Trials into Triumph: 7 Truths to Anchor Deep When Life Gets Tough

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Christ is all, and is in all. – Colossians 3:11B

We all know that life is never perfect, and can never be perfect in this fallen world, with the vicissitudes of life in the volatile times. Sometimes, life does not go the way we want to, and we get caught up in our daily lives, and forget that this world does not define us. Whenever things are not going well, there is an inherent tendency to believe that God is not working in the situation. We are also tempted to think the worst, where everything from our vantage point seems bleak- We see no way out and perceive gloom and doom over the future. But little do we know that in such times, God is actually working behind the scenes orchestrating His plans to accomplish His purposes for our good and for His Glory. 

We may hate to admit that tough times draw us nearer to God with greater dependence and reliance on Him that result in a greater level or new level of faith. And those lessons are precious which can never be learnt in the good times. God knows what we need in life, but we need a fresh perspective on our situation- what we perceive will be different from what God can see. Remember, tough seasons do not last but tough people do, so in order to hang on well, we will need to anchor ourselves on these living truths:

#1. Fight the good fight and keep the faith

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome!” – John 16:33

Life will always be a series of tests and our faith will come under fire. And during those times of challenges, do we cringe in fear or cling to faith? Stand firm, let nothing move you, and always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord will not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). 

We will be trained to persevere and fight in faith, for faith is the confidence what we hope for will actually happen, it gives us assurance about the things we yet to see (Hebrews 11:1).

#2. Don’t lose hope for the day and keep disappointments at bay 

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. – Romans 12:12

Each day is a day of renewed hope since God has made each day a new page, a new chapter and a new beginning. We should be heartened to know that the faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease; Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

Therefore we have hope each day and rejoice, no matter what is happening around us, let us not lean on our own understanding, but in all our ways, acknowledge God and He will make straight our path (Proverbs 3:5-6). And always be joyful, keeping up a prayerful spirit at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

#3. Refuse to have conversation with the Devil and stand firm 

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” – Matthew 16:23 NLT

It is ok to be in the wilderness but it is not ok to sojourn in it, any longer we will get lost wandering and likely to end up as bitter souls like the Israelites. When we are emotionally and spiritually down, we are susceptible to attacks. The devil loves to take advantage of our vulnerabilities to play his favourite tool- deception. As a father of all lies, he will never stop insinuating doubts into our subconscious mind. Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life (Proverbs 4:23 NCV)– an idle mind is the devil’s playground, and every temptation always start in the mind, therefore we must always guard our thoughts and renew our mind with the Word of God constantly.

The devil is also good as masquerading as angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), so not everything good is from the Lord, whether through opened doors or providing options, hence make no assumption and be spiritually discerning if it is really from God.

One of the key values we ought to learn is to be content whatever our circumstances, and always be thankful, this way the power of the enemy will not have a hold over us since his ability in frustrating us will be rendered impotent.

Each time we are tempted, we should consciously choose God’s Truths over the devil’s lies; choose to gravitate our mind Godward; choose to believe that God will work things out in the end; choose to trust God and be patient for His divine provision or intervention; choose to live in peace and joy in the moment, and find rest knowing that He has good things in store for your future.

#4. Be still and know that God is still in control and keep on trusting 

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” – Jeremiah 32:27

Although God can do anything and nothing is impossible with the Almighty, but sometimes it is not necessary that God will provide a way out in our situation, He will provide a way through it. We just have to keep trusting that God knows best because His ways and thoughts are far higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). And blessed is the one who trust in the Lord and make Him his hope and confidence (Jeremiah 17:7). 

Be still, let go of your concerns, and let God be God. (Psalm 46:10). After all, God is not deaf nor his arms too short to move (Isaiah 59:1).

#5. Cast your eyes on God alone

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1-2

Whenever we look down, we can only see things with shadows, but if we look up, we will have a wider perspective and see light. In other words, we either magnify our problems or we magnify God in the situation- which is a better choice? It is also good to look around us and admire God’s creations- there are wonders beyond our apprehension what God can do, that you be surprised there is actually miracles everywhere. 

