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

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

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 

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.

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.

“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

God’s Divine Intervention–Hearing His Voice

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

Do you trust God with your life? I have often attempted to help God by being impatient and developing Plan B, or I did not include Him at all by failing to pray and asking for His blessings on my plans. But my self-reliance and spirit of independence began to crumble after a few failures. The biggest mistake was accepting a job with a substantial salary when God told me “No.”

How do I know God said no? God used my mother’s physician to tell me that I should not work for that company. His exact words, “As a Christian, there are covert business operations that you should not be involved in, do not accept the management position.” Did I listen? I did the exact opposite, and within six weeks I had to resign. I wish that I could tell you that I learned a valuable lesson from the disobedience of not listening to the voice of God. Sadly, it wasn’t.

Thankfully God extends his grace and mercy even when we do not deserve it. Fast forward a few years, not only do I pray, but I patiently wait for God’s answer. How do you know that it’s God talking to you? Believers have a privilege that unbelievers do not possess: But because you are not My sheep, you refuse to believe. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.…John 10:26-28. The answer to recognizing when God speaks, [whether it is through the scriptures, the Holy Spirit who speaks to us in various ways–especially through our thoughts, or the person that gave us the warning of “don’t do it”] is only possible through our “Faith.”

Faith is blind belief in everything that we know of God. It is our decision to accept the holy scriptures–Sola scriptura, as the Divine authority and the Voice of God. We acquiesce to His divinity and do not probe into the mysteries that God chooses not to reveal to humanity.

In Ephesians chapter 3, the apostle Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is a mystery. According to the scriptures, there are many things that God has withheld from us. He is God and does not owe an explanation to humanity. And rightfully so, with the knowledge we have, many of us struggle with believing and accepting the truth from the scriptures in the Bible.

Pathway to God–Hearing His Voice

If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:14. When Jesus was speaking to his disciples, He made it clear that our prayers must be prayed in his name. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6. Jesus, our Intercessor is the only way to God the Father. And how is the Holy Spirit involved in the pathway of prayer? And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. Romans 8:26

Let’s look at a practical example. You accept employment with an agreed salary paid bi-weekly. You have faith and trust in the employer that they will keep their word. Before interviewing, you did research on the company’s business culture and financial stability. Still, chances are you only met and interacted with the Human Resources Department and interviewed with and met your manager. You did not meet the CEO or the Board of Trustees, yet you accepted the position without meeting the individuals who own stock, make the decisions, and develop the policies, which may change according to the economy. Information regarding the solvency of the company stays behind closed doors on an executive level. The company could have a history of thriving profit margins, yet, within days take a nose-dive plummeting into bankruptcy with loss of your employment, benefits and pensions. Yet, we have little to no faith in our Creator. “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27

I heard a very interesting sermon from a theologian. It took Noah 120 years to build the ark. The scoffers laughed as they continued to watch the aged man. Our minds are so distracted that do not receive the spiritual insight–wisdom that God desires for us to possess. I just read Genesis 7 again. We are referring to the entire earth with animals, birds, and creeping things scattered throughout the earth in various locations. This is the supernatural act that we do not think about: How did Noah get the animals, birds, and creeping things into the ark? The clean, 7 by 7 and the unclean, 2 by 2. Divine intervention caused the animals to come from every direction, march to and enter the ark. The ark did not have modern technology. Genesis 6:14-16 gives us God’s directions for building the ark: gopher wood and pitch [a resinous substance]. For forty days and nights, the water-proof ark floated on waters covering the entire earth. Inside all life was sustained by the Creator of every living thing on this earth.

Even with unwavering faith, we cannot understand the magnitude of the power of the Trinity, God the Father, Jesus Christ, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Our finite minds can never grasp the Agape love of God that provides the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical needs of 8 billion people. Nor do we think about the unduplicated set of fingerprints that every individual has or “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7.

What is man that You are mindful of him?…Psalm 8:4

Through God’s Divine and Fatherly love, He promises to never leave humanity alone. If an infant can recognize their parent’s voice, certainly the Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent God can speak to His faithful children in the manner He deems necessary. God knelt down, picked up dirt from the ground and made [fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalm 139:14] living and breathing human beings in His image with a soul that longs to keep in touch with the Creator.

I can write no more words. It is time for worship. “Yes, Father, my heart hears you calling, and I am coming to talk with you.” © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

The Consideration of Others

And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Romans 15:4‭-‬5 NLT

In reading the Apostle Paul’s writings, He always stresses our responsibility to look out for others first. Why the importance of placing the needs of someone else over ourselves? Because we are the selfless servants [disciples] of Jesus Christ. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 28:20. Jesus is our role model. Yet, many Christians–Christ-like fail to obey Jesus’ command to put others first.

“What about me?” is usually the question that overpowers our thoughts. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33. When serving God, we have everything we need to live contented, unselfish, and purpose-driven lives. Read Matthew 6:25-34 for reassurance.

Helping others allows our hearts to have an overflow of love and demonstrates our willingness to trust and obey God. From that love, God can mold our characters. We focus on the apparent sins in our lives but rarely reflect on our misaligned character traits. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

It is our characters that present the most significant challenge. We cannot self-evaluate our own faults. From our perspective, we always look good. The Holy Spirit enables us to achieve the requirements of daily spiritual growth–Sanctification is an ongoing and life-long journey. We do not have to understand how the Holy Spirit works. Our responsibility is to pray daily to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Without the help of the third person of the Trinity, change is impossible. We were born with the sinful mindset of “always looking out for number one.”

The scriptures reveal that Jesus’ disciples were people just like you and I, they possessed intrinsic selfishness. And they fed their selfish spirit by always striving to be greater than each other. Sadly, there was so much internal conflict that it impacted their faith and the ability to perform miracles. Although Jesus usually pointed out their sinful traits through parables, we find scriptures that indicate Jesus’ open rebuke and correction of  their behaviors. Even Jesus had to set the boundaries of “enough is enough.”

The battle with self is one that never ends. Feeding the five thousand would never have happened if it were up to His disciples. As evening approached, 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 themselves some food.” Matthew 14:15

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:16. Their response of “And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” Matthew 14:17 indicates the spiritual deficit of no faith. Twelve men could perform the same miracle as Jesus, yet, they could do nothing because of their desire to be the greatest among them.

We do not have to repeat the mistakes of Jesus’ twelve. Praying daily and submitting our will to God allows us to live righteously through faith, trust, and obedience.

What does God require of us? 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

Helping others [not limited to financial assistance] require the love of God along with humility and total obedience. Believers who have compassion and the desire to encourage others are at the lowest level when discouragement and depression are at their highest levels among our brothers and sisters.

Jesus declared, “ ’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. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’…Matthew 22:37-39

Putting the needs of others first, we reap abundant rewards. Our stony heart is chipped away, revealing tenderness and compassion. Our relationship with Jesus Christ reaches a higher level of growth as the roots of discipleship reach deeper into the soil of righteousness by faith.

We will receive immortality when Jesus comes again. Even so, throughout the Bible, love prevails. It is our character that must be changed before Jesus coming again. Many do not believe in this concept that we have to put forth the human effort to get rid of sinful traits. Revelation 22:11 confirms that when Jesus comes again, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” The day that Jesus appears is the day no further change will occur in our characters.

No worries. God is aware that we need His help to change. Divine Intervention: “…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

Obedience to God is a fruit that grows from a heart filled with love and dedication to please God. Our reward is eternal life in a perfect world. Love God, Love Others, and Love Yourself. 

Prayer: God, we ask you create in us a clean heart and give us the desire to fulfill our role as disciples. Please remove the selfishness from our hearts that we may live a purpose-driven life. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. Revelation 21:7