As the months of 2022 pass by, you may have accumulated a few hiccups & heartaches and the weight of these cause your shoulders to drop. I remember this bible promise: Cast your cares on Jesus and He will sustain you. Picture this; as you pile your troubles & struggles on God, He carries the load and lifts the weight off your shoulder. We usually half-heartedly let God take these woe-filled backpacks; we want to help him out – but He doesn’t ask for that – He wants your trust. Trust that God will keep you standing tall and cross the finish line. May God give you strength, hope, courage and determination as you give him the heavy bag-packs of life.
Life sometimes feels like a series of unfortunate events. We have experiences that “take away from us” and leave us feeling depleted, disadvantaged or at a loss. I’m reminded of Joseph’s life which was anything but straightforward, however, the meaning of his name was manifested: he was promoted from the pits of life to a palace. Joseph aka Yosef in Hebrew means God will increase or God adds. So despite the losses you have experienced this year or in the past, I pray that God Yosefs in your life, causing your losses to be outnumbered by the wins.
Over the last few years, there have been several changes that have made our usual activities that mark the life of a Christian more difficult to follow. I’d say it began when churches were closed due to the pandemic. For someone like me who was a regular church attendee, it was a shock to my system that we no longer went to the actual building. Attending church was soo dear to me, not only was it a place where I could worship and “meet” God, it was a setting where I enjoyed sharing and fellowshipping with other like-minded people. Most importantly, Friday evenings were a time of the week I would eagerly count down to because it meant that the Sabbath was here and I could finally REST with no strings attached. So during the pandemic, I made it my duty to hold sabbath school classes with my youth group and attend the zoom or YouTube live churches I wanted to attend. I was even able to finish reading the entire New Testament which was a huge achievement for me. The ‘pick and choice’ aspects of worship created flexibility but also allowed space for “laziness” and cracks to filter into my usual idea of what the sabbath was and soon these would filter into my overall relationship with God.
Last summer, I started my first proper job post-university in a different city (Leicester, UK). In between settling into a new work routine, attending a new church, and settling into this new city, my priorities started to lean towards getting through the day. The routines I had formed, such as spending 2-3hrs reading my bible, when life allowed more flexibility were a lot harder to maintain. It worsened when I started a new work rota 4 months after I began working – this new rota meant that I had to work at least one weekend sometimes two a month, this meant that I could no longer have my usual sabbaths to countdown to. I did not think this would cause as much of a problem as it did in my walk with God, but I would be lying if I said it did not. I even lost my bible app streak of over 1400 days (Whelpppp). I have learned so much in my overall faith journey and I continue to do so. I am sharing this with you all because transparency is key and I am hoping someone else can be blessed by what I have to share.
You see I didn’t just suddenly stop building an intentional relationship with God, it slipped in through the cracks and this is what happens when we do not actively try to remain on guard and watch out for the enemy’s darts and distractions. I will not bore you with all the details because I am sure you can all understand what I mean when I say you do not hold your first love in the same position as they had always been in, in summary, I would go days without reading my bible and even without prayer – I would whisper a word here and there in emergency moments but I allowed the gifts and blessings that God had granted me push him to the outskirts of my life. Despite it not being my intention by not being intentional about strengthening my walk it was inevitable. For someone who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good, it reaches a stage where your soul craves God and is not coping because it has been starved. This lack of communion with God has fruits; feeling overwhelmed, falling into temptation, lack of peace and feeling distant from God. Despite this, God never departed, I could still feel and see his presence, beauty and handiwork in my life. Even though I felt far from him, He was always near and when I decided enough was enough and change had to be implemented he was right there waiting to give me a warm embrace. You may be familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son: a young son who is impatient and greedy asks for his father’s inheritance ahead of time. The father agreed and the son leaves home and wastes ALL the money, he eventually becomes homeless and gets to a stage where he is in a pigsty considering eating their food. He decides to return home and to his surprise, his father welcomed him back with open arms.
We are never given the name of this prodigal son, but I think that is because we can all put ourselves in his shoes at one or several points in our lives. I see myself as the prodigal daughter, I stumbled in my walk with Christ and to an extent believed the lies of the devil and allowed busyness to be a tactic in my life – I grew distant from God. But the most beautiful part of the story is that similarly to how the father of the Prodigal son waited patiently for his son’s return and did not hesitate to run to embrace him when he returned, God eagerly waits for our return. He is knocking on the doors of our hearts waiting for us to let him in – A life lived without God is seriously not worth living.
