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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Keeping Secrets

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When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt.  I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”  And You forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. – Psalm 32:3, 5 NLT

Sometimes I encounter friends who would share something with me but end up hushing me to keep them a secret. And I often wondered, if it is meant to be a secret, it is better not to share with me in case I may forget to honour my promise to retain confidentiality. Not only is it a burden to keep promises (because we may fail any time), it is also a burden to keep secrets, for fear of being found out one day if confidentiality is breached by careless and loose tongue.

I am thankful that having served as a former cell group leader had trained me to abide by “professional-spiritual” ethnics in protecting my cell members’ trust in me. And the bonus of shepherding a group had limited my capacity to remember so many things shared with me. Every time, I would feel burdened for them having to keep “secrets”, and I had witnessed how they wasted away with moans and groans all months (or even years) long, to the extent they are numbed and crushed. Like Psalm 38:8 in the bible warns, “I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.”

Whether secrets or not, we all will pay a price for sins or disobedience- even if we can fool men, but we cannot deceive God who can see or know every secret things in our lives.

Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” – Isaiah 29:15

And the more we try to hide, the more darkness will lurk in every corner of our soul., for our soul is not meant to ingest sin. At the end of the day, there will always be something gnawing inside us relentlessly.

The murderer arises at dawn; He kills the poor and the needy, And at night he is as a thief.  (Job 24:14). In the dark, thieves break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. (Job 24:26). Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:20)

It is needless to suffer the miseries of unconfessed sins. Ephesians 5:11 exhorts to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13). If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16).

Remember, as the Chinese proverbs goes, “There is no paper that can contain a fire.”

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, – Acts 3:19

Why Is It Hard To Rejoice?

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“Rejoice in the Lord, and He will give you strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) In His Presence is the fullness of joy.” (Psalms 16:11)

There is actually a difference between joy and happiness. Joy is something that lives inside of us, as it is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), which we have access to the divine joy of God. It will always be there even through downtimes. Whereas the latter is something you must attain or arrive at in order to be happy.

The key to “REJOICE” in the Lord in pursuance of renewed strength:

  1. RE-JOY – Daily choose to re-joice, in order to turn on the tap of outpouring joy.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again–rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NLT) For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15 NLT)

  1. RE-JOIN – Daily choose to re-join to the Holy Spirit, in order to tap onto His power.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” – Galatians 5:22

  1. EN-JOY – Enter the joy of your salvation and enjoy it. Remember what you are saved for.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. – Psalm 51:12

Why joy eludes us? There may be areas we can identify:

1. Because we let the burdens of this world weigh us down and wear us out. It is a sign that we have been walking in our flesh — for the fruit of the world is emptiness— and not the Spirit (since one characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit is joy).

2. There may be areas in our lives that have drawn in darkness, i.e. unreconciled issue with someone or even God. When a candle is flickering, it can barely lit the room. The strength of the candle wick reveals the power of the flame. So when the wick is strong, the flame will be burning strongly and the room will light up brightly. Likewise, joy works in the same equation.

3. There may be an unwillingness to die to the self that we struggle to walk in obedience to what God says in some aspect of our lives.

4. We let joy be contingent on our circumstances. Does it mean we can only feel joyful during happy times? No doubt, humanly speaking. But, real joy comes to test even in difficult times. A praise-full soul find renewed strength and joy in the Lord and not through circumstances.

5. We are not living in God’s presence. How is your relationship with God? Is God merely a weekend visitor? Or a last minute drop-by when there is pocket of time? When life gets too busy to even read your bible, or pray, or to offer praise, it is simply too busy.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Offenses. Cold Love.

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For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. (Matthew 12:34B) What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1) For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and evil of every kind. (James 3:16)

We all have people in our lives who hurt us, and we hurt others too, consciously or unconsciously. And when we are offended, we are inclined to react or retaliate unchristlike. The fact is, hurting people hurt people- the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.

So what is truly residing in our heart? Imagine Jesus, who know our innermost thoughts, probed, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4)

Sometimes, people are most critical in the area of their deepest emotional need- It may be their indirect way of needing affirmation, seeking love and requesting for help. As Dr. Gary Chapman puts it, we all have our love language- when we understand this, we can respond more positively. So whenever we hear criticism or get an unwarranted retort, James 1:19 reminds us, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” That means it is time to listen- as he or she may be inviting you to respond to their need in order to make them feel loved.

On the other hand, we have to be mindful that if our heart is full of malice, envy, and contention, we are easily liable to be provoked and hurried to any evil work. And the root of such evils stemmed from unresolved issue of pride, anger or bitterness from injustice or unforgiveness, and rejection. It can penetrate and wound any dimension of the soul. And the danger is, Jesus had warned that, as we near the end of the age, a majority of people will be offended to such a degree that they fall away from the faith.

“Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another… and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” – Matthew 24:10-12

Many will be offended; the love of many will grow cold, if we allow any offense to remain in our hearts. The above verse has warned that for an offended soul, betrayal, cold love, and hatred go hand-in-hand. Instead of dealing with the offense, people carry them until the weight disables their walk with God and incapacitated of overcoming their own. People do not usually stumble over boulders, but over stones– the relatively small things— which the  accumulation of all small little things can be injurious to the soul, which will demand you to retaliate in the flesh.

It is time to take a honest inventory of our heart. Let God perform a “surgery” on your heart (and yes you may need to have the “surgery” daily), “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

Each day we are faced with occasions for taking offenses- we are either given the opportunity to be offended by something, or to exercise overlooking offenses. Proverbs 19:11 says, A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” May the purity, peace, gentleness, teachableness, and mercy of being Christlike be demonstrated in all our actions, and the fruits of righteousness abound in our lives.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

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This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths,  ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. – Jeremiah 6:16

My ex-colleagues have always been addressing me as “Miss GPS, can you direct me how we should get there?” or “GPS, is this the correct way to that place?” or “GPS, please direct me, otherwise we will all get lost!” Isn’t it funny that a non-driving-license holder has a better sense of direction than those (I mean, not all drivers have poor sense of direction) who own a driving license? Perhaps, I just know a little more since I was quite “well-travelled” being chauffeured around.

Not long ago, this GPS teaser shed a new light…

The best GPS system is still the One who is omnipresent and all-mighty. He can see a far much better picture and has the “state-of-the-art navigating system”. He is the best Person to get directions, directing our every path; where we should be heading and where we should stop. And He knows best which is the safest route without the unnecessary zig-zag turns, the crazy jams and the merry-go-rounds. And we can trust that we will be in one piece without the mess-ups. Wouldn’t all drivers like to travel safely with no time waste?

So let God has your driver seat. Just admit it, we are all poor drivers (I mean, in life). You will come to a cross-road, a juncture, not knowing if you should turn to the left or the right- His Way or your way? From time to time, you will come to an amber light, should you dash ahead or slow down- wait for Holy Spirit or run ahead of the Spirit? You will at times beat the red lights, and oh dear, you are summoned to face a fine- to be rebellious or be obedient? You will certainly be stuck in a heavy traffic jam that seemed to take ages to clear, and oh no, you find yourself in the throes of mood- be patient for God’s timing or be impatient and miss your kairos moment? You will occasionally miss the correct turns- trust God or trust your own wisdom? Not to mention, you will have to go one big round- how long will it take for you to learn a lesson?

Ring a bell? Remember how the Isrealites had been wandering in the dessert for 40 years. Remember how God called Abraham to a place he did not know and God gave him the Promise. The difference between the two is- trust God or trust yourself? Obey God or rebel against Him?

And one thing for sure, God works for those whose hands willingly let Him take the driver seat, the heart that fully surrender to His Sovereignty that He will take them where they should be going.

So allow God to be your GPS. And He will take you places!

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. – Isaiah 42:16

“A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.  The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.” – Luke 3:4b-5

Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. – Proverbs 4:25-27

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. – Psalm 77:19

Bitter Roots

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Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; – Hebrews 12:14-15 ESV

The recent episodes at home had shaken me a little to realize my whole family had grew their own bitter roots into a strong tree… It is a “tragedy” to witness how such a small trouble-maker can cause upheavals that are injurious. I am not surprised because my family yet to have their Gardener (God) to help them deroot rotten roots. But ever wonder, Christians who have our Gardener are falling from Grace too? May be some of us do not realize we grow bitter roots, knowingly or unknowingly.

We can defile people by our bitter roots that someone we hold against fails to obtain the grace of God. Cross reference to Deuteronomy 29:18, Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.”

Our bitterness could cause another person to turn away from God and worship idols. Imagine God holds us accountable for our actions (Refer to Romans 14:12)…

So, how do we deroot our bitter roots? 3 keys: (1) Get rid, (2) Be, (3) Forgive just as

GET RID of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as with every form of malice. Instead, BE kind to each other, tenderhearted, FORGIVING one another, JUST AS God through Christ has forgiven you. (Emphasis in caps) – Ephesians 4:31-32

1. Get rid = action – it means throw away the toxic.

Do you know that you will get poisoned instantly the moment you decide to hoard toxic? So the longer you hoard it, the more you will accumulate. So ridding them must be done immediately.

2. Be = action – Act on it to be kind, tender hearted etc… 

Do you know we are not natural doers? Taking actions have to be through conscious effort conscientiously and cultivating the discipline to upkeep it. Practices make perfect? No, practices make progresses.

3. Forgive just as = action – Decide and choose to forgive just as God HAS FORGIVEN you.

Do you know that you have to first decide in your mind in order for your heart to follow? Not the other way round. Your mind is a command center of your body that send messages for your body members to act on them. Decide first and choice will follow. By the way, a good reminder- do you have the right to withhold the same grace God has given you? Recall the magnitude of how much God has forgiven you.

Last but not least, remember that we once live in foolishness and the principles of this world, but Jesus has redeemed you and crucify your old self to free you from the power of slavery of sins ruling your life so that having experienced this unmerited grace of God that you can share the same grace to others. (Romans 6:6-7; Titus 3:3-7; Colossians 3:5-10; Ephesians 4:22-23)

So, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16

How To Have Joy

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“Your words were found and I ATE them, and your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;” – Jeremiah 15:16a NASB

When I discovered your words, I DEVOURED them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, – Jeremiah 15:16a NLT

Are you like Jeremiah who met much contempt and reproach at work that he’d to appeal to God for mercy and relief? Jeremiah in his natural flesh struggled. He complained that he found little pleasure in his work because he saw nothing but miseries- The weeping prophet had lost the joy in what God had called him to do. God however assured Jeremiah that those who remain with God, and faithful to Him, He would deliver him from trouble and carry him through it.

In verse 16, Jeremiah describes his first reception of a Divine revelation through the Word of God. God’s Truth is like deep-hidden treasures, those who seek it will find it. The key here is- “ATE” or in another translation- “DEVOURED”. Jeremiah ATE or DEVOURED God’s Word and His Truth became the joy and delight to him.

Are you scratching your head pondering “Huh, how to EAT the Word?”

Just like physical food to hungry souls are satisfyingly filling;

Spiritual food to hungry souls are satisfyingly nourishing.

Here’s the application:

1. Reading by seeking > 2. Feeding by filling > 3. Chewing by meditation > 4. Swallowing by digesting > 5. Retaining by storing (in your heart and mind) > 6. Nourishing by transformation. (And mixed with faith will be most profitable).

Result: A God-filled soul with a Spirit-filled joy.