2 Principles of Spiritual Growth

Where do we grow from here?

This was the title of Rev. Victor Jackson’s Friday night message at Missouri Youth Convention a couple of weeks ago. At every youth convention, congress, or camp, there are always powerful messages from anointed preachers. Through each message, God ministers, and He moves. But there is always at least one message in particular that stands out. Everyone has their own “favorite” message that spoke to them in particular. Well, ever since the Friday night service of Missouri Youth Convention, I’ve been thinking about Bro. Jackson’s message on growth.

Growth has been a topic I’ve thought about often over the years as God has helped me navigate various life struggles and situations. So, for today’s post (which I know was supposed to go live yesterday—my apologies for the delay!), I wanted to share with you an extension of some of my notes from the message “Where Do We Grow From Here,” highlighting two principles of spiritual growth. Also, I do share post updates and topic ideas on my Instagram, so please be sure to go ahead and follow me there if you aren’t already so that you can find out when posts may be delayed or about upcoming topics. (You can find my Instagram account by clicking here.)

Without further delay, here are two principles of spiritual growth.

1. Don’t make a small start your identity.

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, right? Whether it’s in your ministry or personal relationship with God, you must begin small. In order to grow your prayer life, for example, you may begin by praying 15 minutes a day consistently and extending that over time. As Victor Jackson said, however, “It is a blessing to begin small. It is a curse to end small.”

We should all start out at small beginnings, but that isn’t where we should end up.

“If you’re not growing, you’re living outside of God’s purpose for your life.”

Victor Jackson

We are meant to be producing spiritual fruit. An apple tree will not produce apples if it stays in the state of a small seed or the size of a twig. When we grow, we become stronger and produce spiritual fruit. The righteous man experiences spiritual growth like what the beginning of Psalms describes when comparing the godly versus the ungodly:

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Psalms 1:3 (KJV)

2. Don’t put limits on your elevation.

People often limit how you can grow. As soon as God starts using you more and growing your ministry, there are people who judge you. They place limits on how much a person can grow in his or her walk with God. We may even fall privy to the idea that we should only grow to a certain extent and no further so as to prevent others from believing we’re trying to make everything about ourselves or to try to prevent ourselves from becoming prideful. So, we stay small and claim it’s out of humility.

Humility is an essential attribute of a true Christian character, but Bro. Jackson pointed out that we are not meant to use our humility as an excuse to remain small and refuse to grow into what God wants us to be.

“Humility is not a destination; it is an attitude,” he explained. “If you don’t want to grow, your humility in remaining small just became disobedience. Obedience is a pathway. You’re supposed to be going and growing. Get to growing and knowing this is what the kingdom is.”

Indeed, spiritual growth is about letting God use you more in the ways that He wants to so that His Kingdom can grow through each of our efforts. That’s why we should teach more Bible studies, pray more, fast more, become more involved in ministry, and do all that He asks us to do. As we mature in Christ and grow, we become more well-rounded Christians and more effective in ministry and in the Kingdom.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (KJV)

Follow after God’s direction in your life, and you will grow. Spiritual growth is stunted when you stop putting effort into your ministry and walk with God. A lack of effort leads to a lack of growth, and a lack of growth leads to spiritual death.

“You were destined to grow. You were destined to go beyond.”

Victor Jackson

We must always be striving to do more for the Kingdom, more for God, more for others, more in our ministry, and more than we’ve done yesterday and ever before in order to reach this lost world and get closer to Jesus. We cannot forsake the importance of growing in every aspect of our lives.

We were destined to grow.

The Burning Bush Experience and Four Points of Reflections on Exodus 3:1-4: A Guest Post by Dr. Rafael Machuca

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

Exodus 3:1-4 (KJV)

1. Stay faithful in the things of God.

As the above passage of scripture opens, we find Moses traveling to the backside of the desert. He was traversing a hot, barren place alone, leaving behind him the comforts of home, companionship, and support. Regardless of his circumstances, Moses continued to faithfully take care of the flock that had been entrusted to him by his father-in-law. He was a support for his family even though it put him in a difficult situation. As he put the care of the flock before his own comfort, he was completely unaware that he would soon be called to lead God’s flock, the children of Israel.

