Get a Hold of Yourself

"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."- Hebrews 10:36

The new year is often a time when people make adjustments that focus on "better living". These can be areas that need improvement or areas that need a steady increase of positive growth. People look to begin a new discipline, become more conscious of how they think and speak, and get rid of habits that were holding them back from reaching their full potential. At the start of January, at both a physical (lifestyle= staying healthy) and spiritual (fast= seeking God) level, I decided to remove a couple of food items from my daily diet that I absolutely love and crave. And just two weeks into 2016 I am already having to keep my eyes on the prize, grit my teeth, and remind myself of this commitment when the aromas of those delicious delights keep calling my name!

One of the things that I sense the Holy Spirit wanting to address in each of our lives is the need to keep our COMPOSURE. Far too often (and far too easy) we fall prey to losing our composure at the first hint of adversity, the slightest change to our comfort zones, and the unplanned twist to our life-plan and daily schedule. We become irate when someone suddenly challenges us or calls into question our character; we become undone when we are asked to do something uncomfortable or outside of our natural strengths (i.e.- speaking in public); we blow a gasket when someone else causes us to be interrupted and delayed in any way. Even last weekend I watched a playoff football game where two players from the Cincinnati Bengals lost their cool in such an uncontrollable and inexcusable manner, that it ended up costing their team a victory.

As we continue to move through this Year of Unshakeable Truths I do not want us to become like the Cincinnati football team where all that can be spoken after a squandered opportunity is, "Wait until next year". I want to experience everything of God's strength, promise, and victory in my life today! When it comes to the idea of staying composed in the face of challenges and cravings, the word the Bible uses as a point of instruction and exhortation is PERSEVERANCE. As I shared our main Scripture for the year at our first Sunday service of 2016, I reminded us that it is pretty easy to take the initial step to trust in Jesus as Peter instructs us to in his letter, "come to Jesus- the Living Stone..." (I Peter 2:4). But it is much harder to stay firm, confident, and unwavering on this most precious and perfect foundation of our salvation and faith when the storms of life come. It is hard to stay standing on the Rock when we do not see our prayers being answered; when we do not see positive outcomes from our labor; when the test results for our bodies or the amount of money in our bank accounts are not improving; and when we do not see the people we care most about changing.

As we look at the idea of perseverance in the Bible we will discover at least two fascinating results and realities for us to apply:

1) Perseverance is often produced by our FAITH-

As we learn to surrender to God and believe for His love, goodness, and wisdom to meet us in our present moment and need, we will experience His true peace and strength. The more we listen to God we will discover His path is best. The more we lean on God we will see Him do amazing things. The more we walk with God we will have a true power working in us that cannot be swayed, discouraged, intimidated, or moved. Just this week I went to lunch with a person and encouraged them that God has a plan for their future. I spoke this encouragement, "You do not need to write the next chapter, you need to believe God has your next chapter."

James 1:3-4- "You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

2) Perseverance is often produced by our TRIALS-

None of us like to endure difficulties, painful experiences, embarrassing failures, or sudden losses. Life would be so much easier if we didn't have to face the tough stuff, yet Jesus told His followers that the world is full of first-class problems and head-on collisions (John 16:33). During the season of trial we face, whether a short or long one, a sudden or anticipated one, we would do much better to focus on the fact that God is with us. Most times we become fixated on thoughts of pending doom, unbearable pain, or self-pity in the midst of our trials. My word of encouragement for us is that there is not only a way out of our trials, but there is something to be gained beyond them!

Romans 5:3-4- "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that sufferings produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

What I could tell you to do to stay composed through your circumstances is to "count to ten" or "bite your lip and hold your tongue" or "look on the bright side". But there is something far better and weightier for you to stand upon. Keep coming to the Living Stone that never fails you and always keeps you safe!

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