In the Wilderness: Learning to Fast

“Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordon River. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.”

– Luke 4:1-2

After his baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. This is an important detail of Scripture. First, that the wilderness came after the baptism. After Jesus made his public confession, the first thing God did to prepare Him for public ministry was lead him into the wilderness. He led Him at just the right time, when He was full of the Spirit, because the Spirit would be His strength. This is important to note because our times of greatest spiritual strength will be the times we are most vulnerable to attack from the enemy. We are susceptible in times of strength, because it is in our times of strength, when we are most full of the Spirit, that we pose the greatest threat to Satan and to his plans. When Scripture says Jesus was “led” it uses the Greek word “ágō” which means “to lead, or to take with one.” He doesn’t lead us into the wilderness alone, He goes with us. The word ágō means “to lead by laying hold of, to lead by accompanying, to lead with one’s self, or to attach ones self as an attendant.” Jesus being full of the Spirit when He was led into the wilderness was God’s way of attaching Himself and laying hold of Jesus as He began His earthly ministry. The Spirit had just descended on Him like a dove. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Three in One – went into the wilderness to fight for us. They did what we could not do. When the Spirit leads us into wilderness seasons, He does not lead us where He has not already gone before. He prepared the way for us. He goes before us, and He goes with us. No matter how lonely and desolate it feels, we are not alone in the wilderness. Knowing this, believing this, and trusting this is the key to our survival.

In the wilderness, Jesus fasted for forty days. He ate nothing at all during this time, and Scripture says He became very hungry. It’s important to note that it says He became hungry. It does not say He was hungry while He was fasting, but after the fasting had ended. He was not hungry while He was fasting, because He was filled with something other than food. He was filled with the Spirit, and that’s what He drew from for His nourishment. That’s what sustained Him and satisfied Him for those forty days. When Scripture says the fasting had ended, it uses the Greek world synteléō, which means “to end together or at the same time.” The Spirit did not leave Him or forsake Him during those forty days. It sustained Him until the day of completion, until the day when He fulfilled the purpose He had been led into the wilderness for. Luke 4:13-14 says, “When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left Him until the next opportunity came. Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the spirit’s power…” Jesus was not depleted when He left the wilderness. He was not empty; He was still filled the Spirit. He did not lose anything, but instead gained power through the Spirit, because of His wilderness experience.

One of the few plants that is able to not only survive, but thrive, in harsh wilderness conditions is the cactus. One of the few animals that is able to do so is the camel. They are both suited for these conditions because they can store water. They can carry what they need on the inside. They draw from within. They are not dependent on external circumstances for their survival. This is why we, too, should be filled with the Spirit – because only the Spirit can sustain us in the wilderness.

Most cacti live in dry areas. They often have short growing seasons, followed by long periods of drought, but they are able to survive the periods of drought because they have adapted to be able to store and conserve water. They react quickly to rainfall when it comes, quickly expanding and contracting to absorb the water through their shallow root system. They are succulents, which means they are able to store water in their stems. Water accounts for 90% of their total mass, and they retain this water in an interesting way.

Transpiration is the process of water moving through a plant and evaporating – only a small amount of water is taken up by the roots and used for growth and metabolism. Transpiration usually occurs during the cooler, more humid, night hours, so in order to reduce the water loss that occurs through transpiration, cacti store the carbon dioxide they take in as a malic acid until daylight returns, only using it in photosynthesis.

Carbon dioxide is present in the air we breath. It is absorbed by plants in photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process used by plants to convert light energy into chemical energy through cellular respiration. It can then be released to fuel the plant’s metabolic activities. Photosynthesis comes from the Greek word phōs meaning “light” and sunthesis meaning “putting together.” Through photosynthesis, oxygen is released into the air. It essentially supplies the energy necessary to maintain life on earth.

Malic acid, on the other hand, what the cactus stores the carbon dioxide as until daylight, is what contributes to the sour taste of unripe apples and other fruits.

The word for Spirit in Luke 4:1 is the Greek word pneûma which means “a movement of air.” When take in the Spirit, we take in the pneûma as a breath of air, as oxygen in our lungs.

When God created Adam and Eve, He breathed life into them. He breathed His Spirit, His pneûma, into their nostrils and they became living beings. They were filled with the Spirit. Then Satan came, just as He did with Jesus in the wilderness. And Satan tempted them with food, just as He did with Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus was tempted with bread; Adam and Eve were tempted with fruit. They saw it and desired it, and they gave into the temptation that Jesus resisted. They took it and ate it – and they stored it within. The pneûma was replaced with a malic acid – a bitterness, a sourness. Instead of being filled with the Spirit, they were filled with sinfulness. And they navigated the darkness of this world with that bitterness inside – until the daylight, until the day the Son Rose. Until the day Jesus came and took that sinfulness and transformed it into light, and released it into the world, to sustain us until the day of His return, to energize us for the work of the Kingdom, and to maintain our eternal life in Him.

Nature is truly fascinating! There is so much we can learn through the intricate details of how God has created and designed this earth. Just as we can learn from the cactus, so can we learn from the camel.

Throughout history, camels have been used to transport people through the desert because of how well suited they are to endure the dry conditions. They don’t store water directly in their humps as is commonly believed, but the humps are used as reservoirs for fatty tissue, which yields water when it metabolizes. The process of the fat metabolizing also releases energy which causes water to evaporate from the lungs. When the camel exhales, water vapor becomes trapped in their nostrils and is reabsorbed into the body as a means to conserve water. Even their long legs serve a purpose, helping keep their body farther from the ground, which can heat up to 158°F. Camels rarely sweat, even in the intense desert heat, and when they do sweat it evaporates at the skin level rather than at the surface of their coat. While other livestock can lose 20-40 liters of water per day, a camel typically loses only 1.3 liters. Because of these adaptations, they can survive long periods of time without any external source of water. In fact, dromedary camels can drink as little as once every 10 days and can lose up to 30% of its body mass due to dehydration. In comparison, other mammals can usually only withstand losing 12-14% before cardiac failure results. Camels also have oval shaped red blood cells that make them better able to withstand the flow of blood during dehydration and allows them to drink large amounts of water in a short amount of time without rupturing. For example, a 1,300lb camel can drink up to 53 gallons of water in only three minutes.

Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

Jesus had hidden God’s word in His heart, and He drew on it for His strength so that He might not sin when He was tempted in the wilderness. For every temptation, Jesus counteracted with a word of Scripture. For every lie, He came against it with Truth. He was prepared. He was girded with Truth, and the Sword of the Spirit was His weapon of defense. He knew the Word. He had stored the Word in His heart, so He could draw it to remembrance and speak it into life when He needed it the most.

 In John 4:13-14 when Jesus encounters the woman at the well, He tells her, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Psalm 42:1-2 says, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God.”

We should pant after God as a deer panteth for the water, and we should lap it up as a camel laps up water from a stream in the desert. The blood of Jesus has changed us from the inside out. The blood of Jesus has given us a capacity that goes beyond human understanding – a capacity to love and be loved by the Creator this Universe. That love bubbles within us, and never runs dry. We can return to Him time and time again, and He will fill us to overflowing.

After her conversation with Jesus at the well, Scripture says the woman “left her jar beside the well” (v. 28) and ran back to the village, telling everyone to come and see Jesus, to taste and see that He was good. She left what she had brought to carry her water in, because she had been filled up on the inside. The jar was not enough to contain what she had received. She had drank to overflowing. She was filled, and she was pouring herself out to draw others in, so they too could draw nourishment from this stream of living water who’s name was Jesus.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

– Romans 15:13

Not only was the woman filled through this experience, but Jesus was filled too. Scripture says the disciples later came to Jesus urging Him to eat and He responded by telling them, “I have a kind of food that you know nothing about… My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing His work” (v. 32-33). True nourishment comes from within. It comes from the Word of God. It comes from the Will of God. Only He can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.

Jesus knew what it meant to be hungry. In Luke 4:2, the word hunger means, “to suffer want or to be needy.” It can also be interpreted to mean, “to crave ardently, and to seek with eager desire.” Because Jesus was hungry, that’s where Satan attacked first. “If you are the Son of God,” Satan said, “tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” By starting his question with “if” Satan was attempting to get Jesus to question His very identity. But Jesus didn’t fall for his scheme. Jesus responded and told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.'”

Jesus had not only studied the Word to know this, but He had lived the Word to know this. Because He had fasted, He had feasted on God. He had been spiritually fed though His physical stomach was empty. He had been spiritually nourished, though physically famished.

What is it that you are hungering for? What are you thirsting for? Be aware of these desires, because they will be your point of weakness in the wilderness. As Max Lucado writes, “Bring your weakness to God before Satan brings them to you.”

It is no coincidence that both the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden and the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness revolved around food. This is no coincidence because there is a clear correlation between food and sin when it comes our self-discipline. Food is necessary for our survival, but is also desirable for our own personal pleasure. In the same way, our sin is often instinctual because it is driven by our fleshly desires and pleasures, but we have to remain in control of it in order to avoid it controlling us. This battle of flesh vs. spirit is a battle of the mind.

When Jesus teaches on fasting in Matthew 6, He does not say if you fast, but when you fast. It was implied that fasting was already a part of the regular routine for those He was speaking to. Fasting is an essential spiritual discipline. It is vital to our spiritual growth and development. It is how we fight our battles – we starve the flesh to feed our spirit. We hunger and thirst for righteousness. Through fasting, we empty ourselves to be filled with the Spirit. In John 6:35, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Fasting is a way for us to disrupt our daily rhythms and set our minds on things above where our true satisfaction comes from. Fasting is a way for us to shift our focus so we are not dependent on bread for life, but instead are dependent on the bread of life. It is a way for us to break free from unhealthy patterns of eating and an unhealthy relationship with food. When we fast from physical bread, we feast on spiritual manna that comes from above. We trust God to provide enough manna for each day. We look to Him to satisfy the deepest longings and cravings of our hearts.

This is not easy, but this is necessary.

I heard a Pastor say recently that the first sign of a culture that is turned away from God is that the body becomes a new locus point of worship. How present is this in our society? Do we not see it in our culture’s obsession with sex, with food, and with physical appearance? We have to break free from this. We have to resist the urge to fit in. We have to stand up and stand out. We have to become counter-cultural. Our body is intended to be a place for the presence of God to dwell. Instead, we have made it a place of pleasure and performance. We allow it to dictate to us its desires, rather than us reminding it of it’s purpose. With fasting, we regain control over our bodies. We remind our bodies that they were created for God, and not the other way around. Fasting and prayer is a way for us to turn our bodies from an enemy into an ally in the fight against the sinfulness and principalities of this world.

“…God did what the law could not do. He sent His own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.”

– Romans 8:3-4

In Scripture, fasting is almost always accompanied by prayer. In Matthew 6:5-18 Jesus teaches us about prayer and fasting. He doesn’t just teach us how to pray, He shows us how to pray. He tells us prayer should be private, personal, and purposeful. “When you pray,” He says, “Go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private” (v.6). Jesus lived this out. Throughout Scripture, we see Him “going away” to pray.

