L E A R N I N G
E N C O U R A G E
G O D
Lessons of Learning
GREGORY T. GAUMOND
Great Commission Illustrated
4208 Stanbridge Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90808-1649
Learning to Encourage God
Copyright © 1997 by Greg Gaumond &
Great Commission Illustrated
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be duplicated, copied, translated, reproduced or stored mechanically or electronically without specific, written permission of the authors and publisher.
Published by Great Commission Illustrated
Printed in the United States of America
First Publication, January 1998
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Scripture references marked NAS are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright The Lockman Foundation 1977. Used by permission.
God This Hurts
God Make Me Teachable
Are There Answers?
Applying Some Learned Lessons
God, I Am Hungry to Change!
Gratitude Fills Us Spiritually
Lord, Teach Me to Encourage
God, I Will Praise You Forever!
Learning to Encourage God is a book that will be a blessing and benefit to everyone who reads it. The title alone is catchy and may arouse the interest of many who consider themselves to be religious. However, reading through the pages and learning about the author will bring you on a journey to the heart of God through the eyes of a man which few, if any, would desire to trade places with.
I have known Greg for a number of years, and as the time progresses I find myself more than ever in awe of him and his wife, Carol. It is relatively easy for us to thank God when we see ourselves as being blessed with good things, a better job, a new house, etc. Many times I have thanked God for the life I have and the health he has given me. The question always looms however, would I be as grateful to God if I wasn't the recipient of such coveted treasures.
Greg, on the other hand, can answer that question with confidence. While I thank God for the good health that has been my blessing, Greg thanks God for blessing him with illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis and chronic fatigue. Through his challenges, Greg has learned an important lesson that we all, as Christians, must learn. That is, we all have a need for God.
Often when we have what we want, we become self-reliant and do not see a need for God in our lives. But when we are faced with situations that prove we are not in control, we have no choice but to turn our hearts, not in bitterness, but in love, to God for help that only he can provide. It is in God that we will find a love, a strength, a peace and a joy that all too many believe to be impossible. This is the journey that Greg has taken. Open your heart with his and enjoy the ride.
It is not uncommon for Greg to call just to encourage me. I must tell you there is little I find more humbling than to get a call from someone with the physical battles that Greg deals with daily only to find that he concerned about how my life is going.
To read this book is to get to know Greg Gaumond, a man who has given his heart, his hopes and his life to his God with a confidence and assurance that there is not better way. He has truly learned to encourage God and all of us as well.
Let me introduce myself. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. Titles, positions, name or background have nothing to do with who I claim to be. It is Jesusí cross, death, burial and resurrection which make me what I am today. Not one thing Iíve done, said or thought, heard, seen or experienced can convince me that this is not totally and absolutely the truth!
I started the introduction this way because it is imperative to know the glory must go to God with each step I take in my lifeís journey. God is God. I am not. He is not going to make me God. So I will not try and compete. God is God and that is that!
A few things about my life I would like you to know from the start. Iíve been diagnosed with (probable) Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Chronic Pain Syndrome. I guess Iím a syndrome of some type!
I live with a lot of pain, fatigue and weakness constantly. Blurred vision hits me some of the time. Legs just decide sometimes to not work without warning, burning, throbbing and tingling continually. Some days, when the symptoms are especially bad, my brain doesnít work real well either. However, Iím not sure if that is getting older or the illness! I have had comprehensive psychological testing and the results have been that I donít have any indication of psychological problems except that I let the stress of the disease get to me and cause me to get somewhat depressed at times. The one idea that resonates in my heart and mind through all of this is "God is in control." I am ever so grateful to God for His vigilance and patience and love.
I love to spend a lot of time in prayer and studying the bible. I enjoy fishing, hunting, singing, poetry, writing, playing my keyboard and writing music. I am married with three children and am a very blessed and fortunate man. I have a wife who is a gift from God and my very best friend on this earth. Her patience and love have had a tremendous impact on my life. My children are such a joy and they keep me young!
WHERE DID THIS BOOK TITLE COME FROM?
I am sure that some of you have looked at the title of this book and said I really donít understand how to encourage God nor do I feel like I can. Why should I when God has allowed me to get so sick. He is not encouraging to me! Well, I can understand that line of thinking. There were days, I sadly admit, I certainly did not want to encourage God because I didnít feel encouraged by him. There is another aspect to this, which I hope will help people understand what I mean about encouraging God. God constantly encourages us through answered prayers, his promises in the Bible, his glory all around us in nature. Another area is just a simple word, which has so much impact on our life. LOVE! Godís love transferred to us and our ability to love those around us. These are all areas with which God encourages us. To Learn to Encourage God, we must live our lives according to his will and his example, which he set before us with the life of Jesus. God can definitely be encouraged! When we are living our lives as disciples of Jesus, when we are sharing our faith, staying in the battle, overcoming sin and rebellion in our hearts, definitely is encouraging to God. There will be many examples used in the next chapters to show this clearly. So I ask that you not turn away from this idea but rather embrace it because it is truly biblical and right.
