In a summer-long series on the parables of Jesus — this one seemed to fit. Amazing how God times things.
I have been writing about the times of crisis — especially from the viewpoint of leadership. My hope is that if you are in crisis-mode right now you are beginning to see the end of the tunnel. I pray God brings you through this time quickly.
It’s important to know what to do AFTER the time of crisis has passed. Many of us miss these important steps.
Rejoice. Be thankful the crisis is over and a time of peace has come. I have many times prayed fervently during the hard times, but forsaken my “God-time” when everything is going well. Don’t follow my example in this.
Share. The Bible is clear that we are to use our struggles to help others in theirs. Often because of fear or embarrassment we don’t allow people to see our past hurts. This denies God the opportunity to use the experiences He has given us for His glory. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
Prepare. If you have lived long enough you know that seasons of crisis come many times in life. During the quiet times — when all is going reasonably well — is when we should be preparing for harder times.
Rest. To borrow from the Cheers theme song, “Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.” Many people never enjoy the peaceful times because they are too paranoid about the next crisis that may or may not even occur. We should prepare for times of trouble, but we should never live in a state of worry. Worry is a sin. And, it’s never helpful. After a crisis, rest. Recover. Rejuvenate.
Grow. I have grown spiritually more during the hard times than in the easy times of my life. Crisis-mode teaches us valuable insight into the character and heart of God. Use the down times to evaluate your relationship with God, your life, and see how the two connect. Work on the places you are out of sync with God’s will for your life. Work on your skills as a leader. Become a better person. Some of the strongest character is developed only through times of crisis.
It would be nice if you never needed these posts. My sense is, if your life is anything like mine, that some of you will. Maybe even today. I’m praying for you if this is your current situation.
In my last post I shared 5 things not to do in times of crisis. I am writing this with the leader in mind, but I suspect they may be life applicable regardless of the crisis.
As stated, I began with the negative, because in my experience that’s where most people begin when crisis occurs. (Read: 5 Things NOT To Do In Times of Crisis) We often tend to run in the opposite direction from where we should run. Some of the worst decisions I have observed people make (including me) are during the crisis-mode times of life.
Obviously knowing what to do in these times is equally important. How you respond and what you do will greatly determine future realities after the crisis has subsided.
Stay. I love Seth Godin’s book “The Dip” where he explains how important it is to know when to quit and that time may come. At the beginning of the crisis is not the time. Until you have been able to evaluate the crisis from every angle and you clearly know there is no way out, stay the course. Godin’s book also talks about how those who succeed learn to push through the hard times. Stay in it long enough to know which time it is for you. I share this from very hard personal experience. We sold a business — walking away simply to start over — and looking back we may have recovered had we suffered through it a little longer.
Stand. Stick to your moral convictions and the vision you have for your life. Don’t allow the crisis to keep you from doing the right things, even if those choices seem to be the quickest solutions. Stand with the moral and personal convictions you had before the crisis began. You’ll be glad you did when the crisis is no longer a crisis.
Glean. Learn from others who have gone through similar crises. Someone else’s past situation may not be identical to yours, but the emotional and decision-making process they went through probably will be. Most people after a crisis can tell you things they wish they had done differently. And, most leaders who have led for any significant period of time have either endured through a crisis or, even if they failed miserably, learned valuable lessons they would do for the next crisis.
Examine. I said in my last post not to do this immediately. We tend as leaders to quickly want to blame someone — mostly ourselves. This is never a helpful process initially, but at some point you’ll need to ascertain how you got in the crisis in the first place. If it was a matter of bad decisions, how can you keep from making those same mistakes again? If you keep finding yourself in the same crisis, shouldn’t that tell you something? Sometimes the answer will simply be because we live in a messed-up world or things were out of our control. Don’t be afraid of that answer, but don’t default to it either. We all make mistakes and we have to own them.
Learn. Allow every crisis to teach you something about God, yourself and others. If you have this ambition and mindset you will be surprised how different your approach to suffering through it and dealing with it emotionally will be. God is always willing to use the hard times to teach us important principles about life, ourselves, and ultimately about Him.
I’ve got one more list to come about the times of crisis. And, It’s the one all of us in crisis want to get to eventually. Next post I will share 5 things to do after a crisis.
Are you ever stressed?
Silly question, right?
We can never remove all the issues of our life that bring us stress. We have to somehow learn to navigate our lives through stress.
I have some easy suggestions. I have shared this strategy so many times. I hope you find it helpful.
Let me warn you, this isn’t some deep, researched system. These are simple. But, in my experience, they are powerful suggestions.
Get a set of index cards. Write on each one what you are most concerned about in life right now. Only one concern per card, but use as many cards as necessary. Everything you’re concerned about — worried about if that’s your word — goes on a card. (You can grab a cup of coffee if you want — since that’s in the picture.)
