An Easter message applicable all year long.
If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24
Years ago when we were in business, Cheryl and I went through a difficult season in life. We had had such success, but times got hard. Dealing with employees, cash flow, banks and trying to increase sales so we could make payroll made for many sleepless nights. It was distressing. I was frustrated. And, because I couldn’t sleep, I was less productive during the day.
I’ve grown a lot since these days – and from these days and I’ve come to believe, unless there are health reasons why you cannot, we should be able to rest at night. I wish I had known then what I know now.
Over the years, I have learned a few secrets of sleeping better each night.
Exercise during the day
Sometime during the day, make yourself physically tired. Exercise not only works the body – it frees the mind. It helps you prepare to relax. There’s a power in physical activity which cannot be ignored. I try to exercise at least 5 days per week. During the sleepless days of business I mistakenly thought I was too busy to take the time – which was foolish on my part.
Eat healthy foods in adequate quantities
I’ve learned, for example, greasy foods don’t set as well on my stomach. You’ll have your own foods which don’t make you feel as well as you could. Also, if you eat too little you’ll wake up hungry. If you eat too much you won’t settle peacefully. Find the right quantity of food and discipline yourself to eat the right amount. This usually means eating until you are satisfied, but not stuffing your stomach. And, eating early enough for food to settle. We even find walking after we eat helps us rest better. Finally, for this point, staying adequately hydrated seems to help me sleep better.
Put your day to bed
This is huge. For me it means reviewing my day and preparing for tomorrow. I spend a few minutes reflecting on what took place, what I can change and what I can’t, and then looking over my calendar for the next day. It mentally says “This day is over. A new day is coming.”
Even on weekends or when I’m out of town I keep pretty much the same schedule. Occasionally I’ll need to “catch up” on some sleep, but most of the time I’m in bed and out of bed (without ever using an alarm) at the same time each day. Once it becomes a habit it’s not so bad – even getting up early. Seriously. We moved time zones in the last few years and there was another adjustment to make. Now my goal is 7 hours sleep a night. I can tell a difference when I don’t get it.
Invest in good bedding
Don’t be cheap when it comes to your mattress or bedding. I’ve learned you get what you pay for with this expense. Shop for quality, as well as price. There are mattress experts. Rely on them.
Write it down
Journaling can be a release from the day. Share your thoughts, concerns, fears and dreams. Get them off your chest then lay them to rest. (No rhyme intended, but it works.)
End with a release to God. Regardless of how stressful the day was give your burdens to the Burden-Bearer. I’m not trying to be cruel – just factual, but if worry is keeping you awake at night, you have a faith issue bigger than a sleep issue. I certainly did in the hard business season. Remember, Gid is on His throne – even as you sleep. (If you fall asleep while praying God won’t mind. Didn’t you enjoy watching your children fall asleep?)
There will always be exceptions when you still can’t sleep – sickness, sick children, etc., but it shouldn’t last long without impacting the rest of your life. And, if necessary, see your doctor. The older I get the more I realize how important sleep is for overall health and productivity.
Try some of these and let me know how they work for you. I’m praying you learn some secrets for better sleeping.
Do you ever have trouble sleeping? What tips do you have?
If I have faith, why haven’t I been healed? How do we answer this question when it’s asked by a loved one with cancer? When it’s asked by parents who’ve lost a child? How do we answer it for ourselves, when we find are wheeled in for surgery or otherwise suffering?
This question is one of about a dozen questions addressed in the new book, I Am Strong: Finding God’s Peace and Strength in Life’s Darkest Moments by my friend John S. Dickerson. Today’s blog is an excerpt from the book and is part 2 (part 1 available here).
Yesterday we examined how Paul the Apostle was never healed (in this life) from his “thorn in the flesh,” which included physical, emotional and spiritual chronic pain. Today we find encouragement in more Bible heroes who suffered severely, even while having the highest and strongest faith.
Paul wasn’t the only spiritual giant who found God’s strength and joy right in his suffering. Many of Heaven’s choice servants spent months or years in prisons, and not because they were being punished by God.
Joseph, who God used to save nations, spent 13 years as an Egyptian prisoner and slave—while God was delighted with him.
Zephaniah, God’s chosen prophet, spent a good chunk of his life in a Babylonian prison (present day Iraq). The same goes for Jeremiah, who suffered rejection, slander and loneliness as well as literal imprisonment while doing exactly what God had asked him to do. God even told him to expect the rejection.
Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, was chosen by God to declare that Messiah had arrived. Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest person in the history of the world. What a privilege! And then John spent the rest of his life imprisoned by Herod Antipas, who eventually beheaded John as a party favor for a niece.
