Our Most Persuasive Apologetic

Does God exist?

This is the ultimate question. Its answer is all-important, determining every other belief. Even when the question isn’t stated explicitly, it undergirds all of life. Our choices, our hopes, our purpose, our identity – everything swings in the balance, dependent upon our response to this question.

Although many atheists claim the existence of God has been disproved, there is remarkable evidence for God throughout science, philosophy, archaeology, and history. Every Christian will benefit from some understanding of this evidence as we represent God to the world. In fact, the apostle Peter encouraged the early church to be prepared to answer these significant questions:

Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 

– 1 Peter 3:15

What answers do believers have for those who question God’s existence?

There are scientific defenses, including the origin of the universe itself. The discovery of the Big Bang has shown that the universe has a beginning,¹ thus, there must be something beyond the universe that caused it – there must be a First Cause.² 

Another common argument is the overwhelming order and intricacy of the universe – from the language of DNA to the laws that govern physics – requiring the work of an Intelligent Designer. There are also philosophical defenses, such as the existence of universal morality throughout human history. In order to ultimately define what is good and true, there must be an Absolute who not only defines but displays true goodness.

There are many other resources providing evidence not only for a god, but for the God of the Bible.

As we engage in an increasingly secular society, we should all seek to be able to clearly articulate the doctrine which we profess. We cannot argue people into trusting Christ, but we can provide cogent and reasonable answers to their questions that open the door to the message of the gospel.

However, the most important apologetic is not found in science, statistics, or philosophy. It’s not an argument or claim; it isn’t words found in a book or lecture. The most important apologetic is us: our character, our love for one another, the autobiography of our lives as disciples of Jesus.

Many people cite 1 Peter 3:15 to encourage Christians to engage in apologetics, but let’s pay attention to the second half of this exhortation.

Yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

– 1 Peter 3:16

The most powerful way to draw someone to Jesus is to love them.

Defend your faith, resting in the reasonableness of Christianity, but remember that this isn’t a debate to be won against an enemy. Each person we encounter is loved by Jesus, and our aim should be to win each one for his kingdom. We must first and foremost love the person before us.

Though the question of God’s existence is everywhere, seekers are also looking for evidence of God’s character.

Who is he?

Can he be trusted?

Is he good?

No matter how valid our arguments or how persuasive our evidence, it will fall on deaf ears if who we are represents God in a way that looks nothing like Jesus. Growing in knowledge of Christianity must always be accompanied by continually being formed into the image of Christ: caring for the poor, walking in humility, becoming a friend to sinners.

When we then present evidence for the defense of our hope, it will not only be with science or statistics, but also through the authentic transformation of our life in Christ. We must engage with our neighbors in such a way that unbelievers want to hear our defense and to know the God we follow.

In a skeptical yet searching world, a reasonable faith and a winsome life can make a way for the truth of the gospel.


¹ Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, (New York, NY: Free Press, 2007), 63.


 

076: Christian Celebrity

It happens every so often that we see prominent and popular Christian leaders, celebrities if you will, stumble and fall. A story breaks, or someone comes forward and all of a sudden we’re left wondering about this person and their ministry and if it was all for real. On this episode, Jon Coffey sits down with Clear Creek Community Church’s Lead Pastor, Bruce Wesley, to discuss the dangers of the Christian celebrity and how we can appreciate God-given gifts and talents without creating idols.

Resources: 

The Danger of Idolizing ‘Christian Celebrities’ – Relevant Magazine

A Love That Lasts

For those of us who are married, we each pledged our love for our spouses at our wedding — a love that would never waver, endure sickness and poverty, and abide until death parted us.

But oh, how our human love has failed. So many marriages collapse under the strain that life brings, and even those who remain married struggle to love well through those challenges.

Striving to preserve, protect, and prosper our marriages is a worthy endeavor, but this effort can feel impossible to sustain, and thinking back on the promises we once pledged can often fill us more with guilt than joy.

Let’s think back to another day instead. Not a day in which your love was celebrated, but rather a day when your eyes were opened to a love that was extended to you.

Though our experiences are all unique, every believer in Jesus can remember a time in which you recognized God’s love as valuable, beautiful, endearing, and personal. Your heart and life were changed by love that you didn’t deserve; love you could never hope to return in kind.

And this love has endured. Amid all our struggles, failures, and sin, we still experience the love of God, turning us back to him with mercy and compassion.

