Born with the Strength to Overcome

Devotional–Born with the Strength to Overcome From The Struggle of Sanctification by Sonya Johnson

A child has more than the physical appearance of their parents, they also inherit mommy and daddy’s personality traits, and learn their parent’s or caregiver’s observable behaviors and habits.

Whether we agree or not, humanity was made in the image of God. Those who believe in God most likely possess knowledge of the Creation story in Genesis. Still, a profound lack of understanding exists of God’s attributes as evidenced by our natural reaction to feeling defeated in times of adversity.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ ” (Genesis 1:26)

For us to have dominion over the animals, we must have the innate characteristics to perform the duty we were given by God. Our Heavenly Father is all-knowing and was aware of the difficulties we would face before He created us. We were born with the necessary attributes to be courageous and to perform the duties that our lives require.

  1. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
  2. “…Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us (Romans 12:3 NLT).

Our God-given gifts: Power, Love, a Sound Mind, and a Measure of Faith.

No, we are not demigods nor do we have divine power without asking for divine strength. Nor were we created to function independently without God’s Divine Intervention in our daily lives.

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.’ ” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The human effort of acquiring knowledge of who God is gives us the confidence that we are not alone to fight against spiritual warfare and our daily challenges. When the apostle Paul asked God three times to take away His thorn in the flesh [poor eyesight], Jesus answered with No. God does not give yes answers to prayers that would give us the ability to function without His divine Intervention. Many people choose to live without God, but “…the way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15).

Faith, love, courage, power, and a sound mind require spiritual nutrients for proper growth. Many of today’s believers rely on the pastor’s sermons to feed their minds and souls. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 timothy 2:15). God has given us the responsibility of studying the Scriptures for ourselves. The importance of studying the Scriptures is we learn of the divinity and power of the Trinity Godhead–God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and God’s will and plans for our lives.

“Pray without ceasing” (2 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is vital! Prayer sustains our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. Pray for the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit in the morning as soon as you awaken. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot discern the spiritual meaning and depth of the Word of God [the Bible]. Prayer is the way in which we communicate and stay connected with the God of the Universe who imparts His Divine power and strength through the Holy Spirit to us every day.

Yet, God does not impose Himself in our lives. If we do not take the time to worship through prayer and study of the Bible, we will be weak and despondent as a babe who does not receive proper nutrition. Anxiety, worry, and depression cannot enter the mind of a believer who stays connected to Jesus, the Source of Life.

The human effort of maintaining our relationship with Christ [He is the only way that we can come to God] prepares us for unexpected times of trials and sorrows. Faith carries us through even in lengthy tribulations because we have faithfully stayed rooted and grounded in the Foundation, the solid Rock–Jesus Christ.

“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances. You are a child of God. Stand up straight.” Maya Angelou

Prayer: God, thank You for the innate gifts that you have graciously given to us. We pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit and for a stronger relationship with You. Jesus, we thank You for your great sacrifice and for being our Friend. We ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus, Amen.

The Test of Friendship

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

Loyalty is a fruit that grows from the vine of love. Jesus is the vine and He is love. Jesus is a forever Friend. We have His promise that guarantees He will never leave us or forsake us. Even so, friendship is a two-way street. Can you make the same promise to Jesus that you will always be His loyal friend?

Love and Loyalty

The Tender and Compassionate Heart

The Tender and Compassionate Heart From The Struggle of Sanctification by Sonya Johnson

The atmosphere of our world has rapidly evolved into one where most people possess hearts filled with self-seeking desires. Wealth and success are promoted by social influencers and in many churches through prosperity messages. Sadly, our focus is on the entertainment industry and the sports arena where billions of dollars are poured into by the people whose priorities are the pleasures of this world.

Historically, the great disparity between those “who have and those who have not” has always existed. We are familiar with the unfair but widely accepted divisions of social and economic status. In most countries, people are divided according to their financial status–upper and lower classes. Although America has three financial classes [upper, middle, and lower] people and is advanced in spaceflight, science, and biotechnology, we have the escalating and unresolved social issues of abject poverty and homelessness.

The topic of a country’s social issues usually involves a heated debate. Regardless of our political loyalty or religious affiliation, there are only two classes of people when addressing social issues: Those who actively help others, and those who ignore the plight of human beings struggling to live productive lives.

Most will agree that humanity has a dilemma that is fueled by our misguided priorities and the desires of our hearts. Yet, all is not hopeless. Our world may appear to be out of control, but this is still our Father’s world. God will not leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He is well aware of all that is happening, all that has happened, and all that will happen.

Even with the best human effort, our world has social issues that humanity cannot resolve. Divine Intervention is always available! God has people with tender and compassionate hearts who care about those who are trapped in the web of poverty and despair.