Mark 1:35 says, “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.”

Matthew 14:23 says, “After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”

Luke 5:16 says, “ But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

The wilderness is a dry, desolate place. The Greek word “érēmos” means “a solitary place” or “a lonely place.”

Because the wilderness is a place of solitude, it is a place well-suited for prayer. But what we fear most about the wilderness, even more than the lack of food, is the loneliness. We fear being alone. That is why “solitude confinement” is one of the worst forms of punishment. We are afraid to get alone with our thoughts, alone with our fears, alone with our anxieties – but that’s exactly where God wants to meet us at. There is a deep internal work that sometimes only the wilderness can bring to light, and only prayer and fasting can work to transform.

In her book, Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown writes, “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.”

It’s important for us to remember that being alone is not the same as be lonely. We may feel lonely in the wilderness, but we are never truly alone. The Spirit always accompanies us where He leads us. He will not leave or forsake us. Still, we fear going into the wilderness, into the silence and solitude, because we know that just as sure as Jesus is there – Satan is also there, waiting to attack. We know that in the wilderness, our weakness will be exposed.

We could not survive the wilderness on our own – that is why we must learn to pray and fast. The keys to physical survival in the wilderness are fire, shelter, and water. The keys to spiritual survival in the wilderness are the Holy Spirit, Fasting, and Prayer. This is how will endure. This is how we will not only survive, but thrive. This is how we will learn and grow. This is how we will make the most of our wilderness experience. Eventually we will come to love the wilderness, because we will find it is the place where we fall in love with Jesus, where we build intimacy with Him. It will become our hiding place, our space space, our place of refuge. He will call us back to this place time and time again. As He says in Hosea 2:14, “I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”

There is a song by Elevation Worship called Great Things and the lyrics provide such a beautiful perspective of the wilderness. It says, “Thank You for the wilderness, where I learned to thirst for Your presence. If I’d never known that place, how could I have known You are better? Thank You for the lonely times, when I learned to live in the silence. As the other voices fade, I can hear You calling me, Jesus. And it’s worth it all, just to know You more.”

Rest assured, the wilderness season you are living in now will not last forever. The Spirit led you in, and the Spirit will lead you out. But while you’re there, embrace this season for all that it is and all that it has to offer. Learn how to fast and pray, and allow these practices to draw you close to the Father. Allow these practices to shape you more into His image. Allow these practices to strengthen you and empower you for the spiritual warfare you are sure to encounter there. Don’t allow this wilderness season to leave you unchanged. Leave your mark on the wilderness, and allow the wilderness to leave it’s mark on you.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
the splendor of our God.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.”

And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind
and unplug the ears of the deaf.
The lame will leap like a deer,
and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!
Springs will gush forth in the wilderness,
and streams will water the wasteland.
The parched ground will become a pool,
and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.
Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish
where desert jackals once lived.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land.
It will be named the Highway of Holiness.
Evil-minded people will never travel on it.
It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways;
fools will never walk there.
Lions will not lurk along its course,
nor any other ferocious beasts.
There will be no other dangers.
Only the redeemed will walk on it.
Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return.
They will enter Jerusalem singing,
crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

– Isaiah 35

In the Stillness: Learning to Abide

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

– Psalm 23 (ESV)

Beside Still Waters

God leads us beside still waters. This stillness means “a resting place” or a place of “quietness.” It is defined as a peaceful place, a place of consolation. When I think about peace, still waters aren’t necessarily the first thing that come to mind. When I think about peace, I often think about sitting on a beach or by a river – there’s something about the sound of the rushing waters, the bubbling brook, or the crashing waves that brings us a sense of peace and assurance. We see the waters moving from one place to the next, we see the waves coming in and going back out – it is consistent and sure. It is shows the continuity and rhythm of nature. But Psalm 23 doesn’t say God leads us beside the ocean waters, nor does it say He leads us beside rushing rivers. Rather, it says He leads us beside still waters. He leads us beside unmoving waters. Still water is silent, and silence can be deafening. We don’t want to sit still. We don’t want to sit in silence. We want to see and hear and know what is coming next. When water sits still for too long, it becomes stagnant – like the still, murky waters of a swamp. So why would God lead us to still waters?

He leads us beside still waters because we aren’t supposed to know what is coming next. We are supposed to follow where He leads. He leads us beside still waters so we’ll be able to listen and hear His still small voice when He speaks to us. He leads us beside still waters, so we’ll trust Him to provide what we need, when we need it. I can’t help but think about the paralyzed man by the the pool at Bathesda. He had been waiting by the still water for 38 years. When the water was stirred is when the healing properties came. Crowds of blind, lame, and paralyzed people would wait patiently by the still water, watching and waiting for it to begin bubbling. They watched, and waited, and hoped to be the first one to make it into the water and experience the healing. But this man had no one to help him to the water when it started bubbling. Then one day, Jesus came by and saw him there and spoke healing to him. God led him to the still water, so Jesus could come and meet him there. And He does the same for us.

It is in the seasons of stillness, when life seems stagnant and unmoving, and when God seems silent – that’s we learn what it means to truly abide in Christ.

Here & Now

Several years ago, just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, my friend and I decided to step out away from the celebration and noise and go sit in a car and listen to worship music to bring in the new year. It was the first of many “car church” services as we came to refer to them. We listened. We prayed. We worshipped. We sat in the stillness with God and soaked in His presence. That night, one of the songs we had on repeat was “Set a Fire” by Will Regan and United Pursuit. It’s always been one of my favorites, but that night the lyrics hit me in a way they never had before. I distinctly remember reflecting on the phrase “There’s no place I’d rather be than here in Your love.” As I reflected, God began to speak and I pulled out my phone to write what He was speaking to my heart.

This is what I wrote:

"It's easy to get discouraged when we focus too much on the future, on the hopes and promises of God, because we start expecting them right away and we get discouraged when we don't see them playing out the way we imagined. But God doesn't work on our timetable, and His ways are exceeding abundantly above anything we could ever ask or imagine. It's easy to get discouraged when we dwell too much on the past, because we start to focus on the things that didn't play out and the prayers God didn't answer in the ways we thought He should have. We fear for the future because we forget the faithfulness of God in the past. But God doesn't want us to focus on the future or the past. We should look to the future for our hope, and we should look to the past for our lessons, but we should dwell in the present moment. We should dwell in the presence of Christ. He was with us in the past, and He will be with us in the future, but He is with us RIGHT NOW. Everything in our past has led us to where we are now, and where we are right now will lead us to where He has prepared for us to go next. Live in this moment. Experience His presence. Take life one step at a time, walking in complete trust and obedience to God."

The present is a transition period, and we don’t like transitions. I once heard a sermon from Pastor Steven Furtick called Trapped in Transition where He said, “Some of us are frustrated by change because we’re unwilling to embrace the process of transition.” There’s so much unknown in this period between where we’ve been and where we’re going, in who we were and in who we’re becoming. It can be terrifying, but we have no reason to fear because God is with us here. His name is literally Immanuel, meaning God is with us. It is the essence of His identity. He is the I AM. His presence is a gift.

Abiding in the Fields

When Jesus was born, Luke 2:8-10 says, “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.'”

The shepherds were staying in their fields. This word can also be translated as abiding. They were abiding in their fields, keeping watch over their flocks of sheep. This means they were camped out. They were living there. They were still. They didn’t go anywhere. They didn’t go looking for anything. They were being faithful to their work, and God came to them. That is our calling – to abide in Christ in the here and now.

Just as the shepherds in the field, and just as the man at the pool – the place we abide in is the place we dwell. It is where we stay. It is where we live. In John 15:4, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you.” Remain in me as I remain in you. Dwell in me, as I dwell in you. Wait on me, as I wait on you. That God lives within us is a powerful thought. He does not leave or forsake us. He is always with us. We can’t run from Him. “…As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Abide in me. Stay in me. Remain in me. Wait in me. According to the Thayer’s Dictionary, the word abide in this verse means, “to sojourn or to tarry, to not depart.” It means to continue to be present, to continue to be held or kept. It means to wait for or to await one.

We often think of waiting as being passive – but that’s not always the case. Our waiting can be active. Our waiting can be an act of service. Think of restaurant servers – they are called “waiters” but they are not sitting around doing nothing. A good waiter is one who is constantly moving from table to table, engaging in dialogue, taking requests, being attentive, and being responsive to the needs of their patrons.

I often think about David, in the period between when he was anointed as King and when he became King. In that “in-between” time he was still keeping watch over the flocks. He was still showing up in the fields each day to tend to the sheep that were entrusted to him for that season. I heard Matt Austin preach a sermon once where he said, “One of the most difficult seasons in life is to be dripping with oil, but still smelling like sheep. To be anointed for greatness, but still in the field.”

Is that where you find yourself?

Maybe your season of stillness means actively serving and being faithful with where God has you right now, or maybe your season of stillness means God is literally telling you to stop, slow down, and “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10). Maybe you’ve been working too hard, moving too fast, and trying to shape the future into your own image instead of patiently waiting for God to be God and do what He does best. As Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”

Whatever season of stillness you are in, God has a purpose for you there.

Sitting at His Feet

When I think about this “stop and slow down” type of stillness, I think about Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus while Martha bustled around the kitchen in Luke 10:38-42. It’s important to remember that we need both Mary’s and Martha’s in the Kingdom of God. We need Martha’s who do the work and welcome the guests, but we also need Mary’s who practice the stillness and enjoy the presence. We will be Mary’s at certain points of our lives, and Martha’s at other points of our lives, but what we cannot do is allow the work to distract us from the worship. Work can be a type of worship, but work cannot take the place of our worship. Martha was so focused on the work that she lost sight of her first and true priority. She was more focused on the preparation than on the presence of Christ in her home. He was abiding in her home, waiting on her, and yet she was not abiding in Him or waiting on Him. She was too busy with the external to recognize what God wanted to do internally and eternally. She lost sight of the significance and neglected to see the magnitude of the moment, because her attention was tied up in the mundane tasks that are temporary and fleeting . Meanwhile, Mary sat in the presence of Christ and listened intently, clinging to His every word. Her eyes were fixed on Him, and her heart was focused on Him. She was abiding in Him and waiting on Him.

In another passage of scripture (Luke 7:36-50), we see another woman come before Jesus and sit in stillness at His feet. As she weeps, she allows the tears to fall on His feet, and proceeds to dry them with her hair. She kisses his feet and anoints them with oil. She knew the magnitude of the moment. As Jesus said, she loved much because she had been forgiven much. She abided in that love. She demonstrated that love through her humble and active service. Her waiting was an act of worship. Her stillness was an act of surrender.

From Invitation to Intimacy

In the book, Abide in Christ, Andrew Murray writes about the difference between coming to Christ and abiding in Christ.

