How to Overcome Self-Condemnation: Appealing to the Mercy of God

A man seeks God's forgiveness in prayer.

Sometimes when you make a mistake, the hardest part of forgiveness is forgiving yourself. If you’re like me, you might tend to beat yourself up for mistakes you’ve made, mulling over them at night and asking yourself how you could be so stupid. Self-condemnation completely hinders the process of forgiveness.

When we make a mistake, we must ask God for his mercy and strive to resist temptation and live according to His Word, but sometimes our own thoughts can make it much harder to feel forgiven when we imprison ourselves in our own guilt. What we forget in those moments is how much God truly loves us. In order for us to move forward with peace and in confidence, knowing that He has forgiven us, we must recognize His love for us and that His mercy has no end.

Two examples in His Word show us what it means to appeal to God’s mercy.

When Lot and his family escaped Sodom and Gomorrah, he asked God to save a nearby city so that they might flee to it and be saved.

“Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.”

Genesis 19:19-22 (KJV)

One of the first things Lot said to God was a reminder that God had granted Lot grace and that He had “magnified [His] mercy” by saving Lot’s life. When Abraham went to God to try to convince Him not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he appealed to God’s justice, asking if God would destroy the “righteous with the wicked” (see Genesis 18:23). Abraham did not succeed in his intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah, but Lot succeeded in his intercession for Zoar by appealing first to the grace and mercy of God when he was in danger and needed to be saved.

In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of humility and mercy when comparing the Pharisee to the publican.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican…. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Luke 18:10-11, 13 (KJV)

In this parable, the publican acknowledged his sinfulness and asked that God would show him mercy. He showed humility and an understanding of his own faults and need for a Savior.

These examples remind us to appeal to God’s mercy when we are facing difficulties and when we need forgiveness. Lot appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from circumstances. The publican appealed to God’s mercy when he needed salvation from sin. Neither Lot nor the publican were perfect men, but in Lot’s case and in the parable of the publican, both men were sincere in their appeals, and God showed them His mercy. When we make a mistake and ask for forgiveness, we’re stating that we cannot make it on our own. Our appeal to God’s mercy becomes a declaration that we need Him.

Messing up again and again is human nature. God knows this. Of course, our human nature is not an excuse to sin, but rather it is a reminder that we need Him in order to resist temptation and receive forgiveness.

God is just and faithful to forgive of us our sins as His Word says in 1 John 1:9.

What these accounts remind me of is how much He wants to forgive us. Our God longs for us to surrender to Him and serve Him in righteousness and sincerity, and when we do, then He will forgive us of our sins. We need not walk in guilt and self-condemnation because He already paid the price for our sins and freed us from guilt and shame.

We can overcome guilt and self-condemnation by appealing to God’s mercy, by recognizing our flaws and inadequacies, and by understanding that it is only through the grace, love, and mercy of our Savior that we move forward and walk in confidence with Him. Self-condemnation will keep us from accepting His forgiveness, but the self-realization of our weaknesses and His great love for us keeps us under His blood and walking in newness of life.

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Post Schedule Announcement:

Lots of things are coming up as my schedule will be getting busier over the upcoming weeks, so posts will be on Fridays only until further notice.

I’ve seen there are some newer readers and subscribers to Breathe Pray Repeat, so I also want to say “welcome,” and I pray these posts bless you and encourage you to get closer to God as you seek Him more and study His Word.

If you have any post or Bible study requests, don’t hesitate to comment below or send me a message and let me know! God Bless!

3 Qualities of a Good Servant

A man opens his Bible.

What makes a good and faithful servant?

Is it simply someone who does good deeds and tries to be kind to others? Is it someone who serves their community? Is it someone who prays an hour every day and fills journals with Bible study notes? Is it someone who goes to Bible college and becomes a preacher or worship leader?

What does it take to simply be that good and faithful servant the Lord will welcome into Heaven?

Well, a person can certainly be a good and faithful servant by doing any or all of the above, but pleasing and serving God does not mean that we have to attend Bible college or that we have to become a preacher or singer. Those things are wonderful things but are specific callings rather than general requirements for all Christians.

