Where Do I Begin?

A new believer shared that he accepted Christ from studying the Bible out of curiosity. No one witnessed to him that Jesus died for humanity, nor had he ever attended church. His question to other believers, “I gave my heart to Jesus. Now what?” Most people understand that a relationship with God requires total surrender and giving up our sinful desires and habits. But there seems to be a missing link: Daily prayer and diligent study of the Bible. God is delighted when he hears our prayers. Even before they call, I will answer, and while they are still speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24. The human effort of searching the scriptures enables us to enjoy an up-close and personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. To love God is to know Him.

God made certain that we never feel isolated in our struggle. The biblical stories of real people who had little faith and were disobedient, yet God forgave, intervened, and provided victory allows us to appreciate His grace and mercies. The Holy Spirit, our Teacher is always available to help us gain understanding [always pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit] of our Creator God through the scriptures. As with all relationships, it takes time, effort, and dedication to establish a solid spiritual foundation. We have a Spiritual team who is always available to help us. God’s unconditional love and our commitment to Christ provide the strength and perseverance to build a deeper relationship with God.

Trials, hardships, and sorrow will always exist. Still, never give in, and don’t give up. God specializes in New Beginnings. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19. Yes, God still provides new beginnings for those who love Him. Where do I begin?

Prayer: God, we pray for the new believers who have made the commitment to serve you. Please protect them from the enemy and give them strength in their weaknesses. We ask you to anoint them with the Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, grant wisdom and discernment as they travel through their spiritual journey. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

Preparing For Persecution

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…. 2 Timothy 3:12

The persecution and martyrdom of Christian believers was Saul’s main focus before his encounter with Jesus and transformation to the Apostle Paul. And who would know about persecution better than Paul? He was a prisoner while writing five of the books [letters] of the Bible. From studying, we know that Paul did not fear death because of his belief and hope in the resurrection of the dead in Christ, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Despite witnessing Paul’s strength, his protégé, young Timothy, was fearful of imprisonment and persecution. Timothy’s fear prompted Paul to write the letter of 2nd Timothy. Although the Apostle was a nurturing spiritual mentor, he reprimanded Timothy’s lack of faith in God during times of persecution.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control. So do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me, His prisoner. Instead, join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.…2 Timothy 1:7-8

Of all the emotions God has given humanity, God never gave us the spirit of fear, especially the fear of death. Having a spirit of fear differs from the “Fear of Reverence for God, the “Fight or Flight” response of the Autonomic Nervous system, or from the “Stranger Danger” that babies experience. Living in fear of trials, tribulations, persecution, and death cancels out our proclamation of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 1 John 4:16-18

Were you aware that the only disciple that died from a natural death was the apostle John? They boiled him in oil, but Jesus had grand plans for John. John did not die! When the persecutors witnessed the power of God, they exiled John to the Isle of Patmos where he wrote Revelation. Revelation is filled with spiritual symbolism so deep that many individuals ignore the book or only read a few verses. It takes the anointing of the Holy Spirit to understand the Revelation prophecies. The books of John were written by the apostle John who also wrote the gospel of John and the book of Revelation.

John’s separation reveals that we need to stop wasting time on people, places, and things that cannot help us grow spiritually. We have to step back and fully assess our priorities. 2 Timothy 3 tells us of the Perilous Times and Perilous People of the last days. Refer to Genesis chapters 5-10 for an account of the flood and the destruction of all living things. The reason: Now, the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. Genesis 6:11. If God gave John a vision of the New Heaven and New Earth, imagine the anointing and the spiritual gifts you can receive with total commitment to Christ.

Lack of knowledge of the scriptures, intermittent prayers, and trust in our own abilities leaves us with hidden fear. We can live a life of pretense, but God knows our fears safely tucked away, that are unknown to others. Half-committed to follow Jesus places us in a valley of indecision. Not fully prepared to give up our willful desires or put our complete faith and trust in God, we only acknowledge a higher power by word of mouth. The human effort of daily studying, praying, faith, trust, and obedience must be a priority on our every day agendas.

