Blessing in the famine

One of the most encouraging things you can come to know when you face difficult circumstances is that you can be prosper even in a tough environment.

The Bible tells us that we can be blessed in a famine, even when our circumstances are barren, we can thrive and not just survive.

In Psalm 37:18-19 (NLT), it is written:
Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough.

Even when you are in the desert, God will provide streams to refresh you.

In Isaiah 43:19, God says:

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

While we are walking in the wilderness, God will guide us, smoothen the path before us and make a way for us through the barren land.

In Isaiah 35:6-7, the prophet says that:

Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.

 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

You might be going through a tough time now, but take heart, your difficult time is not permanent. The Bible has encouraging words for all those who are struggling with hard circumstances, who are facing material or spiritual or emotional famine. You might be in the desert, but God will bless the desert and cause water, grass and fragrant flowers to bloom in your wilderness. You will experience blessing, joy and abundance as God turns your desert into a garden. The key is to stay in faith and not give up. Though your surroundings may seem bleak, keep your eyes focused on God, have faith that He will turn your trial into a blessing and wait patiently for His deliverance.

 

God is for you

Have you ever been to a football match?

One of the reasons why people go to a live match, instead of watching it on TV, is that they want to be there to cheer their team. They leap around, wave their hands, shout and holler, all to show that they’re behind their team one hundred percent.

Well, the good news for us is that God is like one of those football fans when it comes to us. In Romans 8:31, Paul tells us that God is for us.

Isn’t that amazing? Sometimes, it’s easy to think that God is a stern Judge, just waiting for us to slip up and make a mistake so that He can condemn us. But the Bible tells us that’s the opposite of what God is like. God is for us. God is our biggest fan.

God is for us. This means God wants us to win.

It means God looks out for what we’re doing right, not what we’re doing wrong.

It means that God loves us unconditionally, and He cheers us on no matter how bad things get.

God is not waiting for you to fail. God is our biggest supporter. God is always rooting for us.

And because God is for us, we will always win.

Let God take you to a higher level

Are you facing a challenge today?

Let me encourage you. Beyond that challenge lies a victory. God wants to use your difficulties to promote you.

Many times, when you set out to pursue your dreams, when you become determined to make progress towards reaching your goals, you will face opposition. When you start going after your God-given dreams, realize that Satan will not just roll out the red carpet for you and leave you unopposed. Often, when you face hard times, it is because you are on the right track and your victory is just around the corner.

What was meant for your harm, God will use it for your good, to bring you to a higher level. God wants to turn your set-back into a stepping stone.

If you persevere, if you don’t get discouraged, after you’ve passed the test, God will promote you.

The darkest night often comes before the brightest light.

Joseph faced a dark night when he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife and sent to prison. But it was in prison that he met Pharaoh’s cup-bearer, who told Pharaoh about Joseph’s gift in interpreting dreams. This led to Joseph being promoted to Prime Minister of Egypt. Joseph’s time in the dark dungeon led him to being promoted to the peak of Pharaoh’s palace.

Daniel faced a dark night when he was thrown into a den of lions for refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. Yet God closed the mouths of the lions, protecting Daniel and the king was so impressed with this miracle that he promote Daniel to the top post in the land.

Christ faced a dark night during his crucifixion. He was whipped, mocked, betrayed, nailed to a cross and died an excruciatingly painful death. Yet three days later, Christ was raised to life. His darkest night became the most life-giving day.

So today, if you face a challenge, encourage yourself by telling yourself that God has victory in store for you. Your darkest defeat will lead to your brightest victory.

Your attitude determines your success

How you fare in life is often determined more by your attitude than your circumstance.

Your attitude is powerful – it can promote you or destroy you. You attitude can either help or hinder your success. It will determine whether you can rise from the pit to the palace, or whether you can become a victim of defeat or a student of success.

Some people find opportunity in every difficulty, while others find difficulty in every opportunity. Your attitude determines whether adversity makes or breaks you. Your attitude determines how you view life, whether you see trouble as an opportunity or an obstacle.

The good news is that you can choose your attitude. Your attitude is not just a feeling and does not need to be dependent on good or bad circumstances. You are responsible for choosing your attitude.

Your attitude colours the way you view life. When you have a positive attitude, your future looks bright and your present becomes more enjoyable too. People who are successful have learnt to use setbacks as stepping-stones, while unsuccessful people have used them as excuses. Ten percent of life is made up of what happens to you, while the other 90 percent is how you respond to what happens to you.