When we study the Word, we see many examples of various people who were faithful servants—Abraham, Job, and Mary are a few that come to mind. One man in particular who appears very early in the Bible shows us three qualities of a faithful servant that are a good foundation upon which we can build and develop a strong relationship with God.

“And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the LORD…thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac…And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning the matter.”

Genesis 24:2-4, 9 (KJV)

1. Attentiveness

When Abraham was old, he tasked his eldest and most trusted servant with finding a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Here, we have an example of a servant who was not only attentive to his master’s requests and needs, but he was also mindful of Abraham’s requirements to accomplish his task.

After he met Rebekah and her family, he faithfully repeated to them his errand, detailing every aspect of his oath (see Genesis 24:34-41). A testament to the servant’s mindfulness in completing his task, he even refused their request to let Rebekah stay with her family a little longer:

“And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at the least ten; after that she shall go. And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the LORD hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.”

Genesis 24:55-56 (KJV)

In order for us to be good servants, we must not only listen to our Master’s commands, but we must be mindful of how we go about our work for the Kingdom. Abraham’s servant carefully heeded each aspect of his oath to his master. Even though some might deem it unkind to not allow Rebekah to stay with her family a few more days, Abraham’s servant was persistent in fulfilling his task, mindful of the time and his master’s needs. Abraham’s son needed a wife, and it was his job to deliver on his task—pronto!

When we serve in the Kingdom, we must be mindful of how we go about our ministry and of how we answer to God’s commands, which brings us to the second quality Abraham’s servant displays.

2. Obedience

Abraham’s servant was obedient to the letter. He swiftly went about finding his master’s son a wife and made sure she was of the same household as Abraham’s family as his master requested. Now, we know Abraham’s servant had a reputation of faithfully obeying his master because Abraham trusted this man with all of the goods of his house (see Genesis 24:2, 10). Over the course of the chapter, we see that Abraham’s servant was forthright as he set out to the well to find Isaac a wife and was very thorough. Before assuming Rebekah was the one God had chosen for his master’s son, Abraham’s servant watched Rebekah carefully and questioned her about her family:

“And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not…And [he] said, Whose daughter art thou?…And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor…And the man bowed his head, and worshipped the LORD. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”

Genesis 24:21, 23-24, 26-27 (KJV)

Abraham’s servant waited for confirmation to ensure Rebekah was the one God had appointed for Isaac, and then he praised God and continued with his task. A good servant obeys, yes, but a good servant must pay close attention to every detail to ensure complete obedience.

3. A Relationship with God

Finally, a good servant must commune with God. We see throughout chapter 24 of Genesis that Abraham’s servant regularly spoke to and praised God. In fact, he spoke to God and worshipped Him three times in this chapter, showing his trust in God and a thankful spirit.

First, Abraham’s servant surrendered the situation to God by asking God to show him the woman He had appointed for Isaac (see Genesis 24:12-14). Second, he praised God when he realized God had blessed his journey and led him to the right woman (see Genesis 24:26-27). Third, he worshipped God when Rebekah’s family released her to accompany him back to Abraham and marry Isaac:

“Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as the LORD hath spoken. And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth.”

Genesis 24:51-52 (KJV)

Through each aspect of fulfilling his work, Abraham’s servant gave the glory to God and surrendered his task into God’s hands.

A woman throws her hands up in surrendering everything to Jesus.

In order to become the child of God that He wants us to be, we have to start somewhere. Applying to our own lives the qualities that Abraham’s servant shows us will help us begin a foundation for building a healthy and strong relationship with God. When analyzing your own walk with Him, ask yourself these questions: Am I heeding and obeying God’s commands in my life? Am I faithful in my work in the Kingdom? Am I seeking the Lord faithfully? Have I given Him honor and worship for the things He’s done for me?

If we build a strong relationship with God and follow His guidance and instructions for our lives, then He will ultimately bless us with the greatest reward—hearing the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” as we enter into His Kingdom to be with our King for eternity.

How to Overcome Doubt with Determination

Overcoming doubt with determination by studying the Word.

Ever feel like bad things always happen to you, or like you just aren’t as lucky as those other people on social media who are living the dream and have it all together?

Ever doubt that things will work out because it seems they never do?

Sometimes, we make things harder for ourselves when all we focus on is the negative. It interferes with our ability to trust God and give Him our cares. Doubt can be crippling.

