Overcoming Distraction and Fear in Leadership

In August 2015 I faced a real challenge to my faith. I wasn’t seeing the evidence of God’s hand in a certain area of my life, and with this lack came discouragement and apathy. I remember a few days when I didn’t even want to pick up my bible. The doubts were just too overwhelming and avoidance seemed like a better option. But finally I mustered up the motivation to open His Word and simply read. No prayer time. No journaling. If you’ve been there, you understand. But God met me there, faithful as always.

Since our teaching pastor Andy Savage had been preaching from the book of Nehemiah all summer, I started there. God used this sermon series as a significant source of encouragement and wisdom for me on things ranging from vision and leadership to prayer and perseverance. Nehemiah had nerves of steel and a heart of gold. These two traits married is a rare and beautiful treasure.

Nehemiah was called to lead God’s people in rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, but he faced an intense amount of opposition doing it.  This opposition is apparent throughout most of the book, but what impacted me most that morning in August was the sixth chapter. Just before this chapter, Nehemiah and his countrymen had all but completed the wall; the only thing left to do was set the doors in the gates. Just as they began to see an end in sight, they were approached by three foreign enemies. Four times they sent Nehemiah a message urging him to meet them in one of the villages. They were trying their best to get Nehemiah off task, to distract him from completing his God-given mission. With each attempt to distract, Nehemiah refused to be shaken. He was steadfast in his conviction that the work he was doing couldn’t be interrupted.  As I read this, almost immediately I thought, “Is the enemy succeeding in distracting me from God’s purpose in my life? Or am I steadfast like Nehemiah?” The answer was painfully clear.

After four failed attempts at distraction, the enemies’ second tactic was to provoke fear. They sent Nehemiah a letter falsely accusing him of plotting a revolt and trying to become king. If these accusations weren’t enough, they topped it off with a threat: if Nehemiah didn’t grant their request to meet, they would tell the king of Nehemiah’s supposed rebellion.

We know from Jewish history that if Nehemiah was caught in rebellion against the king, he would immediately be killed. So this was no small threat; Nehemiah’s life was on the line. This false accusation and the threat that followed could cost Nehemiah everything. At this point, I’d be more than tempted to take a short break and go meet with these guys. What would a day’s delay hurt, anyway? Not Nehemiah. His two immediate responses brought him and God’s people victory.

First, Nehemiah refuted the lie with the truth: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head” (Nehemiah 6:8).  He didn’t analyze their message and begin to doubt. He simply believed, spoke, and behaved according to the truth. In what area of your life are you feeling fearful? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what lie you are believing and replace it with God’s Word.

Second, Nehemiah prayed. Short and sweet: “Now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9). In the face of fear and discouragement, we need God to give us a supernatural endurance to press on. Ask God to fortify you for the work to which He has called you.

I hope you’ve found Nehemiah’s response as inspiring as I did during a discouraging season. Is there currently an area in your life in which you need God to help you overcome fear and strengthen your hands?

One Thought for an Age-Old Question

Today I’ll give one thought for an age-old question: Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? This is definitely not the only answer, but it is possibly one of many.

A few weeks ago a girlfriend and I got together over coffee. This was a real treat; between both of us we have a handful of toddlers/preschoolers, so uninterrupted time is hard to come by. I’m sure you stay-at-home moms can relate. You may even be hiding in a bathroom right now trying to catch a five-minute breather from the little crazy people that have taken over your home, who knows?

But I digress.

Anyway, most of our time was spent catching up on life, but something that she said as we were leaving struck me. While discussing some of the more painful times in her life, she made this statement: “Before I faced the wave of hardship, I thought I knew God. I thought I had faith, thought I believed Him. But my trials showed me that I really didn’t know Him at all. I knew of Him, but my trials brought me to a place of seeing Him for who He truly is.”

Wow. To see Him. Immediately my mind went to the verse that Job spoke to God after his affliction. Let’s first recap what happened to Job: all of his livestock were either stolen or destroyed by fire, all of his children were killed at the same time in a storm, he was covered with painful sores from head to toe, his own wife and closest friends turned on him, and the people in his community mocked him relentlessly.