Any time we do work for the church or support the leaders over us, it is important to remember to do it all unto God. It is not unusual to experience situations that make you feel like you are working alone in the desert. Maybe you are the only one showing up for prayer, willing to teach a Bible study, or participating in evangelism. It can be easy to wonder where everyone else is. If your eyes are not on the Lord, the work can become very wearisome in your own eyes. However, when you do it unto God, you can take comfort in knowing that God notices your hard work and determination. He knows exactly where you are and the work you are doing to further His kingdom.

2. God will utilize all parts of your life for His Glory.

The mountain Moses came to was called Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. Even though Moses had been raised by Egyptians and then spent decades as a fugitive in the desert, God knew that every experience he had and every land he learned to traverse would be beneficial to help lead the children of Israel out of captivity. When God uses us, He does so knowing every past experience will become a skillset to be used in the future.

Do not let yourself believe you have no skills or talents to offer.

God can use your Bible quizzing experience, years of living faithfully, your secular work experience, and even the knowledge born out of learning from mistakes. The key is to give ourselves totally to God so He can use us for His purpose and His glory.

3. God uses your surroundings to get your attention.

A bush burning in the desert would not have been an unusual sight. It would have been easy for Moses to see the fire but shift his focus back on moving the flock away and continuing with his daily tasks.  However, he gave this situation enough attention to realize something was different, and doing so, he witnessed a “great sight.”

God used a seemingly normal occurrence to get Moses’ attention as he was going about his day. What in our surroundings is God trying to use to get our attention? It may be a situation at work or with family or friends. At first sight, everything may appear insignificant and normal. But further inspection may reveal the Lord at work getting our attention for a greater purpose.

4. When God calls, answer.

As Moses turned aside to witness the bush burning yet not being consumed, God had succeeded in getting his attention. However, the Lord’s intentions went far beyond that. God does not just want to get our attention. All who are willing to stop and turn toward God can have the opportunity to hear Him calling. It is a call filled with love and a purpose, and all who hear will get to choose if they are willing to answer that higher calling.

This passage in Exodus 3 paints a beautiful picture of how God will set things in motion to get your attention. From the burning bush to the call, don’t be too busy living life that you miss what God really has for you. He is just waiting for you to look toward His direction to call you into a deeper walk and a deeper life with Him.

*****

Dr. Rafael Machuca is a VA Hospital Chaplain at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He studied and received his Doctor of Ministry degree at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 2020. Dr. Machuca served his country in the United States Marine Corps from 1993 – 1997 and has been honoring and paying tribute to U.S. veterans ever since.

Understanding Weakness: On Mistakes, Perfection, and Forgiveness

You’re going to make mistakes. God doesn’t hate you for that.

This is what I should have told myself years ago when I was starting out in college.

It was the spring semester of 2016, and I was taking a mix of online and seated classes at a community college while working part-time as a tutor at the writing center. One of my online classes was a world history course with my history professor from the previous semester—Mr. Z we called him. He was the fun, quirky professor always eager to chat with his students. I met with him multiple times to discuss my papers and upcoming exams, and during one particular meeting, we discussed a paper I was writing for another history class that he was helping me perfect.

As I settled into my seat across from him, I gazed in horror at his marked-up version of my draft on his desk. How could I—I have made that many errors?! Mr. Z sensed my panic and quickly explained.

“Relax, it’s not terrible,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m pushing you harder because I know you’re at the level where you can handle it.”

It wasn’t much of a comfort. I wanted my work to be near-flawless, and he knew that. I always wanted to know all the answers, and if I didn’t, I didn’t want anyone else to know it. When I explained my (admittedly) flawed mindset, Mr. Z said something to me that I’ve never forgotten.

He said, “You don’t want people seeing the chinks in your armor.”

“No, I don’t!” I said (a bit surprised that he hit the nail dead center). You see, I believed that if people saw the chinks in my armor, it meant they would see me as weak, vulnerable, incapable—human.

Sometimes, you just don’t want to be that real with people. You’d rather just go through life with no one knowing anything about what you’re going through or how you feel deep down. That way, when you mess up, there’ll be no one to judge you and no one to know that you don’t always make the right choices.

Making mistakes is for weak people, I told myself, and weakness is wrong.

Yes, weak people make mistakes, but as humans, we are all weak by nature, having an imperfect and sinful nature by default. Weakness isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s just natural. That’s why we need God. Through Him, we receive strength to overcome our flaws. What I failed to understand then was that it is OKAY to admit that you’ve made a mistake. You are only human, and God doesn’t punish you for that.