In order to have the right attitude, you need to make small adjustments to your thinking. Your mind is like a radio that needs to be tuned. If you don’t tune the radio, all you can hear is static. But by jiggling the knob on the radio a little to the left, a little to the right, you can tune the radio to the right station and enjoy hearing the music come through loud and clear. In the same way, we have to adjust our thought waves like radio waves and adjust our thinking so we face life with the right attitude. You don’t need to make a big adjustment to your thinking, sometimes just a small shift in perspective can lead to a big change in your life.

25 ways to win with people by John Maxwell

I recently finished reading John Maxwell’s “25 Ways to Win with People”, which I found to be very helpful in my quest to improve my relationships.

There are 25 points in the book but I wanted to share two insights that made the most impact on me:

1)      Make the person feel like a million bucks

We naturally tend to want to make ourselves feel good, but if we want to attract other people, we should shift our focus from making ourselves feel good to making others feel good about themselves.

Maxwell’s advice got me brainstorming about the ways I could make the person I’m talking to feel like a million bucks. Some ideas I had:

a)      Listen with full attention. Be genuinely interested, utterly fascinated by what your friend is saying. Ask questions, nod your head, listen with rapt focus, be enthralled by what the person you are talking to has to say.

b)      Listen to understand, not to respond. I’m usually afraid of silence in conversation, so my natural reaction is to think of what I can say when my friend finishes talking. The problem with this is since I am thinking of what to say instead of fully turning all my attention to listening to what my friend is saying, I’m not giving my friend my full focus. I’ve resolved to let go of my fear of silence and give my full attention to listening to what my friend has to say, putting my focus on understanding instead of responding.

c)       Compliment others. During conversations, I now try to actively, aggressively seek for any opportunity to praise the person I am talking with. I especially try to compliment my friends in front of others, as the feel-good factor of a compliment increases exponentially when you praise the person in public.

2)      Let people know that you need them

Before I read Maxwell’s advice to let people know that I need them, I always felt bad about needing people. As a single, I have a fear of being lonely. I actively seek out friendships because of my fear of loneliness, yet often I feel guilty about making friends to relieve my loneliness because I feel that my loneliness is a weakness that I have to overcome, that I shouldn’t depend on people to help prevent the pain of being alone. It was a relief to read Maxwell’s advice, he tells us that people like to feel that they are needed, they like leaders to tell them – “I can’t do it without you”. Maxwell writes – “Leaders can become great, only when they realize that they are the ones who need people…let them know you helped…It’s not a sign of weakness to let others know you value them. It’s a sign of security and strength. When you’re honest about your need for help, specific with others about the value they add, and inclusive of others as you build a team to do something bigger than you are, everybody wins.” Maxwell’s advice has inspired me to tell my friends that I need them to help me overcome my loneliness and made me feel comfortable about reaching out to others for help when I’m feeling lonely.

What to do when you don’t know how to achieve your dreams?

We all have dreams in our hearts, desires that burn deeply in our soul.

Maybe you’re dreaming of a job which you enjoy, that pays you well too. Or maybe you have a sickness that you’ve been praying a long time for healing. Perhaps you’re lonely but you can’t seem to find that soul-mate you’ve been longing for.

We all have dreams and too many of us give up on them because the dreams seem too difficult to attain. Maybe you’ve tried to pursue that dream and failed, or you’ve waited for a long time and don’t seem to have made any progress. You’re stuck in a mediocre life – you’ve settled for just surviving instead of thriving.

One of the main reasons why we don’t pursue our dreams is because we don’t know what to do. We look at our circumstances and it looks so bleak we don’t know how things are ever going to change for the better. We feel stuck and trapped. All the doors seem to be closed and there seems to be no way out. Maybe the doctor tells you you’ll never be cured and you just have to endure your sickness. Or you just got laid off and are worried you won’t be able to get a good job because of the bad economy. Perhaps you find it hard to make new friends and so feel you’ll never meet the person of your dreams.

I’ve got an encouraging word for you today. Don’t give up. Even if you don’t know how to attain your dreams, God will create a path for you to reach your dreams. God specializes in doing the impossible. You might not know, but God knows. Trust in God’s guidance, a guidance that often leads us through surprising and unexpected paths. You may be at the foot of the mountain, but God will guide you up the difficult slopes to reach the glorious peak.