A few months ago, I had the privilege of meeting a woman who is affectionately known in our apartment complex as “The lady with the walker.” One day as we were chatting, Sue shared her story of becoming a missionary and her travels. Yes, I was surprised. Yet, I was very excited to hear the interesting details about her commitment to God and others. Her story is not one of an adventure movie. Let it be known that her missionary calling required a great sacrifice of separation from others during her consecration and preparation to do the will of God.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19:17)

The lady with the walker still has a tender and compassionate heart. She bravely approached a tenant with extensive community contacts to network and help an elderly, homeless man living in the shopping center next to our complex, find housing. The love in Sue’s heart is the catalyst that propels her to continue her calling as a missionary and be an advocate for those who cannot help themselves.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good, And what does the LORD require of you, But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”– Micah 6:8

We have a responsibility given to us by God to help those in need. Having a tender and compassionate heart and the desire to help others demonstrates our love for God and others. The apostle Paul tells us that we are to imitate Christ in His humble interaction with others while on this earth. From a loving and humble heart flows love, compassion, and concern for others. God expects all of us to be like my friend, “The lady with the walker” who has a tender and compassionate heart.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” Philippians 2:3-4

Prayer: God, we ask You to reveal our purpose on this earth. Please direct us to those who we need to help. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Living as One Who is Forgiven–King David and the Apostle Paul

Living as One Who is Forgiven–King David and the Apostle Paul

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation [trials and sorrows], but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

A certainty of life is that we will face many trials and temptations until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The life of a believer in God is one of many hardships. Humanity may go through hard times, but biblical stories give us hope because God always brings victory to those who love Him.

There are two men of God in the Bible who experienced the duress of extreme persecution in their earthly lives, King David and the Apostle Paul.

The shepherd boy David began his struggles when he fought off predatory animals to save his sheep. His brothers were jealous when he was anointed by the prophet Samuel to replace King Saul. Once David killed Goliath, Saul became jealous after hearing the song, “…Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). King Saul abused his power and started persecuting David–“Then Saul sent the messengers back to see David, saying, ‘bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him” 1 Samuel 19:15.

Once David became king, the men in his palace who were supposed to be loyal to him possessed murderous hatred in their hearts. David openly expressed his dilemma to God: “I am yours; rescue me! For I have worked hard at obeying your commandments. Though the wicked hide along the way to kill me, I will quietly keep my mind on your laws” (Psalm 119:94-95).

In 2 Corinthians chapter 2, the Apostle Paul gives his account of suffering persecution for Christ.

Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches (2 Corinthians 2:25-28).

In the New Living Translation Bible of verse 28, we are given a clearer understanding of Paul’s acknowledgment of his ongoing burdens: “Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches” (2 corinthians 2:28).

Both David and Paul suffered lengthy persecution. Yet there is a significant contrast in their reactions to suffering. Throughout the book of Psalms, David mentions the torment of living with enemies who plotted to kill him. His prayers for God’s Divine Intervention are filled with uncontrollable emotions. “The proud have dug pits for me; I am Yours, save me; Do not leave me to my oppressors; Hold me up and I shall be safe.” [Excerpts from Psalm chapter 119].

Although the Apostle Paul was disciplined with his emotions, he also admits to feeling overwhelmed, “Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” (2 Corinthians 11:29). Yet, he also proclaims God’s Divine Intervention: “When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him (2 Corinthians 11:32-33).

It may appear that the apostle Paul possessed greater spiritual strength. Yet, we must remind ourselves that David lived with enemies in his home throughout his reign as king. David not only suffered persecution from disloyal men who served him, but his wayward son Absalom sought to kill his father, and another of his sons, the wicked Adonijah briefly proclaimed himself king of Israel during the terminal illness of his father David. Living with enemies in one’s home requires much courage!

We cannot compare the life of one believer to another. Both men lived with continuous hardships, yet, God prevailed and proved throughout their lives that He loved them.

David’s end of life: “So he died in a good old age, full of days and riches and honor, and Solomon his son reigned in his place” (1 Chronicles 29:28). God anointed David and spoke His words to him as evidenced by the book of Psalms.

Paul’s end of life: The apostle Paul was imprisoned for many years and then beheaded by Nero. Still, God used him to write the Pauline Epistles: The books written by Paul: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews. The letters of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and the book of Hebrews were written while he was incarcerated.

Jesus spoke to Saul of Tarsus and when He converted him, Saul was given a new name, Paul. Forever grateful, the anointed apostle Paul acknowledged his acceptance of martyrdom: “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a drink [liquid] offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy (Philippians 2:17).

As created beings, whether we die of old age or by becoming a martyr is not our decision to make. God remains in control of our lives even until our last breath of life. Our focus should not be on the manner in which we die, our focus must be on how we live our earthly lives–striving for holiness and righteousness.

Yes, we will suffer, because Christ suffered. Always put God first, by striving to have a steadfast relationship with Jesus Christ. Every day, live as one who has been forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ.

God’s Promise: I will never leave you or forsake you. Amen.

Prayer: Thank You, Heavenly Father for Your love, grace, and mercies. In Jesus’ name, Amen.