He writes, “The first coming gave but single drops to taste; it is only abiding that can really satisfy the thirsty soul with drinks from the rivers of pleasure that are at His right hand… You did well to come, you do better to abide.” With this statement, I think about Martha. She did right in coming to Jesus. She took the first step in inviting Him into her home and preparing for His arrival, but upon His arrival she neglected to abide with Him there. Likewise, I think about the Pharisee at who’s table Jesus was sitting when the woman came and knelt at His feet. The Pharisee did the right thing in inviting Jesus to dine with him at the table, but the woman went beyond an invitation and instead chose to abide with Christ in a place of intimacy and heartfelt worship.

Andrew Murray goes on to say, “Who would, after seeking the King’s palace, be content to stand in the door, when he is invited in to dwell in the King’s presence and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life? Oh, let us enter in and abide and fully enjoy all the rich supply His wondrous love has prepared for us!”

Let’s not be content to stand at the door when we’ve been invited to the table. Let’s not be content to eat the crumbs, when we’ve been offered a feast. Let’s not settle for surface level Christianity. Let’s take our faith deeper. Let’s not just come to Jesus, but abide with Him there. Let’s invite Him not just into our times of public worship and prayer, but into our daily rhythms and routines of life. When He comes to us, let us stay there with Him. Let’s embrace the stillness as an invitation to abide with Him, to dwell with Him – to make our homes there in His presence.

Let our abiding in Christ be as a child abiding in the warm embrace of their mother or father’s arms. It is a place of safety, a place of security. It is a place of refuge. As Andrew Murray so beautifully writes, abiding in Christ “is simply weakness entrusting itself to a Mighty One to be kept.” Our attempts at abiding are frail and weak, but our Father is faithful and strong. He is worthy of our complete trust and total adoration. We can fall on Him in full and complete surrender, knowing He will wrap us up in His arms and never let us go. He is the vine, and we are the branches. We are completely dependent on Him for our nourishment and provision. He is the only One who can satisfy the deepest longings of our heart. He is the only One in whom we can endure the changing seasons. He is the only One who can hold us steady both in the storms and in the stillness.

The Promise of His Plan: Learning to Hope

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

– Jeremiah 29:11

If you read Jeremiah 29:11 in it’s full context, you’ll learn an interesting story. In Jeremiah 27, God told Jeremiah to make a yoke and fasten it on his neck with leather straps. Then He tells him to send a message calling the children of Israel to submit to the yoke of the King of Babylon. This was an uncomfortable demonstration for Jeremiah to make, and an uncomfortable message for him to deliver.

Later that year, a false prophet named Hananiah came and told the Israelites that God would remove the yoke from their necks. Hananiah told them that within two years God would bring back all of their treasures that were carried off to Babylon and would bring back the captives. His message was comforting to them, but it was simply not true. They were being comforted with a lie – something they would always be hoping for and never see come to pass.

Then in Jeremiah 29:11, God gives them a true promise. Jeremiah sends a letter to the people who had been exiled to Babylon, and in this letter he tells them, “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for it’s welfare will determine your welfare” (v. 5-7).

He is telling them to get comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.

Sometimes God’s promise doesn’t come in the form of a hopeful breaking of the yoke. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes God’s promise doesn’t mean your yoke will be lifted in two years. Sometimes God’s promise means the slavery continues, the captives remain, and the treasures are not returned. Sometimes God’s promise requires 70 years of endurance. It may not be easy to understand, and it may not be easy to accept, but one thing you can be sure of is that God’s promise is TRUE. The truth may be harsh and hard to hear, but the hope is REAL. God doesn’t comfort us with lies, He comforts us with truth.

Comforted by Truth

Numbers 23:19 says, God is not man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through?”

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”

God doesn’t just speak truth, He is Truth.

In John 14:16-17, Jesus says the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, and He leads us into all truth. In verse 27, He says, “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.”

We have no reason to fear, no reason to doubt. What better to be comforted by than truth? Or better yet, who better to be comforted by than Truth?

So, when God says get comfortable, you can trust you’re going to be there for a while. When God says you’re going to be in slavery for another 70 years, then you’re going to be in slavery for another 70 years. But the beauty of it all is that God’s promise doesn’t end there.

Jeremiah 29:10-14 says,

“This is what the Lord says: You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days, when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you, says the Lord. I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and I will bring you home again to your own land.”

Comforted by Consistency

The changing seasons of life were not meant to leave us unchanged. They are meant to grow us, to strengthen us, and to transform us more into the image of Christ. But, as C.S. Lewis said, “Mere change is not growth.” He went on to say, “Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity, and where there is no continuity there is no growth.” In these changing seasons of life, we find continuity in the unchanging Word of God. We find our consistency in the God who’s love never fails and mercy never ends (Lamentations 3:22-23). He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). He is our constant source of hope. Hebrews 6:17-19 says, “God bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind. So, God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”

We can learn form the past because God has been faithful before, and we can hope for the future because God will be faithful forevermore. But we need to learn to live in the present – because God is faithful now. He is the great I AM. He is a here-and-now kind of God. We need to live in the present moment and enjoy His presence with us. Everything in the past has led us to where we are now, and where we are now will lead us where He has prepared for us to go next. The situation may not be comfortable now, but we can find our comfort in Him. The season may be changing, but we can find our consistency in Him.

We can learn to embrace the uncomfortable – because we discover strengths we never knew we had when we reach beyond the borders of our comfort zones.

We can learn to embrace change – because the greatest transformations occur through the most difficult trials and transitions.

We can learn to find contentment in the chaos when we put our hope and trust in God.

We need to follow the advice God gave in Jeremiah 29. We need to submit to the yoke of slavery. We need to settle down and get comfortable where we are now, because God has us here for a reason. We may not be where we want to be, but we are where we need to be. God always has our best interest at heart. Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Submitting to the will of God may be uncomfortable at first, but that is only because it’s unfamiliar to us. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, so in Him we find all the comfort we will ever need. That’s why God told the Israelites to build homes, plant gardens, and start families. He wanted them to be comfortable. He wanted them to be blessed. God is in control, and in His sovereignty, He will lead us where we need to be. But we also have free-will, and in our freedom, we determine how things unfold once we get there. If we choose to dwell in the past and look back with longing for how things used to be, then we will always be miserable. Likewise, if we choose to be comforted with lies, then we will find ourselves watching and waiting for an immediate deliverance that will leave us disappointed time and time again.

Rejoicing in Time to Come

Ecclesiastes 3:10-13 says,

“I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet, God has made everything beautiful for it’s own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So, I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.”

God makes all things beautiful in time. He is working all things together for good, and we will rejoice in time to come, but for now we need to enjoy the moment we’ve been given. We serve a God who is big enough, and good enough, to make the uncomfortable comfortable. When you pray, He will listen. When you seek, He will be found. And, in time, He will fulfill all that He has promised.

Trust in His plan.

Trust in His promise.

In the Proverbs 31 description of a virtuous woman, verse 25 says, “Strength and honor are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come” (KJV). Other translations say, “…and she laughs without fear of the future.” She can laugh without fear of the future because she is confident that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. She is confident because her hope is steadfast and sure.

An Anchor for the Soul

Hebrews 6:19 says, “…Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”

In early Christian history, when Christians were largely persecuted for their faith, they were often forced to use metaphorical symbols to signify their beliefs. During this time, the epitaphs of many early Christians were engraved with the symbol of an anchor. Why an anchor? In the Greek language, the word anchor is “ankura” and the Greek phrase “en kurio” means “In the Lord” so the symbol was used to signify that those who had passed away now rested “in the Lord.”

Anchors are often made in the shape of a cross, and we have hope because of the cross. We are held secure because of the cross. We can rest in peace because of the cross. We have a hope that anchors our souls, because of the cross. Galatians 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live.” And Romans 8:24 says, “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope.” You can’t hope for something that you can see with your eyes and hold with your hands. That’s not hope – that’s knowledge. That’s assurance.

I’ve heard it said that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Faith is not knowing. Faith is not seeing – and yet still believing. And yet, still holding on to hope. We can have moments of doubt, but still hold on to hope. We can have moments of fear, but still hold on to hope. We wouldn’t need hope for the future if we could see the future, because we would already know the future. A boat that is anchored down doesn’t not move. It may still sway with the wind and waves, but it always comes back to that central point where it s held secure. Where we come back to – that’s where our hope is.

The purpose an anchor is designed to fulfill is to secure the ship, especially in the midst of a storm, or to control a ship that is drifting. The earliest anchors were made of solid rock. Christ is our solid rock. He holds us steady, and keeps us secure. Another time we see a play on words in scripture is Matthew 16:17-20 when Jesus tells Peter, “You are Peter (Petros) and on this rock (Petra) I will build my church.” This is the same Peter who just chapters earlier in Matthew 14:22-33 had stepped out on the water to walk to Jesus and then started to sink when he saw the wind and waves. This is the same Peter who said he would go to prison or even die for Jesus, and then denied even knowing him three times that very same night (Luke 22:31-34). That is the kind of rock, the kind of faith, that our church is built on. The church, the collective body of Christians, is flawed and imperfect. This gives me hope, because I, too, am flawed and imperfect. We are all drifting vessels, but we have a solid foundation, a solid anchor to come back to. How many times throughout scripture does Jesus say, “O ye of little faith….”? But I love what Jesus says when he predicts Peter’s denial. He says, “I have pleaded in prayer for you, that your faith should not fail. So, when your have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” (v. 31). That’s what hope looks like – not just the hope we have in Christ, but the hope Christ has in us. The hope we have as Christians is that Jesus doesn’t give up on us. He gives us second changes. He gives us new beginnings, and new opportunities to turn back to Him. When we fall, we can get back up again, because we have a loving Father ready to welcome us back in with open arms. Peter’s repentance came in John 21 when Jesus appeared with him on a beach after the resurrection. Three times Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” to which Peter responded, “You know that I do” and Jesus say, “Feed my sheep.”

Do you love me?

Feed my sheep.

Have you repented?

Strengthen your brothers.

In that moment, at the last supper, when Jesus predicted Peter’s denial, Peter had no idea what those words meant. He couldn’t have imagined it. But afterwards, looking back – in that time between the denial and the repentance – I’m sure those words gave Peter hope. Even when our faith is weak, we can still hold on to hope.

When Peter was walking on the water and took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink, Jesus immediately reached down and lifted him back up. When Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus gave Him three opportunities to repent and turn back towards his purpose. We are never out of reach. We are never too far gone. We are never outside the grasp of God’s grace.

An Expected End

The King James Version of Jeremiah 29:11 in it’s entirety says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord. Thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” The “expected end” is what translates as “hope and future” in other versions. God’s promise is to be expected. We can rest in the assurance that what He has promised will come to pass. To expect from God is to hope in God. Psalm 62:5 (NIV) says, “Yes, my soul, finds rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” But that’s just it… we must remember that our hope and expectation comes from God. No one else.