The apostle John spent lots of time in Roman prisons and jails.
Many of the first Christians got arrested and thrown in jail, simply for believing in Jesus. This practice continues today in parts of the Middle East, northern Africa, China and other areas, where the idea of “problem free Christianity” insults the most faithful believers of our era.
Peter was imprisoned again and again.
Paul’s singing friend Silas shared his jail cell.
In the early years after Christ rose from the dead, it became so common for believers to get thrown into prison that the early church made it part of its culture to visit jailed Christians who couldn’t make it to the Sunday gathering.
These imprisonments meant the loss of all earthly possessions. Believers “joyfully accepted the confiscation of [their] property, because [they] knew that [they] had better and lasting possessions.”
Jesus warned Christians in one church, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution…”
Like Napoleon Bonaparte, John the disciple was sentenced to live his final years on a secluded prison island. From there, John wrote the final book of Scripture, Revelation. (John the disciple is different from “John the Baptist,” above, and keep in mind, he was “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” so no need to doubt Christ’s love for you when anymore in your own suffering.)
From Introduction to Conclusion, God’s people in the Bible are persecuted and jailed. Imprisoned on earth, but anticipating their escape into a better land with God. Peppered between those bookends we read stories where God does miraculously heal or instantly deliver from pain. God invites us to ask for such miracles in prayer even today. And I have seen Him perform those dramatic miracles. But, many strong believers today, including Joni Eareckson Tada, and recently Dr. Wayne Grudem, have not yet had a miraculous healing from pain or difficulty.
And we must face the reality that even the believers who did get miraculous healings (such as Lazarus, raised from the dead as described in John 11), those folks still eventually died earthly deaths. They left this earth knowing that death is not an end for the believer, but a beginning to a better life that actually is problem-free.
Here’s where we must gently but insistently course-correct many of our American brothers and sisters in Christ: Scripture focuses on our certain rescue in the future, not on present pain-free living now. (This can be a difficult concept for folks like us, who live in an age of immediate gratification.) Sure, some of God’s people got miraculously freed from their prisons. But the majority more closely followed the pattern of Paul, who prayed for healing three times (2 Corinthians 12:8), and then lived the rest of his earthly life with a painful “thorn” impaling his flesh.
It’s often the same today. While all believers will eventually be set free from our prisons, pains or thorns, we do not always gain immediate freedom or healing. This is why it’s called faith, a persistent belief that Jesus will break us out and that He will sustain us until His return. A faith that continues to believe, no matter what.
Find comfort in this list of spiritual super heroes. Their sufferings declare:
When you feel like you’re in a prison, you’re not alone.
When you feel like you’re in a prison, you’re not unspiritual or lower-class in God’s eyes.
When you feel like you’re in a prison, you’re not unloved by God.
When you find yourself in prison, God has not forgotten you.
When you find yourself in prison, and you choose to cling to faith in Chirst, you can count yourself in the company of Scripture’s spiritual heroes.
Like Paul, writing with his “thorn in the flesh,” you can declare in Christ:
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.”
-2 Corinthians 4:8,9
This blog is an excerpt from John S. Dickerson’s new book, I Am Strong: Finding God’s Peace and Strength in Life’s Darkest Moments. It’s written for times of suffering in life–to encourage you and help those you love build a Biblical theology of pain and suffering. Get free sample chapters by sending an email to: Friend@IAmStrongBook.com or visit IAmStrongBook.com.
But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” The LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say,’I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Samuel did what the LORD said.1 Samuel 16:2-4a
God sent Samuel to annoint David king. He was removing Saul from power. It was a dangerous and scary assignment and it made no sense politically or practically. Speaking against the king could bring death, but not only that, Saul looked like a king. David was an unknown kid.
Samuel was naturally afraid. Wasn’t there some other way? Samuel surely must have thought.
God’s plan was made. He wouldn’t budge because of Samuel’s fear. God never leads by popular opinion, so Samuel obeyed.
When Samuel obeyed God, EVEN THOUGH it didn’t make sense – in his mind – for him to do so, he was exhibiting his faith in God. Faith always moves without seeing or understanding. Faith is always prior to receiving the complete picture or having all the answers. Faith precedes victory.
Years ago our family traveled to our nation’s capital on vacation. I have spent considerable time in the city, as a college intern and during my political and business days. It is one of my favorite places to visit. Our boys had never been. I told them this would not be an enjoyable trip – at least not for the first few days. At nine and twelve years of age, and not being musuem people, I knew they would be bored at first and I wanted to prepare them.
I was right.