As someone who’s teetered between pessimism and optimism, I know the back-and-forth can make you emotionally and physically exhausted.

“God, I just want something good to happen in my life for once!” I’ve said before.

Our doubt blinds us from seeing how God is working, and it keeps us from moving forward with determination.

Doubt damages our determination.

After all, why bother embracing the future when you can’t see what’s ahead or when it seems bleak and uncomfortable? Why trust that things will work out when it seems nothing good ever happens?

You know, we often get stuck on patterns. If there’s a pattern of negative events in our lives, we come to expect negative things, and negativity becomes the lens through which we see life. As humans, we like patterns because they’re predictable. They give us a feeling of control. If we can predict what might happen, then we can prepare for the worst.

But God does not operate according to the predictions of man. His ways are higher.

When we learn to trust that God always has a plan for our lives, then we can turn our doubt into determination—the kind of determination that says, “I will trust in God no matter what happens.”

God's ways are higher than ours.

We say Thomas doubted that Jesus really had risen from the dead with a kind of disdain for Thomas’ attitude, but I’ve always found Thomas relatable here.

Think about it: Jesus Christ, whom the disciples had hoped would help them overthrow the government, was crucified three days prior. Their movement seemed hopeless and crushed. Bad things kept happening. And all of a sudden, a man stood in front of Thomas claiming to be the resurrected Christ. Perhaps many of us, if we had been Thomas in that moment, would feel it was too good to be true. After tragedy and disappointment, we might have responded to Jesus’ resurrection with hesitation and doubt.

Have you ever asked God for a sign if something really was Him?

God, if this is You moving, send me a sign!

Thomas declared that he would not believe until he had seen the scars in Jesus’ hands and touched His spear-pierced side. How did Jesus respond?

“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.”

John 20:27-28 (KJV)

If we are to see Jesus, we must reach out and touch Him.

If we are to overcome our own doubt and pessimism, we must get closer to Him and believe.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God!

(See Romans 10:17.)

When we study His Word, we begin to hear His voice. When we hear Him, our faith in Him grows. As our faith grows, so does our trust and our confidence in Him.

The more we seek Jesus in determination, the more our doubt will diminish.

4 Ways to Be Consistent in Prayer

How often do you attempt to organize your day perfectly, so you can spend quality time with God, and you fail?

Consistency can be difficult when we get overwhelmed with life and busy with distractions, but it is the key to having a strong prayer life.

Today’s post is taken from Bro. David Brown’s pre-sermon message on this past Friday night at Missouri District Youth Convention. Below is the transcript of an excerpt from the beginning of Bro. Brown’s Friday night message as he describes 4 ways you can be more consistent in your prayer life.

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1. Make it a priority.

You’ve got to make prayer first. And I know that all of you, you have things that you do right when you wake up. Hopefully, it involves something like brushing your teeth.

But I wonder if you’re struggling to make prayer a priority in your life, I wonder if you could make up your mind just between you and Jesus to say, “You know what? Before I (fill in the blank).” It could be brushing your teeth. I promise Jesus doesn’t mind your stank breath. But say, “Lord, before I brush my teeth, before I pick up my phone, before I check a text message, Lord, I’m going to spend time with You in prayer and with your Word.”

So, make it a priority.

2. Place—designate a space and time to fully be with the Lord.

I would encourage you to designate a space and a time to be fully with the Lord. Have a place, whether that’s in your bedroom or a specific place in your bedroom. Maybe it’s even in your closet. But have a place where you can eliminate distractions, and you can set aside time just to be with Jesus.

3. A.C.T.S.—have a plan.

I don’t know about you, but at some point, I got tired of going into that time of prayer, and I say, “Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus,” about 1,000 times, and I say that’s prayer. So, I just have a very simple plan. I can’t even remember the first time where I saw it, but my plan is very simple: it’s A.C.T.S.

I start my time with the Lord by adoring Him, by worshiping Him, by just talking about how awesome God is. Then, I go into confession, and I confess the things I’ve done that I shouldn’t have done and the things I should’ve done that I didn’t do, for to him that knows to do good and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin. And I also confess each day that I could not live this day without Him.

