Where or in Whom Are You Placing Your Trust

woman walking with quote from Joni Erickson Tada

Trust comes hardest when we feel our lives or livelihood is threatened. I like to think I’m a risk taker, that I’d willingly go wherever and whenever God leads, but sometimes I struggle simply sharing my faith with a neighbor or friend or speaking truth when others oppose it.

Needless to say, if I’d been Barak, the Ancient Hebrew assigned to conquer the mighty nation that had been tormenting my people for two decades, I’d be nervous.

Okay, terrified.

You may be familiar with the story. Barak lived during the time of judges. This was a dark period for the Israelites, characterized by rampant rebellion against God and His ways. The people followed a sadly predictable cycle. They’d rebel against God and would turn to idol worship and thus would step out from under His protective care. Vicious armies would attack and oppress them, sometimes to the point of starvation. They’d cry out to God for mercy, He’d hear and respond and would raise up a liberator to defeat their enemies and set them free.

When we reach Judges four, the chapter in which Barak’s story is found, the people had been “ruthlessly” oppressed by a Canaanite king for twenty years. Though Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly how the Israelites suffered, we know the Canaanites were powerful, cruel, and maintained a 900-iron-chariot army. Consider the psychological strain of living under such complete domination for twenty years. The Israelites had probably developed a victim’s mentality that led them to believe they were hopelessly defeated.

But when they cried out to God, He responded and commanded a man named Barak, God’s chosen warrior, to rise up in His people’s defense.

I’m not surprised Barak struggled to obey. We’re not told whether or not he had military training or experience. All we know is that God called him to lead His army against the pagan nation Barak and the other Israelites greatly feared.

Barak’s response, when Deborah, God’s prophet, told him his assignment: “Fine. I’ll go, but only if you go with me” (Judges 4:8, paraphrased). Some suggest he was merely looking for support, but God had already taken care of that. He wasn’t sending Barak to war alone; 10,000 men were to fight alongside him.

Barak wanted Deborah, Israel’s judge and a well-respected and trusted prophet, to go with him. Could it be that Barak’s trust rested more in Deborah, God’s prophet, than in the Almighty Himself?

Image of woman gazing upward with text pulled from post

Sometimes it’s easier to trust something tangible, like a person or our job, rather than an unseen God. When that happens, it’s time to pause and remember who God is—His power, love, and faithfulness. The same God that brought victory to Barak, Deborah, and their men will do the same for us. In Him, we can move from fear to faith.

Let’s talk about this! When have you found it most difficult to obey God? What’s helped you move forward in courage during those times? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or connect and engage with me on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Every feel uncertain as to precisely what God is asking you to do? If so, then Susan Aken’s post on Wholly Loved’s website Monday and my video on our Facebook page yesterday may encourage you. You can find it HERE (scroll down a bit).

In Susan’s post, she stresses the importance, when discerning God’s will, of reading and meditating on Scripture. If that overwhelms you, I encourage you to read my latest Crosswalk article where I share 10 Steps to Interpreting Scripture.

And finally, be on the lookout for Wholly Loved’s FREE 7-week video titled Becoming His Princess, releasing this spring! With weekly video components, group discussion questions, and at-home lessons designed to help you walk in the confidence and freedom available in Christ. Sign up for Wholly Loved’s quarterly newsletter to receive news of our release, upcoming events, and more. You can do so HERE.

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The Debilitating Fear of Failure

Fearful woman looking upFear of failure can paralyze the most gifted writers, singers, artists … (insert any other field) perhaps more than anything else. Here’s the ironic part–it is this fear, not any failure we may experience, more than anything else that gets in our way. One of these days, I really want to unpack this common and insidious fear, because I’m 99.9995% certain, when it rises up, it’s being fueled by something else, namely, a false sense of identity.

