surrender

When Small Acts of Obedience Lead to Great Impact

quote on obedience with marbelized pink background

What began as a major inconvenience turned into a beautiful blessing adding purpose to my monotonous days and revealing God’s tender heart.

We were living in Southern California at the time. My husband worked long hours, traveled a lot, and I often felt lonely, insignificant, and unseen. As a stay-at-home mom, I wanted something exciting, something “important” to do.

I was not looking for more ways to “mother”, but that was precisely what happened. One afternoon, an acquaintance called needing an after school ride for her daughter. Thinking this was a one-time occurrence, I agreed, only to receive another call, then another.

I grew frustrated and felt taken advantage of. Soon, I attached all sorts of assumptions to her requests,I thought, “Obviously this woman devalues my time and thinks I spend my days watching television. She should at least pay my gas!”

I never considered that God might have a glorious and eternal plan in it all

A few months later,my perspective changed when the teen began asking questions about God. Then I was able to look back, to filter every boring or frustrating or humbling car ride through the knowledge and discernment that can only come from Christ. I realized He was trying to use me for His important work while doing a seemingly ordinary task.

During our interactions, I learned the girl’s home life was hard, emotionally cold, and painful, her heart broken and her thinking deceived. She desperately craved answers—truth that would heal her soul and bring security to her chaos.

When the teen’ mom first called, I had no idea all her daughter had endured or hoped to find. But God knew, and He placed me in a position to be used by Him. To speak life and hope to someone whose world felt dark and hopeless.

Our obedience—in the big and the small, the exciting and the mundane—leads to eternal impact. Click To Tweet
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Because that’s how God operates. Scripture reveals this again and again.

The apostle Paul, a Pharisee turned Christ-follower, is one of my favorite examples. He began his missionary journey with one desire: to share the hope that had changed his life. He didn’t really care where he went, nor was he consumed with how others responded. He simply obeyed—immediately and without question.

We see this in Acts 16:6-10, which states “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phyrgia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (NIV, emphasis mine.)

When the Spirit led or redirected him, Paul obeyed.

The result? He planted numerous churches, discipled countless believers, and wrote a good chunk of the New Testament.

Paul is an example not of the power of a great man nor a brilliant ministry strategy but rather an obedient heart. His obedience led to incredible eternal impact and transformation. Click To Tweet

We too are called to significance, not by the measure of achievement, but by faithfully going where God leads.

What is God calling you to do today? Pause to ask Him, then commit to obeying.

Share your action step with us, and if you have any stories demonstrating how God used a simple act of obedience for something eternally significant, share that too, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you go, have you checked out our next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health, yet? You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

And make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. Jennifer would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram as well.

Faith, Hearing God, Revealing Jesus, surrender

Finding Jesus in the Center of My Pain

JessicaSufferingQuote

Ugly tears coursed down my cheeks. Why? How could this have happened? The betrayal hit me like a gut punch. I wanted to scream it all away, or at the very least tear someone apart with my bare fingernails. But even that wouldn’t make it better, wouldn’t erase what I was going through. I felt so alone.

The hurt felt worse than a knife. It felt like a massive, crushing weight obliterating every inch of who I’d been. And I was left alone to pick up the pieces, not even sure I could.

Sometimes, the hardships we go through seem unimaginable: A difficult, completely unfair illness cutting us down in the prime of our life. Debilitating financial or legal issues that seem to have no way out. Crushing betrayal or other emotional or physical violation. It’s the opposite of how we think life should go.

In the midst of my pain, I was on my own. I knew no one who’d been through what I was experiencing. There was no one I could confide in who’d truly understand. Talking to a counselor brought temporary relief but no real solutions. Blocking it out and staying as busy as possible only worked for so long.

Then came Jesus. In the darkness, in the depths of my pain, I realized: He knew. I didn’t even have to open my mouth to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal.

Not only that, but He’d been there, too.

In the depths of my #pain, I realized: #Jesus knew. I didn’t have to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal. He'd been there, too. Click To Tweet

He’d experienced the worst pain, the deepest betrayal, the hardest suffering—none of it deserved, and all of it something He could stop if only He caved to temptation. Yet our Savior chose to bear the cup of sacrifice and endure. And it hurt Him—so very, very badly.