There is something cleansing about writing out your concerns. It is a therapeutic exercise. (Insider information — you’ll find some of the things don’t merit a card once you have to write them.)
Place cards. After you’ve completed your cards, lay them face up on a table in front of you. This is a bare your soul moment. Now, share them with God. He knows them already — better than you — but do it anyway. It is freeing to give your recorded burdens to your Creator.
Pray. Pray something like this, “God, this is what I have before me which I can’t handle. I’m asking You as my Father, who loves me more than I can imagine, to give me direction, success, wisdom, patience and understanding in every area of my life. Lead me along the path you would have for me. I’m trusting completely in you. If this season is a success in my life it will depend on You. I love You Lord. In Jesus name, Amen”.
Do the best you know how to do. And, then leave the rest in God’s hands.
Please understand this is not a formula for success. I don’t believe those exist.
And, this isn’t simple. I used the word simple earlier, but that was just to keep you reading. There’s nothing simple about walking away from your right to control your outcome and leaving things in God’s hands. Even though we ultimately have very little control over the way things turn out in our life — we still naturally want to try. Worry often comes easier than faith.
Also, understand God is certainly not defined by our prayers. God will do what is best for us and His will — even when that disagrees with what we think we want.
This “system” is, however, Biblical — in my opinion. I based it on Hezekiah’s actions in response to receiving a letter that threatened his entire kingdom. (Talk about stress.) Read that story again in 2 Kings 19:14-19.
I have tried this numerous times and God always responds to my humble attempt to surrender my fears, stress, and concerns to Him.
Sometimes this response has relieved me of my stress. Most of the time, however, this process helps me refocus and feel a sense of calm among my circumstances knowing my God is ultimately in control.
Try this and see what happens.
I love the story of Esther. If you haven’t read it lately, you can do so HERE.
1. God has a special plan for your life.
Esther was placed in a royal position, not by chance, but for a purpose.
Reminds me of one of my favorite verses. Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plan’s his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
God didn’t make a mistake where He has you today. I think we spend too long in our life trying to figure out where God wants us to be or wishing we were somewhere else, instead of just allowing God to do something with our life where we are, while waiting for more to come.
2. Sometimes you will have to go against common sense, against what others advise, even against what you want to do in order to follow God’s plan.
Esther would have to approach the king, though she didn’t have permission. This could have meant certain and sudden death for her since it was even against the law to approach the king. Esther’s response: “If I perish, I perish!”
Sometimes God’s will makes perfect sense, as you examine your experience. (I wrote about that HERE.) That doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t be required to take risks for God. The best things in life often come with the greatest risks. The degree of difficulty is not an indication that God is not in it. In fact, the opposite would be closer to truth.
3. The time to follow God’s plan is now.
I find Esther 4:14 interesting. “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
We mostly consider that last part of the verse, but notice the “Who knows?” It’s a question. They weren’t sure. They knew she was in the position as queen. She had opportunity to see the King. They knew God wanted to save the people. They knew for whatever reason Esther had been made aware of the plan. But did they know for sure that’s what Esther was supposed to do? Apparently not! They went without being 100% certain. Who knows?
There will be times in your life when you’ve gathered all the information you can, you’ve prayed as well as you know how, you’ve sought Godly counsel; whatever you are doing is not sinful…but there is something inside of you that’s still not sure. You can sleep on it. That’s something I always do. Esther waited 3 days, but at some point you just have to muster the courage to move forward. Without all the answers, are you ready to step out and walk by faith? Don’t be afraid to allow God to determine the outcome.
4. Trusting in God completely brings great rewards.
Esther 8:17 In every province and in every city, wherever the edict of the king went, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.
Esther saved a nation. Her obedience saved God’s people from destruction! The reward for obedience was even better than expected. Esther went before the king prepared for the worst case scenario…she got the very best! Many people became followers of God! The people were inspired by the faith of one woman and one man that everything changed in that nation.
It will always prove profitable in the long run to obey God. When others see us living in radical obedience; obedience that makes no sense, they’ll want some of what we have. The world around you is looking for answers; trying to figure out how to make life work. We may not have all the answers, but we know about a God who does.
When was the last time you asked, God what do You want to do through my life? Are you ready to walk by faith?
Jesus was specific about what it takes to be a good disciple. This isn’t a guessing game.
