Don’t Let Doubts Defeat You

It’s that time of year we have all been dreading: midterms. Midterms and other exams can really be draining, especially when it comes to your hardest classes. So this week, I thought I could bring some encouragement for when our work load becomes more than what we can handle.

There is a saying that goes around: “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. Is this a true statement? If we look at 1 Corithians 10:13,

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Is this what Paul is telling us? Let’s look at this as a college point of view.

There will be at least one college course here at school that you will struggle with. You may be consuming all your time studying for that class, but your grades still don’t look so great. This can be really frustrating and mostly discouraging, sometimes you doubt your ability to succeed. College isn’t meant to be easy. Here at Cedarville University, you will be challenged academically and spiritually to be ready for the real world. Sometimes a class seems too difficult, and the work for the rest of the semester seems too much. And the work load before doing it, already puts you down. To me, I want to be self-sufficient, and when getting grades I am not pleased about, I tend to let it bring me down and worry about what the rest of college is going to look like.

But the Bible tells us to not worry about the future as long as we trust in the Lord and not our own ability, God will provide. He will provide you a path to follow:

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).

So this is my advice: If you are going to be defeated by a college course, then at least give it your best effort. Give it your best shot with the abilites God has given you. Use your free time outside of classes wisely. But don’t be absorbed by what your grades look like too. Grades are important, sure, but your growth in character and your growth in knowledge is more important. And the only way to grow is through the challenges that life throws at us:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).

We can’t be successful at everything, and you might face challenges that seem to be too much for you, but don’t work against God’s plans for you and let your doubts defeat you.

So back to the question, does God not give us more than we can handle? Well, this is only partially true. I think at least one class here at Cedarville is going to be a class that we may not be able to handle with our own strength. And this only portrays our weakness and how much we need God’s strength. So it’s not really about if we can handle it or not, it’s more about that God will help us through all we have been given, as long as we trust and have faith that He will provide.

Finding Light in the Darkness

 

 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

August 11, 2014. I remember the day quite well. I remember looking at my notifications seeing the news appear on the screen. The news blew up quickly. I was in shock, and quite surprised to hear the news: Robin Williams, dead at 63. It absorbed most of my time for weeks, I was all over the internet, going through research trying to find answers and understanding. I had no idea what Robin Williams was going through until after his death. I took it really hard because of many reasons. The first being he was a man with a gift of humor. Whenever I was having a bad day, I knew I could count on Williams to cheer me up through his movies and especially through Mork & Mindy.I recently watched Good Morning Vietnam right before he died for a school summer project. It was sad for me to know that I wouldn’t be able to see his joyous face on the camera anymore.

Another reason I took it hard was the cause of death: suicide. Goodness…it is hard for me to hear that someone gave up the gift of life because darkness took over. Depression. Such a difficult topic to discuss that we are afraid to bring it up. But I feel that we need to know that depression is not uncommon. I did some research for this article. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) website, anxiety is affecting over 40 million adults in the United States. “Anxiety Disorders also affect 25.1% of children between the ages of 13 and 18,” (ADAA.org). But not everyone is getting the help they need. On average there are 123 suicide deaths per day according to AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). That is approximately 5 people committing suicide every hour. As I am writing this, I can feel my heart crumble knowing that this is happening across the country, and across the world.

Some people might not really care about these stats and will shrug it off. But there are people who want to help. Most likely, someone that you know is experiencing depression or has experienced depression.

In high school, I experienced deep depression. I struggled to focus on school work and I always had the feeling of desperately wanting to sleep in bed and never leave my bedroom. It was difficult living a normal life. There was a time that I was suicidal, but God saved me from that. I haven’t experienced depression like that since, but there are days where I still feel the darkness surfacing, trying to take over my heart again. But my relationship with the Lord is more powerful than the temptations of Satan.

Flash forward to my first year in college, I get a phone call during spring break hearing that a close family member of mine committed suicide. It has been utterly heartbreaking since then. And the worst part was that not only did I not know that he felt that way, but that I also similarly understand the pain he went through and I had no clue about it. Now that I know how he felt, I can never go back to change the past.

Those of you who struggle the battle of darkness, here is what helped me. First, I reached out to people in my life who I trusted and looked up to. A few people from my church remind me of the Lord’s unfailing love & grace every time I see them. My immediate family, especially my gracious mother, helped me get through this too. I knew I wasn’t alone and that I had an ‘army’ who was willing to pray for me and protect me. Another thing that I did was I reached out to someone that I knew that was very knowledgeable in scripture and knew what I was going through. He gave me scripture that I can use to remind me to continue to trust in the Lord and that He is working through me for a purpose.