I heard a quote once that said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache” and my immediate response upon hearing this was to agree. We expect things to turn out a certain way, and they never do. We expect people to act a certain way, and they never do. Expectations always tend to end up letting us down and leave us feeling disappointed. There’s another quote that says, “What messes us up the most in life, is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be.” It’s so true. But the more I reflected on this idea of expectation being the root of all heartache, the more I realized, it’s not our expectations that lead to heartache – it’s who we’re expecting them from.

If we put our expectation in man, we will almost always end up heartbroken and disappointed. Mankind is flawed. We are sinful people. We can strive to live up to the expectations people set for us, but we will almost always fall short. We can make promises, and we can genuinely desire to change our ways and live up to the promises we make – but we are imperfect people. We will let ourselves down at times, and we will let those we love down at other times. Expectation will lead to heartache if we expect our plans of a “hope and a future” to come from anyone other than Jesus Christ. When we put our hope and trust in the Lord, and in the promises He has made for us, then we will never be heartbroken or disappointed. God cannot and will not fail us. God is love (1 John 4:8) and Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). Jesus is Truth (John 14:6) and He cannot lie to us. We have seen God’s goodness at work in our lives. We have heard His Word proclaimed, and we have felt the power of His presence. We know He is Love and cannot fail us, therefore we can trust Him. Ephesians 3:20 (KJV) assures us that He is able to exceeding abundantly above all we could ever ask or think. God has promised to prosper us, and not to harm us. He has promised to give us a hope and a future. We can rest assured that His promise will come to pass. He has been faithful before, and He will be faithful forevermore. In the changing seasons of our lives, we need to learn to patiently wait and eagerly anticipate the fulfillment of God’s promises. In the seasons of waiting, we need to learn to hold firmly to the hope that anchors our souls. Our hope comes only from God. Our expectation is only in Him.

The Power of our Thoughts

It’s hard to hold on to hope in a wilderness season that seems to never end. It’s hard to hold on to hope in a waiting season that’s promise seems like it may never come to pass. It’s hard to hold on to hope when everything around us is telling us to give up, to give in, to surrender, and to cripple under the weight of doubt, fear, and insecurity. I heard a message from Steven Furtick once where he said, “Hope is not a feeling, it’s a focus.” We won’t always feel hopeful, but we can focus our thoughts on hopeful things.

I never realized the power of our thoughts until one year when my church took part in a “fast from negative thinking.” This fast was based on the idea that change takes place from the inside out. It was based on the idea that we change the way we feel and the way we act when we change the way we think. Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man thinks, so he is. That is why I find the King James Version of Jeremiah 29:11 so interesting. It says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you” rather than “For I know the plans I have for you.” In the same way our thoughts determine our actions, so God’s thoughts determine HIs actions – but God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s ways are higher than anything we could ever ask, think, or imagine. What we think is best is not always what God knows is best. God is our creator. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need, and when we need it. He knows what it will take to make us who He needs us to be, and what it will take to get us where He needs us to go. Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Our thoughts and plans are sinful and self-centered at worst, and short-sighted at best. We will never be able to fully understand the vastness and depth of the thoughts God thinks towards us, not on this side of eternity anyway, but we can try.

I find it interesting that thoughts and plans are used synonymously between the different translations in this verse – our thoughts become our actions. That’s why it’s so important for us to set our minds on things above. Satan desperately wants to control our minds. That’s why he plants seeds of doubt, lies, and negativity. That’s why social media is such a powerful tool, because he uses it to influence our way of thinking. The algorithms are designed to keep our attention, to keep us distracted, to keep our mind off the things above. They are designed to predict our behavior, to know what we look at, what we’re drawn to, what captures and holds our attention, what keeps us distracted, and what keeps us divided.

The mind is a battlefield. It is is where Satan operates and does his greatest amount of damage. He tries to use our thoughts to defeat us and make us doubt the hope that awaits us when we surrender to God’s plan for us – but his best efforts fall short when we make the conscious decision to take our thoughts captive and set them on things above. The sinfulness of our flesh begins as a mindset, as a way of thinking. Satan does not have power over us, but when we listen to his lies and allow him to influence the way we think, then we are giving him control. When we give him control over our thoughts, then we are giving him power to steal our joy and rob us of what God has promised to us. We need to learn to take our thoughts captive and replace the lies of the enemy with the truth of God’s Word. When we do this, then we replace our fears and doubts with faith and trust. When we do this, we replace our insecurities and discouragement with hope and joy. We replace our anger and bitterness with peace and forgiveness. We cannot change our thought patterns nor break down mental strongholds by our own power, but only through the power of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit at work within us. When we begin to surrender our thoughts, and yield ourselves to the thoughts of God, then we will begin to see a change take place from the inside out.

“For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory. It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and He has identified us as His own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything He has promised to us.”

– 2 Corinthians 1:20-22

Changing Seasons

“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
– Isaiah 43:18-19

We are in the midst of a changing season – literally. Spring is in the air, We can see it, and we can feel it. The warmer weather is here, and the flowers are blossoming. There is brightness, color, and beauty all around us. And I must admit, I’m usually more of a colder weather person. I usually prefer the crispness of fall – the bonfires and falling leaves, the warm sweaters, and curling up under a cozy blanket on a chilly day – but this year I have a greater appreciation for Spring.

I usually love the freshly fallen snow of winter, but this year we didn’t get any snow where I live. Instead, we watched from afar as Texas was hit with an unexpected snowstorm that left so many without food, water, heat, and electricity. Homes were destroyed, businesses were destroyed, and lives were lost. This year, we saw how destructive something so beautiful can be. Sometimes it takes the bitter coldness of a long winter for us to appreciate what a beautiful gift it is to be able to transition into a new season, a warmer season, a more fruitful season.

2020 was the year none of us saw coming, the season none of us were prepared for. This time last year, we could never have expected what was coming next. This time last year, many of us were going about with our regular lives. We could never have imagined that within a few short days, our whole lives would be completely flipped upside down.

At the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, I remember seeing a post on Facebook that talked about the word quarantine and how it comes from the Latin word for “forty” which is such a symbolic number in Scripture. Forty is the number of days the flood lasted, the number of years the Israelite’s wandered in the wilderness, the number of days Moses stayed on Mt. Sinai, the number of days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. The number 40 represents change. It represents a time of preparation.

20 + 20 = 40. The year of quarantine. The year of change. The year of preparation.

I fully believe 2020 was a collective wilderness season. I fully believe God has been preparing us, now more than ever before, for His return. I believe, now more than ever before, that the Kingdom of God is at hand. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 2020 was a census year in the United States, and Jesus was born during a census. Jesus was born to save us from the cyclical nature of our sins. God destroyed the earth once by flood because of the sinfulness of His people, and He promised to never do it again (Genesis 9:11). Scripture says the next time would be by fire (2 Peter 3:10-15). The year 2020 started out with wildfires in Australia, and ended with wildfires across the west coast of the United States. The end is near. The time is now. There is an urgency for us to live with boldness and intention in following the ways of Jesus.

The word for “destroy” in 2 Peter 3:10 means “to loosen one bound, to unbind, to release, to set free.” I’m not one to usual study Biblical prophecy, but I interpret this to mean that God has been withholding his judgement, and there will come a time when His judgement is “unloosed.”  God has been so very patient with us. That’s what seasons teach us – they teach us patience. There is a song from Hillsong called Seasons and the lyrics are, “Oh how nature acquaints us with the nature of patience. Like a seed in the soil, I’ve been buried to grow. For your promise is loyal from seed to sequoia… I can see the promise. I can see the future. You’re the God of seasons, and I’m just in the winter. If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience, then if you’re not done working, God I’m not done waiting.”

The song goes on to talk about how God could have saved us in a second, but instead he sent a son. He sent a baby in a manger – a baby who had to learn and grow through the same seasons of life that we do. He had to depend on the very hands He created to carry and raise him. That’s humility. That’s patience. That’s love. He gives us time. He gives us grace. He withholds His judgement until the time is right (Ezekiel 20:21-26).

Early in 2020 I had started studying about sabbath and rest. I was listening to sermons that had been preached and reading books that had been written that I now believe were prophetic of the moment we were about to enter into. God commands us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). The Sabbath is one day each week where we stop working and honor the day God rested. We rest, reflect, and prepare our hearts for the week ahead. But did you know that in Scripture, God also required a Sabbath for the land as well? Every seven years the land should also take a rest (Leviticus 25:4). I recently heard Pastor John Mark Comer of Bridgetown Church talk about “fallow seasons” which are defined as: “usually cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season.” During this season, the land is tilled up, but nothing is sown. You plow the ground and break it up, but you don’t plant any seeds. Doesn’t it feel like that’s what we’ve been living through this past year? It feels like there’s been a lot of plowing and brokenness, but not a lot of growth or harvest. So what is the purpose of a fallow season? Fallow seasons are intended to give the land a break and allow for a time of rest. The purpose is for weeds to be destroyed and soil moisture to be conserved.

When the quarantine started and people were staying at home, no longer on the go and traveling, no longer commuting and polluting – rivers started cleaning up, vegetation started growing, and the air started becoming cleaner. That’s the power of stopping, resting, and practicing sabbath. Division in our country has been at an all-time high – but there have been hard conversations taking place about important topics where change is desperately needed. The church had to learn what it meant to be the church outside of the church doors. Families have been spending more time together. We’ve realized the importance of human connection. In a sense, distance has made our hearts grow fonder. Being indoors has given us a greater appreciation of the outdoors, and being constantly on our screens has made us more appreciative of face -to-face interaction. During this season, we have seen darkness and evil exposed, but we have also seen the goodness and creativity of humanity highlighted. There are lessons to be learned in every season we endure.

From the beginning of time, God has created the world to operate in a rhythm of seasons.

In Genesis 1:4 God spoke and said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years.” Then in Genesis 8:22 Scripture says, “As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” In Psalm 74:17, the Psalmist wrote, “You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter” and Psalm 104:19 says, “You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set.”

There are many different ways to define the word “season” – It is most commonly defined as the four different divisions of the year: spring, summer, fall, and winter. This definition of a season is “marked by particular weather patterns and daylight hours, resulting from the earth’s changing position with regard to the sun” (Oxford Dictionary). In other contexts, the word “season” can be defined as adding more flavor or zest to your food. It can also be “to treat something (such as wood or a skillet) to prepare for use, to fit by experience” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

In every definition, the common denominator is TIME.

Each season of the year lasts a certain amount of time. Each season has a beginning and an end, though there may be some overlap as they transition from one season to the next.

When we season our food, we have to let it sit and marinate and give it time to simmer. You season a cast iron pan by putting it to use – time and time again. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Matthew 5:13 says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

A person who is “well-seasoned” has lived and put forth a lot of time and effort to gain the wisdom and experience they have.

If something is described as being “in-season” that means it is at just the right time to be picked, eaten, or hunted.