If we want to mature in our walk with Christ, we should pay close attention.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
First, we must deny ourselves
Jesus is not saying here that we should not own anything. Or want nice things. He is asking us to line our desires with His desires — even when they conflict with our desires. He is asking us to prioritize our life — with God and others in mind. (The first and greatest command — and the second is like it.) In denying ourselves, we are to look to Jesus and not unto our own abilities. Trusting Him when we can’t find our way without Him. That apart from Him, we can do nothing. Deny our fears. Deny our inabilities. Deny our sinful temptations by the power of the Gospel. Deny me — for Him — knowing I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Second, we must take up our cross
I don’t have a cross. At least not literally. But Jesus is encouraging us to carry forth His cross. His agenda. His mission. We are to be the salt of the Earth. We are to spread the Good News. We are to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world, as others see Jesus in us. The message and wonder of the cross — the Gospel — is to be evident in us. We should love the unlovable. Forgive the ones who don’t deserve forgiveness. Extend grace. Attempt to bring reconciliation through Christ. His cross.
Third, we must follow Him
That may seem like the easiest, but it is perhaps the most difficult. It would be easier to write a bunch of rules of what a good little Christian should look like. But, we’d only mess that up into some sort of legalism. Michael Yaconelli once wrote, “Jesus said follow me’, not ‘Follow my rules.” I remember when I was younger playing “follow the leader”. The guy in front made all the moves. The object was to follow the leader exactly. It was usually easier in looks than in practice. Jesus is our leader and every day we need to mimic the Savior. It won’t always be easy. Culture will work against us. Some in the church will still want to write more rules. But Jesus following will always be best. It’s part of being a disciple. In fact, it IS being a disciple.
Which of these three steps do you most need to apply to your life today?
I have the opportunity to sit with many people who are experiencing disappointment in life. Many times, even when we are doing the best we know how, we find ourselves disappointed with where we find ourselves in life at the time.
Life happens. It could be tragedy or a minor set back, but it hurts. Pain is always relative to context. And, if we don’t know how to respond we can have a very hard time recovering.
Having faced disappointment many times in my own life, I’ve learned a few things about navigating through these times. I hope some of my wisdom gleaned through experience can help you.
Keep your heart close to God. That’s important always, but especially during times of disappointment. The Psalmist said, “God is close to the brokenhearted.” God is most likely at work in ways you cannot presently see or understand. Often disappointment ushers in some of the greatest seasons of God for your life. Don’t miss it by not listening to Him.
Wait for your emotions to heal before you make major decisions. Recall how the prophet Elijah was ready to die during a difficult period. (1 Kings 19) Yet God still had great plans for his life and ministry. We tend to make irrational decisions immediately following times of disappointment. Let some time pass and make sure you are thinking rational again before you implement major changes in your life.
Don’t quit doing what you know to do. While you shouldn’t make major changes, an equally dangerous tendency to give up or stall until the next opportunity arrives or life gets “easier”. You may need a resting period, but keep your mind and hands busy doing what there is to do today. It will help protect your heart and mind from the attack of fears and doubts. And, do things that keep you alive and healthy. Eat, sleep, exercise.
Don’t allow a disappointment to determine your sense of self-worth. Read many of David’s Psalms. (22, 69, and 121 are a few of my favorites.) You can read his despair — then as He reminds himself of God’s love and faithfulness — he is restored. Be restored who you are as a child of God. Beloved. Let God and the people who know you best help determine your worth. It’s monumental worth. Yes, even today! You don’t have to be defined by your disappointment.
(And, be on the lookout for signs of severe depression. Things like withdrawal, constant feelings of despair, severe worry, not eating, dark fears or thoughts, etc. Don’t resist professional help.)
Remember, you are not alone. Even though it may feel that way. Back to the story of Elijah, he couldn’t see it at the time, but God had reserved an army of supporters for him. Disappointments are a part of everyone’s experience. There is likely someone who has experienced the same type disappointment. Don’t be afraid to find them and let them walk through this period with you. (This is not a time to remove yourself from the church community — this is a time to find real, life-giving community.)
Learn everything you can from this period. No one welcomes disappointment, yet most who have experienced them learn some of life’s best lessons during those times. Even failure can be a great teacher. Don’t miss the value of experience.
Move forward when opportunity presents itself. Too many people become paralyzed after a period of disappointment, refusing to ever move forward again. Living an abundant life requires risk-taking. Dreaming again. Loving again. Ultimately, to be obedient to God’s call on your life, you will have to walk by faith again. If you ever hope to escape the moment of disappointment — when the time is right — and you’ve grieved your loss or disappointment sufficiently — get on with life.
Learning how to handle disappointments will make your life better. Eventually, God will — if you allow Him to — grant you the privilege of helping others who experience disappointment.
What wisdom have you gleaned from times of disappointment?
And without faith it is impossible to please God… Hebrews 11:6
We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you. 2 Chronicles 20:12
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:27
God calls people to seemingly impossible tasks. It gives Him glory when I can’t do something, but He can. I can do “all things through Christ who strengthen me“, but often what He calls me to do can seem foolish to attempt (at least to others — and sometimes me) at the time. Imagine what the friends of Abraham, Moses, and Noah must have thought when God called them to what appeared to be impossible assignments. God calls people to walk by faith into the unknown.
