Monthly Archives: July 2014

Three Spiritual Battles that Undermine Spiritual Readiness (Part 3: Discouagement)

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How do you handle discouragement?

How do you handle discouragement?

 The third spiritual battle that can undermine our spiritual readiness is discouragement. Sometimes we become discouraged over a circumstance that doesn’t improve. We’ve asked God to intervene in our situation but for whatever reason His hand hasn’t moved in its midst. Our earnest prayers go unanswered. Perhaps the timing isn’t right or God is still orchestrating behind the scenes or His moving in our situation is dependent on the heart moving in another person.

 We can also become discouraged over a physical condition, too. Maybe our illness is chronic and it pulls our spirits down.

 And then there’s the all too common cause that can propel us into discouragement–when other people fail us. (see part 2 on disillusionment below). What we thought or believed about the other person turned out to be false. We were counting on this person and he or she didn’t come through. Who hasn’t had that happen?

 Pastors can become discouraged, too, when someone gives their heart to the Lord, but later turned his or her back on God. This happened to Demas, one of Paul’s co-workers. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul is sitting in a prison cell and writes, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (v.10 nrsv). Demas loved what the world offered and chose to leave his faith. This deeply discouraged Paul.

 Believing God has let you down or that He broke one of His promises can also lead to discouragement. You worked hard to build a certain ministry but it wasn’t sustainable. You were convinced it had God’s blessing on it and can’t understand why it failed. And now you’re weary, discouraged, and not sure if you want to try something new for the Lord. You may even be disappointed in yourself. You were so sure that you were in the center of God’s will, but now you have doubts.

 Do any of these sound familiar? All of us have probably experienced one or two of these examples. There is even an example of discouragement in the book of Ezra.

 Ezra was a priest. In fact, his name means “help.”1 After Cyrus, king of Persia allowed groups of Israelites to return to Jerusalem, at the start of their release from captivity in Babylon. The first group was led by Zerubbabel. He encouraged the people to rebuild the temple that was previously destroyed. Unfortunately, wherever there is commitment to God and enthusiasm for a blessed project, not far behind are those opposed. Not unlike today, there are always going to be people in opposition to God’s work.2 Opposition to building the temple became so strong that a cloud of discouragement blanketed the hearts of God’s people.

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, and they bribed officials to frustrate their plan throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia (Ezra 4:4-5 nrsv).

God’s people didn’t expect this kind of opposition and it totally stopped them in their tracks. They became discouraged and intimidated; rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem came to a complete halt lasting about sixteen years.  But when God has a plan nobody and no earthly king can spoil it forever. What could be done to turn this bleak situation around? God sent two people uniquely suited with a gift of encouragement.

Two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah are attributed to reviving the temple rebuilding project. They not only encouraged the people to return to rebuilding the temple, but they physically got involved by working side by side other laborers. Despite continued opposition, the temple was finished in about four years. Their focus was reverted back to God and this enabled them to push through their discouragement.

 When we feel discouraged it’s natural to turn our focus inwards. We fall into the “woe is me” mentality when we take our focus off God and turn it inward. Be careful of this–this is where Satan wants us. By focusing on ourselves, we have the propensity to become bitter, resentful, and doubtful. And our godly perception becomes skewed. Even if you initially don’t feel like turning to God, resist that urge and come before the Lord. When fighting mind and heart battles, we will fare better on our knees in prayer, acknowledging God is the source of all encouragement. Like in the story of the rebuilding the temple, God will send just the right people to encourage our hearts.

Push Through Opposition

If you noticed in the Ezra story, as soon as God’s people returned to rebuilding the temple, the opposition came out of the woodwork again. The Persia-appointed governor of Israel and his cohorts challenged them. Essentially, the Israelites were questioned by whose authority were they allowed to return to rebuilding the temple. Although this question may have been used to intimidate, God’s people continued to build while the matter was under appeal.

When faced with opposition it’s easy to allow others to discourage us from doing the Lord’s work. If we let their opposition intimidate us, our discouragement will cause us to become paralyzed with fear. If that happens we become less effective. To offset the burden of opposition, recognize we are workers for God.5 We should be faithful to God’s work first.

 God Uses Others

God brought Haggai and Zechariah, two prophets to be encouragers for God’s people. God will send just the right people into your life to be Jesus with “skin on.” You know these people. They have a word from God or Scripture on their tongue to give you just enough encouragement to take the next step forward with God. Welcome these encouragers.

