Just Around the Next Bend

by Pam Farrel

Do all things without grumbling or disputing… Philippians 2:14

As Covid lingers on, I sometimes pause to reflect on the life lessons that God pre-planned for all our lives. It can help us navigate this pandemic that appears to have no end in sight. 

 As youth ministers, we led a bike trip from Northern California, along the ocean to Santa Barbara. The scenery was breath-takingly beautiful, but rigorous: a series of rolling mountains that escalated ever higher and steeper in elevation.  We leaders knew this could be quite physically challenging to most of the students, so we designed shirts to have the week’s motivational motto on the back and shoulders, so the cyclists could see it bold before them on the rider in front of them:  

Nothing’s too tough to make me complain!

That phrase capsulized Paul’s command: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2: 14-15 ESV).

The best way to integrate truth is to live it out. However, while reading a verse is easy, living a verse can be  HARD!

On this arduous bike trip, I was hot, weary, and faint, (but NOT complaining out loud!).  My repeated question to my co-leader spouse was, “How close are we to the finish?”

With optimism, Bill, would reply, “Closer than it was. Perhaps just around the next bend.”  Then we would sing some worship song as we peddled up, up the endless steep grade. Finally, at the mountain peak we paused for a majestic moment, with a bird’s eye view of the ocean stretching out, wrapping us in 180 degree beauty. Sweet victory!

But my most lasting inspiration of this trip was forged by a few of the students. Before one of the narrower bridges, we loaded the bikers on the bus and their bikes in a trailer a truck was pulling. The trailer came unhooked from the truck and banged into the guard rail sending three bikes and a couple suitcases over the rail, down into the Pacific Ocean—never to be seen again!

The amazing attitude of these three teens was stellar! They DID NOT COMPLAIN! Most adults would have caved and whined but not these three brave hearts!  One of the reasons they were able to keep hold of their positive attitude in face of this unexpected loss was all the rest of the youth group swiftly rallied to meet their needs. There were just over 50 teens on this “Nothing’s Too Tough to Make ME Complain” tour—and the vast majority are still walking with Jesus faithfully now forty years later. Today more than 75% of that group hold leadership positions in churches, community groups, mission organizations, pastors, counselors, government officials, and non-profit leaders. We were all transformed by this stalwart commitment to praise instead of pout.

Years later, we began our family, and vowed to raise children who could maintain a sense of strength and courage no matter what life might send their way. We hung a six-foot wooden sign carved into it; “Though shalt not whine”.  If the boys were tempted to moan and whine over chores, mere inconveniences, or minor setbacks, we just pointed to the sign. When real pressures and traumas entered their lives, we would gather as a family to pray Scripture over that son often under that same sign.  We would acknowledge feelings, process them with an attitude of faith, then stand strong on the promises of the Word. The boys took this “Can do” attitude into their futures. Now as leaders of their families and communities, these young men help others cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Begin your own Powerful Praise journal. Note verses that have carried you in the past, turn them into memes, verses to study deeper, and Bible art to help you navigate your future LOOKING AT WHAT YOU can DO, NOT WHAT YOU CAN’T.  I daily remind myself, as I reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past, meditate on His promises, God will be the power to keep peddling forward.

About the author: Pam Farrel is the Co-Director of Love-Wise, author of 50+ books and co-author of the Discovering the Bible Creative Bible Study series. Go to Love-Wise.com to download your free 30 Day Infectious Joy Bible devotional .

Join the conversation: How do you keep from complaining?


Waiting on My Turn to Shine

by Dena Dyer @DenaJDyer

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”  Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

In the spring after we married, my husband Carey and I auditioned for a professional Christian musical production on the life of Christ. The director spoke so highly of both Carey and me after we sang, we felt confident he’d offer us roles.

Indeed, Carey was cast in a leading part–but I was chosen for the large chorus and as an understudy for one of the leading ladies.

Understudy again?
I thought. I am so tired of this! Since high school, it seemed I was always the alternate or the understudy. Though I’m ashamed to admit it now, I became jealous of Carey. I was also envious of the woman cast in the role I had to learn–but not perform.

Sinful much? Sigh. Even though I’d been a Christian since I was seven years old, I still had a long way to go in order to be Christlike. I questioned my appearance, talent, and personality. And I felt sorry for myself. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride

It’s clear now: God wanted more for me than applause and accolades. Throughout my teens and twenties, I set loftier and loftier goals for myself and was never satisfied. Instead of working on things I could control—by reading the Bible, honing my talents, and praying for God to use me as He thought best—I worked against myself. By focusing on accomplishments rather than obedience, I robbed myself of contentment.

