Endurance (Part 4): Keep Moving Forward

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Acts 20:24

I am completely fixated on the life of the Apostle Paul. Here is a man that began his life in pursuit of persecuting followers of Jesus and ends up becoming one of the greatest Apostles that ever lived. I began reading in the book of Acts a couple of weeks ago and it covers how Paul was transformed into a follower of Christ. As I was reading this, I could not stop asking myself, “Why Paul? What was so special about him that God hand-picked him to be such a vital instrument to expand the Kingdom of God?” I wrestled with this thought for quite a while before I flipped my mindset from ‘Why Paul?’ to ‘Why not Paul?’

When God met Paul on the Damascus Road, he took his sight and forced Paul to rely on faith. He gave him an assignment and Paul kept moving forward. He walked into the unknown and allowed God to be his guide. This meeting between God and Paul became his testimony that he used time and again as he went from city to city proclaiming the name of Jesus. His testimony became one of the most powerful tools that he used to bring Gentiles to Jesus. If you remember, Paul was a Pharisee. They persecuted followers of Jesus because they were teaching outside of the Law of Moses. Paul was a self-righteous hypocrite, and yet God still had a plan for him!! This man watched people get beaten and killed and he approved of it, but God saw what Paul could become.

Now, Paul’s journey was not easy. He was told that his life would be full of suffering and imprisonment, but he did not care because he knew what his purpose was (Acts 20:24). Every time he found himself in a situation that looked impossible, he KEPT MOVING FORWARD and relied on his faith because that is what radically changed his life in the first place. Paul was able to endure so well because he accepted the will of God for his life and knew what his purpose was and nothing was going to stop him from accomplishing that. There is a particular part of Paul’s journey that got my attention as I was reading. While Paul was being transferred from Jerusalem to Rome as a prisoner awaiting trial, he had to endure so much over that time. He was bound on a ship that had to sail across the Mediterranean Sea in order to get to Rome and ended up shipwrecked on the island of Malta (Acts 27). Paul’s ability to endure in all of this seems supernatural, but his faith in God is what caused him to keep moving forward.

Shipwrecked

As the ship was sailing across the sea during the winter season, there was a massive storm that did not end for fourteen straight days! The captain of the ship could no longer keep its heading and finally succumbed to the strength of the storm.

“The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.” Acts 27:20

Everyone on board lost complete hope and figured death was inevitable. Paul, as a prisoner, never waivered and reminded the crew of what God told him. Paul used that moment to magnify God and bring hope to a hopeless situation. During this shipwreck, not a single crew member or prisoner died, just as God had promised. After landing on the island of Malta, Paul was gathering sticks to make a fire and was bitten by a poisonous snake. Are you kidding me? As if he has not had to endure enough on this journey? A demon-possessed (all snakes are demons to me because I hate them) snake bites Paul and does not let go. The crew sees this happen and watches as Paul shakes the snake off of his hand and throws it into the fire. They thought that Paul was going to fall over dead, but realized, after a while, that he was going to be just fine.

What happened next is a pivotal moment. The crew determined after the snake incident that Paul must be a god, but they completely missed that the entire time they were on that journey that Paul was pointing to God the entire time! That was the only reason he was able to endure!! Paul gave all glory to God and realized that the persecution he would have to endure was nothing compared to the glory that was brought to God through it! He does all of this, still being a prisoner, and still awaiting trial in Rome.

“Paul did more for the Kingdom of God while in prison than most of us do with a lifetime of freedom.”

Why not you?

I don’t know about you, but when I read through Acts and read about how much Paul endured for the Kingdom, it made me realize that my problems are not that bad and it inspired me because I want to be able to have enough faith to endure like Paul. You see, when I asked myself the question of why did God select Paul, I was also asking God the same question about me. How could God use me after everything I have been through? How can God use me after all the mistakes I have made? How can God use me when I have so little faith? Then, at the same moment I flipped my thinking about Paul, I flipped my thinking about myself.