 Get Back to God’s Work

A bad case of discouragement kept God’s people from working on the temple for many years. However, a few encouraging words gave them their courage and strength to begin again. It is the same with us, even if we’ve been away from doing God’s work. When God gives us a project after a long dry season He will also give us the encouragement and strength to do it, whether that encouragement comes from His Word or through people He sends into our lives. There is even encouragement inherent in the words we hope to hear someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Returning to God’s work is one of the best ways to send discouragement packing. Even simple tasks like sweeping the floors of a food bank, folding clothes at Clothes Pantry for those in need, or simply listening to a soldier telling his war story to start the healing process of a wounded soul. To overcome discouragement often means getting back into the mission field for God’s eternal kingdom.

Blessings,

Lisa

Would you like to read another article about unanswered prayer called, “Are You Trusting God With That?” If so, click

Three Spiritual Battles that Undermine Spiritual Readiness (Part 2: Disillusionment)

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Disillusionment can lead us into the valley of disappointment.

Disillusionment can lead us into the valley of disappointment.

Disillusionment is the second spiritual battle that can undermine your spiritual readiness. We’ve all experienced a state of disillusionment at one time or another,  in which something or someone failed our expectations. For example, the trip to France was supposed to include seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but it was a misprint in the itinerary and a sense of disappointment or dissatisfaction settled in, or the person you dated held certain beliefs, but later found out that this was not true.

 Spiritual Readiness as I define it is: Incorporating one’s Christian faith in preparing for adversity or living under difficult circumstances, and includes how well a military member or military family can bounce back.  A sailor by the name William A said this online about disillusionment: “It is like joining the Navy to see the world and getting stuck with latrine duty on a nuclear submarine and not seeing daylight for 30 days at a time.” Obviously, the Navy didn’t live up to this man’s expectations, or his expectations were false, perhaps because someone didn’t paint the correct picture of life on a submarine. It’s very possible he was fooled into a false belief of what to expect in the Navy and became dissatisfied. His real experience didn’t line up with his initial belief and became disillusioned. If he doesn’t recover from his initial disillusionment, his spiritual readiness is undermined.

 Vocabulary.com says this about disillusionment: “Disillusionment is when the hard truth of reality makes you lose faith in your dreams and ideals.1 The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition has this definition for disillusionment: Disappointed, Dissatisfied.2

Disillusionment is when we no longer believe in something–a goal, an aspiration or ambition or a passion. What we thought was real turned out to be false. We believed in the illusion, but we were fooled. As a result, we become dissatisfied because we’ve been disappointed. We often see this in relationships too.

 People Disappoint Us

When a couple marries they’re excited about their future together. They make plans and begin to work those plans for a certain common result. But as time passes one aspect of a partner’s true character surfaces, such as a bad temper or a habit of deception or one’s beliefs don’t line up with their behavior.  The expectation or hopes of one or both partner’s turned out to be an illusion and has the potential to undermine spiritual readiness.

We can also become disillusioned about our parent’s love and acceptance. As children, we had their unconditional love, but as an adult, we discovered their love had conditions or limits. They may have disapproved of the person we chose to marry or condemned a certain belief we held, and it triggered a disconnect or a rejection in the relationship. Led to believe from childhood that we had our parent’s unconditional love and approval, we learned it was only real to a certain point. Beyond that it was an illusion. Our faith, too, can be subject to an attack of disillusionment.

 Prayers that Go Unanswered

 ve been waiting a long time, perhaps years, for God to answer a prayer need, like David in Psalm 13, it can wear us down. In Psalm 13, David expressed his feelings to God and he found strength in doing so.

In our waiting, it seems like God takes too long to turn the tide of our circumstances, or move in the heart of a loved one or bring relief from loneliness due to long separations, or a chronic condition, but if we let our impatience deeply trouble our souls, we’ll become disillusioned about the life of faith – and our role as a supportive military spouse. The same can happen when we see God move or answer in a way that isn’t to our liking. We become disappointed and we begin to doubt God’s ability to come through for us. The valley of disappointment is barren and void of contentment. In this state, we become disillusioned about God and our disillusionment will undermine our spiritual readiness if we don’t “draw near to God” (James 4:8). Do not pull back in doubt; move forward in faith. By studying God’s Word, we discern how God sustained the faith of those who also became weary of disillusionment.

