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Posts tagged ‘Strength through Adversity’

Staying Power – Strength through Adversity

StrengthFor the first-century Christians, suffering was the rule rather than the exception.

Paul holds out encouragement to his hard-pressed readers by painting a portrait of what they will eventually become.

But this is no escapism.  Spliced together with that vision of the future is the understanding that we must overcome now before we can become then.

Interact with God’s Word:  Romans 5:3-5

  1. Is Paul telling us that we should learn to like pain or deny the tragedy of suffering?
  2. If not, why should we rejoice when we encounter difficulties?
  3. If, as verse 5 claims, God dearly loves you, why may He be permitting trials in your life?
  4. How does the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit underscore God’s love?
  5. What does Christ’s death tell you about your value to God?
  6. Why would a strengthened character promote deepened confidence about the future?
  7. How can you deal with the problems you face daily in God’s strength?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for what you are confidently expecting. Ask Him for the strength of character to grow strong through endurance.

Romans 5:3-5

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Called to What?

StrengthKey Bible Verse: Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:24

Bonus Reading: Psalm 73:21-26

[continued from yesterday]  Winding my way through dark city streets, I found myself wishing for light. In today’s exchanges with four friends serving at the extreme ends of society, no trite God-has-you-here-for-a-reason advice would be helpful. Their questioning of their own calling, though fearful, was necessary. Questioning God was honest. Their doubts had integrity.

Surely God doesn’t toy with the emotions of those who desire to follow Him. But when we’ve listened as carefully as we know how and have positioned ourselves as best we can discern in the epicenter of His will, why would we encounter so much resistance, frustration, and stress?

Spiritual warfare?  Lack of faith?  Wrong method or timing?  I can’t give an answer.  But regardless, there seems but one appropriate response to this holy entrapment: endure.

Could it be that divine calling isn’t even about accomplishment?

What if success is defined not in measurable productivity but in the quality of our interactions with others?

What if the criterion by which we’re ultimately evaluated is faithfulness rather than performance?

Even more baffling, what if calling isn’t primarily about effecting change but rather about being changed ourselves?

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: If God has called me, can I expect the results to be visible?

Thought to Apply: Don’t bother to give God instructions; just report for duty.—Corrie Ten Boom (Dutch speaker & author)

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Facing Frustrations

StrengthKey Bible Verse: “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses?”  – Jeremiah 12:5

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:12-13

[continued from yesterday]  My day ended at a restaurant in a converted warehouse with Dana Walker and Kerry Reid, in from D.C. for a conference they’d initiated.  “Why is doing good so hard?” these leaders of President Bush’s faith-based initiative asked as we dipped sourdough bread chunks into a saucer of garlic and olive oil.

These dynamic, visionary leaders, elevated to positions of responsibility at a high level of government, confessed their weariness in doing their best to accomplish a kingdom mission, only to have their efforts challenged, undermined, ignored, and devalued by both government and church.

The President, committed to the church’s re-engagement as a service provider, had inspired them both to join him in this mission. But his handlers, they soon discovered, had other priorities, diverting his attention from the faith-based agenda.

Career bureaucrats proved resistant to new ideas that disrupt their familiar routines. And the church is suspicious of government involvement, afraid of “strings,” fearful of trading away its message for the seduction of easy money.

“We’re not sure now that this is where we should be.”  Consternation and doubt were etched on their faces. [continued tomorrow]

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: How do political, psychological, or spiritual opposition factor into my understanding of God’s guidance?

Thought to Apply: Our extremity is God’s opportunity.—Rees Howells (Welsh miner turned Bible school founder)

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Dealing with Doubts

StrengthKey Bible Verse: And I say to the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.  – 2 Thessalonians 3:13

Bonus Reading: Luke 9:57-62

My day began over an early breakfast at the Good News Café with Chris and Rebecca Gray.  They dove right into a matter heavy on their minds.

“Why is doing good so hard?” Rebecca teared up as she uttered the words.  “We do our best, we’re as responsible as we know how to be, we try to stay sensitive to God’s leading … yet something always derails our plans.  Our best efforts don’t accomplish half what they should for the kingdom!”

The Grays aren’t complainers.  Far from it!  They’re high-capacity military officers who left active duty four years ago to assume a leadership role in our ministry.

