In a world with constant changes and challenges, we can be confident in knowing that ” Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
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. John 8:4-8
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. Always remember that Jesus is the light that will shine through the darkness in our lives.
“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
I have two very good friends both named Barbara. They are unaware of the other’s existence because they live 1600 miles apart from one another. But today, God used both of my BFFs as rams in the bush to provide encouragement. Throughout the Apostle Paul’s writings, he emphasizes the importance of the body of believers staying connected to each other. If you have not heard from friends or family, please reach out to them. Sometimes the load is too heavy for them to lift a finger to text or call.
Love God, Love others, and Love yourself. 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry
This morning, a podcast speaker challenged us to seriously reflect on our spoken words and thoughts for the past year. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. Proverbs 18:21
Did my spoken words that others could hear and the whispers of my heart, which only God could listen to, reflect that I love and honor God? For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7
King David was aware that eventually, our secret thoughts would reveal themselves through our spoken words. Whether good, bad, or ugly, our mask will fall off, and who we are is made evident to others. It takes the right situation to bring out our real character.
As we reflect on our words and thoughts, may we approach God humbly and ask forgiveness for the selfishness of our unfriendly characteristics. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
Make the decision to embrace the new beginnings. We have been blessed with a new day to think lovely thoughts and speak empowering words. Thank you, God, for your grace and mercy.
Bible Study: Proverbs chapters 18 and 23
God, we ask forgiveness for the harsh and hurtful words that we have spoken of because of the sinful thoughts deep in our hearts. It is our desire to be transformed into people that possess unconditional love, mercy, and kindness. We pray this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen.
© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2021, No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes without the author’s written permission.