There is a time for ALL things.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

There is a time for ALL things – and Romans 8:28 tells us all things work together for good. Spring brings new beauty, growth, and color – but it also brings those dreary April showers. Summer brings warmth and sunshine – but it also brings intense heat and severe thunderstorms. Fall brings coolness and color – but it also brings the “falling away” of the beautiful leaves. Winter brings rest and peace – but it also brings a bitter coldness and a sense of confinement.

What seasons have you gone through in your life?

Have you gone through pruning seasons where it feels like your life is being pruned back and what once was good is being cut away? It’s in these seasons where we may experience grief and loss, depression and anxiety, loneliness and addiction, pain and suffering.

Have you gone through fallow seasons where it feels like the ground is being tilled up but nothing is being planted, or maybe the seed has been planted, but nothing is coming to fruition? These may be the seasons of singleness, infertility, homelessness, or unemployment – seasons of waiting and hoping for a promise that has yet to come.

What about harvest seasons when God provided the answer to your prayers and fulfilled a long-awaited promise in your life? These are the seasons of fullness and joy, fruitfulness and blessing – but this season does not come without hard work, long days, discomfort, and growing pains.

What lessons did you learn in each of these seasons? How was your heart shaped more into the image of Jesus?

Because we know that Jesus endured seasons of change in His life too.

Jesus had a hidden season where He undoubtedly encountered many of the same struggles we do growing up, though his childhood and adolescent years remain largely hidden from scripture.

Jesus had a season of active ministry where he traveled with his close friends, eating bread and drinking wine, teaching to large crowds, performing miracles, and sleeping on boats. He celebrated at weddings, and grieved the loss of loved ones.

Jesus also had a season to die. He knew suffering. He knew pain. He knew betrayal. He knew heartache. He knew death.

“Change is the only constant in life” – Heraclitus

We are always in transition. We are always moving from one season to the next.

Think about the various seasons of life and how they transition into one another…

  • Labor and Delivery is the transition from the safety and security of the mother’s womb to life in the outside world.
  • Newborn to Toddler involves the transition from drinking milk to eating solid foods. During this season a baby transitions from sleeping in a bedside bassinet, to a crib, to a toddler bed. During this season, they transition from being carried, to learning to crawl and walk. During this season they transition from crying to talking, and from diaper changes to potty-training.
  • Toddler to Childhood involves the transition from home or daycare to school. This is the season where they learn to read and write. This is the season where they discover what hobbies they enjoy, and learn how to make friends.
  • Child to Teenager is a transition period with more responsibilities, and more independence. This is the season of learning to drive, getting that first job, and going on that first date.
  • Teenager to Adult is the transition from high school to going to college or starting a career. This season involves moving out on own, making your first major purchases, and learning to be financially independent.
  • Young Adult to Middle Aged is typically the transition into a season of marriage and family, homeownership, and a more established career.
  • Middle Aged to Senior Adult is typically the transition from work to retirement, from a busy home to an empty nest, and from an empty nest to becoming a grandparent and starting new traditions with a new generation.

Throughout these various seasons of life, we experience other transitions as well. Maybe we transition from singleness to marriage, or from marriage to divorce. Maybe we transition from perfect health, to chronic pain or sickness. Maybe we move to a new place, start a new career, or begin a new relationship. Maybe we lose friends, or make new friends. Maybe go to a new church, start a new hobby, or learn a new skill. Maybe we experience changes in our political views, religious views, or general worldviews. No matter what transition we go through – change is scary. Change is unpredictable, and we often feel unprepared and ill-equipped for what is coming next.

Why are we so resistant to change?

We resist change for one of two reasons: a lack of comfort, or a lack of control.

When we are used to things as they have always been, we find comfort in what is familiar and predictable to us. Change becomes an unwelcome and dangerous enemy who threatens what feels safe and secure to us – so we resist it and run from it, or fight against it.

Unfamiliar situations bring fear and anxiety, because we feel unprepared and unqualified to face them. We embrace the familiar because we feel a sense of control over the outcome. We feel more equipped the face the battles we’ve been through before. We feel more in control of the waters we’ve navigated before. We trust in our own understanding based on our own abilities and our own experiences. We’re afraid to let go – afraid to lose control, afraid of becoming uncomfortable.

But there is so much more to be discovered outside the borders of our comfort zones. There is so much more of the world to see when we can trust the pilot to fly the plane, or the captain to navigate the ship. Our vision is limited to what is here and now, but God sees the full picture from beginning to end, and He wants to take us on a journey that only He can see. We have to reach out and grab hold of His plan for us when all hope seems lost. We have to step out of the boat and onto the waters when all logic seams gone. We have to trust Him with each step we take, and believe that He will not lead us astray.

If we want to embrace change, we have to put forth the time and effort.

Proverbs 20:4 says, “Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest” and Proverbs 10:5 says “A wise youth harvests in the summer, but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace.”

We have to embrace the process of change for the purpose of growth.

Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

We can’t give up. We must press on. We must endure.

So how do we endure through changing seasons?

We endure by abiding in Christ. We endure by putting down roots and establishing a strong and secure foundation on which to build our faith.

Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”

Through every season, we can hold tight to the truth and promise that God’s love will always remain. His love will hold us secure. His love will be the foundation, the roots, that keep us planted firmly enough to endure the changing seasons.

There are lessons to be learned in every season.

We can curse 2020 and make all the jokes about the dumpster fire of a year that it was (I’m guilty!) – or we can rejoice that the world is waking up and change is happening. We can rejoice in this day that the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24). We can laugh without fear of the future (Proverbs 31:25) because we’ve fully trusted the future into God’s hands and know that He changes the times and seasons (Daniel 2:21). We can redeem the time and make the most of this opportunity we’ve been given (Ephesians 5:16). Wherever you are at in life right now, whatever season you are in – God can use you. God is using you. God has a purpose and He will bring you through this season. He will create something new. He will make rivers in the wasteland.

“Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

– 2 Timothy 4:2-5 (ESV)

Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Enemy

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But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.'”

– Matthew 16:23

In warfare, the key to winning the battle is understanding the enemy. Military strategists spend a significant amount of time researching the enemy in an effort to understand how they operate. What are their skills? What techniques do they use? Where do they like to hide? What motivates them? What are their weaknesses? You want to learn to think like them so you can anticipate their next move. You want to beat them to it. You want to be ready when the attack comes. You want to be prepared for anything they may bring against you.

The same is true in spiritual warfare.

So who is our enemy?

The easy answer is Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness – and we’ll get to him, but less obvious answer is ourselves. We are often our own worst enemy. I once heard Pastor Steven Furtick say, “The enemy is the inner me.” If spiritual battles takes place most often in our minds, then we have to learn how our minds think. If spiritual battles are the flesh verses the spirit, then we have to learn where our flesh is weak. We have to learn to strengthen our areas of weakness, and we have to learn to build on our areas of strength. We have to learn where we are most prone to attack, and where we are most prone to be attacked.

We need to ask ourselves, how do I pose the biggest threat to Satan? Because whatever that threat is – that’s what Satan will seek to destroy.

We need to ask ourselves, where is my flesh weak? Because wherever that weakness is – that’s where the Satan will aim his weapon of attack.

Think about competitive sports. Athletes and coaches will often prepare for a game by watching, studying, and analyzing videos of past games. They’ll watch their opponent to understand how they play the game, what strengths they rely on, and what techniques they use. But they’ll also watch themselves. They’ll learn from their mistakes. They’ll see where they went wrong. They’ll see where they left themselves open to attack. They’ll see where they made a wrong step or turned a wrong way. They don’t focus on the mistakes to dwell on the mistakes and tear themselves down, but they focus on the mistakes to make improvements and better themselves for the sake of the team.

Obviously we can’t watch our lives on a highlight reel. We can’t rewind, press pause, and zoom in on certain areas of our lives. We can’t always see our mistakes right in front of our eyes – but with prayer, and reflection, we can ask God to reveal it to us. With repentance comes self-awareness and transformation.

We can mentally destroy ourselves from the inside out by the lies we tell ourselves – or we can be transformed from the inside out by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). A strong and secure inner self, completely dependent on the strength and security of Christ, is fully capable of defeating Satan in his many methods of attack.

In Priscilla Shirer’s Bible Study The Armor of God she talks about the importance of “undisguising” our enemy. She says we tend to make one of two mistakes in our beliefs about Satan, we either 1) overestimate his impact on our lives and live in a constant state of fear and anxiety or we 2) underestimate his impact on our lives and don’t take seriously the spiritual battle that we can’t physically see with our eyes. When it comes to understanding the enemy, there’s a lot we can learn from the many names he is given throughout scripture. As Priscilla Shirer writes, “The names of the enemy reveal his character, intention, and activity.”

He is described as Satan, meaning he is our adversary (Job 1:6).

He is described as Devil, meaning he is slanderous.

Ephesians 4:25-27 says, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

He is described as Lucifer, meaning “day star” or “shining one.”

This name is perhaps the most telling. We often are blindsided by his attacks, because we’re looking for a red robe and horns – but Satan comes to us in light. We are drawn to his lures because it is attractive and appealing. Luke 10:18 describes his fall as resembling lighting – the light is beautiful, but the power is destructive.

Isaiah 14:12-14 says, “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! ‘But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'”

His fall came as our own fall came – with a desire to be like God. His pride was his downfall – and he tempts us to fall in the same way as he fell, the same way he tempted Jesus to fall.

He is described as a Tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5), and an Accuser (Revelation 12:10).

Matthew 4:1-3 says, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'”

His tricks have not changed. In the Garden he tempted Eve by asking “Did God really say…” and with Jesus He asked, “If you really are…” He plants seeds of doubts with his questions. He promises the only power he has to give, the power of this present world.

He is described as a Ruler of the World (John 12:31), a Prince of the Power of Darkness (Ephesians 2:2), and a Father of Lies (John 8:44).

He is deceptive, and manipulative. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Now that we have a better understanding of who he is, the next question we need to ask is how does he operate?

In The Armor of God, Priscilla Shirer lists 10 different strategies Satan tends to use against us:

  1. Our Passion
  2. Our Focus
  3. Our Identity
  4. Our Family
  5. Our Confidence
  6. Our Calling
  7. Our Purity
  8. Our Contentment
  9. Our Heart
  10. Our Relationships

These are the areas of our lives where we need to hold steady that shield of faith. We need to protect ourselves. These are the areas of our lives that God uses for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom. Therefore, these are the areas of our lives where we pose the greatest threat to Satan. We need to infuse the Word of God into every of aspect of our lives, so that Satan can gain no foothold. If Satan is attacking you, it’s because you’re doing something right. Satan knows he is powerless. He knows he’s been defeated.

Priscilla Shirer writes, “Satan knows that he cannot destroy you. Too late for that. The best he can do (and he intends to make full use of it) is to make your time on earth futile and unproductive, to suffocate you with sin, insecurity, fear, and discouragement until you are unable to live freely and fully. He can’t ‘unseat’ you, but he can intimidate you and render you ineffective and paralyzed.”

