by Cheri Swalwell @CheriSwalwell

“But we’re not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way.” Hebrews 10:39 (MSG)

When I used to think about the word endure, I have to admit, it left a bad taste in my mouth. It brought to mind all these horrible things I had to do because they were good for me: choking down cooked spinach, exercising for 30 minutes a day, every day,  cleaning the house; ____ (you fill in the blank).

After attending a women’s conference at my church, the word “endure” has now become more palatable. I would even venture to say I’ve changed my whole perspective. I learned that if God tells me to do something, even when I know it will be anything but easy, when I choose to remain faithful and obedient to His calling, God will bless that choice. That’s endurance.

Enduring doesn’t have to be painful. It can be a simple choice every day to ask God to help me in those painful moments, so that I can fulfill the assignment He has given me to do. For however long He chooses for me to do it.

A great example of endurance is Noah – he persevered for 100 years building the ark God called him to build. He followed God’s instructions even when his region had never seen the kinds of rains that God promised. He completed the assignment God gave him, and his family was saved from death.

And then there was Moses. He 2-4 describes how he lived in exile in the desert with his father-in-law and wife for 40 years before his encounter with God. Moses didn’t know it at the time, but it was all preparation for his big assignment: leading a mass of complaining, rebellious people through the desert. God was getting him ready to lead His chosen people out of Egypt into freedom.

Six years ago, I surrendered my life to God. Three years ago, I began specifically praying for something that still has not come to fruition. This past September, I surrendered even those dreams to God and asked Him to replace my desires with His.

While on the outside it may look like I’m still merely enduring, my perspective about the journey has changed. I am choosing joy. I am choosing to be faithful. I am choosing to look for and see God in the little and the big. I am choosing to endure because I know, in His time, if I continue to obey and be faithful, God will bless that obedience and faithfulness.

Do you think Noah envisioned as a teenager that one day God would use him to replenish the world and to save his family by building a giant boat? Do you think Moses, while wandering around in the desert, exiled from Egypt, had any inkling God was using that preparation to save His chosen people from bondage and lead them into freedom? God chose to use both of those men to fulfill His purpose, one much greater than any they could have imagined.

And, my friends, I’m believing God is going to use this time of preparation I’ve been in to fulfill His desire for my life, no matter how He wants it to look. I am choosing to endure, so I can give Him all the glory for when His plans for my life are fulfilled.

Learning that Endurance isn’t the same as a call to suffer – from @CheriSwalwell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

cheri swalwellAbout the author: Cheri Swalwell is a Christ follower who thoroughly enjoys her calling to be a wife, mother, and writer, in that order. She writes regularly for Book Fun Magazine and her devotional book series, Spoken from the Heart. You can connect with her on Facebook.

Her newest release, Journey of Complete Surrender, delves into the freedom that comes with giving God your whole heart and taking your hands completely off to give Him the chance to move as only He can.

Join the conversation: What do you struggle to surrender completely to God?


A Clear Measure of Trust

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

My trust is most revealed in how readily I respond to God’s guidance. I’m quick to talk about His power, love, and sovereignty. But too often, my daily actions demonstrate my heart hasn’t truly owned those biblical truths. When I hesitate to respond to God’s prompting or flat-out disobey, I reveal a deep layer of doubt, one that, if not swiftly squashed, will ultimately prove crippling.

One that will, ultimately, rob me of the joy-and-peace-filled life God longs to give me.

Had I been with the Israelites the day God told Joshua, their commander, to lead them across the Jordan River and into the lush and plentiful land He’d long promised them, I worry I may have politely declined. My thoughts would’ve been consumed by the rushing waters before me, my inability to swim across, and the threat of death both posed. This wasn’t how the Israelites responded.

I believe the why rests in their backstory—in the consequences they’d experienced due to disobedience. Decades prior, God had miraculously liberated their parents from slavery, led them across the Red Sea on dry ground, and commanded them to take possession of Canaan’s rich pastureland. But the people had refused, out of fear. Because of this, they were forced to wander through the desert for forty years. With each step, they were confronted afresh with their foolishness and reminded of God’s faithfulness. As He provided for them day by day, bringing water from rocks and honey-like wafers from heaven, they learned to trust in and depend on God.

And the Israelite’s children, now adults, had witnessed it all. They’d seen the suffering that came from rebellion and the blessings that came from obedience. Therefore, when faced with their own seemingly impassable body of water, they chose the latter.

In other words, they focused on their Savior, not the challenge before them.

This enabled them to move forward—to take hold of the blessing He’d prepared for them.

Scripture tells us, once Israel’s priests took that first literal step of faith, the waters miraculously stopped. As I read this account, recorded in Joshua 3, I was struck by the order of events. Joshua 3:15-16 says, “Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away …” (NIV).

The priests stepped into the raging waters first, and they didn’t just dip their toe in. According to verse eight, they stood in the river. This demonstrated total commitment to obedience and faith in God.

The result? God came through, as He always does.

We’ll regret countless choices made over the course of our life, but I guarantee responding to God in faith won’t be one of them.

Is God asking you to take a step of faith? What challenges do you need to surrender to Him? How might focusing on Jesus rather than your problems or obstacles ahead bolster your faith?

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.    Isaiah 43:2 NASB

A Clear Measure of Trust – thoughts on following God from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, speaker, and the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries. She writes for Crosswalk, is the author of eight contemporary novels, and helped write Wholly Loved’s Bible study based on the life of Sarai (Gen. 12-23) titled Becoming His Princess, releasing in the spring/summer of 2019. When not writing, Dancing in the Rain by [Rife, Eileen, Slattery, Jennifer]reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall outings with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Visit her online at jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com.