#6. Remember God is faithful even when we are faith-less

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. – 2 Timothy 2:13 NLT

It is an immutable fact that God is 100% faithful, even if we are faithless or faith-LESS. He knows what we need, He understands how we feel, He anticipates what is to come, and He is familiar with all our ways. He promises His Presence whenever we call on Him (Psalm 145:18).

Count your blessings what you have, not what you do not have. Recall how God has provided and blessed us with in the past, insodoing that will assure us that God will work things out in the end.

#7. We are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthen us, and continue to declare the living promises of God

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. – Romans 8:37 NLT

The almost impenetrable wall of Jericho came tumbling down only after seven days of incessant prayers marching around it (Hebrews 11:30). It is a great reminder that no matter how impossible a situation is, we will have the ultimate victory in Christ Jesus. With the Bible at hand, where it contains His Word like fire and like a hammer that smashes a rock (Jeremiah 23:29), and the living promises that when God speaks, He acts upon it and will not be unaccomplished (Numbers 23:19), we are more than conquerors through Christ in us and for us.

Therefore, be anxious for nothing, submit our concerns and lay down our requests to God and the supernatural peace of God will transcend all understanding will guard our heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). So be patient until God speaks and acts.

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A Victim into Victor: When You Can’t Trace God’s Hands, Trust His Heart

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And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. – 1 Peter 5:10

Not so long ago, there was a continuous spate of events about the breakdown of our local train made me realised that humans grumbled a lot when they encountered the inconveniences of disruptions. Regarded in the same light, we are also quick and inclined to throw a fist at God for the one thing that caused us great disappointment or anger, yet we failed to count the times God has blessed us with so much more. Just one setback can discount everything else.

When things aren’t going in our favour, we are susceptible to strike a protest or stage a long-drawn  rebellion. And before long, we spiralled down to a spiritual “black-hole”. The truth of the matter is, there is always a cause and effect in everything – it all start with an incidence that provoke a thought to engender a decision which in turn evoke our emotion and lead us to an action. Don’t belittle even the little thing because it is often the little foxes that spoilt the vineyards (Song of Solomon 2:15). A small spark is capable to set an entire forest on fire. (James 3:5B)

I once was on a rampage why life was so unfair to me. I felt coerced having to accept my “ill fate” that I did not deserve. Broken dreams broke my heart, so much that I came to hate this God who claimed He was good and everything was in His control. I had been cussing vehemently, “What a joke! There is NO God.” I was so broken that God actually came in person- In a deliverance session of dealing with my deepest pain, I saw myself as a three year old lost, enshrouded in darkness and wailing away. At that instance, Jesus came smiling, held my hand to comfort me and led me out of that darkness. As the back view of the two silhouettes dimmed away, I found my heart touched in a very supernatural way in showing me how much I was loved that He came to lead me out of that black-hole. That was my personal encounter with a living God that I could not deny His existence. That was how God got my little fox- it was the aching void of rejection in the need to be loved.

We all had our past, our former way of life with old mindsets and belief systems. And life in the fallen nature has us on roller-coaster from time to time. Although we may have accepted Jesus into our lives which already marked a new beginning, but some of us are still living with foxes that are nestling in deep burrows. The quality of our lives now reveal traces of what had been once-upon-a-time.

Hollow out the little sly fox(es). Jesus is very near to the broken-hearted. When we can’t trace HIs Hands in whatever situation we are in, we can trust His Heart no matter how you feel. A victim by exigencies can become a Victor by overcoming.

P.S. Today is Good Friday, let’s look at the Cross, again, the horizontal beam demonstrates how wide is His Love and the vertical beam shows how deep is His Grace. And when the two beams intersect in the middle, God affirms that nothing can separate us from the Love of God, no matter how far and how deep we have wandered. Because of His Greatest Sacrifice sending Jesus nailed on the Cross, there is no redemption beyond the impossible. Jesus bore our transgressions, carried the cross for our shame and sting by painful rejection from His own Father, yet He was willing to lay down His Life for our sake, so that we can live. Shouldn’t that give you reasons enough to hand to Him what you can’t handle? Shouldn’t that teach us not to take His Grace for granted?