A good example of how God can help you attain your dreams even if you don’t know what to do can be seen in the story of Joseph. When Joseph was a teenager, he had a dream that he was going to be a great man, so great that his father and brothers would bow down to him. When Joseph told his brothers his dream, they were filled with envy and anger and hated Joseph. His brothers hated Joseph so much that they beat him up and sold him to a band of traders heading to Egypt. Joseph became a slave in the house of the Egyptian captain of the guard, Potiphar. I imagine when Joseph was sold into slavery, he must have thought that his dream was dead. How could he ever become a great man when he was a slave, all alone in a foreign land? Joseph had no idea how his dream would ever come to pass. But God was with Joseph. He prospered Joseph so much that his master, Potiphar, put him in charge of his entire household. Things seemed to be going well, and Joseph began to have hope that God somehow miraculously would help him reach his dreams of greatness. But then disaster struck. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph and when Joseph refused her advances, she told her husband that Joseph tried to rape her. Potiphar was furious and threw Joseph into prison. Joseph faced yet another great challenge to his dream. Stuck in a dark and depressing dungeon, I’m sure Joseph couldn’t see a way in which he could be a great man when he was now a suffering prisoner. But Joseph kept his faith in God. He knew that God could make a way even when there seems to be no way. Joseph believed that even though he didn’t know how he could attain His dream, God knew the perfect way and would guide him to his divine destiny. One day, one of Joseph’s fellow prisoners, Pharaoh’s cupbearer, asked Joseph to help him interpret his dream. Joseph correctly interpreted the cupbearer’s dream and the cupbearer was restored to Pharaoh’s court. Some time later, Pharaoh had a disturbing dream but none of his wise men could interpret the dream for him. The chief cupbearer then remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about Joseph, so Pharaoh summoned Joseph into his presence. Joseph correctly interpreted the dream for Pharaoh, and the ruler was so impressed that he made Joseph the Prime Minister of Egypt.

I’m sure even in his wildest dreams, Joseph didn’t expect the way God promoted him. But just like Joseph, God can lead you along a path to your dreams that you couldn’t even imagine. So don’t worry if you don’t know how you’ll even achieve your dreams. God knows how and that’s enough.

The important thing when you’re in a place where your dreams seem impossible is to stay in faith, keep trusting in God to bring your dreams to past. Keep obeying God’s commands and be faithful in the work He’s entrusted you to do. Keep giving your best, living a life of excellence. You’ll find that when you do what you can, God will do what you can’t. Keep believing, keep pursuing your dreams, and like He did for Joseph, God will guide you from the pit to the palace.

Don’t give up

One thing which I’ve been trying to develop in myself is a fighting spirit, a spirit that refuses to give up until the victory is won.

When I face an obstacle, my natural reaction is to get stressed and freeze up. I bury my head in the sand and hope that the problem will go away by itself. Now that’s not a positive way to deal with problems, so instead I’ve been trying to cultivate the habit of not giving up. Now, if I face a difficulty, I keep trying to find a solution to the problem until I see my breakthrough.

As Christians, we should always keep battling on because God has promised that we will be victorious if we don’t give up.

Promises where God guarantees us the victory can be found in Romans 8, where Paul tells us that God works all things for the good of those who love Him, and assures us that we are more than conquerors through God who loves us. In Jeremiah 29:11, the prophet tells us that God has plans to prosper us and Galatians 6:9 tells us to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” In 2 Chronicles 15:7, we are also encouraged to “be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded”.

The Bible is full of stories of people facing obstacles and overcoming them by God’s grace.

David defeated the giant Goliath with just a pebble, overcoming a mighty warrior who was much bigger, stronger, more experienced and better equipped.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the King’s idol and were thrown into a fiery furnace. God delivered them from the flames by sending an angel to protect them in the fire and the escaped – victorious – without even the smell of smoke on their clothes.

Abraham was about 75 years old when God promised him a son. The patriarch had to learn not to give up as he waited patiently for 25 years before his wife delivered him his son Isaac.

The ultimate example of God giving us the victory when we don’t give up comes in the example of Christ. Our Lord was crucified and buried, but was raised to life. Christ’s victory over death teaches us to not give up, for even when our circumstances seem hopeless – dead and buried – God can resurrect our dead dreams.