When the Old Testament writers spoke of God’s love for his people, they most frequently used the word hesed — sometimes translated as steadfast love or lovingkindness. In Psalm 136, the word is present in every verse.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

– Psalm 136:1-2

God’s love can be counted on. He is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to him. His love for us originated before creation and will last throughout eternity. He has adopted us into his family and will never let us go. He is sovereign over all the universe, and we can trust that nothing will ever overwhelm his love for us.

In the New Testament, the Greek word agape is most commonly used, particularly emphasizing the unconditional sacrifice of our Savior.

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

– Ephesians 5:2

The love of God is expressed over and over as a love that gives. The Father gave his Son for us, the Son gave himself up on the cross for us, the Spirit is given to us. The depths of God’s sacrificial gifts are impossible to fathom and made all the more inexplicably lovely by the depths of our depravity. We deserve none of his love, and yet he never fails to grace us with his gifts. His unconditional sacrifice on our behalf was costly, and the price was paid with joyous love.

In our own strength, we are incapable of loving our spouses with such a faithful, enduring, unconditional, sacrificial love. But God doesn’t stop with simply loving us. He extends that unending, undeserved love into and through us, transforming our hearts first toward him and then to those around us.

When we come to grips with our inability to earn God’s love, how can we continue to hold our spouses’ sins against them? When we understand the lovingkindness given to us, how can we not extend it to others? When we experience God’s patience with our fears and failures, how can we fail to forgive? When we have been given God’s very Son, how can we insist on our own preferences?

Through uncertainty and upheaval, in seasons of suffering or stress, attempting to root our efforts to love our spouse in our own strength will always fail us. Instead, let’s remind ourselves of the gospel love of God.

When we examine how he has loved us despite our weakness, we just might find a taste of his great love to extend to our spouse.

May we reflect his faithful, enduring, unconditional, sacrificial love each day as we work and live and grow side by side, day by day, grace by grace.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

– 1 John 4:10-11


 

Is Any Prayer Too Small?

A few years ago, at a church service, the pastor asked us to write down one thing we wanted prayer for over the next week on a small white card. After we wrote something down, we were asked to bring our papers to the front and lay them on the edge of the stage. Then, near the end of the service, he asked us to come forward again, but this time to take a random card and commit to pray for whatever was written on it over the next week.

After I picked mine and returned to my seat, I unfolded the paper, excited and also a bit nervous for what I might see.

“Pray for my arm.”

I almost chuckled as I read it.

Surely this is a kid or something, right? The handwriting was shaky and hard to read, and it seemed like such a small, insignificant thing to ask for prayer about.

I guess, honestly, I was expecting (and maybe hoping, a little) for something a bit more grandiose. I mean, I wasn’t wishing for anything bad to be happening to anyone, but the more dire the circumstance the more I thought I would feel a sense of urgency to do my part.

Knowing that people are dealing with cancer, miscarriages, divorce, leading nations, firing employees, exploring outer space, and sharing the Gospel to every corner of the world, did I really need to bother God with this? Should we let him in on this mysterious arm situation, when he clearly had bigger business to handle?

But, as I sat mulling over the words on that piece of paper, I started to think about the parent, friend, or caretaker of the person to whom this arm belonged. How would they feel about this situation?

If a kid, or anyone else, was willing to write these four words on a card when they could literally have asked for prayer for anything else, anonymously, without the possibility of being judged or found out, then maybe this was serious. Maybe it was a miserable condition to be in. Or maybe it was something they never thought would heal. Or maybe it was simply the only thing bothering this otherwise carefree child.

Regardless, someone who loved this kid would care a great deal about it. I know that when I was a kid, whenever I scraped my knee or bruised some part of me, my parents cared a lot.

Even if it wasn’t serious (and it never was), my parents sympathized with the fact that it bothered me.

Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars; he gives to all of them their names.”

God, the all-seeing, all-knowing, creator and upholder of the universe, cares about the big stuff. He knows all about politics, racial tension, COVID-19, hurricanes, and all the rest. But he is also the dad who stoops down to pick up his crying daughter and hugs her tight.

He is the God who parted the sea and delivered an entire nation out of slavery, and he’s also the God who wept with his hurting friends whose brother had died.

The same God who crafted the cosmos is the one who carves broken lives into masterpieces.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars; he gives to all of them their names.”

Psalm 147:3

“Pray for my arm.”

God, you already know all about this don’t you?

This was his kid after all; his creation.

Even when I didn’t understand, God cared.

And from Creation to the Cross to the promise that he’s coming again, the Bible lets us know that God has always cared.

