Remaining Focused Amid Opposition

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When God calls us to something, we should expect difficulties and opposition. Not everyone will understand our actions or motivations. Some people might even misjudge us or actively fight against us. The question is, how will we respond? Will we shrink back? Lash out in anger and frustration, or diligently, confidently forge ahead?

In short, when obedience feels challenging, whose voice will we give preeminence? Those of our naysayers or our own insecurities? Or will we give our Savior the authority He deserves?

Years ago, I served in an area for which I was unqualified and ill-prepared. Having received zero training, I wanted to learn to lead well. To glean from other female leaders who had perhaps encountered similar challenges and understood all the relational dynamics involved with leading women. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that in the church I attended at the time, so I began reaching out to others in my community. Within a week, I’d gathered eight Christ-led, wise women of grace excited to share their insights and also to learn from others. Basically, to join a mission-minded group of ladies.

Two women praying together.

Filled with joy, I began envisioning what our meetings might look like. We could discuss highlights from ministry-related articles and books, pray for one another, and share ideas. We could learn from one another’s successes and failures and together, impact our community for Christ.

My excitement quickly deflated, however, when one of the pastors I served under called me in to his office. His facial expression, body language, and tone made it clear—he was not a fan of my endeavors. I sensed, in fact, that my actions raised suspicion, as if this small group of women were in some way acting with subterfuge.

Hurt and confused, I said I would quietly let this group I’d launched die and determined to do my best to honor my role with my limited training and experience. But my heart continued to ache for deep, ministry-related connections with other Christ-focused women. And I was saddened to know how close such a group had come to taking form.

My soul felt burdened to pursue the call God had given me, but the doors in front of me felt perpetually closed.

One afternoon, I shared my frustrations with my husband.   

He shook his head and said, “Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you know is right.”

I contemplated his statement for some time, struggling to determine my next best, most God-honoring step. Did He want me to initiate change in my current environment? Was He calling me to seek support elsewhere?

I prayed over that situation, over the need, the hole God made increasingly apparent, for over a year, until I knew with certainty, He was calling me to act. The following week, Wholly Loved Ministries was born, a place where women from diverse denominations can grow in their gifting and their relationship with Christ. That small group of women who gathered together in a local coffee shop to dream of all the lives God might change, through our first timid yet obedient steps, has now grown to a team of 30 speaking life across the globe.

All by God’s grace, and in part, because we refused to allow opposition to dictate our actions.

Perhaps you’ve experienced a similar situation—an invitation to act that left others confused or even angered. And maybe in the moment, compliance felt easier, safer. Certainly less confrontational. But if we want to live for Christ and fully embrace all God’s called us to, we cannot be swayed by other people’s hostility.

Consider the example Jesus provided in Matthew 12:9-14. He’d recently made some pretty big claims: That He was the Son of God who knew God intimately and always did as God desired. (John 5:16-21.) That He possessed the same life-giving power as God the Father. And that He was Lord of the Sabbath. Then He performed miracles to validate His claims.

About this time, the Bible says Jesus went over to the Pharisee’s synagogue. While there, He noticed a man with a deformed hand. Seeking a way to trick Christ, the Pharisees asked, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:10, NLT).

They saw this individual as an opportunity for entrapment. But Jesus saw the man’s wounded heart, his need, and was moved by deep compassion. Though He knew His actions would lead to increased opposition, He chose to advance God’s light. He told the man to stretch out his hand. When he obeyed, Scripture says “it was restored, just like the other one” (Matthew 12:13, NLT).

Can you imagine the man’s joy? This was cause for celebration. He had been touched by the light of Christ. But the religious leaders were not impressed. Instead they “called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus” (Matthew 12:14, NLT).

And yet again, Jesus remained focused on His mission and, leaving the area, continued healing and teaching.

He didn’t let spiritual resistance keep Him from the synagogue or hinder His decision to heal. Nor did He try to fight against it, at least, not as we might expect. Instead, He kept moving forward, kept spreading the light, wherever He went and to whomever would receive it.

His faithful, steady actions provide a model for us. When darkness hits, and it will, we can falter in fear, lash out in anger, or faithfully advance God’s light.

In what way is God calling you to advance His light this week? In what way has darkness threatened to halt your steps? What is one truth that will help you move forward in confidence and victory?

Speaking of embracing our calling, if you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to listen to Faith Over Fear episode: The Courage to Pursue Our Calling.