When we live fully in our calling, when we walk in the ways of Jesus, and give Him glory in all that we do – then we remind Satan of his rightful place, and it makes him angry. It reminds him that He lost the victory at the cross. He reminds Him that Jesus has defeated death, hell, and the grave – and is seated at the right hand of God.

As Priscilla Shirer writes, it reminds him that he has been disarmed (Colossians 2:15), overruled (Ephesians 1:20-22), mastered (Philippians 2:9-11), rendered powerless (Hebrews 2:14), and all his works destroyed (1 John 3:8).

We have the victory, so let’s live in the victory. Let’s operate from a mindset of victory. Let’s battle as if God is fighting for us and the victory has already been won.

 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

– Romans 16:20

Spiritual Warfare: A Battle of the Mind


For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

– Ephesians 6:12

Our thoughts hold immense power. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks, so he is.” Our thoughts contain all our decisions (good and bad), all our habits (good and bad), all our fears (good and bad), all our personality traits (good and bad). They hold all of our hopes and dreams, all of our anxiety and insecurity. Our thoughts contain everything we think about God, everything we think about other people, and everything we think about ourselves. Shame starts in the mind. When we’re worried about what other people will think about us – that starts with a thought. Stress starts in the mind. If we’re worried about the future – it’s because we’re thinking about all the things that could go wrong. The way we think about a situation can be what motivates us and pushes us forward with confidence, or what paralyzes us and holds us back in fear. In times of spiritual warfare, we need to be in control of our thoughts. It is essential to our survival.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”

– 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

Sin starts in the mind. We have to take our thoughts captive before they become actions. In Genesis, Eve first saw that the fruit was “good for food, and that it was a delight to eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise” (Genesis 2:6). She had already thought of three justifications for sinning before she ever reached out and touched the fruit. When she took it, she ate it. When she ate it, she gave it to her husband, and he ate it too. It created a ripple effect as all sin does. Satan tempted her. Satan asked the question, and planted the seed of doubt, but Eve reasoned within herself and she acted upon her reasoning.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 tells us we walk in the flesh, but we war in the Spirit. Walking in the flesh is easy – it’s comfortable, and it comes naturally to us. But war is not easy – it requires preparation and training; it requires a willingness to sacrifice. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. According to Ephesians 6, the only offensive weapon we have in our Spiritual Armor is the Sword of the Spirit. This weapon is capable of destroying fortresses. A fortress is defined as “a castle, a stronghold, anything on which one relies” (Thayers Definition). Our sins become strongholds when we start to rely on them. They start to rule over us. They become kings and queens in the castles of our mind – and they must be overthrown. They must be replaced with the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace. Only the Spirit is capable of destroying such strongholds. When we wage war against strongholds with the Spirit fighting for us, we advance into enemy territory. We take the castle captive. We win the victory. We replace those sinful thoughts of the flesh with thoughts of the Spirit. In the Spirit, we find strength for the fight. Matthew 26:41 tells us the flesh is weak, but the Spirit is willing. Romans 8:5-6 says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

– Colossians 3:2

We are living in a time of information overload. We have encyclopedias of knowledge at the end of our fingertips. We can google search and find the answer to just about any question we have. We can find opinions on topics ranging from every end of the spectrum. No matter where you stand on a subject, the odds are you can find someone who adamantly agrees and another who adamantly disagrees. Social media is often where Satan does his best work nowadays. From pop culture to political commentaries – there is always something in the headlines causing division. From Instagram influencers to Facebook’s advertising algorithms – there is always something trying to sway our thoughts and opinions. Technology is being designed to get into our minds and anticipate our behaviors, our needs, and our desires. They try to sway us to vote us a certain way, to spend our money a certain way, to look a certain way, to act a certain way, to believe a certain way. If we don’t have control of our thoughts, we can be swayed in any way the wind blows. We have to be firmly planted in the Word of God. We have to focus our thoughts and set our minds on things above.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

– Romans 12:2

Changing our behavior doesn’t change the source of our problems. We have to renew our minds. We have to get to the root of the issue. If we don’t pull up a weed from it’s root, then it will just grow right back in a matter of time. If we don’t learn to think differently, nothing will ever change. Those strongholds will start to rise up again. Repentance is more than just asking God to forgive us of our sinfulness, it is actively turning away from our sins. To turn away from our sins, we often have to turn away from the things that cause us to sin. The people who tempt us. The situations that entangle us. Our thoughts become actions. Our actions become our habits. Our habits become our behaviors. When we start thinking about God’s truth, we start believing God’s truth, and eventually we start living in accordance to God’s truth. We can’t just accept something to be true because it’s what we’ve always heard. We have to study to show ourselves approved. We have to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). We have to take in the truth, reflect on it, think about it, apply it, and let it transform us from the inside out.

1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have the mind of Christ. We need to put Him in His rightful place of power and authority. We need to let His truth rule our thoughts. We need to put Him in control, and let Him fight for us. We need to trust Him. He has already won the victory. It’s ours to claim.

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.”

– Isaiah 26:3

Spiritual Warfare: Equipped for Battle


“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,”

– Ephesians 6:10-17

The battle we are fighting is not a battle of the physical, but of the spiritual. It is not an earthly battle, but an eternal battle. It is a battle for our hearts, minds, and souls. It is a battle of our flesh verses our spirit. We are facing an unseen enemy – so we have to put our trust in our unseen God. We have to surrender to His power, His authority, and His control. We have to equip ourselves fully with the armor of God. We have to come to God in prayer – asking Him to make us strong, asking Him to help us stand firm, asking Him to equip us with the tools of the trade. Our calling is high. Our mission is clear. And we can do nothing apart from Him.

Every morning when our feet hit the ground, we are entering a battlefield. The enemy is ready and waiting to devour us – so let us hit our knees in prayer and prepare ourselves with spiritual armor. Let us prepare for battle.

Loins Girded with Truth

In spiritual warfare, our enemy is a liar and a deceiver. John 8:44 says, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” When we understand this key aspect of our enemy, we understand why the first step in preparing our spiritual armor to fight against him is to “gird your loins with truth.” What does it mean to gird your loins? I’ve often seen this image to describe what it would look like in ancient times:


In this sense, the truth keeps us from tripping over our own feet. Is that not what happens we listen to and believe the lies of the enemy? Girding our loins gives us freedom to fully step into the truth of who we are in Christ. Where the lies of the enemy try to box us in and minimize our calling, the truth of God expands our stride and gives us the flexibility we need to progress into enemy territory and receive the victory that has already been won for us.

In more modern times, “girding your loins” is described more like a belt. In warfare, the belt can help provide protection for many of the vital organs in the lower part of the body. The belt is also important because holds the rest of our spiritual armor in place. It gives us a place to safely hold our sword of the spirit, so we can quickly access it when we need it. The belt of truth literally holds our pants up – keeping our vulnerabilities from being exposed to the enemy, keeping us from the shameful nakedness of our sin. The truth is that God is love (1 John 4:8) and love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). The truth is that His blood cleanses us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7) and He has nailed our sins to the cross once and for all (Colossians 2:14).

To gird our loins with truth is to wrap truth around us. God is truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:16). We can’t come to the Father except through Him, we can’t overcome the enemy except through Him, and we can’t win the victory over the spiritual forces of evil in this world except through Him. We can’t just gird our loins with truth, we have to gird our loins with The Truth.

The Breastplate of Righteousness

The breastplate of righteousness protects the most vital of organs – the heart and the lungs. Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) tells us to guard our heart “above all else” because everything we do flows from it. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” We hide the word of God in our hearts so that we don’t sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). Our breastplate is made of righteousness. I’ve often heard righteousness described as “right living.” God’s standard of living is intended to keep our hearts pure. In Psalm 24:4-5, David wrote, “Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior.” 

The heart is what keeps the blood pumping throughout our body. The blood is what keeps us alive, and gives us new life. Our lungs give us the ability to inhale and exhale. God breathed the breath of life into us, and it is His Spirit that keeps us alive. Righteousness hides His words in our heart. If ever we let our shield of faith fall short, our breastplate of righteousness is there to protect the weakness of our flesh from the fiery arrows of the enemy.

Feet Shod with Preparation of Gospel of Peace

The Gospel is good news. The Gospel brings peace. Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer to anyone that asks us about the hope we have as believers. We have to be prepared. We have to be ready to share the good news. The Gospel is good news for all people (Luke 2:10) and Jesus commissions us to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Having our feet shod with the Gospel of peace prepares us for that journey. It protects the soles of our feet from the rocky terrain we may encounter along the way.

When I think about the relationship between feet and the Gospel, I think about the story of Jesus kneeling to wash the feet of his disciples during the last supper on the night He was arrested. He was preparing them for the journey ahead. He knew the warfare they would be coming up against. John 13:4 -5 says, “He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” When Jesus wrapped that towel around His waist, He was girding His loins. He was preparing for His own spiritual warfare. He knew He would be betrayed. He knew He would be denied. He knew He would be killed for their sins, and for our sins. But He still humbled Himself. He still served. He still sacrificed. When He had finished washing their feet, He said to them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” He washed their feet and sent them out to the battleground to be messengers of the Good News.

The Shield of Faith

When we are covered head to foot in spiritual armor, the shield of faith provides an extra layer of protection. To use a shield in warfare requires faith. We hold the shield out in front of us with confidence that the fiery arrows coming against us will hit against it and fall to the ground. We trust the shield to take the hits for us. We trust the shield to withstand the impact for us.

In battle, we try to anticipate where our next attack will be coming from. The benefit of the shield is we can move it from one area to another. We move the shield of faith to the areas where we need coverage the most. We need that extra layer of protection in the areas where we feel the weakest. We need a shield of faith in the areas where our doubt is the most present. Satan will take advantage of any inch, any opening, where He could sneak in and cause us to doubt. We have to keep ourselves covered by continuing to trust in God to be our defense against those fiery arrows.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). The greatest strategy of our spiritual warfare, is that we are trusting in a commander with a different perspective than our own. Our God is seated on high. We don’t know when or where Satan may choose to attack. Our vision is limited – but when we put our trust in God then He provides clear instruction to us. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” We hear His Word, we trust His Word, and we move in accordance to His Word. We put our faith into action, and we watch what He does through our obedience. We watch His faithfulness unfold morning after morning.