But sometimes that’s not enough.

“Why am I still hurt if he cares so much about me?” we might say. Or “does God not hear my prayers?”

It’s easy to feel like God’s silence on these matters means he doesn’t care or isn’t listening, but that’s not the case.

God knows exactly what we have gone, are going, and will someday go through. He knows our thoughts, all of our decisions and their reasoning, our struggles, our failures, and our triumphs. He knows when we “sit down and when [we] rise up,” as Psalm 139 says it. He knows what we need even before we do. And he’s always answering our prayers, even if it’s not in the way we are hoping he does.

We don’t pray to tell God things he doesn’t already know. We pray to express our hearts to him – to lay our worries, our brokenness, our trust, and our gratitude at his feet. We pray to realign our hearts and minds with his perspective. We pray to let him in.

So, I don’t know what happened to the kid’s arm. And I don’t know where today finds you. I don’t know what challenges you have staring you in the face, or what prayers you’ve whispered in desperation.

But God does.

And he cares.

Your problems, your worries, your delights, and your dreams might seem like trivial matters to the rest of the universe, but God sees them.

So, let him in.


 

Incremental Holiness

Last year was the year of house projects for my husband, me, and, according to the endless lines at The Home Depot, most of our community. I’ve always enjoyed furniture renovation and the idea of giving a neglected piece new life with a little TLC, but 2020 was ripe for challenge. So, I decided to tackle a different angle on this hobby which required learning new skills — sanding and staining.

I did some preliminary research, purchased tools, and got to work. But at a late stage of the process, I realized tiny marks were being left behind as I sanded the wood. Puzzled, I conducted more research and realized I had been sanding the piece incorrectly.

When I learned all the new steps I would have to take, and the fact that I would have to basically start over, I felt like a failure. I had made two critical mistakes. First, I had rushed the process. I didn’t understand how important slow progression was toward getting a polished final product. Second, I had overlooked minor mistakes thinking they would come out alright in the end, underestimating the need to address the problems in real time.

Isn’t that a great picture of the maturation of a Christian?

For the entirety of my life as a Christ-follower, I have felt the constant one-step-forward-two-steps-back frustration of my spiritual growth. Scripture calls this process sanctification, and it’s not exactly a fun process. It’s necessary and good, but it’s difficult, tiresome, and sometimes painful work.

I tend toward perfectionism, so it has never set well with me to struggle with the same problems over and over again. Yet, one struggle in particular that had consistently reared its ugly head for two decades had just made a re-emergence. The long-strained relationship with my dad was on the rocks again, and I felt myself closing off and stewing over past hurts.

When would it ever just be over?

Why was I not done with this yet? Why had I not thrown off this weight that had so consistently dragged me down over the years? I was tired of revisiting, refining, and scuffing out the old marks. I wanted to put my check mark in the box and move on.

But we who are in Christ — we who have been saved into a relationship with Jesus Christ — have to remember that through the Holy Spirit, Christ is constantly working to conform us into his image. He doesn’t leave us to our own instincts, nor does he have us blow through the hard parts to give us all gold stars. When we are faced again with a familiar sin or struggle, he means us to learn something new and deeper.

The Apostle Paul tells his readers in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that those with an “unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” He did not write that we were transformed in an instant into the image of Christ. Rather, we undergo transformation gradually as we become more and more like him.

There is a refining that takes place in our inner beings when we submit that one nagging struggle (or struggles) to Christ over and over again.

Just as a woodworker goes back to a piece of furniture, gradually moving up in degrees of sanding and taking care to polish out scuffs, the Holy Spirit continually brings me back to the same struggle to refine my thinking, my attitude, my heart, and my personal holiness. I could groan over the struggle and agonize over my wretched state (which I did), but I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was not back at square one because God had been working on me the whole time.

The process of sanctification is working. While I haven’t gotten to the place of wholeness I so desire, I’ve undergone some major heart transformation and growth. I’m not starting over anymore. I’m returning to the problem with new skills and tools acquired over years, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The dresser now stands in my room as an unexpected reminder of two things.

The beauty of the dark, stained wood reminds me of the work that the Spirit has already done in my heart to transform me. And those blemishes that I couldn’t quite erase will always tell the story of the here-but-not-yet reality that I, too, am imperfect and will not be whole until I meet Christ face-to-face.

In the meantime, the Holy Spirit has more transforming work to complete in me, and I can joyfully join him in the process.