But for some reason, I’d never before understood this. Growing up, I’d been taught Jesus died on the cross, but His suffering seemed abstract. In paintings depicting the crucifixion, the holes from the nails had a bit of blood, and Jesus was frowning beneath His crown of thorns, but it was all rather contained—a PG version of what He’d really been through. Then His suffering was over and, whoosh! Our Savior was dressed in head-to-toe white with a glowing golden halo, smiling like He’d never been gasping for His last breath or sobbing from the pain of being sold for thirty pieces of silver by one of His twelve best friends.

But when I encountered Jesus in my sorrow, it wasn’t the Sunday school, family-friendly version kneeling beside me as I collapsed before Him in a darkened room with my prayer of surrender. It was the scarred-up Jesus, the One who remembered the ragged bloodstained holes from where they’d driven the nails in, who didn’t wince as they beat Him but cried out in agony, who didn’t just quietly and stoically accept that Judas let Him down but ached over the treachery.

This Jesus understood. And when I realized that, and I allowed him to meet me in my suffering, I was no longer alone.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared suffering when we walk with Jesus, which makes all the difference.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared #suffering when we walk with #Jesus, which makes all the difference. Click To Tweet

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (ESV).” These aren’t just words on a page. There is true rest, a peace, in knowing Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden.

There is true rest, a #peace, in knowing #Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden. Click To Tweet

But not only is there rest, but also hope. While Jesus did suffer, His suffering ended. He overcame. He triumphed. As He told His disciples in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Many years have passed since my tough time, and sometimes it feels like it didn’t happen to me at all, but rather to a character in a book I read. I still go through hard times, when I want to throw myself on the bed and cry, when I want to give up and surrender.

Yet now I have a secret weapon: I know God is with me in the center of my pain. And that, like nothing else, helps move me towards healing.

Prayer

Obstacles That Hinder Prayer

Woman sitting in a field

Have you ever been hurt so badly you thought your heart was ripping from your chest? I have. One day after such a wounding I thought I was doing the right thing by praying for those who’d hurt me. After all, isn’t that the best form of loving your enemy? As I was praying for those who hurt me, and feeling quite good about myself, I heard God say, “Notify sender, mail returned.” You might be saying God doesn’t return prayers. Well, He might not, but He got my attention. Praying is indeed powerful, but it can be thwarted. Click To Tweet

Six Obstacles

Open the Bible and we quickly learn obstacles abound even for the most fervent and honest prayer warrior. To help you and I boldly stand before the throne, confident our prayers are getting through, let’s examine six key obstacles that may hinder those prayers, prevent our communion with God, or block our path to growth in this vital area of the Christian life.

Misplaced Goals

There’s much wisdom in the popular phrase: Joy is found in the journey, not the destination. When we pray our goal may be to affect a certain change in someone, but God’s goal may be to affect a regime-change on the throne of your life and mine. God alone wants to sit in this place of honor in our hearts. Click To TweetAs we surrender to Him, this will be a goal achieved, not at the end of the road as we might envision, but in increments along the way. Be open Image of woman staring toward trees with text pulled from post.to the possibility that while you’re praying your goal may not be God’s goal. Ask Him to reveal if this is one of those regime-change moments.

Unforgiveness

Just as there are layers to the effects of our sins, there are layers to the forgiveness process. In my own life, there are those whom I’ve forgiven a long, long time ago. Then something happens and the flood of emotions comes pouring back as if the wounds were freshly inflicted. Tenderly the Lord shows me more areas in my spirit in need of healing. Should I refuse, and leave these wounds to fester, my unforgiveness will block God’s power in my life, preventing healing. Over time, if you or I continue in this state, our hardness of heart deflects the voice of God. We won’t hear Him clearly. The solution? Ask God if there’s someone you need to forgive again or on a deeper level–He’ll show you and help you take that next step.

Unforgiveness blocks God's power in my life, prevents healing, hardens my heart, and deflects the voice of God. Click To Tweet

Misinterpretation of Scripture

Misinterpretation of Scripture can prevent us from properly hearing God because we’ve prejudiced the communication. It’s as if God’s speaking a different language. If we want to hear God in His native tongue, we must begin by looking at the context of Scriptures and understand how our personal context influences, or even changes, our reading. Any good Bible teacher will acknowledge the only way to properly hear God is to learn the language He’s using, not the language we want to impose on Him. How? Read before and after the verse; read the whole chapter and ask God to help you hear what He is saying. And invest in a good study Bible that outlines historical context you otherwise would miss.