And from confession then I move into thanksgiving, and I begin to thank the Lord for the incarnation, that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. I thank God for the life of Jesus Christ that though He was tempted in every way as I’m tempted, He was without sin so that He might present Himself a sinless sacrifice. I thank God for every spiritual blessing, every good gift, every perfect gift. I thank God for every spiritual blessing, material blessing, physical blessing.

And after I thank God, then I begin to seek Him. I begin to seek the Lord, and I usually begin by putting on the armor of God, putting off the works of the flesh, and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. And then I allow the spirit of God to lead me where to pray and what to pray. So, a plan.

4. Playlist—Helps Clock Disappear

And last but not least…this is totally odd-school, but it’s helped me, and perhaps it will help you.

Have a playlist, a set of songs that you pray to, that you don’t necessarily sing to, but they just serve as a means of getting rid of the clock. You forget about the time because you build a playlist—you know exactly how long it is, and so if you’ve got to be somewhere in 30 minutes, have a 30-minute playlist. If you’ve got to be somewhere in 45 minutes or 60 minutes, have a playlist that serves that time.

And typically, I build my playlist to follow my plan. The first song is all about worship, and the second song about confession, and the third song about thanksgiving and seeking the Lord. Before you know it, if I’m praying a playlist, and I’m praying confession or adoration during a song, six minutes and seven minutes and five minutes passes, and before you know it, I’ve spent 30, 45 minutes with the Lord.

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The above tips from Bro. Brown are excellent helps for taking a practical approach to be more consistent in your daily prayer life.

If we want to get to the altar and allow God to change us, we must first be consistent in prayer. We must 1) make it a priority, 2) have a place and time designated to be with God, 3) make a prayer plan, and 4) build a playlist to pray along with.

Bro. Brown also mentioned that subscribing to Spotify or Apple Music might be worth the investment if you want to build a prayer playlist so that advertisements do not pull you out of the presence of God:

“There’s nothing like being there with the Lord, and all of a sudden an advertisement for Home Depot comes on. You’ll get out of the altar real quick!”

Bro. David Brown

If we build consistent prayer lives, we’ll be able to develop a closer walk with Jesus, allowing Him to mold and lead us according to His Will.

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”

Ephesians 6:18 (KJV)

“Pray without ceasing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

3 Steps to Mastering Consistency in Your Life

Prayer, coffee, and the Word.

When we’re stuck in a spiritual rut, life always seems to get out of focus. Our days are rushed, our mind is busy, and no matter how hard we try, moving forward is practically an impossibility. How do we juggle our hectic lives, overcome our flesh, and maintain a healthy relationship with our Creator? The answer is both simple and complex—consistency.

We have to learn to be consistent in our lives in order to live a life dedicated to serving the Lord and His Kingdom while fulfilling earthly duties, such as work and school. Consistency is the key to unlocking our potential as children of God and living a purposeful life. But there are three components, three steps we must take in order to master consistency in our daily lives.

Step 1: Consistency in Thought

We must make up our mind every day that we will serve the Lord.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” ~2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV)

When we keep our mind stayed on Christ and our thoughts in obedience to Him, then our lifestyle, our actions, and our words will follow suit. We must choose every morning to serve the Lord, and throughout each day, we must continue in righteous thoughts, remembering our resolve to serve Him and only Him. Consistency must begin in the mind.

Step 2: Consistency in Word

Consistency must also continue into our speech. If we only act the part at church but speak unwisely outside of church, then our words betray us and reveal our heart.

(34) “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

(35) A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

(36) But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

(37) For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

~Matthew 12:34-37 (KJV)

Our speech must exalt the King and reflect His Spirit within us. This is why it is essential that we maintain righteousness in thought. If we first determine in our minds to follow and serve the Lord, then we begin to allow His Spirit to dictate our words to others. His Spirit within us helps us guard our tongue and keep our speech in check. Consistency in word will lead to a more righteous life.

Step 3: Consistency in Deed

Of course, it is not enough to mentally choose each day to serve God or to pay only lip service to serving Him, but our actions must follow suit as well, and we must become consistent in our deeds.