 

073: Life in Community

Many of us feel too busy or broken to invest in community, although we know we need it. What does it look like to cultivate relationships with those around us? Why is this so important for disciples of Jesus? How can we invest in the people around us in a way that leads to transformation in Christ? In this episode, Rachel Chester sits down with Susan Wesley to discuss why and how we invite people into authentic relationship.

Resources: 

Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp

GroupLink

Live Local: Connecting with One Another in the Local Church

 

I Thought I Needed a Soulmate

I grew up watching Disney fairytales, Hallmark movies, and romantic comedies. I just knew that one day I would meet my Prince Charming, my Jerry Maguire, or my Westley (any Princess Bride fans?). We would fall madly in love and live happily ever after. We would grow old together, and one day be reunited at the gates of heaven where we would spend eternity together. He would complete me.

I met my husband, Lance, at a young age in church. He was perfect! He was romantic, he loved Jesus, and he made me happy. All of my dreams had come true. We would have eternal bliss! And then, years of marriage went by. Not surprisingly, they were harder than I ever could have imagined. There were moments of intense loneliness, sadness, and heartache. I wasn’t happy. He wasn’t happy. And at the worst times, I wanted it to end.

But, God is so good. He opened my eyes to the lies that were at the foundation of my marriage. I had allowed cultural views of marriage and love, these fairytales, to seep into what I thought a Christian marriage should look like. I had entered marriage with the idea that my spouse should make me happy and solve all my problems. My fulfillment, my dreams, all came from my spouse. He was my rescuer. He was the one I believed could fix it all.

But, that isn’t what the Bible says at all!

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

– Psalm 62: 1-2

God alone is what my soul was longing for. He is my fulfillment, my purpose, my identity. He alone is my Savior, and it is from him alone that I can find true joy and peace. God showed me that I had elevated my spouse to the level of savior, an idol. I was looking horizontally for something that only a vertical relationship could fulfill. The truth became clear: only God could complete me, not my spouse.

So then, what is the meaning of marriage? If my spouse isn’t meant to fulfill me, what is the point?

There’s an answer for that question in the Bible as well!

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

– Ephesians 5:22-28

Marriage should model the relationship between Christ and the church. It’s designed to be this beautiful picture of two people working together to share the love of Christ. We were never meant to fulfill each other, but rather point each other back to the only one who can fulfill us: Jesus.

This drastically changed the way I approached my marriage. I stopped viewing Lance as my soulmate, but rather a teammate. We now hold each other accountable. We attempt to love each other selflessly. We say tough things to each other, but we say them in love, not with selfish motivation or contempt. We do not expect our spouse to fulfill us, but rather to run the race with us. We engage in conflict differently because we realize that our goal is ultimately the same. We are not vying for our own individual happiness, because happiness is not our goal. Eternity with a soulmate is not our goal.

Both of us at the feet of Jesus is our goal.

Everything we do in our marriage should point each other back to Jesus.

Now we love each other in a way that is so vastly superior and richer than we set out to do in the beginning. When Jesus became the focus of our marriage, this beautiful thing happened: we began to see Jesus in each other, and we got a glimpse of how Jesus sees us. It’s a sacrificial love that is full of grace. Twenty years ago my hope was to one day be reunited with my spouse in heaven so that we could continue our great love story. But now, someday when I die, I cannot wait to meet Jesus in heaven and to continue that great love story. I cannot wait to worship at his feet.

Do not get me wrong, I expect that I will enjoy seeing Lance there, too. But, that’s no longer the point. More than anything else, we desire to be in the presence of Jesus, and we want others to be in the presence of Jesus as well, because we know that is the only place where we are truly complete.


 

No, Jesus Didn’t Teach About Money the Most

“Did you know Jesus preached about money more than anything else? That’s right! He taught about money in 11 of his 39 parables. Finances are Jesus’ most talked about topic.”

Ever heard something like this before?

Did it surprise you?

It did me.

But as I kept hearing it over the years, I finally thought to myself, “Man, I’ve read the gospel accounts many times over, and I’ve never come away saying, ‘Wow, Jesus spoke on finances more than any other topic!’” In fact, I’d argue that the vast majority of Christians who have read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would say the same thing.

Unfortunately, many likely think the claim is true because they hear pastors and financial ministries cite it when teaching on money and just assume they are correct.

But don’t despair, if you were as surprised by this claim as I was, know your alarm is warranted because the Jesus-taught-more-about-finances-than-anything-else angle is an urban legend. Christ didn’t teach on finances more than any other topic. Once you actually look at his teachings, frankly, it’s not even close.