King David went to God regularly and reaffirmed his trust in Him no matter what and no matter how long God took to answer his prayers. He was a learner of God’s ways to prevent doubt from leading him down the path of disillusionment. I thank God for David’s examples because it reveals that if we abide in His Word we will stay out of Satan’s camp of disillusionment. If we succumb to a state of disillusionment, it will take us into one of Satan’s valleys – the valley of discouragement.  This is no place we want to find ourselves in. Come back for how to avoid this detrimental place in part 3 of “Three Spiritual Battles that Undermine Spiritual Readiness.”

 “Keep your eyes focused on the Victor and your mind filled with His word.”  -David Jeremiah

Blessings,

Lisa

For part 3 click here

Notes

1Dictionary definition of disillusionment, http://www.vocabular.com/dictionary (accessed 13 July 2014).

2 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, s.v. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc. 2005).

Three Spiritual Battles that Undermine Spiritual Readiness (Part 1: Doubt)

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Do you struggle with doubt in your military marriage?

Do you struggle with doubt in your military marriage?

If you’re a dedicated military wife, or spouse, then more than likely you are also committed to supporting your military husband, or spouse. And that is not always an easy task. It’s a menu of many open-ended responsibilities and burdens that require numerous skill sets. Last week, for example, I gave a radio interview on my new book, Faith Steps for Military Families, which is on the topic of developing spiritual readiness into our military families. The radio host made a good point in that even though America continues to have an all-volunteer force, spouses and family members fall in the category of drafted. The backbone of the service member is you, the spouse and your family. But, as the acting chief of the home front in your husband’s absence, staying encouraged, motivated, and determined can quickly go from a small challenge to an all-out battle–spiritually. This is because when things fail to go the way we expect or we’re beset with problematic circumstances, we feel disheartened, sometimes even marginalized. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a look at three assaults that Satan uses in an attempt to erode your faith and wear down your supportive role as a military wife, or spouse. If we lack spiritual muscle, these flaming arrows have the propensity to spread like a contagious disease to other family members. The first one we’ll look at is doubt.

Doubt

Satan has been using doubt since the Garden of Eden. In the Genesis account, the serpent, Satan, called into question the goodness of God. Satan contradicts God by telling Eve, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it [the fruit from the forbidden tree] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…’” (Genesis 3:4 NRSV).  The serpent misled Eve, planting the seed of doubt that perhaps God is withholding something from Eve. Satan didn’t come right out and say it, but he implied that God was strict, stingy, and selfish for not wanting Eve to share his knowledge of good and evil.1 By taking her focus off of God’s goodness, protection, and provision, she focused on the things she couldn’t have, and began to focus on her desires. The seed of doubt causes us to lose our trust in God’s sovereign care. In a state of doubt, Satan tempts us to question God. Does God’s Word really say that I can do all things in His strength? Does He really expect me stay committed to a man that is gone so much when I need him home? What about my needs? Is this lifestyle really worth it?

Doubt is a natural human response. Opposite of belief, its purpose is to get you to mistrust, become subjective in your skepticism, and ultimately disbelieve the basics of your faith.  When circumstances of your military lifestyle become problematic, they may trigger anxiety or feelings of distrust and lead you to question your role as the supportive military spouse. You may even question your overall ability to go the distance.

 Recognize that doubt is a feeling and feelings are neither right or wrong, they just are. Your doubt may be reasonable, but it has the power to grow, distorting your true perception of your actual circumstances, spreading to other members of your family. Satan’s deception caused Eve to become discontent with her current circumstances. Like Eve, doubt undermines your contentment and commitment, even making an alternative lifestyle appear more attractive. Ask God to remove any feelings of doubt that would lead you astray. Pray He will give you the true perception of your circumstances.

Danger! Danger!

Remember the television show, “Lost in Space” and the robot who signaled trouble when he yells, “Danger! Danger!?” If doubt becomes a welcomed guest for an open-ended stay, recognize you are in dangerous waters. Left to grow in our hearts and minds, doubt will mature into the second of Satan’s flaming arrows. It also begins with a “D.” Leave me a reply with your guess as to what could be.

 Blessings,

Lisa

For Part 2, click here

 Notes

1 Bible Note for Genesis 3:1-6, Life Application Bible, (Iowa Falls, IA:, World Bible   Publishers, Inc., 1989).

Prayer Supports Adult Military Children

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All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. Psalm 25:10

Does your military member have your prayers?

Does your military member have your prayers?

My book, Faith Steps for Military Families is about spiritual readiness–incorporating one’s faith in preparing for adversity or living under difficult circumstances and includes how well a military family can bounce back. As a retired military wife and now a Blue Star Mother (mothers who have children serving in the armed forces. See www.bluestarmothers.org ), it’s hard to see our grown children who serve our country go through difficult trials.

Our daughter, Megan’s, biggest challenge began in the summer of 2007, between her high school graduation and departing for college at Washington State University in Pullman that fall. She had worked hard and done everything right when she secured a spot in the college’s Army’s ROTC program. Excited, she was ready for her upcoming college experiences and the ROTC program. But all her grand plans were nearly extinguished with a cancer diagnoses. Earlier, I insisted she get her booster tetanus shot. While in that office visit, the doctor detected a large mass on her throat. A tissue biopsy later came back positive for cancer. The timing of this diagnosis couldn’t of come at the worst time–on the very day we were leaving to move her to the college.

 After many phone calls to doctors and faxing medical records to the medical clinic in the small college town, Megan was confident she could mend herself after surgery in order to stay in college, but her standing and participation in the ROTC program was hanging in the balance. Not wanting to give up on college, we supported her decision to have surgery and radiation treatment in Pullman, while attending college. As expected, the ROTC program abruptly ended for her. Understandably disappointed, we encouraged her to focus on her health. From home, we monitored her progress and recovery. As expected, the mental and physical demands of college became challenging and her grades suffered, but she was determined to stick it out and overcome this setback.

 Daily, I prayed for God to provide her with the strength and will to keep strong and not to give up. Surgery to remove the cancer was successful. It was additional good news that the cancer hadn’t spread to her lymph nodes. Radiation was the next step of her treatment. Afterwards, she began working with doctors on her physical health, getting it dialed in with new medication she’d be on for the rest of her life. With the cancer behind her, getting her grades up and seeking to be restated back into the ROTC program became her new focus. She would have to work harder than even the first time around because her health had been compromised by the cancer. It would prove to be her hardest challenge yet. Her grades weren’t stellar, but in time they improved as did her health.

 Four years later, she graduated with a 3.32 gpa and received her criminal justice degree. As parents, watching our determined daughter complete the grueling ROTC program on time, long with her fellow cadets, and be commissioned an Army officer was truly a blessing.

 My son, Lawrence, will have a different challenge come this fall when he departs for Navy boot camp. He will be a submariner – a first in our family. After boot camp, there’s sub school, then from there to “A” school for training in his rating. As parents, we know he will have some big challenges of his own as he completes each phase. Again, his father and I will be on the front lines as prayer warriors.

Prayer is the Supportive Key

 It’s hard to see our young military children go through difficult trials. What it boils down to is that they need to acknowledge there will be challenges in life; some may be life and death situations and some may be living under difficult circumstances. But a life of faith doesn’t always protect from experiencing certain tests and trials. However, having a faith in the Lord does give us a godly perspective regarding trials. God goes before us and meets us right there in the trouble and distress. There’s comfort in knowing that faith in Jesus is that special something for spiritual readiness. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Faith makes a difference because God is in the here and now. In those times, however, when we can’t understand the works of His hand, we must rely on His Word, and trust it.

 It’s imperative that, as parents, we pray daily for our military children because we never really know when their skill set will be called upon by our commander-in-chief. Prayer changes things. Prayer affects circumstances. And the Holy Spirit provides discernment into those circumstances. This is so we can see these circumstances through the lens of a godly perspective. Prayer manifests God’s hand into their situation. If your military son or daughter is encountering a difficult season in his or her life, pray these prayer points.

 1). They will recognize Jesus as their strong tower and choose to run to it for safety (Proverbs 18:10). Instead of relying solely on their own abilities, but that they will find their endurance and strength from Jesus.

 2). Pray their heart will become sensitive to the Holy Spirit and follow in its leading.

 3). Pray that he or she will discern, or glean what must be learned from the challenge, and,

 4). Pray their faith would grow as a result of the trials in the complex military lifestyle.

 There’s a human tendency to want to get the rough times over with in order to alleviate the associated discomfort, but encourage your beloved military member not to disregard the golden nugget–don’t overlook the work, the inner spiritual work of the Holy Spirit. God may be allowing this trial to move them along in their faith journey to discover His plan and purpose for their lives.