“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).”
I shouldn’t have done it, but the minute I saw that delicious, mouthwatering caramel cake in the grocery store, I just couldn’t resist. I told myself I would have one thin slice, and the kids and hubby could take care of the rest. So, I placed it into my shopping cart, and took it home with me. That night, I had one not-so-thin slice. The next day, I had a couple of slices. I was out of control. I had been doing so well eating less, and healthier, exercising, and losing weight. I’ve lost 25 pounds, and I feel a lot better. But, as soon as I brought that cake home, I sabotaged myself! I have an extreme weakness for cake. Always have. After my three-day binge on caramel cake, I finally threw the rest out!
I had not stepped on my bathroom scale for three days! I didn’t want to know. I knew I would feel extremely guilty when I saw what it had to say. But, I knew I had to do it. I got back on the scale to assess the damage. The guilt hit me full force, and I was determined to get right back to my healthy eating plan that very day.
We do the very same things in our spiritual lives. Sometimes we will allow ourselves to be around the very things we are most tempted by. We might hang out with a friend who loves to gossip, and before we know it, we are caught up in the middle of everyone’s business.
Or maybe we allow unhealthy TV programs to be streamed into our house. We start watching something, and get really interested, and before we know it there’s swearing, and all kinds of things we wouldn’t normally watch. We try to say, Well, it doesn’t have ‘that much’ swearing in it, and it’s almost over anyway.” We ignore that still, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit that says, “You really shouldn’t be watching this.” As soon as the show is over, or as soon as the gossiping has stopped, we immediately feel guilty.
Then because of our guilt, we don’t want to spend time in the Bible, or pray. We know that when we open the Bible, we are going to be convicted. We will be face to face with God’s holiness, and we’ll feel pretty lousy. But this is the most important time to pray and get back into the Bible. We can ask God to forgive us, and move forward. If we neglect the truth, we won’t have the desire to change. After I had eaten that cake, I really didn’t want to get back on the scale.
But if I hadn’t, and had continued to ignore the scale, I wouldn’t have seen the need to get back on track! If I continued to buy caramel cakes at the grocery store and ate them every week, pretty soon the 25 pounds plus a lot more would be back on my body! Then I would not only be carrying a lot more guilt, but I would also be carrying a lot more weight. I might even get to the point where I just completely gave up on losing weight.
In our spiritual walk we also have to make the decision to pray and get back into the Bible after we mess up. If we don’t, pretty soon that self-made wall of guilt separating us from God seems to overshadow us. The enemy tries to condemn us, and he tells us we might as well go ahead and give in to sin, because we can never do any better. We can’t let our guilt stand between us and our relationship with Christ. He knows us, and He loves us. Let’s also try to take some preventative measures. If I had left that cake at the store and not brought it home, I wouldn’t have been tempted to eat it. We don’t have to put ourselves in tempting situations. But if we find ourselves in temptation, we must remember, He always provides a way of escape. And, if we do slip up and make a mistake, we should be quick to make it right. Don’t avoid Jesus. The longer you avoid Him, the harder it is to get back to your relationship with Him.
Jail ministry has been one of the most rewarding types of ministry I have experienced. It can also be one of the more frustrating types of ministry as well. Many times women come into the jail church service and cry rivers of tears. Some sincerely want to change their lives for the better and this visit to jail serves as their wake up call. Others are simply sorry they got caught and are frustrated by the inconvenience of their unfortunate plight. I constantly pray that God will give me the wisdom to speak into the lives of these women in either circumstance. Still, it is discouraging when they are released and only a few weeks later they are back.
But, then there are cases like I experienced this past week that more than make up for it. There are two ladies that I have been ministering to for at least 6 months now. They both accepted Christ as Savior, and have been faithful to come to every service. Last week we had a new lady join us. Fortunately it has been rather quiet lately as there are only 3 female inmates in the entire facility.
I always take my laptop and speakers so we can have a time of worship with anointed, and uplifting worship music. Last week was no different. As we were singing “It is Well,” by Kristine DiMarco, I witnessed the most beautiful sight. Both of my longtime ladies had their arms stretched to heaven as they worshipped our Heavenly Father. Tears rolled down their cheeks as they confidently proclaimed “it is well with my soul!” I couldn’t help but cry tears of joy at this heart touching sight!
These ladies have been through so much in their lives, but have slowly been transformed by the power of God and His amazing grace. They have experienced God’s miraculous healing power in some of our services. They have learned of His great love for us, and His power to rescue us from the chains that hold us captive. They have learned God is far more concerned with what we do with our future than what we did with our past, and they have listened intently to each Biblical Truth the Holy Spirit has poured into them. One lady was baptized in the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues, and the other is still seeking the gift. Watching this amazing transformation has been overwhelming and these ladies have become so precious to me.
But this past week I was not prepared for what happened after our praise and worship service ended. As we all took our seats, they began speaking to the new lady. I sat there completely amazed listening to each of them as they began to speak boldly to her about their past failures and mistakes. They took turns at explaining what God had done for them, and how He had delivered them. The new lady was crying really hard at this point, and my ladies prayed with her and led her to the Lord.
I was overjoyed to hear them repeating the words that I had so often spoken to them—words of encouragement and words to help them believe that God has better things in store for them. Crying tears of joy I quietly said, “Wow, you ladies don’t even need me anymore.” We all laughed, but I wasn’t really joking. Although we must always continue to grow, no matter what stage of life we are in, these ladies displayed a maturity that only comes from a sincere relationship with Jesus, and hopefully a successful period of discipleship.
