Intentional

 

Written by: Conny Varga

When is the last time you just rested and spent time with Jesus? And I mean, really rested. Not the 5-minute spiel we call devotions, but hours or even days that you set aside specifically to spend only with Him, talking to Him, listening, and reading His Word. How long has it been?

I believe most of us women feel far too guilty about all the work we need to get done, the kids who need our time, the activities we are involved it, to truly slip away and be with Jesus.

If you’ve ever been head-over-heels in love with someone, you will remember that nothing in the world could have stopped you from spending time with this other person. You constantly daydreamed about him, wrote him, called him, went out for ice cream or a movie with him, and just couldn’t ever get enough of him.

In the Bible, we are called Jesus’ bride in several different passages. Jesus is our Bridegroom, He delights in us, is madly in love with us, and wants to spend time with us. He yearns for the closeness that only best of friends experience. He wants to comfort us, laugh with us, dream with us, chat with us. He can’t ever get enough of us.

Jesus also called Himself the Good Shepherd (John 10). According to Psalm 23, He takes such good care of us that we have nothing to fear, nothing to worry about. We can just rest and know that our Good Shepherd is ever-present and trustworthy. He will provide for our needs, even to the point of His own death.

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus invites us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

What is keeping you from spending time with Jesus? Is it chores? Kids? Or maybe laziness or selfishness? Whatever the reason, it’s time get your calendar out and plan for a “date” with the Bridegroom of your soul. Jesus wants to spend time with you, He wants you to rest, and He wants you to trust in His care. He longs for your undivided attention, because He loves you deeply and can’t ever get enough of you.

Let’s be intentional about our time we carve out for Him. If at all possible, go away for a day or two, somewhere quiet where you can just focus on your relationship with Him. If that absolutely does not fit into your schedule, then set aside at least a couple of hours. Get a babysitter. Tell your husband to pick up dinner. Cancel your pedicure. Leave your house so you don’t see the pile of laundry and dirty floors. Whatever it takes, let’s make time for the One who loves us more than we can ever imagine or understand.

The beauty about setting aside time for Jesus is that we will return back to normal life with more vigor, zeal, and focus, and less grumpiness, impatience, and stress. So if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, worried, stressed about life, maybe it’s time to go on a “date” with your Bridegroom. Let’s be head-over-heels in love with Him. It will change our lives.

Tuck it Deep Within

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

How many of you remember this little song from Sunday School?

O, be careful little eyes what you see.

O, be careful little eyes what you see.

For the Father up above, is looking down in love,

O, be careful little eyes what you see.

It continued with our little ears what they heard; our little mouths what they said; our little hands what they did.  There are times, when faced with life’s decisions and temptations, that this little tune drifts on the airwaves of my mind from the deep recesses of my childhood.  It has helped steer me in the right direction and keep my heart pure.

This song further reminds me of Luke 6:44-45 which says,

“For each tree is known by its own fruit.  For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.  The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

This profound word reveals the spiritual condition of our hearts and what others see and hear in our lives.

Are we exhibiting the Fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” found in Galatians 5:22 and are we cultivating that growth in our daily walk with Jesus?

I believe the answer lies in Psalm 119:10-11 which says, “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  The key is to tuck God’s Word within our hearts by daily reading His scriptures until they become a natural extension of our thoughts, actions and speech.

In fact, there are several scriptures that point us to “hide” His Word within our hearts.  Here are just a few! 

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-9

“The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just.  The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.”  Psalm 37:30-31

“I desire to do your will, my God; you law is within my heart.”  Psalm 40:8

It appears to me that every time scripture challenges us to “hide” God’s Word in our hearts it is to produce in us good fruit, guard us from unrighteousness, assist us in being a blessing to others and create an inheritance of Godliness from generation to generation.  This is critical and wonderful and powerful!

Daughters, we need to get back to memorizing God’s Word, tucking it deep within our hearts.  We need to daily carve out time to read our Bibles and journal our learning.  For, when His Word is in our hearts, we can recall it at will and use it according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which says,

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Someone You Can Trust!

