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Friday, February 28, 2014

Our strength is in our struggles


I have been trying to think how best to frame the things I am led to share with you on this post. Best way I know how is simply to start typing so forgive me if I seem a bit disjointed at the start. I had a pretty rough few days from late last week and into the earlier parts of this week. I found myself faced with some truly heart-wrenching and hurtful interactions, conversations and written communications that left me wondering the genesis of the how and why it had somehow been assumed that I was the brain and force behind certain events that were evolving. Have you ever been in that situation sis? If you have, then you know it’s pretty painful, particularly when you know of a truth that the weights of the things you are being accused of actually do not lie with you. I had to contend with being challenged with a ‘and you are parading yourself as a Christian’ statement. That hurt! It hurt probably more than anything else, for truly all I am about at this point in my life is working to live a life that brings glory to the God Who it is a passion and privilege for me to serve.

Sis, it’s already a daily struggle to ensure flesh does not hold sway in thought, word or deed; but with determination, we are all walking out this salvation walk in fear and trembling aren't we? I haven’t been able to shake this singular phrase from my mind out of the very many wrongful and harsh things said. I don’t believe I have ever tried to hold myself out as being perfect, or as having attained any righteousness of my own. Indeed, my philosophy is that more of us need to be real and open about our many weaknesses so that we don’t inadvertently intimidate others who don’t know better. Beyond this though, I found myself siting down to do some really hard reflecting and questioning myself as to what image it is that I really project – not to man this time, but to God Himself. 

You see sis, the Holy Spirit had very quickly reminded me that it is our lot to be misunderstood. Such is the way of the flesh. Among the very best of us sis, it is always so much easier to see the speck in someone else’s eye than it is to see the plank that is in ours. It is so much easier to look disdainfully at someone who dresses are too short and whose breasts too exposed, than it is to see that we are ourselves walking in pride. It is so much easier to shake our heads at thieves and murderers, and forget that sometimes we are envious and covet big-time – sins which in the eyes of God are practically synonymous with stealing/killing. We are so busy looking down our noses at people who sleep around with multiple partners that we disregard the fact that sometimes our minds are filled with impure thoughts or we lust after someone with our eyes – and we know what the Bible says about looking lustfully at a person right? Sometimes, we screw our faces up in disgust at overweight people sitting down to yet another large meal, and we don’t see the clear greed manifesting when we salivate over yet another pair of shoes, a dress, or a bag and the extent we will sometimes go to get it. I could go on, but you get my drift don’t you sis?

So as I thought about this young lady that has said of me ‘and you parade yourself as a Christian’, I thought about how if she would only look deep into her own closet, sis. I kinda suspect she would have a few skeletons hidden in there herself. I kinda suspect that even if she kept the closet door firmly shut to the world (and herself), that in the daily thoughts and intents of her hearts, in her daily dealings with people, in her marriage, at her workplace, in her everyday living, she would probably find that she is very much also in the same journey of walking out her salvation, and in the same daily struggle to overcome flesh and the world. But today’s message is not about this young woman. Indeed, it is my conviction that the message in church this last Sunday on ‘Forgiveness’ was a clear call for me to let it all go and trust God alone to be my righteous judge. No sis, there is a much bigger purpose for this post today.

I was watching a message by Bishop TD Jakes a few minutes ago (his ‘Reel it in’ series. I suggest you go get it) and he started to ask why it is that people always want to judge you and hold you back by the “Ishmael’s” in your life. He said how more unfortunately, many of us unwittingly hold ourselves back by judging ourselves - focusing more on the ‘Ishmael’s’ in our lives than what the Lord wants to do with our today’s and tomorrow’s. What is an Ishmael? According to Bishop Jakes, an Ishmael represents a complication; something in your life that is a weight; something that doesn’t look good or smell great. Mostly, Ishmael’s arise in our lives when we try to move ahead of God and do things in our own strength and then find ourselves birthing results that we struggle on with endlessly. Sometimes though, we inherit our Ishmael’s out of some life circumstance or the other over which we do not have full control. But here’s what really got me sis. Bishop Jakes said ‘Every conqueror has an Ishmael, a complication. But, your complications are not an indication that you cannot conquer. When everyone around is busy asking you ‘How can you be a Christian? What about your Ishmael?’ God says to you, ‘I know about Ishmael. I am more than able to correct your complication. I already have a plan for your mistake. I can work with you, in you and through you, just the way you are’.

Bishop Jakes talked about how the challenge is that too many people have deified their spiritual leaders, elevating them in their minds to the status of demi-god’s and forgetting that before all else, a man or woman of God is a man, or a woman. The ‘of God’ part is an ongoing journey of growth. Most people have forgotten that even those they look up to spiritually have their own issues and struggles. And, he said, once a person forgets this, then it becomes easy for them to look at any real or presumed failing on the part of that person and begin to ask ‘How can you birth your Ishmael and still call yourself a Christian?’. Bishop then proclaimed, ‘Everyone who calls themselves a Christian needs to recognize that for them and indeed for everyone else, our strength as Christians arises out of our struggles’. Sis, you will agree with me that this is nothing short of wisdom from on high. Remember that He has said that His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Remember?

