Learning from Jabez

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Last week I wrote a Facebook post on the Prayer of Jabez. It was not my best work. I woke the other day with that on my mind as the Lord was speaking to me in my dream about the part I glossed over, his name. His mother named him Jabez, because she bore him in pain. What a thing to do to your child.

Names. We are given a name at birth. Some parents try to make them as unusual as they can making up their own names or spellings, while others research meanings and try to pick just the right one.

We often have nick names or “pet” names given to us by others. Sometimes the names are the taunts of cruel children on the playground, a sibling or even a parent. I am sure Jabez knew something about that, being named a pain by his own mother.

Then there are the names we give ourselves (that the enemy feeds us) that highlight what we see as our faults and failures.

But the most awesome name we are given is the one we get when we receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord, Child of God!

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All those names that taunt and tease, and try to hold us down, only have power over us if we believe them. That’s where knowing the Word of God comes in handy. When we know who God says we are and let that truth sink deep into our souls (the Sword of the Spirit) there’s no room for those lies.

dcf901b237e3f70a3743dfd05cc7d07fI love that Jabez did not let his name define him. The first thing we are told about Jabez is that he was more honorable that all of his brothers. For someone who was likely teased by siblings and others about his name,  he did not let it make him bitter. He chose the higher way.  God’s way. He did not let it limit him or limit what he sought from God.

I know for much of my life I let those taunting names define my self-worth and limit the power of God to work in my life,  because I did not seek it. I did not seek, because I believed I was too broken and unlovable and unworthy.

Even as a believer I could pray in faith for everyone except me. I knew God could do whatever I needed, but I doubted if He would do it for me. Well, we are all unworthy (Romans 3:23) until Jesus comes into our hearts and makes us new. He made a way for us to become children of God (John 1:12). He makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT.

Let me tell you, don’t listen to the enemy’s lies. He will do whatever it takes to belittle you and distract you from being all God created you to be. Don’t let the enemy tempt you with comparisons, either. You were created as a unique person for a specific purpose that is solely yours. Each of our journies may be similar in some ways, but we each have a different path that God has laid before us. And His timing is perfect for when things happen in each life. Just because Jane Doe over there started doing something in her 30s doesn’t mean it’s too late for me in my 50s. Instead of comparing be preparing yourself in the Word and in prayer. Be ready when the Lord calls and answer by following wherever He leads. 

Since I have learned what the Bible says about who I am I started taking those negative thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5)  and replacing those lies with God’s truth. Now I am able to wield that Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) with skill and accuracy (see Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4:1-11). You can and must, too!

Let’s take another look at Jabez’s prayer:

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He trusted God to bless him. He was bold enough to ask God to enlarge his territory. Territory equals land and that equals wealth and standing in the community which equals increasing his sphere of influence. Jabez knew he needed God to be with him to handle life’s ups and downs and to help him resist evil influences. If children in his time were anything like they are today he probably got teased about being a “pain.” He knew pain and he didn’t want to cause pain to himself or anyone else. He was an honorable man and God honored Jabez for it by granting his request.

“You do not have, because you do not ask” James 4:2 ESV.

What requests have you hidden in your heart, because you are afraid to ask God to grant your request? Do you feel undeserving of God’s love and care? Take it all to the Lord and let Him show You how much He loves you. Memorize some of the verses in the “Who I Am In Christ” list above, so you are armed for battle when the enemy taunts and teases you. Then present your petitions to God (Philippians 4:6-7). And see what He does in your life! 

