Be Strong and Courageous, Part 3: Faith and Trust Grow

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: . . .
~ Psalm 23:1-3a ~

Preface

When life takes an unexpected turn—trust God, believe that He is with you and for you. James 1:2-4 speaks of the testing of our faith through trials, the end result being that we “may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” According to the Lord, we did not suffer from “want” for anything, but according to the world, we were in want. We moved out of our apartment on November 3, 2015 and into my sister’s apartment.

It was not easy. We were living in the dining/living room area (about 250 square feet), while Don tried to work in one section of the living room. We were cramped and had no privacy. Three adults, plus a teenager, made adjusting to the situation and environment hard. Every relationship was strained to the limit—frustration, disappointment, anger, and myriad other emotions surfaced and created friction between us.

At times, we lost sight of God and hope almost evaporated. Fear and dismay stalked us like a lion and sought to devour us. It was so much easier to give in to hormones, emotions, and our situation than to cling to the Lord, and we did that sometimes. But, were it not for the Lord being with us and for us, we would have lost all hope and surrendered to despair.

We were in a transition period that was testing the limits of love, faith, being kind, dying to self—all those things that we are to do in thinking more highly of others and looking to their good instead of ours because of the love of Christ in us. It was as if we were on safari wearing clothes and equipment suitable for a climb up Mt. Everest.

Study, Part 3

The New Testament also contained the same message found in 2 Chronicles 32, with slightly different words.

Acts 23:11, But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; . . .” 

1 Corinthians 16:13, Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.

Ephesians 6:10, Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

2 Timothy 2:1, You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Notice that these encouraging words, found in both the Old and New Testament, are spoken

— when a transition from one leader to another was about to happen:  Moses to Joshua, David to Solomon, Paul to Timothy; and

— prior to significant events or trials occurring:  God to Joshua before entering and conquering the Promised land. God to Hezekiah when confronted with the Assyrian invasion. Jesus to Paul regarding his testimony in Jerusalem  (Acts 23:11). Jesus to Paul before the shipwreck (Acts 27:24).

The Lord says to us, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9); but do we believe and accept His encouragement? How do we respond to His testings?

If we believe Him, He strengthens our hearts and minds and prepares us for the future with:  Be strong   •   Be of good courage   •   Be of good cheer   •   Be brave.

If we do not believe nor trust Him, then our hearts and minds will be consumed by fear and dismay.

Psalms 27:14 and 31:24 encourage those “who hope in the LORD” to “Wait on the LORD and Be of good courage” because “He shall strengthen your heart.”

Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that “. . . without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Application

Psalm 130:6 Artwork by Cathy Clark © 2015

Psalm 130:6 Artwork by Cathy Clark © 2015

At the end of that study, I was more hopeful, felt strengthened, and peaceful. I determined that regardless of how I felt mentally, physically, or emotionally, I was going to trust that my heavenly Father, who knows all things, had a better plan for our lives.

The trials we were undergoing were challenging our status quo and getting us more aligned with God’s “stream of life.” He was teaching us how to wait patiently for His will to be carried out, growing faith, and making us stronger.

The study in 2 Chronicles 32 and all the other Scripture references prepared us for the changes He had planned for us. It was also the foundation for the Bible studies Noah and I attended.

Through Paul, I understood that being uprooted is not to be despised, rather, I am to be thankful—the Father of all creation loves and is with me. I learned that hope will evaporate when we look inward, instead of upward. I learned that I could bend like a cooked noodle and not snap when an offense was hurled at me, because, “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1); and that thinking more highly of others was a much higher way than clinging to my “rights” (Philippians 2:3-4). I also found that waiting for the Lord to “show Himself strong on [our] behalf” does not happen according to our wants, but to His perfect timing (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Money will always be a problem, but it does not have to be an added strain in our lives. Don and I had several grievous arguments that tore into our marriage; however, the Lord healed our wounds and the breach between us. He also strengthened the depth of love and commitment between us. In the midst of our transitional trials, we celebrated our 26th anniversary.

The Lord was gracious and merciful to us through others. Sheets and blankets were lent to us, others gave us winter clothing, some gave us gift cards. Generous gifts of money were given to us at our lowest point (in January 2016), so that we were sustained for over a month. We were humbled by the Lord’s provision. I began to see that Father had marvelous things planned for us.

In the midst of all these trials, Noah was invited to go to Japan. We had no money, nothing was in place for her to go. We knew this was of the Lord; but how would we do this? Noah started a GoFundMe account and funds for her trip began coming in. The Lord provided for every expense; even her travel arrangements and cost were identical to those of her teacher, who had booked them one month prior to Noah’s! This would be her first trip anywhere, but the Lord was not done—He provided, through her grandmother, a trip to DisneyWorld in Florida during Easter vacation! Noah learned what travel was like and prepared accordingly for her trip to Japan. (See the “He Shows Himself Strong!” post dated June 6, 2016.)

When we could not move forward, Father took our hand and led us forward. He helped us see beyond our situation to His eternal purposes. By the beginning of March more work started coming in for Don. It was God’s timing, because that was when my sister decided to move out and asked us to leave at the end of April. However, rental prices, even of one bedroom places were beyond our reach; we could not even afford the place my sister was leasing!

This, however, did not thwart God’s purposes for us. A friend asked us to house-sit, for free, for three months until the house was sold. His mother had just passed into glory and the house was vacant. We moved out of my sister’s place on a rainy Friday in May and into a pink, four bedroom, two bathroom house with front and back yards, and a washer and dryer! One week after moving in, our friend told us that we could stay until February 2017 when they would list the house. We began paying an affordable rent on July 1st!

We are still in transition; I have no idea how long it will last, nor what is before us. But, I do know that Father is with us and for us; that His plans for us are for good, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Faith and trust in Him will continue to grow. In every season that He brings into our lives, He continues to reveal and “show Himself strong on [our] behalf.” We will continue to serve, minister, and exalt Him, because He is trustworthy and faithful.

Father wants us to remember to WHOM we belong. Second Corinthians 4:16-18, tells us that He desires we:

not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which arenot seen are eternal.” 

We only have eyes to see what is visible, but God sees the invisible and helps us to be conquerors. We are not to forget the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us and run the race of faith (Hebrews 12:1). We are reminded in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, that:

we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—”

Father, You will never let us go. We may be burdened by our troubles and cast down because we have no visible means of escape, but we must not forget that “we are more than conquerors through” Jesus Christ our Lord. You hold us—we cannot slip out of Your hands. Because You are with us and for us, therefore, we will overcome the world and its troubles. Thank You, Father, for this transitional year; I have no idea what lays before us, but I know that You are faithful and trustworthy. You have proven to us that no matter what comes into our lives, however difficult, You will never forsake us, that we will have no want, and that You will walk us through that valley. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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