prunes the things that He does, but we can be certain that the rewards of being patient during seasons of pruning far outweigh the results of trying to do it our own way. “Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt you to inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:34)

Pruning can also change the way a plant grows. Take the two hydrangea plants in our yard, for instance. This year, Wes is taking on the task to see if he can change the way the plants are growing, by removing any of the branches that are growing inward. One of the purposes of pruning can be to train a plant to grow in a certain direction or in a certain way. Pruning can help promote healthy growth patterns. As in our own lives, God often uses pruning as a way to alter how we’re growing or to change the direction in which we’re growing. God’s plans are bigger than any of our mistakes, and He’ll often use pruning as a method to turn us around. “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

Pruning is an important part of growth. Without pruning, the plants in our garden would enter the spring and summer season still carrying the weight of last year’s now dead growth. Isn’t that just like us? More often than not, we need to let go before we can grow. Someone once said that autumn leaves falling are an excellent reminder of how beautiful it is to let things go. It’s not always easy, but it always best to let go and let God. “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

While the purpose of pruning can vary depending on what you want to accomplish, pruning promotes a better, more well-rounded plant. Pruning requires effort – both working and waiting – and the results are always worth it.

Originally published as “The purpose of pruning.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. October 18, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Friday

7

December 2018

Do the Opposite | Thoughts on The Overcoming Life by D.L. Moody

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"Let us not grow weary in well doing" (Galatians 6:9) Thoughts on overcoming | See more at hopereflected.com

Do the opposite

To overcome sin, we need to head in the other direction

I’ve recently started reading D.L. Moody’s classic, The Overcoming Life. A guide for Christian living, the book covers several aspects of life in which we must overcome: Spiritual warfare, sin, etc. During the section on “internal foes,” Moody covers the enemy of self. He writes that, “’I’ is the centre of S-I-N. It is the medium through which Satan acts.”

He goes on to explain various internal struggles that each of us face – as relevant when he wrote the book in 1896 as they are today – from appetite and temper to envy and pride. Moody’s advice seems so obvious, and yet while reading, I found myself in the midst of a discovery.

To conquer our internal foes, we must do the opposite. Whatever is juxtaposed to our struggles, that is the thing we should do. When it comes to sin, we need to do the opposite. To overcome sin, we need to head in the other direction.

When we are tempted by pride, we need to be humble. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Someone once said that when you are wrong, you should admit it, and when you are right, you should be quiet. Maybe you are right. Perhaps someone else is getting the glory. In times when pride is your first instinct – and if we’re being honest, pride is the first instinct for each of us, because we’re human – it takes true character to put yourself in check and take the high road of humility. God will give you grace, guaranteed (James 4:6).

When you find yourself in want, purpose in your heart to give. Proverbs 11:25 says, “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that waters shall be watered also himself.” See also 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, which tell us that “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Greed can quickly overpower giving if we let it. It times when you find yourself in want of more, remember that nothing you have on this earth is truly yours, and you can’t take any of it with you (Job 1:21). As Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” What are you placing emphasis on in your life?

And how about jealousy? Each one of us are guilty of being green with envy. You may be familiar with quote, “Kill them with kindness.” Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap coals of burning fire on his head.” (Proverbs 25:21-22). This is a truth that applies not just to those who treat you adversely, but to those of whom you’re jealous as well. Maybe it’s a co-worker, or perhaps a friend. It could even be someone in your own family. Just remember, you’ll never look good by trying to make someone else look bad. When jealousy strikes, try a dose of kindness instead.

Because we’re human, goodness isn’t an instinct that comes naturally. It’s only when we purpose to be the change that changes really happen. As Moody said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” Doing good is not always easy, but in due season you’ll reap, as long as you don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Originally published as “Do the opposite.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. October 11, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Tuesday

20

November 2018

Hope Reflected | The Gift of Giving

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"The gift of giving is a blessing." | See more at hopereflected.com

The Gift of Giving

3 examples of generosity from which we can learn

Last weekend, Wes and I were waiting in line for the car wash, and when the vehicle in front of us finished, the driver announced, “I got it started for you!” As we pulled ahead, we realized that the driver had paid for our car wash. What an awesome, unexpected blessing!

Later in the week, our neighbours invited us over for tea and cake, to celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary. We were so touched that they wanted to share their special day with us, and that they wanted to give to us.

The gift of giving is a blessing, regardless of the type of giving. Some people give of their time, while others give of their finances, and some give of their talents. Regardless of how you give, giving is a gift.