WHY THIS BOOK?
I used to be a weight lifter and very athletic. Not any more! I was strong and vibrant until I got sick. I was working as the sales and marketing manager of a multi million dollar a year corporation. Not anymore. I truly felt like God had let me down! So why would I start writing a book with this title?
Iíve told you I didnít feel very encouraged by God when I first became very ill. I was in denial, self-pity, angry at God and life. I was afraid and as a result, I started to become very faithless. I was losing my trust for God and in his plan for my life. God had made a mistake! So I thought!
With the love and patience of God, help from Bill Sullivan of Boston, a deacon and dear friend Tom Jones of Boston, an elder and leader and friend over long distance calls to Boston, Ron and Renee Quint when they where in Milwaukee, now from Los Angeles, James and Wendy Hamann of Milwaukee and of course my beautiful wife, my life started to turn around spiritually.
First I had to become accepting of my life as it was and that God had great plans for my life to bring him glory. I was encouraged! Then I had to once again become solid and certain in my faith. I was more encouraged! I needed to become determined to win with God. I was getting excited about my life! I then started to become grateful to God for my life as it was. I was turning the corner of encouragement and faith! Finally I needed to become out of this world focused to be willing and able to help others, with Godís help and love to overcome their struggles. It didnít matter if their struggles were physical, mental, spiritual, or just life in general. I was fired up!
When I realized, much to my shame, how much God had done in my life to be an encouragement to me, I realized how God had blessed me beyond my greatest dreams! When I understood, that despite my health, despite our drastic drop in income, despite the radical changes in what I used to be like compared to what Iíve become, God could and would use me. I had to, without an ounce of question, repent. It was overwhelmingly conclusive that God could, would and is using me for his glory, despite my sinful heart, prideful anger, hurtful words and actions. Godís love had triumphed in my life!
In prayer, I realized, that God was so encouraging to me and I was not encouraging to him. Needless to say I was ashamed of this fact but am forgiven.
All these things brought me to the title of this book. It took approximately 2 years for this process to happen! I made a heartfelt and deeply personal decision and promise to God. Never again would I go down that road. I was determined to show my gratitude to God by striving to live my life in such a way that GOD WOULD BE ENCOURAGED!
Now I live my life as best I can, trusting God completely with my future. By his mercy, grace and by faith, I can now begin to Learn to Encourage God.
I pray this book will inspire others to take the pathway God has laid out for them no matter where it takes them. Most of all I pray fervently that it will inspire them to live their lives in such a way that they Learn TO ENCOURAGE GOD by it!
Many books flow from chapter to chapter and paint a picture of completeness. This book is not going to do that, instead this book will be a short compilation of the tools necessary to begin the journey of learning to encourage God.
God bless you and lift up your spirits.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1997
God This Hurts
Have you ever smashed your thumb with a hammer or rammed your shin into the edge of a table? Do you remember your brain trying to make sense of the intense pain and finally, a few nano-seconds, later you hurt so bad that you didnít know how to react? What about when you get a headache and it starts small and after a short while you feel like there is a drum and bugle corps marching in your head? I donít know about you but when I have that intense level of pain, I can not function very well.
Before I became a Christian, my reaction was not even close to a godly one! I would not deal with anything without a temper flaring, getting grumpy or acting like I was the only one in the world that mattered at that moment. I was selfish and into myself completely.
THE BOTTOM FELL OUT
When I started to become really sick, I had to resign my position with the company I was sales and marketing manager for because I was not able to continue working due to the pain and fatigue. Just prior to that I had to cut way back on the activities I was involved with including leading a bible study group for the same reasons. My life was just getting going on the right track when all this started!
I was married to a strong, God fearing, God loving, Christian woman! We had recently had our first child, a girl named Kathleen, I was doing well as a Christian, well in my job, started to feel truly alive and wham; I became sick. Now our life was starting to totally change rapidly. We didnít know why, nor did we know what to do! What was going to happen to me physically? How much worse was I going to get? What were we going to do financially since we would be losing my income? How would Carol be able to pick up more of the pieces with her schedule? How would I deal with this spiritually? Would I give up or fight? All these questions were whirling around in my head and heart. It almost seemed like life as I knew it and as I expected it to be was gone forever! How would or could God use a sick man and his family to bring the Lord God Almighty glory? The more questions that popped up in my mind, the more questions would follow and there didnít seem to be a lot of answers! However, there still was a small part of me that cried out deep in my heart; "God is a God of love, not vengeance, fight through this with him, He loves you and your wife and children, He will not abandon you." This was where the rubber needed to meet the road spiritually. The question was: am I able to surrender this completely to God?
