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Our church just finished a series entitled, Overwhelmed. Each week we preached on topics like, worry, anxiety, depression, fear, family, pressure, and doubt. The gospel speaks directly to all of these issues and offers very deep, soul-satisfying answers. It was a series that everyone could relate to, especially me.
2019 was especially overwhelming for me in several different ways. I had some personal issues that were causing me great frustration, I had conflict in my life that was difficult to deal with, I was up and down emotionally, and then there was just the normal stress of everyday life. But in the middle of it all, I had this amazing three-month sabbatical that could not have gone any better. All of the ups and downs put me into a pretty deep funk and since January 1st I’ve been trying to work my way out of it.
I recently ran across a passage in James that really struck me. It is James 1:12,
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
It says that I am blessed because I remain steadfast under trials. Blessed? Really? Trials do not always feel like blessings. But the more I meditated on this verse the more the Lord used it to really speak the truth of the gospel into my heart. I began to think about how I try to remain steadfast. I came up with a few thoughts.
There are a few roads I travel down in order to find my way back home and I want to share them with you.
The first road is friends. I have some amazing friendships in my life. These are the type of people who consistently and constantly encourage me. These are the friends who are willing to ask me the difficult questions, you know, questions that get at the heart of certain issues, not just the external problems that have been created. These are the friends that when they say they are praying for you, you can actually sense their prayers. Deep friendships are truly a gift from God who can use them to lift you up and keep you from jumping off a cliff when you have no hope left.
The second road is family. Again, I am blessed with a family rooted in Christ. My wife is incredibly strong both in her faith and in her emotional stamina, all my kids love the Lord and are actively engaged in ministering to others. They all have a deep personal relationship with Christ. But I’m also blessed with some other family members who live close by. They actually live just a few houses away. Our families are together quite a bit and this is one of the things I am so thankful for. It can be super encouraging just to be around them, share a meal together, play some games and just hang out.
The third road is worship. Worship for me doesn’t just happen on Sunday morning. Sunday morning is an integral place for me to worship. I am with friends who are on mission together to love God and love our neighbors. I love the music that allows me to express my heart and emotions to the Lord. Being fed by gospel preaching week in and week out has a cumulative effect on renewing my mind. And of course, the sacraments of watching people being baptized and feasting on the Lord’s Supper are vital to the corporate worship of the body of Christ.
But I also worship with my Bible and journal. Reading, studying and praying through the Scriptures enables me to see the grace of God poured out through Jesus and applied through the Holy Spirit. Spending time alone with the Lord is very personal, meaningful and impactful. I can listen to the Lord, hear His encouragement to persevere and remain steadfast. I can feel the presence of Christ in the moment and when I do then I am brought back from discouragement and loneliness to a lifting of my heart and an enthusiasm to live.
The fourth road, which really encompasses them all, is Jesus Himself. When I get down on myself or find myself wanting to give up, I turn to Jesus. I remind myself that I am united to Christ in an inseparable bond and that He has never left me. I don’t mean that He as never left me in the sense that Jesus has a good track record of sticking by me. I mean I am connected to Christ. He is the vine I am the branches. We are one. One of my favorite verses is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Christ actually lives in me. He is not going to go anywhere, He can’t go anywhere. Jesus is always with me.
To remain steadfast is to engage in the power of Christ and His gospel. It is to engage with the friendships of Christ that He has given me. It is to engage in the promises of Christ that comforts me, it is to worship the Christ who gave His life for me and now lives within me.
I am able to remain steadfast because of the gospel, and we all know, it’s the gospel that changes everything.