In our Wholly Loved conferences, we talk a lot about fear and moving past it through faith. Each conference, see women taking steps toward that, and it’s inspiring and amazing and incredibly awesome. Can you imagine the impact we’d have if we consistently focused not on our gifts or our plans or even our insufficiencies and instead centered our vision and thoughts on Jesus and learned to lean hard on Him?

My guest today, a sweet friend and Wholly Loved ministry partner, shares how God helped her do just that.

The Debilitating Fear of Failure

By Kristen Terrette

My fear of failing has paralyzed me.

I was keenly aware, through much prayer, that God wanted me to take a step in faith and venture into writing, but my fear of failure stalled and suffocated. The risks were too high. I was afraid.

I didn’t know how to write a novel! And as a children’s ministry director, I enjoyed a flexible job which provided my family a second income and health insurance. I worked with my spiritual mentors, one of whom was my lead pastor and one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. He took a chance on me and gave me my first staff position in ministry. He helped me become a leader in our church.

Could I give all that up? What if I did and failed?

But still, my desire to write grew stronger each day that I fought it. I smothered myself with excuses. I asked, how could God be telling me to quit a job I love? How can I abandon the kids in the ministry or my pastor and staff? How could I give up my income and insurance? How could I become a writer with no formal training?

And as the months went by, I became bitter and anxious. My love for teaching on Sundays lessened. My husband’s growing resentment toward our church and all the duties I had on the weekends soured our marriage. Even my kids began to dislike attending services.

After a while, my husband and I finally had a serious discussion. We laid it all out—our fears, anger, loneliness, and decided it was time for me to be home and present for my family. We felt God was calling me into new ministry—to my husband and my kids.

In Mark 5:36, Jesus spoke to a synagogue leader whose daughter had just died. “Don’t be afraid; just believe,” Jesus said, then Woman jumping with sun behind her and text for Mark 8:36He raised the dead child to life.

God says the same to us every day, in every situation.

To believe. And take that next step toward whatever He’s calling us to do.

I did. And guess what? When I told my pastor, he celebrated with me and helped me prepare to leave my position. Years later, he’s one of my biggest supporters. I resigned gracefully and was able to devote time to writing while our kids were at school and pre-school.

What’s more is that God protected us financially. We cut a few expenses, sure, but it’s miraculous how we didn’t “miss” my income. Bills were paid on time with money left over. I look back and think how in the world it was even possible, and the only answer is that it was supernatural.

God did it.

I’d like to pretend that four years later I have a thriving writing career and tons of book sales. That’s not the case, but I’m obedient … and I’m joyful, which I know comes from being in God’s will. But best of all my husband and kids are happy too. They love Sundays again.

Let’s talk about this! What is God asking of you? Have you allowed fear to hold you back? Has God given you an instruction and you’re being disobedient to His call? I pray you’ll remember Jesus’ words to the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”

Get to Know Kristen!

Kristen Terrette's author photoKristen holds a Master’s degree in Theological Studies and served as a Children’s Ministry Director for five years. She cherishes her Southern roots and currently lives forty-five minutes outside of Atlanta, GA. With the support of her husband and two children, she stays at home writing Christian fiction, allowing God to take the story where He needs it to go. She’s also serves on the women’s leadership and teaching team at her church and writes for Wholly Loved ministries at WhollyLoved.com and Crosswalk.com. You can read her personal blog and check out her current novels at www.kristenterrette.com.

Check out her upcoming release, Morning Star:

Morning Star, Kristen’s third installment in her Christian Contemporary Romance series called Moanna Island, releases January 8, 2019 with pre-orders starting soon. In her new novel, love interests Shane and Cover image for Kristen's Book, Morning StarAddie, both struggle with fears over failures and taking risk. Read below to get glimpse of her upcoming release:

Addie McHenry, restoration home builder extraordinaire, catches her big break when the House to Home network contracts her to film a reality TV show focusing on how she brings homes back to life. She sets her sights on one of the oldest on Moanna’s beach and has to risk everything just to get it.

