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Moving Forward Despite Fear

The Concept of the Way to the Cross of Christ

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”—2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV

2 Timothy 1:7 is easy to quote but sometimes difficult to internalize.

Even the most mature Christian has been afraid at one time or another.

Many things perpetuate fear.

Mass shootings

Terrorism

COVID

Change

Lack of Resources

Something happening to a loved one

Dying

The above list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. The list of fears can go on forever.

Recently, fear arose in me. I was presented with a huge opportunity, and I almost said “no” because I was afraid of failure. I prayed and asked God for a clear sign about what I should do. Yep, I needed Him to make it plain. For several days, I toiled about the decision, and God kept reminding me of His word. I made excuses about why I probably should say “no,” but my spirit was troubled because the only issue in my way was fear. The moment I said, “yes,” I was at peace.

Nearly a week after I’d already said “yes,” I listened to a sermon where the pastor addressed fear. He mentioned how we must put aside our fear and “get lost in the purpose of God.” His point was that sometimes things don’t go as we’d desired, so we become afraid to pursue God’s plans for us. (My summary does not do his message justice!) I laughed and cried when I heard this message. It was confirmation that I’d made the right decision.

When I’d asked God for a sign earlier in the week, He led me to His word. That was it. Once I internalized the Scripture and acted congruently with it, I received confirmation through the sermon I heard on Sunday. Here’s the thing: I’m still scared, but I refuse to allow fear to paralyze me. I’m moving forward by faith. I don’t know all the ins and outs of my new path, and I’m trying not to get caught up in what I think or hope it will be. (I’m a planner . . . sometimes to a fault.) Instead, I’m trusting that every step I take has already been ordered with purpose and precision to lead me where God has prepared.

In what ways have you been held back by fear? How can you move forward in faith?

 

“Uprooted” (Working Title) by Frances J. Tibbs

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“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”—Hosea 10:12, ESV

From Yolonda:

I don’t have a green thumb.

It’s not even green-ish.

My hubby bought me a plant decades ago when we were dating as a gift for my new apartment. I gave it to my mom to resuscitate after I nearly killed it.

Several years ago, my daughter bought me a bamboo plant for Mother’s Day. I cherished that plant. Sadly, I recently had to remove it from life support.

Over the years, people have sent me flowers for various occasions. Those flowers only saw a full life because my husband eventually became their caregiver.

Despite my own history with plants, I have gleaned wisdom from someone who finds solace in gardening. Below is a piece written by my friend Frances J. Tibbs from her unpublished collection, Lessons From the Garden.

“Uprooted” (Working Title) by Frances J. Tibbs

When I was weeding an area in my garden, it took a few different tools to get the deep-rooted thistle out. Those roots of that weed had grown deep, and they were not coming out of that soil without a fight.

I walked back into the garage to get a manual tiller, one of those tools that will involuntarily help you build upper body strength. See, I’m increasing my upper body strength, doctor!

Okay . . . back to the soil and the thistle. Like the roots of a pulled tooth, they go deep. Only when twisting the digger, alternating to the right and the left, was I able to dislodge the thistle.

I reflected on the soil, the weeds, and the tools.

After my hard work, the soil became rich and pliable, ready for a plant. The plant would easily thrive. It would get the morning sun. That beautiful plant would not have been able to blossom to its fullest potential if the soil hadn’t been tilled . . . broken up, weeded to be ready for planting.

The soil had been allowed to do what soil does best . . . be the base that holds the new plant, nourishing it from the bottom where the roots are. Good soil allows the roots to spread out and get stronger, producing a beauty that will cause the eye to feast and get full.

How is your soil?

Do the roots of your habits grow strong?

Will they need more tools to help new growth begin?

Did your spiritual muscles get stronger?

Have you become a beauty . . . a feast of the eyes?

Are you positioned in the Son?

Is the light of the Savior shining upon you, nourishing you?

Are you growing upward toward the standard the Father has set forth?

As a result of your weeding, your dirty work, as you were digging deep to get your thick roots of that “besetting sin” out of the soil of your heart, are you planted firmly in the soil of the Savior?

Are you blooming where you’re planted?

Are you propagating? Increasing your territory?

Ready to be put in a bigger garden next year and outgrow that space to one even bigger?

Most importantly, are you opening your heart to the Master Gardener?

Get your gloves on because your hands are going to get dirty!

