I want the story of my life to be…an encouragement.
As I think over the last seven months of my life, I remember the plans I had made, the things I wanted to do and how it all changed in an instant...a diagnosis. As I have taken this journey, I have also began thinking more and more about other people and the trials we all face as human beings on this earth. Whether it be a cancer diagnosis as it was for me, or some other trial that we must all go through at some point, the story of our lives is complex and can be very difficult. So, how do we cope? Can we do something that matters to help someone else even when we are suffering?
As I watched my daughter cope with my diagnosis through the desire to help others and launching 818 Ministries, I began to search my own heart and thoughts and began praying that God would show me how I could best see victory over my circumstance. The first thing He showed me was how to begin coping with my own trial by starting what I call my "thankful journal". I had been given a blank journal by a dear friend and I was going to use it to chronicle my long journey ahead. I decided instead to try and think of one thing every day to be thankful for and write it down in the journal. I soon found myself writing multiple things each day and it really helped!
At Christmas, my daughter had collected letters with verses and words of encouragement from family and friends and put them in a brand new Bible for me. That was the best gift ever and such an encouragement to me then and now. All through this time, I read so many verses from the Bible that had been given to me and some I found myself. I found the Word of God to be the best source of encouragement of all.
Some of my favorite examples:
Isaiah 41:10 - Fear thou not: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of righteousness.
Isaiah 41:13 - For I The Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not, I will help thee.
Jesus was also such an encouragement to others:
Matthew 14:27 - By straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
John 14:18 - I will not leave you comfortless : I will come to you.
God also gave me a special verse the morning I started chemotherapy and the peace it gave me I can't explain:
Romans 8:18 - For I reckon, the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
I want the story of my life to be that of encouragement. Before I speak to anyone who is going through any sort of trial whether it be similar to mine or something totally different, I will ask myself, “Can I give them a word, a verse, something to encourage their spirit?”
If I can't, I don't need to speak and simply offer them what helped me the most - prayers.
I have this quote hanging on my wall and it sums up my thoughts today:
"I shall pass this way but once; therefore any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show...let me do it now for I shall not pass this way again."
Daniel is a book of the Bible that is marked by bold, persistent prayers and steadfast faithfulness. When I think about the “Story of My Life” I desire that my life also be marked by prayer and relentless faith.
One of the stories from Daniel that I have connected with throughout my life is about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:8-30). In that time, much like today, they were faced with a society that worshiped many idols. However, in their particular situation, they were faced with an ultimatum to worship other gods and “live” or remain faithful to the true God in which they would experience true living.
They were being taunted by the king who questioned, “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (verse 15). Yet, because of their steadfast faith in the Lord, they were able to boldly proclaim, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand” (verse 17).
In response to their bold proclamation of faith, the king was angry. He decided to do everything he could to make them pay. Therefore, we are told in verse 19, “he ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated.” Then, he bound the three men and threw them in the hottest, fieriest furnace he could make.
All of a sudden the king was astonished. Not only were the three men alive, but they were unbound and walking with a fourth person “in the appearance on the son of the gods!” Immediately, the king demanded they come out of the furnace as he proclaimed the authority of God (verse 26).
As the story continues, the king was shown the glory of God by the faithful actions of these three men who “yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God” (verse 28). Wow! What bold faith they had, and how greatly God used their faith to bring glory to His Name!
This is what I want to story of my life to reflect, unwavering commitment to serve only the true God at all costs to show the world that He is worth it all.
There is so much in this story that we are able to identify with throughout our lives. Daily we are faced with man-made idols. Daily we have to take a stand for who we serve. Daily we have to remind ourselves that our God is bigger, and only He can deliver us from the hottest of fires.
We all face fiery furnaces, and they do not look pretty or feel nice. However, we must boldly proclaim, in both word and action, where our faith resides.
I love verse 19 when the king made the furnace hotter and then bound them. By all worldly standards, their situation got a lot worse. But it was when there was seemingly no way out that God worked in the most mighty way. Frequently, our trials get the hottest right as God shows up, frees us from our bindings, and makes Himself known not only to us but to all those around us.
I cannot imagine how on fire their faith must have been after such an experience.
As the trials of life come at us, may we choose to remember who can save us from them.
May we choose to believe in the salvation God promises us. May we choose to look forward to how God will make Himself known to and through us, and may we praise Him as the fire gets hotter.
The story we are talking about today didn’t strike my heart with the cord it does today until a message I heard during college that changed the way I see friendship and community forever.
In the Gospel account of Mark, Chapter 1 starts out with the preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism, then Jesus preaches in Galilee and performs many miracles and people are astonished at His works. He healed a fever, He casted out demons and healed a leper by simply the touch of His hand. People were astonished at His miracles until He could not publicly enter a city because of the multitudes that yearned to be touched and healed by Him!
He traveled to Capernaum and it did not take long for folks to start gathering in large numbers. There was no room left. It was standing room only – even outside of the door (Mark 2:2). I love that verse and the emphasis it brings to the urgency they had to find Jesus.
Enter main characters: in verse 3 it says “some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.” I don’t know who these men were but I know I will give them a hug in heaven one day for the way they carried out the message of the Gospel to their paralyzed friend.
First of all, they acted with a sense of urgency for his healing because they knew life is short.
The four men didn’t know how much time the paralyzed man had left. They didn’t care that there was a line. They didn’t care that you couldn’t get in the door. The paralyzed man was going to reach Jesus if they had any say about it. In verse 2 Jesus is preaching the word to them when these “some men” approach Capernaum and they realized the way to Jesus was not horizontal – it was vertical. There was no “going in the door” and weaving their way through the crowd with the man on a pallet. What did they do?
They climbed on the roof. “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.” (Mark 2:4)
Second, they didn’t care what it required on their part for him to be healed by Jesus.
That man was going to be healed and he was going to be healed by Jesus. And as soon as Jesus saw their faith He said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Enter: the naysayers. In verses 6 and 7 some teachers question Jesus and say, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But Jesus knew what they were thinking in their hearts and said, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:8-12).
First, they acted with a sense of urgency for his healing because they knew life is short.
Second, they didn’t care what it required on their part for him to be healed by Jesus.
Third, Jesus used their faith to ultimately amaze the people around Him to result in His praise, honor and glory.
Slowly but surely may we become urgent, carefree and faithful to do whatever it takes to lower our friend’s pallets to the feet of Jesus so the world around us will know His name.
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