(23) “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

(24) Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”

~Colossians 3:23-24 (KJV)

Consistency in our actions requires not only a conscious, daily decision to serve the Lord, but it also requires making smarter choices. We can replace unhealthy or unhelpful habits with spiritual ones. For example, instead of starting the day on our phone for half-an-hour, we can begin our day by reading the Word. Consistency in deed requires making decisions to put God first, such as building consistent prayer lives and daily Bible study sessions. Consistency in these areas should then carry over into our actions around others, showing the world His character in us through our righteous actions.

Once we have learned how to become consistent in each of these three areas, then we will truly be able to show the world the transforming power of our God. When we become consistent in living for Him, others will notice, giving us the opportunity to become active soulwinners and grow the body of Christ. Becoming consistent is not easy, and there will be days in which we will fail. And that’s okay. But we must then become consistent in our determination to get back up each time we fall and strive harder to serve Him more.

Consistency brings results.

It brings us closer to God, and as we become consistent in our daily walk with Him, we learn to love Him and His Word more. We learn to replace old habits with spiritual ones. And we learn the value in making up our mind each day to live for God in righteousness, in checking and guarding our speech (and our thoughts!), and in choosing each day to become more like Jesus and to become the people He has called us to be.

When The Unexpected Comes

Life is made up of many unexpected moments—some good, some bad. Somehow, it’s often the bad ones that have a lasting impact on our lives, that mold who we become and shape how we think.

In September of 2013, my diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes was unexpected. It shocked my family and I since no one in my immediate family has it. I was numb at first. Not upset or sad. I didn’t cry or get frustrated. I went along with the doctor’s orders and cautiously trudged through each day afterwards.

What does one do when the unexpected comes?

A wave of emotion didn’t hit me until two months later when I sat by my bed, worrying about what my life would be like now. Diabetes is a lifelong disease with no cure. I thought of all the complications one could have from Type 1 diabetes, of all the frustrations that might come with traveling with this disease. And I so desperately wanted to travel. And suddenly I was sad, frustrated, overwhelmed. I was afraid of returning to college. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to have the future I wanted. Then, at one youth prayer meeting the following spring, God spoke a word through one of our young ladies that I have never forgotten.

“Keep the momentum going. I am everything you will ever need.”

Maybe God spoke to others that night, but I knew He had also meant that for me. In that moment, I knew I would be alright so long as I kept moving forward in my relationship with Him. He even gave me the answer to how I would get through this trial in my life. God would be everything I would ever need.

My comfort. My peace. My strength.

Whatever I needed, He would be that for me.

The only thing that has ever gotten me through each unexpected moment in my life has been my relationship with God. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s my personal walk with Him. It’s comprised of my experiences talking to Him, those moments I’ve cried and gotten upset, those moments He’s comforted me, those moments He’s given me the strength to carry on, those moments He’s given me revelation after revelation of what it means to be His child and servant and what it means to receive His unconditional love and mercy.

It’s when the unexpected comes that you realize you won’t be able to make it on your parents’ relationship with God or your pastor’s relationship with God. It’s when you realize that you have to make sure your own personal relationship with God is solid if you are going to get through whatever situation you’re in and come out of it stronger.

I’m sure, dear reader, that there have been unexpected moments in your life, and there may be many more—some good, some bad. But it is our responsibility to get closer to God now—not tomorrow or next year—but now to make sure that we’re always prepared for the unexpected. If our daily walk with God is strong and consistent, then we are already prepared for whatever good or bad situation may come our way.

As long as our focus is on Him, and as long as we keep the momentum going, then in the presence of our Creator, we will find everything we’ll ever need to make it through when the unexpected comes.

For Better or Worse: Remaining Faithful to God in the Face of Adversity

This is a simple post, but sometimes, we need simple reminders of the greatness of our God to overcome our complex emotions.

The other night in prayer, I was thinking about and praying for our nation in the face of whatever may come in the next few weeks. Emotions have been high for many Americans as the presidential inauguration is scheduled for next week. We well know that God raises up kings (and other leaders) and takes them down. We can rest assured that His Will is what’s best for us, even when we may not like the immediate outcome in the natural.

So, what is our path forward in the face of adversity?

When I was sitting and praying about these things, I believe God led me to Daniel chapter 6 and reminded me of the single most important priority for any child of God no matter what may come our way—our relationship with Him.

