Growing up Protestant, my family didn’t practice Lent. As an adult, I’ve been drawn to learning about Lent and its purpose in Christian life. After researching I found three common themes: prayer, fasting, and giving. Each part of the equation equips the believer to draw closer to Christ and focus on His sacrifice for us in this season.
While there are many types of prayers, the prayer of confession resonated most with me for Lent. If humans had never sinned and separated mankind from a right relationship with the Father, Jesus never would have had to die in our place. As I acknowledge my own sins that Jesus gave His life for, my heart is humbled.
After we confess our sins, our prayers grow more powerful because the guilt and shame that blocked our access to God disappear. James 5:16-18 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (NKJV).
James reminds us that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, not a super human. I’ve never prayed for drought for three and a half years, but I want to pray big. If Elijah was a normal guy, then with a pure heart, my prayers can move mountains. During Lent, I’m asking God to search my heart to show me any wicked ways and lead me in the paths of righteousness (Psalm 139:23). Then, my prayers will be powerful and effective for God’s purposes.
I’ve heard fasting defined as giving up physical food to gain spiritual nourishment. The Bible gives several reasons for fasting including mourning, praying for protection, asking for wisdom, praying for power, and entreating God for mercy. A good reason to fast during Lent is for repentance. That aligns with God revealing the confession of sin through prayer.
Nehemiah 9:1-2 says, “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers” (NKJV).
The children of Israel intermarried with foreign women while in exile, despite the Lord’s admonition that these wives would pull their hearts away from God. When they returned to Jerusalem, Nehemiah confronted them and the people assembled to separate themselves from all outsiders.
Today, I see this as a charge to not date or marry those who are nonbelievers. Yet, the lesson extends beyond just relationships. Besides marriage, we can often unite our hearts to things that separate us from a deeper relationship with God. Even good things can divide us from God when we make them into idols. Food, social media, jobs, power, cars, the list goes on and on. Fasting gives God space to convict us of any competing interests and draw us closer to Himself.
The last theme for Lent is giving, which aligns well with the example of God’s gift to us at Easter. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16 NKJV, emphasis mine). God freely gave His Son Jesus to restore His relationship with mankind. Christ, out of obedience to His Father, gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus also gave those who believe in Him the Holy Spirit to guide their lives on earth.
Deuteronomy 15:7-8 says, “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs” (NKJV).
Notice the Lord gave Hebrews the land from which they were to provide food for the poor. The people didn’t own this land, so none of the produce from it was their own. The people needed to be good stewards of God’s provision.
Not only are we to give of our money, but also our time, energy, and talents. Everything we have is from God. Everything. Therefore, we can’t hoard what we have for our own glory, but find ways to work for God’s glory.
I heard a story in 2020 about an elderly gentleman in Italy who got COVID and was on a respirator. He survived, but was handed a bill at the end. When he saw the amount, he wept. The nurses assured him they would find a way to pay his bill. He responded that he’d been breathing God’s oxygen for free for over 90 years and never thanked Him for it. He’d never realized how much he owed God for the air in His lungs.
May we view every breath as a gift from God and use every resource He has given us for His Name’s sake.
This Lent, may we focus on these three themes: prayer, fasting, and giving as a means to prepare for the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. May we orient our lives to repentance and then posture our resources in a way that put God’s kingdom first. I pray we all enjoy Lent and deepen our relationship with our Lord Jesus.
I scoured my kitchen cabinet for my chili powder. I’d started the meal on the stove, but couldn’t find the last spice. If I wanted the dish to taste good, I had to follow the recipe exactly.
After moving everything on the first two shelves that I could reach, I stood on tip toe to look at the third shelf. Still, I couldn’t find my elusive chili powder. I drug over a chair from the table and stood on it. This put me eye level with the third shelf. The chili powder appeared in the back corner, out of sight and reach from my position on the floor.
Some things I seek seem hard to find. I know they it exists, but where did my joy go? Where are the things that spice up my life and keep it interesting? When I focus on the things in front of me, I can miss what I need. Instead, I have to look up.
