Hardships and Trials, Intentional growth

God—the Ultimate Coach

girl jumping large

I like to watch American Ninja Warrior, a television show where competitors move through an obstacle course with agility and superhuman strength. Contenders refuse to quit, even when they face their last obstacle—a fourteen-foot wall that curves inward. As they prepare to climb, the crowd urges them from the sidelines like a beloved coach. I watch rapt from the edge of my couch, practically reaching with them. When they make it, the crowd cheers, and I cheer too.

The Ninja course isn’t designed to make competitors fail—it’s designed to make them better. Each athlete brings their own strategies, strengths, and weaknesses to the course. I’m not a Ninja Warrior, but I am a Christian, and my life overflows with obstacles. If I’m not careful, difficulties can leave me feeling like God doesn’t love me. After all, if God really loves me, why not make my life easy? Click To Tweet

Our answer is found in Hebrews 12:7-11. As the writer urges, we shouldn’t falter when the Lord disciplines us, for He’s treating us like a favored daughter. If He didn’t help us grow, He wouldn’t be a father who cared. Don’t we respect authority in our life when it teaches us wisdom? God disciplines us for a short time for our good. Yes, it can be painful in the moment, but if we’re willing to learn from it, our life will produce peace and goodness. When I face a seemingly insurmountable wall, God leads me over it like an expert coach. Click To Tweet

When we go through hard things, we get better. God Coach blog 2

I desire to be a mature Christian. Looking back at challenges I’ve experienced, I thank God for the changes they brought in me. When I face a seemingly insurmountable wall, God leads me over it like an expert coach. Through help from the Holy Spirit and the Bible, He encourages me to remain strong during every obstacle I face.

As God continues to delight in me, His beloved child, He’ll continue to allow circumstances to teach me. When I am willing to trade my comfort and ease for training in godliness, I become a strong woman of God. Like a father who cares for his daughter, God has a remedy for my childish ways.

Are you able to look back and see where God helped you through a tough time? If you’re in a difficult place now, do you have a favorite Bible verse or prayer that reminds you God is coaching you for the greater good?

 

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Faith, fear, God's Will, Hardships and Trials, obedience, Uncategorized

Training for Our Heavenly Race

By Jessica Brodie

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

It was harder than I imagined. There I was on the side of the lake, face beet-red and lungs about to explode, not to mention sweat dripping off every inch of my frame. I’d convinced myself I could jog the length of the dam, only my body was far more accustomed to race-walking and circuit training than a nonstop pounding run.

“How do people do this?” I asked my sister breathlessly.

“You just have to train,” she replied. “Few people can just lace up and run a 5K out of nowhere. You have to build up, little by little.”

I followed her advice. Every day, I’d start by walking, then I’d run—first just a few minutes before shifting back to a fast walk, then increasing my run time. Soon I was doing far more running than walking. By the morning of the 5K, I’d trained enough. I completed the 3.10686 miles out of breath but victorious. I’d persevered! I’d run the race! And now I could celebrate.

In our earthly lives, we know perseverance—resolve, tenacity, determination—pays off, and not just when it comes to running. We persevere in studying hard for our final exams so we can achieve good grades. Through difficulties in our jobs so we can remain employed and advance our careers. Through troubles in our relationships, fighting for a healthy family.

And when it comes to our spiritual lives, perseverance is critical.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, #perseverance is critical. Click To Tweet

When we believe in Jesus and repent of our sins, we receive eternal salvation. But sometimes our faith is sorely tested. We face trials and temptations. We pray for health, only to receive a scary diagnosis. We hope for relief, only to experience the devastation of a hurricane. We love others well, and get rejected. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep the faith.

Sometimes our #faith is sorely tested. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep the faith. That’s when we need to hold fast and press on. #holdon #jesus Click To Tweet

But Scripture tells us to hold fast and press on. In the Book of Hebrews, the author reminds us that we are to model ourselves after Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter of faith,” who ran the race with perseverance. “For the joy set before Him (Jesus) endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3 ESV).