Written by: Nathan Hill

In today’s age of information, we all want to know who we can trust to give us the best and most accurate wisdom. I use the Internet to search for different things every day: recipes for healthier food that I can eat without stomach issues (growing older is not fun…), to see what is going on in the world of news, and even to see what the popular opinion is about any topic that I am interested in. But who can we trust to give us sound wisdom? Who can we look to for wise guidance? Who has proven themselves over time to be solid, stable, and thoughtful? Of course we ought to all have our own direct connection with Jesus and not put too much faith in any person (because we are all fallible), but there is one Canadian theologian/writer that I have found to be a source of thought-provoking wisdom over the years, and I just discovered that he is now closer to home!

Who is this person that I am speaking of, you might ask? Well, his name is John Stackhouse Jr., and while I have never met him, I have read pieces of what he has written over the years. His background involves education in both Canada and the US in the disciplines of history and theology. He has recently occupied the role of professor of theology and culture at Regent College (succeeding J.I. Packer, for those of you who are familiar with that name) but what a surprise I discovered just today—this summer he moved to Moncton, NB to take up the role of professor of religious studies at Crandall University! What a great asset this will be for theological education and leadership in the Maritimes provinces of Canada.

What kind of wisdom can you expect from Stackhouse? Well, he writes a lot about the evangelical church in Canada, and so I first encountered his writings as a seminary student in a class called Evangelical Thought. However, the most influential book of his (that still occupies an important spot on the bookshelf in my office) has been his book on gender and its implications for service in Christian ministry. The book is called “Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender,” and I love the sub-title: Why both sides are right…and wrong. This has been the best book that I have read on this topic throughout my entire career as a seminary student and over 10 years in pastoral ministry. If you struggle with questions in this area, this book will be a great resource. Not only will this book provide you with wisdom from Stackhouse, the bibliography will lead you to other solid resources for deeper investigation.

Who have you found in your life to be a constant source of wisdom? Who do you trust with answers to tough questions? We must always have people who are ahead of us that can pass on their lessons, and we must always have people following us to whom we can pass on the very lessons we once received. Not only does this sound like a great communications and marketing strategy, it is also biblical! Imagine that. 🙂

Take a moment to think and perhaps share the name of the person that you can trust. Famous or not it does not matter, what matters is that we are both giving and receiving—moving waters rarely become stagnant.

One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. (Ps 145:4)

Be Still

Written by: Christianne Williams

Be still.  That can be tough.  When I think about being still, my children as toddlers always comes to my mind.  They would run about here and there from the time they got up in the morning until they laid their heads down at night.  One of my children in particular didn’t even really stop through the night.  There were constant trips to bathroom and pleas for water, hugs, and rescuing blankies that had suddenly vanished.  Taking them to places where being still was appreciated always made me anxious, because without fail they call upon some hidden energy store and need to be busier than normal.

I remember one time in particular one of my boys was being really loud and fidgety while a missionary was giving a presentation.  I got so tired of ‘shhhh’ing and trying to keep him still that I decided to take him to the nursery.  On our way he out, he asked very loudly, “Are you going to spank me?”  In this instance my son’s struggling got him where he wanted to be, in a place he could be free, not bound to sitting and coloring.  In life, though, struggling never helps us to achieve what God has for us, it simply wears us down.

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is getting closer to God and resting in His plan, asking Him for wisdom, and believing He’s going to work things for my good even if I don’t see evidence of it with my natural eyes.  It means being aware of how you’re viewing the situation around you, how you’re dealing with it, the action you’re taking.  Sometimes we feel like reacting instead of praying for wisdom and waiting until we get revelation on how to proceed.  Sometimes we try so hard in our own strength to change the way things are, the situation we find ourselves in, when what really brings peace is to say, “Ok God, what are you going to do here?”

I’ve had days when it really feels like everything is set up against me, like there’s no way good can happen, and I have to find a way to still my mind before the Lord and ask Him to bring me peace while He works things out.  Getting alone with Him and asking for a new perspective, for revelation about what you’re facing, that’s where we find perfect peace.  It doesn’t mean that the storm will pass right away, it may rage for awhile, but it brings an awareness of His nearness and the truth that He goes along beside us.

