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.

How to Receive God’s Abundant Mercies

Devotional–How to Receive God’s Abundant Mercies–From The Struggle of Sanctification by Sonya Johnson

Through the Lord’s mercies, we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, Great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, Therefore I hope in Him! The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the Lord. –Lamentations 3:22-26

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Who else can proclaim that they will never change? God favors the righteous even during the greatest trials of our lives. We serve a dependable and loving Heavenly Father.

Do you believe in God? Without faith, it is impossible to please God or to receive His promises.

The human effort of praying keeps our relationship with Christ steadfast. We remain hopeful and courageous when we stay connected to the Source of Life.

The Holy Scriptures are the cure-all for all mental and emotional distress. Studying the Bible is the treasure map that provides all the knowledge we need about God, the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

The unexpected and greatest tribulations of loss of employment, a home, a marriage, or even a loved one are never too hard for God if we only believe. Whether we need healing from a broken heart or the provisions to live, God always provides.

God’s Promises

  1. You will never be forsaken! “I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” Psalm 37:25
  2. When provisions are scarce. God will preserve what you have. “During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.” Deuteronomy 29:5
  3. God opens doors for the diligent. “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.” Proverbs 22:29. “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23
  4. You will reap where you sow. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward him for what he has done.” Proverbs 19:17
  5. His supply is more than enough. “And my God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

In Matthew chapter 6, verses 25-34, Jesus promises to give us an abundant life. God’s definition of abundant life does not mean receiving excess–beyond our daily needs. God’s provisions include everything we need to sustain our life for the given day including His grace and mercies. Living for the day eliminates unnecessary worry and anxiety that originates from the lack of faith.

We must not think about the things that we lack beyond today. “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles [who are unbelievers] seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” Matthew 6:31-32.

God will never change which means we have to change. From doubt and disbelief, we intentionally choose to exercise the faith to believe and rely on Christ to fulfill His promises. And from that decision, we will not be shaken when hardships arise. Yes, we can reap the abundant benefits from our Dependable and Good, Good Heavenly Father. Amen!

Prayer: God, we believe, please help our unbelief. Thank You for always being faithful even when we stumble and fall. We love You and praise Your Holy Name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Deception of Self-Help

Yesterday, I witnessed to an individual whose life is restarting due to the dissolution of her marriage of 17 years. As we spoke about the Journey of Healing, she began by giving me the names of several authors of self-help books that she read. Due to her own admission of falling away from God when her marriage ended, she no longer prayed or studied the Bible.

“Although, I have followed the advice of the well-known authors, I still do not have peace. Tell me what you did.” I told her the story of Elijah who ran from Queen Jezebel and God’s loving and divine intervention of sending an angel to feed the run-away prophet. Yes, God, Himself spoke to Elijah while he was in the cave of a mountain. Because that’s what our Great, Father God does for those that He has created in His image. He consoles us and gives us peace when our lives are in chaos.

Worldviews tell us to self-validate, read self-help books, listen to transcendental meditation apps, wear jewelry that promotes peace of mind and stability, practice secular meditation, and the list is endless. Every methodology that promises to bring peace and serenity to our inner being–our souls is part of Satan’s deception.

Even so, while witnessing, I never addressed the confidence that many people have in self-help authors. She was aware that after reading many of the do-it-yourself books and practicing their recommended interventions she still did not have peace.

“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)

Whether we believe in creation or evolution, the fact remains that we were not created to function outside of our spiritual connection to God. The One and Only God who breathed the breath of life into Adam is with whom we have a soul connection that only ends at the cessation of an individual’s life. We are forever connected to God with a spiritual umbilical cord.

God Is the Source of Life and Joy—God is the source of life and light and joy to the universe. Like rays of light from the sun, like the streams of water bursting from a living spring, blessings flow out from Him to all His creatures. And wherever the life of God is in the hearts of men, it will flow out to others in love and blessing.—Steps to Christ, 77 (1892). Ellen White

Sharing the story of Jesus on the cross, and Him telling the disciple John, “Behold your Mother” emphasizes that Jesus has a special place in His heart for the widows, the abandoned wives, the single mothers, and women who are alone and struggling to live productive lives. Does Jesus care? Yes, He does! And I am a living testimony of our Savior’s Divine Intervention of lovingly guiding me through a 2-year journey of healing.

