Perseverance, Part 1 – Where Do You Place God In Your Life?

It’s pretty obvious to say that it’s been so long since my last blog post.

College has been keeping me busy, as usual. This time of the semester especially becomes busy with papers, projects, presentations, and midterm exams. It can get busy to the point that I can easily take my eyes off God and forget that He is with me every step of the way. Nevertheless, this time of my life has reminded me to remain steadfast on God–especially when trials come.

We are not called to be steadfast in our faith simply to follow a rule in the Bible. God only places commands because He knows they are for our good. We must be steadfast and sold-out for Christ because we need it. We need Him. Sometimes the challenges are what that pull us back to Him. Sometimes they are the reminders that we fall short–that we are limited as humans and that God is our ultimate salvation, our Beginning and End. The good news is this–we don’t have to wait until we fall to realize we need God.

Where do you place God in your life? Are you only following God for what He can do for you? Are you only “good” with God until challenges come? I want to encourage you to examine your heart now. Don’t wait until you fall.

Here are five of my favorite verses on perseverance:

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.


The Truth About Praise

O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

(Psalm 98:1-4 KJV)

I look forward to looking back. I love to understand what I’ve learned in the previous months, what God has been doing throughout the whole process and how my faith has changed. One thing that became more apparent to me recently was the significance of praising God.

At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a blog post called “The Choice,” which you can read here. In that blog post, I spoke about the nervousness I felt starting a new internship but how I was deciding to make the choice to trust God through it, even though I didn’t know what the outcome.

What I learned is that through discomfort God often grows us the most.

I can happily say that I’ve had an incredible experience this summer, and I can only attribute that to Him. The funny thing is that I had a positive experience not because it was easy but because I realized that God was pushing me to grow. I realized that God was in the process of opening doors in my life with new opportunities and relationships. Yet if I hadn’t focused on what He was teaching me, I probably wouldn’t be satisfied in the way that I am. I probably wouldn’t have been able to clearly see the ways in which He was moving in my life.

I learned that I wasn’t supposed to simply sit through any initial discomfort and let it pass. Instead I was to lift up God and understand that He was truly working things together for good. I challenged myself to praise God everyday, especially in situations that were daunting. No matter how I was feeling, I wanted to hold onto one true fact: God is good, and because of that, there is hope, and I am taken care of and watched over.

Reflecting on this, I’ve asked myself: What exactly is it that praise does for us?

Praise is such a powerful manifestation of faith.

We are able to acknowledge God’s goodness and authority in our lives. His glory becomes more real to us. Instead of focusing on our challenges and shortcomings, we recognize the truth that He is able. This truth overpowers any hindrances in our lives. Nothing else matters. Nothing is impossible. Because God is good, and this goodness supersedes everything. When we praise God, it is surrender. It is allowing God the space to do everything He needs to do, instead of us fighting against Him in the midst of His work.

Surrender is understanding that we fall short but that God saves us from our weakness and raises us up in strength.

The enemy doesn’t want to see us acknowledging who God is and increasing in faith, so often he attacks us with thoughts of doubt, hopelessness, and despair–these things that gnaw at us from the inside. However, praise is nourishment to our faith.

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”

When we praise God, we acknowledge who He is, and we believe in His promises. The Bible has so many excellent verses that serve as examples of this in which God is acknowledged for who He is within His promises:

“But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (KJV)

  • We are given the promise that the Lord will protect us from evil things and stabilize us, in light of His faithful character.

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)

  • What is incredible about this verse is how God is differentiated from men–unlike our nature to be slack, God is accountable. In fact, He is so loving to us that instead of allowing us to perish, He gives us the opportunity to come to repentance.

“For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Psalms 33:4-5 (KJV)

  • This verse is similar to the previous one; although the world has fallen, God is so full of truth, love and righteous judgment that He still provides a fallen world with His goodness and mercy–in the form of salvation.

What all these verses have in common is that they display the promises of God that will come to pass–His protection, His goodness, His gift of salvation–and they shed light on who He is: a faithful God, a God who is longsuffering, a God who does things in truth. In a similar fashion, when we praise God, we acknowledge His promises that will come to pass, which we can be confident in because of who He is.