Our sinful nature and inclination to make mistakes doesn’t give us license to make whatever mistakes we want just because, but it does mean that our mistakes should come as no surprise to ourselves. God isn’t surprised that we fall and fail and make bad choices, and He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. There is none perfect but Him. He doesn’t beat us up when we make a bad choice, and neither should we condemn ourselves.

No matter how many times we mess up, if we truly repent and seek forgiveness, then God is faithful to forgive us of our sins (see 1 John 1:9).

When you realize that God’s grace extends to you no matter how many mistakes you make, then you’ll be able to extend that same grace to others.

It was when I learned how to release the self-condemnation that I felt for the mistakes I’d made that it was easier to forgive others for the things they’d done wrong. They were only human like me, after all. I could see my own flaws, my own imperfection in others and knew that if God didn’t hold my mistakes against me, then I shouldn’t hold others’ mistakes against them.

If you don’t forgive yourself, how can you truly forgive others?

You are not perfect. You will continue to make mistakes. But guess what?

It’s not the end of the world if you do. God’s grace is sufficient to cover your sins (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), and His strength is more than enough to help you overcome your weaknesses.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the tempation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV)

There is a way to escape the consequences of our weak nature—salvation in the name of Jesus and doing our absolute best to live as He has instructed us to live. God created us to be imperfect beings in need of our perfect Creator.

Lean into that.

Give your flaws, mistakes, and all your baggage up to Him.

It’s okay if you fail. Just remember that God never fails.

It’s okay that you’re not perfect and what you do isn’t perfect. Just remember that His love is perfect.

If you fully surrender to God and trust Him with all you have and all you’ve done, He will take care of you, and you’ll be closer to Him than you were before.

How to Overcome a Victim Mentality: A Guest Post by Kayla Carmichael

(Photo courtesy of Kayla Carmichael.)

The sad part is this: not everyone actually wants to be healed.

Some are okay remaining exactly who they are and the way that they are. A victim mentality has stolen more lives than I believe we would like to admit. It takes work to heal, it takes work to work through our own dysfunction, it takes work. Thankfully, we are not alone on our journey, but we do play a part in it.

There was a time in my life not too long ago that I was a victim to my own story, to what happened to me, to the pain that people had caused me. It is so easy to become a victim, and when we have been hurt, we often can have a longing to feel justified for being a victim. I mean, we are hurting, after all.

Does anyone see me? Does anyone care about me? Does anyone know that they are the reason why I am the way that I am?

I learned one morning as I began to speak to God about some things that had happened to me. I was just so sad. I simply did not understand why this happened to me. I then remember feeling this thought of, “Kayla, do you realize that you do not have to feel this way? You do not have to remain in this mindset. Do you realize this? It is time to close the doors to your past.”

Now, this does not mean that we are not to deal with what has happened to us accordingly. We do not dismiss our pain, but we release it to the Lord, and we become vulnerable in His presence. We decide that we are no longer going to be a victim of what has happened to us. Of what someone has done.

Victory is a choice.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. If I am not walking in victory, it is because I have decided not to walk in victory. However, walking in victory does not mean I am now “no longer hurting.” It simply means I am going to pick my head up and yield completely to the Lord as He heals me and as He restores me.

So, what will I decide? Will I decide to continue to worship my pain, or will I decide to worship my God? The God I choose to worship is the God who will determine my outcome.

Every. Single. Time.

You are a victor, not a victim.

********

Kayla Carmichael is an Apostolic writer and a great example to younger generations of what it means to love and live for God no matter what. Moving from Ohio, she came to Urshan College in Florrisant, Missouri and is now in her senior year, majoring in Christian ministry. Her goal is to pursue a master’s in counseling. Between devoting her time to school and church, Kayla is also writing her first book. Be sure to follow along with her insightful posts on Facebook and Instagram (@k.carm12)!

Welcome to 2022: A Bit About The New Year, Jonah, and Forgiveness

Happy New Year 2022 from yours truly!

Welcome to 2022!

This first post of 2022 is going to be pretty simple and casual because, to be honest, things are already starting to get crazy busy, and my mind can’t focus long enough this week to spend 3+ hours writing anything!