There are so many examples of the gift of giving that we can learn from in the Bible. Whether Old Testament or New, we can all learn from the examples of generosity in the Bible.

Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. He is a primary example that the gift of giving doesn’t have to be about money. Beyond financial giving, the Good Samaritan saved a life, a life that others went out of their way to avoid. He gave his time, he gave of himself, and he even risked his own reputation to give to another. “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” (Luke 10:33) Even the act of compassion for someone else is an example of the gift of giving. Compassion! Showing sympathy and a caring heart toward another is one way of giving to someone. We can all be challenged to give the gift of compassion.

We can learn from the example of the poor widow in Mark 12. The poor widow taught us that you don’t have to have a lot in order to give. “For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12:44) The widow gave everything she had, literally. She only had two mites, and she gave them. Perhaps you already give regularly to a cause or through tithing at church. We can all learn from the poor widow what true giving really is. Giving a lot isn’t a prerequisite to the gift of giving. Even when you think you don’t have anything worth giving, you do. Give in faith.

And what about Zachhaeus, the money collector! Yes, that’s right. We learn from Zacchaeus that the gift of giving is something that can be learned. The man who was famous for taking money had an incredible turnaround when he came to know Christ. Zacchaeus, who started out as a tax collector, turned around in faith and turned into a giver! “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” (Luke 19:8) Perhaps your track record isn’t representative of the gift of giving. Anyone can change; you just have to purpose in your heart. As C.S. Lewis once said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

The gift of giving doesn’t have to be overly elaborate. Sometimes the simple and quiet gift of giving has the biggest blessing of all.

Originally published as “The Gift of Giving.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. September 27, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Friday

21

September 2018

Hope Reflected | Be of good courage

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"Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart." Psalm 27:14 | Read more at hopereflected.com

Be of good courage

It’s up to us to make the decision to live a life filled with courage

If you’re familiar with C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, then you’re likely familiar with the characters of Aslan and Lucy. In Lewis’s book Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan whispers to Lucy, “Courage, dear heart,” and it is shortly after this that the ship Lucy is sailing on travels from darkness into light. “And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been,” writes Lewis.

In a recent column, I wrote about the importance of choosing joy, and today I’d like to suggest that courage is also a choice. Courage is a decision that we make in the face of fear, opposition, and uncertainty, and it can change everything.

“Be strong, and of good courage,” are words that, by my count, appear at least 10 times throughout Scripture; these words are written four times in the first chapter of Joshua alone! Time and time again throughout the Bible, we are encouraged and commanded as Christians to be of good courage and to be courageous. To be of good courage and lead by example. To be of good courage and not be afraid or quiet when it seems like the majority of people disagree with you and want to silence you. To be of good courage and to stand firm and to stand up for what is right.

Does that mean that you’re never afraid? No, on the contrary! As Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not the absence of fear.” Does that mean that it’s easy to stand up for what’s right and defend your faith? No, on the contrary! Courage is a choice that as Christians we’re called to make, regardless of the circumstances. Joshua was called to be courageous when it came time to lead the Israelites into a new and unknown land. David reminded himself to be courageous during seasons of persecution. Paul demonstrated courage when he traveled across the world and taught about Jesus and came up against many people who disagreed with him.

Courage. We can take courage in many different areas:

  1. God’s Word and Promises. “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Referenced several times throughout Deuteronomy and Joshua alone, we can take courage in God’s Word and Promises. God is always with us. God will not fail us. God will not forsake us. Don’t be dismayed. Don’t be discouraged, because God is with you! Don’t believe me? Ask Him. If you truly seek God out, you will find Him. And that’s a fact. We can take courage in God’s Word and in His Promises, because they never change. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:8). Not just for one hundred years. Not just for one thousand years. God’s Word stands forever. Some people may not like it, many people may try to fight it, but we can be strong and of a good courage because the Bible is our firm foundation, and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)!
  2. Other Christian Believers. “And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us… whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.” (Acts 28:15) You know that feeling you get when you realize that someone else shares the same faith, or when you discover that there’s someone else out there who totally gets something you thought only you understood? We can take courage in other Christian believers. Each one of us can take time to “encourage” other Christian believers. Just as thousands of candles can be lighted from a single flame, all it takes is one voice to speak out and to stand up for our faith, and that can inspire others to do the same. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John… they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) As Christians, we aren’t called to be silent. We aren’t called to be pacifists. On the contrary, we are called to be strong and to be courageous, and to stand up and be counted. Maybe that means witnessing to someone who doesn’t know the Lord. Maybe that means getting out and voting, even if you’ve never done it before. Maybe that means being silent and not laughing when someone says something crude or makes fun of another. We can take courage in other Christians, and we can also encourage one another.
  3. Our Faith in the Lord. “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14) Living our Faith can be hard, can’t it? Especially when sometimes it seems like God is silent, or like He can’t hear us, or during times when we think we’ve got everything under control only to be thrown curve ball after curve ball. As Charles Stanley says, “Obey God, and leave the consequences to Him.” Exercising patience and prayerfully waiting on the Lord before making a decision can be one of the hardest things. But the wait is worth it. When you choose courage and exercise your faith, the Lord will bless you. “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24) When we choose courage, God will strengthen our hearts. It may not always be in exactly the way we plan, but part of having Faith means not resting in our own knowledge or following our own leads (Proverbs 3:5-6). “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong,” we’re encouraged in 1 Corinthians 16:13. We can find courage in our Faith.