Without God, humanity is powerless against the agents of evil. Yes, Satan is the father of fear. I watched a video of a Christian woman in Afghanistan who proclaimed, “We will not throw away our Bibles! We will die for Jesus Christ!” For citizens of the United States of America, persecution is not political, it is biblical prophecy. Search the scriptures. Our time is coming. Get out of the valley of indecision! Strengthen your relationship with God while you have time. Jesus is coming!

“But if it doesn’t please you to worship the LORD, choose for yourselves today: Which will you worship—the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living? As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
Bible Readings: 2 Timothy 3

Prayer: God, we ask you to forgive our sins. We realize that our fear exists because our relationship with you is based on words. As we seek knowledge through the study of the scriptures, we ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment. Thank you for your grace and mercies. We ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

Are You Reaching Your Fullest Potential?

Have you considered the number of individuals living outside the established laws, breaching ethical boundaries, and defying existing morals? In fact, a growing majority of people have mentally developed their own standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do. It is not only the rebels who refuse to adhere to societal laws. Many have a hidden agenda–based on a skillfully and strategic plan to do as they please. They belong to the army of those who possess a secret resistance to rules and regulations–who consider themselves above the law.

Employers have policies and procedures to which the employee agrees to adhere to the rules. However, a growing number are fired due to misconduct or violation of company policy. Every country has existing civil and criminal laws with penalties. Yet, prisons are overflowing. In the United States, over 4,000 juvenile facilities range from detention centers and farms to secure, military-style boot camps to group homes where youth are incarcerated. prisonpolicy.org.

Surprisingly, the area of most significant civil disobedience is traffic violations, which are a big business. “Not including parking tickets, we can estimate that somewhere between 25 and 50 million traffic tickets are issued each year. Assuming an average ticket cost of $150.00, the total up front profit from tickets ranges from 3.75 to 7.5 billion dollars.” motorist.org

How did we get into this predicament? It is inherent [human nature] to possess the desire to overstep boundaries. Disobedience is delightful! The opportunity to go astray just once may produce anxiety but also causes a thrill of excitement. We can never say that all individuals act on their inclinations. Even so, it takes the right situation to reveal our real character. When the law-abiding person reaches the point of no return and commits a crime, we ask, “What happened?” Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23. They finally acted on the desire of their hearts that appeared totally out of character for them. Most would never participate in extreme activities but readily create and live in a gray area of compromise, or seek loopholes to continue their pattern of secret counterproductive behaviors.

Even for those who serve God, we are influenced by our environment. Sarai created the diabolical plan to give Hagar, her maid, to become Abram’s second wife to fulfill God’s promise of a male heir. Abram, a devout man of God, agreed to the plot. How did this happen? Sarai planted the seed of doubt that God had forgotten His promise. Although Abram knew that God made a covenant with him, they were surrounded by people who practiced many pagan customs, including polygamy. Compromising God’s spiritual boundaries is much easier than we think. But pushing the limits has its consequences. “You can do what you like but not for as long as you like.” 

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. Galatians 6:7-9

Reaching Our Fullest Potential

Who doesn’t desire to live their best life? The issue with pursuing human-made strategies is that they have a breaking point, a weak link, and the possibility of failure. Innovative ideas constantly replace existing business operations and the current way of doing things. Advancements in Technology are a super-power within itself. Still, we are powerless over the many events that happen on the planet Earth. Climate change, the ability of pathogenic organisms to mutate and gain invincible strength, feats of nature [earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.], and death reveal that humanity is powerless where Divine intervention is required. 

How did we arrive to the conclusion that we can live according to our whims and desires? We have lost our Reverence and Respect for God. Secretly, and maybe unintentionally, we perceive ourselves as equal to God. No, we would never verbalize those words. But our actions indicate that we do not require a Heavenly Father. We pursue our visions and dreams as if we are fully capable of reaching our fullest potential. Take a moment to reflect on this promise:  

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3

As heinous as Sarai’s plot sounds, many of us are living outside of God’s commandments, spiritual laws and boundaries. Sadly, we are not concerned or interested in God’s promises. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. We honor our achievements over God’s promises. If someone credible approached us with a doable plan to improve our quality of life and our finances, we would readily agree to participate. History reveals that angels nor humans can compete with God. His promises are “Yes, and Amen!”

