Posts Tagged ‘Hardship’

hope-hand

I am not sure if it’s just me, or is there a significant amount of difficulty, adversity and even downright despair in what I see around me right now? Life does tend to be ebb and flow most of the time whereby good and bad problems drift into our lives and then subside (yes, I believe there are good problems, like having so much work you don’t know where to put it all). But in my worldview, I see despair in both friends and family where there should be joy.

I believe that despair is one of Satan’s most powerful weapon because if he hits you at just the right moment, you literally feel no hope…or in other words, you feel despair. Do you remember when you were a kid and you wrestled with your siblings or your Dad and there was always the time when everyone “piled on” leaving the one on the bottom to scream in pain? That’s what Satan does when you are struggling with anything…he piles on driving you into despair.

Did you know that despair is the complete loss or absence of hope? I find that definition interesting because as a child of God, there is always hope…am I correct?

But yet honestly, who hasn’t felt despair even as a child of God? I think we all have, which tells me a couple things:

  1. Satan is alive and well on this earth and seeks to kick your butt anytime he can.
  2. How much are you actually trusting God during this difficult time?

Now, I completely understand that despair is an internal battle for control over what you are feeling inside. Satan is pouring every possible bad thing he can onto you and God is looking to you to reach out to Him and just hang on. That unseen battle is real and I know many of you have felt it before.

despair

I have a very good Christian friend right now in the midst of this type of despair. He is at that time in his life where his Mother requires an assisted living facility to help with her care but she doesn’t want to go and his fear is that she gets there, she will die. My friend is agonizing over this decision and it’s driving him into a bad place in his life. He feels there is no hope.

As is always true in this blog, I have a couple of verses I want to share with you and then some simple knowledge to pass your way. The first scripture is from Paul who frankly, lived a very hard life once he became a follower of Christ…NOT an easy one. Please note that this verse is clear about life…that he may have been down, but he was not crushed, or in despair. In other words, life is hard…but when you hang onto God, you can get through it.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed

(2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV)

Secondly, here is word from my favorite Bible character, David.

May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you

(Psalms 25:21 NIV)

Simply put guys, despair is a bad place to be and it will take God to get you out of it. That means no only prayer on your own part, but prayers from family and friends. As mentioned, you are in a battle and Satan wants to be victorious over you. He knows that beating you will have the trickle down effect on both your wife and children. In other words, everyone will be miserable. THAT IS HIS GOAL…and you need to recognize that.

I challenge all of you today to hang onto God and to trust in Him for hope. If you recall the story of David, he was near death to many times to count, but as the verse above states, “his hope was in God”. He recognized that without Him, despair would soon come.

I further challenge you today to claim Gods hope for your own life and climb out of the depths of despair. I understand that right now, these may be just words to you, but know that GODS WORD DOES NOT RETURN VOID.

Cling to Christ and what His Word says and He will cling to you…

Until next time guys…

 

jesus-walk

We see numerous examples throughout Gods word of men and women gaining the favor and grace of God through their experiences. Moses, who killed the Egyptian was given the grace of God and ultimately gained Gods favor and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt…and don’t forget David, who sinned greatly with Bathsheba but was forgiven and provided grace and we all know he found favor in God Eyes. Even Gods own son came from the line of David. Today though, I want to talk a little about Noah and not the Noah that was poorly displayed in the Hollywood movie some time back, but the real Noah of the Bible. The same guy who was a preacher of Gods righteousness…did you know that?

If He did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;    2 Peter 2:5

Noah was far more than the picture we all have of him in our minds or the one Hollywood would have us believe. Let me say it to you this way, I really don’t know how many people were on earth at the time when Noah lived before the flood…whether it was thousands or even millions…all I know is what the Bible tells us:

And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.     Genesis 6:6-8

So whether there were thousands of people or millions of people I don’t think it matters; What does matter is that out of all of the horrible evil that existed; the fact that mans sole purpose was “only evil all the time”…

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.    Genesis 6:5

Noah somehow found favor in the eyes of the Lord…and he was the only one on earth to do so…I find that fact…amazing? Can you imagine being the only one at your work to be a Christian? And to walk the walk that Noah did, you would clearly have to be different and stand out from the crowd somehow in order to find favor in the eyes of the Lord.