The only way to properly hear God is to learn the language He's using. Click To Tweet

Loss of Community

Christianity is not a solitary practice. If we want to have the fullness of God’s presence in our lives, we must go where God is and begin by looking within the body of Christ. Simply said, we need each other to hear all of what God is saying. If we only rely on our own ear, we may be missing key portions of the message God is sending. Often God speaks through others to confirm what we are hearing in our heart or challenge us towards truth. This is why having godly friends is so important to the Christian life.

Too Many Choices, Too Many Voices:)

Every day we are confronted with a million decisions. Along with all those choices come many voices. How is one to hear God in the midst of all this noise? First, we must divorce ourselves from the need to control the outcome of things by idolizing choice. This is not to say we don’t make choices or care about the consequences of our decisions. The issue is idolatry, putting something ahead of God. When we idolize our human ability to “control things,” the clutter of choices and voices drown out God’s voice. We need to desire God’s opinion rather than ours or the public’s. Getting away, turning off the t.v. or radio, or going for a walk and just listening for God to speak is the best prescription for a noisy world.

Unfamiliarity with God’s Ways

As a whole, we’ve become so unfamiliar with God’s ways that when God makes a move, we hardly recognize Him. As with any relationship, growing close to God and knowing His character requires time. When we squeeze God into one or two hours each week—when we speed-date God—we’re short-changing our most important relationship. This lack of intimacy hinders our growth in prayer and eventually leads to us turning deaf ears to God’s voice simply because we don’t recognize Him. Developing a prayer life takes time. Don’t wait until you’re desperate for an answer to get to know God. If you spend time every day in prayer, when you’re desperate, you’ll remember to enjoy the journey, stay tenderhearted, speak and listen in God’s native tongue, take brotherly (and sisterly) counsel, care less about control and more about His role, and take the time to court the Lover of your soul.

When we approach the gift of prayer in this way, we’ll overcome the obstacles that hold us back. And when we offer prayers, we’ll hear these words in our soul, “Message sent–message received.”

Which one of these six obstacles is the one you struggle with the most? Share your thoughts and struggles in the comments below, and make sure to join our closed Facebook community to go deeper! I also encourage you to re-read that section discussing an area you most need to grow in and determine to make a step this week toward overcoming this hinderance.

Want to learn how to better discern Scripture? Then grab a free copy of our Bible study! We’ve incorporated Bible study application tools, such as reading in context, understanding historical context, using commentaries and more, into our weekly lessons. You can grab a free copy HERE. 

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surrender

Letting Jesus Be Your King

kristenquote1-apr15-fbThe guitarist started to strum the background music. The pastor was closing the first message of the conference on Lordship—surrendering full control of your life to God. I’d zoned in and out the whole time. I knew the information already. I’d been doing the Christian walk for over half my life. I’d worked through the study and attended the same conference before. In fact, I’d taught at it.

So, my mind wandered. God had been Lord over my life for a long time…or had He?

I caught something he said along the lines of, “Maybe you’ve surrendered some of your life to Jesus, but not all of it. Maybe you’ve yet to trust Him with your family, or your marriage, or maybe your career. Maybe today you need to fully give Him all of it, not just certain parts.”

Tears flowed. I’d been really good at relinquishing my family and marriage to Him, but it hit me then that I’d held on to my career with a death grip. When it came to my writing profession, I didn’t fully believe He could keep His promises. I still tried to forge my way, relying on my strength to propel my career to another level, a bigger platform, and to an income-producing job my family could count on.

How could I have missed this? I told Jesus often I believed His Word and the promises He’d spoken to me over the years, but the truth was, I didn’t.

Moments after my realization, it was prayer time, and I knew I needed it. I hadto surrender my career to His Lordship, to allow Him to be my King in all things. I went to my conference prayer partner and could barely spit out that I needed to relinquish my career to Jesus, and she started to pray.