Jesus paid a great price for humanity that we may achieve our fullest potential through Him! I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hell and of Death. Revelation 1:8.

It is with humility that we acknowledge the Omnipotence of a great and powerful God who lovingly extends unmerited grace and new mercies to us each day. Lest we forget, David reminds us: What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:4-5

Ask yourself:

    1. Am I where God would have me to be?
    2. Am I fully serving my Lord, Jesus Christ?
    3. Am I pleasing myself, and failing to please God?
    4. Am I concerned about bringing honor to His holy name?

We serve a merciful God who always accepts our prayers of repentance. Even before they call, I will answer, and while they are still speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24. God is waiting to perform a great work in us. We must acquiesce to His supernatural ability to bring His perfect plans into fruition. Only God can set in motion the miracles we need to reach our fullest potential in this life on earth. And if that wasn’t enough, our Creator has promised us a reward of immortality in a perfect and sinless New Heaven and New Earth. Amen.

Bible Readings: Isaiah 43 and Revelation 1

Prayer: God, we confess that we have excluded you from our lives. We pray for forgiveness and ask that you reveal your plans to establish us according to your will. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

The Character of Christ

The willingness to accept Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Savior is from a responsive heart, which embraces Jesus’ sacrifice to give humanity salvation. As a result, we receive a spiritual transformation with a transformed heart that leads to a life of loving and caring. And yes, Jesus gives us a life complete with joy and peace, but also one of trials and sorrows as we travel down the Path of Righteousness. 

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

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

If accepting Jesus and serving God provides us with peace and joy, then why are we in the predicament that even caused David to question himself: Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Psalm 43:5

The ongoing hardships of the 21st century have produced believers plagued with discouragement, depression, and a mindset surrounded by darkness. Something isn’t right! I asked a couple of individuals to give me their opinion of why we have so little faith and trust in God. They were not sure of how or why the mental and emotional conditions have increased throughout the years. Still, I do not wish to present only my viewpoint of this terrible dilemma. 

I deferred the question to my mother, who is 88 years young. “Mom, why do you think that modern believers do not possess the faith, trust, joy, and peace that serving God offers?

Her response, “They do not know God. Prayer and Bible study are not their priorities. How can you have faith and trust in someone that you don’t know? Life is tough, but God has promised to never leave us or forsake us.” 

History reveals that most individuals decided to walk into a church to turn their lives around by accepting Jesus. They were aware that their habits and behaviors had to change. Attending church, praying, and studying the Bible were the building blocks to forming a solid relationship with Jesus Christ. New believers were told that suffering through trials was necessary to change their character and to be a disciple. They understood that hardships would show up as changes in their lives, job loss, sickness, etc. We sang songs with lyrics that told us to faithfully hold on because Jesus will work it out.

Our conversations consisted of trusting in God because faith believes that God does the impossible. We kept hope alive by telling each other to expect deliverance and never give up while waiting for God’s answer. Oh, and the songs we learned and sang, “Trouble in my way, Jesus will fix it, after awhile,” “Victory is Mine,” “We are Marching to Zion,” and “Trust and Obey,” provided the additional strength to make it through those tough times. We prayed all day and night for stronger faith and trust in God. And we demonstrated our love for each other by calling, praying with them, and home visitation, always asking, “What do you need?”

Fast forward to 2021, and we now have a body of believers who have accepted Christ and do not attend church. They may find out through social media that believers must study the Bible and pray without ceasing. The “babes in Christ” require nurturing to help them through their spiritual journey. Sadly, many fall prey to the loneliness of being a Christian and succumb to discouragement and temptation.

Then we have the seasoned Christians who are mature, but are more concerned about self. They are the believers with spiritual strength, Yet, they have no desire to help the new believers or anyone overcome by the tribulations of life. In fact, the trending behaviors of performing random acts of kindness, pass it forward, giving tax-deductible charitable donations, and paying for the person’s groceries standing behind you while filming it for TikTok, they have consoled themselves with the thought that good deeds are acceptable to God. 