First order of business, I just want to say thank you to everyone who is reading this and beginning the new year by keeping up with Breathe Pray Repeat. It means SO much to me! Second order of business, I wanted to share a thought with you today on something that’s been on my mind for a while now, and it involves perception, forgiveness, human nature, and the account of Jonah.

From all the things I’ve heard said about Jonah throughout my life, I’d say the dude gets a pretty bad rap. Of course, he did literally try to run away from God’s commandment and was angry when God wanted to show others mercy, only being truly distressed when his plant died. But if I’m going to be completely honest with you, I have to say that I find Jonah incredibly relatable. You see, it’s easy when we read the Word to separate ourselves from the people we’re reading about as though we would never act or think like they did when they made mistakes. Sometimes, it’s easy to think of them as mere 2-D historical figures playing out a role in our heads rather than real, regular people. When we do that, we forget our own human nature.

Jonah did NOT like the people of Nineveh to say the least, and as I read a little about Nineveh, I began to understand why Jonah felt as he did. Nahum called it “the bloody city,” and witchcraft, murder, fornication, and other evils were abundant in Nineveh’s society (see Nahum 3). Suffice it to say, they were a truly wicked people committing unspeakable horrors and egregious evils. It’s completely understandable why Jonah, who knew full well what kind of people the Ninevites were, would not want God to pardon them (however wrong he was in his response).

Put yourself for a moment in Jonah’s sandals. You’ve seen and heard what the Ninevites do, and then all of a sudden, God tells you to go preach to them, and knowing God, you KNOW He will show them mercy. And (because you know how much evil they’ve done), you don’t want them to be given mercy. No. You want them to be punished. After all, how could they do all that evil and then get a free pass?

Ay, but there’s the rub. Therein lies the flaw in your thinking. And therein lies the point of the book of Jonah.

It isn’t about all the bad things the people of Nineveh did. They truly repented, and God always honors true repentance, and He offers forgiveness and mercy even though we don’t deserve it.

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Romans 9:14-15 (KJV)

Our human nature doesn’t want to look past people’s mistakes. That’s why we often want to hold grudges against others for hurting us. That may even be why we may want to judge Jonah for the mistakes he made. Our expectations of others can make us forget our own human nature and flaws.

God extended grace and mercy to the people of Nineveh as He does to you and me. He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins if we turn from our wicked ways and seek after Him. Jonah shows us an interesting study of human nature, but it also shows us that God wants us to be forgiving towards others as well.

No matter what so-and-so did or said to hurt you or others, forgive them. No, they don’t deserve mercy, but neither do you. God GIVES us grace. We don’t earn or deserve it. Our flesh causes us to judge others and hold grudges, but it’s the Spirit of God within us that helps us show mercy and love.

So, that’s it for today! It’s true that even after what we know about Jonah, I still relate to the dude for how real and imperfect he is. There is an account out there that states he came to his senses after the end of the recorded book of Jonah and praised God, so there IS hope even for us stubborn people!

Thanks for reading the first BPR post of 2022! There should be a guest post on here in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned for that as well.

God Bless,

Caitlin

The Reason Why Jesus Came: Reflecting on 2021

This is the last post of Breathe Pray Repeat…

…of 2021.

2021 has been an interesting year. For some, it’s been better than 2020, but for others, not so much. There’s been a lot of grief and loss for far too many this year. I know quite a few people who have lost loved ones, and my own family has been affected by grief after my grandmother and uncle passed away this summer. People are suffering, and just when it seems that burden has lifted, something else often happens to cause more grief.

As I began to reflect on this Christmas season and the mood many are feeling at the end of this year, I thought again of the song my church’s youth group sang for Christmas:

“For the broken, the unworthy, You came. Jesus, You came. For the wounded, for the hurting, for the lost, and for the lonely, You came. Jesus, You came.”

When I think of all the pain and loss many of us are feeling at the end of this year, I remember we’re exactly the kind of people Jesus came for. As Jehovah, He hadn’t experienced the same kind of sadness and grief and weariness until He wrapped Himself in flesh and became the Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ. He chose to walk and live among us and suffer sadness, grief, and persecution ALL for us. When Lazarus died, Jesus cried. So, He knew and knows what loss feels like.