How would you do that? How did Noah do that? What did Noah do to separate himself from literally everyone else on the planet at that time?

Plainly speaking, Gods word says, “Noah walked with God”. He just walked with God. What that means is he sought out God…He looked for God…He pursued God. And in that pursuit, Noah found favor in Gods eyes. The Bible says “Noah looked blameless before God”…What did that get Noah, honestly, a whole lot of hard work for a few years building an ark…but yet at the same time, Noah believed, he trusted and he obeyed God and he and is family were saved from death…

So my question to you guys today is simply this; Do you think you can you walk with God? Can you simply take each day, one day at a time and just trust in Him to take care of you? Honestly, this is truly that simple…the hard part comes when you are challenged to take the wrong road in life but as we saw with Noah, there were a whole lot of people who did choose the wrong way it did not end up well for them:

And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.   Genesis 7:21-23

My challenge to you is this:

Noah walked with God, you too can walk with God if you choose to…but you DO have to choose this path…

I challenge you today to pursue Him with all that you have…there is NO DOUBT in my mind this is a pursuit you will never regret…

Until Next Time Guys…

why-cant-life-be-easy-162464

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post simply called Why cant life be easy? Because it kind of fit where I was at that point. Well today, 4 years later, I have reached into the archives because it seems to fit yet again for me. Sometimes none of us can understand the ebb and flow of life’s changes both personally or collectively as a family and how they affect us. Waves roll in and out with some being just annoyances while others knock us off our feet completely. This post is just to serve as a beacon along your journey to NOT give up. Stay the course and stay strong for the people who love you. I hope you enjoy the new and improved version of Why can’t life be easy

 

Have you ever wondered why God allows or even requires the Christian journey to be filled with pain, problems, unhappiness and sometimes misery? Because I have… Why does God put so much emphasis on perseverance, or striving for the prize and winning the race like it says in Philippians?

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Why cant the Christian walk be more like a Sprint instead of a Marathon?

I believe that all the lessons and experiences we learn through life; the “Iron Sharpening Iron” moments like we read in Proverbs 27:17; the falling down and getting back up opportunities, but most importantly and through the adversity, is our ability to keep our eyes focused on Him in spite of whatever is set against us…

Because the reason why the Christian walk is a marathon and NOT a sprint is because God intended life to be truly ALL about the journey.

God watches how WE handle the problems we face in this world…are we the kind of guy who gives up and just walks away? Or do we get back up on our feet and keep forging ahead?

Guys, listen to me here because I truly believe that the ones that can pick themselves up from the problem and still keep their eyes on Him…They are the ones that I firmly believe God has chosen to surround Himself in eternity.

 

Life is hard…there I said it…but don’t just give up and let it overwhelm you! Fight back…

 

One of my favorite warriors of the Bible was David who wrestled with these very same questions. Look at what he says to God in Psalms:

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalms 10:1

The reality is that David, one of the greatest men in the Bible, struggled just like us. He wrestled with pain and suffering and he cried out to God continuously…and do you know what?

God did NOT forsake him.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, Lord, for you have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalms 9:9-10

Guys, this post is titled, Why can life be easy because many times we cant help but ask that question. I encourage you today, as we move into the holiday season to remember that God hasn’t left you during these times of difficulty but rather He is right there next to you lifting you up. Just hang on and trust because someday here is what we, the ones who have persevered, have to look forward to:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21: 3-5

Guys, enjoy the journey that you are on and keep the faith because ultimately you will overcome.