Why not me? Why can’t I be used by God and make such an impact for his Kingdom? What I have come to find out about myself is that I stand in my way more than anyone else. I am not going to give the enemy credit for standing in my way because my own thinking beat him to it! The enemy just took advantage of that situation and try to confirm my thoughts about myself. See, the enemy we have is smart. He didn’t dig the hole that my thinking put me in, all he did was give me the shovel. So how do I overcome this thinking? Where do I start? What kind of a journey do I need to go on? Well, I figure that it is similar to what happened to Paul. First off, I just pray the name of Jesus CONSTANTLY. Did you know that the name of Jesus is so strong that the enemy HAS to flee when Jesus’ name is proclaimed? Are you tired of being chastised and put down by the enemy? SCREAM the name of Jesus and the devil MUST flee.

God had to make Paul blind to force him to rely on faith to keep moving forward. I needed God to take the blinders off of my eyes so I could see the promises he has in front of me. The only way to keep increasing in faith is to keep moving forward. Keep moving into the unknown and let God work. Wouldn’t you rather be bound by the Holy Spirit than allow your own thoughts keep you captive? That is why Paul writes in Philippians to fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, and pure. But it has to be intentional. I have to want to fix my thinking. This is extremely hard to do when going through trials and having to endure because I doubt my faith so easily. I start asking ‘Why God?’ way too soon. Instead of knowing that God is in control, I want to know why the heck life is so hard right now and what is the quickest way out. Ouch…. That is like a trial within a trial. When you are enduring and God wants to test your faithfulness to him. I will admit, when Paul was in prison the first time in Philippi, the minute that earthquake happened and the jail cells opened up, I would’ve been like ‘Bye Felicia I am free!’

In all seriousness though, how quick are we to put on our blinders in trials that we become so self-centered and miss what is going on around us? I know that I lack in this area and I need to start seeing what is going on around me and how I can use my circumstances to bring glory to God. Ultimately, I want to be used by God just as Paul was used but if I cannot simply endure for a time, then how in the heck do I expect God to use me for greater things? I am not saying that greater things only happen when we endure but being able to endure through some hard circumstances grows our faith and brings glory to God. God, I want to be better than this!! I want to know that when troubles and trials come my way, it is always an opportunity to bring glory to God. Don’t let your circumstances derail your faith.

If you want to be used by God to do great things for the Kingdom, then expect opposition and being driven far outside your comfort zone. God is not going to oppose our willingness to let Him work in our lives, but the enemy will. So expect a storm. Expect that trouble is coming. Don’t put the blinders up, but keep your eyes open to what is going on around you and know that God is taking care of it.

If you would like to learn more about what having a relationship with God is like, please reach out to me via the email link at the top of this page or through the contact tab found on the home page on this website. There is nothing that you have done in your life that can separate you from God. God longs for a relationship with you, but it requires us to surrender to his goodness. So, if you are on the fence about this whole God thing, I encourage you to take the leap, because a life with God is so much better than a life without God. Just know that your life is a life that is worth living!!

Endurance (Part 2): Becoming more like Paul

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Acts 20:24 NLT

Part one of this two-part series on endurance was very powerful for me personally. I write these blog posts because I am learning and applying these principles in my own life and I want to share with others what God is revealing to me. I can genuinely say that I am always excited when I am able to write about what God is revealing to me and I feel like it is a shame to not share that with others. If you did not get a chance to read part one of endurance, then STOP reading this right now! Go back and read it so you are not missing out on how these posts are built together.

What I am going to share with you today is building off of those principles mentioned in the first post through the life of one of the greatest Apostles: The Apostle Paul.

To be honest, I did not even plan on having another post about endurance, but God laid on my heart to read about the life of Paul, also known in the New Testament as Saul. Paul is probably most well-known for his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road that radically changed his life from a persecutor of believers to becoming an Apostle and leading so many others to Christ (Start reading in Acts). As great as that encounter was, that is not what jumped out to me when reading through the book of Acts. What stood out to me was when Paul and Silas were put in prison in Philippi. I have probably read these Scriptures numerous times and never even thought about stopping to understand the significance in this situation, but God obviously was showing me something that I needed to understand. I am going to post the Scripture and it is kind of long, but bear with me, it will be worth it I promise! Starting in Acts 16:25:

“Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him. ‘Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!’

The jailer called for the lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.’ And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.” (Acts 16:25-32 NLT)

Now, the first thing that was brought to my attention was the fact that Paul and Silas were not complaining and asking God why they were put in prison, they were praying and worshipping to God! Why were Paul and Silas doing this? It was almost as if they were prepared to endure in that situation. If you go back and read about Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, you will see that God CHOSE Paul to deliver the Good News and that he MUST suffer for proclaiming it.