Shane Armstrong moved from Savannah to his grandmother’s Moanna oceanside house when his world shattered five months before. He went on leave from his job as a Coast Guard helicopter rescue swimmer, hopeful his grandmother’s peaceful street will help him heal. The reality TV show’s arrival threatens this serenity.

But the construction and camera crews are nothing compared to Addie herself. She’s tough as nails, challenging, and superbly bossy as she works to get her way. But she’s also kind, hardworking, and has a relationship with God Shane can’t begin to understand.

With each encounter, Shane’s walls start to crumble as Addie brings more than just the historical home back to life, but him as well. Addie tries desperately not to enjoy spending time with the irritable and scowling boy from next door. He hides his heartache well, but she sees it there behind his prickly exterior. Soon she begins to uncover the sacrificial hero underneath the façade.

With both of them only temporary residents on Moanna Island, their thin ice relationship crashes to a halt. Can Shane return to his risky job with the Coast Guard? Does he even want to? And can Addie let him go and follow her dreams even when tragedy strikes?

 

6 Ways to Change the World

Sometimes it feels as if darkness has overpowered light, sorrow dominates joy, and confusion and fear infiltrate peace. Watching the news play out before me, or perhaps even sitting with a hurting friend, can make me feel powerless. Ineffectual.

But Scripture tells me this is a lie. In Christ, I–we–have the power to transform our world. Each day, with every word and action Image of a flower with words pulled from the text. we choose, every smile we offer, we can speak hope into despair, love into loneliness, and healing into the most broken and beaten down hearts.

We have the power of the risen, victorious, life-and-light bringing Savior residing within.

Here are six ways we can unleash that power:

Engage.

In our hyper-interactive culture, tweets, posts, and likes often replace face-to-face encounters. The result: Many feel unseen. Insignificant. Unvalued. Simply taking the time to engage others in conversation, even if but for a moment, can encourage a deflated heart. Because remember, we’re representatives and reflectors of El Roi, the God who sees. May we reflect Him well.
Two women sitting together with text pulled from post

Choose grace.

I mess up a hundred times each day. I respond with frustration instead of kindness. I behave selfishly instead of releasing my Father’s love. And many, many times I let my mouth (or keyboard) run when I should simply walk away. But though each unChristlike reaction breaks my heart and, often, lead me to confession, I’m also very quick to offer myself grace. I was tired, stressed, overwhelmed … perhaps caught off guard. Yet do I offer the same grace to others? Do I make allowances for their faults or “make much” of every blunder? Whenever I choose the former, I reveal a bit of Jesus and point others to Him.

Stand up.

I don’t want to get political here, and yet … even as I type, I have to ask myself: When did standing up for the oppressed, beaten down, discarded, and marginalized become a political act? Or at least, deemed as such? It’s not. Rather, it’s honoring the commands of the One who left heaven to rescue the oppressed–those burdened and enslaved by sin–who tells us to speak out for those who don’t have a voice.

Bring light into someone else’s darkness.

Did you ever make flashlight shadows when you were a kid? Did you ever try to do this in a well-lit room? Didn’t work, right? So what’d you do? Most likely you closed yourself in a darkened bathroom where the beams from your flashlight radiated strong and bright. Whenever we seek out, reach out, and intentionally walk beside those shrouded in darkness, we flood their world with light.

Show kindness.

Offer a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, and open door. Never underestimate the power of a simple yet intentional kind act done for another. It can soothe anger, counter distrust, and open hearts to the love of Christ. In everything we do and every word we speak, may we remember it’s God’s kindness that leads people to repentance.

Pray.