Trials into Triumphs: Fear to Faith

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My life is in your hands. Save me from enemies who hunt me down. – Psalm 31:15 CEV

I ever wondered why some of us do struggle with trusting our Heavenly Father with our lives when we can entrust our own mortality to pilots who take us across bottomless oceans and precipitous mountains. Those who love to travel have this unspoken assurance and faith that the planes they are in will arrive at their destinations safely. Such is an absolute trust in finite pilots behind the wheels, but yet we fall short in trusting God altogether who is infinite and in control of the entire universe.

I am one such traveller who is apprehensive about taking flight. I really do not like the idea of floating in mid-air for hours, I felt as if my heart may pop out of my mouth any time, hence, I never get to enjoy the flight with ease. However, I do love the destination. Regrettably, in order to get to the destination, we need to embark on the journey whether we like it or not, and the road ahead is often paved with uncertainties of what is yet to come.

And truth be told, life is never perfect nor free from trials and testings. Many a times we made zig-zag turns or even u-turns in life that mess up our lives. As a result, we unwittingly enter into the wilderness or even the Valley of Baka (weeping). During those times of testings, it is human nature for believers to struggle even in our faith. Trials can incapacitate us with fears physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, relationally and mentally.

Yet the place of our greatest triumph is usually birthed from our greatest pain- God will use our greatest failure or deepest sorrow as a catalyst for a glorifying end in our lives and the lives of others. Our valley or pit becomes revived springs for ourselves and others, where we will go from strength to strength (Psalm 84:6). Only through ‘death’ can new springs come forth and a new strength emerges.

Recall Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane, pleading at the feet of the only One who can sustain him. How deep was His anguish that He even shed tears in blood. Even to death, Jesus submitted to His Father’s Will obediently (Hebrews 5:8). Ultimately, He overcame His testing, triumphed over His enemies and emerged victoriously.

It takes fear to confront Faith;

It takes Faith to conquer Fear.

Faith and fear cannot co-exist in the same plane.

Only through partnering God, can we be overcomer like Jesus did. (John 16:33) Take heart that in all things God works for good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

A Mess Into A Message: Your Story Is HIStory (“HIs-Story”)

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They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character. – Psalm 105:18-19 NLT

In the earlier days as a new believer, I saw myself in a few visions where I stood before a congregation to share about God. Lo and behold, I was requested to share my testimony for a session, “Faith To Heal The Wounded Soul” at my church’s Women’s Encounter. I had to muster enough courage to stand ‘naked’ before an audience of unfamiliar faces just to relate my checkered past. At some point in life, I really hate my life, I always begrudged why my life was beset with issues and challenges that were hard to bear. My life was such a mess up- a broken home, broken body, broken life and broken dreams- health crisis, identity crisis, financial crisis, and family crisis, I had been through them all. I did wonder would my life turn out differently if I have known Jesus much earlier…… If only I stop being so obstinate, I would have avoided much hard knocks of life and saved myself from much bruises and injuries. Perhaps, I am bearing the consequences of my own rebellion and bad choices.

But I must brutally confessed that it is better to go through life with God than without Him. Life will be more bearable with an Almighty than to shoulder it alone.

And my story is HIStory (“HIs-Story”), that took me years of broken dreams and humble circumstances in order to break every ounce of pride and self-will, to come to the end of myself.

If you ever wonder why life can be a series of mess- adversity of failing health, failed career, failed finances, failed relationships, and broken dreams?

Ever wonder why are we on earth for, having to go through such crises in certain seasons of our lives?

Ever wonder why must we go through storms of life?

And ever wonder if we took one wrong turn, we have missed out God’s Best?