Thankfully, God broke me of my perfectionism a few years later. It wasn’t fun, and it didn’t happen overnight. But I’m unspeakably grateful that He didn’t give up on me.

In Philippians 2, Paul encourages the church at Philippi to not complain or argue, and to hold firmly to the word of God. Jesus is known as “the Word made flesh,” and when we hold onto Him, we become blameless and pure–by His grace and mercy and not by our efforts. Then we can be a shining light in a dark world.

Our Heavenly Father is so immeasurably good to us. Like a master craftsman, He hones and perfects our rough edges. His goal is to make us more like Jesus, and He is a patient, loving artist who sees the women we were created to be and isn’t content until we’re fully transformed.

A few years after my temper tantrum over being cast as the understudy, God gave my husband and me the unique opportunity to be one of six lead singers in a Christian-owned professional music theater company in our town. We served with that cast for a total of eleven years, raising our children and getting to tuck them into bed nightly (a rarity in entertainment). The owners of the theater even paid our health insurance.

God is faithful, friends. He knows our desires, and He knows our secret thoughts. And when we align ourselves with His will instead of insisting on our own timetable, He gives us far more than we expect or even deserve.

I want to be a content and grateful woman of God who seeks His face and approval, not the applause of men or the accolades of our culture.

Won’t you join me in praying for God to transform us, so we can shine for Him?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me when I complain or argue about my circumstances. Instead, help me focus on your goodness and grace. Make me more like Jesus so I can shine His light in this dark world. Amen.

Waiting on My Turn to Shine – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Dena Dyer is the author or co-author of ten books for women and hundreds of articles in magazines, newspapers, and websites. She lives in Texas with Carey and their sons Jordan and Jackson. She loves bargain shopping, decorating, and traveling. Find Dena on Instagram and Facebook, or at her website.

Dena and Carey’s book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples (Barbour) will give your marriage encouragement and hope when you find that the once endearing, charming, and distinct qualities that once attracted you to your spouse are now a source of stress and conflict.

Join the conversation: How do you find contentment?

A Matter of Perspective

by Dena Dyer @denajdyer

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.  Philippians 2:14-15 NLT

I wonder if God sometimes feels as if he runs a heavenly complaint department. I, for one, am too quick to question God’s intentions when things go wrong, and am too slow to thank him for a daily multitude of gifts. Maybe you can relate.

I too often complain about the weather, my weight, traffic, my spouse, or my kids—instead of praising him for the rain, food in the pantry, gas in my car, and a loving family. It’s all a matter of perspective, really.

Speaking of perspective, Paul penned the book of Philippians as he sat under house arrest in chains. And yet the book’s theme is joy. His hard-won joy was defiant, born of dedication to a God who had shaken up his life and forgiven his mountain of sins. Paul is one of my heroes, both as a Christian and a writer. His Jesus-centered epistles are a handbook for gospel-centered, powerful life.

Perhaps the world would be more drawn to believers and the message of Jesus’ love if we, like Paul, focused on our blessings and what God has richly given us instead of complaining. What if nonbelievers heard us making the best of bad situations, instead of squabbling about differences in opinion? Perhaps if we daily cultivated gratitude for small gifts and made our thankfulness known, we would draw others to our positivity. In a world of badly behaving celebrities, news organizations that feed on tragedy and controversy, and political mud-slinging, we can be different. We should be different.

One of my dear friends exemplifies this kind of Christianity. He posts positive quotes on Facebook instead of ranting about the wrongs of the world and often sends encouraging cards to people who have influenced him. He sits on several boards of local charities and never hesitates to help folks in need. He even spearheaded an annual community outreach in which members of many different churches perform service projects together all over the city. He exemplifies the servant spirit which Jesus modeled.

Matthew says, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16  NLT). I pray that you and I will do just that.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, the world is such a dark place. I am often frightened and unsure when I look at world events. And my daily life, with all its demands and responsibilities, can be overwhelming. I tend to argue with you about your plan and complain too much about my problems. Please forgive me of those tendencies, and help me to cultivate a more grateful spirit. I thank you that Jesus, who lives in my heart, is my peace, and that you have given me the light of Christ in my heart. Thank you for placing us, your children, on this planet as lights in the darkness. I pray you will give us the courage to shine for you. Amen.