Join the conversation: Share your thoughts, examples, and stories with us in the comments below.

Mary, Obedient Servant

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

For Mary, a young woman, engaged and preparing for a wedding, the appearance of the angel Gabriel was unexpected and terrifying. But despite her fear and confusion, Mary didn’t run from the heavenly apparition. Instead, she listened with enough composure and attention to understand the announcement, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:31 NIV).

Then Mary asked a simple question, “How can this be?”

Mary was not questioning God’s call on her life. She was only asking for clarification, wanting to understand the mechanics of how something such a thing could happen. Once the angel answered her, she yielded herself totally to God’s plan.

If an angel appeared to a teenage girl today with shocking news such as Mary received, there would be numerous questions, or an exclamation of “No way!” Doubtless, Mary realized the potential problems inherent in God’s mission for her life, yet she didn’t voice hesitation. Instead, she calmly trusted God’s plan for her must be the best plan.

Mary’s acceptance tells us something about her relationship with God. Her faith was deep enough for her to trust and offer herself willingly. Perhaps it was Mary’s servant-heartedness that caused God to select her as the one “highly favored among women.” It seems appropriate that God chose this obedient servant to be the mother of a child, who would later offer himself in the greatest act of servanthood ever.

The Bible leaves us wondering about Mary’s parents’ reaction to her news, but we can imagine. Perhaps they were skeptical about the authenticity of her story, or even angry and disappointed with her. Mary went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, soon after the angel’s announcement, maybe to allow time for her family to adjust.

Joseph was embarrassed and hurt by Mary’s pregnancy and planned to quietly break their engagement. (Obviously, Joseph loved Mary because it was within his rights, and the customs of the day, to publicly denounce her.) When the angel appeared to Joseph, verifying Mary’s story, he abandoned his plan and also acted in obedience.

Surely, Mary, Joseph, and their families experienced all the conflicting emotions that we do today when faced with a situation that seems out of our control and life-altering. Sometimes God asks us to do things that bring skepticism and criticism from those around us, family included. Often, obedience to God’s will involves some degree of discomfort.

Although Mary found favor with God, and acted in obedience, her life was not without suffering. Upon seeing the infant Jesus in the temple, Simeon predicted a sword would pierce Mary’s soul. Mary was alive during Jesus’ ministry, his arrest, trial, and present when he was crucified. She saw the fulfillment of God’s plan, but she also endured a mother’s anguish as she watched her son die a brutal death.

The true test of our faith and trust comes in our obedience to God. If, like Mary, we willingly offered ourselves, without questions or delay, to God’s purpose and plan for our lives, how much more could God do in and through us?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Luke 1:38 NIV

What We Can Learn From Mary, Obedient Servant – @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Join the conversation: Has God ever asked you to do something that involved great discomfort?

Living in the Cage of Familiarity

by Michelle Lazurek

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” (John 21:1-4).

Staring at the paperwork in my lap, I scribbled my name on the bottom like a zombie. As I continued through the other short sale documents on our home, just one thought ran through my head: how did I get here?

At that moment, it seemed all was lost. My life was spiraling out of control and I had no way to stop it. No matter how hard we had tried to keep the doors of our church plant open, it was no longer financially feasible. Facing the possibility of having no place to live, my husband had taken a new pastor position. This may have seemed like good news to some, but to me, it was not.

I actually felt more like Jesus had betrayed me. For sixteen years I had faithfully served Him, but toward what end?  Possible homelessness and seemingly no help from Him no matter how much I begged and pleaded? I wanted the church plant to continue: not because I thought it was in God’s plan, but because it was what I knew. I couldn’t bear the risk of moving to a new state, attending a new church, and starting over.

I’ll bet the disciples felt this way, too.  The events of recent days were nothing less than spectacular. They saw Jesus beaten, tormented by His enemies, and finally die a criminal’s death on a cross. Then, in an amazing turn of events, He had appeared to them resurrected from the dead. But now, after traveling to Galilee to meet Him as they were told, there had been no sign of Him. And as the days passed, they began to wonder: had something more happened to Him? Or had He forgotten them?

When we’ve stepped out in faith, it can be difficult to feel God’s presence or to see His hand at work. At points we might even feel abandoned. In that disillusionment, it is a temptation to retreat back to the familiar that we left behind. It is easier to live in the cage of the cozy familiar than step out into the boundless space of the unknown.

That’s what the disciples did. Permanently leaving their old livelihood as Jesus had called them to do suddenly felt like a stretch. So they moved away from the looming uncertainty went back to what they knew. Like many of us, the familiar can feel as good as slipping on a comfortable old pair of slippers: much more pleasant than facing the gaping unfamiliarity of the unknown.

But to abandon what God has called us to is to abandon the great blessings He has in store for us. As difficult as circumstances may be, He intends to use them to draw us into a deeper relationship with Him. To learn on a new level how worthy He is of our trust. To experience His goodness in ways we have not yet experienced.

Although I couldn’t see it that day, God did soon reveal plan far greater than my ideas for the future. He provided a new ministry, with a loving church family and a parsonage which not only provided us with a home, but cut our financial costs in half. This gave us room to pay off our mounting debt and purchase the essentials we desperately needed.

We’re never sorry when we trust in the character of God over our present circumstances. Are you reverting back to the familiar in your life because it is easier than stepping out in faith?

Lord, help me to trust you enough to step out into the unknown instead of living in the cage of familiarity.

michelle lazurekAbout the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, national speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she loves to help people encounter God and engage with the world around them. When not writing, you can find her enjoying a Starbucks latte and collecting vintage records. For more info, please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com

Join the conversation: Has God asked you to step out into the unknown?