Our eyes open to how God is working in our lives when we praise Him. Praise is a weapon against the enemy’s deception. I once saw a quote that read: “I will see it, when I believe it.” In terms of faith, when we believe God’s goodness–when we decide to come to that understanding and acceptance of what is already true–we will see it in our lives.

You don’t need all the answers to what’s going on. It’s unfortunately in our nature to doubt, to question, to forget what we’ve been delivered from. However, I encourage you to remember that no matter what you’re going through, God is the same, and He is taking care of your burdens.

The first verse in Psalm 98 powerfully reminds us that God has done marvelous things and that He has already claimed victory. As followers of Christ–members of His kingdom–this is victory is for us to claim as well. Don’t allow your emotions to cause you to miss out on what God is doing in your life. Pray and ask God for the faith to trust Him and the ability to surrender everything to Him, and praise Him for all that He has done and continues to do.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.

(Psalm 63:1-7 KJV)

Ask LizMargaret

Have a Question? Need Advice? Need Prayer?

If you’re looking for answers from a Christian perspective, submit your question here at the LizMargaret Tumblr site, and it might just appear in a future blog post.

Not sure what to ask? Topics you can think about: Relationships, friendships, college, faith/Christian life, and more!

This new series has been something that’s been on my heart for so long now, as I would like for this blog to be a very interactive experience for whoever reads it! I hope it creates a space to engage in conversation that inspires spiritual growth and encouragement.

What do I mean by a Christian perspective? As a follower of Christ, I consider the Bible to be the foundation of my worldview, shaping the way I live my life, so any of the responses I give will be based on the Word.

Please send in any questions, prayer requests, or any topic ideas for future posts–I am very excited to hear from you and to see how God uses this!

Click here to check out all Ask LizMargaret posts and videos!

God Wants Us to Be Empty

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

(Luke 9:23 KJV)

We will do anything to avoid feeling empty. Nobody wants to go to bed at night feeling unfulfilled, no matter what good has happened during the day. We are afraid of emptiness. We make rash decisions to fill voids. We don’t want to acknowledge our brokenness, our mistakes. We’ll do anything to be happy. We’ll do anything to push away hurts. We’ll do anything to forget. Anything.

God works with brokenness and emptiness. These heavy burdens that we are carrying–He wants us to give them to Him. Think about that: God wants you to give your burdens to Him.

In fact, He wants us to give everything to Him.

Because of our fear of emptiness, we try to hold onto things that are not even good for us: Relationships, grudges, memories, anger, habits, false ideas, pride. God wants us to come empty. When we give these things to Him, then He can use us. If we are so full of these things we hold onto, we are leaving no room whatsoever for Him.

When we pursue the things that pull us away from God, we can’t be used by Him. He’d love to work through our lives and give us that breakthrough, the desires of our hearts, but it can’t happen if we continuously walk away from Him. I imagine there are things we have been convicted to let go of, but we are refusing to do so. And God is just waiting for us to make room in our lives to get to the next level.

Imagine giving all your cares to Him–all your desires, concerns–and saying, “Lord, I realize I cannot do this on my own. Do with these things whatever You’d like to, and I will follow You.”

Now that’s an attitude that God can work with. God can do wonders with willingness.  If we just lay EVERYTHING down, I imagine that He can create the most beautiful things with that.

This is how I see it:

We are canvases, and over time, we’ve gotten used and worn, and there’s years worth of paint that’s smeared all over us. When we allow God to take us, it’s not that we’re in some flawless condition (because we’re really not)–what’s happening is that we’re surrendering control and allowing Him to cleanse us. Surrendering to Christ is acknowledging that we are filthy–in need of cleansing–that we are sinners, and allowing Him to take care of the mess. The truth that we’ve been running away from is that we are needy, we are weak, we are not capable on our own. But God can chisel away the layers of muck that we have been drowning in so that we are clean, and from then, He can paint the most beautiful masterpiece of our lives for us.

That’s the beauty of it–God can use anyone. Anyone. Anyone. Anyone. He loves everyone. It’s the heart that matters.

It comes down to you:

Are you willing to let go? Are you willing to turn away? Are you willing to let God transform you?

Why are you holding on?