Jesus encountered much difficulty during His life on earth, even more than us. He was questioned, mocked, challenged, beaten, tortured, and ultimately hung on a cross by the very people He had hoped to save. But He kept His eyes on God and did God’s will. He persevered because the future goodness outweighed the present suffering. He taught and healed, and He died for us so that we, too, may be saved for eternal life.

#Jesus encountered much #difficulty during His life on earth, even more than us. He was questioned, mocked, challenged, beaten, tortured, and ultimately hung on a #cross by the very people He had hoped to save. But He kept His eyes… Click To Tweet

When we set our sights on God despite opposition, we will follow Jesus and be victorious in our trials. How do we do that? We train ourselves to pray, to focus on God’s Word the Bible, to follow Him, to put Him first, and to love others as we love ourselves.

When we set our sights on God despite #opposition, we will follow #Jesus and be #victorious in our trials. Click To Tweet

Sometimes the race gets hard. Our course might take us uphill over rocky terrain. We might slip or want to give up. But when we cling to our faith and push aside any stumbling blocks, when we keep our eyes on the prize (eternal life in heaven!), our perseverance will pay off.

Our course might take us uphill over rocky terrain. We might slip or want to give up. But when we cling to our #faith and push aside any stumbling blocks, our #perseverance will pay off. #nevergiveup Click To Tweet

What is holding you down? What hardship seems too big to overcome? Little by little, lace up your sneakers by turning your heart toward God and make Him a priority. Build up your muscles and lungs by reading God’s Word. With Jesus, you will persevere and run the race.

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian author, journalist, editor, and writing coach with a faith blog, Shining the Light, at JessicaBrodie.com.

Faith

Hope in Chronic Illness — Guest Post

woman gazing toward the sunrise with quote from Matthew Henry

Grasping for Hope

by Jennifer Henn

Several years ago, I was wasting away from undiagnosed Celiac Disease. It affected every system in my body. When the doctors finally determined the cause of my symptoms, I weighed 100 pounds and couldn’t absorb nutrients. They ordered me to rest, saying, “Do nothing so you can heal.”

Those are hard words for a mother to hear. I was willing to do anything to quicken my healing. I thought if I could understand certain Bible passages, and put those truths into practice, my hardship would soon be over. I read and memorized Scripture, studied and journaled about it, hoping for a full understanding. But I had the wrong perspective. God wanted to work within my heart, and heart surgery takes time.

I cried, “Why is this so hard!” I struggled to grasp the truth and personal application of the Scripture I’d read.

I wanted change in my life—now. But I’ve learned God wants me to have a deeper understanding of His truth, which can’t be immediately grasped.

The first couple of years following my diagnosis were the hardest and often brought me to one section of Scripture in the Bible.  “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, ESV).

In my exhausted state, I often questioned whether my character was improving. The weight of never feeling well and multiple doctor appointments bore down on the weak places in my soul. In my quiet time, I asked God, “Am I persevering? Will I find the hope Romans talks about?”

I needed hope that God’s Word is true when it says I am loved and that His ways are greater than mine. Meditating on this truth needed to be a daily practice in order to end the voice of despair taunting my mind.

To keep hope in view, I asked a friend who makes jewelry to make me a bracelet. I asked it be made with three different colored stones. Green would represent perseverance, red character, and a faux diamond for hope.

The bracelet companion reminded me that God was working things out of me that needed to go. Things like stubborn reliance on myself or the craving for people’s approval. At the same time, He worked in my ability to trust Him. While I learned to praise God in my storm, He gave me hope.

When I look back, I see hope was there the entire time. It took hope to ask for the bracelet to be made. Hope led me to continue in perseverance with prayer and the reading of Scripture. Hope opened my eyes to the sufferings of others which took the focus off myself. And hope showed itself when others said, “I see Jesus in you.”

