Ambition, aspiration, cravings, dreams, longings and yearnings are all associated with hope. When theses desires begin to slip away, individuals have to fight with determination so that hope survives. Whenever your confidence is shaken by defeat, failure or a loss, hope is like a dim light surrounded by darkness, ready to be snuffed out by unforeseen events.
But we belong to the day; therefore, let us be sober and put on the breastplate (corslet) of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation, 1 Thessalonians 5:8.
In a letter to a community with a troubled pass, Paul reminds this church that Christians are children of the light. Thus, as the Devil continues to bring and drag up skeletons from your past, don’t let doubt creep into your mind. The longer negative thoughts continue to linger, the closer the enemy comes to achieving his goal, John 10:10.
For God has not appointed us to [incur His] wrath [He did not select us to condemn us], but [that we might] obtain [His] salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
The apostle Paul flips the script in the passage above. Instead of always being on defense, Paul takes up the Sword of the Spirit to go on offense, reminding believers of the ultimate prize. God’s end game is salvation, the opportunity to be reunited with Jesus in heaven. Hope is like an exit sign in the distance, the only way to God, John 14:6. When darkness blocks your path from this doorway, hope is what keep souls alive, surviving to live another day.
Beside Christmas morning, my favorite day of the year as a child was Opening Day of Little League Baseball. The smell of freshly cut grass, dressing up in a brand new uniform and hearing my name called during the opening ceremonies inspired me to play baseball. When I finally reached the majors as a twelve year old, I was the lead off hitter and starting pitcher. After nearly homering on the first pitch of the season, I was left stranded at second base. After this hit, it was all down hill as I never made it out of the first inning. If ESPN was covering this 31-19 loss, the analyst’s would describe my pitching performance as “getting lite up and rocked.”
And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint, Galatians 6:9.
This shocking result haunted me for a couple of years. Instead of fighting through adversity, I often took myself out of the game, losing confidence in my ability to pitch. The harder I threw, the further the ball flew, putting my head down on numerous occasions after giving up home runs to opposing batters. I went from standing tall on the mound to losing my love for this game. No one likes to lose and the more I did as a pitcher, I doubted that I would ever taste success again. Just prior to my only season of high school baseball, my 8th grade coach believed in me. Although the rest of our staff threw harder and were more talented, I had a better command of the strike zone. Thus, when I was named the opening day starting pitcher, I longed for redemption. This time I struck out the side in the first and pitched a complete game, earning the victory.
So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only [j]being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:10.
After watching episode 12 from Season 2 of Joan of Arcadia, I was inspired to write this blog. Joan was fighting her own battle with confidence. Following an embarrassing encounter with her guidance counselor, Joan was told she had no future at a four year college. This news caused Joan to lower her expectations, deciding to attend a trade school rather than apply to colleges. After meeting a tutor, receiving encouragement from her mother and support from a friend, Joan realized that she took herself out of the game of life. Discouragement kept Joan on the bench, afraid of another embarrassing setback. Using an uncanny gift for Rock, Paper, Scissors, Joan challenges two of the smartest students in school to this game. After easily defeating the first boy, Joan faces her brother Luke in a best of three duel. Despite losing in overtime, Joan realizes that it’s time to get back in the game. If you’re afraid of defeat, may this blog inspire you to face your fear of failure by getting back into the game of life.
Every so often, I question God’s timing. When my life seems to stand still, moving in slow motion, I get impatient. While this may not happen every month, several times a year I get frustrated by a lack of progress. The Bible suggests human minds struggle to comprehend, fathom or understand God’s grand design. Thus, for now I feel like Job, pondering the purpose of trials in life like the Coronavirus pandemic spreading throughout the world.
Then Joseph could not restrain himself [any longer] before all those who stood by him, and he called out, Cause every man to go out from me! So no one stood there with Joseph while he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept and sobbed aloud, and the Egyptians [who had just left him] heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard about it. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph! Is my father still alive? And his brothers could not reply, for they were distressingly disturbed and dismayed at [the startling realization that they were in] his presence, Genesis 45:1-3.