So then, this is my message for today. Sis, in those times when you find yourself questioning your walk with God, or perhaps find someone else questioning your walk with God, stare your ‘Ishmael’ in the face and make some bold declarations in the name of Jesus Christ. Declare that you ARE a Christian – not because of your good works or lack thereof, but (in total trust to the truth that is in God’s word) because of your complete faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His birth, His sufferings and the Blood He shed for your sake; the ultimate price he paid with His life for your sake; and His rise from the death to sit at the right hand of God the Father, constantly making intercession for you, and looking forward to having you share eternal life with Him in heaven. He died so that you might live sis. if you believe this with all of your spirit, soul and being, then you are a Christian!

Declare that you are a Christian because even as daily you war with your flesh, your spirit is at one with the Lord and your inner man is constantly being transformed until that last day when you will be fully conformed to the likeness of God our Father Almighty, the uncreated Creator, the Alpha and Omega, the King of Glory, the Maker of heaven and the earth. Declare that you are a Christian because your life is hid in Christ Jesus. Declare that you are a Christian because your Father in heaven specializes in using the lost, the broken, the weak, the foolish things of the earth, the broken vessels, the rejected, the dejected, the condemned, scorned, etc. If God used the many weak vessels that He did to do great things in the Bible, and if He has declared that He is no respecter of persons, and that He is the same God yesterday, today and forever; then  sis, He is more than able to use Ishmael-bearing you and Ishmael-bearing me. Jesus said clearly that He came to seek and save the lost. The church is not the place for only the saved. Rather, it is the place that sinners ...of which all of us are, can run to and access eternal hope and righteousness in Christ Jesus.

The call to Christ does not mean an attainment of perfection sis, so don’t let anyone or any situation cause you to feel that you do not qualify. Can I remind you sis that God does not call the qualified but He qualifies those that He calls? This is deep truth, sis. Don’t ever let it go! The work of the enemy is to accuse; to cause you to question yourself; to cause you to doubt. Hold on to God, sis. It is He and He alone that will determine your path. Complications and all, hold on to God. You may be misunderstood, accused, insulted, sneered at, judged harshly, spoken ill of…. It’s all okay, sis. At worst, if any of these are warranted, then the Lord will use the experience to clean out your stable slowly and surely. If they are not, then He will still use the experience to move you to a new level of glory. One thing is clear, man may fail you, but God will not. Every struggle in your life – justly or unjustly imposed on you by others or yourself will take you to a deeper place in Him…if you just hold on, sis. So you call yourself a Christian? Sis, I certainly do! Struggles, complications, Ishmael’s and all! 

As you look in your spiritual mirror, see yourself with the eyes of the Father sis, and let nothing shake your faith and pull you away from your Father. He sees all our struggles, sis. He knows how to work with ad around them. As we hold on to Him regardless, He will release strength for us to arise and come out all-round victorious in the end. The Lord will help you sis! He will help me!

Be blessed sis… for you surely are!

2 comments:

  1. I love this...Oh, how many times have I heard those cut you to the quick words 'And you call yourself a woman of God!'. How many times.....But you nailed it. You said more or less what I always say or scream or blubber...Yes, I am but not because I am good in your eyes. But because of the blood.....That I say I am that does not mean I am perfect! I just want to be.

    Bless your heart for this. I feel you 100%



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  2. Thank you for sharing this. It is always good to be reminded that I stand because Jesus holds me up. I am also encouraged tho forbear with those who from afar at my struggles and say to me with disdain, "...and you call yourself a Christian"

    ReplyDelete

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About Me

Entrepreneur, Mentor, Wife, Mother, Sister, Friend. A firm believer in God. Walking in faith everyday that by His grace, I will achieve harmony in all areas of my life, and make measurable impact in the lives of other women of the world

WORD FOR THE WEEK

LUKE 1:

34“-How can this be, Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God

JEREMIAH 2:

5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you [as My chosen instrument], and before you were born I separated and set you apart, consecrating you; [and] I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

6 Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am only a youth. 7 But the Lord said to me, Say not, I am only a youth; for you shall go to all to whom I shall send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.

8 Be not afraid of them [their faces], for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord. 9 Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. 10 See, I have this day appointed you to the oversight of the nations and of the kingdoms to root out and pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

1st CORINTHIANS 1:

25 [This is] because the foolish thing [that has its source in] God is wiser than men, and the weak thing [that springs] from God is stronger than men. 26 For [simply] consider your own call, brethren; not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth. 27 [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame. 28 And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is lowborn and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are,

Colossians 1:

28 Him we preach and proclaim, warning and admonishing everyone and instructing everyone in all wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God), that we may present every person mature (full-grown, fully initiated, complete, and perfect) in Christ (the Anointed One).

29 For this I labor [[z]unto weariness], striving with all the superhuman energy which He so mightily enkindles and works within me.