We are never told how long the son was away from home, it’s not important because it doesn’t matter if you have been doing life in your strength for one day, a few months or years, God is waiting for you. The father sees the son from a distance – surely this means that he was eagerly anticipating the return of his son. To make a direct parallel to God – our father; he is patiently waiting for us to “come to our senses” in the pigsty that we are in and return to him. We may feel that we have squandered everything and seems like all hope is gone but I want to remind us all that our father never stopped loving us. We may have strayed far from his divine presence but all it takes is that decision to turn back towards him and we will find him waiting for us with open arms. We do not need to remain in our hopeless state, choose to repent and turn towards God, then we will surely realise the demonstration of his reckless love towards us: in that whilst we were STILL sinners he sent His son to die for us.
And that is a key lesson from the easter narrative: God is a God of second chances. Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection illustrate the second chance we have all been given. God loves new starts and new beginnings, He does not place limits on how many fresh starts one can have. The devil, our adversary, wants us to lose sight of God’s ability to give us the fresh start we desire so he keeps us stuck in a cycle of our past, our mistakes – essentially keeping us in the pigsty. But just like the Prodigal Son had an AHA moment [ a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension]; which led Him back to the Father we can also have one.
My definition of Repentance is to make a 180 degree turn away from that which does not glorify God. Imagine a child doing wrong and not feeling bad, the parent will be worried because if the child does not feel bad there is a low likelihood that he/she will want to change. As Christians, we should not feel good about doing bad or straying away from what we know is right. The Holy Spirit convicts us for sin, i.e. He lets us know that we are guilty of sin. This is when you have that “ah-ha” moment, Isaiah said, “Woe is me for I am ruined”, David said, “I have sinned against the Lord”, this is a Eureka moment – the point at which you come to your senses and see you are indeed in the pigsty.
I had an AHA moment and I want to share with you this simple acronym which I hope you can implement in your lives as well.
Prodigal Son reference
“But when he came to himself/to his senses, he said, How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” Luke 15:17 NKJV
What alarms are ringing in your life? What alarms do you keep snoozing? Alarm bells must have been ringing as the prodigal son continued spending his money recklessly but he continued to snooze them till he ended up in the pigsty. God doesn’t want us to reach rock bottom before we come to our senses.
“He said to himself...” Luke 15:17
“I will arise and go to my father and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” Luke 15:18-19 NKJV
Brutal honesty is hard but essential. God knows everything [even the “hidden sins”] so we do not do it for his benefit, it is more about us acknowledging the state we are in. Honesty is a vital ingredient in having life changing moments / spiritual awakening. This involves us looking at ourselves in the mirror and speaking the truth about the person staring back.
The son was honest about what he deserved, this can be difficult to come to terms with and admit. However, avoiding brutal honesty steers us away from lasting change.
“So he got up and went to his father.” Luke 15:20 NIV
Unless our story says “so she got up / so he got up” – nothing changes. A lot of people remain in the stage between honesty and action. We wake up to the alarms, are honest with ourselves but remain the same. This is when we have to obey God even when we don’t feel like it, the feelings will eventually catch up.
The son identified the first step which was to return to his father, that is also our first step. He can take it from there.
AHA adapted from Devotional and Book by Kyle Idleman
AWAKENING must lead to HONESTY, CONVICTION must lead to CONFESSION.
HONESTY must lead to ACTION, CONFESSION must lead to REPENTANCE.
That brings me back to repentance: that 180 degrees turn to set you back on the correct course. It is not easy, but with the help of God, it is possible. When I decided I must turn back to God, He opened up ways and new ideas and most importantly the strength and motivation for me to continue to develop my relationship with him again (regardless of having the bible streak or not). I am still struggling to get through the Old Testament books as it can get repetitive, but I persevere because I have already tasted and seen that God is good and it would be silly not to carry on and experience him fully.
Joyce Meyer once said: ” You cannot do anything about what is behind you, but you can do a great deal about what lies ahead of you”. So dear reader, as we remember Christ’s demonstration of love towards us on the cross, I appeal to you; Think of an area in your life that needs a fresh start and decide to take that first step in the direction toward God. As you do this I pray that God allows you to experience an AHA moment, wipes your sin stained slate and brings beauty out of the ashes in your life.