Yolonda’s Reflections:

Reading this made me ask myself, Are you ready for God to till those places where it may hurt for the soil to be disturbed? We all have those areas in our lives . . . the places that we might prefer remained undisturbed for whatever reason. Maybe we’re not ready for the work involved. Maybe we’re not sure what all will need to be uprooted, and the unknown scares us. Here’s the thing . . . if we are to be like Jesus, He will need to uproot and replant some things within us. So, with a deep breath, closed eyes, and lifted hands, I say, Okay, Lord. Have Your way with me!  

 About Frances J. Tibbs

FRANCES J. TIBBS is a creative educator, mentor, and coach from Columbus, Ohio. Her passion for working with children began when she was in her youth and worked as a babysitter. Frances enjoys advocating for young children and the teachers who provide positive learning experiences for them. She
delights in nurturing children, adults, ideas, and everything green that grows in her garden. She began her journey with the Lord in elementary school and continues to walk out her faith, believing passionately that God will never leave or forsake her (Deuteronomy 31:6). Her greatest blessings in life call her “MoMo.”

Frances is also a contributor to Connecting with Christ: 52 Weekly Devotionals to Nurture Spiritual Growth.

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“When God’s Way Hurts”

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“But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases”—Psalm 115:3, NKJV

“Dear Lord, this is how I would like you to fix the situation.” Then, with the utmost sincerity, I began to offer a solution. I mean, we have not because we ask not, right? So, my request was clear. There was no ambiguity about what I wanted to happen. Things were bad. Really bad. If I would have any peace of mind, this is how God would have to do it.

His response . . . Not!

Not only didn’t He answer the prayer how I wanted, but it didn’t seem like He was answering at all. The situation didn’t get better. It actually got worse! Meanwhile, the enemy whispered in my ear that praying was a waste of time because God wasn’t listening!

I wasn’t the only one praying. I’d called on a few of my most trusted prayer warriors who also blew up the main lines of Heaven to intercede. And still . . . nothing. Well, at least nothing that resembled my overall prayer requests. Like I said, things were going from bad to worse, and the enemy went full speed on my mind and emotions. I was at a spiritual crossroads. One choice led to a journey of disconnecting with God. He wasn’t listening, so why not stop talking to Him altogether or believing that He even cared? The other choice meant that I would need to stop thinking that there was only one solution, trust that He’s got this, and lean into Him like I’d never done previously. Well, I’m writing this devotional, so whaddya think I chose? While I cried, prayed, and prayed and cried, I remembered one simple fact: God is sovereign. I may think that I had the solution based on my limited knowledge, but He saw the big picture. I had to trust Him.

As I write, the situation is still a burning hot mess and not resolved in a manner that I prefer. Yet, I have peace. I still trust Him. Sometimes when I think about things, I get teary-eyed. When my emotions begin to get in the way, I go to the Word and recall my beliefs about the Lord. I cannot base my response to God on my feelings but on my faith.

We all encounter situations that can emotionally and spiritually cripple us. Things can get especially difficult when the answer seems clear to us, but God does something different, or from our perspective, nothing at all. Remember, the enemy’s job is to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). If you give him the power, he’ll sap any faith or hope you have in God and leave you with only thoughts of despair.

When people walk away from the Lord, most times, its’ because of unmet expectations. He didn’t do something, or He allowed something beyond our comprehension. I wish I could make sense of things that God allows. Ultimately, it’s not God’s job to justify His responses to me but my responsibility to trust Him. If you are a Christian, you have that same charge.

We’ll never fully understand God, and sometimes His ways hurt. Job knew this truth more than any of us. If we read through Job’s story, we also see that his end was better than his beginning. Whatever your current situation, it’s not how your story ends. He’ll do what He wants when He wants and not a moment sooner. Meanwhile, you can rejoice in the fact that whatever is happening will ultimately benefit you in the end (Romans 8:28).

 

Check out Connecting with Christ: 52 Weekly Devotionals to Nurture Spiritual Growth

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“God’s Timing”

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“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.”—Ecclesiastes 3:1 

Nike popularized the phrase “Just Do It” when the company adopted it as a motto. Many of us have said those three words a time or twenty when speaking with someone who seemed to procrastinate moving forward on something. When we use the phrase, we’re really saying, “stop making excuses and get busy!”

Procrastination is not a word that people would use to describe me. It’s not even how I would describe myself. Yet, my most recent book project only came about because my hand was “forced.”