Psalm 121:1-2 says, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth" (NKJV). When we look to God to provide our needs, He helps us find what we are searching for. He knows exactly where we left our joy and how to retrieve it. We find our needs, hopes, and desires met when we go to the Lord. He is our Helper and Provider.
Sometimes, we cannot see high enough on our own. That is when we need to enlist the prayers of others to petition God on our behalf. It’s like dragging the chair over to raise me to a higher plane. The prayers of the saints are powerful to reveal what God is doing in and through our lives. They give the perspective we need to see God at work, even when we’ve exhausted all our resources.
The next time you misplace your chili powder (or whatever your needs is) look up. The Lord will show you what you need when you lift your eyes to seek His face. He will provide your every need and heal your every hurt when you will look up to Him.
Have you ever been to a candlelight service for Christmas Eve? They turn out all the lights. People shuffle as their eyes adjust to the dark. The pastor ignites the first flame, which seems faint against the black backdrop. He extends it to light the next candle. As each person shares his candle’s fire with his neighbor’s, the entire room becomes visible once more as light dispels the darkness.
One candle’s light doesn’t seem small now – does it?
When Jesus walked on the earth, He said in John 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (NKJV). Once He returned to heaven, His followers became the light. Jesus gave us the light of His life (John 8:12) so now we can shine to point people to Christ.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV).
We are to shine the light of Jesus to the world through our good works. Our kindness displays the character of Christ for all to see so they may also know the Father. We are not meant to hide what God has done for us, but share our stories to radiate His brilliance to a dark and dying world. We reflect God’s light when we stand in His presence until our faces mirror His glory.
Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (NKJV).
Paul pointed out that when we choose gratefulness over complaining, others notice that our lives look different from theirs. We may live in a twisted generation, but we don’t have to let culture ties us in knots. We can remain harmless and display hope that people can have a brighter future with Christ. A smile at a weary stranger. A call to a sick friend. A note to a grieving church member. It doesn’t take much to turn a single spark into a fire and light the world with love.
The same way the first flicker of a candle seems meager in a church auditorium at Christmas, when we pass on our light to those around us, the joy of Jesus fills the room. His light lets others catch a glimpse of the glory of God. May our lives radiate heavenly light that points a hopeless world to Christ this year.
This week's guest blog is by a friend from church Vera Williams who is starting a new YouTube Channel and podcast called "Verafied by God." She has a passion for prayer and for encouraging people to stay strong in the faith. I'm sure her words will bless you as much as they have me.
What does it mean to be the salt of the earth?
It means living a distinctly different life. As salt flavors, enhances, and brings a unique quality to what it touches, we too are called to impact the world. In Luke 9:23, Jesus challenges us to live separately and make a difference in this world. Denying oneself, picking up the cross, and following Jesus can be challenging.
The world encourages pursuing money, success, and personal desires, but the Bible warns against chasing the deceitful and wicked desires of the heart. Our calling is to make disciples, spread the gospel, and seek the kingdom. Walking this path may lead to rejection and isolation, as not everyone follows Jesus.
In my journey of faith, I discovered the need to let go of certain people and situations that conflicted with my newfound beliefs. Becoming the salt meant being drawn to some and repelling others, similar to how salt dissolves, attracts, and repels molecules in water. Embracing this reality requires mental preparation, as not everyone will understand or accept transformation.
As I deepened my walk with the Lord, I learned to let go of worldly pursuits that once defined “fun.” Instead of seeking temporary pleasures, I found fulfillment in my relationship with Christ. It’s essential to recognize the shift in priorities, friendships, and values that accompanies living for Jesus.
Navigating this route, I encountered difficulties and faced the need to rely solely on God. The absence of people I thought I needed for success highlighted that ultimately, Christ is all I need. This realization redirected my focus, and I embraced the sanctification process, continually dying to self on a daily basis.
During challenging times, diving into the Bible and exploring the stories of Joseph, David, and Daniel provided encouragement. Their unwavering faith in the face of adversity showcased God’s faithfulness. While the road isn’t easy, standing firm in the faith is worth it.
I encourage you to stay on the path, even when it feels isolating or challenging. Embrace the outcast status, knowing God will bring the right people into your life. You will find supportive community that aligns with your values. And while the way may be treacherous at times, with God’s help, you make it.