Still, these actions are not the same as having the “Character of Christ” and the “Fruit of the Spirit. “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you? And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'” Matthew 25:44-45

In the Four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, God has given us a record of the many events that reveal Jesus’ character. The life of Christ is given by four different men who followed Jesus. The Gospels agree that the Son of Man ministered to others without discrimination. Yes, Jesus was stern when He pointed out the pride and hypocrisy of the rulers who were teaching the law but oppressing the people with man-made rules that they did not keep. The central theme of the Bible is based on the Love of God. Jesus was loving, fair, tender, and full of compassion.

Remember the woman caught in adultery? Have you ever wondered why Jesus bent down? And what was He writing on the ground? What caused the people to turn and walk away?

4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. 7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

Adultery for the woman was punishable by stoning to death. A theologian gives this answer, “Two scriptures point out that Jesus was writing on the ground. Many ask, “Why was Jesus writing on the ground?” He was writing the secret sins of her accusers. Once exposed, all they could do is turn and walk away in shame.”

One would think that Jesus’ disciples would possess His character. No, they had the same mindset that many possess right now:

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered. Matthew 14:15-17

When we accepted Jesus’ invitation, He accepted us just as we were, no questions asked. However, by studying the scriptures, we learn that our surrender to God involves a complete spiritual makeover. 1 Corinthians 13, The Love Chapter, gives us God’s definition of love, Galatians 5:22-23 tells the importance of being anointed with the Holy Spirit and the characteristics we are expected to possess. The Apostle Paul commands us, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32.

The believer’s financial responsibility: But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 1 John 3:17

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12. 

We have the free will of choice to serve God. Even so, with our commitment [to surrender], we agree to the transformation of our hearts and mind. Submission to the will of God is no longer an option. Giving ourselves wholeheartedly–without reservation allows us to conform obediently to our Heavenly Father.
We become transformed into the likeness of Christ. The person that we used to be, no longer exists. God uses trials to purge undesirable behaviors and negative traits from our character.

We must die daily to the fleshly desires of self [Romans 8:13]. Sanctification is a life-long journey on the Path of Righteousness. Preparation to receive the reward of eternal life in the New Heaven and New Earth requires Divine intervention. We cannot save ourselves. Allowing God to do a great work within gives us the perseverance to move forward in Jesus’ name.

The struggle is real. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, suffering is part of our servitude. Still, we have a loving, compassionate, and powerful Heavenly Intercessor, Jesus Christ that promises to see us through. 

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; Philippians 1:6

Prayer: Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Holy Spirit. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

Traveling in the Wilderness

Bible Reading: Exodus chapters 14-16

The Quick Transition From Faith in God to Distrust and Fear

God’s divine interventions are always supernatural and point us to recognize His omnipotence. He makes sure that the miraculous blessing we receive is beyond our ability, or we would take the credit for ourselves. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17. Although God is faithful, we fail to remember and reflect on our past victories. The next  hardship produces discouragement and defeat. We react as if we have no memory of God’s divine intervention from the previous trial that He delivered us from. “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” John 16:33.

Sadly, thousands of years later, we repeat the same behaviors of doubt and disbelief in God that caused ancient Israel to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. I love to study the biblical history of the Old Testament. Real-life experiences of disobedience, failure, and victory documented for our benefit. Recently, I listened to a sermon that spoke about the faithlessness of the freed Israelites. Did you know that the trip from Egypt to Canaan was only 11 days? 

Stand Still and See God’s Divine Intervention

    1. And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:13-14.
    2.  Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. Exodus 14:21.
    3. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen.” Exodus 14:26.
    4. So the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt, so the people feared the Lord and believed the Lord and His servant Moses. Exodus 14:30-31

The Song of Moses–Exodus 15, Acknowledging the Greatness of God

“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness,

Fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out Your right hand; The earth swallowed them. You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation. Exodus 15:11-13

Exposure of Our Real Character

Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Exodus 16:2-3

The journey is rough. But serves its purpose by revealing our character defects. You know, the over-confidence in our voices as we proclaim, “Yes, I trust in the Lord,” or “My faith is strong.” The Apostle Paul explains:

As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4

Paul was a scholar, yet, he was humble, readily admitting that he could not trust his own judgment, nor rely on his conscience for true self-evaluation.

