Category Archives: Spirit-Led Living/Spiritual Growth

Articles on how to grow spiritually and how to flow better with the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life

“Why We Think God Might Love Us”

(Bible in Chartres Cathedral)

What are you doing to know God and God’s love for you better?

Answering this question is critical for the person who is seeking to know God’s will, because, as we said last week, discernment requires personal transformation, and our ability to be transformed depends upon the quality of our relationship with God.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to look at several of the most powerful spiritual practices that can help you to grow in your relationship with God. Today, I want to start with something you already know, but—if you are like nearly every other Christian on the face of the earth—it is something that gets minimized or neglected.

No matter how intelligent, experienced, wise, or knowledgeable you may be, you simply must be reading the Bible for yourself, if you want to hear the voice of God and to keep growing in your relationship with God. Even if you’ve already mastered the content of the Bible, read it existentially: ask God to reveal God-self to you in fresh ways.

For example, right now I’m reading through the Torah and asking God for new insight into who Yahweh was for ancient Israel—and for what I need to come to grips with better in my own understanding of and relation to God. Yet, no matter what passage I turn to, I pray, “Speak to me, Lord. Show me what I need to see. Take me to a place of understanding that I cannot get to on my own.”

Psalm 103 is one of my favorite passages for reflecting on who God is and the relevance of God’s love for me. David writes:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

…from everlasting to everlasting

the LORD’S love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children—

with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,

and his kingdom rules over all. (103:8-13, 17-19)

As a complement to the paternal and sovereign characterizations of God in Psalm 103, the beautiful maternal imagery for God in Isaiah 66:13 helps me to see that God of the Old Testament is tender as well as intense:

As a mother comforts her child,

so will I comfort you;

and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.

And then there’s the amazing teaching that God decided before the creation of the world to love us and to make us his children:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who … chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:3-8)

Going forward, we’re going to look at how we can move from knowing about God to knowing God in ways that are more and more personally transforming. This week’s article was simply a reminder to get back to the basics in order to develop a stronger relationship with God.

It’s only by reading the Bible that we know that God loves us even beyond the capacity of the most loving father or mother. Though he knows our weaknesses and failures, he loves us and helps us. God chose us before the foundation of the world to be his children, dearly loved by him. And God sent his son, Jesus, to save us and to bring us to live by God’s side forever.

The Point: The most intuitive among us might be able to guess some of God’s characteristics, but there is no way we would know God’s character, the magnitude of God’s love, or the significance of God’s activity in history apart from the teaching of the Bible. So what’s your plan for reading it?

A Prayer: “Dear God, please remind me every day to keep looking for you where you reveal yourself. Lead me to the biblical passages that will most help me to see what I need to see about you so that my relationship with you will keep growing stronger and stronger.”

© Timothy C. Geoffrion, 2010. All rights reserved. Please share this article with as many people as possible, with proper acknowledgment of authorship and web-address.

Photo: © Jill K.H. Geoffrion.

To sign up to receive a personal email every time a new article is posted, please email me at tim.geoffrion@fhlglobal.org. Simply write “add me” in the subject line.

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Get Ready. Get Set. Get Going!

(North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo)

What do you want to do with God’s dreams and vision for your life?

I was forced to answer this question at a much younger age than I ever imagined. I was 28 years old. My firstborn son had been born safely the day before. My wife and I were so relieved and excited about all that lay ahead for us.

Now the voice on the other end of the phone was telling me I had to start radiation treatments immediately. I had 10 good years left, the doctor said. After that, the rare skin disease would get nasty. Then I would die.

With one deeply disturbing phone call, the adage, “life is short,” suddenly became very personal. Not only was I not going to live forever, but, in an instant, my naïveté about my mortality vanished. My time horizon for my life had been shortened by several decades. My son was going grow up without me. My wife was going to be a young widow. I wanted to throw up.

We’ve never recovered from that doctor’s call in 1986—and don’t want to. When the shock wore off, I realized that whatever I most wanted to do in my life, I had better do it, and fast.

We stopped dreaming about what we might want to do “one day,” and became very serious about pursuing what mattered most to us while we still could. We had today. We didn’t know about tomorrow.

My wake-up call eventually led me to a long series of choices that have made all the difference in the world to my life and ministry. I sought counseling, asked others for help, did whatever I could to seek healing and wholeness. I went back to graduate school, took more risks, kept seeking discernment and leading from God, and began to relentlessly pursue my dreams and deeper sense of calling.