“But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul (Paul) is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16 NLT)

Paul understood what he faced and still pursued it anyway. He was informed many times that he would be imprisoned but he kept pushing forward because he knew that his endurance would not be for nothing, that there would be good that would come out of it. This brings me to the rest of what stood out to me and it completely shook me to my core. After praying and worshipping to God, there was a massive earthquake that freed them and gave them a way out of the prison. But Paul and Silas STAYED PUT. Let me ask you this question, and it is the very question that I asked myself the minute this was revealed to me:

Have you ever been praying for God to create a seismic shift in your life to change the course that you are on because you did not understand why you were in a current situation?

This question hit me like a ton of bricks. Paul and Silas were in prison, praying and worshipping God, not complaining and asking why like some of us would (I know I would be). They knew they were right where they were supposed to be for a reason. They had a way of escape and could have walked out of that prison and been free to continue on their journey, but they stayed because being in that prison was apart of their journey.

Maybe the seismic shift that you have been needing to happen in your life is the same seismic shift that creates complete chaos in someone else’s life.

So what about the jailer? How does he fit into this? This seems like a rather insignificant part of the journey, but it turns out that this was the most important part, the very reason Paul and Silas were in that prison. You see, the earthquake that freed Paul and Silas was the same earthquake that made that jailer want to kill himself because immediate chaos occurred in his life and he lost all hope. But Paul and Silas never wavered from what their purpose was and PURSUED the jailer instead of fleeing from the confines of the prison cell. They understood that their situation was not about them and God was going to bring them through it no matter what, even if suffering had to occur. Paul and Silas were so intent on spreading the Good News and because of their unwavering faith and courage, they SAVED the jailer and his entire household.


But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus…

This is an extremely powerful passage of Scripture that revealed so much about myself that I need to work on. I want to become like Paul, to know that living a life for Christ is not easy and there will be times of enduring, times of suffering, but also times of celebrating and great joy because nothing is greater than knowing that our lives can be used to finish the work assigned to us by Jesus Christ, which is to bring hope to the lost, spread the Good News of eternal life through believing in Jesus, and making heaven more crowded.

If you are reading this post and you identify more with the jailer and are experiencing a seismic shift in your life that is making you contemplate everything, please DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE. Jesus Christ is alive today and we have that same hope of eternal life that the jailer chose when Paul pursued him. If you have more questions about Jesus or want to know about committing your life to Christ, please feel free to email me using the link at the top of this page, or by going to the contact page on the Home menu. I hope that this message inspired you as much as it inspired me to become more like Paul, enduring through my circumstances to understand that my purpose is not about me, it is about something greater than me.

Endurance

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, CONSIDER it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a CHANCE to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NLT)

In my last blog post, I spoke about how hard it is for me (and I am sure many others) to relinquish control to God. I develop so many worries that consume my mind when I try to control every detail and every situation of my life. It is exhausting and, most of the time, depressing. It is depressing because I can believe I have total control of a situation or a season of my life, only to have it completely unravel in a matter of seconds when things do not go according to MY plan. For me, relinquishing control does not mean letting go of the wheel and hope the car still steers straight, it means that I am still holding onto the wheel, but allowing God to guide my hands. It is working with God through OBEDIENCE not fighting for control.

“For wherever there is jealousy and SELFISH AMBITION, there you will find DISORDER and evil of every kind.” James 3:16 (NLT)

If I allow God to have complete control in my life, I better make sure that my faith is only in God and not divided between God and the world. Am I going to mess up? Of course. But I need to recognize my inadequacies without God and continue to relinquish control to Him on a daily basis. If I constantly have divided loyalty between God and the world, my life will be full of disorder and instability (James 1:6-8).

So what is relinquishing control?

Simple. Allowing God to have FULL control of my life is faith. If you can recall from my last post, faith is trusting that God has all of the details figured out in our lives and is working all things together for our good. If you did not get a chance to read that post, I encourage you to do so because I am going to be building off of each post and missing some posts may make this process confusing and difficult to follow. Out of everything in that last post, the one point that we all must understand is the purpose of God and the purpose of the enemy.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 NASB

It is important to understand the role of the enemy and how God works in our lives because being able to identify temptation versus testing is vital in the process of building faith and endurance.