 

Until next time Guys…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

reset_button-scaled500

We recently finished a very successful Little League season that had us advancing to and winning our local city tournament. After a 24-game season and then a tournament where we faced 6 more local teams…to actually win first place, was very gratifying…

But I have to be honest it wasn’t always that way.

This season provided many of the normal low points that most seasons typically do with one exception; as a team, we discovered something we dislike universally…playing badly. But even more important, we discovered a way to stop this team from “falling off the cliff”. Honestly, this one simple moment truly saved us from being one of the worst teams into being one of the best.

I remember the actual game and frankly, the one particular inning where we literally could not do anything right. We could NOT get an out to save ourselves…hit after hit and run after run, we could not stop this train from certain destruction. When we finally hit the 10-run threshold and to many errors to count, I told the other coach “let me go talk to them”…he mumbled something completely incoherent because I honestly think he was in shock.

As I walked to the mound, I called the entire team over for a conversation. As I stared into those 11-12 year old boys faces, I saw tears and I saw anger but most of all I saw hopelessness. They literally had given up the thought they could do anything right. They were so upset and had completely lost their direction…does this sound familiar to anyone?

I told them “Guys, you are so much better than what I see here today. We have practiced these plays over and over again…frankly, to many times to count”.

“Here is what I want you to do, in this game right now…I want you to hit the reset button inside of you. From urlthis point on, we are starting this game over. We are playing from the beginning again…We are resetting”.

They all looked at me like I was crazy. Our shortstop Tyler spoke up and asked, “what do you mean coach?” “How do we reset?” I told him, “When you reset something, it clears the past or the previous from affecting the future”. Everything that has happened in this game is now over. We are each going to reset and focus on the next play, our next at bat and all of us are going to try our hardest to get out of this inning”

Our catcher chimed in at this point, “come on guys, we can do this, we have to reset. We have to hit the reset button”

So here is what I will tell you, we did not win that game. But we did get out of that nasty inning without giving up another run. More importantly however, the next time we had the beginnings of another poor inning, our catcher pulled the infield together and gave them the reset speech…and guess what, it worked…

As you can imagine, that simple life lesson got me thinking about you guys and the painful 10-run bad inning equivalents we have in our own lives. News flash: sometimes life hurts and it does NOT go our way. In fact, I firmly believe there are many of you right now reading this that are having a very hard time for a variety of reasons and frankly are just looking for some hope. Guys, I am not going to insult your intelligence by saying to just hit your internal reset button and everything will magically get better. We all know that is not the way anything in this life works.

What I will tell you though is if you hit the reset button with God…that will work.

Right now, God is patiently waiting for you to run to Him. He is not the God who will write in the sky, “Hey (your name here)…call me now and let’s fix this” we know He doesn’t work that way. Our God has a still, soft voice that is always calling…we are just too loud or too busy to hear Him.

Guys…today…take my challenge to you…

Hit the reset button with God by praying this prayer right now:

“God…things are not going well right now and I need you to help. Humbly I ask that you take over my life and cause me to reset my relationship with you. I can’t do this on my own. I need you to direct my steps and make my paths straight.

God, I trust in you and I believe in you and no matter what happens, I know you are in control. Please use your Holy Spirit to help guide me during difficult times and thank you for what you are doing for me right now”…

If you prayed that prayer and believe you hit the reset button with Him, I could not be any happier…congratulations. I would also ask that you leave me a note on this blog if you prayed that prayer. This blog has always been about encouragement and knowing you hit your reset with Him is very encouraging to me…

Until next time guys…

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I found myself complaining the other day about something I now don’t even remember what it was about but it got me thinking about fundamentally why my first reaction was to grumble about the issue in the first place? Have you ever done that before? When something happens the way you don’t want it to your first reaction is to gripe about it? It can be about small or even stupid things like “why don’t you do this right?” or, “why can’t you put this away correctly?”…But the fact I was doing this got me thinking about complaining or the idea of complaining for really no good reason at all.