My most recent wilderness experience lasted six months. Why? I started the journey with confidence but lost focus on God when the difficulty continued. Spiritually blinded, I could only think about my limited abilities and the desire for the trial to end. Like ancient Israel, I cried out to God for help. Even so, I love God because He always reveals the deficits we possess, which are displeasing to Him. When I acknowledged and repented of my condition of little faith and distrust, God began to show me how to build my faith and trust in Him.

God is loving and patient. It is only by His grace and mercies that He tolerates our distrust. In reading Exodus 14-16, I felt fed up with ungrateful Israel for being complainers when God delivered them from enslavement. Then God reminded me of His command [in January] to move 1400 miles to the Florida coast to begin a new life in a city where I had never resided and without friends and family. Instead of a spirit of gratitude, I started focusing on loneliness, to which God reminded me that He will never leave or forsake me, and the relocation was part of His plans for my life. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

My wilderness experience will differ from your experience. Still, the end result will bring us closer to God. By the time we navigate through the dry terrain, we will reverence and honor God. And God will be pleased with our spiritual transformation. It takes the desert thirst and hunger that only God can fill to open our spiritual eyes and serve Him with humility. Remember, we are never alone! Continually acknowledge God’s presence through prayers of thanksgiving. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.… James 1:2-3

A word of caution: We must not linger in the wilderness! When God reveals our faults begin the human effort of humility and obedience. Our daily prayer should reflect David’s prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24. God will answer our prayer of repentance, readily forgiving us: Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10. 

To receive spiritual insight, we commit to following God’s plan and pray for divine intervention. Studying the Holy Scriptures, praying for wisdom, discernment, and increased faith reflects our willingness to trust, obey, and adhere to God’s perfect plan. Once you travel through the wilderness, stay out!  Do not look back by falling into previous behaviors. And do not despise your hardships! God is preparing us for the end time by strengthening our character. Without the wilderness journey, we would miss out on our reward of eternal life in the New Heaven and New Earth.

Prayer: We just want to say, Thank you, God! In Jesus’ name. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:1, 17, 20.  

The Spiritual Journey–When Do the Trials End?

I can recall the introduction from the Instructor for the 5-day Auditor’s training. “This will be a brutal and relentless five days, but once you learn the guidelines and the software, the task you face for the next 22 weeks will be easy. You are nurses, and will rely on your knowledge of clinical practice to determine if the medical records meet the criteria.” The first two days were so demanding that when we received our 60-minute lunch break, the entire class of 30 escaped for precious moments of solitude. We made a mad dash to our vehicles just to be alone.

Although day one was brutal, all of us returned for day two. We were allowed a couple of extra breaks to regroup from the intensity and overload of learning the software program. But an issue arose on the second day. Many of the nurses began complaining. It was a significant distraction. Still, our Instructor continued her strategic plan without addressing the complaints. After class ended, the complainers huddled together to discuss their grievances. 

Our Instructor was energetic but patient with a laid-back personality. On day three, at 8:01 a.m., she announced that auditing is not a job that is appropriate for everyone. We were informed of a 10-minute break [in which she would return to her office] to give us time to rethink our decision to continue training as MR Auditors. If we stayed, then we would be required to comply with a zero-tolerance policy that prevented any further complaints as of that morning. With boundaries set, the negativity evaporated, and 100% of the trainees passed the course.

Most believers would agree that our spiritual journey challenges us beyond our human capabilities. God created us to love and worship Him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. He also made us dependent on the Trinity, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for the strength and resolution of our fiery trials. God is aware of our fragile hearts and weakened strength. Still, God has established spiritual requisites and boundaries. He is also aware of our secret desires and the unholy character traits that our trials will erase. Yes, the struggle is real, but not one of us can escape.

Jesus forewarned us about the trials, sorrows, and tribulations we would encounter from serving Him. Christian means Christ-like. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Jesus reiterates the dependency, which is required from us, “that in Me you may have peace.”