Work. Family. Health. Relationships. Reputation. All attacked and destroyed. If you’ve been there with any one of these areas, you know the pain and trauma that can result.  Maybe you, like Job, have even experienced all or several of them at once. What could God possibly hope to accomplish through this?

I believe, for Job, the answer lies in Job 42:5. This is the statement Job made at the end of the book after all of his distress: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

Job was a righteous man. He sought to honor God in every decision. He wasn’t being punished for disobedience or sin. But God longed for Job to have more: to see Him.

If you can relate to Job and know what it’s like for hardship to bring a newfound intimacy with God, then you are confident that these trials are the greatest gift He could ever give. To see Him, to experience Him, is better than any earthly possession.

For those that are currently facing what may feel like excruciating circumstances, may I encourage you with this? First, God knows how to rescue godly men from trials (2 Peter 2:9), and He will do it in His perfect time. Nothing is too difficult for Him. Second, just like He did in Job’s life, God sometimes allows hardship for our good so that we may know Him, not just know of Him (Hebrews 12:10, 14).

How has hardship brought you to a place of knowing God more intimately? I’d love to hear your experiences.




Thoughts Following the Paris Attacks

Yesterday morning I didn’t post my usual weekly blog- I just had an unsettled feeling about it. Something in particular has weighed heavy on my mind since the Paris terrorist attacks. My fear in sharing it is that I could forever be thrust into the “crazy” category; however, if what I share could somehow make even one small contribution to strengthening us in the face of this extraordinary evil, it is worth it.

This “one thing” is a dream that I had back in February of this year. Before you throw up a red flag and begin to discount what I’m about to write, please know that I’m probably just as skeptical as you are when people say they have dreams, visions, or prophetic words to share. There is so much hype in the charismatic movement that it’s easy to throw the baby out with the bath water. But it is scriptural that in the last days the Lord will give dreams and visions (Acts 2:17), so although it’s healthy to be cautious, we can’t discount these things altogether.

I am going to share the dream, not because I know or believe that these things will take place specifically, but because I believe God may use it to show us something on a broader scale.

In my dream, I was on an airplane flying to an unknown location. The plane had to emergency land, and the pilot wouldn’t tell us why until the very last minute. He also continuously tried to divert our attention from what was going on by asking us to look out our side windows at an old lady building a fence. As he was talking about this over the intercom, the Statue of Liberty appeared in front of the plane and suddenly blew up into millions of tiny pieces. As the shrapnel came towards the airplane’s windshield, everyone ducked down tightly in their seats. Nothing from the explosion was able to penetrate the plane’s windows, but there was a sense of panic and fear among the passengers. As I was hunched down, I began to sing these lyrics from Israel Houghton’s song, “We Worship You”:

“Lord You are good and Your mercy endureth forever.
Lord You are good and Your mercy endureth forever.

People from every nation and tongue
From generation to generation

We worship You, hallelujah! Hallelujah!
We worship You for who You are
You are good!”

Here is what I make of the dream: I believe the pilot represents the leaders of our nation; as the pilot tried to distract the passengers by drawing their attention to division (the fence), there is an attempt on our leaders’ behalf to deceive and distract us from a very dangerous reality.

I believe that the Statue of Liberty represents our freedom, a freedom that is under attack. This attack will create fear, just like it did in the dream as all of the terrified passengers ducked down in their seats.

Just as the distress and ultimate protection of the passengers led to praise and worship for the one true God, I pray and firmly believe that God will use any and all plans for evil against us to bring revival and spiritual awakening to our nation.

This is my burden for the American Church: We are in a spiritual stupor. Our comfort has drugged us into oblivion, and I’m as guilty as the rest. In 100 years, it’s not going to matter what name-brand clothes we or our children wore, the house we lived in, the car we drove, or who we hung out with on Saturday night. What will matter is that we lived fully “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

 “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:13)

“Blessed is the nation whose God is Yahweh—the people He has chosen to be His own possession.” (Psalm 33:12)

Fortunately we know how this all will end- people from every nation and tongue will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.