I think you would agree with me that there are people in this world who should be complaining or have a more valid reason to complain. For example, when you don’t have enough food to feed your family or when you have lost your job through no fault of your own…those are the folks that should be complaining. But what I find interesting is in some cases, these are the people who don’t say anything. They just go about their business and go on surviving. If they lose their job, they work to find another one. If they can’t feed their family, they find another job to make some more money to help. Please don’t misunderstand me here, this is not a commentary on work ethic or our society, it is my observation that when the going gets rough, there are people out there who simply DO and don’t complain about it.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Mark Woodard speak about his life experiences and his insatiable desire to be positive and to persevere, no matter what his circumstances. Guys, never in my life have I heard someone who should simply complain about his life and what has happened to him. Quick summary, when he was 10, a shotgun went off and blew half his face away. After many surgeries, he survived but he was totally blind. After receiving a 7-figure settlement, his drug-addicted mother stole most of his money and later on, a girl friend would steal the rest. Through many various struggles as a ward of the state, fights, adversity like I have never seen before, this guy struggles on. He won’t even think of quitting. He is now 25, and working to get a degree to teach blind people skills that he had to learn on his own. What I find inspiring is his perspective because complaining is not an option to him. He simply keeps persevering no matter what the odds are stacked against him. As I listened, I found myself asking what would I have done in his situation? Would I have persevered in the face of so many obstacles, or just given up? The fact that I began this blog with a confession that I was complaining about something unimportant made me realize that I wasn’t proud of myself in this area. Mark has somehow learned how to be content and persevere no matter what he faces in his life…and he can’t even see. Then I remembered something the Apostle Paul said in Philippians that brought the answer to me in a way I could understand:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:11-13

Suddenly I feel really stupid about complaining about anything. Sure, I have faced adversity in my life…we all have. But the key is understanding how to be content and NOT complain. The key is to keep on seeking God and persevering with all of our might…even when it makes no sense for us to do so. God has promised to never leave us or forget us…

 

Let me leave you with this very simple thought:

 

No matter what your circumstances may be, there is always something to be thankful for…

 

Until next time guys…

penny-on-sidewalk

I found this story recently and I enjoyed it because it is a simple reminder for all of us to Trust God. I have written a great deal on IronManStrength blog about keeping our eyes focused on Him while in the midst of our storm. We have to trust in Him, no matter what we see going on around us…and as you will see from this simple story, sometimes God uses small, insignificant things to remind us to do just that…trust in Him. I don’t know who wrote this and it does appear to be a few years old, but I hope you receive its message as I did…

Several years ago, a friend of mine, and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at her husband’s employers home. My friend, Claudia, was nervous about the weekend because the boss was very wealthy with a very large home on the river as well as cars that cost more than her house.

The first day and evening went well, and Claudia was very happy to have this rare glimpse into how the very wealthy live. The employer was very generous as a host and took them to only the finest restaurants. Claudia knew she would never have this opportunity to indulge in this type of extravagance again so she was enjoying herself immensely. As the three of them were about to enter an exclusive restaurant that evening, the boss was walking slightly ahead of Claudia and her husband when he stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment. Claudia wondered if she was supposed to pass him because there was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, and a few cigarette butts. Still silent, he reached down and picked up the penny and he held it up and smiled while putting it inside his pocket as if he had found some great treasure. How crazy! What need did this wealthy man have for a single penny? What would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her and finally she could stand it no longer so she casually mentioned that her daughter had a coin collection and asked if the penny he found had some value?  A smile crept across the man’s face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before so what was the point of this?

20111207-PickUpPenny

“Look at it,” he said, “read what it says”

She read the words aloud, “United States of America”

“No, not that read further.”

“One cent?”

“No, keep reading.”

“In God we trust?”

“YES!”

“And?”