Testing or Temptation?

How do we distinguish between these two? How do we know if what we are experiencing is a test of our faith or if something is tempting us? Well, for me, a good way to distinguish between the two is to think of testing my faith as a trail and temptation as trouble. When we look at John 10:10, we can understand that the enemy’s sole purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy which is similar to causing trouble in our lives. On the other hand, Jesus came so that we can have life and have it abundantly. God tests our faith in order that we can endure through those trials and become better versions of ourselves by developing our faith in God.

Trial = Test

Trouble = Temptation

When going through trials or troubles, one thing to completely avoid is making hasty decisions or have quick reactions. This is why it is so important to recognize what exactly is happening in a given situation. Whatever the situation may be, God wants us to endure through it PATIENTLY (James 1:12). This is hard for me because I am not exactly what you would call a patient person and we do not live in a patient society. But developing patience in key moments gives me the opportunity to think clearly and go through the process the right way. Whatever your method is for distinguishing between trials and temptations may not be wrong, I am just sharing what has worked for me.

Endurance is a process…

Be patient. Step one. It is important to not allow my emotions to get the best of me in critical moments. Choose wisely. Step Two. I first pray and ask for wisdom in these situations in order to distinguish what is exactly going on. Most of the time, being able to understand testing from temptation is easy, but sometimes, it is very difficult and can hinder my growth if I am not careful. One thing that I am for certain about is that temptation never comes from God (James 1:13-15). Temptation comes from my own personal desires and the enemy will do everything to make those desires seem so attractive to lead me away. When I am able to recognize when I am being tempted, I FLEE. I do not want those desires to take root in me and cloud my decision-making. Personal desires birth sinful action and as that sin grows it eventually leads to death. So, just to be clear, temptation comes from an attraction to personal desire which can lead to sinful actions and as that sin grows it leads to death.

What is ironic about distinguishing between trials and troubles is that my process is literally the exact same. In both situations I try my best to be patient and pray before anything else. The difference in this distinction is knowing when to flee and when to endure. When I know God is testing my faith, I pray for wisdom and strength because I want to develop my faith in God and become more and more of the person he created me to be and less and less of the person I think I want to be (personal desire). This is such an important distinction because I can easily flee from the testing of my faith and fall into the trap of my own desires. So, I must remain alert to what is going on in these situations and seek God first before making any decision that I will more than likely regret.

The beautiful thing about going through this process of recognizing trial from temptation is the ability to also recognize my personal desire. This is huge because these desires can remain in our subconscious for a long period of time and be the catalyst behind some decisions that we may regret. However, when these desires are exposed, we can ask God for the strength to rebuke those desires and pursue righteousness in Him.

“Developed endurance builds self-discipline and makes personal desires less desirable”

This process is what it looks like to endure through trials and temptations for me. I continually want to develop my endurance and faith in God because there is no destination in God’s plan for me. However, there is always going to be something greater in store. I want to stay in line with what God has planned and want to be able to withstand the testing of my faith so I can deepen my relationship with God.

If none of this post makes any sense and you have no clue what it looks like to relinquish control to God but are curious about it, please reach out to me via the email link at the top of this page to talk more about it. A life with Jesus is so much better than a life without Him!

Life is Hard

I cannot imagine doing life without God. Doing life with God does not guarantee a life free of stress, worry, hurt, or conflict. However, choosing to include God makes going through trials easier, IF we are able to give up CONTROL. This is one area I need to allow God to work:

I need to relinquish control to him because only He knows what is good for me.

This is a big struggle for me because I have OCD and not being in control brings anxiety, stress, depression, and worry. But what am I worrying about? If I am giving up control to the one that created me, then what do I have to be afraid of? Those feelings of worry, stress, anxiety, depression are feelings that the enemy will feed with DOUBT. Satan wants us to doubt God. He wants us to constrict our relationship with God, and when things go south, he feeds our minds with, “Where were you God?”

John 10:10 is a perfect example in Scripture of the roles of God and Satan. Jesus said, “The thief’s (Satan) purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Life is going to have hills and valleys, but if we choose to include God in our everyday journeys, then we will have a light with us always. Jeremy Foster is the lead pastor of Hope City in Houston, Texas and he spoke about going through the valleys in our lives and how there is always a light with us. Psalms 23:4 says,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the SHADOW of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

The key word in this verse is SHADOW. How does a shadow work? Only in the presence of light! A shadow cannot appear in the darkness. So, when we walk through the valleys in our lives, God is there guiding us, IF we relinquish control to Him.