Stay faithful and remember, you are called to either draw people to the altar or prompting them to run out of your life completely. There is no middle ground; we are not called to be lukewarm.
In reflecting on the importance of being the salt of the earth, it’s crucial to heed Christ’s warning about the dangers of losing our saltiness. Jesus Himself questioned the purpose of salt that has lost its distinctiveness, stating that it is good for nothing and only fit to be thrown out and trampled (Matthew 5:13).
As Christians, the risk lies in blending in too easily with the world, conforming to its standards and losing the unique flavor that sets us apart. While it may seem easier to go with the flow and avoid standing out, the consequence of not maintaining our saltiness is severe—being tossed aside and overlooked.
Let this remind us that our faith calls us to stand out, to shine a beacon of light and hope in a world that often strays from God’s principles. The challenge is real, and the pressure to conform may be strong, but the words of Christ emphasize the necessity of maintaining our distinctiveness. In doing so, we fulfill our purpose as salt, bringing flavor, enhancement, and a transformative influence to the world. May we, as Christians, continually strive to stand out, maintaining our saltiness for the glory of God and the betterment of the world around us.
Have you ever wanted to share the good news of Christ, but didn’t know where to start? My last blog “Overcoming Concerns about Sharing the Gospel” encouraged people to tell others about Jesus, and now I want to equip you to do so. In my previous evangelism group, we always reviewed the “Romans Road,” a series of Scriptures from Romans that outline mankind’s depravity and how to be saved. I suggest marking these verses in your Bible and memorizing them to explain the gospel. We use God’s words instead of our own because His word is powerful and accomplishes His purposes (Isaiah 55:11).
The Romans Road
1. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (NKJV)*.
We are all sinners. No “good people” live on planet Earth. No human being is righteous (Romans 3:10). Every person (other than Jesus) to ever walk the earth had fallen short of perfection, which is God’s standard.
2. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God loved us when we were His enemies. Most people don’t try to show kindness to their enemies. At the clear opposite end of the spectrum is God. Even when we were still sinners, God sent Jesus to die for us. He loved us that much. God made a way to reconcile us to Himself by pouring out His wrath on Jesus instead of us. We deserved death because of our iniquities, but Jesus took our place.
3. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The penalty of sin is death. The paycheck we earn for our transgressions equates to separation from God forever. Fortunately, God gave us a gift we could never repay by sending His Son so we can receive eternal life.
4. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
We can’t save ourselves. We humans think we are independent. We don’t need anyone else and can do it all by ourselves. We are “good” people. However, because God’s standard is perfection, no amount of good works we do as humans will ever measure up to God’s requirements. We can’t brag about our actions and think we can save ourselves. Salvation is a gift from God. We are saved by grace through faith alone.
5. Romans 10:9-10, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Confess and believe in Jesus to be saved. Our salvation includes both a verbal profession of Jesus as Lord and a heart belief that that God raised Jesus from the dead. I’ve had times when I knew in my head that something was true, but it didn’t “feel” accurate. Both our heads and our hearts must engage in requesting salvation. We have both a mental and spiritual agreement when we acknowledge that we can’t save ourselves and receive the free gift of God.
6. Romans 10:13, “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
God made salvation available for everyone. God loved people so much that He sent His Son to die for everyone. Jesus didn’t sacrifice Himself for a few chosen people, but for everyone to roam the earth: past, present, and future. The New Covenant He established was with all mankind, not just the children of Israel. God desires everyone to repent from their sins and come into relationship with Him.
How about you? Have you ever admitted that you were sinner and called on the name of the Lord to be saved? If not, what holds you back from receiving the gift of eternal life from the Father today? Call on Him and be saved.
If you have a relationship with Christ, have you ever memorized the Romans Road? Having Scripture in our spiritual backpack prepares us to share the gospel in all seasons (1 Peter 3:15). These verses show a logical progression of our sin that separates us from God how He made a way by sending Jesus to take the punishment we deserve. When we confess our sins and call on Him, we will be saved. Let’s share that good news today.
*All Scriptures are NKJV.