The more time you make to be still before Him, the easier it will become to trust Him to work things out for your good, regardless of the process He takes you through.  I’ve been in situations that make no sense, and quite honestly struggling through, trying to come up with a solution or a plan of some sort, has never worked.  What did work is realizing that my Father is good.  No matter how many people here turn against you, He never will.  No matter how many times we mess up with our reactions, He will always be faithful to help us back up.

I read something on social media the other day that I really like, and it sums up a new mindset I’ve tried to adopt.  “Instead of saying ‘Lord I don’t know how I am going to do this’, say ‘Lord, I can’t wait to see how You do this’”.  Be still. No struggling. Allow excitement to fill your heart over how He will work this out!

Emoji Me

Written by: Cindy Morrone

I have a question for you. When you text, comment or email what do you use most? Words (yes, abbreviated words included) or those great emojis?

I find that whatever I am trying to say can be best said with a smiling face, a face with tears of laughter, a sobbing face, a heart, praying hands or a monkey (when all else fails).

It just seems easier. And I am realizing there is something more to this than my cumbersome thumbs and thoughts not getting the words right.

I cry often. I cry at parades, most movies, talking to my daughters’ teacher (just last month, yes, they are in high school—grade 9), reading a touching post, watching the firsts of my foster babies and so much more.

I am starting to realize how emotional I can be. I ‘feel’ deeply.

In many ways, I am thankful for this gift. Compassion and empathy bodes serving others.

There are times though when my emotions have wreaked havoc on many situations and circumstances. My emotions have tainted my perceptions and misguided my decisions. How I feel cannot override who I know God to be and my obedience to Him and His holy Word.

In the desert the Israelites became caught up in an emotional frenzy of fear. They were forgetting what they knew about God and His character.

‘That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”’ (Numbers 14:1-4)

Gone were the memories of God freeing them from slavery, protecting them, feeding them and fulfilling every promise made to them. Their perspective changed as it was being led by emotion and being led away from God’s Promised Land.

Living life abundantly, the life God wants for me, means keeping my emotions in check. And letting the Truth about my God direct me by the leading of the Spirit instead.

‘For the Spirit of God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.’ 2 Timothy 1:7

Just Go

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

A number of years ago we took our young family on a missions trip to Mexico with a number of other people from our church in Essex Ontario.  On the final day of this missions trip we had a day off so the team went to South Padre Island for a day of rest. It was beautiful day. I remember the sand dunes.  The warmth of the sun. The waves of the ocean. It was a perfect sunny day…until  something happened.

We lost our middle child Ben.  He would have been six or seven at the time. I remember the panic I felt when we couldn’t find him. I remember scanning the water for any sign of him. I remember how many of us called his name but he had just disappeared. There was no trace of him. Gone! Had he been carried away by the waves? He was there one moment and then gone the next. Had he been abducted? Had he drowned? It seemed like forever had passed but eventually someone said “there he is” And sure enough there he was walking back to our group like everything was as it should be and nothing was wrong. Both Dale and I asked him where he had gone and that we were worried about him. He just looked at us and said in disgust, “I went to the bathroom. What did you want me to do, mess my pants?”  You see Ben was lost but he didn’t know it.

How many people are like that in this world we live in? I recently heard a sermon at a Global workers conference where we heard the statistic that 3.1 billion people still have not heard about Jesus. That he loves them. That he has a plan for their lives to give them a future and a hope. They don’t know about redemption.  I don’t know about you, but I found this number staggering and wondered how in this day and age that could be possible.  And yet the fact is that there are still many unreached people groups in the world today. They are lost but they don’t realize it. Yes, even in Canada and the States. For example the refugees coming from war torn Syria. My heart breaks for these people who have lost everything. Family, friends, their homes and possessions, their culture and everything familiar and all they once held dear. Can you imagine not being able to go home because there is nothing to go back to? Do they know about the hope they can have in Him? That he loves them and cares about their brokenness and that he can bring wholeness to their lives? Who will be the ones to tell them?

How can people call on him for help if they have not yet believed? And how can they believe in one they’ve not yet heard of? And how can they hear the message of life if there’s no one there to proclaim it? Romans 10.14

While we were away one of the speakers we heard was Rob Ketterling. He spoke on this very thing. Going and sharing your faith. He gave practical examples.  One of them that I remember was if he and his wife are out for dinner in a restaurant, he will say to the waitress. ”You know, we were just about to say grace. Is there anything that we can pray for you about today?” Most of the time they answer in the affirmative and they have an opportunity to pray for them.

Luke 14:23 So the master told him, “All right. Go out again and this time bring them all back with you. Persuade the beggars on the streets, the outcasts, even the homeless. Urgently insist that they come in and enjoy the feast so that my house will be full.”

You see, Jesus wants us to share his message with the lost, dirty, and the poor, the lonely and the hurting. His message is for all and yet there are many who have not heard. Will you share your faith with those around you, with those the Lord has placed in your life?  Maybe we are in their lives for such a time as this. How will they know if no one tells them?  Will you go?

The Other Side Of Sorry…..

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Has your spouse ever made you really angry? Maybe he forgot to take out the trash for the third week in a row. Maybe he broke a promise to you that you were really counting on. Perhaps he made an important decision without conferring with you first. Perhaps the reason for your anger was pretty menial….but he caught you at a bad time.

Friend, I’d be lying if I said I never get angry with my husband. I do more often than I should. Sometimes I get really angry about really stupid things.

We all get angry. Sometimes we get angry for reasons that feel legit and justified. Other times our reasoning is slightly off kilter.

There are two things that God has been working on my heart about regarding forgiveness.

1. Ask for it.
When we react in anger foolishly it is our responsibility to ask for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If we simply ask for forgiveness, God will continue to be faithful in keeping no record of our wrongs and forgiving us of our sins. Forget your pride, friend. Asking for forgiveness is SO important.

2. The other side of sorry.
There is more than just that flood of satisfaction when someone who has treated you wrongly apologizes. We have just as much responsibility when someone asks for our forgiveness; we must actually forgive them. How often do we walk away from an apology with bitterness still enveloping our hearts? Our flesh is incapable of shrugging off hurt and bitter feelings. However, the Holy Spirit can and will help us with that as long as we ask Him to. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭32‬ NIV)

So friend, is there an area of your heart that God has given a little nudge after reading this post today? Do you need to improve on asking for forgiveness when you find yourself reacting in anger unnecessarily or does God desire you to improve on your ability to extend forgiveness? May I pray for you? “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (‭Mark‬ ‭11‬:‭25‬ NIV)

Father God, thank You so much for Your forgiveness and the healing, peace and joy that comes from the truth that You have indeed washed us white as snow. Jesus, I pray for my sisters who also struggle with asking for and extending forgiveness. I pray that Your Holy Spirit will encompass us with each opportunity that arises where we are able to utilize these powerful words: I am sorry or I forgive you. Bless each heart that reads this post today. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

What’s Your Gospel Footprint?

Written by: Conny Varga

I’ve heard it said that you always leave an impact on the people around you, whether you try to or not. Your influence, whether great or small, good or bad, is inevitable. If you are doubtful, just think of all the people you’ve ever met, what your impression of them was, how they influenced your perceptions about them or their families, jobs, or churches. We are relational beings, and so our interactions with other humans will always shape us and others in some way or another.

One of the hot topics of the 21st century is “carbon footprint”. It’s a term used to describe the burden we place on nature by our use of the natural resources given to us. The goal is to reduce our carbon footprint and live as responsibly as possible. And, as much as I don’t lean towards extremes, we Christians should be mindful of the environment, since we were commanded – through Adam – to be good stewards of this earth.

However, there is another footprint I would like us to consider: our gospel footprint.

In Romans 10, Paul describes our footprint this way:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

When you think of all the people you interact with on a day-to-day basis, what is the impact you have on their lives? Are you leaving “footprints” of the gospel everywhere you go? What do your neighbours know about you? Have they seen God’s love through your actions and words towards them?