You may feel defeated, weary, and weak, but Jesus came to lift that burden and give you hope. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

We have hope we’ll be reunited in Glory with our loved ones who have passed. We have hope we’ll get through every trial and come out of it stronger than before. When the joy of the Lord is your strength, you can learn to find joy and gladness even in the midst of less-than-ideal circumstances.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Romans 15:13 (KJV)

As I look back over this year, I see a lot of sorrow and hardship for my own family. But I also see a lot of good memories. I see a lot of good people who have been there for us and with us through it all. I see how God carried us through our loss. I see how God blessed me with a job that I desperately needed. I can see the blessings of God even through the bitterness of difficult times.

And that gives me hope—hope for a great 2022 even if some things don’t go my way.

As you’re reading this, if you’ve suffered some kind of hardship this year, I want you to know Jesus came for you. He came to be your comfort on those sleepless and sorrow-filled nights. He came to be your strength when you can’t stand another day. He came to fight your battles against spirits of depression, infirmity, and despair. He came so that you might have life more abundantly, and He came to give you salvation and a future with Him.

Jesus, our Jehovah, had the first word in the beginning, and He has the final say.

This Christmas and New Year season, remember that you are never alone in whatever struggle you’re facing or battle you’re going through. Remember that you’re the reason why Jesus came.

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Matthew 1:21-23 (KJV)

*****

Thank you to everyone who has read Breathe Pray Repeat this year, and a very special thank you to every person who wrote a guest post on BPR! You are all amazing, and I’m so thankful for you. I hope to bring more great content to you in 2022 and more great posts from guests that will encourage you and draw you closer to our God.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

~Caitlin

5 Ways to Avoid the Pitfall of Pride

“Everyone, look at me! I did a thing!”

That’s what many of us may often think or even say when we want people to pay attention to our accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong—I believe it’s okay to acknowledge when you’ve done something halfway decent. After all, it certainly isn’t helpful to tear yourself down when you’re doing your best. But attracting others’ attention to your own strengths or talents often leads to pride. And what follows pride?

Destruction.

We’ll go over 5 ways you can avoid the pitfall of pride in your walk with God. Today’s post is inspired by and taken from notes to a lesson by Tony Wyatt Jr, an associate pastor and the young adult leader at my church. (You can check out a full guest post by Bro. Tony on spiritual food for the soul through this link.)

1. Seek God in the good AND the bad.

“Lord, I need you,” is easy to say when things aren’t going so great. It’s easy to run to God when life is falling apart.

Now, I’ll admit it. I’ve certainly struggled with maintaining consistent, quality prayer time and Bible reading when things were going great. You may know how it is. You don’t have a pressing, dire need at the moment aside from the usual future goals and desires. You start to get a little distracted. Your prayer times don’t seem as fervent as they were just a few months ago. You’re reading fewer chapters of the Bible a day. Maybe you’re even going a day or two in a row without really connecting with God.

Whether it’s your job, school, kids, or other responsibilities, life tends to find extra things to distract us with when the status quo is pretty manageable. But the less we pray and study the Word, the more we’re almost telling God, “Eh, I got this for now.”

Cue narrator voice: “She did not have this for now.”

It seems as though many of us may feel we need God less in the good times. We run to God when the going gets tough, but when things are looking up, we prefer to rely on ourselves.

You see, those bad moments will test our faith and hopefully strengthen it, but those good moments will prove our resolve to have a strong relationship with God. When you seek Him in the good times as well, you’re showing God that you understand you still need Him and that you WANT more of Him. If you find yourself in a rut because things are pretty peachy, and you’re getting distracted, choose a time of day when you can give God your full attention and seek Him harder than before. Continue to fast, continue to pray, continue to study the Word, and God will take you deeper than before.

2. Let go of your desire to prove yourself.

Pride often develops through the desire to prove to yourself and others what you can do. When we focus on proving our talents or accomplishments to others, we’re obsessing over our abilities.

“I can do it. Just watch me. Look what I can do. Just wait. They’ll see.”

We don’t have to prove ourselves to others. The only one we should truly seek to please is God.

Jesus was literally God wrapped in the flesh, but he approached others, especially those who argued against him, not with a prideful attitude but with a meek and gentle spirit.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it now robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Philippians 2:5-7 (KJV)

Jesus made himself like a servant, and so we should follow His lead. Instead of trying to prove yourself to others, focus on serving others and pleasing God.

