Philippians: Day 3

Living and Dying

by

Today's Text: Philippians 1:12-26, Exodus 4:10-12, James 3:13-18, 2 Timothy 2:8-10, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Everything I know about death, I learned at my grandparents’ sick bed. I’ve been within an arm’s length as three of my grandparents crossed over from this temporal world to their eternal home. Perspective zeros in with pinpoint accuracy in that moment. After a lifetime of trying to figure out what matters and what doesn’t, staring down death lifts the veil. All the worry, all the anxiety, all the embarrassment, all the shame melts away. So do bills and houses and cars and retirement plans. Jesus’ charge to love God and love others is what is left standing.

The most powerful sermons of my life have been preached by suffering. When my car is parked on Easy Street I can convince myself that all kinds of silly things are worthy of my time, devotion, and emotions. But when suffering and sadness and disappointment are my zip code, I am forced to look past my circumstances toward the bigger picture.

I wish this weren’t the case, but the longer I live, the more I realize I cannot fully grasp the sweetness of God without knowing the bitter taste of life in a fallen world.

The Apostle Paul had an uncanny grasp on and devotion to the gospel. He sent shock waves through the church and into our lives by saying, and actually living like Christ is all that matters:

My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
- Philippians 1:20

Paul knew in his gut that it was Christ alone who saved him. He refused to be entangled or sidetracked by any other message. But how did he get so Christ-assured? How did he step around the traps that trip up so many of us? How was the gospel imprinted so deeply on Paul’s heart?

I wish I could say that his resolve was a result of great preaching or prayers answered swiftly and easily, but that’s not how Paul became obsessed with the gospel. His singular focus on Jesus was honed in prison cells, by hospital beds, and at crash sites. Struggle was the boxing ring that trained him to live his life for Christ.

In Philippians 1, we find Paul in a prison cell. Though stretched thin in the tension between this life and eternity with Christ, suffering helped him see things clearly:

For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
-Philippians 1:21

Paul looked at a future in prison or a possible death sentence, and he saw Jesus there. He looked at a life of doing what he loved, and he saw Jesus there too. He knew freedom from suffering meant freedom to preach the gospel, but then he got arrested and found out the gospel doesn’t lose its power behind prison walls (Philippians 1:13). His faith had been refined in the pressure cooker, so he knew there was no need to ever turn tail and run. He refused to let fear freeze his feet.

Suffering emboldens us because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us. We don’t have to wait till our deathbeds to see the “one thing” as clearly as Paul did.

Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
-Philippians 1:27

Erin Davis is a popular author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

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  • Saryn Mandak

    This is a really good reminder. Thank you

  • Lauren McAfee

    Really good reminder. So easy to forget to live in light of the cross.

  • Kasey Summers

    Focus on what matters… Loving God and loving people. All that really matters.

  • “I cannot fully grasp the sweetness of God without knowing the bitter taste of life in a fallen world.” I loved reading these words! It’s so true and makes me
    so grateful for the struggles I endure. With them I draw nearer to Him!

  • Amen!!

  • Mandi Adams

    I am struggling with a major decision in my life right now and this put it all min perspective. I’m struggling with staying at a job I dearly love (high school teacher) or staying home with my little boy. Please pray for me to clearly hear from the Lord and to make the right decision.

    • Kate

      I just prayed for you. No matter what your decision God has your back and is with you every step of the way.

  • “I cannot fully grasp the sweetness of God without knowing the bitter taste of life in a fallen world.”….oh too true!

  • I am facing upheaval at work and the words about facing the worst case scenario are very powerful. Even if things do not turn out the way I want them to at work I am reminded that my Master is in charge and all things will work out for my good. Maybe not today or tomorrow but in the end.

  • This gave me better perspective. "To live is Christ and to die is gain." A good reminder that no matter what my life circumstances, it is for God's glory that I live to share his love; and to die is to gain my inheritance as his child. What great hope, what wonderful promise.

  • This is my first study with SRT, and I am blown away! I have been feeling intense anxiety about an interview on Wednesday. It has been a position that has been on my heart since 2014, my senior year of college, and I decided to apply this year. The process is long, almost two months now, and I finally have the final interview on Wednesday. I admit, I have let anxiety and doubt get the best of me towards the end of this process. Would it be all for nothing? I am reminded in the message yesterday that God does not abandon you if He calls you, but he will see it into completion. Today, I am reminded in Exodus 4:12 that He “will be with my mouth, and teach you what you shall speak.” I will not be alone on Wednesday! My words will be from God, glorifying Him in faith that he will bring this journey to completion. Thank you SRT for an amazing Philippians study. It has always been my favorite book, but I am learning more than I could have ever imagined.

    • Shelby Fox

      Praying for you Brooke! Keep us posted on how your interview goes!

      • Brooke

        Hi Shelby! I have been meaning to revisit this study to reply. Praise God, I got the position! Thank you for your prayers, it means so much to me!

    • JLI09

      I love your response to this message. “God does not abandon you if He call you, but He will see it to completion.” My husband and I have been looking for a new place to live. This past weekend I was really disappointed after having found out one of the places we were considering was no longer at option. We decided to go for a drive Saturday morning “just to see” what was out there. We really have a passion for the country, garderning, farming, wide open spaces and raising our children to enjoy the outdoors. We saw a cute little house on some property for rent and decided to call.

      As soon as we pulled in my husband said it was the place. Calling about it and finding out the price made us nearly fall over. It was LESS expensive than where we are currently living! The landlord told us we could open the gate and go check it out and she would be back in town to show it to us on Sunday. The peace was just overwhelming and confirmaton was just waiting for us once we share the news with our covenant group leader.