For at least a decade, I’d been thinking about putting together a one-year weekly devotional, but I put it off, thinking that I had too many other things on my plate. I wanted this to be a collaborative project, and I wondered how I would gather everyone together for the work. Eventually, I talked myself out of it. Years would pass before I gave it any more serious thought, even though the idea never left my mind.

In 2020, the devotional idea again gained momentum when I aimed to help an organization publish a devotional with its members. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out for several reasons, but the ball was already rolling, so I began creating the devotional as a Yo Productions project. The end result was a final compilation of works that outweighs my best imaginations.

I now wonder if the delays over the years and with the other organization were simply part of the process that propelled me to complete the project at this appointed time. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps” (NIV). When I finally began executing the plan for the devotional, things were delayed a year because of situations outside of my control. What I thought was a delay turned out to be “perfect timing!”

I’m sure that many others have such testimonies of things not happening when you wanted them to but happening at the time they were supposed to. Of course, real procrastinators will use God’s timing as an excuse to not do any prep work at all. As I look back on the years that I “put off” this project, I now see how God was preparing me. I wasn’t aware of such at that time, but now it’s plain as day through the connections I’ve made, things I’ve learned, and resources I’ve acquired to put the plan into action. While we can and should plan, we must also submit our plans to His will and give Him ultimate authority to do as He pleases when He pleases. His timing is always best!

Check out Connecting with Christ: 52 Weekly Devotionals to Nurture Spiritual Growth

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The “S” Word

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Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. — Ephesians 5:22-25

“Is Daddy your boss?” my daughter, eleven at the time, asked me one day when we were in the car.

“No,” I emphasized carefully. “Why do you ask?”

“Because . . . every time I ask you something, you say that you have to talk to Dad first.”

Taking a deep breath, I answered, “Well, honey, that’s because your dad and I are partners. I will not make a decision that affects you, your brother, or our entire household without first consulting him, and vice versa.” I told her that, as husband and wife, her father and I were accountable to each other.  I used the “s” word (i.e., submission) and explained that, though he was the leader of our family (a.k.a. head of household), it was only right for us to talk about decisions first. “Not doing so would be disrespectful,” I added. I was sure my voice was calm . . . at least I think it was. Inside I was fuming. Not because she had done anything wrong. Rather, the question had struck a nerve. I thought, What in the world am I doing to make this child think that David Sanders is my boss!

When we got home, I told my husband about the conversation. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Perhaps, subconsciously, I wanted him to have a talk with her and repeat what I said to add validity to my words that we were both accountable to each other. Whatever my motive was, it backfired. My husband laughed as I was telling him the story, including my thoughts. “Yeah, I’m her boss,” he playfully yelled across the hall. Both he and Tia cracked up. Not funny! I said something sarcastic and, in my mind, I started making plans about how I was going to insert my independence so that everyone knew I was controlled by no one.

For several hours, I thought about things I would do without “asking” to prove my point. It wasn’t until I was getting ready for bed that I felt the Lord convicting me of my attitude. He showed me that I was dealing with pride. Everything I told Tia was true. My husband and I do consult each other when it comes to decisions, but why did I feel the need to explain it so craftily? My words themselves were not incorrect. It was the spirit in which I said them. My motive wasn’t to teach her about healthy communication between a husband and wife. It was to make sure she clearly understood that submission wasn’t one-sided because I didn’t want her thinking I was a punk and that her daddy was my boss!

I was forced to admit that my I-am-woman-hear-me-roar attitude was foul. Not only did I admit this to myself, but also to my daughter and husband. For months (maybe even years) after that, Tia would tease me. She’d say things like, “Mom, what are we having for dinner? Oh, wait, you gotta ask Dad first.” I would laugh and call her a brat. Years later, I asked her if she thought her father and I set a positive example of marriage. She said “yes,” and stated one of her reasons was because we talked about things. I smiled.

Now, this isn’t to say that David Sanders and I have the perfect marriage. Um, not! We have both acted foolishly in the past. Like the Bengals in the last playoff game against the Steelers, we fumbled the ball big time. We continue to grow in our knowledge of the Word, our relationship with God, and in our relationship with each other. The key was not necessarily me submitting to my husband’s leadership. Rather, it was my submission to God. In fact, it’s the key for both my husband and me. Neither husband nor wife will be able to walk out the Scriptures in Ephesians if they don’t first submit to the Lord. It’s only then that submission doesn’t seem like a bad word.

Weigh in. What are some reasons why you may struggle with submission? (Note: Feel free to share about submitting in areas other than in marriage (e.g., at work).

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