3. Don’t boast about your accomplishments.

This one takes us back to the opening of this post. Boasting about what you can do emphasizes the self.

It’s all about me. Look how talented I am. Susie can’t sing like I can. Bobby isn’t as smart as I am. I’m leagues above them. Pay attention to me!

Here’s a good thing to practice each time you accomplish something or improve a skill: tell yourself, “It’s because of God that I could do this. It’s His power and ability, not mine.”

When I was in college, every time I passed a test that I was terrified I’d fail, I knew it was God who got me through it. Trust me. I took an advanced Spanish class as part of my degree requirements, and while I can speak baby Spanish, I couldn’t speak it fluently to save my life. The final was a ten-minute, one-on-one conversation with my Spanish professor. To this day, I have no idea what I said during that conversation, and I have no idea how I passed with flying colors. I’ve joked that it’s because my professor must have taken pity on me, but truly, I know it was God.

Every good thing you do, every accomplishment, every skill you earn, remember that it’s because of God that you can do those things. In a culture that is all about the self, be the one that makes it about Jesus. Be the one that boasts of His power and accomplishments.

You may have a lot of talent and great achievements, and it’s okay to be pleased with a job well done, but remember this: God is the one who blessed you with your accomplishments and abilities.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

1 Peter 1:5 (KJV)

4. Put others before yourself.

You should also be the one who puts others before yourself. This society loves the term “self-love.” Now, it’s true that you can’t truly love and help others if you hate yourself. However, people tend to go overboard with the self-love concept nowadays.

“I need that $500 spa treatment. The kids can go without a few essentials this month. It’s my time.”

Remember the old saying you might have learned in Sunday school? J – O – Y.

Jesus.

Others.

You.

Put Jesus first. Put others second. Then comes you.

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2 (KJV)

Jesus’ ministry was all about helping others, healing the sick, showing mercy, and loving the needy. And that is what the church should be all about—reflecting the character of Christ, pointing people toward Him.

Pride is all about putting yourself first. True love is all about putting others first.

5. Be happy with what God gives you.

Finally, you do need to be content with what God has given you. Now, don’t mistake complacency as the same thing as contentment. I believe complacency and a lack of drive or willingness also bring about destruction as pride does, but contentment is about accepting what you have and finding ways to be pleased with it. (Side note: that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be better or improve the skills God has given you.)

A prideful spirit boasts as though the things you have are because of your abilities, but it isn’t just that God is the one who has given you skills and abilities, He’s also the one who has blessed you with a home, food, clothes, and a job and provided for all your needs. And if you have such a need, He is the one who can fulfill it.

Matthew 8:20 shows us that Jesus didn’t even have a house or place to stay every night, but he was content: “And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

Paul wrote of his contentment even when he was imprisoned in Philippians 4:

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Philippians 4:11-13 (KJV)

In verse 13, Paul hit at the key to avoid being prideful. I can do all things through Christ. Many people think of this verse as referring to just accomplishments or skills when Paul says, “I can do all things.” Sure, it does apply to those things, but Bro. Tony made the connection here between this statement and Paul’s circumstances when he taught this lesson recently.

Paul was able to endure his circumstances through Christ. It’s through Him that we can do all things, meaning we can endure hardship, overcome trials, experience loss, pain, disappointment, and heartbreak, and still trust in God, be content with what He’s given us, and finish the race strong through Christ who is our strength.

We don’t have the ability on our own to achieve great things. We don’t even have the ability to endure difficult times on our own and come through them stronger and wiser. It’s His Spirit within us that gives us that ability.

So, what’s the key to avoid being prideful?

Practice giving everything back to God—the praise, the glory, the credit.

He, not you, deserves it all.

3 Keys to Endurance

You’re going to make it. Just hold on.

Things you tell yourself when the going gets tough and your resolve is wearing thin.

Sometimes, life can be just too much, you know? Your finances are tight, there’s not enough time in the day or the week to get things done, and your bones begin to ache from all the stress. Maybe you’re tired from work, family drama, or just life. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about all the negative things in the news. Maybe you’re tired of waiting for things to get better.

Sometimes, you just want to lie down, escape, forget about all the stress, struggles, and negative news. Sometimes, you wonder how you’ll get through this.

When will I get to the end of this situation?
When will things finally get better?
How does one endure to the end?

