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Entries in Eternal Focus (3)

Thursday
Jun062019

Overcomer or Overwhelmed?

Bible teacher and speaker Ava Pennington is gifted in being able to distill practical truth from scripture, and in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she gives sound advice for those times when circumstances threaten to overwhelm us.

"My husband was determined to use his final months to remind Christians to look up in the midst of their difficulties," Ava says, "But that’s easier said than done."

I (Dawn) so identify with Ava's words, and this article is timely for me as Ava shares her very personal story. The enemy wants us to live overwhelmed, but that is not what the Lord has for us.

Ava continues . . .

Three months after the oncologist pronounced Russ in remission, we learned the pancreatic cancer had returned with a vengeance, metastasizing to other organs.

Twelve weeks of rejoicing evaporated in an instant.

But his response shocked me almost as much as the prognosis:

“Don’t pray for healing. Of course, I want that and I know God can do it. But this time I believe He has a different purpose for me. I need to share, as much as possible, what it means to know Jesus Christ even in the darkest times. And that has to be my focus during my remaining time.”

For the final eight months of his life, Russ shared his testimony about a different kind of healing. He reminded Christians to look beyond their trials and suffering.

How do we do that?

  • How do we find the strength to see beyond our circumstances? To not be defeated by a diagnosis. Or beaten by a broken relationship.
  • How do we become conquerors instead of conquered? Overcomers instead of overwhelmed? Victorious instead of vanquished?

This is what I saw in my husband in those final eight months.

1. Remember who we belong to

"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

Living in a sin-sick world can make it easy to forget who we belong to. Our situation may cause us to think God has forgotten us or doesn’t care, leading us to lose faith.

We can let our circumstances define our relationship with God or we can let our relationship with God define how we view our circumstances.

As Elisabeth Elliot once said, “Faith's most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain.”

2. Maintain an eternal focus

"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV).

We’re often consumed with making this life easier. More comfortable.

While those goals are not bad in themselves, they often become obstacles to what God is accomplishing in and through us.

We become focused on making this life our best life ever, rather than remembering the best is yet to come.

3. Stop trying so hard

"Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16 ESV).

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

Living a victorious Christian life is not about willpower. It’s not about trying harder, working smarter, and doing better. It’s about drawing on the strength of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

Our job is surrender to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who will bring the results.

4. Pray about the advice we receive

Russ’s mission reminded me of the apostle Paul’s experience:

"A prophet named Agabus … took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:10-13 ESV).

When life gets hard—harder than we think we can bear—our loved ones don’t want to see us suffer. But their desire to spare us pain can give rise to misguided counsel, such as:

  •  “Work off the books. You can’t afford to pay taxes right now.”
  • “You’re still in school. Abortion is your only option.”
  • “You’ve fallen out of love? Divorce him because God wants you to be happy.”

Bottom line: advice that seems good isn’t always from God.

5. Do the next right thing

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 ESV).

Painful circumstances often cause us to feel overwhelmed.

  • What will the cancer diagnosis mean for me in six months?
  • Will I be able to manage my life without my spouse?
  • How will I pay the bills if I’ve lost my job?

But the Lord promised to care for His children’s needs.

Our job is not to worry about the future, but to obey, one day at a time.

And when that seems too difficult, then one hour at a time or even the next five minutes at a time. Don’t ask what will happen a year from now. Rather, ask what has the Lord placed in front of me today? Then do the next right thing.

We live in a broken world. It can overwhelm us or we can be overcomers.

The answer is not found in our circumstances, it’s found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We’re victorious when we remember our circumstances are temporary, but our life in Christ is eternal.

As you face your difficult situation, how can you maintain an eternal focus? What is the next right thing your heavenly Father has placed in front of you to do?

Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teacher, and speaker. She is the author of the adult devotional, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, and has co-authored two children’s picture books. Ava has written numerous articles for magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, and contributed to more than 30 anthologies. Visit her at: www.AvaWrites.com.

Graphic, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Apr032018

Why We Need Billy Graham's Perspective on Time

When I think about Debbie W. Wilson, I think of the word "refreshing." She encourages us to get a fresh perspective on things we take for grated. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she encourages a more biblical perspective on how we view and use our time.

"When a university student asked Billy Graham what had been the biggest surprise in his life," Debbie says, "he answered, 'My biggest surprise in life is its brevity.'”

I (Dawn) think that realization becomes more apparent the older we get. In day-to-day circumstances, we may forget to live in light of eternity. But life is short; what are we waiting for?

Debbie continues . . .

James agreed. He wrote to those bragging about their big plans for the future,  

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14 NIV).

Job put it this way,

“My days come and go swifter than the click of knitting needles, and then the yarn runs out—an unfinished life! (Job 7:6 The Message).

An adult mayfly has a lifespan of less than a day. In comparison with eternity, our lifespan is shorter than a mayfly’s.

Remembering this helps us live without regret.

Our family traveled I-40 from California to North Carolina. If you look at I-40 as representing eternity—which it feels like when you’re glued to the seat of a car with two small children wanting to escape the back seat—our lifespan covers less than 2 miles of I-40’s 2,555 miles.

Cultivating an Eternal Perspective

Remembering life’s brevity should shake us from our slumber. Are we living for the 20-mile stretch or for eternity?

Remembering the brevity of life changes us. It changes—

1. Our PURPOSE

Instead of bragging about my plans, I seek His plan for my life. He knows the future; I don’t.

I want to live for eternity.

2. Our DEFINITION of a Deal.

James rebuked the wealthy who got rich by not paying their workers on time.

“You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment” (from James 5:1-3 The Message).

If saving some cash cheats a sales person out of the fair compensation he needs to feed and shelter his family, it is not a good deal.

The wealth of those James rebuked became a source of shame when they faced death.

3. What we COLLECT

I love to decorate, but when our family moved to the Midwest for a two-year stint, we didn’t invest much time or money into our rental house. However, I willingly spent more on furnishings at a nearby antique auction for pieces I knew we’d move to our permanent home.

It would have been a waste to paint walls and plant shrubs in a place we were soon leaving.

When we set up our permanent home, we were thankful for the pieces we’d bought with our future in mind. 

It’s not wrong to store up treasure. We just need an eternal mindset to identify real treasure and to store it in the right place where it will not be corroded or have the power to corrupt us (Matthew 6:19-34).

4. The LEGACY We Leave

A cartoon showed a man standing before a storage unit with his son. The raised door revealed a space packed from floor to ceiling with stuff.

“This will all be yours one day,” the father beamed as his son grimaced.

What am I leaving behind? For what will I be remembered?

Billy Graham’s “brief” life on earth ended this year. His faithfulness to Christ during his 99 years blessed millions. I can only imagine the throngs of people who greeted him in heaven.

Our lives may not be as public as his, but our choice to live with an eternal perspective is just as valuable.

How does considering the brevity of life change how you live today?

Debbie W. Wilson—drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher—speaks and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog and website.

Graphic Adapted, courtesy of JaStra at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jun242014

Face Your Fears with T-E-A-R-S

Twila Belk’s positive attitude encourages others to look to Jesus. In this Attitude UPGRADE, the author/speaker shares her approach to dealing with fears.

“Whatever we focus on becomes magnified in our minds,” Twila says. “If we concentrate on our fears, they overwhelm us.”

Fears come and go, and I (Dawn) likely have as many fears as you do. We can’t stop the thoughts of fear from entering our minds, but we don’t have to let them take up residence!

Twila continues …

  • “How will I pay the bills?”
  • “Where will I live?”
  • “Who’s going to take care of me?”
  • “How will I survive?”
  • “What if it’s cancer?”

Sometimes we become so absorbed in the problems that produce these and similar questions, we can’t think about anything else. We dread the unknown.

During those times, a shift in focus is necessary. We need to fix our eyes—on God.

When we have complications seeing, we might fix our eyesight with a product called Artificial Tears.

When our spiritual vision is obscured, and we can’t imagine anything but trouble, the best remedy is T-E-A-R-S.

Let me explain what I mean.

T – TRUST. Trust is the opposite of fear.

Proverbs 3:5-6  tells us to trust God with ALL our heart. We’re supposed to acknowledge Him in ALL our ways. If we do that, He promises to direct our paths—to take care of us. We’re not left to flounder on our own.

The better we know Him, the easier it is to trust Him.

E – ETERNAL-MINDEDNESS. In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, we’re encouraged to fix our eyes not on what we see—the difficulties surrounding us—but on what we don’t see. The visible things are temporary and changing, but God and His promises are eternal.

If our hope is in Christ, we can endure the here and now through God’s bubble of grace, knowing that the best is yet to come.

A – ABIDE. Psalm 91:1 says, He (she) who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

To me, that’s a picture of crawling up on the Father’s lap and resting in His warm embrace. There we express our intimate thoughts to Him, pour out our hearts, and share what’s bothering us. As we’re on his lap, we hear his heartbeat and realize that it’s beating for us. With every pulsation we’re reminded how special we are to Him, how big He is, and that He has everything under control.

In the arms of our loving Father is the safest and most comfortable place to be.

R – REMEMBER. We easily become forgetful when face-to-face with adversity. The things we know to be true about God go by the wayside.

That’s why we need to continually rehearse His goodness and faithfulness. When we remember what God has done for us (or others) in the past, we can trust Him for today and tomorrow.

S – SET. David says in Psalm 16:8, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I won’t be shaken.”

Here’s how we can set the Lord always before us:

  • Meditate on Him throughout the day.
  • Carry on a running conversation with Him.
  • Memorize His promises and verses that speak of His greatness and repeat them often.
  • Post scriptural truths in much-seen places.
  • Sing praises.   

I’ve learned that my circumstances don’t change who God is; they show me who God is.

When I apply T-E-A-R-S to my tribulations, I see clearly that God’s presence, power, and provision are all I need. I pray you’ll discover that as well.

Do you have a nagging fear? How might you apply the T-E-A-R-S concept to that fear?

Twila Belk—aka The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal—is a writer and speaker who loves braggin’ on God. She’s written or co-written five books, contributed to several others, and recently started work on a new project, Raindrops from Heaven, that will release early next year. To learn more about Twila, including her newest title, I Believe in Heaven: Real Stories from the Bible, History and Today, visit her website, www.gottatellsomebody.com.