There, in the quiet presence of God, words poured out, then she said, “God, You will use her writing for You. She will pen Your words for all to read.”

Here’s the kicker. I hadn’t told her anything about me. She didn’t know I was a writer. But that didn’t stop God from using her to speak promises over me once again. He is thatfaithful. Even in my weakness, He was there, waiting to bless and love on me.

In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it.” In fact, a version of this verse is found in all four Gospels, and in two of them more than once, making no other saying more emphasized by Jesus. (Luke 17:33; Matthew 10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35; John 12:25) God needed me to get this Truth.

When we take up our cross & surrender our whole life to God, He gives us the abundant life He’s promised. Click To TweetWhen we hold tightly to parts of our life in an effort to make our own plans happen, we inevitably fail at all we’ve strived for. But it is when we take up our cross (v.23) and surrender our whole life to God, that He gives us the abundant life He’s promised. This is not a life without problems, but one full of peace in the circumstances because He’s on our side, leading the way like only a King of Kings can.
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Months later, I find that my mind doesn’t drift to the “what ifs” or “whys.” I don’t dwell on if one of my novels will be published, or how and if my platform will grow. I just take steps with Him, striving each day to let Him be my Leader and King. Living without the weight of anxiety and fear has blessed me with a worry-less attitude, a joyful spirit to love my family, and a fresh mind to write those words God needs me to pen.I take steps with Him, striving each day to let Him be my Leader and King. Click To Tweet

Maybe you find yourself as I did, having given Him control over only parts of your life but not the whole? Or maybe you’re needing to submit it all to Jesus? You can do so easily. Pray earnestly to Him. Repent for not giving Him your entire life and begin today a new path following your King.

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts in the comments below, or join the conversation on social media!

Faith

In God’s Wisdom — Of Greater Consequence Than What We Do Today

Woman walking on planked walkway with quote pulled from text

I have a tendency to focus on all the problems and opportunities in front of me. To plan and plot and scheme and strive. But I’m learning, God is more concerned with what is going on within me than anything going on around me.

God is more concerned with what's going on within me than anything going on around me. Click To Tweet

He’s much more concerned with my growth, in wisdom and character, than any role I fill or opportunity I accept. As a result, He rarely tells me what’s up ahead. Instead, He gently whispers guidance for today.

One summer, I found this particularly frustrating. I was wrestling with some career decisions, feeling as if I needed answers immediately. I wanted to follow God’s wisdom, to yield to His guidance, but He appeared to be silent. Feeling discouraged and unsettled, I met with a friend for coffee.

I shared with her all my concerns, all my options, and of course, all of my confusion.

“Well,” she said, “What’s God saying to you?”

I sighed. “Nothing. Other than character-growth stuff.”

She smiled. “Then that’s what He wants you to focus on.”

Later that afternoon, as I puttered around my house, tidying up (also known as allowing my thoughts to stew), realization hit. My personal growth would have far greater benefits, not just in terms of my faith and relationships with God and others, but also in relation to future success, than any momentary decision I could make.

We don’t need to have everything figured out. We simply needed to follow God’s guidance, trust in His wisdom, & lean into His strength.

Scripture and experience tells me my view is faulty and distorted on my best day. But God’s wisdom is perfect and infinite. He knows everything I’ll face tomorrow and precisely what I’ll need, internally and externally, to overcome every challenge.

Foggy road with quote pulled from postIn His wisdom and infinite love, God was preparing me for what lay ahead. This understanding lifted my heart and stilled my swirling, chaotic thoughts. I didn’t need to have everything figured out. I simply needed to follow God’s guidance, trust in His wisdom, and lean into His strength.

We don't need to have everything figured out. We simply needed to follow God’s guidance, trust in His wisdom, & lean into His strength. Click To Tweet

The rest would come, in His perfect timing. And it did. With each opportunity, and endeavor, God showed me precisely what steps to take, leading me in a direction I hadn’t known existed but proved far better than anything I could conceive on my own.

He’ll do the same for you.

Let’s talk about this! Are you in a period of waiting? Are you tempted to jump ahead, to make things work out according to your plans and wisdom? Do you trust that God truly does want to guide you toward His very best? How might focusing on that truth give you the courage to yield to Him–His timing and will? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!