Don’t let your circumstances stop you from pursuing your dreams

This week’s blog post builds on last week’s entry about pursuing your dreams.

As Christians, the way we pursue our dreams is radically different from the way the world pursues its dreams. If you are a regular non-Christian, when you’re deciding whether to take the risk to pursue a dream, you would naturally look at your circumstances. If your circumstances are positive, if it looks like it’s going to be easy for you to pursue your dreams and the events in your life make it smooth for you to chase your passion, you’ll take the step to go after your dream. But if you see trouble in the horizon and have enemies and obstacles blocking your path, you would freeze and not pursue your dream.

For Christians, the Bible shows us that we shouldn’t let negative circumstances stop us from pursuing our passions. Many times, God uses our set-backs to become stepping-stones for our success.

Take the example of Joseph. When he was a teenager, he had a dream that he would be great and that his whole family would bow down before him. When he told his brothers about his dream, this made them angry with envy. They beat up Joseph and sold him as a slave to some merchants bound for Egypt. Yet Joseph’s difficult circumstance – being a slave – couldn’t put him down. He became highly successful as a slave and his master Potiphar entrusted his entire household to Joseph’s care. But then disaster struck again. Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph, and when he resisted her advances, she set him up, accusing him of attempting to rape her. Joseph’s master Potiphar was furious and had Joseph sent to prison. So Joseph was in a terrible circumstance again – in prison – how could he ever achieve his dreams while trapped in a dark dungeon? Yet God used this obstacle as a method to promote Joseph. While he was in prison, Joseph successfully interpreted one of his cell mate’s dreams, so when Pharaoh was looking for someone to interpret his disturbing dreams, Joseph’s former cell-mate recommended Joseph. When he was brought before Pharaoh, Joseph successfully interpreted the ruler’s dream and Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph, that he made Joseph Prime Minister of Egypt. Thus Joseph achieved his dreams even though he was in the most desperate of circumstances, as God used his obstacles to help take him to the highest level.

Peter was another man who had to learn not to let his circumstances stop him from achieving his dream. During a stormy night, when he was in the boat with the other disciples, Peter saw Jesus walking on water. Inspired by the Lord’s miraculous feat, something stirred inside Peter and he wanted to do something as amazing as what Jesus did – Peter wanted to walk on water too. Peter cried out to Jesus to enable him to walk on water and Jesus invited Peter to join him on the choppy waves. Peter jumped out of the boat and began living his dream – he walked on water, with the liquid under his feat solid as rock. But then Peter started focusing on his circumstances – that he was in the middle of a violent storm – and started to panic. Peter’s fear caused him to sink and he would have been a goner if Jesus had not reached out to him and caught him.

Peter’s experience teaches us an important lesson. When Peter had faith and kept his eyes on Jesus, he could do the impossible. But when Peter focused on his impossible circumstance, instead of Jesus, he started to sink. In the same way, we should stay focused on our God who can do the impossible, instead of the impossible obstacles that block the way to our dreams.

Don’t let your weakness stop you from pursuing your dreams

Do you have a dream in your heart that you’re not pursuing because you fear that you’re not good enough? Do you have a passion that you’ve squashed because you think you don’t have the ability to be a success in that area?

In order to be a success as a Christian, you have to stop assessing your dreams in the way the world does. The world’s way of deciding whether or not to pursue a dream is to look at your gifts, strengths and natural abilities. If we are strong in a particular area, we will pursue the dream but if we are weak, our fear of failure holds us back from pursuing the goal.

But God’s way is different. God often asks us to pursue things where we are weak in. God uses our weakness to make us rely on Himself. God uses our weakness as an opportunity to show forth His strength by His grace.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul writes:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

David was another man who knew how to be strong in God through his weakness. When David faced Goliath with only five smooth stones, he was facing an adversary who had much more training and experience, who was much bigger and stronger and more skilful in battle than him. But David wasn’t intimidated by the strength of his enemy. David knew that despite his weaknesses, he could conquer any opponent as long as God was on his side. In the end, David defeated a giant with just a small pebble. God was strong in David’s weakness and His divine strength enabled David to accomplish something great.

In fact, God loves it when we are weak and we have to rely on Him for our strength. The story of Gideon fighting the Midianites shows that God purposely made Gideon weak so that He could glorify Himself when the weak Israelite army won the battle over their opponents.