“And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on an old coin. You see, whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it? God drops a message in front of me telling me to trust Him and who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I stop and pray to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick up the coin as a response to God; that I DO trust in Him. For a short time at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is Gods way of starting a conversation with me…Lucky for me, pennies are plentiful.”

When I was out today, I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up and realized that I had been worrying over things that I had no control over. I looked down and read the words, “In God we Trust” and began to smile. “Yes God, I get the message!”

I don’t know about you, but it seems like I have been finding an inordinate number of pennies in the last few months…

I am very thankful that God is patient…

 

I hope you enjoyed…Until next time guys…

wimp

Guys, I am fixated right now on the idea of God making you and me stronger through trials and the difficult times in our lives. I would argue that the chaos of this world around us has ratcheted up its intensity to an even higher level right now…and from what I hear on the evening news, things look to only get worse. So now is the time to be strong in your faith and concrete in what you stand for. This blog has always been about sharpening, exercising and sparring in your Christian faith. I have never been silent about the fact that this life we are in is a war and you are in that war whether you believe me or not. You know whom we are fighting and hopefully, you know what the stakes are should you walk away…

That being said, I was reading recently one of Pastor David Jeremiah’s “Bible Strong” booklets where he spoke about the challenges we face in this life where many times God is at the center of the issue. What Pastor Jeremiah said was “God will take our problems and use them to make us better”, like iron sharpening iron, however before this can happen, God needs our cooperation. Instead of our normal human reaction of rebelling against Him because we don’t like what is happening to us, we should instead humble ourselves and allow God to carve and shape us into exactly the man He wants us to be.

Pastor also used the amazing example of Joseph in the Old Testament and all of the adversity he faced at the hands of both his brothers, who sold him into slavery and the Egyptians, who kept him prison for a long time. But through his time in prison, something happened to Joseph that would not have happened otherwise. Pastor Jeremiah alluded to this in his booklet and I would like to try to develop the thought even further.

While deep inside the Egyptian prison, Joseph spent much of his time in chains, which even included a collar around his neck. His days were dark and lonely spending the majority of his time alone in a cell…left only with his thoughts and his fear. Psalm 105:17-18 (NIV) says it like this:

and he sent a man before them—Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles; his neck was put in irons.

 But another translation (Amplified) puts it in a different way…

He hath sent before them a man, for a servant hath Joseph been sold. They have afflicted with fetters his feet, Iron hath entered his soul,

Iron had entered his soul? I read that a few times before I began to grasp what the writer was saying…While Joseph was in that prison cell, he was changing. Obviously, it would be almost impossible not to. Prison hardens a man. Makes him mean and angry right? Not with Joseph…Even during what were the worst and the lowest times of his life, slavery and prison, Joseph never cursed God because of his situation. Honestly, cursing God would have been a very normal HUMAN reaction, but rather he simply stayed the course by serving Him knowing that God had a plan for him. But yet, he was still in prison, and that prison experience was shaping him into a very different man than when he had entered. The Psalmist said it perfectly and I repeat, “Iron had entered his soul”. So what does that really mean? As a result of the time spent in that hardened environment, God honed and carved Joseph into a leader of men. God used those lonely years to reach down deep inside Joseph, into his inner core, and transform him into a new man;

The kind of man who could handle the adversity of the next challenge;

 The kind of man who would not wilt or falter at the first sign of difficulty;

 The kind of man who knew that true strength was using God as his anchor.

Remember, God admires and blesses strength of character and faith. Faith that in this case, was prison forged into something iron strong. God had taken Joseph through one of the worst experiences one could ever have on this earth and prepared him for his next challenge, to be second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt…But that could NOT have happened without prison.

Worst to First…

Guys, clearly stated…God does not care for “Wimpy Christians”. I challenge you today to follow the mantra of this blog from the verse in Proverbs 27:17, where we are told that “as iron sharpens irons, so one man sharpens another”. Be strong in what you believe and understand that the trials of this life are intended to make you stronger…IF…you keep your eyes on Him…

Until next time guys…