(10) “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

(11) Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.

(12) Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.

(13) Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.”

~Daniel 6:10-13 (KJV)

In this chapter, corrupt leaders conspired against Daniel, who oversaw the financial affairs of the kingdom, to get him out of the way because he was an upright man. They manipulated King Darius to sign a decree saying that no one could present a petition to anyone, including God, except for the king for 30 days, knowing full well Daniel’s faithfulness to God. Now, Daniel knew that the king signed this decree, but instead of cowering, panicking, and following along with the corrupt leaders, he maintained his relationship with God. He remained faithful and prayed to God three times a day “as he did aforetime.”

In the face of evil, of darkness, of danger, and a threat to his life, Daniel remained faithful to God.

In the face of adversity, he continued to put God first.

His faithfulness got himself thrown into the lions’ den. Now, any one of us, if we went through that situation, may be thinking at that point, “God, whatchu doin’? Where you at? This ain’t looking good.” But Daniel didn’t doubt God, and as we see, God delivered him from the mouth of the lions.

(19) “Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.

(20) And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?

(21) Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.

(22) My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.

(23) Then was the king exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.”

~Daniel 6:19-23 (KJV)

No matter what kind of adversity comes our way, if we’re faithful to God, He will deliver us.

What we learn from Daniel’s experience in this chapter is that things always seem to be falling apart in the natural. Remember the three Hebrew boys from Daniel chapter three? Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego refused to worship to the golden image King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and the king had them thrown into the fiery furnace. In the natural, things seemingly became much, much worse.

I certainly would rather not be thrown into a fiery furnace. I don’t think I’d be all that calm or chill with it, but maybe that’s just me.

In the natural, when we consider what we see with our flesh, we can often allow ourselves to become focused only on the storm and only on the bad, but we fail to see with the spirit. We fail to see that no matter how bad things may look in the natural, God is preparing a great work in the supernatural.

This great work then serves as a great witness to others of the greatness and glory of God. God delivering the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace impressed Nebuchadnezzar, and he blessed God, declared that no one could speak against God, and he promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (see Daniel 3:28-30). God delivering Daniel from the lions’ mouths impressed Darius, and he made a decree that gloried God as “the living God” whose “dominion shall be even unto the end” (see Daniel 6:26). Not only is our faithfulness to God a witness to others, but how God comes through for us is a testament to others.

God shows His Glory to the world when adversity comes.

Things always seem to get worse in the natural before they get better. Before God moves, before deliverance comes, and before God reveals His Glory, things seem to be falling apart.

But God is moving.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” ~Romans 8:28 (KJV)

God was right there with the Hebrew boys when they were thrown into the fire. He was right there with Daniel when he was thrown into the lions’ den.

God is always with us. We just have to keep the faith, pray, and keep up our relationship with God.

No matter what may happen in the natural world, God is getting ready to do a mighty work for His people and for His Glory the likes of which the world has never seen.

Be Prepared

This is the story of how I almost contracted pneumonia after a treacherous journey in a torrential rainstorm during the fall semester of 2019.

It was around five o’clock in the evening, and I had only fifteen minutes to race from one side of my university campus to the other side and make it to my history class in time. When I chose my classes that semester, I knew a moment might come when I would regret the back-to-back scheduling of classes on opposite sides of the campus, but I could never predict how or why that might happen.

I was not prepared for the rain. Sure, I had checked my weather app that morning and knew there was a slight chance of rain, but it was only slight, and I didn’t want to carry around an umbrella all day, so I brushed it aside. A foolish decision, really, for the rain was not light, and I had no tool at my disposal to protect me.

It was a cold October evening, if memory serves me correctly, and I had to rush from my English to my history building while carrying my bag full of books and my purse as the rain poured. It soaked my thick, chenille-knit sweater and flattened my curls against my scalp. Of course, I tried to shield my head from the rain by holding my notebook over my head, but then I realized that I couldn’t let my class notes become soaked and, thereby, unreadable, and so I quickly stuffed the notebook back in my bookbag and sloshed forward as the rain beat on. By the time I reached my history building, I was nearly thoroughly wet.

And, of course, my history building was cool and breezy, and so I sat in the front row of my history class on the Spanish Conquest for nearly three hours in the evening in a wet sweater and damp hair.

