Helping women live victorious lives in Christ

Posts tagged ‘challenges’

Exercise Patience

by Brenna Fields Taylor

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-3, NKJV)

When we go to the doctor, he or she may tell us that we need to start exercising.  Exercising is not an easy thing, and we may not want to do it (because it takes effort, it takes work); but it is required so that we can maintain or improve our health.

During the season in which we’re finding ourselves, I believe God is calling us to exercise patience.  By now, many of us thought that the pandemic would be coming to an end and that we could start returning to our normal lives (and as of the time of this blog post, that is far from true).  And on top of the pandemic, the racial, economic, and political climate is one that we in this generation have never seen or experienced.  And yet, I believe God is calling us to be patient.

In the epistle of James, the author teaches us to consider it joy when we face difficulties. Why? Because it’s going to produce something good in us, and that is patience.  No one likes to wait, but as we exercise patience, we are growing, we are maturing, and our faith is increasing.  So James says that we are to allow patience to do a work in us.

When we engage in physical exercise, the more we do it, the better we become.  Our muscles grow stronger, we can walk or run faster, our bodies function better, we sleep better, and we reap all kinds of benefits from physical exercise.  When we exercise patience, we’re reaping spiritual benefits:  we are growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, our faith is increasing, and we have a deeper relationship with God (we pray more, we trust Him more, we have the peace that passes all understanding).

Look at your life before the pandemic and now: Are you praying more? Are you seeking God’s face more? If the answer is yes to those questions, that’s means we are exercising patience! We have no idea when the situations we face will come to an end.  Until they do, I encourage you to continue exercising patience.  And as we do, watch what God does in your own life as well as in the world and His kingdom.  We will reap the spiritual benefits if we continue to exercise patience.

Maintaining Christian Fellowship When the Church Doors are Closed

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)

By Brenna Fields Taylor

As I write this blog, we are about 2 months into the COVID-19 pandemic here in the United States.  Because of the way in which the virus spreads, churches have been forced to close their doors and discontinue meeting in person.  And church leadership has become quite creative in determining how to keep doing church when we can’t go to church. One must wonder…prior to now, have we put too much emphasis on the church building?  Have we assumed that a church edifice, and everything contained therein, would be what would draw people to Christ (that’s what Christians are supposed to be doing, correct)?  Well, I don’t want to digress…that’s another topic for another day!

Christians have begun to make (or were forced to make) the adjustment to worshipping remotely. Even my daddy, who said he would never join Facebook, is listening in to bible study and Sunday services online!  Whether it is Facebook, livestream, Zoom, conference call, or a recorded message, Christians seem to be doing the best they can to adjust to the times in which we live (even if some of us had to go kicking and screaming).  But while we’re getting our worship and study in, what about the fellowship?  Using my own church as an example, the people seem to be thirsty for the person to person fellowship.  When we join the weekly prayer meeting conference call, as people join the line and identify themselves, they are joyously greeting one another and are excited to hear each other’s voices. It sometimes is a challenge because everyone is talking while we’re trying to begin the prayer service.  If you ‘ve ever been to a family reunion, it’s somewhat like that. Many families reunite every 2 or 3 years, and the meet and greet part of the weekend is sometimes the most exciting time.  Everyone is greeting everyone and giving big hugs because we haven’t seen one another in a long time.

So, until we can get back to church (the physical building), what can we do to maintain fellowship?   Whatever it is we choose to do, we must be INTENTIONAL about maintaining this fellowship.  Maintaining fellowship was easy when we saw each other at least once a week.  But now, things are different. When was the last time we picked up the phone (not sent a text) to call someone we haven’t spoken to in a while?  When was the last time we wrote and mailed a quick note to someone? (yes, the United States Postal Service is still in operation). Have we thought about doing a “drive-by” and dropping off groceries and supplies to someone in need?  We may not be able to go inside the person’s home and fellowship, but we can wave from our cars!

It is easy to become comfortable inside of our homes (I know I definitely am).  And I say “we” in the above statements because I know I can do better about maintaining fellowship. Just as, little by little, we’ve gotten comfortable in our own little bubbles, little by little, we can come out of those bubbles and intentionally plan to cultivate Christian fellowship.