The greatest place of all to take courage? When you know the Lord as your personal Saviour, you’ve got something that no man, no weapon, no illness, no circumstance can ever take away. The security that comes with God’s gift of eternal salvation should be all the “encouragement” we need to take courage. “Courage,” said C.S. Lewis, “is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” It’s up to us to make the decision to live a life filled with it.

Originally published as “Courage, Dear Heart.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. April 19, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Friday

14

September 2018

Hope Reflected | Choose Joy

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

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"We have to choose joy, and keep choosing it." (Henri J.M. Nouwen) | Read more at hopereflected.com

Choose Joy

Joy can be found in many places

While many people believe that happiness and joy are one and the same, I’ve often said that happiness is a feeling and joy is a choice. One of my favourite quotes is about joy: “We have to choose joy, and keep choosing it.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

The notion to “choose joy” suggests that joy isn’t so much a feeling as it is a choice or a habit that we purposefully develop. While you may not be happy, you can still choose joy. While happiness resides temporarily in your heart and relies solely on your circumstances, joy indwells your spirit and can be yours at any time so long as you make the choice.

C.S. Lewis once said, “no soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. To those who knock, it is opened.” Lewis also said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me ‘happy’.” Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed the path to Easy street. Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from challenges. Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean that you’ll always be “happy”, but it does mean that you’ve got a relationship with the Creator, and you’ve got direct access to the One Whose arm can move the world.

Mentioned more than 165 times throughout the Bible, joy is a fascinating thing. Joy, when we choose it, can arm us and equip us with many blessings. Joy can be found in many places.

  1. In God’s presence. “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11) When was the last time that you sat and just revelled in God’s presence? We often get caught up going through the motions of our morning or evening devotions and telling the Lord what we want from Him through prayer once or twice a day that we miss out on the simple delight that comes when we stop to enjoy His presence. It’s in His presence that we can experience the fullness of joy.
  2. In sorrow. “Make me to hear joy and gladness;” (Psalm 51:8) This verse continues, “…that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” That’s heavy. David (yes, David as in David and Goliath, that David) wrote Psalm 51 at a very low point in his life. He had an affair with a married woman (Bathsheba) whose husband was away at war. And what happened? Bathsheba became pregnant, and to cover his tracks, David ultimately had her husband Uriah killed at war. The prophet Nathan called David out on his sin, he repented, and that’s the backstory to David penning Psalm 51. In the midst of his sorrow, David asked the Lord to make him hear joy and gladness. And the Lord heard him. David’s testimony isn’t the only place we read about finding joy in sorrow or hardship. In James 1, we’re encouraged and reminded to consider it “all joy” when we experience trials, because it is then that our faith produces patience.
  3. In creation. “For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.” (Psalm 92:4) There’s something to be said about the experience of enjoying (to find joy in) the outdoors and God’s creation. Every morning before the sun rises, I can hear the birds singing for joy outside my window. Joy can be found in taking a walk and breathing fresh air, or in planting and tending a garden. There’s a quote about gardening that says, “he who shares the joy in what he’s grown spreads joy abroad and doubles his own.”
  4. In the morning. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Lamentations 3:22-23 says that, “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Along with the Lord’s mercies, joy comes in the morning. If you’re not a morning person, I can appreciate this may not be what you want to hear, but it’s true. There’s something about the quiet of a new day dawning, an opportunity to start over, and a fresh perspective that makes joy that much easier to find.

Nehemiah 8:10 provides the reassurance that, “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” If you’re truly seeking after joy, God will give you strength. And it is only in God that your joy will be full (John 15:11).

Originally published as “Choose Joy.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. April 12, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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