The main idea here is that we are not called to remain as we are. Yes, God loves us. But we cannot live our full purpose on this earth unless we make that first step to empty ourselves. There is shame and guilt in sin. Living in sin, there is fear. Living in sin, there is doubt. Many times we get ourselves into the worst situations. Other times, our situations are not even our fault–it’s just the nature of the world that we live in. The world has fallen, and because of that there is no sense of justice and fairness–there is so much bad that can happen that we have no control of. But remaining stagnant in our nature is where we go wrong.

Jesus instructs those who want to follow Him to deny themselves and to take up their crosses. What does this mean? Taking up your cross encompasses your whole life–it radically changes your entire life, your decisions, your perspective. Why? Taking up your cross means to live fully for Christ. This involves giving Him your burdens, but it also means something greater–that we dedicate our entire lives to Him–every aspect of our lives. Our innermost thoughts. Our actions. Denying ourselves is a daily rejection of our natural, sinful ways–a complete denial, or emptying, of self.

Again this goes back to the truth that we are filthy, in need of a Savior to cleanse us. That we have needs, and that Christ can fill them.

This is the emptiness that God calls us to have. It is not one that is hopeless. It is not one that leaves us awake at night, deep in fear. It is not one that is bound by the troubles of this world.

This is a shedding of our past selves–in which we invite God to come inside and give us life. It is one that gives us security–that if we have accepted Him as Lord and Savior and confessed our sins, we know that we have eternal life in Heaven.

As humans on this earth, we will be filled of something–we will either choose to be filled with God or we will choose not to be. We can make the choice to be filled with life abundantly or we can choose to live in our own understanding that leads to a path of confusion, hurt, and destruction.

We see the decaying state of the world we live in, but we don’t have to choose to be part of that decay. Please don’t let anything get in the way of this understanding. We have all fallen short, and there are consequences for that. But there is an answer. There is a hope. There is contentment–and it is in God.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

(Matthew 11:28 NIV)

Don’t Ignore the Signs

What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. (1 Corinthians 2:12 NIV)

One of the most amazing things that happens when we build a relationship with God is that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. The Spirit dwells within us and gives us guidance in every area of our lives. Maybe you’ve been praying about a job opportunity for months, and you’ve finally come across an offer–but something about the opportunity might cause you to shift your priorities in a way that distracts you from your walk with God. Maybe you’re in a romantic relationship that strips away at your relationship with Him. Or maybe you’re hanging out with people who lead you to compromise areas of your faith. If we’re being honest with ourselves, there are many situations in which it’s quite easy to see when something or someone is not right for us. Then we hold onto that thing or person, and there’s pain that follows from rejection or the consequences from the negative choices we’ve made.

1 Corinthians 2:12 says that by the Spirit we can understand–recognize–the good things that come from God. But what about the things that are not of Him? How do we prevent ourselves from stumbling into them and falling into a trap?


Maybe you see the signs.

You know exactly what you’re about to get yourself into if you continue down a certain path. We are made new as Christians–don’t accept the old baggage and mistakes from the past. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

The Bible teaches that the best way to rid of temptation is to flee from it, and I couldn’t agree more. If you keep someone around who is continuously hurting you, chances are, you will still get hurt by this person. The best way to detach yourself emotionally and psychologically from something is to first physically distance yourself from it.


Maybe you’re feeling quite torn.

Guess what? God isn’t going to leave you alone to fend for yourself. Satan knows our weaknesses, and he knows exactly how to infiltrate our minds or use situations to keep us in a situation–especially emotionally. Confused about what you should do about a relationship you’re in…or that job that seems appealing? Seek God earnestly–purposefully and diligently set out time to quiet yourself before Him.

Taking action while in a state of confusion can be our biggest downfall. Being still may not be our first instinct because we live in a very fast-paced world. We want answers now. We want clarity–which isn’t a bad thing to want–but what if we have to wait? Our emotions–fear, excitement, infatuation–can sometimes be the loudest voices in our minds and drive us to make rash choices. But who is to say that we must accept this for ourselves? It’s astonishing how many verses call us to wait on God.

Be still, and know that I [am] God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalms 46:10 KJV)

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. (Psalms 37:7  KJV)

The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. (Exodus 14:14 KJV)

My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation [is] from him. (Psalms 62:5  KJV)

Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred. (Job 6:24  KJV)

Accept rest. Understand that God does not give us confusion. He already knows how confused we are! He provides clarity through the mess.

When in doubt…

Aim for the decision that will glorify God. Sometimes, when you ask yourself…”Will this honor God?” or “Will this bring me closer to God?” you get the clarity you’re looking for. When you prioritize that relationship with Him, you are better able to distinguish what is right for you and what is not.

Think of it this way: people often say that when you know who you are and what you want, you are able to avoid the things that do not serve you. So, when your identity–who you are and what you want–is rooted in Christ, you are able to avoid the things that do not serve you.

Ultimately know that there can be great danger behind people and circumstances.

Be open to God’s will, His voice–because He may surprise you.  Proverbs 12:15 says that a fool’s ways seems right to him. Proverbs 3:7 tells us not to be wise in our own eyes. God places commands in His Word for a reason–because unfortunately, we tend to do the opposite of these commands (i.e. the unwise things). We want to trust our instincts, but we have such a limited view of the world and our circumstances that it will always be wiser to put our trust in the Lord, who holds the future and knows the hearts of men.

The worst mindset we can develop in our circumstances is one that is based on conditions: If this does not work out, then I will never trust God again. If this happens, I will never forgive that person. If this falls through, then I will be miserable. Absolutely not! Reject those thoughts. Don’t allow the enemy to trap you in a dry season by making these negative promises to yourself.

Understand that anything can occur in life. Sometimes, you do the right thing, and the right thing happens. Sometimes you do the wrong thing, and the right thing happens. Sometimes you do the wrong thing, and the wrong thing happens. And the hardest one of fall: Sometimes you do the right thing, and what we might perceive as the “wrong” thing STILL happens. If you base your mood on the results or responses you get in your life, you have already lost. People and circumstances are unpredictable.

The Word calls us to delight ourselves in the Lord. He blesses those that mourn. He blesses the meek. He blesses the righteous. One of the best ways we can delight in Him is to recognize situations that won’t honor our relationship with Him and avoid them. God doesn’t call us to reject these things to make us “miss out” on things or be “miserable”–He calls us to do these things, because He knows us so well that He knows exactly what will harm us.

When the Holy Spirit places caution on your heart, don’t ignore the signs.

The Choice

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

(John 10:10 NIV)

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how to start off this post. It’s going to be a bit more personal than my previous ones, but I do hope and pray that sharing my experience will bless and encourage whoever is reading in some way.

So, today I started my summer internship, and well, it was hard. I was able to spend the first few hours of the day meeting other interns, which was definitely my favorite part of the day. I met undergrad and grad students, and I always find it fascinating to learn about other people, especially their goals and dreams. At this point, I was convinced I was going to love this place.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love it now. I really appreciate the fact that I am here and what my assignment is. My co-workers are very kind, hardworking, and friendly. What shocked me was my workload, however. I expected to have assignments, deadlines and projects, but I just wasn’t expecting to get so much work so soon. I felt I entered this internship fairly, with an open mind, but now I was thinking, “God why did you bring me here? I can’t handle this.” The last thing I needed was stress in the summer.

Let me now trace back to a blog post I wrote a couple weeks ago called “The Power of Encouragement.” One of the points I expressed  was that I’ve seen God use other believers in my life to encourage me in different ways that I knew had to be from Him–often times, He uses these people to meet me right where I am.

Over the weekend, preparing for the internship, I naturally felt nervous, yet I was able to see how God provided for me while I was stuck in this emotion. A ministry leader I hadn’t spoken to or seen in years messaged me just to say that he’s been keeping my brothers and I in prayer during the past few years. A friend from a past retreat also reached out over the weekend to share a scripture that was on her heart and just to say she’s praying for me. Words cannot express how much I needed their encouragement. I wouldn’t have even thought that these two would have reached out to me. Nevertheless, I think this is a great example of how obeying God’s direction and acting on the commands that He places on your heart can greatly minister to others and ultimately reflect His awesome love.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  (2 Cor 1:3-4 NIV)

Looking back to this moment after a long day gave me encouragement.

But then I started thinking, what if this never even happened? What do we do when we don’t clearly see encouragement in our lives? How do we gain hope when there seems to be none or nobody in sight? Although God is always present, sometimes it’s hard to be reminded of His goodness and comfort. It’s easy to feel distant from Him.

In those times, I think it’s important to remember and understand one, simple fact:

God is a good God. No matter what is happening in life, God is a good God. This is a fact that never changes.

We have access to a good God as believers. But Satan can catch us in a snare–that is, a trap–of disappointment and discouragement. It is essential that we understand that this is not of God. Negative thoughts, fears, and insecurities are not of God. It’s not enough to even acknowledge that these are attacks from the enemy–we must reject these emotions in the name of Jesus. There is power in that name.

We may be asked to do big tasks on this earth–ones we feel completely unqualified for. Yet God has equipped us to do all things that come in our path. He’s equipped us with the grace to get through the day before it has even started.

This is what encourages me. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but God hasn’t given me life to worry about it. He’s given me rest to rejoice in it.

Now it’s hard for me to obey. It’s hard for me to accept this truth I cannot always see, but faith itself is the hope in things that are not seen (Hebrews 11:1). So I’m taking a stand to hold onto the Lord’s promises, remembering that He has provided for me before (even this past weekend!)

In all of this, I realize how essential it is to submit my way to the Lord. My way–my mind, my actions–and He will bring it to pass. I have a long summer ahead, but I’ve already been thanking Him for all the breakthroughs, strengths, and lessons that will come to pass. I realize how much my life is not about me at all. I’ve been so worried about my performance that I became caught in the enemy’s trap of despair. But when I realize that there’s a reason God has placed me in this particular experience, my performance is no longer this heavy thing looming above my head–rather it’s my performance for God that counts. I don’t know why He brought me here, but I trust that if I submit my ways to Him in all things, He will bring this to pass and in some way, me being here will glorify Him.

My experiences all come down to a choice: falling into the enemy’s trap–where my fears and my doubts reside–or serving God–my Rock, my Redeemer–instead.

I thought I’d end this post with a song I feel fits the topic. Listen and read the lyrics–I feel it has some serious, thought-provoking ideas to take away.

Jaeson Ma | Glory

Seasons and Stillness

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.

(Psalm 127:1-2 NIV)

Bad things happen to people. Bad, bad things. Yet we must rise above our circumstances. There is a difference in how we should rise above circumstances as Christians, in which we have accepted the gift of having a relationship with Christ and eternal life in Him. That difference is security. God gives us security. Through Him, we are not lost, and we have hope.

We might find ourselves in seasons of despair–times in which there seems to be no answer, deep confusion, grief, and heartbreak–completely and utterly overwhelming times. If there’s anything I have been reminded of in these seasons, it’s that I am not in control. I have been in situations in which there is nothing I can do but let go. I cannot change things whatsoever, which is uncomfortable for someone like me who likes certainty. I like to know where things are heading. I like comfortability. I like peace. So, when things take an unexpected turn, it’s unsettling.

In times like these, I realize how important it is to be still.

Do not rush things. A lot of times, we like to take matters into our own hands and our solution eventually falls apart. However, we are called to wait on the Lord. We are called to do this simply because He is the only One that can make things work in the way that is best. Even when we make mistakes, He is the One that can fix them. We must be still because it allows God to do what He needs to do. Which to me, sounds amazing that we serve a God who loves us enough to work every detail in our lives in our favor. There’s so much peace in that.

These verses in Psalm 127 explains that anything that is done in haste and that is not of God is done in vain. Whatever “house” we are trying to build–a better financial or health situation, a relationship, a dream–let God build it. Let Him lay the foundation and finish the job. This does not mean to not work towards things. In fact, we should. God honors diligence. However, we can work as hard as we want in order to get something, but if God is not in it, it will crumble. This is simply because we are not God–we are human. We don’t know the future. I think it makes sense to let the One who knows the future handle the future.

In the meanwhile, we can be restored in Him. The Psalm continues to say that the Lord grants us sleep. I believe these times of sleep–of stillness–are purposeful times.

We can use these times to build our faith and to learn to trust Him. It’s sad that even after God has delivered us in the past, we can still doubt His ability to do it again. I encourage you to put an end to this pattern. Use this time to turn your heart around. Give everything to Him. Not just the big things. Even the smallest things you’re still holding onto. Give it all to Him and allow yourself to have freedom. God understands that we are small. We must understand how BIG He is.

We must take joy in stillness, allowing God to work in our hearts while He works in our lives.

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

(Psalm 46:10 ESV)

The Power of Encouragement

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

(Romans 12:9-13, ESV)

We want what we can’t have.

It’s so natural to search for that person/thing that is not available to us. Yet focusing on these things easily strips us of feeling loved or understanding our worth. It can deceive us into thinking there is nobody there for us.

Romans 12 calls us to “hold fast to what is good”–what nourishes us, what blesses us–and stick to those things. This can include those around us who are already pursuing us and uplifting us. Or better yet, this can include when God is speaking to us.

God can guide us in subtle ways by His voice. This is one reason why I love spending time in His Word. The more you get to know Him, the better you can distinguish His voice. Someone once gave me an excellent analogy. If you’re in a crowded room and you hear your mother calling you, you know it’s your mother. Why? Because you’ve spent so much time with her that you know what she sounds like. Similarly, when there seems to be confusion or “noise” in our lives, we know what God sounds like when we know what He would say (and the Bible is filled with exactly what His words are!)

The people in our lives can be used by God. This is one of the reasons why I value godly friendships so much. People who are also lead by the Spirit can bless you with words of encouragement that the Lord wants you to hear.

I found that when I do feel discouraged, God meets me where I am. Often times, I’ve seen His love through a random yet uplifting message/call, a surprise visit, or a hospitable act. Then when I take a step back in that moment, I realize how this person managed to encourage me exactly where I needed encouragement or even managed to be a direct answer to prayer. These moments are near-impossible for me to ignore because we live in a world in which we easily get lost in our own business. But when I see someone who is living in a way that rejects this pattern, I can’t help but notice and be grateful.

Those who constantly go out of their way to share God’s love through encouragement inspire me to be more intentional. When we intentionally encourage others we radiate Christ’s love. What’s so powerful, astounding, and beautiful about that is God might be using YOU to lead this person to something greater.

The best way to start is asking God, “How can I serve someone today?” This might be a painful process. God might be leading you to break down barriers in your heart that hinder you from encouraging others. This might mean forgiving someone who has done wrong to you, communicating with someone you refuse to speak to, etc.

Yet when you understand that God is guiding you and is not trying to harm you, you can seize the opportunities He is leading you to with a peaceful and open heart.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

(Galatians 5:13-14, ESV)

On Increasing Your Faith

Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.

(Micah 7:7 KJV)

Lately, I’ve realized how easy it is to forget God’s promises. Unanswered prayers and continuous trials are circumstances in which the enemy can slip into our minds and cause us to doubt or limit God. It’s key to acknowledge that this is deception. The enemy tries to infiltrate our thoughts by any means possible especially through negative situations, because he does not want us to reach our full potential in Christ.

Nevertheless, whom God calls, He equips. By taking practical steps to increase our faith, we can stand firm in His promises and persevere:

1) Ask

Go to God in prayer. When we have a relationship with Christ, we have access to actually communicate with the Creator of the Universe (which still blows my mind). It can be hard to believe that He is working things out for good, but we do not have to stay in this struggle alone. We are told in the Word that we can ask for godly qualities in which we might lack such as wisdom–surely we can ask for better faith as well.

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13 (KJV)

2) Replace

Replace negative thoughts. This is something even society teaches us in order to think positively. Any form of discouragement can be replaced by the truth. We can hold onto thoughts like “Things will never get better” or we can claim “Things will get better.” Catching yourself in these moments of negativity and making effort to correct them will dramatically change your outlook on your situation. In my experience, I’ve found that this change in mindset is a process, and it can take time. Our minds constantly want to doubt when we do not see transformation in our lives. However, declaring the truth is not a one time thing. It’s a daily thing. Keep claiming it. There is great power in rejecting lies and deception.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

3) Praise

You have gone to God in prayer, and you have been claiming the truth of His promises. Get excited, because He has already been working in your life! Every year, during Thanksgiving dinner, each member of my family shares things that they are thankful for. When I hear even my youngest cousins thank God for “food” or their “house” or “parents,” I realize how easy it is to forget that these “little” things (things that are so common to us that we take for granted) come from God. At college, I’ve realized the things that have drawn me closer to Him, such as godly relationships, a solid church, and Bible studies are all blessings from the Lord. There are even so many things God has brought us out of, such as sickness, stress, etc., that we should praise Him for.

Acknowledging the things that have been provided in our lives is a great reminder for us that we can trust God. We can take our minds off what has not yet come to pass, give power to Him, and have security that He will never fail to meet our needs.

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. Hebrews 13:15 (KJV)

4) Thank Him

Claim your victory. Claim His promises. Thank God for what He is going to do in your life. God has answered your prayers before, and He will do it again. Yes, sometimes prayers are not in the way you expected. Rejoice in that, because as humans, we are 100% fallible, and God sometimes answers our prayers in unexpected ways to correct what would have otherwise gone wrong (if we had our way).

Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Micah 7:7 (KJV)

For me, I’ve found that I love to discuss God’s goodness with others. It allows me to see what He’s done in my life and how He’s blessed others, and it’s always super encouraging for me.

Remember that God loves you. It’s a concept that seems easy to grasp, but if we really understood that, we’d understand that His promises are true. Every last one of them. That we have no reason to fear (Joshua 1:9). That we will be provided for (Philippians 4:19) That we have no reason to fear death (John 11:25). And so on.

Through Christ, we have victory. We have already conquered the challenges that seem near impossible. Seek after Him during these “impossible” times. Seek after Him during times in which everything seems possible. Study the Word, obey God’s commandments, and dare to live righteously in a world that will tell you otherwise.

I have security in understanding that the God I serve is not bound by this world. He works things out supernaturally in ways that no human can imitate.

“Give It Up” for 2015

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. (Proverbs 26:11 NLT)

As winter break comes to a close, I’ve found myself worried when I think about spring semester.

For me and other college students, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by upcoming classes/workload, applying to internships, and other future-related things. On top of that, it’s easy to compare our successes with others, who seem to have it “better” than we do. These two habits are quite addicting but are such a destructive combination — they set a negative attitude that can last for hours of our day to weeks, months, and even years. We can chain ourselves in a prison through our thoughts alone without even realizing it.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Proverbs 26:11 (above) in my Bible reading, and it stuck in my mind.

There’s so much depth in comparing “foolishness” to “vomit.” Vomit is unpleasant and putrid. It’s something that was once in you, but has been purged. It’s no longer a part of you–in fact, it’s so vile that you shouldn’t even want a part of it. It makes no sense to even think about wanting it back.

Our “foolishness” (aka sin) is something vile and putrid as well. We should want no part in it. Unfortunately, because we are sinful in nature, we are drawn to these sinful “pleasures.” The funny thing is, they are actually harmful to us and have no value. They steal our relationship with Christ.

When I finished reading this verse, I asked myself: What is something in my life that I keep returning to even though it harms me?

The first thing that stuck out to me was fear. I have a habit of letting fear seep into my thoughts. I never even thought to consider fear as the same “foolishness” described in this verse, but I soon realized how necessary it was to do so.

God promises us countless times in His Word to trust Him, and that He will never leave us. I read online that the phrase “Fear not” is stated 365 times in the Bible! And yet, despite these promises, I continue to fear when stresses come my way. If God Himself wants me to know that I have no reason to be afraid, then it’s foolish–simply useless–for me to continue.

Of course, it’s hard not to fear when we don’t know the future–when we’re faced with obstacles that seem IMPOSSIBLE to overcome. Like any other harmful habit we indulge in, fear steals our hope and faith in Christ, and it blinds us to what He is doing and going to do in our lives.

Nevertheless, when we choose to walk away from our “vomit”–whether it is fear, temptation, etc.–we are choosing to embrace a beautiful, fulfilling life. God loves us, and He wants us to live our lives fully in peace in whatever state we are in (see Philippians 4:11.)

So, for 2015, I’m choosing to give up fear.

What are you planning to give up for the New Year?