The enemy is going to magnify our problems and try to tie them to our identity. He only has one purpose in our lives and that is to try and STEAL our JOY, KILL our FAITH in GOD, and DESTROY our HOPE. However, the enemy is not the one that created us. And if he did not create us, then he is NOT in control of us either. Then why is it so hard to give control to God? Well, for one, it is extremely hard to be vulnerable and allow someone else to have control in situations that seem pretty bad. But, the one in control knows us better than we know ourselves!

“I knew you before I FORMED you in your mother’s womb….” Jeremiah 1:5

Do you realize that out of everything God made in creation, human beings are the only thing he put his hands on? God literally spoke everything into existence, but he FORMED man.

Another reason it is hard to surrender control to God is simply lack of faith. It is hard to trust God when we do not know what the outcome will be or even have an idea of what will happen. However, God has plans for us, plans to prosper us to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). When we hit those valleys and it feels like we will never get out, we cannot let the enemy magnify the valley, but we can magnify the one leading us through the valley, which leads me back to the vulnerability problem we have. Magnifying God in all situations is, in its simplest form, WORSHIP. We love to worship God when life seems to be going good, but worship is extremely hard to do when walking through a valley. There are so many other things that we want to do when going through hard times and they are all driven by FEAR. The best thing to conquer fear is faith. Faith in knowing that God is working everything together for our good (Romans 8:28).

“Fear tolerated is Faith contaminated.” Jeremy Foster

When fear seems to be consuming us, one of the best ways to conquer it is to just fall to our knees, open our arms wide, and worship the one that created us, who has good things planned for us. This reminds me of a time in the book of Joshua that is fairly strange to me. The Israelites are being led by Joshua and as they cross the Jordan River, they come to the city of Jericho. Jericho was a city with high walls and was tightly secured like a fortress. This city stood between the Israelites and God’s Promises. And how did they conquer this city? By marching around it seven times and blowing trumpets?……….What? I dug into this a little deeper and I came to the realization that their obedience to God by marching around the walls and blowing trumpets was an act of worship. Even though they did not really understand what they were doing, they had faith that God was going to come through for them.

Oh how this is so true today. When things are going good and life seems to be just right, we can praise God for it and be the most Christian people alive. But when we are in the valleys, we tend to throw up the walls that we think will be secure, but in all reality they are the SHADOW in the valley. When our arms go up, the walls fall down! When we are able to worship God in all seasons, highs and lows, hills and valleys, we have become vulnerable to what God can do in our lives and have surrendered control to him. You see, the Israelites approached Jericho and saw a great city. They could have magnified the city instead of God and chose not to obey (which is very similar to how the spies approached the Promised Land and saw giants, but Joshua and Caleb saw a God who would deliver them to His promises not matter what, but that is for another day), but they chose to magnify God and once they did this, Jericho was just a small obstacle compared to what the Promises of God were for them.

The same holds true for us today. We spend so much time in fearing the unknown, magnifying what is going wrong in our lives that we forget what God has promised us. Read John 10:10, praise and worship God, pray, do whatever you need to do to allow God to have control and work in your lives because God has promised us ETERNAL LIFE through his Son, Jesus Christ. We just need to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he came to earth to die for our sins, the ultimate sacrifice (John 3:16). Once we believe that Jesus died for our sins, we can surrender control to God because of the Promises he has made to us.

Don’t allow your problems to be magnified in your life. Instead, magnify the one that created you, that put special emphasis on creating you, and that has a future and a hope for you. Don’t try to disqualify yourselves because the grace and mercy of God is not earned, it is given as a gift to receive. Believe that. Again, if the enemy did not create you, he is most certainly not in control of you. So, the next time that the enemy reminds you of your problems, your failures, tells you that you are not good enough, remind him of his future and know that God, our Creator, has everything under control.

Lord, I believe you created me and you know me more than I know myself. I pray that I make it my goal this year to know you wholeheartedly, to deepen my relationship with you. I surrender complete control to you. I pray for strength and wisdom as I allow you to work in me and allow your Will to play out in my life. I pray that on my darkest days I cling to you, I use your light to pull me out of the darkness and lead me on the path you have set before me. Please forgive me for doubting you and allowing the enemy to overtake me. I pray for the full armor of God to be on me at all times and I can develop the fruits of the Spirit within me. Thank you for loving me unconditionally! You are a good father and you work everything together for good. I love you Lord and I praise your name. I also pray for those reading this that do not have a personal relationship with God. I pray that they feel led to allow you to work in their lives, surrendering control, and believing and trusting in you.

Amen.

If you do not have a personal relationship with God, please do not hesitate to reach out to me to talk to you about this decision. I can promise you that it will be the greatest decision you can ever make!!

When Doubt Creeps In…

Hello once again!

It has been a very long while since I wrote that first post.  To be honest with you, after writing that first post, I got discouraged and tried to disqualify myself from being an effective communicator through blogging.  I do this quite frequently.  In fact, I believe that we all do this more times than we need to.  See, when we try to disqualify ourselves, we are letting in doubt.  This is interesting and I know that the Holy Spirit is at work here so I am just going with it.  The reason I tried to disqualify myself is that I started to compare myself to other bloggers.  This is really the first blog I have ever done so I should not have expected it to go viral and attract hundreds BUT, I am human and as humans, we look for instant gratification and acceptance.  I was convicted of this and God revealed to me that He did not want me to start this blog to attract large numbers.  In fact, I felt so convicted that I chose not to write again until my heart was in it for the right reasons.  I had to remind myself what I am passionate about and why I am writing this blog.  So, I reread the first post because I was fired up about getting a blog going.

I do not care if I help one person or one hundred people.  I only care that what I say and how I live has a positive impact on others and gives them hope.  I am a motivator and encourager by nature.  However, when it comes to my own life, when I encounter problems and struggles, I become very reclusive and allow doubt to creep in.  My wife will be the first one to tell you that I am usually a very negative person and she sometimes, only sometimes, wants to punch me in the face.  This is hilarious because I just figured this out today and my wife responded with “….but I still love you.”  Now, my wife is a very positive person and she doesn’t beat me (although she probably could because she works out and has big muscles), but she gets frustrated that I allow myself to become so reclusive because I try my best to encourage and motivate others, but when it comes to my own life, I become very negative and forget all of the things I share with others that are struggling through the same things.  So, just the other day I was feeling pretty reclusive, and my wife was trying her best to encourage and motivate me (By the way, always encourage and help your spouses no matter what.  The minute that judgment or blame comes into play, that is the enemy’s playground and he will cause so much havoc.  Remind each other that you are on the same team!)  She was bringing her positive kool-aid and I just was not having it.  So, she shared something with me that I posted the day before about trusting God when seasons of losing are occurring and knowing that God is not a God of losing.  My wife is very resourceful and she knows me really well.  She understands how passionate I am about helping others through motivation and encouraging and so she started pulling things that I have shared to remind me of that passion.  She knows that the enemy attacks my self-worth and will try anything to get me to be distracted from allowing God to work through me.  I thank God for my wife because she can recognize what is troubling me and instantly helps through encouragement and prayer.

This is where revelations and breakthroughs happen.  When we are passionate about doing something for the kingdom of God, the enemy will attack that very thing because he is trying to distract us and turn us away from making an impact for the Kingdom!  However, God will use the relationships around us to encourage us and help us through our struggles, not to justify why they are occurring.  This requires a choice.  A choice that many of us struggle with.  We can either continue to be reclusive and focus on our struggles, or we can know that God has big plans for us because the enemy is trying to get us to doubt ourselves.  Let’s take a look at what the Word of God says:

Romans 8:28
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”
Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
John 10:10
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Each of these verses has a common theme to them.  They are all full of God’s promises to us.  The verse is John is also a reminder of the purpose of the enemy.  So, when you are going through struggles and doubt is creeping in, be encouraged of God’s promises to those who love God and want to pursue his calling for their lives.  The minute that we decide to pursue God’s calling, the enemy will do everything to try and stop us.  I do not say this to discourage you, but to warn you that opposition will happen.  This is why it is so important to surround ourselves with people that will encourage us and help us through the struggles.  God is a God of relationships and if we surround ourselves with the RIGHT people, the presence of God is there as well.  Matthew 18:20 reiterates this:

“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

Basically, when we gather in the name of the Lord, good things will come out of it.  Sure, opposition is going to happen, but God is faithful and his plans for us are for good and not disaster.  Some of you may be saying, “Yeah, but Shayne you have no idea what I have been through.  How can I be struggling so bad right now and think any of this will turn into good?”  There is some truth to this.  Some people may never be able to relate to certain situations because they may have never experienced it themselves.  All I can tell you is that I have been through some big struggles and trials that I never thought I would see the light.  I do not say this to boast or say my problems were worse than yours, I say this because I wish that I never had to go through those struggles.  However, because of the people in my life that God has used to encourage and help me through and because of the promises in His Word, I know that everything I have experienced that was so dark and depressing while be used for good, to bring glory to God.  So, if you are going through some similar situations and you feel like the bad is only going to get worse, be encouraged.  I want to share some characters in the Bible that struggled through the same things.  For the sake of turning this into a book instead of a blog post, I will just share the Scripture reference and hope that whoever is really wanting to experience change will open the Word of God and let the Holy Spirit work in their lives.

The life of Joseph – Start reading in Genesis 37

The life of Job – Start reading in Job

The life of Samson – Start reading in Judges 13

To be honest, just open the Word of God and let the Lord guide you.  We are all imperfect people and allow doubt to creep in from time to time.  But God only uses imperfect people because NONE of us are perfect.  The only perfect person to ever live was Jesus.  And guess what?  Jesus died on the cross for YOU and ME.  So, the next time the enemy tries to allow doubt to creep into your lives, remember that Jesus was the Ultimate Sacrifice.  Jesus chose to die on the cross because he knew that was the only way for us to get to the Father.  Jesus thinks we are significant and worthy.  It is time that we all started thinking the same thing and realize that God will always make beauty from the ashes in our lives (Afterall, a diamond is not a diamond until it has been refined!)

Shayne Tower

Live.Laugh.Love

The Meaning of Life…

“When you arise in the morning think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus  Aurelius

What is the meaning of life?  Man isn’t that the million dollar question.  How in the world am I supposed to start off a blog with a title such as this?  Doesn’t it take a lifetime to figure out this concept?  Well, even though I don’t want to start off with such a cliche as this, it is extremely important to have a strong foundation on what the meaning and purpose of life is, in the proper context of course.  Now, I am only twenty-nine and I still have so much to figure out and I do not claim to know all the answers about life, but I do have a strong foundation on the meaning of life that sets the stage for the journey I take through life.  Basically, I have a multi-use tool that helps me navigate through life.  This tool is an instructional manual and a map that helps me as I get up in the morning and go to bed at night.  When I do not use this tool on a daily basis, I find myself trying to find my own way and I get lost, run into trouble, and end up farther away from where I am supposed to be.  This tool that I am speaking of is the Word of God.

Now, before some of you check out and exit the browser, I am not just another Bible-thumping person that is trying to push the Word of God onto you.  I am not perfect, in fact, I understand that perfection is unattainable (which is hard to grasp because I am slightly OCD….just slightly).  I make just as many mistakes as the next person and I do not judge people on what they believe or force my beliefs onto any else.  I simply recognize that I cannot do life my way because I tried that and I failed miserably.  Now, some of you may be saying to yourself, “well, this is my life, and I am going to live it how I please,” and that is perfectly fine.  My intent in this post is to not say you are living life wrong, I am just sharing what I have experienced and what I found is my foundation for the meaning and purpose of life.  But, for those of you that are living life according to your standards, I ask a simple question,

What is your meaning and purpose in life?

I do not ask this rhetorically.  I ask this because I tried to do life my own way and I ended up hurting so many people along the way, burning bridges that may never be reconciled, standing in ruin in something that I tried to base life on and it ended up burning to the ground (this happened in a five year span, if you were wondering).  So, I ask this question honestly and would encourage you to take out a piece of paper and jot down what you think the meaning and purpose of YOUR life is.  Think about what you wrote and dissect it.  Why do you believe life means this?  What is your purpose based on your meaning of life and are you in pursuit of it or have you already obtained it?  Do you have core values that are behind your meaning and purpose?  Why am I asking so many questions?  I want people to take a second, sit back, and view their lives from a different perspective because, most of the time, we are so consumed with what is going on in the present, that we fail to focus on why we are here in the first place.  Ever since I was a little kid, I can remember always thinking about why in the world am I here?  What is the point of life? I would get so consumed with the thought of why life was created that it gave me some anxiety, which is easy when you are ten years old thinking about the meaning of life.  So, from what you jotted down, the next thing to think about is the cycle of life: the beginning, middle, and end.  That’s right, life does end.  Life is a cycle, not just a term, and it WILL end.