Today, I am completely healed from my disease. I have raised two sons to adulthood. And my wife and I are back in ministry together again, able to serve Christ in ways that are exceeding my expectations and hopes. Now, nearly 25 years after that fateful phone call, flying over the mountains of North Kivu, Congo to teach pastors in the middle of a war zone (see the photo above), I realize that God has used suffering in my life to move me to new and surprising places where the desires of my heart and God’s vision for my life intersect.

Fortunately, we are not all diagnosed with a fatal disease that causes the kind of distress and anguish our family had to go through. But for each of us, our days are still numbered. Each of us has a unique calling, with enough time to fulfill it, if we listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in the midst of our suffering, and take action.

Do you have an unfulfilled dream for your life that just won’t go away? Do you have a nagging sense that there’s something you were made to do, or to create, or to contribute, but you just can’t seem to get around to doing something about it? Perhaps, you’re even really looking forward to getting to work on it…some day.

What would it take for you to turn “some day” into today?

The [servant] who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:20-21, NIV)

The Point: Somewhere within you is a God-given dream for your life, or simply a sense that God wants to take you somewhere you have not yet gone. You may not fully understand it, and it may take years to fulfill it, but you know you are being called. Are you ready? Are your heart and mind set on doing the will of God? Are you pursuing God’s vision for your life? If not, what do you need to do to get ready, to get set, and to get going?

Prayer: “Loving God, thank you for calling me to serve you in special ways that fit with the unique person you have made me to be. Please lead me and guide me, so that I can faithfully fulfill all that you have in mind for me to do. Please give me all the courage, wisdom, strength, and resources I need to pursue my God-given dreams in ways that well serve Christ’s purposes.”

To realize our God-given dreams and fulfill our purpose in life, often walking with a trained pastor or spiritual guide can be extremely helpful. If you’re interested in exploring whether or not you could benefit from spiritual life consulting, please contact me at Tim.Geoffrion@fhlglobal.org.

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“Praying on Purpose”

Moon over Chartres Cathedral

“Lord God,

please help me

to live fully

to love deeply, and

to give freely,

so that

all those I meet today

may know and experience you

through me.”

Every morning, I pray this prayer to breathe new life into my mind and heart. The words focus my attention outside of myself. They re-orient me and motivate me. They remind me that my life has meaning in relationship with God, and purpose as I reflect the light of Jesus Christ to others.

I created this prayer several years ago as part of a coaching exercise to help me to think more deeply about my purpose. Since then, its meaning and value for my daily life and relationship with God has continued to grow.

What does praying on purpose look like for you? If you don’t already have a set prayer to help you start your day, try jotting down simple phrases that express the desires of your heart and your vision for your life.

What do you most want out of each day? What do you think God is calling you to? What words or images evoke a deep feeling within you that will open your heart toward God and send you forward with renewed energy and anticipation?

I chose “to live fully” for my prayer because I want to experience the “abundant life” Jesus envisions for me. (John 10:10) I’m thinking about a life full of loving relationships, worthwhile work, helpful service, meaningful interaction with others, and doing all the good God intends for me to do each day. This means, I’m really praying that the Holy Spirit will fill me and lead me in every possible way.

I pray to love, because when I am loving others I am closest to God. To love is also the best way to make a difference in the world on a person-to-person basis. I ask to love deeply so that my attention to others won’t be superficial or contrived, but genuine, heartfelt, and pure.

I want to give freely so that I can be more selfless, and less grasping and greedy. I don’t want to be so possessed by my possessions, but to be free to share generously. I want to be more like Jesus, who came “not to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45)

My prayer benefits me greatly, but the ultimate focus is not on me. I am praying that God will enable me to experience more of Jesus, and through him, more of life—true life, eternal life, purposeful life— to motivate others to come to know Jesus better, too.

I want others to see how my faith and relationship with God has come to permeate more and more of my life, and how much better my life is with God than without God. If other people can see Christ’s love, care, joy, power, peace, and purpose at work in my life, perhaps they will seek a closer relationship with him for themselves.

That’s my prayer.

What’s yours?