I could get pneumonia, I thought. I could have a terrible cold. I might freeze to death in this classroom, wearing my adorable but uncomfortably wet chenille-knit sweater. I should have known.

Yes, I should have known to bring my umbrella and perhaps even my rain jacket that day, and when my father picked me up from class that night, he cranked up the heat in his truck for me and wisely informed me I should make sure to bring my umbrella next time. That week, he brought me a poncho to keep on me “just in case.”

Spoiler alert: I did not die, and neither did I contract pneumonia or come down with a cold or even the sniffles and a light cough. But the uncomfortable experience of sitting in a cool room in damp clothes and wet hair for three hours gave me plenty of reason to always be prepared for the next time it might be raining during the walk between my classes. If I had been prepared, I could have saved myself all that discomfort.

But don’t we often ignore our better judgment and find ourselves ill-prepared for life sometimes?

There were times in college when I failed to start my morning with a proper prayer session, and the rest of my day was awful. I was extra irritable and extra stressed and generally in a bad mood, and I remember thinking each time that if only I had prepared myself for the day in prayer, then perhaps I wouldn’t have been so miserable.

Prayer is not only our time to commune with God, but it’s how we prepare for each day and each situation so that we begin each day and situation prayed up and spiritually balanced.

I’ve prayed before every test I’ve taken, paper or assignment I’ve submitted, and important decision I’ve made. If I fail to do so, it is the same for me as failing to give God full control of every situation. Failing to put my life and work in His hands is the same as attempting to keep my life and work under the control of my incapable and ill-equipped hands.

I need Jesus to get through each day and each situation.

I need Him when I’m taking a test.

I need Him when I’m choosing which career decision to make.

I need Him when I’m walking through the literal or metaphorical rainstorm.

If we’re going to be prepared for whatever comes our way in life, we can’t ignore our responsibility to seek Him in prayer first. During prayer, God equips us with the ability and strength we need to get through each day, for He is the only One Who knows what each day will hold.

Prayer is preparation, and our preparation must begin with Jesus.

Going Deeper

Have your prayers ever seemed like a one-sided laundry list of your problems, preventing you from going deeper in your relationship with God?

“So, God, I have this problem with this thing that just won’t go away, and this has been happening, and this person has brought ‘x’ situation to my attention, and I don’t understand why they don’t seem all that concerned, and why won’t so-and-so do this one thing that I really wish they would do that would help us with that other situation, and ugh, God, my finances have been so tight lately, and I’m super busy, and it’s like I don’t have any time to get anything done during the day, and it seems I can’t find the time to really connect with You when I have all this stuff going on, and then there’s so-and-so’s health that we’re really concerned about, and this country’s problems, and my church stuff, and school, and work, and so many other things, and I just need You to help me out with it all, and oh, look at the time! I’ve got so much to do today, and I’m already exhausted. Okay, God, if You could just take care of it all today, that’d be great. Thanks. Okay, bye!”

Perhaps each of us have been here in our walks with God (most likely more than once) when life overwhelms us, but how often do we simply devote our prayer time to just worshipping God? Sometimes, when I’ve been overwhelmed with life, I often find my prayer time doesn’t take me deeper in my walk with Him because I’m going over all my problems and making myself more concerned about how “x” will go. But I always find myself wanting to go deeper.

How do we go deeper when life consumes us? Worship.

“Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of his holiness.” ~Psalms 29:2 (KJV)

Worship helps us take our mind off our troubles and puts our focus on God, ushering us into His Presence. We can easily overlook the worship part of our prayers and our church services when we’re busy and preoccupied, but we should endeavor to break this habit and worship Him more when life goes all 2020 on us. We may worship God in various ways, but one way that helps me get in the spirit of worship is through song.

When Paul and Silas were in prison, did they give God a laundry list of their problems? No.

They sang praises to God.

(23) “And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

(24) Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

(25) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” ~Acts 16:23-25 (KJV)

It is when we worship God in spite of our problems that we find more peace and reassurance in Him when life gets overwhelming.

“I come to You, Lord, time and time again,

Needing answers to questions I don’t understand,

But today, Lord, I come to You, asking nothing in return.