Whether it’s life issues you’re struggling with or anxiously awaiting the day when the Lord calls us home so we can finally be free from this sin-sick world, here are three keys that may help you in unlocking your ability to endure to the end.

1. Though you may be tired, maintain your walk with God every day.

When I was without a full-time job for over a year, the waiting was getting pretty tiresome. There’d be days where I’d feel more confident than others, but on the days where I felt the deadline getting closer and the fear of being jobless with no insurance setting in, I often just wanted to take a nap, watch or read something, or do ANYTHING to take my mind off my fears.

What I discovered was the only thing that gave me peace and strength to overcome that situation was when I met with God each day and dove deeper into the Word.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

Keeping up our prayer time then allows God to fill us with His peace that, in turn, keeps us going.

When you’re waiting for a blessing or just trying to get through a trial, perhaps the most important key to enduring that time is keeping up your relationship with God every day. It seems simple, but often our flesh needs simple reminders to get us back on the right track.

Often, my flesh wanted a quick and easy distraction, but those quick and easy distractions didn’t give me strength. They didn’t increase my faith in God. So, I studied Job. I read through the epistles. I made a point to set my phone aside and out of sight during my prayer time in order to get closer to God. And during that time, I grew. I developed my relationship with God.

Through prayer and reading the Word, we increase in the strength we need to endure.

2. Though you may feel overwhelmed, keep up your church attendance.

As my childhood pastor and lifelong spiritual leader Bishop Eddings has always said, “Church attendance is critical to survival.”

God never intended His church to be made up of scattered saints who never congregate together. It isn’t His Will for us to go to church only when we feel like it and to skip service and stay home when we “just can’t deal.”

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)

As we get closer to Christ’s return, we must be committed to attending church even more.

Sure, we’re human. I’ve certainly woken up on Sunday mornings and wished I could sleep in and not have to dress up and go anywhere that day. For many people, when they have a lot on their plate, attending church is the first thing they bump off their list.

But as the song says, “I need you, you need me. We’re all a part of God’s body.” We need each other to survive. When we fellowship with the saints of God, when we worship together, pray together, and glean from the Word together, we increase in strength.

Instead of skipping church when life has you overwhelmed, get to church early to pray with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes, going to church and fellowshipping with your church family can be the healthy distraction you need to get through a difficult situation.

3. Though you may want to isolate yourself, confide in a friend or mentor.

Trying to endure financial, personal, or spiritual struggles alone will deplete your strength and wear thin whatever resolve you have left.

We must talk to God and read His Word, yes, but God doesn’t want us to be without His church. We must keep up our church attendance and fellowship with the saints, yes, but even that may not be quite enough to help us endure a trial.

Tell someone you trust what you’re going through and ask them to help pray for you about it.

This doesn’t come easy to introverted people like me who prefer to “suffer in silence,” as they say. The longer I was without a job and the more rejection emails I received, the more desperate and miserable I became. Though I was keeping up my devotional time and attending church, I needed a bit more help.

Finally, I mustered up the courage to reach out to a trusted mentor and spiritual leader whose advise and kind words and prayers encouraged me. Suddenly, I had a new confidence and assurance that everything was going to be all right. I believed again that I was going to make it. I would endure.

Find someone–a friend or mentor–to support you. If you have no one else, you should definetly always go to your pastor for guidance and prayer, and even if you do have someone, don’t forsake the importance of seeking wise counsel from your pastor.

So, if you’re reading this and feeling weary of an internal struggle or external pressures, you will endure if you do not give up.

Pray. Study the Word. Go to church. Talk to someone.

Endurance requires daily commitment to resisting distraction and defeat.

So, then, how committed are you to enduring until the end?

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Matthew 24:13 (KJV)

On the Potter’s Wheel: A Guest Post by Camrie Houck

Tears slipped down my cheeks as I roared down that road in that little red car.

“Jesus, why am I so broken?” I uttered as I felt as though I couldn’t be put together again. I felt like I was damaged beyond repair.

But Jesus.

As I sobbed, I felt God’s comfort wrap around me, and I heard him say, “Yes, you may be broken, but you’re in the best place you can be. You’re broken, but you’re in my hands.”

Just these past few weeks, I have been broken. While life spun along around me, I stayed in the hands of the Potter, the very best place to be. When it feels as if everything in life is breaking us down, when life feels as though it’s completely and totally spinning out of control, you very well may be on the Potter’s Wheel.