It is hard to accept and continually believe that our suffering has a purpose. Our suffering is best described by my Dr. David Jeremiah Study Bible, “Suffering teaches believers to stay under pressuree, like squeezing an olive in a press to extract oil. This pressure results from the conflict of two truths: faith and its enduring benefits versus a fallen world under Satan’s influence”.

This person also reminded me that Jesus felt this very feeling of deep sadness too. In Matthew 26:36-46, when Jesus was in Gethsemane, he said to his disciples that his soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”(vs. 38). If you translated that in this world, it would be like saying you were so sad that you would want to die. Anyone who has felt this way could relate to Jesus at that moment in time. It is relieving to know that our own Savior felt this way too, mainly because He knows exactly what we are going through in our own hearts. David, another man in the Bible who knew what it felt like too. There are many Psalms that we could relate to. Psalms 5,6, 42,43…but my favorite of all: Psalm 13. But is what is so amazing about this psalm is that after he describes his pain, he ends with this:

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6; NIV)

Here, David admits and expresses his emotions to God and even though he struggles in his pain, he still clings to the hope that God because of how God has already worked in his life. David reminds us to continue to run to God for security.

This Psalm also reminds me how amazing and powerful our Lord is:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.”

(Psalm 121; NIV)

This psalmist reminds us that our help, all of our help, comes from the Lord above. God has unspeakable and infinite powers and abilities to assist us through our own trials.

If you ever struggle with depression, go to the Lord for help. I also encourage you to talk about it with someone you know. Talking about it is helpful to let it out than to hide your thoughts and feelings inside, it tends to be overwhelming. This will be a process, but I promise the journey is worth it. Right now, I know someone I deeply love and care for is struggling with severe depression and anxiety. And it is definitely harder to watch something you’ve experienced happen to someone you love. But I know that I need to continue praying and let God work through this person. To my mentors, you have impacted me immensely and I wouldn’t be where I am without you. And to my family, thank you for always loving and supporting me.

Remember, God isn’t finished with you yet, He has still plans for you, they are just work in progress.

Investing in the Primary Mission of the Church

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20, NIV)

All my life this passage has been thrown at my face. This very section is what we call The Primary Mission of the Church. Sunday School has taught me that I need to spread the Good News: that while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us, paying our debts, washing away our sins, and we may be born again in the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8, John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-10, 2 Corinthians 4:16,..the list can go on). The problem with this lesson was that I wasn’t really taught how. I am not saying that my Sunday School teachers didn’t teach me well, they are actually people that I look up to spiritually. The true problem is that we allow fear to come inside and we hesitate and draw a blank when it comes to speaking to anyone who doesn’t know the Lord. How do we take on this task? What do we say? How will they respond?

This has been on my heart for a long time now. There is someone that I deeply care about who doesn’t know the Lord and I regret each time I see this person because I am afraid to speak my mind. I am afraid that this will affect our relationship not in a good way and that they will respond in disgust. I shouldn’t let Satan tempt me with fear, for that is not the way we should respond to what God calls us to do. I have prayed about this time and time again and I know now that I need to stop dancing around this and face it straight on.

“Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV)

A good example of being a witness of what Jesus has done in us and for us is none other than the book of Philemon. You’re probably thinking, ‘Philemon? You mean the smallest book in the Bible? What does that have to do with your point?’ Trust me, we will get to the point I am trying to make.

First off, let me give you a little background on the story of Philemon. Philemon is a man of strong faith and is a well respected Christian leader, according to the apostle Paul. Philemon was also a master of a slave named Onesimus. Slavery was widespread in the Roman world at this time. If a runaway slave was captured, they had to be returned and given severe punishment as an example to other slaves. At this time, apostle Paul is writing this letter under house arrest in Rome being always monitored, but he was allowed visitors. Well, Onesimus ran away from Philemon, possibly stole a few items, and stumbled upon Paul. Paul has Onesimus return back to his master and writes this letter to Philemon encouraging him to not punish him and to instead welcome Onesimus as a beloved brother in Christ. Even though Paul needs Onesimus more than Philemon because the runaway slave has been helpful in spreading the Gospel, Paul’s desire of reconciling Philemon and Onesimus was more important to him.

One of Paul’s missions was to see people’s hearts changed by the gospel of Christ. And this letter to Philemon illustrates how attitudes and relationships are transformed in Christ. Notice also here in this letter in Philemon that Paul wanted the relationships between master and slave to be transcended to brother and brother in Christ. Regardless of economic class, societal reputation, race, ethnicity, or gender, we must show Christ’s gracious love to EVERYONE. So, what are the themes in this letter? Forgiveness: Philemon forgiving Onesimus for running away (Colossians 3:11, 13-14), Transformation: Onesimus was born again with the help of Paul (2 Corinthians 5:17), and Sacrifice: Paul giving up Onesimus’s help and also mentioning paying any debts of Onesimus’s former wrongdoings.