I told them, however, if they would obey me they would be glad they had been by the time we finished the trip. When we left Washington, DC, both boys were sad to say goodbye to the city. They had fallen in love with it. The twelve year old even said he wanted to attend a college there. (He later changed his mind.)
This is the way it is sometimes in our Christian walk.
Obeying God, following Him, and carrying out His plan, especially when it contradicts our own, is not always the first thing we want to do. It won’t even seem to make sense at times.
It may seem impossible.
It will likely make us afraid.
It stretches us beyond our abilities.
It might be uncomfortable.
It requires more resources than appears available.
But, as we obey God, and He works His will through our obedience, God blesses us in ways we never expected, and we begin to experience what it means “all things work for good for those who love the Lord”. (Romans 8:28)
Samuel didn’t want to go find David, but he obeyed. And, guess what? God knew what He was doing.
And, God knows what He is doing in your life too!
In what area of your life are you most having to walk by faith these days?
During times of trials and difficulty we often forget – or we never even understand- the value of brokenness.
Yes, I just wrote the previous sentence. And, I stand behind it.
Not many people would choose to be burdened with heartache or disappointment, but the way God uses suffering for good is rarely realized until after the trial has passed – often years later.
This doesn’t mean the loss from suffering doesn’t still hurt. It often does. And, some pain – such as the loss of a loved one – never disappears completely. I’m not necessarily writing about this kind of brokenness. I’ve written about those type losses in other posts – although God works in those times for good also.
I’m talking in this post about brokenness from things like the loss of a job, personal failure, the breakup of a significant relationship. The kind of brokenness, where we often played a part or someone else made decisions or choices which hurt us deeply. The kind we try to run from, forget, or hide from other people. The kind of which we might be embarrassed and people pray for us more than we list them as a “prayer request” at church.
Upon reflection, we can see how God worked even through these darkest days of life.
I was reflecting recently on some of my own times of brokenness.
Brokenness keeps one humble. Humility is highly honored by God and is an attractive quality to others. We would never ask for humility. There are no steps to rid our life of pride. Humble people have been humbled.
It teaches valuable life principles. Honestly, I have learned more from the hard times in my life than from the good. Again, these are not lessons we seek on our own, but experience – even and perhaps especially the hard experiences of life.
It brings repentance. I often forget how much I need forgiveness. Brokenness, especially when caused by my own actions, reminds me I am hopeless apart from His grace.
It encourages a fresh start. Starting over is not always as bad as it seems. It could even be a blessing we may not have sought on our own, but looking back we are so glad it came.
It invites God’s grace. Brokenness brings me to my knees. As sin increases, grace increases all the more. I long more for God’s favor and His protection. It’s never a bad thing when my heart longs heavenward.
It illustrates humanity. Brokenness reminds me frail people share the commonality of life struggles. We are in this together – all in need of God’s mercy and grace. We live in a fallen world. The only hope is Jesus.
It welcomes the heart of God. Psalm 34:18 says, “God is close to the broken-hearted.” I’m so thankful for this truth!
Has your story been shaped by brokenness?
Allow the molding energies of God’s hand to craft His masterpiece in you as you yield to His ultimate plan for your life.
There is value in brokennes.
Worry is like a plague to our body. It attacks our mind, then our heart, and over time, it can consume our overall health.
Wouldn’t it be great to never worry again?
I’m not sure this is humanly possible – although I can’t imagine either why Jesus would give a command He wouldn’t fully allow us to obey.
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.” How good are you at obeying that verse?
But, then again, He commanded a lot of other things I’m not perfect at either.
So, I’m still a work in progress.
I know this, however – one part of maturing as believers is to begin to eliminate worry from our life. Certainly, as we mature in our Christian life – we should, over the years, worry less.
Let me share a few things I’ve learned, which may help.
You see, it’s a trade-off. You can pray or you can worry, but you can never do both at the same time. Which would you rather do? Seems to be a reasonable trade. How amazing is it the Creator of sunsets wants to have a conversation with me? Worry seems to be a cheap substitute in this regard.
Do wise things.
As a believer, sin is always going to cause my inner conscience to feel guilty – which usually translates quickly into other emotions, such as doubt, anxiety and worry. When I know I’m doing the best I can do my heart is freed of needless worry.
Of course, I’d recommend the Bible. I think followers of Christ should read it everyday. It’s where we find the hope, faith and trust spelled out for us by God Himself. But we should read things, which speak of truth and bring encouragement. For some people this may mean turning off the news and reading. In our home we opted not to have a television in our living room. We have to “go” watch TV. It’s not that television is necessarily bad, but I just don’t seem to find much which really encourages me these days. I try to read at least one chapter of a Christian book everyday, in addition to my Bible reading. The point is when we fill our minds with good things it crowds out some of the bad things.