Even after much wrestling with God, we can never seem to find those answers with bended fists, brandished arms and clenched teeth. Most of life’s difficult questions are best answered when we go through things that try us the most, for those are the things that God allow to prove by the truth of the Word of God and His Sovereignty. And there is always Light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long, His purposes will always prevail. God certainly desire us to be freed, if only we allow Him a free rein in our lives- changes can only happen when we embrace them openly.

We are made for more than just managing problems in life, that whatever we are going through act as catalysts in experiencing God’s Purposes, Grace, Power and Glory, that unfold a greater story. And the good news is, even if we missed an opportunity, took the wrong turn or made a wrong decision, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me” (Psalm 138:8). God is much bigger than our disobedience or mis-calculation on our part, isn’t that comforting to know our entire life won’t be thrown off course? Everything in life has His gentle Handprints, but you hold the pen to your story.

Some of the staunchest Christians I know are people who had periods in their life when they questioned the Bible, Christ, and God.  But as they continued to examine the matter, there was overwhelming evidence that only “the fool hath said in his heart, there is not God.” In God’s economy, you must go down into the shadow of grief before you can scale the heights of spiritual glory. You must come to the end of self before you begin to live. When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God.

– Billy Graham

When A Dream That Seems Too Big To Even Dream

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“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.'” – Judges 6:12

A few friends ever asked why I quitted my job to come out of my own eight years ago when it had been comfortable and I loved what I was doing then. Honestly, I didn’t plan for it, nor even dream about starting on my own, as such a decision to face an uncertain future unnerved me. Somehow an opportunity presented itself then, and after weighing the decision with my cell leader and the Body of Christ, I embarked on the entrepreneurship journey with peace of mind.

However that decision did not come easy, given that it would be an uphill task for me with my present physical limitation, and having to venture into the unknown left me feeling insecure and apprehensive. It was indeed a huge step of faith to take the leap: I had no back-up plans, no blueprint to follow, neither did I have a very sound financial safety net to fall back on should my business encounter some financial hiccups. I literally started on ground zero. Despite all odds, I believed that so long God was with me in this, and had commissioned me for such an assignment, He would provide and supply the means to get me through.

It was a great paradigm shift from being an employee to a self-employed, where more challenges await and fear of the unknown beckoning. I couldn’t count the number of times I felt intimidated, inadequate and unfledged. More often than not, I had been threading on a very thin tight rope, ready to topple any time.

At some point in time, I often remind myself if I can accomplish things in my own strength, where would that leave God? God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called, as such, He requires of us to be in a position of complete faith and trust in Him, more than we could possibly accomplish in our own strength.

That brought me to the story of Gideon (Judges 6:11-8:32). Gideon perceived himself to be the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh and the least in his family, that his own inferiority caused him to be insecure about his divine calling. Even when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior”. Gideon was threshing wheat instead of rising up to the call to deliver Isreal as the Lord had appointed him. God had to assure him personally and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (v. 14)

God knows our own limitations and how much we can do but He always sees our potential, not the failures of our past or present, nor our current “handicaps”. Only He can see our future, ushering us in His Highest Plans for our ultimate good and for His Highest Glory. He desires to work through us to accomplish His dreams on earth only each of us can do.

Is God birthing a dream within you that is bigger than you? God doesn’t put a dream in you without a purpose. Much less to say, He won’t put you through what you cannot handle. Our life on earth is exceedingly fleeting, be mindful that we may be missing out what God has intended for us. So be open and let God lead you through that vision or dream.

Let Jesus In (Teach Me What I Cannot See)

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P.S. May this be my e-gift to all this season.

“Teach me what I cannot see.” – Job 34:32

While seeking God for a specific Word during my stroll in the park one night, I received the following impressions on the above Rhema word.

We all have Holy Spirit residing in us, but how many of us so often seek His counsel in every aspect of our daily lives? And how often do we pray such a prayer, “Teach me what I cannot see.”?

We all know that God possesses all-encompassing Wisdom and Higher Knowledge as an infinite Sovereignty. And He sent His Holy Spirit, as a Helper, to reside in each of us. He will teach us all things, and bring to our remembrance all that God said (John 14:26).