I’ll leave you with these declarative lyrics;
I’m turning away from the things that I do That I know aren’t pleasing in your sight I’m turning away from the messed up mindset And the things that I know aren’t right I’m turning away from the past the hurt and shame All the things that had me bound I’m turning away, turning away
When temptation tries to lure me off my course I will choose you, I’ll choose you Cuz I’ve been there and I’m not going there no more Said I want a new start I’m giving you my heart From your love I never want to depart
Lyrics to Turning Away by Bryan Andrew Wilson
Stay blessed and have a reflective Easter Season,
P.S – If you’ve read to the end of this post you have the privilege of knowing that as of midday on April 17th – Easter Sunday the trailer for Season 2 of The Undiluted Word Podcast has been released. Go and Listen now and please share with others.
In this episode of the Hall of Faith, Dara brings a hero of faith who waited on the Lord for a specific gift but was blessed with so much more in the waiting season. Listen closely to hear how this guest's faith has been tried, tested and transformed. Follow @theundilutedword on Insta, read blogs on http://www.theundilutedword.com and listen to the Gospel playlist on Spotify. Send feedback via direct message or email to email@example.com. Stay blessed!
A favourite emotion of mine is JOY. It is independent of our daily battles & struggles but dependent on God. Unlike the UK Sun, God’s presence in our lives is constant and never dries up. May Joy be the genre of your life. As the year draws to an end, draw near to God’s promises and experience the strength only His joy provides. Any wasteland you may find yourself in will not have the final word. When you remember the past year and your mind wanders down a gloomy and unpleasant path, STOP & REJOICE.
Choosing joy and remembering who God is and what He has done will not only turn your frown upside down; it causes His light to radiate and give you a permanent facial glow.
I don’t know what lies the enemy has been saying about you or your dreams, goals & expectations for this year, but it’s time to look your giant in the eye and tell it how big your God is. There’s no playing around when God is involved as the opposition is no match for Him. We must play our part by letting God step into this battlefield and reel us into victory. I declare that the enemy will not have the final say.
Regardless of what 2021 has thrown at you as we step into the second half of the year, I urge you to remain confident that the good parts are coming. Just as the walls of Jericho fell down flat after marching around seven times, may the walls of Jericho between you and God’s perfect promises for you come tumbling down. You may have gone through the dark, less glamorous seasons but be assured that the good parts are coming. In the beginning, there was darkness but when God stepped in and said let there be light, there was light and it was GOOD. Therefore I declare that in this seventh month of perfection, you will clearly see the goodness and hand of God. You will march into your miracle and the walls previously built up against you will fall down flat.
Isaiah says: God declares the end from the beginning, He gives us inside information on what has not happened on our timeline and how He intends to do what He has set out to do. This comforting passage reminds us that God sits outside of time; whatever He Wills He does, whatever He promises He performs and whatever He wants He gets. God isn’t just watching things unfold and “spiral out of control”; He is orchestrating ALL things. Be assured that what is above your head is still under God’s feet.
Whilst navigating life we tend to search for paths of least resistance. However, the fruits of resistance are increased strength, perseverance and growth. Don’t miss out on God’s best by running away from tests or trials that are training your faith. I declare that as you remain close to God your experiences will not be dull or predictable; you will safely make it to the destination He has prepared for you.
Not only do the skies look bleak during these winter months, it feels as though darkness, despair and doubt cover our minds, hearts and lives at this time. It’s no surprise that we are living in strange & difficult times and it’s easy to question: Where is God? Does He care? Oh Yes, He cares, Yes he sees and No, he has not left. Make this declaration: My gloomy nights will clear up; Joy will come in the morning. God’s light will shine brighter than ever; He will dry my tears from the stressors and worries of this year. In these seasons of drought, I shall be like a tree planted along a riverbed – unbothered by the struggles and trials because I have entrusted my uncertainties and unknown future to a known God who has never lost control.
A clear pattern amongst bible characters is that they experienced hardships, difficulties, struggles and obstacles before they eventually reached their desired destination. Likewise, we experience seasons which may break or throw us off our course, however, God uses such seasons to our advantage. God uses our brokenness as a precursor to the filling. Despite how broken or exhausted, you may be feeling make this declaration: My filling season is approaching. God will fill me with the very best He has for my life. God will satisfy my physical, emotional, spiritual hunger & thirst. I will be filled with complete joy, peace & hope! My cup will overflow; I shall lack no good thing.