Choose your thoughts carefully.
The Apostle Paul said to think about these things – “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8) I always ask myself: Why worry about what I can’t control? Why worry about what might happen when I can choose to think about good things which are happening? And, lots of good things occur everyday – when I choose to think about them.
This really is the key to worrying less. The more I trust – the less I worry. I can step up my faith, because I know God is on His throne. He has a plan and He will do what is best. Every time! And, listen, the key to trusting Him more is simple – spend more time with Him. Like any healthy relationship it grows stronger with time and effort. The more you know God the more you will love and trust Him.
Here’s to a worrying less lifestyle! Who’s with me?
Age and maturity has helped me better discern what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.
Still, I’ve equally learned – through many different seasons – there are often more opportunities than time in life – even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. I have recently had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”. They were things I wanted to do. But, as much as they lined with my strengths, passions, and dreams, I said “no” to them.
How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing — perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?
God’s calling on my life says no.
This trumps all the others. This applies to many decisions, but let me use my vocation as an example. I do not believe I’m called to a place as much as I’m called to a Person — the Person of Jesus Christ. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in where we serve. There are seasons of life, however, where I know He has positioned me in a place “for such a time as this”. There are things He has called me to complete “at such a times as this” God always has a right to change my assignment, but when He has made the assignment clear the decisions of yes and no should become easier.
My heart doesn’t line up with this decision.
If I can get no “peace” about saying “yes” it’s time to wait or say no. This requires consistent prayer and wrestling with the decision, but the more I pray the more confident I become in sensing God’s specific will for my life and in this decision.
When it distracts from what God has called me to do.
I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I can only do what I can do. There is nothing wrong with taking assignments just because I want to do them. If, however, it is going to get in the way of my ultimate calling – the right answer – the often difficult, but brave answer – is to say no.
When my personal strengths and interests don’t match the opportunity and I don’t sense an urgency from God.
I have learned situational or physical limitations aren’t a factor if God is in the mix. He can part waters if they are in the way, so I can do things outside of my strengths, but in my life God seems to usually work within the experiences and gifting He has granted me. Why would He waste the investments He has already made in me? Therefore, apart from a sense God is challenging me in a direction outside my gifting, I can rest within the place where He has been preparing me and say no to those He has not.
Discerning the heart of the decision is critical and requires a consistent, close, seeking the heart of God relationship with the Father. I realize it’s much easier to write this post than to live this post, but hopefully this will help you as you too wrestle with the seemingly good, even sometimes seemingly God opportunities.
I wish I had used this paradigm earlier in life, because it would have saved me some heartache.
What “good thing/s” do you need to say “no” to during this season of your life?
There are many courageous leaders in our world today. Certainly coming to mind are the military and emergency personnel who serve faithfully everyday.
It takes courage to be an organizational leader also. And, I see many courageous leaders, as evidenced by the strong organizations that thrive even during difficult economic times.
But, what does it mean when we talk about courage and leadership? Every leader I know wants to be considered brave, strong, courageous.
Who are the truly courageous organizational leaders among us?
I have a few thoughts. I wish I always lived up to all of them.
Doesn’t bail on the team when things get difficult. Courageous leaders remain steadfast when others are departing.
Not afraid to make big requests of others. They make big asks of people, but are willing to pull equal weight to accomplish them.
Willing to take the first move into unproven territory. Courageous leaders are pursuing the unproven by willingly taking risks.
Moves forward by faith. Even when the outcome is unclear, courage helps these leaders face conflicts others tend to avoid. Uncharted waters are the courageous leader’s playground.
Makes hard decisions regarding people. Leaders with courage entrust others with genuine responsibilities. They empower people even before they completely prove themselves. They invest in people others are willing to dismiss — But they are also willing to acknowledge when a team member is no longer a good fit for the team and — as graciously as possible — move forward without them.
Protects the God-given vision. In the midst of criticism, hard economic times, and setbacks courageous leaders stay the course. They know God has called them to something bigger than today and they hold fast to His plans for their life and the people they lead.
Implements needed changes. Change is never easy. It’s why most of us avoid it, but even when they are uncomfortable or not immediately popular, leaders with courage push forward to lead change with diligence. They challenge the status-quo with which others have grown contented.
Thanks to all the courageous leaders who are leading well! You are making a difference!
Anything you’d add to my list?
Four principles we explored from this parable:
1. Storms will come – they come to all of us.
2. The way you respond to storms depends on the strength of your foundation.
3. You won’t really know the strength of your foundation until it’s tested.
4. The time to build your foundation is now.
Sermon from 7.19.15