If you know God has called you to something don’t be dismayed if others can’t quickly identify with your calling. In my experience, God is often raising up others with the same heartbeat, but you can’t always see them at the time, so there may be periods when you have to stand alone on God’s calling. That may be for a season, but at times it could be for years. (Consider the case of Noah.)
With that in mind, what are some indicators what you are experiencing might just be of God.
I’m not saying this post confirms what you are attempting is from God. It might. It might not.
What I am saying is that you should not dismiss the call you believe God has placed on your life because it doesn’t make sense to others around you — or to yourself at times. God things seldom do. Read a few Bible stories if you need some inspiration — or confirmation of what I’m saying.
Are you in the midst of a God-calling?
What would you add to my list?
I love and encourage dreaming.
I think dreaming is healthy for our emotional well-being. It’s a process that helps us accomplish great things personally and for God.
We are told we serve a big, creative God, whose thoughts will always be bigger and better than ours. We are to walk by faith. We are to trust God into the unknown. Dreaming should be natural to believers. Dreaming stretches the vision of churches and organizations, it fuels creativity, and many great opportunities develop first as a dream.
The reality is –‘however — that more people have dreams than attain them.
Perhaps you have dreams you have yet to accomplish. I certainly do. One reason dreams never come true is that we don’t have a system in place to work towards them. I love to be an encourager for people with great dreams, so with that in mind, here are some steps to help you move towards reaching your dreams:
Identify your dream – This is where you list specifically what the dream would look like. Obviously it needs to be attainable. If your dream is to create a new moon you may be disappointed, but don’t be afraid for it to be a stretch either. For example, suppose your dream is to be to be an author. That’s a dream you can accomplish, but it may not be realistic to write the next Purpose Driven Life.
Make an action plan – Write down specific action steps you can take towards attaining your goal. (The writing down part is important.) Sticking with the the idea of being an author, perhaps you could start with a blog for which you write post regularly to build the discipline of writing. Then move to outlining chapters. Then you might set aside a few hours a week to actually write the book. Record realistic dates to begin/complete each step.
Develop accountability – Most of us work harder when we know someone is going to challenge us to do so. Consider the success of programs like Weight Watchers. Accountability works, so share your plan of action with a few people who will continue to challenge you to completion.
Share the load – Even though it is your dream, the best ideas are accomplished when people work together towards a common vision. Don’t be afraid to invite others to help you accomplish your dream as needed.
Take a risk – If you really want to succeed, you must be willing to risk failure. Every great dream has an element of risk involved and the ones who achieve their dreams are the ones wiling to assume the risk.
Stay consistent – If you want to achieve your dreams, you will have to keep at the task, even during the set backs. Push yourself to complete scheduled action steps even on days you may not want to do anything. These is how habits are developed. Many give up too soon, often just before the tipping point towards success occurs. Unless you know it’s time to try another dream, stay consistent with the one in front of you.
Get started – The longer you wait, the more you delay achievement and the less likely you are to begin. If you know the dream is worth achieving, if you are confidant it’s a God-honoring, morally right, and worthy dream, then start today!
What is one dream you have yet to attain? Why not take one meaningful step to get started today?
And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8
Two scriptures this Friday before Resurrection Sunday! Two scriptures to remind us!
That’s why Jesus went to the cross!
Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!
While Jesus breathed His last breath all of Heaven was on edge. Never before had there been such an occasion. The Son, loved and adored by all the angels, but especially by the Father, was about to give up His life.
At the hands of an angry mob, but under the will and direction of the Father, Jesus had been mocked, beaten, bruised, and hung on a cross to die.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
He had placed upon Him the sin of all the world. The Bible said the wages of sin is death — and Jesus’ death was unlike any other. (I have often thought, He was more dead than any man had ever been — since His death was the result of all sins, past and present, which are ever committed.)
Perhaps worst of all, God the Father — perfectly Holy, as was the Son — had to forsake His Son.
Since God can allow no sin into His presence, and since Jesus had become sin, the Father had to forsake the Son. God turned His back on Jesus to avoid looking at His sin. Wow!
As a dad, I can’t imagine.
Through the shed blood of Jesus, and through His bodily resurrection, you and I, by faith, by believing in Him, receive the eternal, permanent commitment.
He will never forsake us, because Jesus paid the price at the cross!
No matter what you are going through — no matter how tough life seems right now — no matter what your circumstances — no matter what you have done — if you are a follower of Christ — God will never forsake you!
That’s good news today! And, that’s truly a Good Friday!