through His Word
by Lauren Craft
The stench stung my nostrils. A second later, I saw the source. White smoke was seeping from the hood of my car. I would need to pull over, call for help, and miss dinner with my fellow missionaries.
We’d been training all day to evangelize at the huge multicultural festival happening the following day in a neighboring town. Finally, our training was done and a church was hosting us for dinner. I could always grab food somewhere else, but I would miss out on the encouragement and fellowship.
As I parked and turned the engine off, I took a deep breath. The last time my car had trouble was the weekend of a different multicultural festival a year ago. The enemy’s involvement was unmistakable. He didn’t like what we were doing. That made it even more important that we show up with smiles on our faces.
The next day, I waited for my friend Amy, who had offered to drive me to the festival. Then a new obstacle showed up. My eyes watered and my sinuses grew inflamed. I wanted to go back to bed. But I didn’t have an infection, and I knew the Spirit was urging me to go. I stuffed my pockets with tissues as I waited for Amy to arrive.
I’ve always liked the saying, “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.” When I heard that the first time as a child, I pictured a camel being piled up with pieces of straw, one by one, until the weary animal toppled over. The image still brings a smile to my face.
Yet when my back is being broken—when I can’t endure one more “straw” of discouragement, one more setback, one more spiritual attack—it’s not amusing. Those straws can look like sinus pressure or smoking cars. Or an ungrateful church member or a rejection from an unbeliever. Or problems securing a passport for a mission trip (that’s a story for another day).
Sometimes, setbacks look like signs from God to stop the work. Sometimes that may be the case. In my experience, though, it’s usually my flesh urging me to stop. Or the enemy appealing to my flesh. God doesn’t ask us to start work without seeing it to completion in one way or another.
Nehemiah, the man sent by God to restore the wall around Jerusalem, faced three very persistent enemies. Hoping to lure Nehemiah away from the construction, his foes called for him not once or twice, but five times.
Nehemiah knew they meant him harm and gave a firm no each time. He said on one occasion:
“I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.
Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”
(Nehemiah 6:3 NKJV)
Nehemiah sets an example for us to keep pressing ahead—even if obstacles surface over and over again. Here are a few tips to stand firm like he did:
Pray first: Often, my first inclination is to give up when faced with a big obstacle. The temptation is fierce. Yet it’s important to let our emotions settle and seek the Lord’s answer before making hasty decisions (Proverbs 16:3). Usually, He offers a new solution, a fresh perspective, and a renewed spirit to return to the task at hand.
Take time to rest: Even Jesus needed peace and quiet. Once, when weary and hungry from ministering to the crowds, He told the disciples, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 NKJV). My friend Kari reminds me that rest can actually be productive, especially if we use the time to listen to God’s voice—as Jesus consistently did.
Remember setbacks are normal: If your work for the Lord hits a setback, don’t immediately assume you’re doing something wrong (1 Peter 4:12). It may be that you’re doing something very right. Or, if you’ve truly made a mistake, remember that we all do. Each of us is an imperfect servant learning and growing until the day God takes us home.
Remember rewards are coming: Throughout Scripture, we are told we have rewards coming when our work aligns with God’s will (Ephesians 6:7-8, Matthew 19:29). Some people will overlook your efforts, but they aren’t your real boss (Colossians 3:23). You’re working for the Lord, who will never forget what you’ve done.
Seek help: Recognize when the weight is too heavy. If you have too many “straws” to carry, shake some off before your spirit breaks. Ask another camel (believer) to help (Galatians 6:2). Or ask the Lord to send an encouraging word or thought, or extra provisions.
If a straw threatens to break your back, let God come to your aid. Just as He designed our physical bodies to regenerate from injuries, He can do the same with our weary hearts and spirits. In what ways do you need His renewal today?
© Copyright 2019 by Lauren Craft
Lauren Craft believes God gives each of His children a great purpose, and fulfilling that mission is one of the greatest joys we can experience before reaching our eternal home. Lauren has worked as a journalist for eleven years, aided in Bible translation, and shared her hope in Jesus Christ in the U.S. and abroad. Her writings have appeared in more than a dozen book compilations, including Breaking the Chains and Heart Renovation by Lighthouse Bible Studies. You can connect with her at www.sharpeyeedits.net.
In Sustaining Life’s Spiritual Victories, we’ve shared Scripture, stories, and principles for maintaining those victories that God has helped us to win:
- Victory’s Default Setting by Katy Kauffman – When God’s word becomes a part of who we are, victory more and more becomes our default setting.
- Desire’s Ambush – Aligning our desires to God’s and delighting in Him defeats temptation.
- Loving Brownies a Little Less – What we value the most shapes our choices.
- LIFE as a Strategy for Victory – When Jesus’ life flourishes within us, Satan can’t easily get a foothold in our lives.
- Keep that Pot from Boiling Over by Katherine Pasour – Communicating our expectations in a loving way will help keep our “pot” from boiling over.
- Sustaining the Victory over Negative Thoughts by Katy – Practice these three keys to keep your mind clear of negative thoughts.
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ministry, Satan, spiritual battles, victory, Nehemiah, Refusing to Stop God’s Work, Sustaining Life’s Victories, Lauren Craft, Katy Kauffman, Lighthouse Bible Studies