But serious fatigue registered on Rebecca’s face. Weight loss from stress-aggravated digestive disorder added to her anxiety.  Chris, unflappable and rock steady, wore a concerned expression.

No couple I’ve met has grasped the essence of urban ministry as well and quickly as the Grays.  The moment they hit the ground in Atlanta, they began to distinguish themselves as capable and sensitive leaders.

Called, visionary, unthreatened, and unthreatening, they combine all the gifts required to lead Family Consultation Service into the future.  Yet Rebecca implored, “Have we made a huge mistake?” [continued tomorrow]

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: How should the Grays view job offers for more money with less stress?

Thought to Apply: God gives burdens, also shoulders.—Yiddish Proverb

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – The Seven-Year Itch

StrengthKey Bible Verse: Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Hebrews 10:36

Bonus Reading: James 1:1-4, 12

The “seven-year itch” shows up on the job as well as in marriages.  I decided I needed different work.  All I had to do was tell my boss.

Ours had been a turbulent relationship.  I was certain he would be glad to see me go.  I was wrong.

Bob sat on his side of the desk, arms folded.  I looked out the window, then, at him.  “I’m leaving,” I announced.  “I’ve done the best I can, but I need to move on.  Here’s my letter of resignation.”

His eyes followed the envelope.  Silence.  “No you’re not,” he said.

“What did you say?”

“I said you’re not leaving.  We need you.  You’re an excellent employee.  We can’t afford to lose you, Cliff.”  It was a rare compliment.

“Bob, I’m telling you I’m leaving.”

“And I’m asking you to stay,” he said quietly.  “Please?”

More silence.  A songbird sang outside his window.  My eyes filled with tears.  “Then, I will,” I said softly.

“Thank you,” he answered.  “Thank you.”

That was 27 years ago.  I’m still here.  By staying with my organization, I have matured, grown in faith, and learned what it means to serve.

—Clifford Denay Jr. in Michigan

My Response: I’ll consider if my inclination to quit might be a long-term solution to what is really a short-term problem.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Strength through Adversity

StrengthFor the first-century Christians, suffering was the rule rather than the exception.

Paul holds out encouragement to his hard-pressed readers by painting a portrait of what they will eventually become.

But this is no escapism.  Spliced together with that vision of the future is the understanding that we must overcome now before we can become then.

Interact with God’s Word:  Romans 5:3-5

  1. Is Paul telling us that we should learn to like pain or deny the tragedy of suffering?
  2. If not, why should we rejoice when we encounter difficulties?
  3. If, as verse 5 claims, God dearly loves you, why may He be permitting trials in your life?
  4. How does the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit underscore God’s love?
  5. What does Christ’s death tell you about your value to God?
  6. Why would a strengthened character promote deepened confidence about the future?
  7. How can you deal with the problems you face daily in God’s strength?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Thank God for what you are confidently expecting. Ask Him for the strength of character to grow strong through endurance.

Romans 5:3-5

3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Called to What?

StrengthKey Bible Verse: Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:24

Bonus Reading: Psalm 73:21-26

[continued from yesterday]  Winding my way through dark city streets, I found myself wishing for light. In today’s exchanges with four friends serving at the extreme ends of society, no trite God-has-you-here-for-a-reason advice would be helpful. Their questioning of their own calling, though fearful, was necessary. Questioning God was honest. Their doubts had integrity.

Surely God doesn’t toy with the emotions of those who desire to follow Him. But when we’ve listened as carefully as we know how and have positioned ourselves as best we can discern in the epicenter of His will, why would we encounter so much resistance, frustration, and stress?

Spiritual warfare?  Lack of faith?  Wrong method or timing?  I can’t give an answer.  But regardless, there seems but one appropriate response to this holy entrapment: endure.

Could it be that divine calling isn’t even about accomplishment?

What if success is defined not in measurable productivity but in the quality of our interactions with others?

What if the criterion by which we’re ultimately evaluated is faithfulness rather than performance?

Even more baffling, what if calling isn’t primarily about effecting change but rather about being changed ourselves?

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: If God has called me, can I expect the results to be visible?

