Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Gift of Being Stubborn

Stubborn. Strong-willed. These are not words that seem like positive traits or gifts, especially if they refer to a toddler. I certainly needed to read the book Raising the Strong-Willed Child to understand and learn the best ways to harness that strong will for good. Interestingly, one of my high school Sunday school students said that she thinks being stubborn could be a gift that leads to perseverance, and most people view perseverance as a virtue, so maybe she’s correct.

At my house these days, we are watching season fifteen of The Voice. One of the performers that made the show has auditioned for every season. Y’all that’s perseverance.  But the other day, a friend said that some people should realize no matter how hard they work, they will never be a professional singer. As an example, she pointed to the auditions for American Idol. She said some people should quit.

At my house, quit is a four-letter word. My children know that once they start something they will see it to the end. I told this same friend that my daughter’s career goals are to have a Country music hit song and be President of the United States. The friend asked if my daughter had a backup plan. Honestly, I believe if this is God’s will, and she’s obedient, these things that seem unattainable to many, she will achieve. She will succeed because she is that strong-willed child. She will succeed because she will persevere. Like Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight.”

But how do we keep striving, keep going, keep having faith that we will succeed? I believe God knows that as broken people, we need assurances and reassurances. I recently read a Bible study, and the author suggested that Mary, the mother of Jesus, went to her cousin Elizabeth for just such an assurance. And I mean, if anyone needed some encouragement, it had to be Mary. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Luke 1:45

We all need people like Elizabeth in our lives. Those that will pray for us and encourage us. God puts those people in our lives because He knows we need assurance that we are working for the right goals. Two different women, who I consider mentors have said these same words to me. “You will be successful because you are obedient.”

But when we are serving God and seeking His will for our lives, he gives other nudges, even pats on the back that we are working toward the goal that He wants for us that will best serve Him. The other day He even sent one in the form of a Tweet. Yes, God is on Social Media.

Last Summer, I gave a talk about perseverance which as an aspiring writer is a topic for which I’ve become an expert. However, the week before the talk, I found out that I’d lost a writing competition. Now, I’ve lost before, but this one hit me harder. I was filled with doubt, and in an effort to overcome it, I blared Contemporary Christian music from my car radio and counted my blessings aloud. Then it happened, God gave me a great big bout of encouragement when the radio station announced the verse for the day:

“Be confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Philippians 1:6. This is one of my go to verses, and there it was on the radio. God knew I was struggling, but He didn’t leave me wondering. He said, Leslie, I gave you this gift and this dream, and you just keep being obedient, and one day you will see success.

I love the author Catherine Marshall and highly recommend her books. Her words inspire me. Her husband was a gifted preacher, and when he died unexpectantly, Mrs. Marshall was asked to collect and edit his sermons for a book. This was not an easy task, but she was obedient and went on to be a successful author. These were her words as she began the journey. “If the wish to be a writer was God’s will for me, He would hear me when I asked for the help I needed; and if He heard, then this wish would someday be granted. The timing would be up to Him. So, I sent this particular dream wafting back toward heaven with the confident awareness that He had already heard.”

I know most of you aren’t writers, but you all have work to do—work God has called you for—special work that only you can do. Who encourages you? What scripture gives you assurance? Please share; I’d love to add some more to my bank. We can’t have too many inspirational words, and the verse you love may be exactly the one that someone needs. Please leave your comments on my website so others can see them.

God’s Mission is NOT Impossible

Has God ever sent you on a mission that seemed impossible? I don’t mean a mission trip to Africa. I mean a task that seems at first glance to be just a job, just a team, just a school, but when you arrive or join, you realize God put you there for something so much greater.

Currently, I’m reading a memoir. It is the story of a regular person who God called to build something that seemed impossible. Even though this man was a servant, he became a great leader, who rallied the people and ignored the critics. He prayed at every step and followed God’s directions. His name was Nehemiah. The Bible is full of stories of regular people who God sends on what seem like impossible missions. But through faithful obedience, these people do amazing things.

When Moses turned the leadership role over to Joshua, God spoke these powerful words to him as he prepared to conquer and settle the promise land with the Israelites. Let them speak to you as you accept your mission.

“No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I (God) was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous because you will lead these people … Be careful to obey all the law; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I (God) 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 1:5-9)

Now, you’re probably thinking, but I’m not trying to conquer the promise land or rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, so how does any of this apply to me? God created a unique role for each of us. He calls to our own mission fields regardless of our place in this world. We only need to follow where He leads. Maybe you will be called to lead a large group of people in a major building project; or maybe you will be called to lead a bunch of teenagers in a Sunday School class; or maybe you will be called to lead your co-workers closer to Christ by your example and your words. I don’t know the call for your life in this moment. That is between God and you, but I do know He will always be with you. Some days you may feel the sting of rejection and setbacks, but friends, this is the time to persevere in faith and obedience. God is not working on our timeline, and His definition of success is often very different than ours.

“And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.” (Neh. 2:8). Nehemiah followed God’s commands, being obedient like Moses and Joshua. When we are obedient to His calling, He works with us. He clears the path for us and protects us from those who would hurt us. We may have to deal with the enemy figuratively and often literally. For Joshua, it was the tribes in the promise land. For Nehemiah, it was Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem.

But …

Nehemiah answered them with these words. “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or right to it.”

We must stay and face the enemy. We must be strong and courageous in the face of adversity and have faith that God never leaves us. If He has put us in this place to lead His people and rebuild His Kingdom, (whatever that means in our lives and our circumstances) we must be obedient, and He will be gracious. But we can’t doubt or be double-minded or “we will receive nothing from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7) There is no enemy that our all-powerful God cannot defeat.

“The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. For the arrogant rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:9)

We must stay the course. We must be strong and courageous. We must be faithful and obedient.

God will be faithful. He keeps His promises. God doesn’t call us to anything we cannot do.

What is God calling you to do? If the mission seems impossible, let’s pray about it. I’d love to pray for you to know your mission and find success. Or perhaps we should pray for God’s protection for you from those that want to hurt you. Perhaps, you are like me right now and called to be an encourager. What ways can we help the people in our lives that are facing challenges?

It’s time for us to accept our missions from God. They are not Impossible.