I understand the purpose of suffering, for the Glory of God, to produce faith, trust, and obedience, and to get rid of my character defects. Truthfully, I desire that my trials would not last as long as they do and the hardships would come around less often. But the life of a disciple is not one of multiple choice. It is a faithful life of humility and obedience. God decides because He is God. I can recall hearing a sermon based on the steadfastness of God, “When we are in our stormy trials, we can cry, have a sad countenance, and pray to be delivered, but God will not change His plans. He knows the end from the beginning, and God desires that none of us perish.”

Here’s the reality check, when I read Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. My character is definitely missing some of the “Fruit of the Spirit.”

Sadly, some of us assume that because Jesus accepted us, “Just As I Am,” that we have the option to keep our unholy character traits. In Revelation chapter 3, verses 14-21, God speaks to the Laodicean Church–the Lukewarm Church. They are the ones who place their priorities over God. But they are also the believers who have the most challenging struggles. Not because their trials and hardships are more severe. They have faith in themselves and their ability to resolve life’s challenges. These are the believers who only include God in their lives by word of mouth. Their time spent in prayer is limited. Bible studies are not a priority because they are content with making plans for a comfortable life. Determined to maintain complete control over their lives, they appear strong, yet, they easily become discouraged when facing hardships and quickly ask, “Where is God?”

God has no filter with His correction of wrongdoing. Even Peter, the stubborn, impulsive disciple who lacked self-control, was reprimanded by Jesus, “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:23. Even so, in Luke 22:32, Jesus showed compassion and concern for His wayward disciple: “But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

The books of 1st and 2nd Peter demonstrate Peter’s surrender and complete spiritual transformation. 1st Peter, chapter 4, reminds us that God has chosen us to be His disciples. So we must suffer because Christ suffered. He was perfect and without sin. Yet, Jesus suffered for our redemption and to glorify God, His Father.

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Peter 4:12-14

God does not continually rain on us. In fact, our Heavenly Father makes sure that we know He loves us and will never leave us alone:

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you, says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3

It is because of God’s grace and mercies that we are not consumed. There is always an end to the suffering of each trial that we face.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

God puts us through the fiery trials to strengthen us, remove the impurities of sin, and increase our faith and trust in Him. Revelation chapters 21, and 22 remind us that we are preparing to live in a sinless and perfect New Heaven and New Earth. We must strive daily to run the race. We choose to live a faith-based life. God is Holy!

The Human effort of faith, trust, obedience, and perseverance, along with God’s Divine intervention, result in a life of Righteousness by Faith, which is pleasing to God. Jesus Christ is coming soon to give the faithful their reward of eternal life. So with a renewed commitment, let our prayer reflect King David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23-24.

Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life [Psalm 139:23-24]. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry 

Exempt From Situations and Circumstances

The reply to a blogger’s statement of “Do not focus on your circumstances, pray and God will see you through” was, “Why would you say that, all we have is circumstances?” Although the blogger had good intentions, the first part of his statement is inaccurate. The righteous are exempt from situations and circumstances.

Our journey consists of running a marathon and jumping over the hurdles of trials and tribulations. Suffering involves hardships and sorrows because spiritual refinement is required to align our character, create dependency on God, and build faith. Yes, our tribulations have a purpose. God is preparing us for eternal life.

Living righteously means that we put God first. With a concerted effort, we make sure that God is involved in every aspect of our lives. We pray, have faith, trust, and obediently wait for God’s answer. As disciples of Christ, whose sufferings were extreme, we were forewarned that suffering is required to serve God: I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart [have courage], I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Yes, at times, we become tired, and the weariness weighs us down. But we press on because we do not rely on our strength to run the race. In fact, we are always victorious. How? We have the advantage because Jesus provides us with His strength, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.

We acknowledge God’s gifts of unmerited and abundant grace and mercies that are freely given. God does not rain on us. God reigns over us. Our storms do not last forever: And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who is called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10.

However, the reply to the blogger’s statement was the truth. In my lifetime, I have heard many times, “I have a situation.” Without God, one’s life is full of situations, circumstances, predicaments, and the consequences that are certain to follow. Praise God! Saying yes to Jesus’ knock at the door of our hearts provides us with the opportunity of not only being exempt, but we also are never alone, always covered by the love of God.  It is the human effort of faith and God’s divine intervention that guarantees our win-win outcome.

Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12. Amplified Bible

Prayer: God, thank you for the trials and sorrows that prepare us for the reward of immortality in the perfect and sinless New Heaven and New Earth. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

The Resilience of Humanity

The most phenomenal event that I have ever witnessed occurred when I was in nursing school. I was in the Maternal-Child clinical rotation for 6 weeks and was disappointed because I had not seen the birth of a baby. There was an influx of mothers admitted as high-risk pregnancies, and the hospital’s policy restricted student nurses from being assigned to that category of patients.

After 3 weeks, I received the good news that I was assigned to a healthy young mother in labor with her first child. All went well, and within four hours, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. In witnessing the birth, I almost fell to the floor. No, it was not because of fear. At that moment, I knew that God was greater than my mind could ever comprehend. I was so overwhelmed that I wanted to fall to my knees and worship the Creator of all humanity. Even so, I had to exercise complete restraint or risk being expelled from the nursing program.

Although I studied Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, Chemistry, etc., and possessed theoretical knowledge, I was not prepared for the magnitude of seeing a new life enter the world. Perhaps that is the breakdown. If we took the time to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of our mind and body, our perspective of God would be one of reverence and grateful servitude.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

Is it because I was born into a family with the hereditary gift of artistic creativity that I can create visual imagery of God bending down, making a man from dust, and breathing life into the first human being? Surely not! We have lost our desire to contemplate the wonders of God as represented in the human body and mind. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. Psalms 139:14

Have you ever thought about your heart that beats without your intervention?

Your heart beats about 100,000 times in one day and about 35 million times in a year. During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/heart/heartfacts.html

What did King David realize when he said that we are fearfully and wonderfully made? The emotional trauma or physical injury that many have endured does not stop the heart from beating or the lungs from breathing. The residual effects of sadness may cause us to feel as if we will not live another day, but we continue. And at some point, we accept that we are compelled to move forward. With each new day, even if therapeutic intervention is needed, we provide our bodies with the food and fluids required to sustain our lives. All it takes is a shred of hope and a mustard seed size of faith, and we begin to regroup and rebuild our lives.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 CSB

For those who have children, a parent will rarely throw in the towel on their maturing child. They respond to the child’s needs [or children] by using their mental and emotional strength to push them through the process of growth and development. Our Father God created us with the resiliency to keep going despite our circumstances. Even when we reject Him, God does not retaliate by distancing Himself or by ending our lives. He surrounds us. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence. Psalm 139:7

We must address the impact of the hardships of life that pierce our souls. 

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him. For the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

In reading the Psalms, we recognize that David was a musician who was very intense and emotional.  Although he was a king who had all of the physical amenities of life, David struggled with discouragement. And rightly so, the individuals living in the palace despised the fact that God had anointed him to be their King. Many of us can relate to not having the love, understanding, and nurturing from those we lived with or were raised by. Yes, it produces sadness. But we do not have to end up the way we started. God is a healer of all infirmities. He is a God of new beginnings!

Even in his distress, David was aware that his duty was to maintain a close relationship with God. The book of Psalms portrays a man who experienced roller-coaster emotions, yet, David constantly acknowledged God’s omnipresence. The verses of his songs reveal the condition of the fragile human heart along with God’s compassion and His desire to heal our brokenness and soothe our hearts with His never-failing love. David continuously acknowledged his love and adoration for the God who always sees, is ever-present and never forsakes us.

Let us make the concerted effort to thank God for our highly complex mind and body that He made in His image. But also remember, we have a soul that longs for a constant spiritual connection to God. The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Prayer: God, we ask for your healing touch on our minds and bodies. Please comfort our hearts and reveal your love as we continue to faithfully serve you. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

Beware of the Fine Print

Two weeks ago, my laptop started running slow with delayed startup and freezing. After running daily scans, I realized that malware was not the problem. So, I did the Internet search chose a couple of tech Einstein’s who detailed the top three reasons for computer slowdown. I took care of a couple of the possible issues, but it did not help. After several freezes, I decided enough was enough. It was time to purchase a new laptop. 