One Saturday, I volunteered at a homeless shelter and later met with separate friends to share the gospel. Our church always has a big turnout to feed the hungry. That week, almost 30 people rose early to fill empty bellies. Serving with believers energizes me because I see the body of Christ working together.
Afterwards, I tried to recruit a few folks to go witnessing at a local park. After lobbying several people, I initially was met with skepticism. One person said, "No one cares what I have to say." Another voiced, "I am glad you have the gift of evangelism." I sighed.
I get it. Often, filling a person's physical needs is easier than providing for their spiritual needs. One is tangible, and the other can seem daunting. My friends pointed out some common concerns including fear of rejection or assuming that they aren't "gifted" that way.
However, the honor of telling people about the greatness of God is not limited to those with the spiritual gift of evangelism. Jesus told all believers to share the gospel.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”
Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)
The Lord commanded us to bring light into the lives of those around us by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:47). He does not limit that directive to a chosen few, but applies it to all believers. People who haven’t received the gospel will die and go to hell one day. We can’t avoid this truth simply because it is uncomfortable.
We all need someone to tell us about Jesus, despite evidence of a Creator’s design in everything on earth (Romans 1:20). Paul puts it this way:
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!’”
Romans 10:14-15 (NKJV)
Physically, my feet are ugly. I have long scars on both, one from dropping a moving ramp on my foot and the other from a dog bite. My big toenail got crushed and looks funny. No one wants to see my feet. Except God. When I preach the gospel to my neighbors and the nations, I could be a foot model. People won't hear the hope they have in Jesus if my feet stay planted in one place.
While recognizing the need to share, maybe you've had fears like mine. The first time I told people about Jesus, I thought I’d say the wrong thing and turn people away from Christ. That line of thought makes the gospel about me instead of the Lord. The key to sharing the gospel with power is to cover the act in prayer. Then the Holy Spirit speaks through me so I don’t have to worry about what to say.
Also, I remind myself that whether someone receives the gospel or not is not my responsibility. My job is to point people to Christ. I can save zero people. Zero. Jesus saves, not Joanna.
Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (emphasis mine, NKJV). God grows the seeds we plant in people’s heart. Without seeds, nothing can grow. We can’t expect everyone to know Jesus, especially in today’s post-Christian society. Many people have skewed or incomplete understandings about Christ that they’ve gleaned from culture. We must love people enough to spread the truth of Jesus.
Some people may not like it when we talk about Jesus. That’s ok. As long as we speak the truth in love, bathed in prayer, the Holy Spirit will continue working in that person’s heart and mind. Sadly, they aren’t rejecting our message, they are rejecting Christ. We can’t take it personally, but release them to God for more watering.
For my friends who served the hungry, by the end of our talk they agreed to consider joining us in sharing the good news in the future. My heart sang.
So how about you? Do you share the gospel? If not, what holds you back? May we all obey God’s command to spread the good news of Jesus so that we may rejoice with God in a bountiful harvest of souls.
Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for the honor of spreading the gospel. Thank You that Jesus died for our sins and reconciles us to the Father when we repent and return to You. Please send laborers to share the good news so that many will come to know You. Help us not fear rejection or saying the wrong thing, but trust the Holy Spirit to equip us to evangelize with power. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Once a colleague complained that I was stepping on her toes by doing her job in addition to mine. She was right. I apologized and offered to change my behavior. Yet when I ruminated more, I realized this was a recurring problem for me. In the office and in my family, I felt responsible for everything. I often believed that if I don’t do the work, things would fall apart. I had a strong desire to help others and gauged some of my worth by how useful I felt.
In the past, I had tried to stop volunteering for every opportunity and quit overworking. However, in a few months I would slip back into old habits. If I wanted to change, instead of altering my actions, I needed to get to the heart of the matter. I had to change my thoughts. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (NKJV). My thought patterns show up in my behavior. In my own strength, I couldn’t break the cycle. Instead of asking God to help me act better, the Lord urged me to try another way. I needed to be brainwashed.
Normally “brainwashing” has a negative connotation. I think of people forcing little children to repeat lies over and over. Yet, my mind was full of garbage. My brain needed to be washed from the lies of Satan, condemnation, and wrong ways of thinking that lead to bad behavior. I needed the Holy Spirit to purge the junk from my mind and align it to the truths of God’s Word.