What to Do When Others Don’t Understand Our Anxiety Faith Over Fear

We all want to feel understood. Known and accepted. The problem is, no one will truly understand what it’s like to live with anxiety if they themselves haven’t struggled. So what do we do when we’re craving the support of those who “get us” but don’t feel we’re able to receive what we need? In this episode, Jennifer Slattery takes listeners to the root of this need and shares ways we can identify and grow a healthy support system. Find Jennifer Slattery at: Find Wholly Loved, at: Resource: Becoming His Princess Video: Growing in Grace Becoming His Princess Bible Study If this topic is helpful, be sure to listen to Episode 15 – The Courage to Fight against Fear Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: Group Discussion Questions: 1. Who do you most turn to when you need support? 2. How does that person(s) best support you? 3. Consider the health of that relationship. In what ways do you support the other person? 4. What conversations might you need to have in order to deepen the mutual ties of support? 5. Consider your current circle of close friends. Are those friends able to provide the support you need? 6. Consider your desire to be understood. How might a failure to live in your identity in Christ affect your desire? 7. Consider your desire to be understood. In what ways does a failure to recognize your true value affect your desire? 8. How can you anchor deeper in grace? 9. How might living anchored deeper in grace help you feel less alone? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Aleksei Morozov
  1. What to Do When Others Don’t Understand Our Anxiety
  2. The Courage to Be Vulnerable – Ep. 52
  3. The Courage to Share Jesus with Others – Ep. 51
  4. The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50
  5. The Courage to Fight for Others – Ep. 49

And there’s still time to sign up for Wholly Loved’s Beautiful Mess Mother Daughter Conference. Find out more HERE.

For those following our chronological New Testament Bible reading plan, today’s post kicks us off with the first suggested passage.

Graphic of week 12's chronological reading plan passages.

When God Calls Us Back to Where We’ve Failed

Blue background with quote from Corrie Ten Boom on trusting God

When calling us to a place of increased fruitfulness, often God first bring us to the very place we failed. Will we courageously step forward into all He has for us, or will past disappointments keep us stuck?

I’ve stood with my feet anchored in cement, but I’ve also experienced the joy and freedom, and incredible intimacy with Christ, that comes from following His lead. And with every obedience choice, I’m learning to lift my gaze off of my weakness and lack and onto his strength and abundance.

Perhaps most importantly, I’m learning to trust that His ways truly are best and that He has the power to lead me to His best. That in fact that is precisely where He is leading me, with every step He asks me to take.

When my daughter was young, I sensed God calling me to launch a children’s ministry, and so I did. Almost without thinking. In many ways, my yeses came a lot easier back then, primarily because I hadn’t been serving long enough to experience much failure.

Initially, everything seemed great, and the ministry grew far beyond what I’d anticipated or envisioned. Initially, everything went well, and I received such joy and fulfillment from every moment, even those that brought fatigue. But then, problems hit, one after the other after the other, and all in areas I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for. A year, maybe two, later, I quit, confused and hurt that God would call me into something only to let me fail.

Over time, I grieved and moved on, and I began to find ways to serve once again. Fulfilling, joy-giving ways, but I carried that first failed experience with me wherever I went. As a result, I was reluctant to take significant risks. I told myself I was merely holding all things, ministry included, loosely, but really, I was self-protecting. Insulating my heart so that it wouldn’t sting so deeply, should God decide this next venture wasn’t to last.

Had I been Simon Peter, the day Jesus called him to push out into the deep, I suspect I would’ve needed a lot more persuading and cajoling. You might be familiar with the story. We find it in Luke chapter 5, which tells us of a day when Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee. As usual, a crowd surrounded Him. Upon seeing an Simon’s empty boat, he got in and began to teach the people from there. At some point, Simon, who had been cleaning his empty nets, got in the boat as well.

Verse 4 tells us, “When [Jesus] had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (NIV). Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”

In other words, he and his partners had done everything they knew to do. They’d given it their best effort and likely had exhausted themselves trying, only to find their nets clogged with algae and plant life. From a human perspective, going for another round would only dirty the nets they’d likely just cleaned. And yet, Simon responded, “But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”

The result?

“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their Corrie Ten Boom Quote on Trusting Godnets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”

Jesus called Simon right back to his place of failure. In this, the God of abundance filled his nets to overflowing—just to prove He could, so that they could follow Him without fear. And that’s precisely what occurred. You see, the power wasn’t in the miraculous number of fish but in the God who commanded them. Simon was able to shift his focus off of himself, his efforts or abilities or resources, and even God’s provision and center it firmly on Jesus, His Provider and Sustainer. That was what gave him to courage to leave his now filled nets, the equivalent of a thriving 401K, to follow however Christ led.