Joseph of the Old Testament likely experienced similar mood swings. After sharing vivid dreams with his family, he quickly became despised by his brothers. Sold into slavery as a teenager, Joseph worked his way up to a caretaker for Potiphar’s estate. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s flirtatious wife falsely accused Joseph of rape leading straight to prison. Unlike me, Joseph kept a position attitude until the Lord finally completed his ultimate goal.
But now, do not be distressed and disheartened or vexed and angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years more in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a posterity and to continue a remnant on the earth, to save your lives by a great escape and save for you many survivors, Genesis 45:5-7.
What human beings see as defeat, failure and losses, God uses these moments to prune the dead branches in your life, John 15:1-5. The hard part is remaining in the vine, sticking with Jesus as darkness surrounds you. To those that stay near the Lord, abundant fruits flow in the form of blessings in life. Yet, bitterness, pride and selfish ambition cause many to wander away, trying it on your own. If I could just learn to be more Joseph in Genesis, maybe I’ll begin to see God’s hand as everything goes according to His plan.
As a struggling perfectionist, I like to think that I can accomplish whatever I set my heart and mind on. Although I am blessed to have succeeded in achieving many of my goals in life, the older I become, the more I seem to experience failure. With defeat comes doubt, making the idea of victory a foreign concept. Meanwhile, just when I think I am heading in the right direction, God throws me a curve. While fasting and praying this week, it’s safe to say that I am not in control.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.
In the passage above, the apostle Paul uses a sports analogy, referencing the Corinthians Games, a famous Track & Field competition. The only problem with athletics is the finality of it all as there is only one winner. Everyone else who falls short ends up a loser, often disappointed by the outcome. In a world of over 7 billion inhabitants, there is always some better than you, eventually taking your championship, crown or title. No matter how hard you train, you can’t control the determination of someone else who wants it more than you.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize, 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.
Boxers and runners daily seek to push their bodies to the limits. This desire enables the world’s greatest athletes to break records every year. Yet, you can only go so far as the human flesh has it’s breaking point. In the passage above, the apostle Paul adds a spiritual element to this discussion. This comes to a climax in another letter, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, where Paul realizes, “in my weakness Christ is strongest.” Therefore, as the spiritually mature acknowledge that they are not in control, God’s power will fall upon you.
Annoying, defeating and unfulfilled are words synonomous with frustration. Whenever your expectations for something is not met, individuals can overreact. This is often displayed in public through fits of rage, tantrums and wounded relationships.
The eyes of the LORD keep watch over knowledge, but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful, Proverbs 22:12.
According to King Solomon, the origin of frustration can be easily explained. When people try to manufacture something outside of God’s will, attempting to bypass knowledge, the Lord steps in. Thus, the unfaithful are thwarted resulting in a closed door, failure or rejection.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, Hebrews 10:26.
Meanwhile, the principle of sowing and reaping also applies, Galatians 6:7-8. God is not going to bless or allow prosperity over the long haul to the unfaithful. In view of this information, confess any wrong doing of the present and past. Although frustration usually results in humility, a broken heart provides the environment for grace and forgiveness. May disappointment and trials lead to a spirit of revival this Christmas season.
Everyone will hit that proverbial bump in the road at some point in life. This moment of inconvenience could be a quick pit stop, a rough stretch or turn into a dead end. If the latter is you, its hard to start over, especially if you’re not sure where to go from here.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me, Philippians 3:12.
Upon receiving the news of my most recent rejection from Hollywood, fourth in five years, I’m starting to have second thoughts on my writing career. Part of me truly believed my latest script Dragged Behind the Devil’ s Door would be a box office hit, but now that reality is setting in I wonder if I’m on the right track or simply chasing some improbable fantasy.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, Philippians 3:13.
Perhaps the apostle Paul went through a similar phase during his first century mission trips throughout the Middle East. Instead of seeing progress, Paul experienced failure, persecution and suffering. While writing a letter to one of his favorite churches, Paul had a vision that gave him direction for the last portion of his life. May the words above serve as a message of hope to those ready to give up, quit or abandon your calling. Although I’m not sure what role writing will play in the next stage of my life, I need to forget past disappointments by straining toward what is ahead, eternal life with Christ my Lord.