The Helmet of Salvation

The helmet of salvation protects our head, our brain – the seat of all our wisdom, thought, knowledge, and understanding. This is a vital piece of armor. We learn through the story of David and Goliath that one single blow to the head can send even the most intimidating of giant warriors crashing to the ground. Salvation guards our thoughts. Romans 10:17 tells us faith comes through hearing the Word of God. We believe with our heart, but Romans 10:9-10 tells us it is made into salvation with a mouth confession. We use our minds to process what we hear, and to formulate what we speak. 2 Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have the mind of Christ. The battle we are fighting is a battle of the mind, and a battle for the mind. If Satan can influence our thoughts, he can influence our actions. That’s why Colossians 3:2 tells us to set our minds on things above and 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

The Sword of the Spirit

As we equip ourselves for battle, the only offensive weapon we’re instructed to carry is a sword – the sword of the Spirit. We are equipped with the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Truth. Righteousness. The Gospel of Peace. Faith. Salvation. These are all aspects of our spiritual warfare that we find in the Word of God. His Spirit unites them all. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” In the NIV, this verse says “all scripture is God-breathed.” That’s what the Spirit does – He breaths and brings life.

When we carry such a powerful weapon into the battlefield, we have to be careful not to abuse that power. We are quick to draw the sword, and we’re often tempted to use it in a way that causes more harm than good. Do you remember what happened on the night Jesus was arrested? When the disciples saw that Jesus had been betrayed, they asked, “Lord shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49) but they didn’t wait for His response. Scripture says Peter drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus responded saying, “‘Stop! No more of this.’ And He touched his ear and healed him” (Luke 22:50). 

Jesus doesn’t need us to defend Him. He is more than capable of defending Himself. He is the one defending us. He is the one fighting for us. When we ask for His guidance, we need to wait and listen for His response. When He instructs us to move, we move. When He instructs us to stay, we stay. That’s why prayer is such an important part of our spiritual warfare – prayer is how we communicate with Him. Prayer is how we open our ears, open our minds, and open our hearts. Prayer is how we tune in to His still small voice. Prayer is how we receive our commands to advance, and our commands to withdraw. Prayer is the guiding force of our spiritual warfare. We need only be strong, stand still, and resist the enemy. Our God is fighting for us.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

– Exodus 14:14 NIV

The Fruit of Self-Control


“Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.”

– Proverbs 25:28

Self-control is defined by Thayer’s Biblical Dictionary as “the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions.” Scripture says in 2 Peter 2:19 that people are slaves to whatever masters them. We are enslaved by our sin, but Romans 6:6-7 says, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” Paul goes on to say in verses 12-14, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

We cultivate self-control by dying to our sin.

Because of Jesus, we have power over sin. When we follow the example of Jesus, we see how He resisted the temptation of sin. He prayed, and He fasted. He overcame every lie of the enemy with a truth from the word of God. His resistance was rooted in a knowledge of God’s Word. His resistance was rooted in an understanding of who God was and what God desired for Him. He looked beyond His temporary situation and ahead to an eternal purpose. He was driven by His love for the Father and His love for us. He came not be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45). By living a sinless life and dying a blameless death, He did what we were powerless to do. When He heals us, He does so without judgement and condemnation, but He tells us to go and sin no more. He tells us to take up our cross and follow Him. We have to die to ourselves daily. We have to surrender ourselves daily to His all-sufficient sacrifice. And when we fall, as we inevitably will, He picks us up and dusts us off with love and compassion because He is a God of second chances and unending grace and mercy.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

– Titus 2:11-12 NIV

Our sinfulness is defined by unrestrained passions and desires, unhealthy cravings and addictions. Our sinfulness runs rampant when we surrender ourselves to the desires of our flesh rather than the desires of our spirit. In Galatians 5:16-17, Paul writes, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” He goes on to say in Galatians 5:24-25, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

We cultivate self-control by walking in the Spirit. 

When we bear the fruit of self-control, we are focused and disciplined; our eyes are fixed on the things above, and we are practicing spiritual disciplines as if they are exercises for our soul. When we do not bear the fruit of self-control, we are wandering around aimlessly; we’re easily distracted and thrown off course. In 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, Paul writes, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

When we practice self-control, it’s important for us to be clear on what is the source of our motivation. I’ve heard it said that self-control cannot be practiced by ourselves or for the sake of ourselves. It’s important for us to remember that self-control is not dependent on our own power and ability, but on God’s power working through us. We must surrender ourselves to the work of the Spirit and be completely dependent on Him. If we make our ability to resist sinfulness and be spiritually disciplined something that is done our own willpower, then we negate the power of God working through us. This way of thinking takes the focus off of God and places it onto ourselves. This way of thinking invites in pride and idolatry. When we practice self-control, we have to be careful to avoid falling in to the trap of self-righteousness. For example, fasting is often used as a discipline to break chains of addiction and set our focus on things above. However, as Phillip Kenneson writes, “Fasting that is undertaken as a form of self-mastery can easily reinforce the self-centeredness that often fosters addictions in the first place.” We must be clear on what is the driving force of our motivation. We practice self-control not for ourselves or by ourselves, but for the Spirit and by the Spirit.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

– 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

If we think we must practice self-control all on our own, then the mountain seems impossible to climb. We must remember that we are not alone in this journey. God is with us. God is working through us and fighting for us. We need our Father to guide us in the way we should go and discipline us when we go astray, but we also need our brothers and sisters in Christ to hold us accountable and keep us encouraged as we battle against the sins that so easily entangle us (Hebrews 12:1). God has given us a spirit of self-control. The word for “self-control” in 2 Timothy 1:7 can also be translated as “self-discipline” or “a sound mind.” God knows what we need because He has been where we are, and He is with us now. He gives us what we need, and He gives us who we need. He empowers us to do what we need to do. He can relate to our struggles with sin because He was tempted in all the ways we are tempted, but sinned not (Hebrews 4:15).

We cultivate self-control by controlling our thoughts.

The battle of sin is a battle of the mind. It starts with our thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. We are waging war daily against our sinful nature and the desires of our flesh. In Romans 7:18-20 Paul writes, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”

1 Peter 1:13-16 says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”

Our emotions. The way we feel about certain situations. The way we respond to other people when they hurt us or make us angry. The way we react when we’re under stress. The words we speak. The things we do. The way we plan and organize our day. The way we spend our time and our money. The way we maintain our health and well-being. These things all originate in our thoughts, and they all impact how we cultivate the fruit of self-control.

Self-control leads to confidence, calm assurance, and trust. The more we listen to and believe the words of truth God has spoken to us and over us, the better we feel about ourselves and the better decisions we make. The more confidence and trust we have in God, the more willing we are to take risks and step out in obedience to what He is calling us to do. When we trust His will above our own will, our fear and anxiety will yield to boldness and confidence in who He is and what He is able to do.

Self-control is also closely related to the fruit of patience. Practicing restraint takes patience. We have to process our thoughts through the lens of Christ rather than act on the impulse of our desires. Self-control means thinking before we speak, and thinking before we act. Scripture tells us in Matthew 15:11 that it’s not what goes in that defiles us, but what comes out. Everything that we fill our mind with must be processed through our heart and through our Spirit. Without that filtration system, our sinfulness will surely come forth through our words and our actions. Cultivating the fruit of self-control means maintaining that internal filtration system and keeping it in check through our prayer, fasting, and spiritual discipline.

Let us pray….

Spiritual Warfare Prayer for Self-Control and Self-Discipline

Written By: Geevetha Mary Samuel

“Almighty Father, in this world filled with goodness, evil, pleasure, leisure, lust and temptations, my desire is to have the fruit of Your Spirit evident in my daily life. Grant me Father I pray, a spirit of self control. May I face all issues of life with calmness and control, from self and over-indulgence.

Father, please forgive me for the times I have said and done things rashly. Please remind me to consider self-control as “God-control”. It’s not trying to control myself with human effort. But rather it is depending on the Holy Spirit to guide my ways and choices.

Lord Jesus Christ, You defeated Satan in his attempts to tempt you to flaunt Your power with a spirit of self control. And now I call upon Your blessed name. I ask You to bless me with this virtue, which is very much needed in most aspects of life. I seek Your assistance and guidance. May Your Holy Spirit fill me with power, as I come in prayer and raise my supplications before You.

Lord Jesus, empower me with a spirit of self control when I’m tempted with sexual desires and lusts over the flesh. Help me to restraint myself from thoughts of lust. May I be pure in heart, mind and soul. In my relationships, may I practice self-control. May I not give in to others in sexual desires except within the bond of marriage.

May I grow in deeper mutual understanding, respect, honor. And, most of all, may I grow in love for my brothers and sisters, even as I grow in self control to be able to counter and defeat most issues in life.

I pray for a spirit of self-discipline as I deal with money, wealth, my daily living habits and my pleasures. Help me to do all in moderation and in accordance with your will.

As a family, may we keep ourselves in the right perspective. May we to live a life, evenly spread with all joys and pleasures that are blessed in Your eyes. May we never indulge in anything impure and illicit. And may our choices be never rash or impulsive. Help us Lord to pray and receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all our decisions of family, work, friendship and relationships.

Lord Jesus, I believe and trust that You will deliver me from temptations and self indulgence as I place my heart in Your loving care. Though I may stumble, Your mighty power will lead me back in focus and self control. You will deliver me from the evil schemes of Satan.

I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. May I be renewed daily with a fresh filling of Your Spirit, as I come and surrender myself. In Your blessed name Lord Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.” 

The Fruit of Gentleness


But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”

– 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:4 says that a gentle and quiet spirit is of great worth to God. He values gentleness. Gentleness is useful and purposeful. So what does it mean for us to bear the fruit of gentleness? How can we cultivate gentleness in our lives?

When we look at the Biblical definition of gentleness, we learn that it means to be meek or humble. Let’s look first at the meaning of meekness. It’s important for us not to confuse meekness with weakness. I once heard someone describe meekness by saying, “Meekness is not weakness, it is controlled strength.” When we look at the spiritual fruits as attributes of the character of God, do we not see controlled strength in so much of who He is? Is that not the exact definition of mercy? I’ve heard it said that “Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve, and mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve.” Psalm 103:8 says God is “compassionate, and gracious, and slow to become angry.

What’s interesting is that the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word for gentleness that is used in Galatians 5:23 is the word “ani” and this is a word that is rarely, if ever, used to describe God in the Old Testament. God is not meek in the ways that we typically think about meekness. However, as Phillip Kenneson writes in Life on the Vine, “If meekness is the strength to refrain from resorting to power and coercion, then certainly there is an important sense in which God is meek.”

Maybe that’s why Jesus was rejected by those He came to save – because they couldn’t recognize this meekness, this gentleness, as part of His character. They wanted to see Jesus as a powerful ruler, but He came instead as a humble servant. They wanted Jesus to bring vengeance and wrath towards their enemies, but instead Jesus directed His anger toward the money-changers in the Temple (Mark 11:15-18) and told them to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them (Matthew 5:43-44). Jesus is both the lion and the lamb. He is both loving and just. David, who tenderly cared for the sheep of his pasture and defeated a giant with a sling of a stone, is described as a man after God’s own heart. 

In Matthew 5:5 during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Phillip Kenneson makes an insightful observation about this verse of Scripture. He says, “The meek do not aggressively conquer the earth and subdue it; instead they inherit it: it is given to them.” Meekness is a powerful force for good. It is valuable to God and to His Kingdom.

