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Entries in Be courageous (2)

Thursday
Apr042019

Discovering the Courage in DisCOURAGEment

Kathy C. Willis has been a huge encouragement in my life over the past few years, and she even reached out to help my mom and sister in a time of great difficulty. And she does all this from a deep well of courage in facing her own trials. I couldn't wait to get this Attitudes UPGRADE.

Kathy asks, “Do you find yourself in a season of discouragement? Let’s see what we can do to turn this around so you can enter springtime with renewed hope.”

Yes, I (Dawn) need encouragement right now, and maybe you do too. I love her imagery of entering spring with "renewed hope," because sometimes our hope needs a super-boost just to get through another day.

Kathy continues . . .

My personality doesn’t easily get discouraged, but after back-to-back-to-back setbacks, I found myself weary and stuck.

My self-talk leant itself to defeat.

“Why bother? Something outside my control will interfere with my good intentions and cut me short of the goals I believe God has put in my path.”

No, I knew that wasn’t true. If God wanted it done, He’d make sure nothing got in the way. But this messy middle between start and finish was interfering with my usual optimistic energy and drive.

It was time for me to apply the same advice I give others who struggle with discouragement.

1. How Do You Feel?

The first step is to hone in on the actual emotion.

Am I:

  • Disappointed?
  • Depressed?
  • Dismayed?
  • Blue?
  • Hopeless?

2. Create Your "Hit List."

Whatever the emotion, it’s good to evaluate the source of the feeling.

I ask myself questions to isolate the instigator. I call this my HIT LIST, because it’s ways I tend to get hit. Your hit list might be different.

I ask myself:

  • Am I letting what someone else said or did cause me to lose track of my joy and peace?
  • Am I falling into comparison traps?
  • Do I have unrealistic expectations of myself?
  • Does God feel far away?
  • Do I have any health issues or fatigue that is impacting how I feel?
  • Am I in a toxic relationship that drains me or influences me in a negative way?

Once you’ve identified your hit list, it’s time to determine the best steps to move away from discouragement and back into the land of encouragement.

3. Move from Discouragement to Encouragement.

  1. Determine what helped you prior times. What caused the discouragement to diminish or go away?
  2. Practice biblical self-talk. Speak to yourself in a way that aligns with Bible principles and with how God views you. Not how you view yourself or how you think others might view you.
  3. Lean in to God. Focus on His character and attributes. It doesn’t matter so much if you measure up to the “ought to’s.” Instead, it’s all about trusting the holy God, knowing He’s got this!
  4. Hunker into God’s love. Even when you’re discouraged, God wants to be with you. Your Papa God wants to encourage you! “But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.” (2 Corinthians 7:6 NLT)
  5. Anchor your focus on a Bible verse. Meditate on the meaning of that verse as you go about your day. Let it be a part of you, just like a song sticks with you all day long.
  6. Find a worship song with lyrics that encourage your heart.
  7. Get more sleep, but not too much sleep. (I bought a Fitbit designed to help me evaluate my sleep, so I could see not only how little sleep I get, but that I don’t get enough deep sleep.)
  8. Find a project to be a part of that benefits someone else. It’s difficult for a servant mindset and discouragement to coexist for very long.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:11 NLT)

Give yourself time.

It takes a while for feelings to catch up to reality, and sometimes our feelings even lie to us.

It’s more important to cling to the truths of God’s Word. These will never let us down.

What will you do to seek encouragement or seek to encourage someone else this week?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with Grace; and she is featured on CBN. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with their new puppy, an adorable Boston Terrier named Hettie.

Wednesday
Jan202016

Finish Well: Take Courage

If we want to finish well, I believe the first thing we must do is take courage!

As I (Dawn) mentioned in an earlier post, I am resetting my priorities and goals in order to "Finish Well" ... to complete the rest of my life with joy. I think it's important for seniors to pause and evaluate, to determine what needs to change in order to someday hear God's "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21), but also for a better life while we are on earth.

God, I believe, gave me three marching orders last June: (1) Take Courage; (2) Build Strength; and (3) Embrace Freedom.

In this and the next two UPGRADE posts, let's consider these three "resets."

Today, it's TAKE COURAGE.

I think these are days when Christians must be brave. There is too much at stake for our nation, churches and families for us to sit back, timid shadows of the warriors God calls us to be "for such a time as this."