Rest assured, dear friend, that even on the Potter’s Wheel, you are still in the hands of Jesus. Perhaps sufferings come not as a thing meant to break us, but to reshape us.

Sometimes, things that we have picked up in life, calloused wounds, and attributes that we are not meant to have are broken off of the jar known as “us.” We often misinterpret the surgical knife in the hands of the most knowledgeable surgeon as a knife murderously held at our throats. We mistake what was meant to reshape us for something that will break us.

Sometimes, some things come so that the glory of God might be revealed. As 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of power may be of God and not of us.”

Moving on to verses 8-9, we read this:

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (KJV)

Rest in this, dear friend.

“Perhaps sufferings come not as a thing meant to break us, but to reshape us.

Camrie Houck

You may feel as though there is something wrong everywhere you look. You may be perplexed, persecuted, and cast down, BUT you are not destroyed, you are not in despair, you are not forsaken.

You ARE in the hands of the man who loves you the most. The God of the universe who desires to commune with us.

Remember, even in the breaking, even in the shaping, even on the Potter’s Wheel, you are in the hands of Jesus.

*****

From a young age, Camrie has loved to write. Starting a blog has been a long-time dream of hers, so she finally took the leap and started her blog, Camrie Writes, in September 2021. On any given day, you can find Camrie working on her first book, teaching, or talking with family and friends about teaching or writing. Camrie is also a full-time public school substitute teacher and is studying to teach middle school. Be sure to follow along with her blog on Facebook or Instagram (@camrie_writes)!

Why You Should Put God First

I didn’t think it was that big a deal back then.

All summer long, year after year during my early teens, I often spent my mornings playing old video games. It was the first thing I’d do each day. I’d wake up, pop Spyro the Dragon into the PlayStation, and for several hours, I would do nothing else. When I got older and played video games less, I spent weekends watching movies and tv shows all day. Prioritizing my time well at 15 years old didn’t seem to be that important. I didn’t understand then that it was holding me back in my relationship with God.

Esau placed instant gratification over pleasing God. In Genesis 25, we read how he sold his birthright to his brother Jacob simply because he was hungry:

And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

Genesis 25:31-34 (KJV)

Esau had no self-control nor did he place enough value in the things of God. Instead, he cared more about pleasing his flesh. We must be careful of the things we allow ourselves to consume lest they consume us. This often leads to idolatry. (In case you missed it, check out this post on how to get rid of the idols in your life.)

I know today’s post is rather simple, and most of you may have heard the story of Esau selling his birthright 100 times already. This post has been in the middle of my post queue for several months now, but I felt the need today to share it with you all. Perhaps this reminder is just for me, or perhaps it’s for someone reading this who has found that their priorities are out of order.

There have been many times (especially in college) when I became busy and started each day without prayer and studying the Word. Those days tended to be very chaotic, my mood wasn’t that great, and I never got everything done that I wanted to do. And I remember thinking by the end of the very bad, no good, and horrible day that if I’d just put God first, if I hadn’t let myself become distracted, if I hadn’t sacrificed the things of God for my own self-satisfaction, then the day might have gone better.

Putting God first doesn’t mean we won’t have bad days, but it ensures that our minds stay focused on what is most important. When we tend to our relationship with God, God will tend to the things in our lives that need His care.

Putting our flesh before God leads to sin and a lack of spiritual growth.

We can’t mature spiritually if we don’t endeavor each day to spend time with God and read His Word. Those who are spiritually immature often find themselves experiencing dry periods as well. When I’ve been in a spiritually dry period, it’s often because I had some growing to do. It takes a dry place to make one realize she needs to read and pray more in order for God’s Spirit to pour into and revive hers.

We must seek the rain of His Spirit and the well of His living water when we’re in a dry period, whether it’s due to mixed-up priorities, distractions, or what have you. We must examine ourselves and get rid of anything holding us back. God will take us to deep places when we seek after more of Him.

Some things to consider today:

  • What is your morning routine like?
  • How are you putting God first in your life?
  • Is there anything holding you back in your relationship with God?

The things of this world are fleeting as are the little pleasures that satisfy our flesh. But putting God first will bring us eternal joy and peace through a healthy relationship with Him.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Mark 8:36 (KJV)