Witness in a manner that the person feels a personal connection to Christ.

And yes, God loves and cares for all of us–men, women, boys, and girls. Yet, when witnessing we must present God on a personal level that reaches the hurting heart of the individual. Whisper a silent prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to anoint you. We always require Divine guidance before we speak and represent the love of Christ to others.

I will never know the outcome of witnessing that God is the source of our lives and only through Him can we have peace, joy, healing, and restoration. Yet, her laughter and expression of “Thank you, for taking the time to help me” proves that hurting people need to know that God is not a distant Father who does not care about us. Taking the time to share my personal experience proves that only Christ can give us a life of hope and restoration.

The importance of studying the Scriptures, praying without ceasing, and sharing our victories does make a difference in someone else’s life. As disciples of Christ, it is our duty to represent Him to those who are unaware that we have a Father who loves us. Someone needs to hear “…I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), and “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).

Prayer: God, we pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We ask for a heightened awareness of the opportunities to share Your love with others. You are the only One who can give us peace and inner joy. thank You for Your love, grace, and mercies. We pray this prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Steps to Living a Blessed Life

Devotional–Steps to Living a Blessed Life from The Struggle of Sanctification by S. Johnson

If you are over the age of 50 then you can appreciate the innovative changes [technology, strategies to work smarter not harder, work from home, etc.] that have reduced the mental and physical strain we suffered from doing tasks that always required taxing efforts. Yes, change is primarily good, especially when it delivers quality results and allows time for relaxation and restoration of the mind, body, and soul.

God’s Divine Intervention is above and beyond our best efforts to have a better quality of life. Yet some believers do not have God’s joy and peace. They choose to live alternate lifestyles which include following the advice of others, busyness, and the pursuit of personal desires. Relying on their judgment, they create an overall compromise of the mental, emotional, and physical state of equilibrium of their minds and bodies. Not only are they stressed, but their resistance also places them outside of God’s safety net for receiving the benefits of His promises.

Yes, we have the right to make decisions without asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit, but the consequence is suffering from hardship and the additional burden of a failed solution.

We were not created to figure things out! “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

The Warning: “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

The Promise: “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears; He delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted; He saves the contrite in spirit [penitent, humbled by our own sins and failures, seeking after God. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:17-19

God is never intrusive. He has given us free will of choice. Yes, God patiently waits for us to ask for His intervention. With His help, we can enjoy peace even when times are hard. Serving God does not stop life’s trials and hardships. Even so, unlike our best efforts of creating solutions, failing, and trying again, His promises are steadfast and provide fail-proof resolution.

With God, we have the opportunity to live a life without suffering the consequences of making unfavorable decisions. “Human Effort plus Divine Intervention always equals Victorious Outcomes!”

The Israelites received this promise: “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).

God is waiting to give us our best lives not only now, but also eternally in the New Heaven and the New Earth.

Prayer: God, we have chosen the hard life of the transgressor by excluding You. We ask for forgiveness for doing it our way. Yes, we need Your help every day. Thank You for hearing and answering our prayer that we ask in Jesus’ worthy name. Amen.

Woman, You are Loved!

When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. John 19:26‭-‬27 NKJV

Many women are in the struggle of their lives. Whether it is emotionally or financially, our burdens are heavy. And to make matters worse, single or married, most feel lonely and unloved. Jesus always had a tender, gentle spirit, and never-ending compassion for His daughters. Please know that Jesus Christ knows, cares, and loves you.

Please share this post with a woman or girl who needs encouragement.