It’s an urban legend because it mishandles the data by only seeking to discover where Jesus talks about money but not, and this is critical, how money is talked about. There is a big difference between teaching on the topic of finances and using financial terms to illustrate a completely different topic. A cursory reading of Jesus’ teachings will confirm he did the latter much more than the former.¹ And that oft-quoted stat that 11 of Jesus’ 39 parables were about finances? It doesn’t hold water because in many of those parables Jesus used money to illustrate a different topic than money.

For example, in Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus tells a story about the payment of vineyard workers. But, Christ isn’t teaching about good business practices. Instead, he’s illustrating how those who enter into God’s kingdom do so by sheer grace. That’s the point.² No one finishes that parable and concludes that Jesus is teaching on the topic of horticulture simply because he referred to a vineyard or that he’s addressing how Christian business owners do payroll simply because he talked about wages. Those details and references serve the main point of the parable: the grace of the kingdom of God. Jesus even tells us the point at the end: “So the last will be first, and the first last.” Yup, it’s clearly not about finances. Jesus merely uses money (and a vineyard, workers, etc.) to teach a different topic than money.

Here’s a challenge: take the other ten parables which reference money (e.g., Two Debtors of Luke 7, Hidden Treasure of Matthew 13, Lost Coin of Luke 15)³ and see how many of them have Jesus using money in a similar way to the parable of the vineyard workers. Don’t be surprised if you find that the number of teachings where Jesus uses finances to actually teach about finances begins to shrink.

However, don’t think this gets us off the hook from having our financial life submitted to the lordship of Christ.

On the contrary, how we handle money is important for people of faith, especially so for North American Christians who struggle with cultural idols like materialism and individualism. Simply put, money is a gospel issue! Jesus definitely taught on money as well as the rest of the New Testament. Yet, it’s simply inaccurate (and inappropriate) to say Jesus spoke more about finances than anything else. It’s just not true. If anything, he spoke more about the kingdom of God than other topics. It’s pretty clear. Just read the gospel accounts. You can’t miss it.

A good practice for Christians would be to stop spreading this urban legend. We don’t need it in order to teach about how followers of Jesus should handle their finances. We have more than enough pertinent passages in the Scripture to appropriately and accurately teach us about honoring Christ with our money.


¹ In a Relevant magazine article, Jeffery Poor (ironic last name) writes, “Eleven of Jesus’ parables do mention money. Eighteen of Jesus’ parables also mention food, but that doesn’t make it the point of the stories.”

² Generally speaking, parables only have one idea behind them. Find that one idea and you’ve gotten the point of the parable.

³ Unfortunately, whoever first gave this statistic didn’t tell us exactly which of those parables made up the eleven.


 

New Identity, Same Broken World

2020 was difficult in nearly every way, full of turmoil, unrest, division, and fear. We all looked forward to the beginning of a new year, full of promise: long-awaited vaccines, the end of a contentious election cycle, and the return to some normalcy. It turns out, however, that 2021 wasn’t the answer to our pain and frustration. The brokenness of the world continues to be on full display, and it is tempting to respond with anger, fear, or even apathy.

A common refrain at Clear Creek Community Church is that our identity informs our activity. Our identity in Christ transforms us completely and informs how we live. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” So, when the world feels chaotic, without clear answers or a straight path forward, what does it actually look like to live as a new creation? How can our identity as Christians inform our response to a cultural moment like last week (or year)? Let’s take a look at three identities of a follower of Jesus.

 

CITIZENS IN GOD’S KINGDOM

Jesus is the king of the world, the creator who was and is to come, who reigns now at the right hand of the Father. Above national ideology, personal comfort, or various tribes, we are first citizens of the kingdom of God. This kingdom is an upside-down kingdom in which the king died for his citizens and commands us to follow his model of obedient sacrifice and humble love. Our citizenship in the kingdom of God must inform our citizenship in our earthly kingdom. It might mean finding ourselves at odds with those in power or our own tribe, but our words must always be marked by generosity, benevolence, service, and compassion. It is what our king commands, and we must obey.

 

MEMBERS OF GOD’S FAMILY

Through Christ’s work on the cross, the Father has adopted us into his family. We can rest in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love and provision for his children, including the gift of being a part of a new family, the church. Who are your people? Are they your party? Tribe? Culture? Whatever else may divide us, we are first and foremost united in Christ and committed to serve one another.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ must be seen as family members that we love, rather than adversaries to defeat or problems to solve. God’s desire for the church is “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). In all situations, our words and actions must be gracious, compassionate, and tender toward one another. We must commit to let go of animosity for the good of our family, for the honor of our faithful and gracious Father.