I want to love You, just let me love You.”

(“Let Me Love You” by Clint Brown)

Worship helps us let go of our worries and cares, give them to God, and instead focus on His greatness. Worship is essential because it takes our focus completely off the self and onto Him.

“Take us to deep, deep places

Where all we can see is You.

Let us see open Heaven

With angels surrounding You.”

(“Deep Places” by William McDowell)

Worship takes us to a place where we don’t see our troubles, where we instead see the glory of our King. Worship helps us put in the time with God to develop a closer walk with Him as we focus on Him more and less on ourselves.

“I decrease as You increase

It’s all about You! It’s not about me.”

(“More, Holy Spirit” by Covenant Worship)

Worship is when we recount all the great things He’s done and reflect on how great He is. Worship is when we declare His power and might, and as we do so, our faith increases, our love for Him increases, and we grow spiritually. He takes us to a level of pure praise and worship and invites us into His Throne Room. Pure worship to God is when He fills us up with His Spirit until we overflow.

The Spirit of God is something of which we can never have too much.

No one ever says to God, “You know, I think that’s enough. I’ve got a lot of Your Spirit in me. I don’t think I need anymore. I’m good, thanks.”

We can never have too much or enough of Him, but we always need more of Him because we don’t have enough strength on our own to get through life’s struggles. Going deeper in a relationship with God requires that we surrender our desire to control everything, approach His Thone in worship, and give it all to Him.

“Fill me up till I overflow

I wanna run over, I wanna run over!

Fill me up, God; fill me up, God; fill me up, God; fill me up!”

(“Fill Me Up/Overflow Medley” by Tasha Cobbs)

If you’re struggling with going deeper in your relationship with God, then in your next prayer session or during the next church service, devote that time to pure worship to God and see the change in your spirit. Notice the change in your outlook on life and your love for Him when you spend more of your time praising Him for His mercy and love and might.

Worship is the key to that secret place with God. All it requires of us is our surrender, and that is the place where things change and where He takes us deeper.

Prayer and Perseverance

I made it.

After 5 ½ years, I finally walked in my graduation ceremony at Missouri State University. I technically graduated in May, but COVID resulted in a delayed ceremony.

I entered college in the fall of 2015, and it all feels like a century ago. And yet I remember it all so clearly—the all-nighters, the pre-exam dread, the panic attacks when I didn’t get my desired grade on an assignment, the shortness of breath after rushing across campus to get to back-to-back classes in time. I could possibly write a book about my college experience because I took a wide range of challenging courses, had unusual and interesting encounters with students and classmates, and managed to get through it all unscathed. But also slightly traumatized.

The most important accomplishment after 5 ½ years of attending liberal colleges is (as some have told me) that I kept my faith through it all. Indeed, I left college this past May with a stronger understanding of who I am in Christ than I had when I entered college in 2015. There were moments when classmates openly ridiculed conservative and Christian beliefs as though they assumed no one in the room held those beliefs. There were liberal professors who taught ideologies and theories counter to what I believe, but I was always able to discern between the truth and a lie. God kept my mind stayed on Him through it all. There were even so many moments when I was positive I wouldn’t pass a test or keep a 4.0 (which meant the world to me), but every time, I prayed, didn’t give up, and trusted God to take care of it. And He did.

You see, I can’t do anything on my own—pass a test, write a great paper, or withstand others’ ridicule and challenges of my beliefs.

But through Christ, I can do all those things.

I firmly believe that He is the reason I made it this far when I was depressed and burned out from college in 2018. He is the reason I persevered and was able to graduate. He is the reason I can testify today that no amount of secular teaching ever caused me to waver in my faith and belief in Him. The more college exposed me to worldly spirits and points of view, the closer He pulled me to Him because I kept praying and kept believing in Him.

Prayer and perseverance.

That’s it.

If you’re in college right now or thinking of going to college someday soon, be encouraged that you can make it through and finish strong. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop studying His Word. Don’t stop going to church.

Just breathe. You will make it.

Pray. (Give your cares to God.)

And repeat.

Every single day take it step by step and day by day. Pretty soon, you’ll be looking back over that finish line, relieved that you made it and rejoicing in God for carrying you through.

He did it for me. I know He’ll do it for you.