Once again I was reminded of how important it is to share our stories. When God has delivered us from our transgressions, how can we be silent? Sometimes as leaders (speaking for myself here) it’s hard to let go and let others do what we normally do in ministry--especially if you are a perfectionist. But, that is what discipleship is about. It’s one thing to lead them to Jesus, but we can’t stop there. We must do as Jesus commanded us, “go and make disciples.” The developing of a disciple requires us to take a back seat and observe the student. The blessing we receive from seeing that pupil succeed is beyond explanation.
I have never been more proud to see these ladies minister to one who was so lost. As we were leaving the room, one of my regular ladies lingered a little longer and whispered to me, “Miss Donna, God confirmed something to me today. He confirmed that He is calling me to be a minister just like you. I want to minister to women in jails.” My heart swelled with joy upon hearing those words.
We make disciples so that they can go and make disciples. This is how the gospel is spread to the lost. It is not a one man mission. We must all pull together to reach the millions who could spend eternity in hell without our message. We may think it is hard to win souls and even harder to make disciples, but that is faulty thinking. Many times we disciple others without even realizing what we are doing. We must simply be an example, give encouragement, and give opportunity for others to do what God has called them to do—in other words we must take a back seat.
It’s a wonderful feeling to lead a lost soul to Christ, but it is overwhelmingly exciting to disciple that new believer into a strong and capable minister of the gospel!
Matthew 28:19,20 NIV "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age..."
This morning I sat and stared out my window at the snow that blanketed the lawn, shrubs and patio. What a non-typical Tennessee winter this one has proven to be. We rarely get more than a light dusting of snow, but we have about 5 inches now. It seems that Tennessee pretty much shuts down when we get this kind of weather. My girls have been out of high school, and college all week. We just don’t have the equipment here to clear the roads when we get a significant amount of snow.
Living in Iowa for nine years presented a stark contrast to Tennessee winters. Iowa gets considerably more snow than Tennessee. Amazingly, it was a rarity for anything to close for snow in Iowa. We might get three feet of snow overnight and schools would be delayed a couple of hours at best. But, Iowa is far better equipped to take care of the roads in this weather, because it is not uncommon to get a lot of snow there.
We have been back in Tennessee for three years now, and I can’t say that I’ve really missed the snowy Iowa winters at all. However, last winter I was invited back to Iowa to speak at a couple of churches. I was praying that God would keep the snow out of the forecast so I wouldn’t have to re-live the fine art of driving on the slippery, slick, treacherous roads. But, of course, it was Iowa so if it did snow the roads would be cleared quickly and it wouldn’t be a big deal, or so I thought.
Traveling with me were my two daughters, and my friend Joyce. My girls had spent the night with friends and were no doubt having a wonderful time catching up on all they had missed in the past two years in Iowa. Imagine my surprise when I pulled the hotel curtains back early Sunday morning to find it snowing—hard! I had to be in LeClaire (home of the American Pickers) to speak for the Sunday morning service in two hours. I hurriedly got ready so we could leave a little early. The roads were bad, but eventually we arrived. I pulled into the parking lot, quickly got inside the church building and the service soon began.
The snow did not let up at all during the service, and after church the roads had become much worse than before. Upon leaving the church I attempted to drive up a steep, super slick hill. Well, actually I attempted it many times unsuccessfully. I finally discovered a different route and was able to leave the impossible hill behind. From that point all was well until we got to the ramp to enter the interstate. It was an incline, and very soon I found myself spinning tires again and going nowhere.
Now, living in Iowa for nine years this was not the first time I had driven in these conditions. But, for some reason I was having much less success than ever before. As the cars began to back up behind me as I sat stuck in the same spot spinning tires endlessly, I could feel the blood rushing to my face. I tried everything I knew to do. I gently pressed the gas pedal trying to ease slowly forward until I could get traction and slowly build momentum. No way, I was going nowhere. Complete frustration was taking over at this point along with the utter embarrassment of holding up traffic for a good five minutes now.
It was at this particular instant that I threw my hands up, and said, “I can’t do it. We are just stuck!” Joyce turned toward me and quietly said, “Well we can’t stay here.” I didn’t say a word, but in my mind I was envisioning opening the passenger door and shoving her out into the snow. Her words were not helpful to me in the least at that moment!
Under my breath I prayed “Jesus please get us out of here!” Then it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to turn off my traction control. “Of course!” Traction control stops the tires from spinning and you lose momentum. But, when you are trying to gain momentum on snow and ice, it is not helpful. In all my frustration I had totally forgotten it was on. I switched it off and finally we were back in motion and soon arrived safely back at the hotel. I informed Joyce of just how close she came to hitchhiking back to the hotel when she said, “We can’t stay here.” We both laugh about it now, but as we sat there on that interstate ramp, it was anything but funny.
That particular instance reminds me of Psalm 25:15—“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.” So many times as Christians we can find ourselves spinning in a rut of complacency, and if not corrected we can quickly become stuck. Psalm 25 teaches us to seek God in the hard times, no matter for what reason we are in those hard times. I think James 1:5 is a succinct summary of Psalm 25: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." The context of James’ counsel is our need for wisdom in the midst of various trials, or even when we feel stuck. Sometimes we overlook the most basic things when we feel stuck or lose our momentum—like turning off the traction control in my case— but God says to ask Him, and He will give us wisdom in any of our trials. When we trust and seek God, we can expect Him to give us the wisdom to get unstuck. Don’t hesitate to ask God for wisdom in all of life’s struggles, and trials. --Donna