When I focused on the struggle, I became discouraged. But over time, I learned that understanding comes through the struggle. God supplied hope through His love to keep me going. And through it all, my perspective on life changed.

When we praise God through our suffering, He works in hope. Once we have a deep sustaining hope, we can bring encouragement to others. Today, in your difficult circumstance, believe in hope. Praise the One who made you and is doing a good work in you.

Let’s talk about this!

Where might you be missing hope that’s in front of you? Who do you know that needs encouragement through their time of hopelessness?

Did this devotion encourage you?

If so, make sure to check out our Bible reading plan available now on the YouVersion app! You can find Cover image for Bible study devotionalit HERE! And make sure to grab a copy of our 90-day devotional, Drawing Near. You can find that HERE.

Get to know Jennifer!

Jennifer Henn homeschooled for nineteen years. She speaks and writes about her experiences from preschool through high school. Discouraged by the trend of homeschoolers to label themselves, she shares a balanced approach. She believes you can teach your children at home while enjoying the freedom to explore their individual interests.

Her first book, Take The Mystery Out of Homeschooling: A How-To Guide, takes parents incrementally through the basics of homeschooling and offers practical advice so they can make informed decisions.

Visit her on her website, follow her on Facebook and Instragram, and purchase her book on Amazon.

Are you considering homeschooling your children but have no idea how it’s done? Take The Mystery Out of Homeschooling: A How-To Guide takes parents incrementally through the basics and offers practical advice so they can make informed decisions. Easy to navigate sections include: popular teaching methods, what subjects to teach, how to schedule the school year, socializing your children, where to get help, record keeping, and much more!Jennifer puts your mind at ease through personal examples of her own and other homeschool veterans. If you want to homeschool, and need a resource for success, this book is for you.

 

Enduring Trials, Hardships and Trials, Video Devotion

Choosing to Endure Through the Hard

I’m great at finding escape routes. First sign of trouble, before the flames have begun to roar, I’m grabbing the fire extinguisher, my stash of tootsie rolls, and I’m racing toward the emergency exit.

I’m incredibly trial adverse. When there’s even a hint of difficulty, I launch into fix it mode, and before I can catch my breath—made all the more challenging by my hyperventilation—I’ve strategized numerous game plans and have already started to seek them out. Like all of them. All at once, in case the first five don’t pan out.

But my frantic attempts to remain comfortable leave me stunted, broken, and immature. Perhaps that’s why God allows me to continually land in the eye of the storm, urging me to stay. To endure.

To trust, to lean into Jesus, and to grow.

In James chapter one, Jesus’ brother wrote the words that make many of us cringe. Consider it joy, my brothers and sisters, when trials and temptations come. Because the testing of our faith develops perseverance.

The ability to hold tight, undeterred, unswerving, to our call to know Christ and make Him known, even when we have every reason to cave.

This enduring hinges on one easily overlooked, three letter word: Let. “Let perseverance finish it’s work,” James said. Don’t run away. Don’t crawl out from under it. Instead, plant your feet, grit your teeth, and lean as hard as you must on your Savior, because though it hurts now, this is how God is making you perfect, complete.

Emotionally and spiritually whole.

Few, if told they had an abscessed tooth would habitually avoid the dentist. Those with cancer intentionally seek treatment, knowing full well how difficult that journey will be.

Do we seek spiritual and emotional health with the same passion and focus? Or are we distracted by our never-ending search for an escape route.

Life’s going to hit. Hard.

Trials and temptations aren’t optional, but how we face them is. We can feed our fight or flight response until it grows stronger and we weaker, or we can fix our feet and our thoughts on our Savior as He chisels and molds, stretches and grows us.

The next time life squeezes you and leaves you searching for the emergency exit, drop to your knees instead. Hold tight to Jesus, asking Him to give you the strength to endure, as you learn to live Wholly Loved.