May we see every act of darkness, ugly display of hate, and destructive outburst of anger as a reminder to turn to our unchanging, unconquerable power source—Jesus Christ. Those moments spent on our knees may feel … anticlimactic. We image of woman praying with text pulled from postmay be tempted to think our time doing—serving in ministry, feeding the hungry, typing out oodles and oodles of words for books and blog posts—holds more value. But Scripture promises this is far from true. Prayer isn’t meant to be something we do in random still moments before our real work begins. Prayer is our first and most important work, regardless the task, because ultimately, only Jesus can truly change a heart and a world. When we prioritize prayer, we’re acknowledging we believe this to be true.

Imagine if we each chose to do one of the above each day. Imagine how our families, relationships, neighborhoods—our world—might change.

What is one way you plan to be a world-changer today? Share your “I’m gonna!” thoughts along with anything else you’d add to my list in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! And in Christ, we can change the world!

 

The Danger of Quick-Fix Mentality When Sharing Truth

couple sitting with backs turned to each otherI can easily fall prey to our “fix-it-quick”, culture, tossing out truths that are, well, true, but fail to hit their mark. In fact, there’ve been times when I’ve caused more harm than good. When I’ve hurt others and damaged relationships. Usually my motives were good. I desperately wanted friends and loved ones to come to Jesus. I wanted them to experience the life, healing, and freedom only He can offer.

But in my zeal (often coupled by fear), I took off running and verse touting and left the Holy Spirit far behind. I was convinced I was right. After all, I only spoke truth, and truth sets people free, right?

Besides, Jesus never shied away from hard conversations, nor did He worry about offending people. When He encountered the adulterous woman, didn’t He tell her to go and sin no more? And the “invalid” He healed by the pool of Bethesda to stop sinning?

Yes and yes, but He also told the Samaritan woman who’d cycled through men (or perhaps had been discarded by them) to go and grab her husband. And the tax collector in Matthew nine to “follow Him.”

In other words, Jesus addressed each individual individually, speaking directly to their deepest needs, deceptions, and unique stumbling blocks. But He had something you and I don’t—insight.word image Jesus knew the history, hurts, and fallacies each of them held. In fact, He knew each man and woman better than they knew themselves. So when He spoke, He always hit His mark.

You and I don’t have that insight, nor do we always invest the time necessary to gain it. At least. When engaging others in spiritual conversations, I didn’t even consider there might be deeper issues involved.

But then God reminded me of my story. Through I trusted in Jesus for salvation at a young age, I didn’t begin growing in Him until my early adult years. Actually, for a while I spiraled in the opposite direction, living a drunken, partying, throw-myself-away type of lifestyle. By the time I met my husband, I was consumed with shame and self-loathing.

Around then, pastors started coming around. Not just one, but two. One would come knocking at our door, would step inside and talk with us a bit, and then leave. Another took my husband and I out to lunch with him and his wife. I don’t remember much of what either of them said, but I do recall the warmth in their smiles and the easy way they conversed. I remember the way they made me feel—safe. Loved. Welcomed.

The interesting thing is, my husband I were living together, unmarried, at the time. In other words, living in sin. (Though my worldview was so warped, I didn’t think a thing of our lifestyle. It seemed normal to me.)

Had those men come at me with “truth”, they only would’ve deepened my shame and pushed me away. They would’ve confirmed to me what I already believed—that I was worthless and disgusting. Bad. Not just that I was doing bad, but that I was bad. I understood that I was a sinner. What I didn’t understand, what I needed to see, was grace.

That’s exactly what those pastors showed me. With every interaction, they revealed the gentle love of Christ. A love that beckoned and drew me, that healed me bit by bit, and ultimately, transformed me.

Because Jesus knew my story. He knew what was keeping me from living in His will. While it’s true my lifestyle was very contrary to God’s desire for me, this wasn’t because I was actively trying to rebel against Him. Rather, it was because I’d given up on myself.

I needed Jesus, revealed through the grace-filled actions of others, to rekindle my hope so that, eventually, I had the desire to reach for life.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying we should never speak truth nor that we should accept or coddle sinful behavior. What I am saying is we should approach each broken, hurting child of God carefully and prayerfully, being careful to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.

I often think of how I might talk to someone standing on a rooftop, ready to jump. I think of how alert, how attentive, how “others-focused” I’d be. My greatest desire in that moment would be not to say anything that would tip them over the edge and to coax them, ever-so-gently towards life.

That might seem like a drastic analogy, until we remember, with every interaction, real lives are at stake, lives that will either spend eternity with Jesus or separated from Him. That doesn’t mean we should become paralyzed by fear of messing up. But it does mean we should ensure, with each conversation, that God, and not our pride or our fear, is doing the leading. Only He knows when to speak truth and how much, when to listen, and when to simply say, “I love you, and I’m here.”

Let’s talk about this! Is there someone you’re trying to reach out to? How can you build trust and get to know them better—beyond surface level? Would you add anything to my thoughts? Do you perhaps disagree? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.

Shattering Our Glass Box — Moving Past Fear of Rejection

Woman sitting by herself in a coffeehouseOut of all the fears we women face, our fear of rejection can be the most debilitating. It hinders our relationships, steals our joy and peace, and can keep us from pursuing the dreams and plans God has for us. I’ve yet to meet a woman who in some way doesn’t struggle with this and who, beneath her fear, hasn’t battled some degree of self-loathing. I’m not sure we’ll ever overcome our insecurities completely this side of heaven, but as my guest and dear friend, Susan Aken, reveals, there’s hope! W can live bold and brave!

Living in a Glass Box

By Susan Aken

As an extremely shy, introverted, and fearful youth I often retreated into my easily controlled fantasy world. I was reluctant to open up or talk to people or didn’t know how. I’d sit in a high school classroom and fantasize about putting a glass box around myself. A place where I could read, observe, or do what I wanted unseen by others.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t a fantasy. I succeeded but my hiding resulted in the reverse of what I thought. I put myself in a box that blinded me to others. I shut myself away so I became almost unreachable.

I escaped into a self-protective mindset that caused me to avoid eye contact, especially with strangers and to engage in non-committal conversations. It caused me, as someone once told me, to be “like a knight in impenetrable armor.” I felt safe in that armor. I could look out and determine when and where to let someone in. The problem is I isolated myself and prevented others from knowing me. I developed the habit of keeping people at an emotional distance.

Thankfully, God began to open my eyes in my early twenties and He’s been helping me since to graphic with words describing who we are in Christlearn. I’m in my sixties and continue to see what I’ve reaped from that box. I still avoid eye contact with strangers and honestly have to be intentional about looking friends in the eye.

I’ve come a long way since high school and I’ve had some great moments over the years of opening up to others. But, I’m still learning and always will be. The awesome news is my heavenly Father loves me exactly as I am and always has. But He also loves me enough to help me change.

The grace of Jesus Christ covers every moment I  shut someone out, though I still reap consequences. His love for me is eternal and secure. In spite of my weaknesses I have a husband and a son who love and respect me, and many faithful friends and loved ones.

My prayer is that my Father will help me take a sledgehammer and smash the rest of that glass box and crush the armor to pieces.

Is it possible I can live being who I am and stop trying to manage perceptions or keep people at a distance? No one can live perfectly open and free. Hey, we’re human! But with the help of Jesus, I’m learning to walk freely knowing He loves me as I am, knows all my sin and weakness, has already covered them on the cross, and has called me to walk in freedom.

And when I’m tempted to retreat, I can remember Psalm 32:7, which says, “You” God “are my hiding place…” (NIV)*

I don’t need a box, a suit of armor or any other self-protective stance.

God is my hiding place.

***

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with insecurities or fear of rejection? If so, what’s helped you move past that? What truth (regarding who you are in Christ or how He feels about you) most encourages or comforts you? Share your thoughts and suggestions with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another. And if you’re local, make sure to come to our next Bold and Brave conference hosted by Bethany Lutheran in Elkhorn. Register by 9/22 for a discounted, early bird price! (You can find out more and register HERE.)

Contact me HERE to schedule your own Wholly Loved conference or to have one of our speakers join you for your next women’s event.

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Get to know Susan!

Susan Aken's author photo. Susan is a homemaker, substitute teacher, and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband, son, and daughter-in-law to be. Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends, writing, and sitting down with a cup of tea. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church!

Visit her online HERE.

Learning to Move Past Shame

Image by Artem Bali on unsplash

God doesn’t want us to live in shame. He died to free us from sin and it’s pervasive effects like self-defeat, self-loathing, and guilt. If we’ve trusted in Jesus for salvation, our past, regardless how sinful, no longer defines us. He does! The old is gone, dead and buried and the new has come. This is an undeniable, unshakable truth, one most of probably recognize intellectually. Learning to live in that truth, however, as my guest today illustrates, can take a good deal of work and prayer.

Learning to Move Past Shame

By Sarah Foust

God took my broken self and made me new. He made ugly, stained pieces beautiful again by helping me release my past.

Most people look at me today and see a Christian wife and mother of five. I go to church regularly. I returned from my first mission trip in May. I quit my job to become an Inspirational author. I try my best to spread the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in everything I do.

But they don’t see the person I used to be.

I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of.

During high school I had two friend groups. In one, I was co-captain of the swim team and president of Future Farmers of America, with a perfect GPA and headed for Valedictorian. In the other, I was a newbie who hadn’t been drunk or dipped tobacco, and they wanted to “remedy” those situations. I soon found myself lost in these two different social mazes. I wish I could say I chose the good influences.

But God sent someone to help lead me to the right path. My husband and I were close friends in high school but didn’t begin dating until I was 19. One of my biggest holdups was that he was a church-going, Bible-believing Christian. You see, I’d always believed God existed. But I didn’t have a personal relationship with Him. The idea that He could know me inside and out was intimidating.

Before long, I agreed to go to church, mostly to see what it was all about. I didn’t expect it to change or affect me. What a blessing those first services were. By my fourth or fifth Sunday, I finally shoved aside the shame and the pride and accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.

Though I know God forgave me the instant I turned to Him for salvation, forgiving myself has been much harder and more labor-intensive. That took years of prayer. Then, during a snowstorm some time, failures assaulted my mind more heavily than normal. I allowed myself to go down that bumpy, guilt-ridden road until God reminded me of my salvation.

I went into the front yard and listened to the quiet swish of snow falling onto the grass. It sounds a little strange, I’m sure, but I made a mental hole in the front yard and buried my past. From then on I was able to release the horrible memories. Any time new ones surface, I add them to the “hole” and let them rest. Not to hide or hide from them, but to let them go. I hold a “funeral” for my sins. I no longer had a need to rehash those details, because God had already thrown them far from me.

I’m incredibly thankful that God allowed me to release my past mistakes. I’m not trapped in a cycle of reliving those memories anymore. And God is giving me such blessed ones to take their places.

Have you forgiven yourself for your past? In what ways has God brought you to a deeper level of freedom?

Get to know Sarah:

Sara Foust writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers. Her debut novel Callum’s Compass won second place in Deep River Books’ 2017 Writer’s Contest. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com. And make sure to connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Collum’s Compass:

Kat Williams’s brother died in a gruesome accident in the mountains of East Tennessee. She blames herself.

Ryan Jenkins’s fiancée was murdered. He couldn’t protect her.

With the death of her brother, Kat believes she is unworthy of love from anyone—even God. When a good friend elicits a promise that she will stop living in the past and then leaves her clues to a real-life treasure hunt, Kat embarks on an adventure chock-full of danger. To find the treasure, Kat will have to survive wild animals—and even wilder men. Can she rely on Ryan, the handsome wildlife officer assigned to protect her . . . without falling in love?

Ryan swore off love when his fiancée was murdered, but feelings long-buried rise to the surface around Kat. He volunteers to help with her treasure hunt, vowing to keep her safe. Together they venture deep into caves and tunnels . . . and even deeper into the depths of their unplumbed hearts.

Visit Sarah online at her website and on Facebook.

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to watch out for Wholly Loved’s 7-week study titled Becoming His Princess, which they’ll make available (video segments, group discussion questions, and “at home” lessons) for free. Coming this winter/spring.)

Pursuing Intentional Growth

verse image for 1 Timothy 1:7Unless we fight against it, entropy will get us every time. Inactivity, laziness, choosing what’s convenient over what’s beneficial … Those habits may satisfy in the moment, but ultimately leave us weak and, potentially, diseased. My guest today shares how a 22-day challenge motivated her to change and what God showed her through that. But first, I’ve got fun news to share! I recently signed a contract (well, my agent did) for a Love Inspired Contemporary set in a fictional town located in the Texas Hill Country. I’ll share more info soon!

How learning to do pushups helped my faith walk

By Jessica Brodie

With spaghetti-noodle arms, I never could do a proper pushup. My version of this exercise involved me on my knees, arms splayed wide, barely bobbing up and down.

“I’m just not built for it,” I’d insist when my well-muscled husband encouraged me to try one the traditional way. “Easy for him,” I huffed to myself. He can lift twice my body weight. I, however, was that kid in elementary gym class who couldn’t last longer than three seconds on the pull-up challenge. Nope—I could power-walk all day long, but pushups were out of the question.

Then about four years ago, I started working out with weights. The trainer on the video, also a small-framed woman, had great abs and biceps. She inspired me to think maybe I could step up my abilities if I worked hard enough.

One day, my brother-in-law posted a Facebook video about a 22-day pushup challenge he was doing. This involved doing 22 pushups a day for 22 days to raise awareness for the 22 veterans who take their life each day. I’m not sure exactly what seized my heart, but I knew right away—I needed to participate. So I trained ever harder, built up the strength, and soon did my own 22-day awareness challenge—without doing any on my knees. Motivation teamed with training allowed me to achieve what I thought impossible.

In 1 Timothy 4:7, the apostle Paul tells a young pastor, “Train yourself for godliness.”

Reading those words reminds me of what we can accomplish with dedicated training. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he lays out criteria for his mentee and encouragement for other church leaders to be trustworthy, righteous, self-controlled, hospitable, and gentle, steering clear of drunkenness, evil, and love for money (1 Timothy 3:2-11).

Paul knew well that all people are sinners and cannot be saved except for true faith in Jesus. But he also knew God loves holy living, and as followers of Christ, we’re expected to turn from sin to embrace the way of the cross—the way of Jesus. We’re to imitate Jesus in our thoughts, words, and deeds by loving God with our whole heart and loving others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). Everything we do is to be done for the Lord.

Paul didn’t say, “Be godly.” He knew this took effort. He urged Timothy to strive to set the best example possible in spite of his youth. What he modeled, Paul knew, would lead others to Christ.

Just like it took me some time to build up the muscles I needed to do a proper pushup, it takes time to learn what godliness looks like—and to live that out. But we have tools to help us develop those spiritual muscles: prayer, daily reading of Scripture, spending time with other Christians, wisdom from pastors and other faith leaders, and quiet time in nature with our Lord.

In my example, my love for veterans motivated me to reach my goal. Similarly, our love for Christ should stir us to live in a way that pleases Him.

Now it’s time to train.

***

Let’s talk about this! Have you participated in any challenges similar to the one Jessica shared? Did the challenge help motivate you? In what ways do you intentionally train yourself in godliness? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

Get to know Jessica!

Author Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/shiningthelight.

Before you go, I encourage you to pop over to Crosswalk to read my article on ways to increase marital intimacy. You can read that HERE.