 

MISSIONARIES ON GOD’S MISSION

Jesus was sent to save us from sin and death, freeing us from our own sinfulness and forgiving our rebellion. He has saved us into his kingdom and family, and has sent us as missionaries to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19,20). The spreading of the gospel message must be first and foremost in our priorities. What message are we proclaiming today: compassion and love, or political and cultural demands?

More than that, our message must always be centered in the good news that, out of love, God has sent his Son to rescue, redeem, and reconcile all people back to himself. As missionaries on God’s mission, our words and actions must serve as a winsome invitation to personally know the God of the universe. We are saved, and so we are sent.

 

The world continues to be mired in sin and destruction. While we pray for the chaos and suffering to lessen and trust that new and good things will come, we know that this world will remain broken until Christ returns. But, as followers of Jesus, everything is different for us and in us. Because of who God is and what he has done for us, we are each transformed into a new creation in Christ, freed from slavery to sin to walk in the light under the lordship of Jesus.

So, let us begin again with repentance, acknowledging our own brokenness, deceit, selfishness, and sin. Without repentance, we remain trapped in our desire to live according to our own standards and rules, attempting to be our own god in our own kingdom.

And then let us faithfully serve our King, love our brothers and sisters, and stay on mission to a world in desperate need of the hope of the gospel.

Struggling Well: Fighting Defeatism with Truth

When was the most trying time in your life? Are you going through it now?

For me, it was during my second year as a kindergarten teacher. Many presume this is an easy job, but try teaching 24 five and six-year-olds by yourself sometime! This was also the year I decided to take on an accelerated master’s degree program in education. The first two weeks were pretty great. But, my college was located across town, and I usually reported to teach around 7:00 AM.

By October, I was physically sick with dread most mornings. My voice was gone, as was my patience, and I usually drove home feeling like a zombie. I knew that uncomfortable parent phone calls, never-ending lesson plans, and tough college coursework were waiting for me at home. Even though I woke up every day resolved to be a light to these children, I often went to bed feeling like the light had been drained out of me.

In times like these, it’s easy to feel defeated, hopeless, or generally pessimistic.

What about you? When you are feeling overwhelmed, when you feel like you have come to the end of your own strength, what do you do?

One passage that I clung to during this time was Ephesians 6:11-18, where the apostle Paul exhorts the church to put on the whole armor of God, so that they might be able to withstand the evil of their day and stand firm.

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

Every aspect of God’s armor is vital as we walk through difficult times in life, but two aspects were especially essential to my survival during that school year: the belt of truth and the sword of the spirit.

 

The Belt of Truth
One of the best parts of being a Christian is that truth can always lead to hope and encouragement. For Christians, the truth is that God is the sovereign, omnipotent, creator of the universe, and also our loving Father and friend. The truth is that Jesus has already overcome the world so that we don’t have to. The truth is that God has a perfect plan, and one day those of us who have put our trust in Jesus will live with him in paradise where there will be no more diseases, tears, sin, death, or even classroom management woes!

In the midst of our struggles, it’s easy to lose sight of these incredible truths. It’s easy to allow lies to creep in that steal our peace and joy. Taking the time to reflect on these truths helps us see our problems with more of an eternal perspective. Our present difficulties represent a mere speck on the timeline of eternity.

 

The Sword of the Spirit, Which is the Word of God
The best way to invite truth into our lives is by going to the source: the Word of God. You may have noticed that thesword of the spirit is the only weapon listed. The more Scripture we know and store in our hearts, the more we will be able to fight against the lies of hopelessness and fear that try to overcome us.

During this season, I had to check my inputs. What was I listening to? What was I reading? Who did I surround myself with? I realized that I needed help. I clung to God’s word. Also, my mom graciously agreed to pray with me every morning on my way to work. She was a lifeline as she poured God’s words of truth into my life.

 

So, what are your inputs?

The news? Gossip? Your own negative thoughts?

The last part of Luke 6:45 says, “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

What words rise to the tip of your tongue?

Do you know enough truth from God’s Word to fight the lies that surround you?

What truths do you need to reflect on during this season in your life?

 

As we go through this season, let’s remember to use the armor God has given us, protecting ourselves with the truth of the gospel and fighting defeatism with the word of God.