I asked the Lord to renew my mind. During my morning commute, I repeated things like:
As I spoke these truths over myself, my thoughts were scrubbed clean as my mind formed new thought patterns. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (NKJV).
If I want to act like Christ, I first must think like Christ. I feed my mind on the Word of God to align my thoughts to Scripture. I ask the Holy Spirit to cement these concepts in my mind so they supplant the lies of the enemy. Sanctification is a process. I can’t expect all my wrong thinking to be undone overnight. Over time, as I partner with the Lord, He will transform me by the renewing of my mind so that my heart and actions match His. Then I can prove that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Do you struggle with overloading yourself and basing your worth on your productivity like I do? Maybe there are other wrong behaviors that plague you. Have you tried for years to cut off the top of the weed by targeting the action instead of yanking it out by the roots?
My issues were so ingrained that I had to have the Holy Spirit reveal it to me through a coworker, but you don’t have to wait until someone else points out a problem. You can ask God to reveal any errant thoughts you may have so that He can teach you the truth (Psalm 139:23-24). If He brings something up, I pray God cleanses your mind so that it matches His heart for you. Ask Him what specific truths He wants you to believe. May the Holy Spirit renew us daily as we abide in the Scriptures until they “brain wash” our minds into purity before God both in thought and deed.
I grit my teeth and smiled as small hands yanked my hair into a braid. I was on mission trip in Jamaica to share the love of Jesus. Drawn by the novelty of my long blond hair, the neighborhood girls surrounded me as soon as I entered. Tears squeezed through my eyes as I prayed God would leave a few strands on my head while I honored Him in becoming all things to all people. The pain was worth the gain of loving these attention-starved little ones.
Before I set out to the Caribbean, our missions group held many training sessions. Our leaders instilled our team verses into us:
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Chronicles 9:19-22 NKJV)
Paul was not admonishing believers to change their personality or alter the gospel to trick people into following the Lord. Instead, he wanted Christians to find areas of commonality with others so they could connect. People don’t care what I have to say until they know I care about them. When I listen to people, I can find ways to reach them in their hurt. God longs to restore the brokenhearted. When I serve others in love, their wounds begin to heal.
I don’t have to travel to another country to go on a mission trip. Every time I leave the house, I encounter people different than me. Yet, we all are created in the image of God with spirits that scream the need for something more than just this life. I can choose to join in their suffering or walk on by and ignore them.
Instead of using my freedom in Christ to justify obedience to God and obligation to no one else, I discover that loving God means loving people. Showing God’s grace towards others by meeting them where they are at does not excuse sin, but points them to the remedy found in Christ alone.
Paul put it this way in Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (NIV). I’m not to abuse my freedom as a new creation in Christ to fill my human desires. Rather, I must die to self to serve others because of Christ’s love shown on the cross.
I lost some hair that day in Jamaica, but the Lord loved those braids. While they played, I told the girls about the greatness of God and His grace for them. Though no one accepted the gospel that day, I planted seeds that I pray will grow up into righteousness. May God show us how to use the freedom He bought for us to serve all others selflessly.
Last fall, I completed a six-week Daniel fast. I entered with expectations that God was going to give me the desires of my heart in the ways I wanted and direct my steps with clear guidance. Instead, God surfaced a variety of issues He wanted to work on in my life. So many, that the top of the mountain seemed insurmountable. God wanted me to know I couldn’t climb to the peak on my own. I had to surrender to the Holy Spirit to empower me step by step each day.
Instead of God fulfilling my wish list, I got a deep scrubbing. It felt like God had taken a steel wool pad to my soul and starting rubbing out the sin. He couldn’t see His face shine in mine with all the grime of my pride. The Lord in His love for me wanted to work out my selfish motivations.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart” (NKJV). My will had to align to God’s heart because He would not bend to mine. Even if what I wanted was a good, if I wanted it more than God, He couldn’t give it to me. I have to delight in the Lord above all else. Then my heart will be filled with God’s desires for me.