Yet, we as finite beings of a fallen nature, living in the natural world, have eyes that only see the physical. In other words, there is limitation to what we can see with our eyes: our own limited abilities and understanding. Sometimes we have our own blind-spots, and can be blind to certain truth. Sometimes we can be so self-focus when we are inward-looking. If we are honest, we live by sight far often than we live by faith. With our inherent weaknesses, it is contrary to reason to teach ourself what is correct and what is true, in such a way our understanding will be very much flawed.

So when we request for someone to teach us, it takes great humility to acknowledge that this person has greater knowledge and understanding, which only God makes the mark. He says in Jeremiah 33:3 ESV, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Who in the world have such deep insights?

Some of us may reason, “Doesn’t He (God) see everything I do and every step I take?” (Job 31:4 NLT). Yes, God knows every details, but as a loving Father, He doesn’t want to breathe down our neck nor forcefully coerce a confession. We will be willing to learn if we are first convicted and be open to changes. God is willing to teach us. When we seek His Teachings, it will be a life-changing process that will transcend boundaries and empower us supernaturally, relying and depending only on the Living source.

It is now time to reflect- What dull your spiritual senses?

  1. What do you SEE? 

(a) What have veiled your eyes?

(b) Did you fail to see God’s handprints in each details of your life?

(c) Did you overlook His Will for you?

(d) Have you missed His Way?

 

  1. What do you HEAR? 

(a) What have blocked your ears?

(b) Have you been missing His Voice?

(c) Did you lose that sense of Familiarity in hearing Jesus?

 

  1. What do you FEEL? 

(a) What have choked your heart?

(b) Are you not able to feel His Presence near?

(c) Are you not able to feel the heartbeat of Jesus?

(d) How is your compassion quotient?

 

  1. What do you UNDERSTAND? 

(a) What cause your spiritual antenna to be defective?

(b) Have you been spending time in His Word daily?

(c) Have you been living your life with what you have learnt?

(d) How is your relationship with God?

 

It would be good to pray along with these verses prior to doing our own reflection:

“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults (Psalm 19:12 NLT). Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart (Psalm 26:2 NLT). Teach me what I cannot see.” (Job 34:32)

God In The Details

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Lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.- Proverbs 30:9

A friend gave me a hassle-free nano aquarium with self-sustaining eco-system of mini wonder shrimps and water snails. I love to take a break in between work to peep at these pets as it is therapeutic to observe how carefree they are around the tank. What really amaze me is, they can find food within their environment- they literally feed on any microorganisms bred in the specially designed eco-system. All I need is to feed them supplements – though not necessary- every alternate days to keep the shrimps happy. The round-shaped squishy looking mossy Marimo (in other word, algal ball in Japanese) latched in between the twigs provided decorative filaments to the already pretty aquarium, other than their main function to provide oxygen, and absorb waste and debris. (And yes, Marimo is considered a pet too, according to Wikipedia, since they are living organism.)

This aquarium is a very good reminder as a physical parallel to how I as an owner, an imperfect human, care for these little pets, and make sure they are fed and living well, so how much more our Heavenly Father who is perfect so desired to feed and provide for our every needs?

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin… – Matthew 6:25-34A

I have also picked a leaf from these pets that they seem to have a quiet assurance that they will be cared and provided for so they can live worry-free and happy. How much more, we as Children of God, even more precious to Him who love us, care not how we are doing?

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. (Psalm 139:2) For now You number my steps (Job 14:16A). And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30) 

God is in the details. He cares for every little things in our lives. He knows what we are going through, and our every innermost thoughts. We can take heart that God takes great pleasure in giving us what we need, because He is our loving Father.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32), And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry. (Proverbs 10:3A) 

Therefore, God knows what we need even before we ask of Him. And His provision always come on time, not too much lest we forget Him, nor too little that we dishonour Him. It is always just right and on time. It is better to trust God than to put confidence in men or even ourselves. (Psalm 118:8)

Courtesy photo (P1030698) taken by Rachel Hong @ Bandung, Indonesia, August 2017.