And it all began when Simon allowed God to lead him back to the very place in which he had failed.

Let’s talk about this! When has a past failure hindered your actions? When God calls you to something, do you ever hear a nagging voice that says, “Remember last time you tried that …” What are some ways you gain courage to push out into the deep, so to speak? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and connect with me  on Facebook and Instagram. I invite those who struggle with fear to join my private Faith Over Fear Facebook community found HERE.

Speaking of stepping out into potentially deep waters, I also encourage you to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode on finding the courage to embrace our calling.

For those following the chronological New Testament Bible reading plan:

Bible reading plan image week 9

When Love Flips Table

One man or woman of character, fully surrendered to God, can change the world. You and I can impact families, communities, for the good for generations to come. Will you and I, as God’s ambassadors, do that which is convenient? Maybe personally beneficial? Or are we willing, on occasion, to flip a table or two.

We all have a holy battle to fight, one that will require focus, commitment, and sacrifice. I don’t know what that might look like for you. Or what will most challenge your courage and strength, but I can promise, those reasons will probably seem numerous and ever-growing. I can also promise you this: Saying yes to Jesus, however He calls, will Woman standing on a mountain top gazing out over sunlit cloud coverignite and nourish your soul unlike anything else.

Or perhaps I should phrase it differently: Whenever we shrink back from God’s call, whatever that might be, we rob ourselves of life as God intends, for which we were created.

I’ve shared before, here and also in various Faith Over Fear podcast episodes, about a time when God began to stir within our daughter a holy discontent. This began when a delayed diagnosis of a learning disability alerted her to major holes in the academic system. Numerous largely untrained college professors. Policies listed on websites without real-life follow through. Lack of accountability and oversight, over-emphasis of faculty rights with blatant violation of the rights of students.

The battle ahead of her seemed not only insurmountable but also detrimental. She was a student, after all, dependent on the very ones misusing their power. The fact that the authorities weren’t intentionally doing so was irrelevant; the results were the same.

She realized, just as her university’s failure to act was a decision to act, hers was as well. And so, though terrified of veiled retaliation that could cost her research positions, recommendations, and ultimately, her dreams, she used her voice, strengthened by her GPA, to speak for those who had long since lost theirs.

That was such a stressful, exhausting fight with repercussions that extended far beyond the university’s failing SSD department. She was building her character, her courage and grit, with every trembling step forward, until eventually her tenuous steps became firm and secure. But her actions did much more than that, because others were watching. And learning. And gaining courage to fight their battles as well.

And in this, to more accurately reflect our Savior who always spoke out for the marginalized, rejected, discarded, abused, and oppressed. One of my daughter’s favorite examples of this comes from John 2:13-22. This situation occurred around the time of Passover when an estimated 3,000,000 Jews and Gentiles combined traveled to Jerusalem for this holy day. I imagine the area looked similar to how Lincoln does on a Nebraska home game when people travel from the farthest corners of the state, crowding every crevice of the city while vendors and street hustlers haggling passersby.

Only instead of selling hot dogs and water, the merchants hawked sacrificial animals, at equally exorbitant prices. Can you imagine the noise, the smell, and the chaos worshipers encountered? Not only were people, many of whom were poor and had traveled for days, being taken advantage of. But because the vendors set up shop in the one area the Gentiles were allowed to enter, many seeking God were being pushed out.

Something Jesus would not allow, as John 2:15-17 demonstrate. “So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a market!’ His disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for your house will consume me.’” (John 2:15-17, NIV).

Scholars suggest Jesus reacted to numerous problems. The filth and chaos in the overran Temple courts. The dishonest practices of the money changers who willingly took advantage of people seeking God. The fact that the swindlers were using the one area open to foreigners to do so. But in each of these, His response came from the same place—love. And He demonstrated, love isn’t always soft spoken and polite. Sometimes love must take a stand and flip a table or two.

Like I said, I don’t know what that looks like for you. Honestly, I don’t always know what that looks like for me, either, but I do know we each have a role to play, a battle to fight, a wrong to right, and darkness to push back with God’s light.

Is there an area of darkness that has grown increasingly on your radar? If so, have you paused to ask God why? What He’s showing you and how He wants you to respond?

For those who are following our chronological reading plan, today’s devotion started this week off with a focus on John 2:13-22.

Bible reading plan