According to Romans 8:35-39, the Apostle Paul lets us know that nothing shall be able to separate us from the "love of Christ" or from "the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." That's truly great, but let's not miss an important truth here. The love of God is not just about how He takes excellent care of us, how He leads us and guides us, how He delivers us from various situations, and how He heals us and blesses us. Those things are only part of the equation.
We have to remember that the love of God also includes rebuke and correction for us when we need it whenever we get off track and are operating in foolishness. Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6-7 are in agreement with respect to the fact that the Lord disciplines those He loves the same way an earthly father disciplines his children. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say in Hebrews 12:8, "If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all (NIV). The KJV version of verse 8 says that those without chastisement are "bastards, and not sons." One might say, "whoa that is pretty harsh," but the thing is this: if you only look forward to the nice, feel-good types of things from God, but at the same time you always reject God's love in the form of discipline/rebuke/correction when you are truly wrong about something, have you really received Him as your Father? Just something to think about.
It's a terrible thing to be free physically, but in prison mentally. Don't let the devil get in your head! Don't allow him to have any room in your mind to cause fear, worry, anxiety (and any other thing contrary to the kind of thinking God wants us to exhibit) to grow. The battle is in your mind. "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he..." (Proverbs 23:7a).
You might be present physically, but are you really present mentally? Where are you? Have you let negative thinking keep you from pursuing God's heart? Have you let the enemy trick you into thinking that you can't be used by God because of this and that? Are you a slave to a cycle of bad thoughts that then lead to bad actions/habits? How healthy is your mind? And trust me, this is for me as much as it is for anyone else. We can't allow the enemy to get in our heads because if we do, we will end up forfeiting God's best for us because we think we need to exchange our birthright for a bowl of porridge just because life might have temporarily exhausted us (Genesis 25:29-34). Get it together Esau. You're not about to die. It's not that serious. Get your mind right. Don't lose out on what God wants you to have and experience just because you can't seem to get your mind right because you're stuck on having a temporary fix. A temporary fix never really solves anything for the long haul.
When the devil lies to you, replace his lies with God's truth. When the devil tries to get you to feel anxious and fearful, remind yourself that when you seek the Lord in prayer, He will deliver you from all your fears (Psalm 34:4). Cast all your anxiety/cares on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). You can do it! Reclaim the territory of your mind so you can do what God has called you to do and be who He has called you to be.
Some people are stuck where they are in life because they need to know too much. They can't stand being uncertain because they want to be able to appear like they have it all together and like they can be counted on to have all the answers. They end up putting too much pressure on themselves, then they wonder why they are collapsing under the weight of all the things they think they deserve to know about.
When God plants you in soil, the soil represents a period of uncertainty. You don't have to know HOW you are going to grow through the circumstances you'll face, you just need to know that you WILL as long as you keep in mind WHO your source is. God is our Source. It is okay for us to experience uncertainty at times. That way, we don't get confused thinking we are the source and all the while we got it twisted about what our job is and what God's job is. Our job is to listen to Him when He speaks to us and obey Him. His job is to produce the outcome that will be for good and bring Him ultimate glory. When you plant a seed, you can't make it rain and you can't control the rate of growth of the seed as it transforms into what is considered the harvest. Being in the soil might not feel good, but you have to remember it's part of the process. You can't have a harvest without planting in the dirt first.
In your growing process, you will face disappointment, insecurity, rejection, and trouble (DIRT), but never forget that you are called according to God's purpose. Nothing can change that. Understand that every dream requires dirt. It's about growing where God plants us. Sometimes we try to plant ourselves and wonder why our little plans fail. When God plants you, it's a different story because He plants according to His divine purpose for each of us, not so we can simply feel good about superficial things that have no eternal weight. Be encouraged today. If it feels like you've been buried, it's okay; you are planted! In due time, there will be a wonderful harvest if you let patience have its perfect (complete) work in you (James 1:4).
It's one thing to just have "life happen" to you. You experience different things, some good, some bad, of course. But are you consciously making a decision to learn all you can about the situation you are in now, or are about to be in? Have you decided in advance, "I am going to grow through this experience because when I come out on the other side of this, I will be able to testify about how God brought me out and encourage someone else who is going through what I went through"? Have you made up in your mind that what you are experiencing will not just be another experience, but you will invite God in so He can reveal to you how He is continuing to shape you and mold you for the ultimate thing He has called you for, whatever it might happen to be?
Decide to GROW through every trial, every circumstance, every good experience and every bad experience. When you decide to grow through it all, you will be able to consistently see each day how all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. If you don't love God, this doesn't apply to you. If you are not part of "the called," this doesn't apply to you. But if you know deep down that God has called you to do great things in the earth to glorify Him for His kingdom purpose, then this definitely applies to you! You can choose to simply go through it or you can choose to grow through it. No one will force your hand.
When you are on the verge of transitioning from one level in life to the next, just stay on your guard with your shield of faith and sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, for spiritual warfare. The devil does not want you to make it, but God's plan for your life cannot be stopped! And keep a praise for Jesus on your lips so you don't have time to speak negative things while waiting on your breakthrough. Also, know that some people who were with you on your current level cannot come with you to the next level. It's ok. Let 'em go. Their season to be with you is up. Just make sure you learn whatever lesson(s) you needed to learn from them, and keep it moving. God has great things in store for His people who keep their eyes on the ultimate prize, that is, Jesus Himself.
You might have struggled with something (whether it's a certain situation, a set of circumstances, a bad habit, a negative attitude, etc.) for months or maybe even for years now. No matter how long you have been dealing with your issue, know that God is calling you to a higher place. And you need to know today that you are not your struggle. You might have a struggle, but the struggle is not who YOU are; it's not your identity. Your identity is in Christ. You might have felt for so long that there was no way out of your situation, no way for your bad habits to be broken, no way to get to a better set of friendships/relationships, but God is saying, "Come up higher and gain a heavenly perspective by reading and studying My Word." You don't have stay to stuck where you are.
If you are in darkness, you have an opportunity to step into the light, the kind of light only God has provided through Christ Jesus our Lord. If you are confused about so many things, you don't have to remain confused. If you feel lost, you don't have to remain lost. Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart. You have to be the one to choose to let Him in. If you're already a believer in Jesus, there are times when Jesus will knock on the door of your heart too. We as believers are not exempt from inviting Jesus in to come sup with us daily. Jesus is telling us, "It's one thing to be saved, it's another thing to actually step into purpose and allow Me to work through you because there are some things you cannot do in your own strength. The way you will get to fulfill your purpose won't be by your power, nor by your might, but by His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).
God is calling you to become unstuck in what you thought you had to remain in. It doesn't have to be this: "Well this is the way it's always been." The devil is a liar! God wants to do a new thing in your life (Isaiah 43:19)! Get ready! Be open to receiving what great level of grace the Lord wants to lavish on you in a way that will blow your mind!
Believers in Christ, understand that there will be people that will try to identify you and define you by your negative characteristics, instead of your name. They will identify you by your situation or by something you did in the past, but they fail to see what God is doing in your life now. Don't let that get you down. God knows you and that's what really matters. He knew you before He formed you in your mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5). People might call you one thing, but what does God call you? He calls you blessed and highly favored. He calls you redeemed. He calls you victorious. He says you are more than a conqueror! What God calls you will always outweigh the slander of men.
I just want to share some points from the message Pastor Michael Todd preached at Elevation on this past Sunday. My God, that word was gooood! Hopefully these points he shared will bless someone. (I'll be mixing in some of my own thoughts from my notes too, if that's alright. LOL.)
First of all, if you are saved in Christ, then you are marked by God so you can accomplish great things for Him on earth for the sake of fulfilling His kingdom purposes. No matter the trials, circumstances, and situations you face in life, understand that you are marked. The devil can't destroy your purpose, but what he will try to do is get you distracted with lies so you lose your focus on what your priorities should be. Don't let the devil distract you. When you stop believing the lie, you can believe the truth.
Secondly, learn a sad lesson from looking at Saul's life. He was Israel's king for some time, but he got to a point where he lost the anointing from God even while he was still in leadership because he kept doing things his own way. Just because you're in leadership and have a title, it doesn't mean you're operating in the anointing from God. If you're serving God, you have to do things His way because He knows best how to elevate you from one level to the next. If your pride and personal agenda get in the way, you will sabotage your own blessing and breakthrough because you would have done something to mess up the order of the things God desires to do in and through your life. God is a God of order and He will not have His ultimate plan ruined by man because of disobedience.
Next, understand that there will be people that will try to identify you and define you by your negative characteristics, instead of your name. They will identify you by your situation or by something you did in the past, but they fail to see what God is doing in your life now. Don't let that get you down. God knows you and that's what really matters. He knew you before He formed you in your mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5). People might call you one thing, but what does God call you? He calls you blessed and highly favored. He calls you redeemed. He calls you victorious. He says you are more than a conqueror! What God calls you will always outweigh the slander of men.
Now for the major points:
1 - If you are marked by God, you are approved in private. We often struggle with wanting our approval by God to be known by all. We live in this social-media-crazed society now in which people want instant validation. But what God does for you in private cannot be displayed since it's in seed form. The seed does not look like the harvest. In between the seed time and harvest time is a waiting period. The problem with our generation now is that we don't like to wait for things. We want people to like us now. We want people to approve of us now. We want the promotion right away now, forgetting about the importance of this thing called a process. When you're in the middle of the process of what God wants to work out in your life, don't worry about whether or not people approve of you. As long as you are operating in obedience to God, God has a way of letting others know how blessed you are without your direct input. If you try to let others know how great you are, that can turn into pride and you can lose your posture of humility which got you to the point where God could use you in the first place.
2 - If you are marked by God, you are anointed before you are positioned. David was anointed for kingship way before he stepped into the position of king. After his anointing by God through Samuel took place, what did David do? He went back to tending sheep as a shepherd. Just because you are anointed "here," it doesn't mean you can step into your assignment "there" right away. While David was doing his job as a shepherd, God was doing a heart check job on him. God will test you to see if you can tell how your heart is before you step into the next level of what God has called you to do. If you are mean and nasty to people down here, what makes you think you will be the opposite up there? How is your heart? Can you stand to go back to what you know to do right now for an extended season (even if that means several extra months or years) even though you know you are destined for more and greater? Can you keep your ego in check through the waiting period?
3 - If you are marked by God, you are the answer to a problem. "When you do what God told you to do, you don't have to vie for a position; people will send for you" (Michael Todd). When Saul was being tormented by an evil spirit, David was called in to minister to Saul by playing on the harp because Saul's court found out David was great on stringed instruments. He was great because he spent a lot of time with the Lord while writing psalms. When you spend time with the Lord, He will show you what to do to torment what is tormenting your leader. But the point is this, David got a taste of the palace, not as a person of interest, but he came as a servant. While waiting on God, wait on God (serve as a waiter serves in a humble way).
4 - If you are marked by God, you should understand that opportunity is wrapped in obedience. Will you choose to obey God even when things seem contrary to you and you can't see how you're supposed to get from point A to point B? Many times, because we get so focused on trying to be great so fast, it can be easy to miss the points where we should be obedient to God because the situations that require our obedience might not look similar to the way the situation will look once we have already stepped into our position of greatness. The training ground does not always look like the real battlefield. When David was tending sheep, he fought a bear and a lion to protect his sheep from danger. He didn’t know then he would have the opportunity to face Goliath later on what was a bigger stage than a sheep pasture until he was obedient to his father in taking some food to his brothers on the battlefield. David could have chosen to disobey his father out of frustration with regard to why his brothers and even his father seemed to overlook him at first when Samuel arrived at their house to anoint the next king of Israel after Saul. David could have been spiteful and said, “No, why should I go serve my brothers when they treat me like an outcast?” But no, he did not say that. Instead, he obeyed his father’s request. When he obeyed, he noticed Goliath standing there being totally disrespectful, mocking God and the armies of God. If David had never gone down to the battlefield to bring his brothers food, he never would have gotten the chance to kill Goliath and cut his head off to serve notice against anyone who would dare speak against the name of God or against those who stand for Him. Sometimes it’s the simple acts of obedience that lead to big opportunities.
5 – If you are marked by God, you are elevated through obstacles. “An opportunity and an obstacle can look the same depending on who is on your side” (Michael Todd). Do you have cancer or know someone who has it? That’s an opportunity for God to show up as Healer. Are you struggling with your finances or a lack of resources? That’s an opportunity for God to show up as your Provider. Whatever you do, don’t shrink back away from your issues and circumstances, but step forward and face them head on. When you step up, God will show up and show out in a big way. When you step up, you are showing God that you trust Him to do whatever you can’t do. You know how to come to the end of yourself and allow God to begin to do a fresh work in your life. When you step forward by faith, God will elevate you to a new level. When you are faithful with how you handle a little issue, God will bring you up to a new level in which you’ll have to trust Him to handle an even bigger issue for you. The bigger the issues get, the more we have to learn how to relinquish control over how situations play out. If we are not careful, we can deceive ourselves into thinking “maybe this issue is so big because God is testing me on how I can find a way to work things out.” Nope! God does not want us to feel like we have the absolute control over anything because if we did, we might begin to feel like we no longer need God. God does not want you trying to figure out things or devising schemes to deal with this, that, and the other. All God wants you to do is to trust Him no matter how small or how big the situation is. It’s hard for us to let go of trying to control so much, especially in this society today that constantly reinforces humanism and “living life on your own terms” and all this other foolishness. The truth is that nothing is too hard or too big for God to handle. The bigger the situation, the more we need to trust that God will work things out. The only action we need to take is acting on what God tells us to do, not making up our own rules on how we are going to get to the next level in life. When we finally get to the next level because of our obedience to God, we are to not flinch on the big stage. David didn’t flinch against Goliath because his practice for battle came in the form of dealing with the bear and the lion while using grappling and sling-shot skills. David built up his consistency in properly handling himself in tough situation so we was ready for Goliath before he knew he would have to face him. What about you? Are you constantly honing your skills related to handling yourself well in tough spots so when the big tests come you are not flinching and wanting to back away?
6 – If you are marked by God, you must be you. When David was about to fight Goliath, Saul tried to give David armor that was too big for him. David never had the chances to test out battle armor in the past and Saul was trying to make David into somebody he wasn’t because he failed to see who David really was on the inside. Has something similar happened to you? People tried to make you into something you were never meant to be or they tried to get you to do something you were never supposed to do because they didn’t really know you like that. Saul didn’t know about David’s “training” against the bear and the lion until David spoke up about it. David didn’t need Saul’s armor. David just needed to know that God had prepared him for what didn’t necessarily look like his training. God knew that David would recognize facing Goliath as the chance to show off the skills God graced him with. Armor would have only slowed him down. Don’t try to conform to the pattern of what other people are doing when God didn’t call you to do things the way they do.
7 – Finally, if you are marked by God, you must have the audacity to honor. After David killed Goliath and cut off his head, the women sang his praises. They exaggerated a bit by saying Saul killed his thousands, but David his ten thousands. In all of that, David never took an opportunity to say anything ill against Saul. In 1 Samuel 24:6, an opportunity for David to kill Saul in a cave had presented itself (Saul had tried to kill David before that point, so David could have chosen the path of revenge), but David did not. David understood that even though Saul was no longer God’s anointed, Saul was still his leader. David understood that God’s long-term plan for him was greater than what could have been a short-term gain based on his feelings at the time. Can you stand to support your leader, even when they have tried to kill your dreams, your opportunities for success, or even YOU, literally? I’m sure David was so tempted to take out Saul, but instead, he just cuts off a corner of Saul’s garment to symbolize the fact that the kingdom would be torn away from him. Do you have what it takes to communicate with your leader in such a way that you challenge him/her to grow up and do better without doing real harm to them at the same time when you feel like you’d be justified somehow because of whatever they did to you in the past? David chose to honor Saul’s leadership at every turn. David’s companions who were with him by the cave wanted him to make an assault against Saul. If David would have done that, he would have assaulted his own destiny. Watch who you keep around you when trouble starts to brew. It’s better to be alone with God by your side than to be in the company of so-called “friends” who have neither the insight nor the foresight to see how God wants to operate in your life in order to bring you to greatness because you are marked by Him ultimately for His glory.
I just want to encourage and inspire as many people as I can for Jesus Christ.