What does this look like in “real life”? Become friends with your neighbours and show them consistently through your words and actions that they can count on you. Allow them to see you in your good times and hard times, let them see how the joy of the Lord cannot be quenched no matter what the circumstance. Maybe you can frequent the same coffee shop every morning and befriend the staff. Learn and remember people’s names. What about helping out in a soup kitchen and taking the time to talk and listen to the people who come in for a meal? Spontaneously invite someone over for dinner who has had a rough day. Send a note of encouragement to a friend. Attend events in your community. And all the while, let the love of God ooze out of your every pore. Weave your passion for Jesus into every minute of your life.

While we want to ensure that our carbon footprint is small, our gospel footprint should grow larger every day. As we go through life, we have the awesome opportunity to impact people around us for eternity. That’s a thrilling, and a bit scary, thought!

Jesus, in His Great Commission, did not only charge us with this exact task. He also promised to be with us whenever we share the gospel, and He promised His power and boldness, His love and courage through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

So let’s shake off our fears, our inhibitions, indifference, or selfishness, and let’s leave huge gospel footprints for the glory of God, and for the eternal destiny of the people around us.

The Ordinary

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

This past weekend held something extraordinary!  T’was the marriage celebration of Prince Harry of England to his bride Meghan Markle, the American actress, seen by countless viewers around the globe.  The elegance of the event was simply stunning and attended by royalty, celebrity and family.  The sheer magnitude of the day, with its steep price tag of 45 million dollars, was truly mind boggling and beyond beautiful!  It was a momentous coming together of the common and the grand.

As I watched the event unfold I was drawn to its grandeur; imagining what it would be like to become a royal as Meghan Markle had.  I found myself dreaming of a life at Buckingham Palace with all its elegance and charm; being waited on and cared for 24/7.  Jetting off to foreign lands and attending galas in full formal dress.  Having access to experiences not afforded to the average person and the jewels…Oh the jewels!  Every gal dreams of being royalty…Right?

But, I quickly realized that even those living extraordinary lives have ordinary moments and those living ordinary lives have extraordinary moments!  In my very ordinary existence I am reminded of a quote from one of my favourite authors, Oswald Chambers.  It says,

“The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening.”

I love this quote.  Mostly because as a woman, wife, mother, friend and professional, running through my life from task to task, I often just feel very ordinary.  I am no different than many other women on the planet.  No different than any of you reading this blog.

I do dishes every day, fold laundry, clean toilets, sweep floors, tidy rooms, make meals, reassemble the kitchen and dust the house.  I get up to an alarm, get ready for work, cross tasks off my “to-do” list, head home, only to do it all again the next day.  I run the kids to their extra-curricular activities and social engagements.  I book eye appointments and visits to the vet for our furry companions.  And let’s not forget grocery shopping.  It never ends!

Add to this the crazy pace in which life travels and the ordinariness of life can compound.  There is often only enough time for mascara and lip balm on my way out the door.  The church clothes worn on Sunday get worn on Monday to work for the sake of efficiency.  My hair is coiffed the same way every day because there is limited bathroom time in the morning for experimentation.  I still try to use the “baby weight” excuse after 18 years of motherhood for the added pounds around my middle.  My younger vain teenage self would be appalled at my older ordinary appearance.

There are times I sit and watch an “edge of the seat” flick on Netflix, filled with wonder, adventure, danger, romance, intrigue and suspense.  Or a documentary of an individual beating the odds or accomplishing a great feat.  Both have the ability to leave me feeling somewhat small and insignificant.

There are times when special guests come to speak at church and share about their incredible salvation stories or their unbelievable opportunities to minister and witness.  Again, I feel as though my spiritual story pales in comparison.

But, I must remember that in the ordinary moments there are so many opportunities to practice the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) with those I come in to contact with every day.  All of those little ordinary moments along the way add up to a lifetime of incredible blessings flowing out.