While cities are slowly beginning to ‘open up’ again, churches do not yet know when we will return to in-person worship experiences.  Until such time, believers will need to get creative, not only in how we worship, but also in how we fellowship.  As one of my elementary school teachers used to say, “put on your thinking caps!”  Get innovative in how we fellowship with one another. We don’t need a committee meeting and a church vote to do something…do something today!

The Best Version of Ourselves

by Brenna Fields Taylor

Earlier today, I was honored to participate in the virtual Celebration of Life for one of my high school classmates who recently passed away. Beautiful words of remembrance were spoken about him, and encouraging words were shared with the family and all in attendance who grieve his passing.  As the celebration ended, his oldest daughter spoke on behalf of the family to thank her father’s classmates for planning such a moving celebration.  She recalled that her father had instilled in his children to be the best versions of themselves, and as she ended, she encouraged everyone on the video conference to be the best version of themselves.  What a powerful word from this wise young woman!

The service ended and we all said our goodbyes.  As my day progressed, I continued doing the things that were on my agenda for this Saturday. And yet, the challenge that this young woman shared continued to resonate in my mind.  I began to ask myself, “Am I currently being the best version of myself?”  If I were to answer that honestly, I would have to reply, “yes in some area, but no in other areas.”  I could do better with using my time more wisely, I could do better in eating healthy foods (I knew I shouldn’t have bought those Chips Ahoy cookies from Publix…they were buy one, get one free!)  Honest reflection shows me that I have some work to do so that I can be the absolute best version of myself.

I believe that in order for us to be the best versions of ourselves, our focus needs to be on what God would have us to achieve.  God has spoken very clearly to me about some things, while for other things, I’m awaiting answers and confirmation.  Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) tells us that “we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God has already ordained the good works that he wants us to accomplish.  Are we walking in them?  As Paul is writing to the Philippian church, he shares this with them: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6, NLT)  So, we do not need to fear as we step out in performing the good works that God has planned for us, because He will ensure that they are finished…they will be completed!

God may have already revealed what those works are for us, but the task seems insurmountable.  We can’t envision how God is going to do this through us, and some days we may even wonder if we heard God right when He gave us that vision (let me be transparent…I have sometimes wondered if I heard God right).  But scripture reminds us that He has given us these good works and that he will help us perform them.  Because of this, we can step out in faith into our callings and be the best versions of ourselves.

I encourage you to take some time TODAY (as soon as you’re done reading this post) and ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I walking in what God has called me to do?
  • Am I living the best version of myself?

If you answered “no,” it’s ok.  Today is the day (not tomorrow) and now is the time to begin changing the answers to those questions from “no” to “yes.”  Spend time with God seeking His will for your life, and when He speaks and tells you to act, don’t hesitate…just act!  Trust and believe by faith that He will help you perform the things He has placed inside of you to accomplish in the earth.  Someone needs what you have to offer…don’t deprive them of the gifts that God has placed in you for their edification and for His glory.

Tomorrow is not promised…NOW is the time to be the very best version of ourselves.

Hold On

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

by Brenna Fields Taylor

As I write this blog, it is April of 2020, and the world is in the middle of a pandemic called COVID-19, a virus that is spreading rapidly throughout the world, taking the lives of countless people.  Because of the contagious nature of the disease, many communities are living in a complete shut-down (or at minimum, are sheltering in place, rarely venturing outside). As a result, the times in which we are living are unsettling, unusual and unprecedented.  History records that there have been many plagues of diseases that have impacted the entire world, including the flu pandemic of 1918 and a cholera pandemic that ran from 1852-1860.  While the experience of pandemics is new to us, it is not new to the world and certainly not new to God.

In the midst of these trying weeks, I have witnessed God’s healing power restores friends and loved ones, and at the same time I’ve seen when God has chosen to call others home to be with Him.  It has been an emotional rollercoaster!  What we are being told about this current pandemic seems to change almost daily, and a lot of times, we are unsure whose report to believe.  Churches don’t know whether they should meet in person or not, and sadly, there are debates among Christians on faith (or lack thereof), depending on churches’ decisions on this issue.  Vacations, conferences, class and family reunions, and weddings have been cancelled or postponed.  And since no one has any idea of how long this thing is going to last,  our lives seem to be on hold.

Even in the midst of all of this, I want to encourage you (and me) to hold on.  Isaiah 41:10 in the NLT says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

This virus has many of us hesitant to leave our homes and to be in close proximity to other people, and rightfully so. But this particular passage says that we shouldn’t be afraid.  This virus may have some of us feeling discouraged because we see so much sickness and death around us. I will admit that, even as a minister, I have been overwhelmed by the many prayer requests for healing and comfort, even as my own family deals with the aftermath of death.

But in this passage, God tells us that we don’t have to be afraid and discouraged, because He is with us AND He is our God.  God has given us three promises in this one verse: He promises to strength us, to help us and to hold us up.  I encourage you to lean on and lean into God and these promises, that He will strengthen you, to help you and to hold you up.

What I find interesting about this passage is that it’s not just any old hand that is holding us up.  It is God’s “victorious right hand” that is holding us up.    The right hand of God symbolizes power and might.  It conveys authority and blessings.  Not only is the hand of God powerful, but it is also victorious.  So if God is holding me up with his victorious right hand, he is giving me power, strength, authority, blessings and victory, even in this precarious time.

I know we are overwhelmed, tired and unsure…but hold on.  God has promised to strengthen us, to help us, and to hold us up.  Let’s trust God together.

 

God is Speaking…Listen!

by Brenna Fields Taylor

I was in my devotional time today, and I began to pray for a friend of mine who is going through a situation similar to what I have just recently experienced. I called her name in prayer, asking God to give her bold faith to persevere through this trial. Since I am beginning to emerge from my own circumstance, I’ve come to recognize that my faith in God has increased!   What I’m currently facing seems to be challenging, but I am declaring by faith that God will handle it (I am not worried about the ‘how;’ I just know that He will). This is the prayer I prayed for my friend.

God is an amazing God! After I finished praying, I turned to the daily devotional I read, and this is what the scriptural reference was:

Isaiah 46:3-4 (NLT)

Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,
all you who remain in Israel.
I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.
 I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.

Talk about an on-time word! God spoke directly to my situation as well as to my friend’s, and I had literally just called her name in prayer minutes before! If you ask God to speak to you about a situation, trust that He will do it! And it will be unmistakable that it is HIS voice!

What God also said to me in this short amount of time is that when you are listening for His voice and walking in faith (bold faith, I might add), when the fiery darts of the enemy come your way (Ephesians 6), they affect you differently. Yes, the enemy may shoot them, but our faith doesn’t allow them to burn us! Our bold faith, based on the Word of God, is protecting us…we don’t have to worry about what the enemy throws our way. We are aware of the enemy’s tactics and schemes, but we keep moving forward in faith, knowing that God WILL care for us, carry us, and be with us!

Be encouraged, friends! We serve a God who speaks to us and to our specific situations. Ask Him to speak to you and then listen for His voice. And walk in faith!

What Time Is It?

by Brenna Fields Taylor

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NLT)

I am writing this post on January 1, and a new year is just dawning. As with each new year, there is a focus on newness, change, life improvement, and resolutions. While I no longer make New Year’s resolutions, I do try to set goals for the year. Today’s post is not about goal setting or resolutions. It’s about time.

Hourglass

About 2 ½ years ago, my family experienced an extended season of loss. Between July of 2017 and the following June, we lost 5 family members, some to extended illness and some to sudden death (which was the case with my mother). On top of that, I lost 2 very good friends to sudden death (one less than a month after my mother’s passing). The year I lost my mother (2018) was the year I turned 50, and it was also the year I realized my marriage could not be saved.

What the last 2 ½ years have taught me is to redeem the time. Look at what Bible commentator Matthew Henry says about the scripture above from Ephesians: “Time is a talent given us by God, and it is misspent and lost when not employed according to his design.” If you are reading this, God has given you a measure of time. The question is: are you using it according to His design?  You may ask, “what does God want me to do with my time?” That is a question that God can answer for you, but you must seek Him out (Matthew 6:33). Yes, there may be things we want to accomplish, but what does GOD want us to accomplish? Ask Him!

Matthew Henry also says this about the Ephesians passage: “If we have lost our time heretofore, we must double our diligence for the future.” I don’t know about you, but as I reflect on my life and my 50+ years, I realize that I did not redeem the time as earnestly as I could or should have. While looking back affords me the opportunity to learn some lessons, the past is not where I plan to stay. I believe that, while I wasn’t perfect, I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. And now, time and experiences have taught me things that have changed me for the better. So, as Henry states, I am doubling my diligence for the future. I recognize that our times are in God’s hands, and He has not revealed the number of our days to us. And since I don’t know how long my life on this earth will be, I need to take advantage of EVERY day I’m blessed to see.

I am not advocating becoming a workaholic to try to cram it all in, but I am suggesting that we must intentionally use the time we have. Do I really have to watch that TV show now, or can I record it to watch later? Can I spend less time on social media and use that time in a more productive way? Can I get up a little earlier in the morning so I can get that 30-minute workout in? You’d be surprised the amount of time that becomes available when we make a few adjustments.

So, what time is it? It’s time to redeem the time! Seek God for what He would have you accomplish this year, set your goals and let’s go! Now is the time to redeem the time!

Be Courageous!

By Brenna Fields Taylor

During a recent difficult season, a friend of mine told me that I was courageous. She explained why she felt that way, but, in the middle of my drama, I certainly didn’t feel that way. In fact, the last thing I believe I was at that point was courageous. Frankly, in that moment, I felt weak and powerless.

Courage

I recently saw an adaptation of The Wiz, and if you’ve seen the movie or the Broadway production, you know about the Cowardly Lion. Although the lion is supposed to be the king of the jungle, this particular lion did not see himself as such, and he wanted The Wiz to give him courage. As the production progressed, although the characters had not yet made it to The Wiz, little by little the Lion began to do courageous things (and he didn’t realize it). As the play concludes, the Lion realized he possessed courage all along.

As I reflect on my life and the challenges I’ve faced (many of them in the last 2 years…most of them ongoing), I’ve started thinking about courage. What is it, really?

To me, courage means stepping into the unknown. Many times, we like life to be stable and predictable. Speaking for myself, I enjoy the regularity and routineness of life. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, it’s orderly. And yet, if you’ve lived for any length of time, you know that life can be far from stable and predictable. Times come when we are shaken out of our comfort and need to move into something different. Sometimes moving into something different is what we want, and other times it’s something we must do (we have no choice in the matter). In either case, when we are stepping into the unknown, the thing we’re facing is different than anything we’ve ever experienced. We don’t know what to expect, or even what the next step will be, but we step. We don’t know in which direction this step will take us, but we step. To me, that is courage.

I also believe that courage is facing a situation you may have avoided for a period of time. I know a person who knew something was going on in his physical body, but did not seek medical attention. He ignored the situation, hoping that it would somehow go away. If we’re dealing with financial challenges, they are not going to magically get better (no money will rain down from heaven). If you’re faced with health challenges, short of a miracle, they will not just go away. Again, if you’ve lived for any length of time, you know that issues don’t just disappear. They must be faced, confronted, dealt with. Courage is recognizing there is a problem, understanding that it is bigger than you can handle, and taking steps to move toward resolution.  Recognizing a problem is looking it square in the eye and acknowledging it exists.  The issue is there, and will not go away until we admit it’s there. Once we’ve honestly acknowledged its existence, we can do things to move toward resolution, such as prayer, wise counsel, research, etc. The issue may not (and probably will not) be resolved overnight, but exercising courage means we are addressing something we’ve avoided.

The last point I want to make about courage is this: being courageous means we are taking a risk. I have a tendency to be risk averse (as I said earlier, I like stability). But being courageous means getting a little uncomfortable and moving forward in the face of fear. Conditions will never be ideal for us to make a move forward, but if we want our situations to be different, we must make a change. The time will never be right to start that business, go back to school, start saving for that house, to rebuild your life. But if you don’t start, how will the thing ever get done?

What have you been procrastinating about? What’s that one thing you desire to do or need to face? Today is the day…be courageous and take one step. After you’ve taken the first step, take the second, then the third, then the fourth. As you do that, just like The Lion in The Wiz, you are exercising courage you didn’t realize you had. Be courageous!