In Judges 7, we find the account of how God reduced the number of men in Gideon’s army so He could gain the credit for their victory:

Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

In 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, Paul tells us how God chooses the weak to shame the strong, so no one can boast before Him:

 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 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. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

We can be encouraged when we see our weaknesses because God can overcome our inability with His ability. Let God’s supernatural help us overcome our natural weakness.

In Zechariah 4:6, the prophet says:

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.’

We can view our weakness as an opportunity to gain new skills, to grow, to be strong in an area you’re weak in, to gain new confidence in an ability that you’ve acquired that you didn’t have before.

Your weakness is an opportunity for God to do something new, to equip you with fresh power and might, to arm you with new abilities. Your weakness is an opportunity for growth, a chance for you to stretch yourself and conquer new frontiers.

So don’t let your weakness stop you pursuing your dreams and passions. Bravely decide that you’re going to pursue your goals no matter how weak you might feel, and rely on God to empower you to do even the impossible! If God has put a passion in your heart, then He will also provide the resources for you to achieve that passion. Rely on God and not your natural ability and you can fly to heights that you never thought possible.

Light and darkness

This week’s blog post reflects on the metaphor of light and darkness in the Bible.

In the Bible, we are told that God is light. In 1 John 1:5, the Apostle writes –“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

When we are in darkness, we can be encouraged that God lives in us and so we have a light that will never go out.

Whenever we suffer, we look forward to the time when the difficulty will be over and we can experience relief. We continuously look to God to remove the pain. However, during the dark times we have to learn that God’s light is still always shining amidst the gloom. We have to learn how to trust God and learn to see His light in the night. When you follow God, you are never fully in the darkness, his light is always there. When you experience God’s light in your darkness, that changes your whole experience and attitude towards darkness.

God’s light will guide you day and night. You might not know what to do far into the future, but  God gives just enough light for the exact moment you need it. Trust that the light from God is sufficient. When you are walking in darkness, take comfort in God’s light. No matter how dark your life is, in God you have an abundance of light.

Devote yourself to prayer and reading the Bible, so that when the false light comes, you can recognize it and return to God, the true light.

God allows darkness to come into our life because some things can only be learnt in the darkness.

Darkness can be a test, it enables us to grow spiritually and teaches us about God.

When you are in darkness, look for God’s light – His goodness and guidance. God’s light is always there, even in the darkness, but you have to look for it. Good can always come out of any situation, look for the light in the darkness. Reach out for God.

Darkness can lead you to a greater awareness of God’s presence as the greater the darkness, the more zealously you seek Him.

God enables us to be confident about His light by letting us test it in the darkness. When this happens, don’t be afraid. God has created darkness in this case to benefit you. Isaiah 45:7 tells us – “I form the light and create darkness”.

When you are experiencing great darkness, not able to see anything, be comforted by the fact that God is with you and that He hasn’t forsaken you.

Sometimes the greatest light comes after the deepest darkness.

Sometimes when things are dark, you may feel that you aren’t in God’s will. If you are in the dark because you have sinned, repent and God will lead you out of it. However, if you have been obeying God, you are in God’s will. God at times will lead you to darkness to grow your faith. Don’t be afraid of the dark, but see it as a good place to be. When the darkness surrounds you, God’s light inside you will shine brighter. God will give you light right where you are, just take God’s hand and walk with Him.

Be courageous and go on a journey where God’s light is your only light. Give God permission to lead you wherever He wants.

Don’t worry if you can’t predict the future. Trust in God even if you can’t see clearly ahead. And don’t have regrets about the past. Focus on the fact that you have God now. God is your light. And that’s all that matters.

When you are in the dark, try to see God’s light. God wants us to depend on Him so we can walk with Him on the path He has laid out for us. He wants us to come to Him so we can sense His presence always. There is a darkness that is not like the darkness of evil or the darkness of our disobedience. There is a darkness where God places His treasures. “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who calls you by your name, am the God of Israel.” The treasure we find in the darkness is God.

God uses darkness to increase our knowledge of Him. The more difficult our situation, the more desperately we cling to God. Darkness can help reveal God’s great love and grace towards us. Sometimes, there are things that God can only teach us in the dark.

Sometimes what seems like the darkest step we’ve ever been on comes just before the brightest light we’ve ever experienced.

He wants us to trust Him so completely that He can take us on a journey where His light is our only light. Then when we take His hand, He can lead us anywhere.