      We are officially looking at it on Sunday, and I am struggling this week with doubt and anxiety. We both feel strongly that God has called us to this house; that it is a blessing from Him and a harvest from our faithful sowing. But, what if we heard wrong? What if we missed God somehow? What if this isn’t it? The fallout and humiliaton if it didn’t work out, seems overwhelming. I mean we’re putting all of our eggs in one basket because we believe this is what God has for us, but what if we’re wrong?

      In the natural, it just sounds completely absurd! We haven’t even seen the inside of the house! Yet we know it is meant for us. I can’t make that make sense in my head, yet I know He is using it to stretch my faith and to calling me to place all my trust in Him.

      Thank you for sharing your response as it was a reminder I desperately needed this week as we go through this process.

      Please lift my husband and I up in prayer, that we would continue to rely on Him and trust His word. For peace and favor in this process. Thank you ladies! :)

  • LesleeFalk

    "when we are faced with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us"
    This line alone will continue to resonate with me for a long time. It is already written down, and on a post it note on my computer screen.

    It is so true. In the past year my husband and I have experienced two ectopic pregnancies. Though these losses have been hard and the difficulties that come with them are challenging, we have seen our relationship strengthened through prayer. It sometimes takes a while to realize why things happen the way they do (when it is something we wanted to badly) but there is always a reason.

    Thank you for sharing your stories with us SRT team. I am absolutely loving this study and everything Philippians has to offer!

  • janellecole

    Suffering emboldens us because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us.

    Yep – right there – so often I try to worst case a scenerio that has me held back by fear – to realize that the worst case will be ok. And that is how Paul was – he was worst case scenario-ing his life. So much good stuff in here – thanks for walking us through this today!!

  • Michelle of LA CA

    Thank you . SRT always is right on the point daily .
    Thank you for this reading today

  • chris minardi

    I lost 4 grandparents in 2012 and totally experienced this. This is one of your best posts! So powerful. I shared this on all my social media pages! God bless you!!! Well put!!! Sooo powerful! Go Jesus~convict hearts! We pray for boldness and conviction to share and seek yYou in the midst of suffering!!! Press on warriors!!! <3

  • 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

    I pray this for marriage- that I look to my creator for wisdom in how I do marriage with my husband each and every day – no excuses

  • The Cristy Bee Buzz

    I really needed to read this today. A lot has been going on in regards to my career and life in general for the past year and just yesterday I said I was leaving it all to Jesus as he directs my steps.

    I've lived in NYC for the past five years where I built my career and it was just so easy for me there but I wasn't able to find an apartment by any means when my lease ended. I tried so hard and ended up having to stay in a hotel from February to April to save my job. It was so difficult to find a place to live all of a sudden and it was like all my doors were closing. Eventually the rates went up so high that my salary wasn't enough to be able to stay in the hotel, even with the support of family. I had to abruptly return home to Florida and leave my job. I was and still am heartbroken because it was my main goal and dream in life to live there and I was blessed to work with great and kind people, I'm embarrassed and struggling to figure out why this happened. I'm lucky I have the support of my family in every way possible from emotionally to financially even though leaving my job has affected my bills big time. Despite all of this, I've become closer to God even though I have had a hard time accepting a lot of things, I really try! This season of my life has taught me that I alone cannot control everything and that only God has the answers. When I am feeling alone in my struggles, He is with me.

    "When we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us."

    I'm so thankful for you all in our SRT community and pray that God blesses everyone and continues to direct all of us to where He wants us to be.

  • I love verse 21! Christ is in our lives and work but death brings us side by side with Him. Either way we must believe it’s all good.

  • shereadstruth

    Amen, Lucy! Thanks for joining us today, friend!

    xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Sharla McVea

    A few days (ok maybe a week ago) a college here in Oregon experienced a tragic shooting. It’s about an hour from where I live and at first I felt guilty for not feeling any sorrow for these people because I was distracted by my busy day. I am a substitute teacher and was working with an exceptionally difficult class that day. I heard about the shooting around 11 or noon, but hadn’t really had time to process it….once I was alone and had quiet time by myself, the emotions and feeling came flooding in, and I felt so convicted by my business because I was so involved with petty things, I hadn’t even stopped to pray for those killed or injured! I didn’t even stop to think how I could help.

    Eventually my conviction turned into a form of sorrow, and I felt sorry for the whole world. As I learned more and more details, I became disgusted with the world around me! This person came into a community college, and one-by-one, began asking people about their faith. If they were Christian, they were shot in the head. If they responded claiming they weren’t, they were shot elsewhere and injured.

    I tried to imagine what I would do if that were me. Would I have proclaimed my faith? Would I have cowered out of fear and denied my faith? Would I have tried to disarm the man? I like to think that I would have said, “yes…I AM a follower of Jesus Christ our Lord,” and then tried to disarm him…even if it meant dying in the process. However, at the time of this fantasy, another image crept into my head. I’m about to marry the person of my dreams, and I also have two small boys that I love more than life. I have so many dreams and good things happening right now that I want to live out. What if I denied my faith? I would have lived the rest of my life asking forgiveness and continually questioning how much I truly loved God….

    As this week has gone on, I’ve become scared and angry. How can people be so evil? How can someone go around killing people for their faith? How can we have murderers, rapists, child molesters, and all the sick and twisted activities that people engage in? This world is a scary place.

    This truth eased all these emotions for me! It made me feel grateful that we had so many brave souls that proclaimed their faith in the face of death! The second person who proclaimed their faith is the Lord must have been so brave! This gives me hope for the world! If these kinds of people exist in such a small community, then maybe there is hope for this world! There are so many people that have truly dedicated their lives to Jesus, and in the face of such an ugly tragic event…my faith and hope has deepened. Even through death, those victims are blessed and serve as an encouragement for others! I am reminded of what’s truly important in life, the unconditional love of Jesus, and the love we have for others!

  • andrea411

    Thank you so much, moved to tears by your post and the comments. Such a beautiful and timely message, God bless, andrea

  • Such fabulous words for today. I want to set my heart, like Paul, fixated on the One True Thing.

    I am struck by all of the feelings of inadequacy in the verses today. Moses was not eloquent enough and neither was Paul. Both men were fully aware of their deficiencies, but believed God to fill in the gaps. I need that truth. I'm fully aware of the areas where I am not enough, where I am inadequate, but am I fully believing on Him to make up the difference? Praying for this confidence this morning!

  • Thankful for this wonderful, timely truth God knew I needed to hear at this specific time in life! And I so appreciate how He’s spoken to and through all you ladies. Thank you for sharing your experiences, your inspired illustrations, and your hearts.

    God spoke to me in a somewhat different way. In light of living for Christ, God has clarified my perspective of how to invest my time, efforts, resources, finances, etc. Living in Christ and as Christ exemplified in His own life, I now see that He has called me to invest in something greater than tomorrow, and in something that lasts far beyond retirement. He calls me to invest in eternity, in the life beyond death. So in living, I pray God helps us pry our fingers off the temporary, and remind us in the painful emptying of ourselves that He is the fullness that our hearts truly long for. And as bitter the thought of dying might be, would He compel us to focus not on the fear of loss but on the endless joy that awaits us in the eternal gain of being His loved daughters.

    Sisters, let us walk in His righteousness today by His grace!

  • In addition to EVERYTHING else there is to unpack in this, verse 18:: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

    Paul just wanted to make much of Jesus Christ. I love his no-nonsense approach, never entangling himself in the details of people’s intentions, but instead focusing on the point — to make much of Jesus. So let it be with us, Lord. Let us not get caught up in analyzing people’s intentions behind speaking your word, and instead just rejoice your word is being preached at all.

  • I am moved to tears by the devotional today. As each day comes and goes these daily Bible studies and devotionals apply to my life.

    “Suffering emboldens us because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us.”

    Although this isn’t our worst case scenario, my husband received some bad news at his job yesterday (as many people do each and every day). Yet he came home with a smile on his face for our children and has faith that God will see us through and provide for us.

    My husband has such a strong faith, and I am so thankful to have a man like him as my husband and as the father to my children.

    I have fears though – while I am willing to do whatever it takes for my family, I pray that I am able to continue to stay home with our children. I want to raise them with a stay at home parent as both myself and my husband were raised. However, with bills and student loan debt, it’s difficult.

    Asking to be in your prayers my SRT sisters. That God will continue to guide us where we need to be.

    • Amy J

      Praying for you, that you receive the guidance you need.

    • SusieT

      Hugs to you, dear Sister! I've experienced (and more than once) precisely the scenario you've shared. Be encouraged: God knows your heart and He is a generous Father. :)

      Years ago, my husband had been on the job only a year when the economy of our little Midwest town bottomed out. His employer, with great regret, delived that dreaded 'pink slip' telling him his employment was ending. At the time, we had a mountain of graduate college debt and an 18-month-old daughter. My husband came home at lunch that day to tell me the news. Man of faith that he is, he was understandably disappointed and wondered aloud what should be our next step. It was then that our little girl tottered over to where he was seated and spoke words that are forever etched in our hearts (and you have to hear it as she said it): "Ouw God wains, Daddy!" Certainly, she had often heard "Our God reigns" in praise songs at our church…but for her to pipe up and declare it at that precise moment was undoubtedly God speaking through a Little One. My husband swooped her up inn his arms and with a bright smile and glistening eyes said, "Yes, Honey, He certainly does!"

      Within months, we moved to another town for my husband's new employment, and that job not only met our needs – but exceeded our fondest hopes. God provides! He IS faithful!

      Yes, our God Reigns! I'll be praying for you and your family!

      • CBear

        Thank you so much for sharing your story today:) and for your heartfelt prayers and thoughts! What an awesome thing for your little girl to say, and what a wonderful message from God! I am so happy that things ended up working out for you! It is amazing that sometimes when we view something in a negative light at first, it ends up being something so positive and better than we could have ever envisioned ourselves. Thanks again!

    • TGBTG

      Prayers to you and yours.

    • CBear

      Thank you, Lucy, for your kind message today:) and you’re absolutely right – God’s hand is always at work! I will stay strong, and I will share your message (as well as others’) with my husband tonight!

    • tina

      Lifting yourseLf CBear, and your family, up in prayer.. Praying God give you peace, in this uncertain season…Praying He brings you the right opportunities, and the wisdom to trust and hold fast to Him…He is good, and He takes care of those He loves…AND He loves you and your family…
      Blessings be your abundant…xx

      • CBear

        Thank you so much, Tina! You have such a kind and compassionate heart – it is evident through your messages!

  • "Suffering emboldens us because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us. We don’t have to wait till our deathbeds to see the “one thing” as clearly as Paul did."

    I've witnessed this, over and over with friends that have been given an terminal diagnosis. All their fear seems to dissipate, and they are witnessing for Christ like never before. And I find myself saying, "Lord if this is what it takes to make me bold for you, bring it on." And these are not just words. My heart is desperate to live for Christ at whatever the cost.

    I have been praying for years that God would make me bold as a lion. I'm so tired of being a mouse. I want to be a lion for His kingdom purposes, and not just because I'm on my death bed. There is growth in this area, but truth be told it is minimal. So I pray this verse will become my hearts motivation. "Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."-Philippians 1:27

  • HelenWalksinAwe

    B wrote about Quartz inversion and suddenly I'm swept into the metaphor. This little clay pot has been stuck in a season of quartz inversion, trembling at the prospect of shattering completely. Often I even think I see the pieces breaking apart and falling off from the whole. Maybe this is all just an illusion and what I really need is ramped up faith that rather than shattering completely, I am (hopefully) getting nearer to completion. There is much to return to and meditate on in today.

    I'm shattering, BUT GOD.
    I'm tired, BUT GOD.
    I'm learning, WITH GOD.
    I'm being perfected THROUGH GOD.
    I'm JOYFUL in GOD.

    Always, somehow, inexplicably, that last one.

    I'm really grateful we are moving through Philippians slowly. This savoring-pace is exactly what I need right now.

  • Michelle of LA CA

    Thank you

  • churchmouse

    Ever wonder what folks will say about you at the time of your death, perhaps right there in the funeral parlor? What if someone just quietly said, or maybe even boldly proclaimed, “I will miss that old girl. She in every way preached Christ.” What a legacy to aspire to leave! And to know, really know, that to live is Christ and to die is gain. So we can look at our circumstances every day and say ‘whatever!” And keep on preaching, through our living, Christ. Amen.

    • Kylee

      Amen!

    • tina

      Funny, churchmouse, I did think about writing in that vain, but was swayed towards the experience route…
      I have often thought about what my headstone would say, not in a morbid way….but have I lead, guided, taught my family the way of the Lord…have I done all I can….to be able to stand at the pearly gates….
      When I first seriously began walking with the Lord, I remember promising that I would always give Him cause to say…there she is Tina, my daughter in whom I am well pleased….
      Still hopeful…
      Thank you churchmouse, for the reminder of my promise to our Father….
      Blessings..xxxx

  • My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
- Philippians 1:20

    My goal today and everyday. Thank you for this. I feel like I need to read it a couple times in order to fully grasp everything you’ve pointed out. God is using you through your words today!

  • Oh, how I can hold things so very tightly. I've learned after many seasons of feeling seemingly out of control, that I've developed an overly sensitive need to control. To no end, I have tried to control my circumstances with white knuckled, tight fists. And it is exhausting to say the least. When I am focused so rigidly in this way (my way), I have a narrow, singular focus that is fixed on what I think should happen. The notion that I can even so rigidly control circumstances in this way is only a mirage, a false hope, a distraction from what is best (His ways). My own self-imposed struggle to control is life-draining, pointless, futile.
    Yet it is in my struggle to control that God graciously meets me. Ragged and weak, I *choose* to turn to Him. It is only through prayerfully and humbly surrendering my control to Him that life expands. His ways give life. His ways open up my path to a spacious place of growth, of faithful obedience. And I am reminded once more that I only need to take steps of obedience in faith, He does the good work of bringing about the outcome. The good outcome that only He can bring about, not me. My work is to faithfully obey, His work is to see it through. In whatever form or shape the outcome takes, it will be good because He is good. His goodness is a promise. It is secure. It is eternal. I can faithfully rest in His promises because of who He is.
    Praying that I can humbly turn to Him. For strength to relinquish my ferocious need to control, fix, make right. Praying for a humble heart to obey with abandon and faith in Him, in His perfect plan. Trusting His good process of refining and growth, continually surrendering – over and over and over again – my own ways to needlessly control things outside of my control. Because it is in this abandon of myself, of my need to control that I will see Him. His light. His ways. His working, always working for my good because I love Him. I am only found in Him. Grateful for our patient and gracious God.

    • ~ B ~

      "Ragged and weak…" How often do we feel that way? Love your words Beverly and love the wide open places of growth. Continuing to be prayerful over your heart and journey and praying that God loosens your grasp of control so that you continue to go from white knuckling it to open handing it – ;). Love to you today! ~ B

      • Beverly

        Grateful for your continued prayers, B! The thought of being open-handed to Him even sounds full of peace. Thanks, B. :)

    • Joanna

      Amen. Your words brought me to tears.

      • Beverly

        Sending you a hug and prayer, Joanna! That God would meet you wherever you are and wrap you up in His great love.

  • Lisa Selan

    The timing of this is truly an 'only God' moment for me. Earlier this morning my heart was struggling in my lack of deliberate quality time in the Word and prayer. Satan was telling me I wasn't worthy…Jesus said ''I am here always'. Dig in deep sisters, the battle is real and no better place to be than consumed by Jesus!

  • Anna Buchanan

    As I struggle through change with a big move, my first year of teaching and battling an addiction I find myself calling life bittersweet. So how fitting that this pops up in the devo this morning: ” I cannot fully grasp the sweetness of God without knowing the bitter taste of life in a fallen world.” It is so true. God reveals Himself in the pain and darkness. Here I see his mercy, strength and love most clearly. Oh Father give me the wisdom, patience and grace to keep seeking you even when I feel life is too much and I am too messed up!

    • MNmomma (heather)

      lifting you up this morning Anna! hugs!

    • ~ B ~

      Anna, you often cross my mind and prayers. Thinking of you this morning and prayerful over your coming days and that you are overcome with God's grace and patience so that you can be comforted in this season! Love to you! ~ B

    • jjfro

      Steady on, Anna! Savor the sweetness of Jesus when He is closest. You can never be too messed up for Jesus – He can smooth the roughest of edges.

    • TGBTG

      Anna, He is with you always. Prayers.

  • Wow! This is very timely for me! My neighbor and I are trying to start a neighborhood Bible Study. We met socially with 8 ladies in the neighborhood last night. It didn’t go like I thought. One person made it clear she wasn’t, and would not be, interested. We noticed many had a hobby of reading, so we are starting a book club instead…with Godly, faithfilled, books on the list. This is very different than we envisioned, and until I read SRT this morning, I was feeling disappointed, confused, wondering if we were doing the right thing. Now I am thankful for this opportunity, even though it is different than what I imagined, because it is what God wants it to be!

    • HelenWalksinAwe

      Good luck with your book club! There are ways to connect anything true and beautiful back to the promises of Christ! I'm sure you will find ways to make these connections gracefully and without being obtrusive so that your neighbors have hearts ready to receive what you're sharing!

    • Cindy

      Courage, Deb…. Courage!

    • CBear

      That is great, and I am glad to hear that today’s readings gave you a change of heart on how to view the outcome!

  • bellissimanh

    I never knew this… settling arguments peacefully in English pubs used to be a real problem, so in 1955, the Guinness brewing company decided that an official record was needed to pacify its customers and the Guinness Book of World Records was created. It has been a best seller ever since, with about 3.5 million copies a year in twenty-three languages in a hundred countries.

    I have an even greater best-seller at my fingertips to help me live peaceably with others in God's Word. Not only has it outsold the Guinness Book of World Records, it's also got way more wisdom and, if I will take advantage of it, it has the power to transform my relationships. Drawn up short by these words today:

    "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." (James 3:13-18)

    Yeah. I think I need to print this passage out and put it front and center on my desk at the office. Much as I hate to admit it, there is plenty of selfish ambition in my heart… and it leads to some nasty stuff. There is some pride in me that's worthy of a world record some days. Instead of that, I'd much rather be characterized by purity, peacefulness, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy and good fruits, an ability to be unbiased and sincerity. I want a harvest of righteousness! I want these things, yet so often I lose sight of Jesus and instead focus on my circumstances – and I end up acting selfishly instead of in a way that honors God. Ugh… I hate that! I needed this heart check this morning. I'm determined to give the Spirit control today so that I can bring glory to Jesus… to seek peace and pursue it. Anyone else?

    • Christy

      Yes I was thinking the same thing – I keep post-its on my computer screen of various verses to keep me centered throughout the day and as I interact with others, and I’ll be adding James 3:18 this morning!

    • MNmomma (heather)

      YES!!!!!

  • In the midst of our struggles, suffering, and trials, Jesus is there, looking right back at us. So thankful.

  • "The most powerful sermons of my life have been preached by suffering." THIS! I love the wording you used. I remember vividly a day I was on my knees, fists to heaven, screaming over the happenings in my life. This wasn't the result of a quick problem, but instead the culmination of years of ongoing various troubles and I had reached what I thought was my point of breaking. Like clay in the potter's oven, I felt as if I was cracking under the pressure. As I sat, that night, knees on the floor and my head on a chair sobbing to my Father, He reminded me just what happens to those clay pots.

    My mother had an infinity for clayware. We were fortunate, in a season, to live in a state with a great many clay artists and she could sniff them out like a dog on a hunt. We would regularly visit their small, hidden studios and galleries and would always come home with a piece. I learned so much then, even through my own wheel throwing, however, miniscule in comparison. What God was wanting me to remember that night was that there is a process in the firing of a pot that is imperative. Many steps to get the final, beautiful product and one of the final points is called the "quartz inversion". This is where crystals rearrange themselves in the piece causing the piece to expand. This step happens after the piece has gone through several other stages; ones where it remains at risk of a new danger. If, in the quartz inversion, the temperature rises too quickly the piece can crack or worse break entirely. It's imperative to heat slowly here. In the end, when complete, you're left with a product so incredibly different than what went in….a perfectly matured and beautiful piece.

    God was good enough to remind me that He will never put me in a situation so hot that I will crack under pressure. He is for my refinement, my beautifying and although the process a long and arduous process, He will never leave me in the fire to melt into nothing, He will only allow enough heat to produce a new "me" … one free of cracks that because of it's deep well of pain, can contain joy and because of this will be a vessel for the Living Water on earth. ~ B

    • Candacejo

      LOVE! I had heard some about the making of the vessels but not the quartz inversion. Wow. He won't leave me to melt into nothing…it is all for HIS glory. ♥

    • bellissimanh

      Perfect!

    • Amanda H.

      B, thank you so might for sharing this reminder. Your words have brought me to tears. As a former art major I took many clay classes and developed a passion for it. I know exactly what you are talking about, but I hadn’t thought of it that way before. I have been struggling with stress and dissatisfaction at my job, along with other things that really aren’t as big as they seem. Your words have reminded me that God has a purpose for this time in my life, and that he will bring me through it! Thank you so so much!

      • ~ B ~

        Oh Amanda does God have plans for us all. I went through a long period, unable to photograph for a variety of reasons. Over time, I forgot how it made me feel, what God allows me to see or feel through it. The minute I picked a real camera back up, it was like magic in my hands….as if my Father gently set it in my palms and said, "Here love, go find yourself" …. I trust that He is doing the same thing for you. No matter what you are doing or where you are in life, I am sure He will find a way to use your artist heart and bring you out in the process! ~ B

      • Amanda H.

        I agree Lucy!

    • Kelly_Smith

      "He will never put me in a situation so hot that I will crack under pressure." I like this better than the saying, "God will never give you more than you can handle." We constantly have more than we can handle; it helps us stay at the feet of Jesus. The thought that He will not allow me to crack under the pressure brings hope without eliminating humility.

      • Donna

        Yes, I like that saying better "He will never put me in a situation so hot that I will crack under pressure." Thank you Lord.

      • Marcie

        So true Kelly. I always have more than I can handle but praise God I don’t have to bear those burdens alone. I can come boldly to my Savior and lay them down.

        • HelenWalksinAwe

          Thanks for saying it like this, Marcie. It's like I know this but have to relearn it every. single. time. It's so good that our God is a patient father.

      • ~ B ~

        Couldn't agree more Kelly! ~ B

    • tina

      -B, This is perfect and beautiful…I love this!!!

      Thank you…

      Simply beautiful…

      Love to you-B..xx

    • Sylvia Reeve

      Thank you for sharing. I never knew about “quartz inversion” so comforting to know that God will not allow us to crack under fire. What spoke to my heart this morning is found in James 3:16 from ‘The Message’ ” Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or getting the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the other’s throats.” I’m guilty of doing this with my hubby. Always thinking I know better, sometimes all I want to do is show a different point of view but it always quickly falls apart. But this morning God has shown me that what I’m really doing is getting the better of him (ouch) my prayer is that I will be reminded of this passage before I speak.

      • ~ B ~

        Beautiful Sylvia. It never ceases to amaze me what God uses to drive points home to us. I will be prayerful as the day moves on that you feel God's grace over you and that your desire to remember James 3:16 is one met! ~ B

    • MNmomma (heather)

      Thank you so much B!!!! "He will never put me in a situation so hot that I will crack under pressure" – I needed this reminder…….the refinement process is harsh and painful at times, but I am reminded again and again that I am NOT alone. He is with me…..holding me when I can't walk anymore…..and then gently setting me back on my feet watching as I take my first trembling steps after…..

    • Zeydi

      How beautiful you express yourself! I am trying to hold on strong to God's word and promises for my life and that of my children. It is easy to look at my circumstances and feel that I am falling apart after so many years of trials. Yet, I know that God shows himself stronger in my weakness. Thank you for the reminder of how he is shaping me to be the person he wants me to be! I keep trying to look at to him and not to my circumstances. I want to experience and feel God's joy and not to dwell on what it could have been, but accept what is with grace..

      • ~ B ~

        Oh, how I know these days Zeydi! It seems as if you won't be able to put one foot in front fo the other. It's easy to get lost in our circumstances, but know that as you endure, God is truly just using all of these as refinements for you….you will never be alone and you will never be out of his reach. Prayerful that you experience God's joy and accept "what is"…. love to you! ~ B

  • Thank you all for your insight today. And prayers for those of you sisters who are going through trials now. God Bless you all this day and in days to come. Tricia

  • carlybenson

    I'm challenged by Paul's focus on God and how nothing matters to him apart from the word about Jesus being spread. His imprisonment, people taking advantage of the situation to cause him even more pain, even the matter of whether he lives or dies- none of it matters to him as long as Jesus is glorified.
    I get caught up far too often in my own circumstances and how things are for me. Even though I've known God very closely in suffering and can honestly say that my faith in him would not be what it is without some of the difficult experiences I've had, part of me still seeks comfort and security in circumstances rather than in him.
    I pray that I would have more of Paul's attitude- that I would seek to honour God above all else whatever the situation, that my life would be focussed on him.

    • Kylee

      It’s as if accepting our fleshy selfish nature is not going anywhere, we can see it as less of something we need to change about us and more like the stump of a tree in the yard when we mow the lawn: it’s going to be there, that’s a given, so we just have to keep moving & go around it. Love your analogy about the headache!

    • carlybenson

      Thanks, Lucy and Kylee. All of that makes complete sense and it's really helpful. I think both of your analogies are great.

  • Candacejo

    Maybe you have heard the story of the young man who found a cocoon and sat down to watch the butterfly emerge. He could see the creature through the thin, silk-like material of the shell trying to break free, but to the young man it seemed as if it was taking too long. The butterfly had worked and worked and didn’t seem to be making much progress, even after a couple of hours. He decided to help it along and took out his Eagle Scout pocket knife with scissors (talk about being prepared) and cut an opening for the struggling insect. Immediately the butterfly hobbles out but his wings were wet and his body was swollen. The young man thought that with a little time the swelling would go down, the wings would dry and he would fly off like any other butterfly.

    But he never did.

    He spent the rest of his pitiful life in that shape for one reason: He needed to go through the struggle!

    Even though it seemed as if the butterfly was not making any progress he was slowly getting rid of the liquid in his body. A caterpillar turns to all liquid before it morphs into a butterfly! During the struggle to exit the cocoon it gets rid of that fluid, and while fighting to get free it becomes strong and ready to fly.

    The struggle is real and it is necessary. Struggling through our days, weeks and years thinking we are making no progress, everything is just HARD! But we don't realize that the struggles purify us, make us strong and give us wisdom and sensitivity to others around us. Tried in the fire, we burst forth as the beautiful creature God intends and touch others around us who are watching us through our struggle.

    A friend said that God calls us to do hard things sometimes but always has prepared the way before us.

    May we look at our struggles and sufferings as necessary not only for us but for those who are watching. Be blessed as you trust HIM in the struggle! ♥

    • ~ B ~

      Absolutely beautiful N! "The struggle is real and necessary" … Thank you for this! ~ B

    • tina

      What absolute TRUTH friend….the struggle is real and is necessary…..Amen…

      Thank you friend…and the Good News is, no matter, what we do not walk alone through it ….God is with us..a Double Amen to that..xxxxxx

    • carlybenson

      This is beautiful and so true. We can't always see it at the time but times of struggle are often the times when we grow the most and the times we draw close to God.

    • bellissimanh

      Love this!

    • Brandi

      Beautiful illustration! Going to share it with my daughter! Thank you!

    • MNmomma (heather)

      thank you sooooo much! The struggle IS real……and necessary……

    • JessHH

      I appreciate your comments so much. There have been several times over the last few weeks when a friend and I have said, "why does everything have to be so HARD?" We are both raising kids that are wonderful, but…challenging. And it feels like we make no progress at all. The long struggles, the ones that may take years and years to see fruit, can be so draining. Thank you for your encouragement to keep struggling as God purifies.

      • Candacejo

        Jess I remember those days…with three little blonde haired boys in the house and all the drama that goes along with LIFE. May I share a story with you that just happened to me this morning? I just came from the doctor's office, my first time to see this particular rheumatologist and I remembered that their office used to be in the same oncology office my son worked in when he was in nursing school. I asked the nurse if she had worked with my son and the look on her face let me know she had. She said, "I love your son! We miss him so much. He made all of the patients laugh and almost look forward to their infusions…." TWICE while I was there she looked me in the eye and said, "You have raised a most wonderful son…he touches lives every single day." Mind you, this is the same son whose kindergarten teacher said needed "therapy" because he bit his nails and he would "never amount to anything". (He bit his nails because of her but that is another story, lol) He is now working on his masters and teaches home bible study groups, plays in the church band and is helping his younger brother financially to finish his degree. I am not saying all of that to brag by ANY means…I am saying it so you will know that raising challenging kids can also be the most rewarding kids. They are usually challenging because they are inquisitive, intelligent and a whole lot of times just bored and have a ton of energy that needs to be let out. You ARE making progress and you WILL see that fruit along the way. They are worth it and God will help you in this struggle. Praying you see the blessings today and know that even though I didn't want to hear it when mine were little, blink a few times and this time of life is over :( Praying for you and your friend today. You are wonderful mothers!! ♥

        • JessHH

          Thank you so much for your reply, it brought tears to my eyes! My husband and I always joke that the same characteristics that make a strong-willed child so challenging are the exact characteristics that make a driven, successful adult…as long as we don't kill him first! ;)Thank you again. It's encouraging to hear stories from more experienced moms that have been there. Blessings!

        • scootermae

          Thank you for this. The last week or so I have woken up and gone about my days with a very heavy heart for my 11 year old son, whom I am homeschooling for the second year. The pain he is causing me right now has worn me down mentally and emotionally. So thankful I can look at another's story and have the strength the to carry on…to keep going as was the devotional two days ago.

    • Lyle

      “The struggle is real and it is necessary.” Thank you for this, Candacejo! I needed this today.

    • Kylee

      Oh my gosh Candacejo, what a beautiful story — I’m going to use this with the kids in my 2nd grade class at church!! The struggle is real and necessary and refining and worth it and oh! So many things! Thank you for sharing!

      • Candacejo

        Kylee, there is so much more to that butterfly story…it is amazing! Sometimes we are like the butterfly inside the cocoon but WE have the scissors and want to hurry the struggle along ourselves. We think we don’t need to go through a difficulty or what we would call a trial because we have done this before, been through this situation and we know how to handle it.James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” There is purpose and strength in the struggle! God help us to slow down and give Him the control. He knows what is best.

    • kb

      Oh, how I needs to hear this today. Thank you Candacejo!

    • Sue

      Thank you Candacejo!

  • I think when you have had a Damascus road experience like Pauls…nothing…NOTHING can get in the way of that total 360 turn…that experience of Jesus, will change you forever…

    I think, the line…I cannot fully grasp the sweetness of God without knowing the bitter taste of life in a fallen world…for sure brings it home…

    Paul was on route to persecute followers of Jesus, when he had his experience, his call, his questioning from Jesus…In his 3 days of blindness, his life must have flashed before him a thousand fold…and each time, and with each fishscale like scale that fell off, he saw it disappear in the forgiveness and love of the Father, the forgiveness and Love of Jesus and His dying on the cross for our sins, for our redemption, for our salvation, ….for us….He saw a life with Christ Jesus, rather than a life away from Him…

    Paul was converted, changed totally, by this experience, to say forever, would be an understatement….He knew only one thing, and held only one thing in His heart…The love of Jesus and what he had done for him….for those he was preaching to….for us…

    We have all had an experience, that has changed us in some way, maybe not the 360 way of Paul, but none the less…from the way a certain vegetable was cooked, to being a battered wife, or an experience at school…or even church….we will all have something…Mine was the death of my daughter….I had all these people around me, and yet, I was alone…when I wasn't visiting her grave, I was at our local church raging at God, until one day, tired, exhausted, I fell asleep at the altar of the church…..it was there God met me, it was there, God showed me where my girl was, happy and joyful running through a meadow, shouting as she ran…I am alright mum, I'm happy….It was there that my change, my conversation began….truly began….
    I have sought since that day, to walk, be, and to know the God, I call my Heavenly Father, who has my girl in his care, I have sought, not so much to understand, but to believe in faith, that the picture I see of my life is only a tiny fraction on a daily basis, But God…oh but my God …He has the bigger picture, and each day as ' a scale falls from eyes' , I am more aware that what we have here in this world, is so very temporal, that there is a greater hope, beyond this life….
    How true your words, Erin, Suffering emboldens US because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us….
    This year alone has been a year of eye opening, ….earlier this year I had a call back from a mammogram test…hand on heart, for the 2 weeks of waiting, I knew peace that truly surpassed all understanding, my beloved and precious daddy was called home, I had to wait nearly 2 months to say goodbye, there was peace in that scenario…and now since Thursday, I have been in and out of hospital, while the different doctors work out what the pain in my side is all about, I can tell you, I write in a peace that only God can give….

    ' Just one thing'….Paul says…'live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ… '

    This is my focus, my goal…that by God's grace and in His mercy and abounding love, I can live my life so…

    I am far, far from perfect, But God…..

    Sending out love and showers of Blessings from a wet and windy England…x xxx

    • Candacejo

      Oh friend, I had no idea you were sick. We will certainly bind together in prayer for an answer here. You are in His tender care and that means more than all the world's best doctors. But we pray they can get you relief and soon.

      Thank you for sharing your suffering; it helps so many others, more than you will ever know. Here's one of your favorites to wrap around you today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbcPirz9q7I Love to you in wet and windy England. ♥

    • ~ B ~

      Oh Tina, "Suffering emboldens US…" So incredibly true. Prayerful has you endure poking and prodding. That your physicians are able to easily come to a quick conclusion of what ails you, that the peace you speak of remain and that you are free and clear of any illness. I share in a similar medical route this year and have felt the same peace you reference…so thankful for this amazing gift! Love to you friend! ~ B

    • carlybenson

      Praying for you, Tina, that the doctors are able to find the problem quickly and to help you, and that you continue to know God's peace in the midst of it all. Xxx

    • Carol

      .that by God's grace and in His mercy and abounding love, I can live my life so…May the grace of God bring you peace and comfort, and may God's healing power work through you. Praying for you.

    • Kelly_Smith

      Thank you for your encouraging words, sister!

    • Christy

      Praying for you Tina for continued peace and for healing, in the name of Jesus.

    • Heather

      Tina, your story is ministering to me. While in the midst of a serious illness in my family, I find myself wresting more than resting in my faith. It’s not doubt, but more of a struggle with nearness to God. Thank you for the reminder that peace from God stands in struggle.

    • MNmomma (heather)

      Tina – you are in my prayers this morning….lifting you up on this journey……so much love headed your way….and a giant cyber hug!

    • JessHH

      Joining my sisters in praying for you today, Tina.

    • Pam

      Praying for that pain in your side to leave! Keep us posted!

    • Kylee

      Time after time, Tina, your perspective and beautiful words have me in tears! Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart with us — i’m joining the sisters in prayer right now for your continued peace & healing. You are such an inspiration to all of us, just by being who you are. Thank you.

    • SusieT

      Tina, I, too, join in prayers for your healing, and I thank our Lord that He has you in the palm of His hand, and that He fills you with peace. What a testimony of faith and God's love you are; thank you for sharing. As you now seek an answer to the side pain you've been experiencing, may health care workers around you notice that beautiful Spirit within you, and even ask you the reason for the Hope that you have. "For such a time as this," dear Tina. Much love to you from across the pond! XOXO

    • mamajonk

      Prayers and hugs that this medical issue passes quickly. Blessings from So. Cal. Xoxo

    • Brittany

      Praying that the doctors are able to find the source of your pain and you are healed. Be blessed.

    • TGBTG

      Tina, love and prayers.

    • andrea411

      Im in tears… thank you. I don't know you except as a sister in Christ. I know what it is to take pain and turn it into a blessing. Only Jesus brings life from death. God bless you, praying you are healed but knowing the best is yet to come either way, bc God is able to take our suffering and make it someone's blessing when we are willing to let Him. Powerul and moving testimony.

    • melindawatters

      .In his 3 days of blindness, his life must have flashed before him a thousand fold…and each time, and with each fishscale like scale that fell off, he saw it disappear in the forgiveness and love of the Father,

      Tina, these words, Paul's life of sin disappearing behind the forgiveness and love of His heavenly Father spoke to my heart this morning. Thank you! Adding my prayers that God will guide the doctor's, give them wisdom in discovering what is the cause of your pain. Hugs to you!

    • tina

      What can I say ….but a HUGE thank you to you all for your prayers, love and concerns for my well being….
      I have loved this community since I walked through the doors via youversion, some hundred years ago…lol.., I have felt safe, like family, cared about, encouraged, friendship, renewed, loved,loved, loved and yesterday was no different…Praising God for this beautiful family ….He has placed me in, I am totally Blessed here and by you guys…Thank you so much for allowing me into your lives and this journey we walk together…
      May God bless each and everyone of you, my family, with his abundant Love, Everlasting Peace and Grace….xxxx

    • Kashira

      Amazing. I lost my daughter 1 yr and 3 months ago. That is the same vision and word God gave me about how she was and where she was now. My perspective on life, time has changed and so wait in anticipation of seeing her again. The preacher last week changed my perspective on time when he said he was 1018 days closer to seeing his daughter. Wow is all I could say as I was crying my eyes out. I’ll pray for you Tina and you pray for me and all the other mothers/ fathers who have lost a child.

  • This helped me focus, when I’m facing troubles it so easy to think jesus has gone on vacation and left you to figure it out. but this has reminded me of the truth, that Jesus is and always will be by my side, blessing, loving and comforting me.

  • Wow, this totally relates to what I’ve been facing over the past few weeks. It’s so easy to think God doesn’t care about us when we’re staring down at our problems, but what i see now is that He uses those problems as arrows telling us to stare up at Him.

  • “….he saw Jesus there.” It is easy to see Jesus in beautiful events and happy times. It is harder to see Jesus in hurtful events and troubled times, BUT that is when Our Savior is most close to us. If we turn to Him during those times , give the problem to Him and put our trust in Him we will see Jesus. We will experience calm, we will manage our grief, we will triumph. We will see, like Paul, see Jesus in all things.

  • This moved me so. Thank you!!

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