Thought to Apply: Don’t bother to give God instructions; just report for duty.—Corrie Ten Boom (Dutch speaker & author)

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Facing Frustrations

StrengthKey Bible Verse: “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses?”  – Jeremiah 12:5

Bonus Reading: Hebrews 12:12-13

[continued from yesterday]  My day ended at a restaurant in a converted warehouse with Dana Walker and Kerry Reid, in from D.C. for a conference they’d initiated.  “Why is doing good so hard?” these leaders of President Bush’s faith-based initiative asked as we dipped sourdough bread chunks into a saucer of garlic and olive oil.

These dynamic, visionary leaders, elevated to positions of responsibility at a high level of government, confessed their weariness in doing their best to accomplish a kingdom mission, only to have their efforts challenged, undermined, ignored, and devalued by both government and church.

The President, committed to the church’s re-engagement as a service provider, had inspired them both to join him in this mission. But his handlers, they soon discovered, had other priorities, diverting his attention from the faith-based agenda.

Career bureaucrats proved resistant to new ideas that disrupt their familiar routines. And the church is suspicious of government involvement, afraid of “strings,” fearful of trading away its message for the seduction of easy money.

“We’re not sure now that this is where we should be.”  Consternation and doubt were etched on their faces. [continued tomorrow]

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: How do political, psychological, or spiritual opposition factor into my understanding of God’s guidance?

Thought to Apply: Our extremity is God’s opportunity.—Rees Howells (Welsh miner turned Bible school founder)

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – Dealing with Doubts

StrengthKey Bible Verse: And I say to the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.  – 2 Thessalonians 3:13

Bonus Reading: Luke 9:57-62

My day began over an early breakfast at the Good News Café with Chris and Rebecca Gray.  They dove right into a matter heavy on their minds.

“Why is doing good so hard?” Rebecca teared up as she uttered the words.  “We do our best, we’re as responsible as we know how to be, we try to stay sensitive to God’s leading … yet something always derails our plans.  Our best efforts don’t accomplish half what they should for the kingdom!”

The Grays aren’t complainers.  Far from it!  They’re high-capacity military officers who left active duty four years ago to assume a leadership role in our ministry.

But serious fatigue registered on Rebecca’s face. Weight loss from stress-aggravated digestive disorder added to her anxiety.  Chris, unflappable and rock steady, wore a concerned expression.

No couple I’ve met has grasped the essence of urban ministry as well and quickly as the Grays.  The moment they hit the ground in Atlanta, they began to distinguish themselves as capable and sensitive leaders.

Called, visionary, unthreatened, and unthreatening, they combine all the gifts required to lead Family Consultation Service into the future.  Yet Rebecca implored, “Have we made a huge mistake?” [continued tomorrow]

—Robert Lupton in Renewing the City

My Response: How should the Grays view job offers for more money with less stress?

Thought to Apply: God gives burdens, also shoulders.—Yiddish Proverb

Adapted from Renewing the City (InterVarsity, 2005).

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.

 

Staying Power – The Seven-Year Itch

StrengthKey Bible Verse: Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Hebrews 10:36

Bonus Reading: James 1:1-4, 12

The “seven-year itch” shows up on the job as well as in marriages.  I decided I needed different work.  All I had to do was tell my boss.

Ours had been a turbulent relationship.  I was certain he would be glad to see me go.  I was wrong.

Bob sat on his side of the desk, arms folded.  I looked out the window, then, at him.  “I’m leaving,” I announced.  “I’ve done the best I can, but I need to move on.  Here’s my letter of resignation.”

His eyes followed the envelope.  Silence.  “No you’re not,” he said.

“What did you say?”

“I said you’re not leaving.  We need you.  You’re an excellent employee.  We can’t afford to lose you, Cliff.”  It was a rare compliment.

“Bob, I’m telling you I’m leaving.”

“And I’m asking you to stay,” he said quietly.  “Please?”

More silence.  A songbird sang outside his window.  My eyes filled with tears.  “Then, I will,” I said softly.

“Thank you,” he answered.  “Thank you.”

That was 27 years ago.  I’m still here.  By staying with my organization, I have matured, grown in faith, and learned what it means to serve.

—Clifford Denay Jr. in Michigan

My Response: I’ll consider if my inclination to quit might be a long-term solution to what is really a short-term problem.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, You’ve placed me in a challenging spot. Give me the faith, courage, and strength to stand tall there.