Holy Spirit, I pray and ask for you to comfort the hearts of the women that are burdened, grieved, and feeling lonely. In Jesus’name. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

The New Rich

“The New Rich” is a term coined by Tim Ferris in his book “The 4-Hour Work Week,” written in 2014. His concept received much opposition. Yes, escaping the job that you detested by starting a position that the world will love sounds ideal. Even so, the behaviors of a target audience for your business are unpredictable. Why? Nothing lasts forever! People are fickle. What they desire today will quickly be forgotten sooner than later. Consumers have made Amazon a super-power because of convenience, not due to loyalty.

2021 Update: Now enter a group of wealthy young men with sound minds who have repurposed this phrase. They are proud of their accomplishment: Living a simple lifestyle has given them the status of being “Debt-free.” Yes, they live without worries because their money is exclusively used for necessities and to travel the world. Sounds enticing. Who doesn’t desire to live this lifestyle?

Let’s analyze this “New Rich” concept of minimalistic living. Romans 13, verse 8 tells us, “Owe nothing to anyone…” So, their idea of living debt-free is excellent. But the remainder of verse 8 reads, “–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” The “New Rich” issue is that they possess the mindset of self-reliance and selfishness that define the prosperous [prosperity] worldview.

And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Mark 1:16-18

Compared to our standards of financial comfortability, Jesus and His disciples lived in poverty. And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Matthew 8:20. Thankfully, God does not require us to live without our necessities–Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33

The life of a believer is to serve Jesus Christ as a disciple–to serve God and our brothers and sisters in need, whether it be spiritually and financially. When Jesus called the twelve disciples they gave up everything to follow Him. Enter the disciples of 2021, and our mindset is comparable to the New Rich, except that most of us are in debt, well beyond the costs of our necessities. Yes, the prosperity messages draw people into mega-churches, but the emptiness that accompanies the pursuit of happiness has left us with a generation of anxious, worried, and depressed Christians.

We desire material possessions and wealth because our priorities are unequally yoked with godly stewardship principles. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 1 John 3:17. Everything that we have belongs to God. Our overabundance is not given to show-off our social or financial status or to build massive bank accounts and investments. 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

What does Jesus require of his Kingdom of God disciples?

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'” 45 “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 25:37-40, 45

Prayer: God, we ask for forgiveness because we have become selfish, not caring for those in need as we should. Please reveal your plan for our lives as your disciples. We ask this prayer in Jesus’ Worthy name. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

The Change in the Atmosphere, part 2, The Apostle Paul

For the past week, I have been studying the life of the Apostle Paul. The conversion of Saul, a murderer of Christians, to a devout and faithful disciple is evident throughout the 14 books in the New Testament. In his Second Letter to Timothy, Paul was fully aware that the end of his life was near. Paul’s imprisonment was unjust, but the Roman leaders believed that Christianity would phase out with Paul, the agitator incarcerated. The message of a Savior, Jesus Christ, opposed the ancient Roman pagan belief system. Still, their main concern was the impact on the possibility of decreased financial gifts.

The Roman Empire was a primarily polytheistic civilization, which meant that people recognized and worshiped multiple gods and goddesses. Despite monotheistic religions within the empire, such as Judaism and early Christianity, Romans honored the presence of numerous deities. Jul 6, 2018, https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/gods-and-goddesses-ancient-rome/#:~:text=The%20Roman%20Empire%20was%20a,Christianity%2C%20Romans%20honored%20multiple%20deities.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. 2 Timothy 4:5 NLT

Paul’s only offense: God designated Paul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles who believed in gods and goddesses. Financial offerings were given by the people, which sustained the greed of the governing leaders. Even so, Christianity grew in leaps and bounds due to the continual witnessing by the Apostle in heavy chains. While imprisoned, he endured extreme suffering for many years. Yet, Paul’s abounding faith was an example of Jesus’ suffering, leading to many Roman guards’ acceptance of Jesus Christ. Bible scholars estimate his age to be between 60-68 at the time of death. The wicked Emperor Nero was responsible for the execution by the beheading of God’s faithful Apostle.

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8

The Apostle Paul clearly reveals that immortality is not received at the time of a person’s death. Yet, many believers hold on to the false concept that the person is either in heaven or burning in hell at death. Jesus answered, “You are mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29.

Jesus’ body was in Joseph’s tomb when He was resurrected. Angels were sent from heaven to roll back the heavy stone. Although the Jewish leaders spread the false news that the disciples had stolen His body, the guards witnessed the event.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He had spoken these things to her. John 20:16-18

The Holy Spirit is truth. The Human Effort of praying for the discernment and guidance from the Holy Spirit is vital to our belief in the scriptures, spiritual growth, perseverance, and endurance. We must decide to believe the biblical truth or to embrace the twisted concepts of our greatest Deceiver. It is a conscious decision to faithfully obey God by asking that His will be done in our lives. Turning our eyes upon Jesus requires wholehearted commitment. We have a Spiritual Team ready 24/7 to assist us in our journey on the Path of Righteousness. Through Christ, we can live holy and righteous lives, witnessing to others with confidence that we have fought the good fight, just as the Apostle Paul.

Prayer: God, we thank you for salvation. Please reveal the method of how we can witness the Good News of Jesus Christ to others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

For Christ Alone

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” John 17:17 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Growing up in a Christian home was not difficult because my friends were also from Christian households. I was a mischievous but obedient child who loved to read. Weekly, I would visit the library, check out the maximum number of books, and excitedly wait for the next visit. Although my mother studied the Bible daily, she did not read the Bible to us, nor did she encourage us to study the Word of God. Our Father worked 12-16 hours, six days a week. It was a time factor. With two younger children and one with ADHD, her schedule was non-stop. I can only imagine that she was exhausted at the end of each day. Even so, her character and actions revealed Christ through her love, temperament, and patience.

The church we attended in Newark, NJ, was diverse, with members from various ethnicities and cultures. Our pastor [of German descent] emphasized weekly to the congregation that we represented the family of God. He also stressed unity and love [this was during the Civil Rights Movement] if we expected to receive eternal life. Still, we were not a Bible-based church. Our services were based on “miracle-healings,” where members and visitors would stand in line to receive physical healing.

This is not a critical portrayal of our pastor. Simply, we were not taught to study the scriptures. The emphasis was to be like Jesus. But how? Without the knowledge of the Bible, it is impossible to be like Jesus. Fast forward a few decades, and now, I am a Bible student. The Holy Spirit has taught me that I must have extensive knowledge and wisdom to possess the Character of Christ along with the desire to live a holy and righteous life.

God’s expectation is that we diligently study the scriptures. 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. Interestingly, the other biblical translations of this verse replace the most important word, study.

To emulate Christ requires a thorough knowledge of the Bible and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is the life-long process of spiritual maturity. “To be sanctified is to become a partaker of the divine nature, catching the spirit and mind of Jesus, ever learning in the school of Christ.” The Upward Look, p. 149

Staying on the Path of Righteousness requires unwavering faith and trust in God, strict obedience, and wisdom that we can only receive from our Teacher, the Holy Spirit. Still, intense love for God is the foundation that fuels our desire to please God. Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38

Jesus led an exemplary life in His love and service to those in need. Christ embraced the poor, the needy, and the individuals who society considered undesirable. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:39

Human Effort from a heart filled with agape love:

    • Persistent prayer
    • Diligent Bible Study
    • Anointing of the Holy Spirit
    • Meekness and Humility
    • Resistance of temptation

Divine Intervention from God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit:

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

The Apostle Paul clarifies that our faithfulness and obedience to God allow for continuous spiritual growth and development. God does not expect us to overcome our inherent sinful natures using our strength. In fact, we can’t become holy and righteous without Divine intervention. Praise God that we have a Spiritual Team that is always ready to intervene and intercede, providing us with help on our journey with Christ. Strive to live every day, “For Christ Alone.”

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3

Prayer: God, we thank you for the mercies of a new day. Jesus, we give our lives to you. We pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit that we may receive guidance, wisdom, and comfort. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry