Each month I lead an event for the women of our church called Girlfriends. This semester we’re taking a close look at Scripture and discovering who God created us to be….who He defines us as. We often try to define ourselves by the roles we play or the way others view us (I’m a wife, a mom, a daughter or I’m the funny one or the smart one or the trouble maker or I’m a failure). But, over the next few months, we’re learning to define ourselves the only way God ever intended any of us to – through His eyes….through the eyes of our Creator.
Last month we began answering the question by learning a little about our unique giftedness and our unique personalities. We took a personality profile test and a spiritual gift test and learned tons. Some of us have dominant personalities….others are more introverted. And, we pinpointed some of the unique abilities we have to do certain things well.
Since then, I’ve talked with many of you about what you learned and what you are experiencing. I talked with one friend who is going through a difficult season of life. Her child has been diagnosed with acute ADHD. She feels very little control as each day another setback in parenting or emotional control hits her square in the face. She ends her days right now exhausted and depleted. She is usually a fun, happy person, but she hasn’t smiled or laughed…or enjoyed life….in months. She doesn’t recognize herself and wonders who she is anymore.
What about you? When struggles come your way, how do you respond? Do you believe the assumptions of others about who you are? Are you tempted to doubt God’s love for you when life spins out of control? When circumstances rock your world, are you defined by them?
If you are like everyone else in the world, you would answer yes! We are all tempted to allow our circumstances define us….to determine our outlook. Yet, God encourages us to rise above that temptation and see that we can FIGHT through those emotions!
Acts chapter 12 tells a story of devastating circumstances.
James was executed.
You know who James was, right? One of the 12 apostles. One of Jesus’ best friends. One of the chosen three men who witnessed Jesus reveal his Heavenly glory (Matt 17). Yeah, that James. A key player in the Jesus’ ministry….a key figure in the lives of the earliest Christians. When James was executed, it was surely a blow to the foundations of the church to suffer such a loss.
It gets worse.
King Herod recognized that James’ death pleased the Jews, so he proceeded to arrest Peter, another key leader in the Christian movement. Certainly King Herod’s motive was to kill Peter, too. Can you imagine what was going through Peter’s mind….or the minds of the other believers?
What is happening? Is this how it ends? Will King Herod get all of us? Who will be next?
And, then, a miracle. As Peter sat chained in a prison cell, his shackles fell off and the locked doors opened. At first, he thought he was experiencing a vision, but when he found himself outside, he came to his senses and realized he was free!
What did Peter do next? Run for his life? Skip town? Stop preaching? Back down? Shy away?
Nope. Not Peter. He went straight to his friend’s home to celebrate the miracle, and then he got back to work. That’s right, when the chips were down he didn’t run. He stood firm.
That story got me thinking. When the chips are down, what do I do? What do you do? Do we second-guess our calling? Do we count the sacrifice as too great and give up? Do we run and hide to avoid backlash, persecution, or discomfort? Or, do we stand firm? Get back to work? Cling to our calling like never before?
I don’t know your circumstances this week, but let me encourage you to stand firm. When you are working for the Lord, persecution is inevitable. Accept it. Prepare for it. Face it. Then, stand firm.
In short, fight, not flight.
Thank God for encouraging stories in Scripture to remind us what bold faith looks like. Be bold today, my friends!