A Matter of Perspective – encouragement from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

dena headshotAbout the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Dena’s book, Grace for the Race, uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled females. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help moms realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!

Join the conversation: How are you keeping a positive spirit these dark days?

Why Suffering for Christ is a Privilege

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“It’s a pri-vi-lege. It really is,” my daughter drawls when our male standard poodle swishes his derrière in front of her to be scratched. Those who’ve met Max know she’s right. It is an honor to be picked to pet his long back.

Did you know the Bible calls suffering for Christ a privilege?

When I joined Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) out of college one questionnaire asked if I was familiar with spiritual warfare. I wasn’t. But I am now.

Every time I write a book or prepare to speak at a conference or retreat I experience battles on many fronts. I find myself wondering if it’s worth it. I’ve joked that if I have to live my message I think I’ll write and speak on gardens in Europe.

That’s why this verse in Philippians stopped me.

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29 NIV).

“Granted—to suffer”? “Granted” makes suffering sound like a gift. Certainly, salvation is a gift, but suffering?

The New Living Translation says it like this:

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”

While I’ve never suffered like those in the persecuted church, the Bible says that just wanting to please God brings battles. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV). So, I find it helpful to reframe how I look at the hardships that inevitably touch the lives of those who want to live godly.

Suffering for Christ is a privilege because

  • Our suffering for Christ can’t compare with what He suffered for us. “And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 NLB). Christ’s anguish sliced much deeper than the physical agony of crucifixion. Jesus became sin. He took the hell we deserved, so we could share His heaven.
  • Suffering for Christ—without grumbling—purifies us to shine for Him. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV).
  • Suffering for Christ allows me to experience Him more deeply. “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10 NASB, emphasis added). On four occasions I’ve had the privilege of worshiping with members of the persecuted church. Let me just say it was deeply moving. These brothers and sisters knew they could die for their faith at any time. Their worship was deep, rich, and real.
  • Suffering for Christ now allows me to share His glory later. “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:17-18 NLT).

Is it worth it to follow Christ when serving Him brings suffering? Yes, suffering for Christ is always a privilege. But there’s even a better reason to persevere through suffering: He’s worth it.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.  1 Peter 2:21 NLT

Is it worth it to follow Christ when serving Him brings suffering? Thoughts from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonBio: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog. debbieWwilson.com

Join the conversation: Have you experienced suffering for Christ?

Shine Like a Star

by Michelle Lazurek

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure “children of God, without fault, in a crooked in a crooked and depraved generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.     Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

Opening up my Facebook page one day, in my news feed, I read:

“Those dummies in government, they should be fired!”

“I can’t believe Kim Kardashian…”

“I had another terrible day…”

I wouldn’t have minded reading these status updates on occasion, but for the second straight week, I had had enough.

“Isn’t there anything good going on in people’s lives?” I asked myself.

Depressed and frustrated, I contemplated closing my Facebook account down permanently. I didn’t need any additional negativity in my life. I hadn’t had the best week, either. It would have been easy to post my own rant for all my friends and family to see. But instead, I chose to redeem the situation rather than quit altogether.

I wrote a post on how proud I was of my kids and husband. And you know what? I found that my attitude about how bad my life had all but disappeared. Moving from self-centeredness to others-centeredness made it almost impossible to wallow in my own misery. As I began to count my blessings, I quickly realized there were more of them than I originally thought.

In the midst of difficult circumstances, we need to go to the Lord with our concerns and complaints rather than to social media. He will remind us of His deep love for us. We will no longer need to go to social media for that fleeting moment of praise or attention. The inward love we have for God will eventually pour out in every thought and subsequent action, including what we write on social media.

Stars can’t shine if they are hidden behind thick clouds or fog. Yet, even one star can reflect light in a darkened sky. As God’s children, we are not immune from trials in our lives. However, how we choose to react to those circumstances can make the difference in whether people see Christ in us or not.

Protect your heart from the sin of anger and resentment by opening your heart to open and honest communication with the Lord. We can choose to shine our light to the world both on social media and in real life by allowing God’s love to overflow out of us and into the lives of others.

michelle lazurekAbout the author: About 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: What kinds of things do you post to keep things positive on Facebook?