I pray that out of [the Father’s] glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19, NIV)

Point: When you align your prayers with God’s purposes for your life, you will experience a more intimate relationship with God and greater energy for daily living. The Holy Spirit can use your words to give you more motivation and inspiration to get outside of yourself and your own problems, so that you can live with more purpose and joy.

Prayer: “Loving God, thank you for the life that comes from being in an intimate relationship with you. Please help me to experience more of Jesus, more of your love, and more of the Holy Spirit, so that I may increasingly know you and reflect your grace and love to others.”

© Timothy C. Geoffrion, 2010. Please share freely with others with proper acknowledgment of source!

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“Jesus, Help Me!”

Jesus at Saint Suplice, Paris

Getting hurt, or hurting others, can happen so easily. It might occur by accident, through neglect, or, sometimes, even on purpose. None of us is immune from being hurt by others, nor are we capable of never hurting someone else.

However, we can learn how to minimize the damage we do to one another. We can learn strategies and spiritual practices to bring healing sooner rather than later.

Simple, heartfelt apologies often go a long way to heal the pain and alienation arising from our hurting one another. However, when we don’t acknowledge and deal adequately with what’s happened, the wounds can fester. We judge, accuse, blame, and can get stuck in our alienation and rage—and the problem gets worse.

Wars, suicide bombings, character assassinations, vindictive acts of revenge, and all sorts of other hateful, seriously damaging behavior often stem from not knowing how (or choosing not) to resolve conflicts peacefully and constructively.

In this week’s article, I offer some simple guidelines and suggestions for how you can deal more effectively with the hurts and broken relationships in your life (regardless of who’s at fault), from a spiritual and practical point of view. (Of course, if you want to best equip yourself, I also strongly recommend that you attend a full day conflict resolution workshop, seek help other professionals, and consult the growing amount of literature on inner healing and nonviolent, conflict resolution.)

Above all, you must take responsibility to do all you can to address the relational breakdown, while recognizing that you cannot control what the other person chooses to do or not to do. At the same time, without abdicating your responsibility, seek all the help you can get from God by asking the Spirit of Jesus to reveal his presence in your heart and mind as follows.

Situation 1. You are at fault, or you have wronged someone else.

• Imagine that you are looking directly into Jesus’ eyes as you explain what happened.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please listen to how I think and feel about this situation. Please show me where I have been wrong, and how I have hurt [this person]. How can I keep from making the situation worse? What can  I do to make it better?”

• Constructive response to the one who has been hurt : “I am sorry that I have hurt you. Can we talk? How can I make this situation right?”

Situation 2. You have been wronged by someone else.

• Imagine Jesus holding your hands or with his arm around you, compassionate, caring, and helpful.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please give me courage and strength to acknowledge how I have been wronged. How may I respond to this situation in ways that best serves your purposes and honors God? Please give me an ability to forgive and even to love [this person] regardless of their response to me.”

• Constructive response to the one who has hurt you: “I have been deeply hurt. I need to talk about what has happened for my sake and the sake of our relationship. I want to seek healing and reconciliation where possible. Can we talk?”

Situation 3. Both you and the other person are clearly at fault.

• Imagine you are standing with Jesus, and the look on his face is one of compassion, integrity, and willingness to help.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please help me to find a balanced perspective, fairly assessing both the part I have played and the part [the other person] has played in the relational breakdown. Please give me courage and strength to face my own failings, to stand by my own perspective of how I have been wronged, and to know how to go forward from here. ”

• Constructive response to other person: “Please tell me how you have been hurt by me. Please listen to my feelings and experience, too. Let’s be honest with one another, forgive one another, and find a way to rebuild our relationship.”

Situation 4. No one seems to have sinned or deliberately done wrong, but there is great regret, hurt, and/or grief.

• Sit with the wise rabbi, who clearly has the ability to give needed guidance under painful and difficult circumstances.

• Prayer: “Jesus, please help me to sense your strong, gracious, loving presence. Please help me to forgive myself for what went wrong. Please show me the way forward and walk with me.”

• Constructive response: “I’m sorry for whatever ways I hurt you. I did not mean to cause you suffering. What can we do to make this situation right, or at least go forward from here?”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV)

The Point: Asking Jesus to make his presence better known to you in the midst of the unresolved relational pain or conflict is different from asking God to fix the problem. By all means ask for relational miracles and for God to change the heart and mind of everyone involved. However, don’t abdicate your own responsibility. Ask Jesus for wisdom, grace, strength, courage, and opportunity that will enable you to do everything within your power to make things better or right…with God’s help.

Prayer: “Loving Lord Jesus, you are the Prince of Peace. Please give me the grace to face my pain and the pain I have caused others, and show me the way forward from here.”

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Just the Word You Need to Hear!

Sunrise on pilgrimage and my son, Tim

Sunrise on pilgrimage and my son, Tim

You know how just the right word at the right time can make a huge difference in how you feel or what you think about something? Someone pats you on the back and says, “Good job!” and you feel six inches taller. Maybe someone reminds you to “Keep your eye on the ball” or encourages you to “Hang in there,” and you suddenly can focus again and find courage or strength you didn’t know you had. Even just hearing, “I really appreciate you,” or “I love you,” can breathe new life into us.

Just think, then, how much better would your life be if you could get just the word you need to hear every day? And, what do you think would happen if you asked God to give it to you?

I’ve been experimenting with this idea for about a month now.

Every morning as part of my Bible reading and prayer time, or when I am in worship, I ask God to give me a word for the day. I’m looking for something to help prepare me for whatever may be ahead. I don’t try to force an answer or fabricate one. If one doesn’t come, I wait, and ask again later. I don’t get a word every day, but most days I wind up hearing something that proves to be very helpful at the moment or later on.

Don’t worry, I don’t hear crazy stuff. I don’t get weird messages to wreak havoc on the world or to do something stupidly heroic. Rather, a simple word, an intriguing idea, clarity about something, or action needed suddenly emerges in my mind.

Here are some of the words I’ve heard so far:

• “Surrender”

• “It’s not your ministry”

• “Love them”

• “Deal gently”

• “Whistleblower”

• “Prepare”

• “Hope”
• “Wait”

• “Forgive”

Sometimes I know immediately what God is trying to communicate to me.  For example, when I heard that “it’s not your ministry,” I knew that I had to stop caring so much about how I wanted the Rwandan Leadership Training Conference to unfold. I didn’t know at first how helpful this word would turn out to be, but I got the main idea right away: “Stop getting bent out of shape by the endless stream of glitches and frustrations, and pay more attention to whatever God is doing in the midst of the chaos!” The word from God was freeing and helped me to lead and minister far more effectively than if I had stayed focused on my petty concerns.

Other times, the word that jumps out to me strikes a chord, but I have no idea how it might apply to my life, let alone to that particular day. Then there are those times when the word is almost bewildering. I’m not talking about the day I heard, “whistleblower.” As strange as that word might seem, hearing was actually very helpful to me at the time.

Rather, I’m thinking about the day “hope” emerged as my daily word. I can always use more hope in my life, but why this word, this day?

It wasn’t until that night that my answer came. I was having dinner with a close friend, who was glowing as she told me about how God was working in such wonderful ways. The more awe radiated from her face, the more joy I felt in my heart. Her faith was coming alive before my eyes, and I suddenly knew the meaning of my word from God.

Sometimes I lose hope when someone drifts away from God or simply can’t believe in Christ, especially when everything I try to do to help seems to be useless. But when I see something good like this happening, completely independent of my efforts, my hope springs wings again. I suspect that God gave me “hope” in the morning so that I would not miss the true meaning of my friends’ words in the evening. Her story was good news for her, but the hope I felt was a gift to me.

What word do you think God might have for you today? Have you asked for one?

But [Jesus] answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4, NRSV)

The Point: Asking the Holy Spirit for a word each day is one more way to seek a better connection to God. It’s also a helpful method for living a more Spirit-led life. To hear what the Spirit has to say, you need to create enough space within your heart, mind and daily rhythm to ask and to listen—even if it takes all day.

Prayer: “Loving God, please speak to me today, and every day, the word you most want me to hear. Please give me ears to hear, an open heart and mind to receive, and a willing spirit to receive your words of nourishment and guidance, for Christ’s sake. Amen.”

This article is part of the “What Will Make a Difference?” series for your spiritual nurture and growth.

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When You Feel All Mixed Up

This article is part of the “What Will Make a Difference?” series for your spiritual nurture and growth.

Musanze

Do you know that “all mixed up” feeling? Your stomach is churning, and you’re just not yourself. You’re feeling a lot of inner turmoil, and you don’t know what to think or what it all means. You realize you’re getting a signal that something important is happening within you, but you’re not sure what to do with the feelings or how to go forward.

Maybe you’re feeling that way right now.  I am.

Since returning from Africa a couple of weeks ago, I have felt all mixed up inside. I feel like I have gotten in way over my head, and am being called to go even deeper.

Seeing firsthand again how much suffering is still going on in Rwanda is very upsetting. The genocide ended in 1994, but thousands of orphans, widows, violated women, and maimed individuals have had to carry on, often with very little help or resources.

Now that Jill and I have informally adopted one of these surviving orphans (pictured above with me), we are learning more and more about how difficult life truly is for some people. I feel increasingly disturbed and unsettled by Théoneste’s plight (https://spirit-ledleader.com/?s=Theoneste), and I am desperately trying to work through my emotions.

In my distress, I can feel myself being drawn to God. I need comfort and I want help. So, on the way home from Rwanda, while in Chartres to drop off our “Africa suitcase” for our trip to Congo this winter, I found my way to the Cathedral to pray.

Chartres Cathedral

I sat awhile in front of Jesus of the Sacred Heart statue, contemplating Jesus’ compassion, and asking God to alleviate the suffering of the Rwandan Christians. I stayed even longer in apsidal chapel (pictured above), contemplating the crucifix. Surely “the Man of Sorrows” had something to say to me that might help.

What was I supposed to learn from everything I saw and experienced? Is God calling me to do something? What?

Many thoughts and ideas raced through my head. However, the most powerful notion was not of any specific heroic act of service.

Rather, what I sensed in that quiet place of prayer was simply a call to keep going. The Holy Spirit was saying, “Take the next step of faith. Don’t stop now. Don’t be afraid, and don’t worry about what I might ask of you. Let all that you are experiencing penetrate your heart as deeply as you can, and let it change you. I am taking you deeper and deeper in our relationship, and I will show you what I want you to do for these people….”

There are countless reasons why you may be all mixed up inside today. However, why you are upset is not as important as what God wants to do in you through your distress. Your turmoil is an opportunity to draw closer to God and to be transformed in some way.

Jesus’ life and death shows you the way forward. God may be allowing you to suffer with others, or even unjustly at the hand of others, so that you might become more willing to suffer for others. The Holy Spirit is teaching you to love.

We know love by this, that [Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. (1 John 3:16-18, NRSV)

The Point: In the midst of all of your inner turmoil, God is certainly at work in you, even if you feel all mixed up at the moment. Keep looking for how God may be transforming you through your distress and teaching you to love. As you increasingly embrace the suffering of others, say “Yes” to the Holy Spirit, and keep going in your day-by-day, step-by-step, walk of faith.

Prayer: “Loving God, please help me to trust you in the midst of my turmoil, to embrace better my own pain and distress, and to not be so afraid to see and feel the depth of others’ suffering. Grant me grace to feel the fullness your compassion, to respond more and more fully out of your love, and to take whatever steps of faith you are placing before me now.”


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The Daily Battle

Sons Dan and Tim on the Camino

(Weary sons on the Camino)

Every day is a battle.

I don’t mean that every day is awful. My days are often full of joy, meaning, laughter, fruitful work, and love. Yet, life is hard, too, and full of struggle. It seems that so much can so easily undermine my heart and ability to live by my highest values and convictions.

The battle I’m talking about, then, is a perpetual struggle between what we want our lives to be and all those forces that work against our hopes, dreams and commitments. In this conflict, sometimes we are own worst enemies. Even at our best, when we want to serve Christ wholeheartedly, we can usually detect crosscurrents within us—be they mixed motives, at best, or outright sinful impulses, at worst.

At other times, our struggles are not self-generated, though. Sometimes, we get some “help” in our fearfulness, our struggles with temptation, our doubts, our distractions, and our entanglements. Scripture teaches that we are in a spiritual battle with forces of evil that are working to undermine our faith and faithfulness (Ephesians 6:12).

At the same time, we are assured that the Holy Spirit within us is stronger than the Tempter (1 John 4:4). Our job is to have confidence in God’s power and then strategically engage in the battle to overcome our spiritual adversaries. (See Ephesians 6:10-11, 13-18.) Likewise, we must actively draw on the Holy Spirit to overcome our sinful tendencies by daily surrendering our will to God’s and by praying for grace and strength in our time of need. (See Galatians 5:16-25; Hebrews 4:14-16.)

Six Strategies for Successful Struggling
When we know that sinful temptations, negative thinking or counter-productive reactions are going to arise within us uninvited, we are wise to get ready for them. When we expect a fight, and prayerfully prepare for it, we are much more likely to wage the war successfully.

Here are six strategies you can begin employing immediately:

1. Know your Achilles heel and do all you can to protect yourself from falling into sin. This is just common sense. However, how often do we ignore what is in our best long term interests to indulge in short term gratification?

Example: If you’re tempted to gamble away needed resources, don’t even enter the casino or make a bet. If you know that drinking alcohol is going to bring out your worst or work against what God wants to do in you and through you, find alternative social beverages, new hangouts, and even new friends, if need be. If sexual temptation is your nemesis, work hard to develop appropriate contexts in which you can get your affection and intimacy needs met. Regardless of what your specific weakness is, expect to be tempted, expect to want to engage in sin at times, and decide now, ahead of the temptation that no matter how you may feel at any given moment, sin is not what you want for your life.

2. Believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in you and cannot be ultimately thwarted by your failures or evil forces. God is a God of resurrection. Accept God’s forgiveness and seek the Spirit’s renewal and leading no matter where you may be.
Example: I spent years kicking myself for a number of poor decisions I made that took a big toll on me emotionally until my spiritual director reminded me that God is a God of resurrection. You and I are going to make mistakes—sometimes serious ones—but God forgives, and the Holy Spirit continually brings forth new life from what seems dead. To change the metaphor, the Holy Spirit is like a GPS navigation system that begins “recalculating” as soon as it detects that we have missed our turn or gone the wrong way. We may have to suffer the consequences of our mistake, but God is able to create a new path from wherever we are to lead us once again in a fruitful life of fellowship and service.

3. Know how God most wants to use you, expect various kinds of interference, and plan accordingly.
Example: I know that my best contributions often come from teaching and writing, but I can expect many distractions and much inner resistance to getting started on my preparation work. So, I don’t wait to feel like writing to get going. Instead, I block out time, expect to be tempted to procrastinate, and push through the resistance. Almost without fail, getting started is all I need to do in order to turn the tide in the battle.

4. Face fears head on, and don’t let them keep you doing what you need to do.

Example: My marketing and fundraising responsibilities always make me feel anxious. I’m afraid of failing and afraid of being rejected. Not a good combination. So, even when finding new clients or raising money is most needed, I can still freeze up. Fighting this battle means simply reminding myself that I must attend to this part of our ministry and that putting it off will make the situation worse not better. I then make a plan and work the plan. I start today.

5. Pick your battles and give your best efforts to fight for what matters most.
Example: On any given day I will be annoyed or frustrated with someone else for not doing or saying something the way that I think they should. If I’m not careful, I can let this perfectionist tendency produce judgmental attitudes and harsh reactions to others, undermining my greater goal of working well with others for the sake of Christ and his kingdom. Thus, I have to remind myself of my highest values and choose wisely when exerting my energy. When I choose love and serving Christ over self-righteousness or perfectionism, I usually know instantly I have chosen well, and the power of the temptation is cut significantly.

6. Ask the Holy Spirit to do in you what you cannot seem to do on your own. Sometimes no matter how much you want to stay focused and do the right thing or the best thing, you will still stumble or fail to follow through. In such cases, acknowledge the powerlessness you feel and ask for motivation, grace, and strength—or simply divine intervention—to lead you to higher ground.

Example: Sometimes when I have been hurt by someone, letting go of my anger seems beyond my ability. Yet, when I have exhausted my own effort to draw on God’s power to fight the battle, the best thing I can do is simply to let go of trying. I don’t indulge in the feeling, but I admit that I have reached my limit and I need God’s help. And I let go of my own efforts to change myself, and wait. Often my deliverance will surprise me, and I will be set free without doing anything more on my own.

Facing your own inner weaknesses and struggles may feel discouraging. Fully engaging in your spiritual struggles may be daunting. However, admitting the reality of the ongoing, daily battle is actually helpful, and is the first step toward getting the help you need from within yourself and God.

What battle are you fighting today? What’s your strategy to win it?

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:10-11, NIV)

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