This morning, I said a prayer to be anointed with the Holy Spirit before writing the devotional. Included in my prayer, “God, please fix my laptop.” The answer was, “Go to your settings.” What I saw came as a shock. There were 19 programs installed that I knew nothing about. Yes, I receive notifications for the updates that need to be installed for my Epson All-in-One printer. But there were 15 apps, including one that automatically gathered data from my activity. The other culprit was Microsoft who installed four apps for X-box. After deleting 19 apps, my almost trashed laptop has regained vigor and is dancing to the beat.

Do I feel as if I was taken advantage of? Yes! It is the consumer’s lack of knowledge that many companies count on to increase their profit margins. Knowing that I wasn’t the only person who does not pay attention to the “What” in automatic updates, I decided to do some research.

Fine print advertising. Those tiny words and sentences at the bottom of advertisements containing the details of an offer. The kind that requires a magnifying glass or extreme prescription glasses to actually see what is in an offer. Consumers have gotten so used to the fine print many do not even read further into the details. However, more people should pay attention to those tiny words because the devil is always in those details. https://www.smartstartmoney.com/fine-print-advertising-is-it-deceptive-and-misleading/

“The devil is always in those details.” The analogy of the devil’s deceptiveness in the things we ignore piqued my interest. We are impatient from the overwhelming busyness of life. And Satan, our greatest enemy, relies on our weariness to create skillful and diabolical schemes to blindside us every day. 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Satan develops personalized schemes to bring us down. Like the beautiful talking serpent, he mesmerizes us by using subtle and familiar strategies to  present the temptations to make us fall. It is his daily plan to bring chaos into the life of those who serve the Most-High God. Many New-Age Christians feel as if they have the power to fight evil alone. We are not comic-book heroes. The power of evil is greater than our abilities. In fact, without God, we are facing a lose-lose situation. 

What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:4-5

Before we become prideful about our crowns, the prophet Isaiah tells us:

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain. And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. Isaiah 40:22

God is fully aware of the weaknesses of humanity. Our power lies in the ability to make choices. But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. … Joshua 24:15. Alone we are no match for the deceptive plans of Satan, a fallen angel. Pray for help!  It is through prayer, the Holy Spirit teaches, guides, and gives us discernment to recognize schemes. When we serve God, Jesus intervenes and says, “Get behind me, Satan.” We are under Divine protection. For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11. Because of God’s love, grace, and mercies we are covered 24/7. 

The Good-Great News is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loves and died for humanity. His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection gave us redemption and the opportunity to have eternal life. Jesus, our Heavenly Intercessor, is victorious and holds the keys to hell and death. If Satan had his way, He would wipe out every believer. Refer to the story of Job, chapter 1, in which we read that Satan cannot do what he wants.

What happens when we fall into temptation? We did not take the time to use our eyes to look at the fine print and our ears to listen to the sugar-coated words. Nor did we step back and say, “You know what, I am going to pray about this, and I will get back to you.” When we include God in every decision that we make, the devil knows that he is defeated. 

We may think that it is of no consequence to having unwanted programs downloaded on our devices. But Satan, who cannot read our minds, has the astute skills of observing our behaviors. People who do not pay attention frequently suffer from unexpected consequences. Most of us have one friend or family member that is always involved in mishaps, bad deals, or some type of trouble. And most of us have gotten ourselves into a predicament once or twice.

For a 30 day free trial period at the gym, I ended up on a one-year contract because I didn’t read the fine print. My mind focused on the entrapment of the salesperson’s words, 30 free days, and great perks. I was told to let them know if I wanted to continue the membership, but the fine print stated that the cancellation had to be within the trial period. They didn’t have my credit card information, but I signed the temporary membership contract with the fine print that contained the contractual obligations. Gotcha!

We live, and we learn. As stated in the article, people do not take the time to read the fine print. Yes, we make mistakes when God is not included in every aspect of our lives. The Omniscient God already knows every deceitful plan and temptation we will face from birth until death. It takes the human effort of humility, prayer, and patience to ask and allow God’s divine intervention to protect us from harm’s way. There is confidence and peace from the safety of abiding in the presence of God.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13 

Prayer: God, we thank you for the protection of your spiritual team. We pray for discernment and the guidance of the Holy Spirit when faced with temptation. We commit our lives to you and will fully trust in your plan. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry