Following Your Heart?

SHOUT the Cry of Victory 30 Days of Prayer Day 16 Happy Sabbath!

Pursue happiness. Go for it. Follow your dreams. Live well. You only have one life. Look out for yourself.

Self-seeking gratification is at an all-time high. This behavior is the standard for most unbelievers, but are you aware that when believers make plans without seeking God’s approval, we are also guilty of pursuing our desires? For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. Romans 8:7

I can recall looking for a travel bag. I went to my favorite store first, and there it was the perfect bag. As I walked toward the bag, another person picked it up. No! I wanted that bag. But then something happened that I have only seen one time in my life. The woman bowed her head, prayed, placed the bag back on the rack, and walked away. Greedily, I grabbed the bag off of the shelf and thanked God for my blessing. But was it a blessing? I missed the message that God was sending to me. At the time, I had a serious problem with impulsive spending. I had three other travel bags, but I desired something new.

The story may seem insignificant. But following our heart’s desires always leads us in the opposite direction of God’s plans for us. Our goal is to always stay in sync with God by following His directions, which keep us on the Path of Righteousness. Even Jesus placed God’s will above His own. Everything He did pleased God. Saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42.

Part One of Surrender and Submission: Incorporate Jesus’ prayer before planning your day-to-day activities, pursuits, and schedule. Present your short-term and long-term goals to God in prayer. We can rely on God to always answer our prayers with, “Yes, No, or Not Now.” Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5. Pray and wait for God’s answers. Imagine living your life and never making another mistake because you seek God’s will first.

I developed an action plan: Every day, I pray, “Not my will [which only seeks to please myself], but your will for my life. God, help me to recognize your answer to my prayer.” Amen.

Part Two of Surrender and Submission: We wait until God gives us the answer. “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6. How will I know? God never makes us play the game of chance. When He speaks, you will know. Our position is to remain passive. We do not have to keep praying about the same situation. God never forgets.

Every aspect of our lives is a test to build our character and keep us humble, obedient servants of the Most-High God. Remember, it was our choice to make a covenant vow with God. And His expectations will always place us in the position to prove that we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind.

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope. Romans 5:4

Bible Study: Proverbs 3

Prayer: God, we ask forgiveness for the never-ending pursuit to please ourselves. Our prayer is, “God, not my will, but your will be done.” In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson  

Desires of the Heart

Humanity shares a common trait, and that is to aggressively pursue the desires of the heart. We desire the dream house, career, vehicle, lifestyle, and above all, the forever relationship with the perfect soul-mate who will help us achieve our goals. So what is wrong with wholeheartedly pursuing your dreams? Nothing at all! But there are exceptions.

When I decided to start a tutoring business for nursing students, I had a firm knowledge base of nursing theory and clinical practice. Even so, I had to teach entry-level students critical thinking skills and nursing judgment who were unable to choose the correct nursing action for the given patient scenario. On the exams, they were presented with four possible answers [with two being distractors], yet, they always chose the incorrect answer. Nursing programs are based on guided study, lectures, textbooks, and clinical practice. But the root of the problem was their lack of reasoning skills. Please know that Nurses do not have leeway. The wrong decision always compromises the patient’s safety.

Following the desires of the heart:

The Reality: The primary issue is not our desire to dream or developing strategies to achieve a fulfilling life. What happens when Plan A hits roadblocks? Most of us have not developed Plan B because we never anticipated failure of our initial plans. You may think, “that is a pessimistic outlook to develop short and long-term goals, and also think of developing alternate plans just in case things don’t work out.” Whether we choose to embrace this concept or to disregard it, the uncertainties of life are sure to happen.

Teaching the common sense of nursing was challenging, but I was confident that I could complete the task. However, after extended research, I realized that I was not equipped to tutor anyone but myself. So, I changed my short-term goal of immediately registering my business. I became a full-time student, enrolled in online courses for teaching adult learners and Business Management classes. Plan A was developed with immediately following the desire of my heart, which left me without the necessary skills. Developing Plan B was worth it. I enjoyed 12 years of helping others to reach their goal of becoming a nurse.

Anticipate and prepare for the roadblocks or the detours when pursuing your dreams. Our excitement often prevents us from seeking much-needed professional advice, completing the necessary research, and gaining additional knowledge. We can never know enough! Approaching our goals with the mindset that we are on a life-long learning curve equips us to meet and overcome the challenges of achieving our goals. 

The consequences of following the heart and disregarding professional advice:

One of my worst experiences happened because I did not listen to the physician who told me not to accept the Branch Manager position at a Home Health agency. His main concern was regarding the business operations of that particular company because it was well-known for its shady reputation of cover-ups and manipulation of actual circumstances. I will never forget these words, “Sonya, you are a Christian, I cannot imagine you compromising your belief in God to participate in illegal activity.”

Two months into the job, I knew that I had to get out. After the management conference call with the corporate office, the words of warning echoed in my mind. Divine intervention to the rescue! God helped me in a time of trouble. The regional Nursing Director visited my branch a couple days after the call to relay a corporate decision. Since I was a Registered Nurse, I would have to assume the dual role of Branch Manager and Clinical Director effective immediately. As she walked out of my office, I closed the door, asked a prayer of forgiveness [for disobedience], and gave my resignation letter.

Truthfully, we cannot anticipate most of life’s detours.  But when we refuse to acknowledge that our plans may not work out, then the D’s hit hard: The fruits of Disappointment are Discouragement, Distress, and Defeat. Some individuals are resilient and bounce back by immediately developing new and improved strategies, but that is not typical. Our emotions can easily tilt to an unhealthy place when facing adversity. But we have a solution: 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

It has taken most of my life to give in and present my plans to God first. Finally,  I realize that I need to have faith and believe in God’s promises. My prayer has changed to “Not my will, but your will be done” because I have surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. The trials and sorrows still happen, but not due to failed plans. When God reveals His plans for you, there is no Plan B! God can never fail, nor does He change. His Word is Absolute!

Bible verses: Still, I am certain to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD; be strong and courageous. Wait patiently for the LORD! Psalm 27:13-14

Prayer: Hear our prayer, Oh Lord. We are tired of failed plans and the disappointments that follow because we did not include you in our dreams and goals. We ask for forgiveness. Please reveal the plans you have for our lives. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

It Takes Courage for the Journey

SHOUT the Cry of Victory 30 Days of Prayer Day 13

One of the hardest things that you will ever do is maintain the courage to keep your covenant vow with God. You will be tested by Satan, who will use your closest friends, family, and your desires to test your convictions to serve God. Our desires indicate whether or not we are serving God with unwavering faith, trust, and obedience. Often we fall into the temptations of sin, still, you must pray and stand against the deceptions of spiritual wickedness. Human Effort + Divine Intervention = A Victorious Outcome! 

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24

Yesterday, I reached the crossroads of Obedience and Disobedience. God has spoken to me through my Pastor and several other individuals to stop all communication with an individual who no longer served God and did not have my best interest in mind. You know what? I prayed and asked God to give me the courage and strength to completely sever this relationship. God answered my prayer immediately. It happened yesterday. The relationship is over!

What made the difference? Divine intervention! God knows that I love Him with all of my heart, soul, and mind. Before the 30 days of Prayer, I identified deficits in my character that required change. I prayed for spiritual growth and a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, God reached down from heaven and manifested His power to eliminate a huge problem that I struggled with for a long time.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33

We can agree that life is tough! Even so, obedience to God places us in the position to receive the blessings of peace and inner joy. When we do our part: Having courage [standing our ground] against all deceptions [people, places, and things] that Satan uses to lead us down the “Road of Disobedience,” then our Warrior God steps in, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14.

Choose to always obey God! Our reward of eternal life depends on the humility to be an obedient servant of the Most-High God.

Scripture: But Moses told the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the LORD’s salvation, which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.” Exodus 14:13

Prayer: God, we ask for forgiveness of the sin of disobedience. We desire to serve you wholeheartedly. Please help us have the courage to give up the people and the desires that separate us from you. Thank you for your divine intervention. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen.

© 2021 Sonya Johnson

Free Will of Choice Ends Here

SHOUT the Cry of Victory 30 Days of Prayer, Day 12

The dilemma of humanity: This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!'” Jeremiah 6:16

  1. To serve God is a choice. Even so, once we make the covenant vow to serve God our choices end.

Do you not know that when you offer yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey, whether you are slaves to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteousness? Romans 6:16

2. Jesus tells us that obedience is required to serve God:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21

3. God clears up our confusion about our former lifestyle: 

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance… 1 Peter 1:14

4. Disobedience ends in God’s rejection:

but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. Genesis 4:5

5. God knows that we struggle to obey Him:

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:14

Our Reward for Obedience to God:

He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], I will grant to him [the privilege] to sit beside Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down beside My Father on His throne. Revelation 3:21 AMP

Bible Study: Genesis 4

Prayer: God, we ask you to forgive us for our willful disobedience. We desire to obey you and to receive our reward of eternal life. Please give us the strength to overcome as we continue to serve you. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen.

Give Me My Inheritance

During the past six years, I lived the small-town life, which allowed me to speak or talk to strangers and my neighbors every day. Because of a large shade tree and a house facing east with a country-living sized porch and a screen door, I was able to enjoy the fresh air and birds tweeting their songs. One of the daily highlights was to hear Roger, our postman, talking and laughing to someone on the phone as he delivered our mail. I often wondered who is the person on the other end that could make this man have this level of happiness.

Then I noticed that we had a substitute postman for two weeks. Something was not right. Roger could be on vacation, but it was during the school year, and he had two daughters. My first concern was that he may have contracted the Coronavirus (my nursing thoughts). One day, I noticed that Roger returned, but the talking and laughter had ceased. As the mail truck neared my home, I walked to the end of the driveway. When I saw Roger, his face was etched with sadness. I relayed that all of us really missed his laughter. At that point, he told me that his mother, the love of his life, had passed away.

I expressed condolences, and asked him, “If you could share something about your mother that you would want the world to know about your mom, what would it be?” Roger responded, “that she loved everyone.” But then he expressed that although he was sad about her death, the inheritance that he received caused his siblings to have bitter feelings against him and their parents. Roger’s mother had remarried, and he was the only child from her second marriage. His father, who passed away many years ago, stated explicitly in his will that if Roger’s mother passed away that he was to receive 100% of his estate. But life is not that simple.

Roger had two sisters from his mother’s first marriage [who he loved] demanding that he sell the house and divide the estate equally among the three of them. Although he offered to give them the entire contents of the house, they refused to accept his offer and were leaving daily voicemails stating, “you were always the favorite child.” And now the twist, “Miss Sonya, what would you do in this situation? I know that you are a Christian, and you will tell me the right thing to do.” I mentally prayed, “Holy Spirit, help me.” To make a long story short, I asked him to express his desires regarding the situation and make a final decision based on his morals and values. The dilemma involved emotional turmoil because he loved his sisters, yet, he wanted to honor his parents’ wishes for him to receive the house, and to keep as part of their legacy.

We are familiar with the story of the prodigal son: To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.'” So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. Luke 15:11-12

The youngest son had plans that were in opposition of his father’s plans. He was restless. Why should he live as his father desired? No, he would demand his inheritance!  After all, he was young and couldn’t see himself living this boring lifestyle, not one more day. Because the father had the greatest love for his son, he would not force his principles, values, or morals on him, so He willingly granted his request.

What do you think of the youngest son? Selfish, ungrateful, or he didn’t really love his father? Maybe. But we are the youngest son. God tells us, “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. Because God is a fair and just Father, He gives us free will, as he watches us choose the prodigal’s path.

We desperately seek after our desires, regardless of the consequences. Our dilemma is that we cannot wait for God to fulfill His perfect plans, we demand our inheritance now, and we are willing to disobey God to get what we desire.

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. Galatians 5:17

Self-reveal: Yes, I have family and friends who love me, and I love myself. But are my thoughts precious about myself when I step outside of the will of God? No, I would readily admit that I frequently play the game of chance. Yes, I become a player by making plans based on my desires and creating strategies to get what I want.

In Psalm 139, verse 17, David tells us: How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! 

I invite you to change your perception of God, the Father who willingly gave Jesus, His only Son, to suffer and die for us, loves us unconditionally. And His plans never have consequences!

Bible Reading: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1-3

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to make this covenant with you, “Not our will, but God, your will be done in our lives.” In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

© Sonya Johnson 2021

The Skin Controversy

  1. Last night, I watched a believer defend his right to tattoo his body. He stated, ” You are looking at the outside of my body, but God knows my heart.”

God’s answer: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Jeremiah 17:9

Documented history: The ancient Greeks and Romans used tattooing to penalize slaves, criminals, and prisoners of war. While decorative tattooing was looked down upon, pagan religious tattooing was accepted and practiced in Egypt and Syria.

God’s answer: Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

2. Recently, I looked through my google photos, and found some uploaded pics from the 1980s where the sides and back of my head was buzz cropped–shaved. It was fashionable back then and now head shaving for women is readily accepted. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

God’s answer: But if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 1 Corinthians 11:15

3. The many breathtaking circular designs that skilled barbers design in your head are also pagan practices signifying worship of other gods.

God’s answer: In Leviticus chapter 19, God gave instructions on not conforming to pagan hairstyles which signified worship of other deities–pagan gods or goddesses.

4. Assimilation: the process of taking in and fully understanding information or ideas. We have readily adapted to many worldly practices, and most of us do not have a complete understanding of their historical meaning. Believers, why do we have a dislike for studying the Bible?

God’s answer: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Hosea 4:6

5. We have downgraded the holy standards of God because we do not desire to fully commit ourselves to God. The Bible [Old and New Testaments] reveal God’s righteousness. Fact: Many believers do not believe in the Old Testament. I can assure you that if we studied the first five books of the Bible (Genesis-Deuteronomy), we would view God with a greater level of reverence and honor. 

God’s answer: God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? Isaiah 55:11

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16

My personal decision is to surrender and follow Jesus until my last breath. I have not lived a naive life. During my rebellious period, I explored all that the world has to offer. It is my desire to have eternal life by giving up habits, people, places, and things. Whatever God requires me to do, I will do it. 

Jesus said: “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 away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” John 10:27-30

Jesus always faced controversy and death-threats for speaking the truth: Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. John 10:31; They got up, drove him out of town, and brought him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl him over the cliff. Luke 4:29. Never once did our Lord and Savior give in to the majority opinion nor was He swayed to accept the temptations of this world.

Certainly, we have a choice to faithfully follow God’s standards of righteousness or to follow our own desires and attempt to incorporate them as a New Age Christianity. 

God’s answer: He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. Revelation 22:11

Bible Study: John 10

Prayer: God, we ask for forgiveness for blending our unrighteousness with your holiness. It is our desire to love and serve you with our hearts, souls, and minds. Please teach us to live holy and acceptable lives that are pleasing to you. Thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus that we may have eternal life. We ask 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.

The Price is Too High

Many years ago, I was the Nurse Administrator in a minimal correctional facility operated by the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Random searches for illegal paraphernalia were conducted on a routine basis. Thankfully, the facility director was very protective of the female staff and would inform me of the scheduled search the day before.

The protocol involved total lockdown, which required that our entry-proof door of the clinic be double-bolted from the inside. Except for the Director, all staff was sequestered in their offices for an unlimited time until “All-clear” was announced. Although, in-house searches were part of the environment, this one was different. The Dept. of Corrections had escalated the search by bringing in an outside task force.

On this particular day, my coworker and I decided to peek at the officers and dogs entering the corridor. We were younger, and our curiosity had gotten the best of us. The ferocious barking that we heard from the team of dogs made our hearts race and accelerated our breathing. But in our desire to see, we were not prepared to witness armed officers with massive-sized German Shepherd dogs. Nor did we realize how a man would appear shackled with chains around his chest, back, wrists, and ankles to our curious eyes. When his eyes met with our eyes, he dropped his head in shame.

After witnessing the dogs, armed officers, and the shackled offender, my coworker began to cry uncontrollably. Since the sick call was canceled for the day [exceptions for emergencies], we stayed in our clinic with the door closed to process what we had witnessed. It was overwhelming, to say the least, sixteen years have passed, and I still remember every detail.

Sin shackles our minds and bodies. If only we would reflect on the devastation that we suffer when we choose to live outside God. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23‭-‬24

King David realized the devastating impact that sin has on our hearts: Sin shackles us in the chains of wickedness and separates us from God. Yes, we can always pray for forgiveness. But, sin leaves residual effects by desensitizing our desire to live holy and acceptable lives before God. The pleasures of this world are deadly. We can never pay the price that sin requires of us. Our morals and values deteriorate along with our desire to live faithful and obedient lives to God, our Creator.

Jesus went above and beyond, giving His life so we can have salvation, a permanent solution to our inherent sinful desires. “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” Matthew 6:24. We must make the decision to either serve God and live according to His plans, or we must continue to enjoy the people, places, and things that make us feel good. Serving God means total surrender to His will and His way. If God required Jesus, His only Son, to suffer, bleed and die for us, then He requires us to choose this day who we will serve. Free yourself from the shackles of your desires.

Bible Study: Psalm 139

God, we pray for forgiveness of our sins. We need your strength to release us from the habits, and people that are feeding our desire to sin. Thank you, Jesus for your great sacrifice. 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.

Following Jesus Can Cost Your Life

Then Jesus said to his disciples, whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

Prayer: God, we are ready to recommit our hearts, souls, and minds to you. It is our desire to deny our desires and to faithfully serve you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

©2021 Sonya Johnson Ruiz

There is Only One Answer

When I was in nursing school, the consensus was that our Nursing 1 professor was blunt, tactless, and overbearing. The exams had a standardized format with the paragraph question and four multiple-choice questions. Two of the answers were distractors, and the remaining two were closely related. Following an exam, Kathy would review the correct rationale and answer. You would think that students in the first semester of nursing school would not possess the arrogance to challenge an experienced nurse with an advanced degree, but that was not the case. But Kathy aconsistenly used one quote, “If you implemented that action your patient would probably die or suffer serious injury. There is only one correct answer.”

While my classmates were sparring with Kathy, I took notes, writing down the correct answer and rationale. My goal was to become an RN. After our second class, our professor established a zero tolerance policy. The challengers were reminded that they chose to become nurses, and to complete their goal, they would respect the nursing profession and their professor. Clarification of her role followed, and that was to teach the nursing process, which had only one road to travel on. The students were given an ultimatum to accept the theoretical information as presented or withdraw from the program. 

It would have been impossible for me to achieve my goal as a nurse if I did not study countless hours to learn the structure and function of the body along with various disease processes. To achieve my goal also required respect for my professors, their experience, and teaching the accuracy of nursing care for patients.

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12.

We are living in a time where many are selecting the wrong answer. Individuals who claim to love and serve God readily challenge the Bible, which God gave to men who were faithful, humble, obedient, and striving for the mark to be holy and live righteous lives. God gave us creativity, which is evidenced by our talents and the ability to learn, which explains why the writing styles of the books of the Bible may vary. But God did not give us the option to interpret His words according to our level of understanding.

Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15. The question is, “Do we desire eternal life?” Studying the Bible is a requisite to receive eternal life. The Bible is our spiritual mirror, it points out character flaws, and teaches us the correct answers given to us by God. We have a Heavenly Father who anticipated our every need. God did not leave us alone to interpret the scriptures. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26.

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29. As servants, we do not have to understand how the Holy Spirit teaches nor should we have a list of “why” questions. Our role is to pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to give us understanding and wisdom before we study God’s Holy Word. God has prepared a perfect life for those who humble themselves and accept the only correct answer. Read Revelation chapters 21 and 22 daily to remind yourself that the reward of obedience and perseverance is eternal life in the New Heaven and New Earth. 

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:14

Bible Study: Philippians 3, and Revelation chapters 21-22

Prayer: God, we desire to learn the only answers that will guide us through our journey and prepare us to receive the reward of eternal life. Please fill us with the Holy Spirit that we may understand truth from error. Lord, give us wisdom as we seek knowledge of your Word. We ask 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.

The Consequences of Self-Reliance

Testimony: Many years ago, I witnessed to an individual about the Ten Commandments, and He accepted the fourth commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it, you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8-11

The Test of Faith

The dilemma is that he was in his late 50s, and had longevity on his job of 12 years, but he had to work on Saturday. The loss of a job close to retirement age not only eliminated a much-needed paycheck, it also included loss of health benefits. I can remember the phone call as if it was yesterday: “Please pray for me. I have decided to speak with the General Manager and tell him that I am no longer able to work on Saturday. This may mean the loss of my job.” I did not console him. I asked if I could pray, and I prayed a prayer based on Malachi 3:10 [the test of faith, obedience, and God’s promise to supply all of our needs].

Fifteen minutes later, I received the follow-up call. The job requirement included working on Saturday. His manager advised him to think about the dilemma overnight, and they would meet the next day. The following conversation was the testimony of divine intervention. After our call, he immediately returned to the manager with his letter of resignation. I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! Isaiah 65:24. God provides supernatural miracles that our finite minds will never understand. Not only did he keep his job, his performance evaluation included a merit raise. 

We do not enjoy the perfect peace of God because we are interpreting the scriptures to fit our desire to possess worldly goods. Our careers, jobs, and bank accounts have become our idols of worship. God is no longer our Jehovah-Jireh. Our perception of God changes according to our presenting challenges. We are happy because we are in a “season of plenty.” The abundance of our finances (which all belong to God) has convinced us that we can do good deeds to make up for our disobedience of self-reliance. 

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10

God was fully aware that the ability to work and provide for ourselves would result in separation from Him. Malachi 3:10 requires faith, trust, and obedience to God. Our part is the human effort of giving back ten percent of all increase plus an offering based on our love for God. Did God give you the blessing of saving money off of a purchase that was supposed to be $500, yet you only paid $200? Then God blessed you with $300, and ten percent is $30 tithe. Were you blessed with free items? Did you faithfully give tithe and offerings as thanksgiving for the free blessings? The storehouse that God is referring to is not our growing bank accounts.

You may say, “But I am struggling, how can I possibly afford to give 10% of my meager funds?” But without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6. Lack of faith leads to disobedience. We cannot receive the reward of eternal life possessing doubt, disbelief, and faithlessness.

The last five years of my nursing career brought about a change that I did not think was possible. I decided to give up working on the Sabbath. Yes, I am aware that illness is 24/7, and nurses provide much needed care. But working on the Sabbath was a distraction. I could not enjoy the blessing of serving God on the Sabbath because on Friday [preparation day], I had to include preparing for working on the seventh-day that God ordained as holy.

I had a tough decision to make. This was a management position that paid the highest salary that I had received in my nursing career. But it involved being “On Call” rotation for ten days, which equated to working two Sabbaths a month. Even so, my commitment to God superseded my job. I prayed, took the giant leap of faith, and resigned. 

My relationship with God experienced an all-time high. Finally, I would enjoy the Sabbath again, a total focus on God, and receive the blessings of a spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional renewal. God truly rewards us when we put Him First!

Not only did God bless me with a work-from-home position as an auditor of Medicare records, but He also opened the windows of heaven and blessed me with a salary increase. Please know that the focus is not on financial gain. The requirement from God is that we seek Him first! You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you. Exodus 34:14

Self-reliance also produces selfishness. We console ourselves by asking those in a struggle, “How are you doing?” Yes, we will offer to pray for them. However, we have no intention of helping them financially. “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” Matthew 6:24. Providing for others financially is a requisite that God commands us to do, But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17.

Our gifts to help those in need must originate from our love for God. Remember, many philanthropists donate money but do not serve God. Being a good person who performs good deeds is very different from accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Finally, self-reliance causes us to place ourselves on a performance scale. We begin to focus on doing the works of performing good deeds; donating clothing, distributing spiritual tracts and books, running errands, taking individuals to medical appointments, or to shop for food, etc. He saved us, not by the righteous deeds we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5

Pray and ask God to search your heart and reveal to you the works you perform to overshadow the sins of self-reliance and the love of money. Put God first! Cease the habit of rewarding yourself. Jesus has the greatest reward of Eternal life if we renounce our sinful desires. 

In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?…John 14:2

Bible study: Exodus 20

Prayer: God, we ask you to search our hearts and reveal to us the sins that keep us from seeking you first. We ask 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.