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Blessings and peace,

Julia

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A Place of Surrender

(For week 5 Blog Hop A Confident Heart) #IAmNot

    We moved to Missouri 3 years and 4 months ago. Rewind to about two and a half years before we moved. We were considering remodeling our living room, dining room, and kitchen to become one great room. One day as I was trying to figure out where to move the refrigerator and some cabinets I heard the Lord tell my heart, “Don’t worry about it. You won’t be here.” I let go of the remodeling idea. The idea of moving was exciting when I thought about where I would want to move. Hubby and I always wanted to live on the central coast of California. It would be far from our families, but only a 5-6 hour drive. Doable for fairly frequent visits.
    Some how I got a time frame in my head of within 18 months. Have you ever had a clear message from God only to in the next thought add your own two cents? I kept this idea of moving within 18 months in my head. But, once my time frame passed I forgot about it. I figured it must have been all me and not God.
    Then in August 2009 I get laid off in the first of a series of city lay offs stemming from the State of California’s financial problems. We had been told that someone from each department would be laid off. One by one we who were being laid off were called down to the assistant city manager’s office. As I sat down I said, it’s me. He and the personnel director asked, How did I know? They didn’t even know until now. I told them I just knew it was going to be me. I believe God prepared my spirit to hear the news.
    I had a very stressful job. At first I was upset about being laid off, but after a while of being unemployed I became less stressed even though I wasn’t working and money was tight. I began seeing that God’s hand of provision was actually in the lay off. I got a month’s severance, paid medical through the end of the year, letters of recommendation, and I was even allowed to use unused vacation in lieu of finishing out the week at work. It was too hard trying to work knowing I was being let go. There were at least 2 or 3 more rounds of lay offs to come. None of them got a package like we did and on at least one of the rounds, they were given 1 month’s native, but they had to work the full month knowing they were being laid off. If they left early they would be considered as quitting and be denied unemployment.
    For the people left behind, conditions on the job became more stressful as fewer people tried to accomplish the same work load. I began seeing how God was providing for me not only in the package I had received, but in not being there to work in the increasingly stressful work environment.
    Meanwhile, my husband’s employer had some big lawsuits that caused them to file bankruptcy. Just before Christmas we learned the company was being sold as part of the bankruptcy. The highest bidder so far had been another local business.
    When hubby went back to work after the new year they were informed that the company had been sold to a company in St. Louis. There were reps from the new company there. They asked hubby if he wanted to move. He came home and asked me if I wanted to move to St. Louis. My first reaction was no, but before I could open my mouth, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what He told me about 2 years before. “Yes” came out of my mouth. I surrendered. Missouri was a far cry from Southern California or my dream of California’s Central Coast.
    Hubby was put in charge of the move on the California end. It would take about 6 months to get everything organized and shipped, including making a stock of parts to be used to fill orders during the actual move.
    We had lived in our house 17 years, without many upgrades. We worked for months to get the house ready to sell. I cashed in my retirement funds to help pay for it. It took a while to get packed, painted, re-do the carpet and flooring, etc. We got the house on the market only a month before we were leaving. We sold it in two weeks, for our asking price. Absolutely amazing in June 2010.
    The Saturday before we left California our daughter revealed she and her hubby were expecting their first child. YAY! We were excited that we were finally going to be grandparents. BOO! We were moving away. The next morning I cried out to God during worship. Why God, do we have to move now that we have a grandbaby on the way? I heard, “you have a choice. You don’t have to move. But…”  I could choose to stay (not a real option after selling the house and no jobs), but I would be out of God’s will. He would be under no obligation to bless anything we did if we stayed. I knew it was Gods plan for us to move, so I surrendered, again. It was much harder this time.
    We moved, driving one of our cars, over the July 4th holiday week. Then another blow. We were in Winslow, Arizona when our realtor called saying the appraisal came in $19,000 under the agreed/asking price. The buyer’s lender would not go for it, even though their down would cover the difference, plus. We did not have time to look for another buyer in hopes a different appraisal would go better, so we surrendered to a lower price.
     God is good! We still got a good amount for our house that paid off our mortgage and our mountain of other debt, with some to spare. Hubby’s new employer let him keep his 35 years of service/seniority, gave him a raise, a signing bonus after we arrived, and they paid all the moving expenses. That’s God!
    Some months ago a friend and sister in Christ said to me, maybe God had to move me away from the grandkids (#5 was just born last month and #6 is due in February), because I would be such a dedicated grandma that I might not do all the things God has in store for me to accomplish. Wisdom, I didn’t want to hear.
    I have dealt with depression over the move, that at first nearly stopped me from functioning. And fear and procrastination may have delayed some of the ministry God has for me to do. But, even as I am writing this, the sound track in my head is playing Mandisa’s song “Overcomer.” God is not finished with me. I am learning through this difficult process. I am challenged, but I am supported by God’s Holy Spirit and the many sister-friends He has given me here in Missouri and through these wonderful online bible studies through the ministry of proverbs31.org.
    Surrender is not only the thing we do during big life changing decisions, but it is a daily thing, and a moment to moment thing. Do we listen to God’s voice as we make our every day decisions. Do we recognize the divine appointments God puts in our path and respond when He calls us to touch someone’s life? Do we follow and surrender our thoughts and ideas to Him even in the little things in our lives? I am learning that if we want God’s best we must give Him all we are and all we have in surrender and He will give us a life we could not possibly hope for or imagine. Although it is still difficult being so far away from our family, I have learned to cope and I am thankful that unlike Abraham who had to leave home and family forever, we have technology that keeps us close and rapid transportation that allows us to visit on occasion. I have learned that focusing on me, my circumstances, and my feelings only brings self-pity, defeat, and depression. When I focus on what God has for me to do, I feel joy and peace, and pleasure in knowing I am doing what He has for me to do.

    Heavenly Father, I ask Your blessing upon everyone who reads this blog post. May we all tune our ears to hear Your voice every moment, every day. May we surrender our will and our plan to Your perfect will and Your perfect plan for our lives. Life is not easy with or without You, but help us to say, “I will take hard with You over hard or even easy without You! You are my Rock, my strength, my joy, my peace, my everything!” In Jesus’ name we surrender our lives and our will to You, amen.

A Place of Surrender

(For week 5 Blog Hop A Confident Heart) #IAmNot

    We moved to Missouri 3 years and 4 months ago. Rewind to about two and a half years before we moved. We were considering remodeling our living room, dining room, and kitchen to become one great room. One day as I was trying to figure out where to move the refrigerator and some cabinets I heard the Lord tell my heart, “Don’t worry about it. You won’t be here.” I let go of the remodeling idea. The idea of moving was exciting when I thought about where I would want to move. Hubby and I always wanted to live on the central coast of California. It would be far from our families, but only a 5-6 hour drive. Doable for fairly frequent visits.
    Some how I got a time frame in my head of within 18 months. Have you ever had a clear message from God only to in the next thought add your own two cents? I kept this idea of moving within 18 months in my head. But, once my time frame passed I forgot about it. I figured it must have been all me and not God.
    Then in August 2009 I get laid off in the first of a series of city lay offs stemming from the State of California’s financial problems. We had been told that someone from each department would be laid off. One by one we who were being laid off were called down to the assistant city manager’s office. As I sat down I said, it’s me. He and the personnel director asked, How did I know? They didn’t even know until now. I told them I just knew it was going to be me. I believe God prepared my spirit to hear the news.
    I had a very stressful job. At first I was upset about being laid off, but after a while of being unemployed I became less stressed even though I wasn’t working and money was tight. I began seeing that God’s hand of provision was actually in the lay off. I got a month’s severance, paid medical through the end of the year, letters of recommendation, and I was even allowed to use unused vacation in lieu of finishing out the week at work. It was too hard trying to work knowing I was being let go. There were at least 2 or 3 more rounds of lay offs to come. None of them got a package like we did and on at least one of the rounds, they were given 1 month’s native, but they had to work the full month knowing they were being laid off. If they left early they would be considered as quitting and be denied unemployment.
    For the people left behind, conditions on the job became more stressful as fewer people tried to accomplish the same work load. I began seeing how God was providing for me not only in the package I had received, but in not being there to work in the increasingly stressful work environment.
    Meanwhile, my husband’s employer had some big lawsuits that caused them to file bankruptcy. Just before Christmas we learned the company was being sold as part of the bankruptcy. The highest bidder so far had been another local business.
    When hubby went back to work after the new year they were informed that the company had been sold to a company in St. Louis. There were reps from the new company there. They asked hubby if he wanted to move. He came home and asked me if I wanted to move to St. Louis. My first reaction was no, but before I could open my mouth, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what He told me about 2 years before. “Yes” came out of my mouth. I surrendered. Missouri was a far cry from Southern California or my dream of California’s Central Coast.
    Hubby was put in charge of the move on the California end. It would take about 6 months to get everything organized and shipped, including making a stock of parts to be used to fill orders during the actual move.
    We had lived in our house 17 years, without many upgrades. We worked for months to get the house ready to sell. I cashed in my retirement funds to help pay for it. It took a while to get packed, painted, re-do the carpet and flooring, etc. We got the house on the market only a month before we were leaving. We sold it in two weeks, for our asking price. Absolutely amazing in June 2010.
    The Saturday before we left California our daughter revealed she and her hubby were expecting their first child. YAY! We were excited that we were finally going to be grandparents. BOO! We were moving away. The next morning I cried out to God during worship. Why God, do we have to move now that we have a grandbaby on the way? I heard, “you have a choice. You don’t have to move. But…”  I could choose to stay (not a real option after selling the house and no jobs), but I would be out of God’s will. He would be under no obligation to bless anything we did if we stayed. I knew it was Gods plan for us to move, so I surrendered, again. It was much harder this time.
    We moved, driving one of our cars, over the July 4th holiday week. Then another blow. We were in Winslow, Arizona when our realtor called saying the appraisal came in $19,000 under the agreed/asking price. The buyer’s lender would not go for it, even though their down would cover the difference, plus. We did not have time to look for another buyer in hopes a different appraisal would go better, so we surrendered to a lower price.
     God is good! We still got a good amount for our house that paid off our mortgage and our mountain of other debt, with some to spare. Hubby’s new employer let him keep his 35 years of service/seniority, gave him a raise, a signing bonus after we arrived, and they paid all the moving expenses. That’s God!
    Some months ago a friend and sister in Christ said to me, maybe God had to move me away from the grandkids (#5 was just born last month and #6 is due in February), because I would be such a dedicated grandma that I might not do all the things God has in store for me to accomplish. Wisdom, I didn’t want to hear.
    I have dealt with depression over the move, that at first nearly stopped me from functioning. And fear and procrastination may have delayed some of the ministry God has for me to do. But, even as I am writing this, the sound track in my head is playing Mandisa’s song “Overcomer.” God is not finished with me. I am learning through this difficult process. I am challenged, but I am supported by God’s Holy Spirit and the many sister-friends He has given me here in Missouri and through these wonderful online bible studies through the ministry of proverbs31.org.
    Surrender is not only the thing we do during big life changing decisions, but it is a daily thing, and a moment to moment thing. Do we listen to God’s voice as we make our every day decisions. Do we recognize the divine appointments God puts in our path and respond when He calls us to touch someone’s life? Do we follow and surrender our thoughts and ideas to Him even in the little things in our lives? I am learning that if we want God’s best we must give Him all we are and all we have in surrender and He will give us a life we could not possibly hope for or imagine. Although it is still difficult being so far away from our family, I have learned to cope and I am thankful that unlike Abraham who had to leave home and family forever, we have technology that keeps us close and rapid transportation that allows us to visit on occasion. I have learned that focusing on me, my circumstances, and my feelings only brings self-pity, defeat, and depression. When I focus on what God has for me to do, I feel joy and peace, and pleasure in knowing I am doing what He has for me to do.

    Heavenly Father, I ask Your blessing upon everyone who reads this blog post. May we all tune our ears to hear Your voice every moment, every day. May we surrender our will and our plan to Your perfect will and Your perfect plan for our lives. Life is not easy with or without You, but help us to say, “I will take hard with You over hard or even easy without You! You are my Rock, my strength, my joy, my peace, my everything!” In Jesus’ name we surrender our lives and our will to You, amen.

Gone Astray

I am sorry it has been a month since my last blog post. It’s been a challenging month for me with migraines, sinus issues, and other personal issues that have distracted me from the tasks God has given me to do. This is a timely message for me, as I need to hear it as much as anyone. I have not only allowed these things to distract me from writing, but from much of my prayer and reading/studying times, also.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV, 11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Do you feel like you are in “exile” from the presence of God? God is always near us. If He seems far away, it is likely because we are not seeking Him or we are involved in a pattern of sinfulness. It is sin that first separated people from their God. Can you imagine what life would have been like for us if Adam and Eve had resisted the temptation of the serpent and called out to the Lord for help? 
To find the Lord and know His presence in our everyday lives we just need to seek Him with all our heart (v. 13 above). If you are feeling like God is far away from you, take some time to examine your life:

1 John 1:9 NIV, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Are you living in a pattern of sinfulness? If so, God is always ready to pour out His grace and forgiveness upon us when we repent (turn away from) and confess our sins. Come before Him in faith and pour out your heart to Him.

Isaiah 55:6 NLT, Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
Are you making time for the Lord? Do you pray daily? We cannot expect to feel close to God without spending time with Him (in the Word, worship, and in prayer) any more than we can feel close to another person if we don’t spend time talking and sharing life with them. Prayer is the way we communicate with God. Starting our days with prayer gives us a good start to our days. It helps us focus on what is important and prioritize our days. But prayer should be a part of everything we do. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 urges us to pray continually. Every decision we make, every problem we face, and even every good thing we enjoy in life is reason to pray what some refer to as “popcorn” prayers. It’s as simple as saying:
Thank You, Lord, for this great parking space!
Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day.
Father, help me stay focused at work and complete this project on time.
Lord, keep me alert as I drive and get me to my destination safely.

Psalm 119:11 NASB, Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
Do you spend time reading and meditating on (thinking about) the Word every day? We cannot expect to know God if we don’t learn about Him through His Word and prayer (conversation). The Bible is an instruction manual on godly living for us, but it also reveals the Father’s heart and character to all who take the time to seek Him.

John 14:26 NLT, But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
When you read the Word, do you ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you’re reading and show you how to apply it in your life? That is one of the reasons God gives us His Spirit when we receive Jesus as our Savior.

Psalm 46.10 NLT, “Be still, and know that I am God!
When you pray, do you rush through a list of requests without spending time being still before the Lord and soaking in His presence? The NASB version of this verse is, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” I think it says it well. If we are striving to do life in our own power we are not seeking the power of the Lord in our everyday circumstances. That is the way God created us to live our lives in His power.

1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV, Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
The NIV and NASB versions translate it as, “seek His face continually.” We all too often seek the hand of God (provision, healing, help), but we don’t seek face time with Him as often as we should. Oh the joys we miss because we rush through our days. Nehemiah said it this way (v. 8:10),  “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” It is in His presence that we find the strength to live our lives and He fills us with His joy. This is the joy Jesus spoke of when He said (John 15:9-11 NLT), “9“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” This joy does not depend on our circumstances, but only upon the the relationship we have with the Lord. His presence is our joy no matter what life brings. I am reminded of Stephen in the book of Acts (7:54-60 NLT). Even in the face of being stoned to death, Stephen found joy in God’s presence.

Here are a few more verses on seeking the Lord:
Mathew 7:7 NLT, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
Psalm 34:4 NIV, I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 37:4 NIV, Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Of course, when life gets us down we are also supposed to bring our requests (Philippians 4:6-7) and all our cares (Psalm 55.22, 1 Peter 5:7) to God in prayer. We just need to remember he is not a genie in a lamp who is there to grant all our wishes. He is our Sovereign God and our Heavenly Father. As our Lord and God, He deserves our praise and worship, and as our Father He wants our obedience (which Jesus equated to love in John 14:15, 21, 23 & 15:10) and relationship (face time) with His children. Hear the words of Jesus (read out loud):
Matthew 7:7-11 NLT, 7“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

May the peace and joy of the Lord’s presence be yours,
Julia

Seek the Lord

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)

Do you ever feel alone? Do you long for the presence of a person in your life to share your ups and downs? We do need people, but we should remember that if we have Jesus as our Savior, we are never truly alone. He is not only our Savior and Lord, but also our best friend. Yes, we need good friends and family in our lives to love, support, and celebrate life with us. No one is meant to go through this life alone. But, we must not forget to seek the Lord first in our lives and keep Christ in the center of all of our other relationships. He is the Third Strand in our triple-braided cord that gives us the strength to face life’s challenges.  

My husband and I moved half-way across the country for his job almost 3 years ago. We left our friends and our entire family behind – my parents, our sibling’s families, our kids, their spouses, and now our grandkids. Even though I knew it was completely a God thing that we made this move, I did freak out when we first got here. And I will admit that from time to time I still get a bit depressed and stressed. If I did not have that relationship with the Lord I would not be able to handle it. He fills the void in my life with His presence, the ministry He has given me, and He led me to a church full of people who reached out to me and became a surrogate family. But even when I am feeling alone or disconnected from my family, I have Jesus right there with me.

Connecting with God in an intimate relationship is so very important. That may sound strange if you have never experienced it, but it is possible and it is God’s intended purpose in creating us. Adam and Eve experienced that kind of intimate relationship with the Lord and walked with Him in the garden. It was the entrance of sin in their lives that separated them and us from that closeness with God. Jesus came into the world in human flesh to die in our place and rebuild that intimate connection between us and God the Father. When we receive Jesus as our Savior He gives us His Holy Spirit to live inside of us. He becomes our Teacher, Advocate, Guide, and Comforter. This gives us access to a personal relationship with the Lord we could not have otherwise.

Going back to our theme verse for today, Jesus’ presence is also in our relationships with other people to help us connect more deeply with each other. People can never completely fulfill our needs, but God can and does use the people in our lives as His hands, feet, heart, and mouth to enhance our lives and He uses us in the lives of others in the same way. But even if and when you feel alone, seek His presence first and foremost. You may think it’s not the same as a physical person near you, but you can feel His presence in your spirit. I have, at times, even experienced the feeling of the sensation of the Lord’s arm around my shoulders when I needed comfort or the joy of His presence dancing with me in worship. He makes His presence known when we seek Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13). We need the Lord’s presence for healing of our hearts and souls and to give us the strength to face trials and temptations. Seek the Lord first in all things (Psalm 27). He is our hope, strength, and ever-present help (Psalm 46).

Blessings,
Julia

Yoked to Jesus

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

As I am sitting here watching a Food Network Challenge, I am inspired by the work of these sugar artists. As these sugar artists work, they face many challenges. This hot, liquid sugar can give a severe burn if it gets on your skin. If it’s not heated to the correct temperature or does not set up properly the integrity of the piece can be compromised. They heat the sugar then, working quickly, they pour it into molds or use it to make blown-sugar pieces, in a similar manner to glass-blowing. It is quite remarkable to watch. Then, comes the really tricky part. Connecting the pieces into an amazing sculpture. These sculptures are quite fragile. Too much weight, too much vibration, not perfectly balanced and it can crack, lean or completely shatter.

Sometimes we feel as fragile as a sugar sculpture. We may feel as though the slightest weight or imbalance will make us collapse or completely shatter. But we have promises from God that we can use to prop us up and give us added strength to endure the weight of trials. We also have the gift of the Holy Spirit to teach, comfort, and guide us, so we can withstand the vibrations that threaten to shake us to our very core and shatter our mental stability. In the Deuteronomy verse (above) God assures us that He will not fail us or abandon us and that He goes before us. He knows what will be coming our way. We can be confident, strong and courageous, because the Lord is completely trustworthy.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  Isaiah 46:4 NIV

There is no situation that we cannot handle, so long as we keep our eyes on Jesus. This verse in Isaiah gives me such comfort and peace. He has made us. We are His. He will always be there to carry, sustain, and rescue us. The word that touches me the most here is, sustain. The merriam-webster.com dictionary defines sustain as:
1 : to give support or relief to
2 : to supply with sustenance : nourish
3 : keep up, prolong
4 : to support the weight of : prop ; also : to carry or withstand (a weight or pressure)
5 : to buoy up
6 a : to bear up under
Such richness in this word, sustain. God promises to support us, to nourish us, to keep us going, to support and carry us, and hold us up when we feel the weight of life dragging us down. And then there’s number five, to buoy up. I have never felt buoyant in water. I almost drowned as a child. I do not like being in the water. I cannot relax enough to float. Yet in the sea of life God promises to help me float and not sink. I am reminded of Peter walking out to meet the Master on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. So long as Peter kept His eyes on Jesus he stayed on top of the water. But, as soon as he looked at the wind and waves Peter began sinking. When the weight of life gets us down we just need to remember God is there to sustain us. He has not promised to take away our troubles, but He has promised He will never fail us or abandon us in our troubles. He will not let the troubles become more than we can bear with His help. These bolded words are key. We have to realize we are not meant to face life alone. Our strength is still weakness. We need the Lord’s strength to see us through. Jesus also made a promise that He would relieve our burdens.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT).

Like many promises in the Bible, these verses have an If/Then scenario. We have a part to play in this promise — If come to Jesus, give Him our burden and take His yoke, Then, He will teach us, give our souls rest and lighten our burdens. I used to think of the yoke Jesus gives as just a lighter, easier version of the one we already have, but I never thought about how a yoke works. I did some research online. There are a couple different kinds of yokes.

A yoke for animals is made from carved wood that is shaped to tie two animals together to make the most of their strength, but they must work together. If they fight each other they won’t get anywhere. A lot depends on how well the yoke itself is made. It should fit well, so it does not cause pain or sores. The animals being yoked together must be equally matched in size, strength and family. You cannot yoke a donkey with an ox and expect to get anywhere. Also, there can only be one lead animal.

I get this picture now of what I think Jesus is describing to us in these verses. He has a yoke that is made to fit just right and enable us to work the most efficiently. I see us yoked with Jesus. He is the lead. When we submit to his lead and put our all into the work God has for us, it makes the work easier for us, because we’re not carrying the burden alone. A yoke also makes it easier to keep looking ahead, so we are not distracted by other things around us. But, if we try to go our own way against Jesus’ leading, not only will we not be productive, but we will hurt ourselves fighting against the yoke.

There is another kind of yoke, a human yoke, made to fit over the shoulders of slaves. It allows them to carry a heavier load. The Bible calls it an “iron” yoke (Deut. 28:48). In a spiritual sense this is the kind of yoke we are born with, that has us in bondage to sin. In 1 John 5:3 says, “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (NLT). The Lord does not want us to live burdensome lives. He wants to set us free from sin and lead us in a life of freedom in Him. It means if we love Him we will be obedient to His Word and listen to His voice.

When we choose Jesus and allow Him to trade our yoke of bondage for his easier (double) yoke joining us to Him, our burden is shared and He leads us on the right path. When temptations come our way that would seek to make us fight against that yoke or even try to get us to change back to the “iron” yoke, we have these verses to give us strength:
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15 NLT).

Following the discipline of Christ’s yoke is work, but Jesus said if we choose it, we will find His yoke is easy. That does not mean no troubles, but we don’t have to go through them alone. Our struggles will not overwhelm us, because Jesus said if we take His yoke we will find rest for our souls.

I spent too much of my life with a very restless, frustrated, and stressed out soul. Why? Because I tried to do everything in my own power, not following Jesus and not cooperating with the Holy Spirit. I have been learning that the more I cooperate with the Spirit following where Jesus leads me, the more rested and at peace I feel. Following Him isn’t always easy and it can be painful at times. The Good News is that this pain is not as hard as the pain of the life I left behind when I chose to receive Jesus as my Savior AND Lord. Sometimes we forget that He is not only Savior but also the Lord and King of our lives. That can be hard for control freaks like me to accept, but when we do learn to submit to God and His leading through the Holy Spirit, even our trials are easier, and I believe shorter in duration, than if we choose to fight against the yoke that joins us to life in Jesus.

You may balk at the thought of being yoked in any way. But, every person is born with the “iron” yoke of slavery. Jesus’ offer of a lighter yoke is the better choice and the only alternative to that “iron” yoke. There is no such thing as a yoke-free life in this world.

If you have never asked Jesus into your heart to be your Savior and Lord, why not do it today. Read my welcome message for a guide to receiving the joy of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Blessings,
Julia