I have to be cleaned inside before God can work out all His promises. God is scouring my spirit so that I can reflect His priorities to the world. Without a pure heart, I can’t see God (Matthew 5:8). So, because of God’s love for me, I went through the wringer.
Honestly, it hurt. Over 45 days, God surfaced 13 areas of my life that required major work. Without God’s grace, depression would have crushed my soul. Instead, I remembered that for grapes to make juice, they have to be pressed. My junk had to be removed for God’s goodness to emerge. I am pressed but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair (2 Corinthians 4:8).
God didn’t love me less because of a hard season. Instead, it demonstrated the depths of His love. If He didn’t discipline me, it would mean He had given up on me. Instead, He puts in the hard work with me to refine me.
Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.’”
The Lord chastens me because I am His daughter. Instead of being discouraged that I will never improve, God encourages me that He is disciplining me out of love. He doesn’t want to leave me in my current state. God wants me to experience living a holy life like Him, but knows it is impossible for me to be holy and justify my humanity with excuses (Hebrews 12:7-10). He sees through my problems, diligently polishing my heart until I look more and more like His Son.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m being rung out on one of those vintage washboards where you scrape off the stains by repeatedly rubbing the cloth up and down metal grooves. Every bump of the board jolts me. Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (NKJV). Chastening is not fun. It is painful. Yet, I look for the glory of God He will bring from this growth. Good fruit for His kingdom is coming my way. If God has worked to prune away so much of my life, it is to make room for a more fruit (John 15:1-2). I await a harvest of His glory from this wilderness time of life.
How about you? Are you pleading with the Lord for something and seeming to get no traction? Maybe you feel you are going backwards despite trying to seek God’s will. Let the Lord cleanse your soul. Part of the sanctification process requires scrubbing. God cannot abide with our sin, so He finds ways to remove it to make more space for Himself. Though it may hurt, I pray the Lord gives you grace through the drought and a plentiful harvest of spiritual fruit that glorifies God soon.
I had no control over where I was born or who my parents are. God's grace got me to where I am now. Some might say that since I was raised in the southern Bible belt of the United States by Christian parents, it was inevitable that I would still love Jesus today. Sadly, I know countless stories of people raised in Christian homes who have left the faith as adults.
Paul’s conversion to follow Christ strayed from his upbringing as well. His father was a Roman citizen with favored status. He also grew up as a Pharisee who studied the law of Moses. Paul strove to keep the law and forced his fellow Jews to do so also. When Paul heard about Jews converting to Christianity, he was livid.
Instead of displaying curiosity to know who this Jesus was, Paul traveled around imprisoning and killing Christians. No one would expect him to become God’s chosen conduit to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.
Yet, God likes to surprise us. He uses the foolish things of the world, the weak and fallible, so that His glory shines through these jars of clay called humans. If we were great and mighty, we probably would seek the accolades for ourselves instead of praising God for His goodness.
To demonstrate just how gracious He is, God used the most unlikely person as His special vessel. On the road to Damascus, Jesus radically changed Paul’s life trajectory. Instead of killing Christians, Paul suffered greatly himself while conducting several missionary journeys to spread the good news to the Gentiles.
Paul describes himself this way in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (NKJV).
Paul knew his roots, but he didn’t let it hold him back from following God. He gave all the glory to God for his changed life. Paul knew without his radical intervention; he would have remained on a path of destroying believers in Christ.
His lesson reminds us that no matter how tainted our past, God can use anyone. God has used the areas where I’ve had my biggest struggles and turned them into ministry opportunities later in life. God won’t waste our pain if we let Him transform it into glory for His name.
Also, I remain humbled by Paul’s admission of achieving all he had done solely because of God’s grace towards him. Sometimes, I get ahead of myself and credit my actions to my own efforts. However, none of my accomplishments are possible apart from God’s generous grace towards me. I can’t even create air for my lungs to inhale my next breath. There is no life or hope apart from Christ, but in Him is the abundant riches of living in the light of His glory and grace.
May we always ascribe to God the glory due His Name, knowing we are who we are by the grace of God alone and not by any works of righteousness we have done.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over twenty years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people grow in Christ. Joanna enjoys coffee and reading, and currently lives in Florida.