The Israelis have a word for this: hazaq (pronounced Hah-zahk).

Hazaq is a verb meaning to be or become strong, firm or courageous. It is one of the Hebrew words used for man's power ("strong hand") and also God's power.

Hazaq was often used in the Old Testament to encourage soldiers to be strong (for example, Deuteronomy 31:6; 2 Samuel 10:12) and not be afraid of their enemies, because God would go with them. According to a biblical scholar friend of mine, a form of this phrase (Raq hazaq) is still used today by Israeli soldiers. They shout, "only be strong".)

We see this concept in Psalm 27:14:

"Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" (ESV)

We are to wait for and confidently expect the Lord! We are to allow our heart to "take courage" in Him!

Marvin Wilson, in his book Our Father Abraham,* describes how, in ancient and modern-day synagogue services, an entire congregation will shout loudly to each other, "Hazaq! Hazaq! Venith Hazeq!" ("Be strong. Be strong. Let us strengthen each other.")

One of the secrets to taking courage is to come alongside each other, supporting each other in the battles we must face!

I think there are at least four practical ways we can be strong and "Take Courage"—especially in the second half of life.

1. Face Uncertainties Bravely.

Our confidence is in Christ, as Psalm 27:14 indicates. Because our confidence is not in our weak flesh, we can face the uncertainties of life bravely.

In fact, when we trust the "arm of flesh," we are playing into the enemy's desire to destroy us! (See Isaiah 31:1; Jeremiah 17:5; 2 Chronicles 32:8.) We must always face life's uncertainties with the Lord, not in our own strength!

It's foolish to stay up worrying at night, afraid of the unknown. God is faithful in our future as clearly as in our past and present. And what's even more precious, if we have trusted Christ, God is our loving Father. He desires what's best for us—no matter our circumstances—and we can trust Him.

Wise King Solomon said it plainly:  

"Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the LORD will be your confidence..." (Proverbs 3:25-26, ESV).

2. Confront Your Weaknesses.

Face down your weaknesses. And your failures. And your sins.

God can enable us to courageously face who we've been, what we've done, and who we are in our darkest moments even now. Covering up or hiding what is true about our lives is not the path to growth or freedom.

We like to stay hidden in the darkness, hiding our ugliness. We don't want to come to the Light of God (John 3:19-20); but who do we think we are kidding? Jeremiah says our "ways" are not hidden from God's sight (Jeremiah 16:17; Isaiah 29:15).

We must come to God and welcome Him to enter the secret places in our hearts if we ever hope to have mercy, forgiveness and strength in ministry.

  • "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy" (Proverbs 28:13, NIV)
  • "... Forgive my hidden faults" (Psalm 19:12b, NIV)

When we have that merciful freedom of forgiveness, there's no need to fear being "exposed."

3. Stand for Righteousness.

And then, when our spiritual house is in order, we're in a better position to have spiritual influence. And oh, how this world needs spiritual influence ... BIBLICAL influence.

Even as we are courageously taking all our sins and faults before the Lord—"confessing" them, agreeing with God about them (1 John 1:9)—we need to remember who we are in Christ!

We are already righteous in the sight of God, because of what Jesus has done for us (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:22a; 4:5; 10:4).

The life we now live is "in the Son of God" who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). In and through Christ, we can approach God with freedom and confidence. And in that confidence, we can stand against the wickedness in our world.

We can stand for righteousness, knowing God will be with us, enabling us to do the work He calls us to do.

4. Become a Warrior.

God calls us to be soldiers in His army. We must determine to impact this world for Christ, using our spiritual gifts and the Christian disciplines as tools for our warfare.

In Christ, we can be a soldier of the cross. We can go into to battle, enabled for the fight by the grace of God.

  • Some will do battle on the front lines, exposing Satan's lies with the truth of the Word of God.
  • Some will battle as mighy prayer warriors for those in the thick of the conflict.
  • We all have a part. No one should be standing on the sidelines.

So take courage! In Christ, you will finish well.

Which of these four "Take Courage" goals is hard for you? Ask the Lord to show you how you can change in order to finish well.

* Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, p. 190.

Dawn Wilson, founder and president of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry (NEWIM). Dawn is the co-author of a devotional, LOL with God, and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, from pixabay.