Life is a good thing.  Life is the opposite of death, but death is very much a part of life because it is part of the life cycle.  Man, that was confusing, but it holds so much truth.  Life does not just have a beginning and middle, it has an end as well.  The end is never thought of because it involves the ABSENCE of life.  Now, I am talking about life biologically, stating that each of us will face death.  However, there are different contexts of life that we use to define our meaning and purpose.  For instance, if you own a business, that can be considered your meaning and purpose in life, but that too has an end.  When you retire, you are no longer apart of that business and it either gets passed down to children, sold to another interested party, or it ceases to exist.  The point that I am trying to make here is that we cannot spend all of our time focused on the present, we need to understand that life is a cycle and it will most certainly end.  So, how does your meaning and purpose measure up to the life cycle?  What stage of the life cycle are you closer to?  Are you closer to the beginning than the end?  Are you in the middle?  Are you close to the end?  Take your eyes off of what is going on in the present and view your life from a distance so you can grasp just how precious life is.  It does not matter if you are a Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, or another form of belief or religion, there is one inevitable truth that we all must agree on, and that is the death of ourselves.

Okay, enough about death.  I brought that up because that is the one thing that none of us can avoid, but we avoid talking about it the most.  Back to the meaning and purpose of your life.  Just as I have an instruction manual and map for my life, do you have something similar?  Do you have a roadmap to navigate through all of the ups and downs in life?  With anything that guides us, there has to be some validity to the source.  In other words, how does our instruction manuals hold up to all that life has to offer?  I looked up valid on dictionary.com and it contains three different definitions, but only one of those stood out to me the most.  Valid means sound; just; well-founded (www.dictionary.com).  Did you catch that last part?  Well-founded.  Foundational.  Is your instruction manual foundational?  Can it stand firm through the trials and storms of life?  I know that I am throwing a ton of questions at you, but I want to get you thinking about the meaning and purpose of your life.  My whole reasoning to get you thinking about life is because you have a life worth living.  Life is a precious gift that should not be taken for granted and should not be thought about only when death comes into play.  We exist to live, we don’t live to exist.

My entire goal with this post is to just get people thinking about their lives from a different perspective.  I had said that many times because it is important to know where you are going and what you are using as a guide.  I have also stated that I am a Christian and my instructional manual is the Word of God.  However, I did not throw a bunch of Bible verses at you that have to do with life because I just want to get you to think about your life as it is, right now at this moment!  I created this blog not to condemn or shame anyone, but to just have a conversation with others and build relationships with others that I may not be able to do so in any other venue.  I also want to encourage others and offer my help when needed because life really is a journey and it is never meant to be done alone.  There are an estimated 7.5 BILLION people living right now on this earth, and if we were meant to do life alone, then the earth is way too crowded.

I leave you with this:

Life is an amazing journey and every single day that we wake up, breathe in air and go about our days is truly a miracle.  Do not take the life that you were gifted for granted, because you are here for a reason.  If you are still reading this (I know that I have lost some), then this is meant for you.  Until the next post, I want you to really think about what you wrote down earlier and put those thoughts to the test with some of the questions asked in this post.  I have done this myself because the foundations I was using in my life were very weak and my meaning in life last a short five years.  I want to help, encourage, and empower others to know that a strong foundation in life is everything.  A strong foundation stands the test of time and lasts through the storms of life.  It is much easier to bulk up your foundation to stand against the storms of life than having to stand on the ruins of what destroyed the meaning and purpose of your life.  Trust me, I have been there.  Be encouraged, this is only the beginning of a great journey we are going to be on together.  You will not only hear from me but from my beautiful, smart, talented, amazing wife as we encourage, empower, and help you navigate through the storms of life through our own personal experiences.

Shayne Tower

Live.Laugh.Love