The extra care given to removing a sliver from my child’s finger; the bouquet of bacon roses left for my husband when he returns from a meeting at work; the care package sent to my sister abroad.  The door held open for the elderly man struggling to enter a building; the encouraging word to a mom in line at the grocery story with a squalling infant; the coffee paid for in the vehicle ahead in the drive-thru line.  These are the ordinary moments that become extraordinary as I allow my character to grow and shine for Jesus.

When My Plans Don’t Work Out

Written by: Sarah Walker

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline.” (Timothy 1:7)

In the last few months, I have come across a few new and different opportunities to minister to other people. Each opportunity has been outside of my comfort zone, and would require me to take a step of faith. After taking time in prayer and seeking out counsel from people that I trust, I felt God’s leading to say “yes” to stepping out into each new opportunity.

Even though I trust Him, it can still be scary to step forward and say, “yes” to God! Taking a step of faith is a step towards the unknown. Questions like, “Can I do this?”, “How will I do this?”, and “Will I succeed, or will I fail?”, start to take over my thoughts. (And as they do, I notice how “I”-focused such thoughts are!)

If I were to dwell on all of the negative possibilities too much, it would probably be pretty easy to talk myself out of things before they even start!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I have done lots of different jobs in ministry over the years! I’ve lead several small groups, I’ve lead women’s ministry, I’ve been a Power Point person, I’ve been a youth leader, I’ve hosted endless events, I’ve been heavily involved in children’s ministries, I’ve filled in wherever help was needed! (except worship – my love and passion for singing is apparently not matched with any talent for singing!)

As I stepped up to fill into various roles, there have been many times that I’ve seen God do incredible things and where I have been incredibly blessed through the process!

Then there have been times where I feel like I failed miserably. Things just didn’t go the way I wanted them to! At one church, I took over leading a women’s ministry. I had arranged an amazing and powerful curriculum by a popular writer/speaker. I prayed a lot, and I put in a lot of work into preparing teaching and activities for women’s nights. There was lots of great social time, great teaching time, and great outreach time built in.

And in a church of about one hundred women, my average attendance for our events was five!

A ton of work and countless hours had gone into this, but all my efforts seemed fruitless.

Maybe I was wrong and I had missed God’s will in taking the leadership position. We all make mistakes in discernment sometimes! We can do a lot by our own strength and effort, but sometimes, if God isn’t in it, our efforts will be fruitless and frustrating.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Maybe it was a test, to see if I would persevere, to see if I would stick it out, to see if I would have the courage to say yes again, even after a rough season?

For you, God, tested us; You refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:10-12)

A challenging attempt at women’s ministry is definitely not like being in jail or going through fire, but it did take down my self-esteem for a while, and made me question my ability to lead!

Maybe I just failed at figuring out the right way to minister to that particular group. As I look back, I probably should have taken a different approach with those ladies, which I would do differently if I were doing it all over again!

That being true, it’s also very possible that what I saw as a personal failure was also God’s victory.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1Samuel 16:7)

I based success on what I could see with my eyes. I was caught up in that oh-so-common church focus on numbers and visible results. The time and energy I put in did not match the attendance or the results that I expected, but if even one heart was impacted, one life encouraged – then all the hard work was not in vain! Sometimes God is up to things that we don’t comprehend at all!

And I have come to trust that hard work and perseverance, when it is done as worship to God and service to others, is never a bad thing! Even though the ministry didn’t go as I would have liked, I still showed God that I was willing to take a risk in stepping out into what I believed was His will – and that’s never a waste, either!

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9-11)

I learned a lot in that season. As much as we learn in the good times, I feel like I learn even more in the challenging times. We don’t always succeed in everything we do, at least not tangibly. My husband, a pastor, often says that if someone can’t comfortably give an example of a failure in their life, and what God taught them through it, then he’s not interested in putting them in ministry positions! Through the failures, we are humbled, our character is developed, our faith is stretched, and we are reminded that GOD is the one who brings about ministry, not us!

I’m still learning how to do this, and I don’t always do it so well! But knowing that God is still God, no matter what, gives me the courage in HIM to step out again and again!