Meekness is often viewed in opposition to aggression and violence. When we live in a society that glorifies violence and aggression, to be a person of meekness is to be counter-cultural. Those who are gentle and meek are makers of peace and not of war. They do not stir up trouble, and they do not cause division. They do not return an eye for an eye. The meek are those who turn the other check (Matthew 5:38-39). We will inherit the Kingdom of God because we are sons and daughters of the King. We do not need to conquer it, we do not need to fight for it. We need only be still, because our God is fighting for us (Exodus 14:14).

The meek will inherit the earth, and the humble will be exalted. In Matthew 23:12 Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Where meekness is viewed in opposition to aggression and violence, humility is viewed in opposition to arrogance and pride. 1 Peter 5:5 says “…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

We need to “clothe” ourselves with humility, just as we need to “put on” the armor of God. We clothe ourselves in the morning. We go through a process of getting ready and preparing ourselves for the day ahead. We clothe ourselves according to the weather outside our door. We clothe ourselves to provide warmth and defense against the bitter cold, or we clothe ourselves to provide coolness and relief from the summer heat. In the same way, humility defends us against outside forces.

In the beginning, clothing was created as a result of sinful disobedience. Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves because they realized they were naked and they were ashamed. After God called them out of hiding, He created clothing for them out of animal skins. Their feeble attempt at covering themselves was not enough, the true covering for sin required a blood sacrifice. And now we have Jesus – the perfect sacrifice who’s blood covered our sins once and for all. Because of Jesus, we can wear our humility, not as a covering of shame, but as a covering of grace. When we clothe ourselves with humility we are making a confession that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). When we clothe ourselves with humility, we are making a confession that we are sinful and imperfect beings who have been covered by the love of a perfect God (Matthew 5:48, 1 John 4:18). Our humility takes the focus off of ourselves, and points to Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)

We are capable of living with humility, because we are created in the image of a humble God. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus describes Himself as being “gentle and humble in heart.” When Jesus entered this earth, He came in the form of a lowly baby in a manger. The Savior of the world, slept in a food trough made for animals (Luke 2:7). The announcement of His birth was made to lowly shepherds in a field (Luke 2:8-11). When He entered public ministry, He chose not to come baptizing, but to come being baptized (Matthew 3:13-15). When He was tempted in the wilderness, He didn’t fall into Satan’s trap to satisfy His own physical desire for food, to make a spectacle of Himself to capture the awe and attention of man, or to bow down to Satan for the power and glory of earthly kingdoms (Matthew 4:1-11). Instead, He chose the path of true humility. He chose to ride in on a donkey (John 12:14), and be crucified on a cross (John 19:18). He chose to be betrayed, denied, and rejected by those He loved and came to save (John 1:11, Matthew 26:14-16, 69-75). He chose to wash the feet of His disciples (John 13:1-17). He chose to not have a place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). He chose a Kingdom beyond this world that eyes cannot see. He chose the Father above who was well-pleased (Matthew 3:17). He chose the eternal over the temporary. He chose the spiritual over the physical. He chose love over legality. He chose love because He is love (1 John 4:8). And in choosing love, He didn’t abolish the law, but fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17). When we look at Scripture through the lens of Jesus – love abounds. Love is humble – it is not jealous, it does not brag, it is not arrogant, it does not act unbecomingly, it is not self-seeking, and it is not easily provoked (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). In Ephesians 4:1-2, the Apostle Paul implores us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”

When we follow the path of humility, we follow the path of Jesus. When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that His humility was often related to His hospitality. Matthew 11:19 describes Him as a friend of sinners. He ate and drank with those society had rejected and cast aside. He was welcoming to all. He invited all to the table, and He asks us to do the same. In Luke 14:12-14, He says, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Romans 12:20 says, “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink.” Jesus teaches that when we give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, when we give clothing to the naked, and when we visit the sick and imprisoned then it is as if we are serving Jesus Himself (Mathew 25:31-46). The Book of Hebrews says that when we show brotherly love and hospitality, we are “entertaining angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2).

To be gentle is to be wise.

James 3:13-17 says, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

The fruit of gentleness is a fruit of restoration and peace-making.

Galatians 6:1 says, “If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…”

2 Timothy 2:24-25 teaches that, The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.”

We cultivate a spirit of gentleness by humbling ourselves in prayer, repenting of our selfishness and pride, and turning away from our sin. We cultivate gentleness by imitating the meek and humble character of our God. We cultivate gentleness by loving our neighbors, loving our enemies, and loving strangers. We cultivate gentleness by practicing the art of being slow to become angry and quick to forgive. We cultivate gentleness by being focused on a Kingdom that is beyond this present world, and by striving to make our Father proud. We cultivate gentleness when we focus more on Jesus and less on ourselves. We cultivate gentleness by loving God and loving others.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

– Philippians 2:3-11

The Fruit of Faithfulness


“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

– Hebrews 10:23

God is faithful to fulfill all that He has promised. He placed a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His promise to Noah. He told Abraham to look up at the sky and count the stars as a sign of the promise He made to him. We need only look up to remember the promises He has made to us. When we look at the fruits of the Spirit, we quickly begin to realize that they are all rooted in the character of God. The more like Him we become – the more fruit we bear. We can be faithful, because He has been faithful.

Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is trusting in what we cannot see. We trust gravity to continue holding our feet to the ground. When we flip a light switch, we trust the electricity to light  up the room. We trust our heart to keep beating. We trust our lungs to keep filling with air. We trust our minds to keep instructing our hands and feet to move and operate. We are trusting in invisible, unseen things. We are trusting in work that is being done behind the scenes, beyond what our eyes can see. We don’t see the rainbow until after the storm. The stars shine brightest when the night is darkest. We take the first step of faith before we see the stairs in front of us. Peter didn’t step out of the boat because the waves seemed steady and secure enough to hold His weight – He stepped out of the boat because He saw Jesus. Our faith looks like foolishness to those who don’t know our Jesus. Those who can’t see with eyes of faith, don’t understand.

As the song Waymaker says, “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working. Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working.” We know He is faithful, because we have experienced His faithfulness. He is a promise-keeper, a miracle-worker, a light in the darkness. That’s who He is – His faithfulness is part of His identity. To be faithful is to be steadfast. It means holding steady through trials and tribulations. It means showing up consistently when fears and doubts arise. It means being reliable. It means being dependable. We can depend on our God to be there in our times of need, because He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). We can trust Him because He is worthy to be trusted. We can put our faith in Him because He is faithful to fulfill what He has promised.

“The primary reason we lose faith is because we forget the faithfulness of God. Maybe that’s why the word ‘remember’ is repeated 250 times in Scripture.”

– Mark Batterson

When we remember God’s faithfulness, we are reminded of our own faithlessness. In Matthew 26:75 when Peter heard the crow of the rooster, he remembered what Jesus had said to him… “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” The same Peter who had enough faith to step out of the boat and onto the crashing waves towards Jesus, had denied Him three times, just has Jesus had told Him he would. Scripture says Peter then “went out and wept bitterly.”

But God is faithful, even in our faithlessness. He doesn’t leave us. He doesn’t abandon us. His promise still stands. We have hope because of the resurrection. The cross was not the end of the story. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples on the Sea of Galilee and three times He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” And three times Peter responded “Yes, Lord, You know I do.” And three times Jesus responded, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus had made a promise that Peter was the rock on which He would build His church, and that promise was not made void through Peter’s denial. Peter went on to feed the sheep. He helped establish the church. And Peter was martyred for his faith – dying upside down on a cross because he didn’t deem himself worthy to die in the same manner as our Lord, Jesus Christ. Faithfulness comes with a cost. Jesus commands us to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).

One of the best examples of the faithful love of our God is the story of the Prophet Hosea. God instructed Hosea to marry Gomer, a woman who was described as a harlot and an adulteress. In their marriage, Gomer bore three children. The Bible is not clear if the second two children were biologically Hosea’s, but their names indicate that they were not. Gomer had been unfaithful to her husband. Eventually she left her husband and returned to a life of harlotry, but Hosea went back and purchased her from those who were holding her captive. He ransomed her. He redeemed her. Their story is symbolic of the redeeming love our God has for us. When we run back to our life of sin, God brings us back into His arms of love. He paid the ultimate cost for our redemption. His love is unrelenting. He never gives up. He doesn’t stop pursuing us. His love never fails. In our unfaithfulness, He remains faithful.

He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His love knows no bounds. Psalm 89:8 says, His faithfulness surrounds Him. We need only get close enough to Him to experience the fullness of it. His faithfulness strengthens and protects us (2 Thessalonians 3:3). His faithfulness does not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to withstand, but gives us an escape route so that we can be faithful to endure the temptation when it comes (1 Corinthians 10:13). And when we allow ourselves to fall into temptation, when we miss the escape route and fall into sin then we need only confess and He is faithful and just to forgive (1 John 1:9). 

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

– Philippians 1:6

It is difficult for us to wrap our minds around the faithfulness of our God when we live in a culture that is “increasingly characterized by rapid change and instability” (Life on the Vine by Phillip Kenneson). We live in a culture where things are not built to last. Your cellphone only lasts until the latest version comes out. Furniture is often cheaply made and falls apart after only a few uses. We buy disposable cups, plates, and silverware that we can throw away after a single use. We design products that will “save us time” but what do we actually do with the time we’ve saved? It takes time to build something that lasts. It takes time to design something that fulfills a purpose. It takes time to maintain something that will continue to endure throughout generations. Even our jobs and our relationships seem temporary and fleeting. In businesses where you used to interact with people, now you’re interacting with computers and screens. We live in a “cancel” culture where people are dismissed if their views don’t align with your own. We live in a culture where “ghosting” is a term the younger generation uses to describe simply cutting off communication in a relationship without explanation. It takes commitment to maintain a relationship. When we put time and energy into maintaining our relationships and our commitments with people, we are making an investment in a future we cannot see. We are practicing faithfulness.

We practice faithfulness when we abide in the love of God. We practice faithfulness when we trust God’s promises. We practice faithfulness when we make and keep promises. We practice faithfulness when speak truth. We practice faithfulness when we keep showing up. We practice faithfulness when we keep putting forth effort.
Our efforts are weak and imperfect – but they make our Father proud! His faithfulness gives us the strength to endure.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 says “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes, but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”

In the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:15 Jesus says, “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote, “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2:5-7).

We can’t bear spiritual fruit if we are not firmly rooted in who God is. God’s faithfulness  lays the foundation for us to bear the fruit of faithfulness. As we trust Him, our roots extend, bringing more stability. With more stability, comes more security. With more security, comes more confidence. With more confidence comes more boldness of speech and action. In this manner, faithfulness creates a ripple effect. We are being built up so that our branches can grow out, and the fruit we bear can bring nourishment to hungry hearts. We are being built up so that our fruit can bear more fruit.