I see Paul’s letter to Philemon as an analogy to reveal how far God will go to set any captive in the slavery of sin free. Paul’s investment in Onesimus encouraged and strengthened Onesimus’s faith in Jesus Christ. If we put that much investment like Paul did in someone’s life to open their eyes to the grace of God, imagine the results of changed lives. Think of something valuable to you that you put a lot of time. Now imagine putting that time in fellowship, in the lives of people who don’t know Jesus.

My grandfather is a man of extreme faith. The wisest and strongest man I know. He truly is a man of prayer and dedication to Jesus Christ. He walks up and down the streets with a life-size cross and a crown of thorns, spreading the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness for us, changing the lives of everyone around him. Because of his great love for God, the Holy Spirit works in his life for good works (Ephesians 2:10).

I will not be giving you an exact answer to how you should spread the news to Jesus Christ. But I will say this: take baby steps. Don’t jump to it right away and scare people away, put time and effort into these new relationships. But make sure they know right away that you are a Christian. When you share and summarize the Gospel, I encourage you to use these keywords I learned from the Bible and Gospel class: Need, Grace, Sacrifice, Union, Transfer, Restoration.

I now challenge you to read Philemon all the way through. Don’t worry, it will only take you a minute to read it. But I also want you to highlight anything that Paul says or does that remind you acts of Christ. Think about the meaning of this letter and how you should be a light and an example to others. Think about the steps you are going to take when spreading the love of Christ to others. I leave you with this:

“People pay attention when they see that God actually changes persons and sets them free. When a new Christian stands up and tells how God has revolutionized his or her life, no one dozes off. When someone is healed or released from a life-controlling bondage, everyone takes notice.” – Jim Cymbala

“His voice leads us not into timid discipleship but into bold witness.” – Charles Stanley

This Powerful thing called Prayer

I wanted to share a piece of my life so that maybe one of you would be encouraged by the message I want to share with you today.

Recently, I have been drowned in my own pain. I have been finding it difficult to get out of bed, to go through the motions, go to class, and to do focus on my studies. I struggle with dealing with my sadness and depression. It is all that I think about now. My thoughts are overwhelming, as if they are screaming at me. I feel that I am losing hope. Anyone else feel like that, or is it just me?

This weekend, I cried, swallowed up in my sadness, feeling completely and utterly alone. I knew in my mind that the only comfort that I need is God himself. I did not know how to speak to God for I didn’t feel his prescence in my pain, but I know He could hear my thoughts and my silent cry for help.

I prayed asking, “How much longer Lord? How much longer will I feel this way? Am I truly alone in this journey I’m facing?”. As I kept praying for answers, I heard the Holy Spirit respond, “Don’t forget Who Your Father is”. I immediately fell in awe and moved by God’s love

Our sinful nature make us forget some things. We live in a negative world here on earth, so we tend to let the world control our attitudes and affect our perspective see each day. The world tells us what to think, how to act, and what to choose. This is Satan tempting you and telling you to forget the many many promises God has made for all of us. Let us not forget that each day we wake up, we are alive, we are breathing, and God has provided for us! Isn’t that amazing?! Praise God for letting us live anew because of His gracious love.

God is working in us. All of our skills, abilities, strengths, and achievements are not our own gifts, but gifts and blessings that were given to us from God Himself. He gives us these gifts so that we may use them in the glory of His name.

If you are having a bad day today, I want you to stop and think about five things you are thankful for today. Even if you are having a good day, this is a good exercise for you too. If you can’t think of five, just find at least one thing that you are thankful. Write them down and pray to God how thankful you are for those things. I challenge you to continue to do this so that maybe, just maybe, our heart will grow farther away from our sin but closer to the joy in Christ Jesus that we strive for. I understand that there are days where we struggle in our misery and in deep anguish. But, our pain is being used for good. There is meaning in our misery. God is with us in every step of suffering- remember that. For God knows what we don’t know and God sees what we don’t see. If we commit our faith to God when we suffer, not only will we overcome it, we will also grow from it and we will learn from it for God gives us purpose to our struggles. We may not know the purpose while we are in our struggles, but all that matters is that God will provide.

Therefore: “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

And if you aren’t sure what to pray, here is an acronym that can help:

PraiseThank God for the blessings He has given you.

Repent. Ask for forgiveness of your sins and ask for him to take away any darkness that is in your heart.

Ask. Ask for His help in anything in your life that you may be struggling with right now.

Yield. Surrender yourself to God. Allow yourself to be led by the will of God.

If this doesn’t help you, don’t forget about this prayer:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).

I pray that you may also keep praying even when it gets hard. God can still hear our cries even when we struggle getting the words out. GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS. It may not seem like it from time to time but He is answering our prayers. They may not seem like immediate responses or solutions, but He does answer them in His own time. This is where we should continue to trust in His will for us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).