TIME TO PRAY
I remember praying, crying out to God, "GOD THIS HURTS". For the first time in my life, despite having faced many different crisis prior to this, I did not have a clue why this was happening. Anger started to build up inside. There were mood swings, depression, a feeling of being totally and completely lost! The only thing I had to hang on to was that I knew God had a reason and was in control. I just couldnít understand. I admit right now I was angry at God! It felt like I had sinned in such a way that this was Godís way of getting my attention! I even prayed; "God what do I need to repent of so you will take this away?"
I prayed hard and long. I cried tears of frustration. Together with my wife, we prayed and cried out to God. There was a huge problem though. My pride was blinding me to what I knew in my heart of hearts I had to do. My pride was getting so thick, I even started to have a hard time praying. All I could think of was how bad things were getting and how much worse they could and most likely would get. The pity party was getting going and spiritually I was starting to get in trouble. This scared me a ton. I knew I had to make the right decision. That was the decision to follow Godís way, not mine.
The thing that seems funny now even though it wasnít funny then; I knew the answer but didnít know where or how to begin to do it. I knew I had to surrender this whole thing to God completely. It just didn't seem possible! I was still crying out to God, "God this hurts". I felt like Job, complaining, complaining, complaining. I just didnít want to get the answer Job received (Job Chapter 38) from God! My life had enough to deal with. I didnít want God to be angry with me.
GOD I NEED YOU
We finally sought help from our evangelist and his wife, Ron and Renee Quint. They told us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and surrender to God all that was happening. They were very loving and gentle when they gave us this direction!
He read to us a passage from the bible that we knew but now took on a new meaning!
" Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us, as you help us by you prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many."
2 Corinthians 1:3-11
To say that my heart was getting convicted would be a terrible understatement!
Something in my heart almost sighed a sigh of relief after hearing this scripture. For the first time in several months there was a glimmer of hope, a new taste of Godís true love, so sweet and real that my pride was glaring me in the face. Time to repent and change.
GODíS MERCY BRINGS PEACE
Ron gave us the names of Bill Sullivan and Tom Jones of Boston. Both these men have Multiple Sclerosis. He told us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and fight through this so that Godís glory will shine. We will always be ever so grateful to Ron and Renee Quint for their love, patience, wisdom and the kick in the pants I truly needed! Thank you Ron and Renee!
I called Bill Sullivan and much to my surprise he told me "to camp out" in the same scripture passage Ron had read. Bill challenged me to study it until I understood it and believed it. I was still telling God "God it hurts" but it didnít hurt as much. My wife Carol and I had a new sense of direction and hope. The encouragement was starting. I still had no idea about this book nor even considered that I could "Learn to encourage God." What Carol and I had was a new sense of peace starting in our hearts. We also had a solid understanding that if we did not surrender what was happening to our lives to God; our troubles would swallow us alive; derail our faith and our lives even more than we could imagine.
There was another scripture passage that tremendously helped me focus on the truth and increased my faith, which increased my peace.
"Humble yourselves, therefore under Godís mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
1 Peter 5:6-7
After reading this passage over and over again the depth of understanding started to grow even more. God would lift us up in his time not ours. Who was I to question God? How deep was my pride that I would let fears and anxieties override the promises of God? Answers were very clear!
I was not trusting God and my pride was very deep. This was the real beginning of my repentance and the real start to having a heartfelt peace.
Hang on because the ride is just beginning! Weíre just getting a glimmer of the comfort of God. The fun is just beginning!
Have you ever felt these feelings or dealt with these challenges?
How did you deal with them?
Have you ever studied 2 Corinthians 3-11 thoroughly?
This is the first step in trusting God, in surrendering to God, in giving up control to God, in getting some peace back, no matter what the situation in your life is at this moment or in the future!
Are you willing to try to let God be God completely in your life?
If not, why not?
There is a way to Learn to Encourage God. It is not necessarily easy but it is most definitely rewarding and worth it!
I can honestly say that even though the pain hurts, I am not telling God "this hurts" anymore because I can feel His hand upon us working in our lives. Anyone can come to this point if we are just willing to surrender all that we are to God. God loves us and does not want us to focus on our pain, but on His love.
God Make Me Teachable
When pride is mixed with arrogance and self-reliance, it spells unteachable! The bible is full of passages that speak to this very point.
"Listen to my instruction and be wise; Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching at my doors, waiting at my doorway.
For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor for the Lord."
"rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."
There are so many passages that directly go to the heart of the issue of being teachable. So many in fact that it would take writing the quotes of a large segment of the bible. Why rewrite the Bible?
Does this ever happen to you? "I know what I am supposed to do, I know the scripture passages to study, but I just donít want to look at them now, Iíd rather wallow in my self pity and pride?" We may not say these exact words or even consciously think them but the actions of our life say them loud and clear for us. When pride gets in the way of Godís truth and grace, we are truly blinded and definitely unteachable until the pride walls are torn down. I can make this statement without any hesitation because I have lived it and have seen countless others do the same thing.
It is clearly human nature to be prideful and stubborn and as a result, unteachable.
The word of God is full of these types of warnings because it is our sinful nature to be like this. Since God knows this so clearly, do any of us think we can change this character issue on our own? Iíve tried and I attest to the fact that it was a complete and utter failure. In fact the exact opposite occurred. I became even more prideful, and more unteachable. Reread the passages from Proverbs mentioned above. Are they true? Do they hit home deep in your heart of hearts? Do you want to change so you can obey these passages? I asked these questions of myself and it really hit home. I knew only God could change this crusty, leathery, hard heart of mine. I had to find a way to surrender so I would be open and teachable. Where do I begin?
OPEN WIDE MY HEART
Have you ever had someone knocking at your door and you peek out the curtain just enough to see who it is? If it is a salesperson or someone else you donít want to see or talk to, you leave them there at the door knocking hoping they will go away? I have many times! There was one time in particular that I remember very well. I was in deep financial trouble because of many poor and sinful purchases. I was trying to live beyond my means. One day a man came to my door and I opened it up. He turned out to be a collector for one of the companyís I owed money to. I told him I was doing the best I could and they would receive their money in due course of time. A few weeks later, since they had not received any money, this same man came back to my door, when I saw him through the peep hole in the door I refused to answer it. Why? I was embarrassed, broke, and a coward! My sinful spending had gotten me into this mess and I wasnít willing to face it and open the door. I eventually was forced to go bankrupt. It was a very hard time for me and I felt crushed. I had to give up my truck, and other things. Needless to say it ruined my credit for many years. I repented and God has blessed me.
What does this have to do with anything Iím talking about? Well, letís ask another question. Has God ever been knocking at the door of your heart because of your sin, trying to get you to face the sin in your life and all you do is peek out the corner of a curtain in your heart; refusing to open it to him and work out the situation with him? I cannot even remember the number of times I have done this exact thing to God. Why? Because of my pride, embarrassment and shame! Because of my sin!
Yet God would not start legal proceedings against me. He would want me to repent and do what was necessary to work it through with Him. If only I would open my heart wide to him and let him into my life to change me! I need to trust Godís promises so that I wonít shut the door or keep it closed on God. If we are open to God then his promises come true. Consider Romans 8:28:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
If I close my heart to God, this promise cannot come true! If I open my heart to God, Godís wonderful promises come true. Just because we are open hearted with God does not mean we will have our problems or situations changed immediately or the way we want them to. The Bible tells us that God sets the time and place for everything! He is in control, not us. The promises of the Bible are Godís covenants to his disciples. Those who are saved, disciples of Jesus Christ can trust this completely!
They are his gifts to us when we are open hearted and faithful to him. It would be against Godís character to be any other way. Godís character truly validates Godís promises. Why? God is all truth, pure truth and nothing less. To believe anything else would be me turning my back on God. When we are open hearted to God and are obeying him we don Ďt need an explanation for why God does what he does. We just trust. When we are closed off from God we donít trust him. I donít see any place in the Book of Job where God explains to Job why he was allowed to go through his trials!
PRAYER CAN OPEN THE HEART
We must pray to be open hearted with God. We must pray from the depths of our hearts, without doubt, without hesitation. These prayers he will answer very quickly if we truly believe. I have many examples in my life where Iíve gone both ways.
Doing it Godís way is so much easier! One time I remember waking up and being unusually sick that morning. I could hardly get out of bed. I had to go down the steps on my seat, call to my wife to bring me my canes and help me into the bathroom.
I was very discouraged. I cried out why God? In my anger and hurt I shut myself off from God for a short time and I had no joy, no peace, no openness, and certainly was no fun to be around!
My wife Carol said; "Honey are you in one of your mood swings?" She served me and loved me just as I was. It became painful to even look at her because I clearly saw my sin. I prayed, repented and apologized to my wife and children. My joy started to come back and my heart once again became open to God. Whether I am open or not, would not necessarily change my health, my heart however still could be changed. Funny thing about God. He does not change his plans to fit my moods. God does not change his plans, whether I am open hearted or closed off. God is always in control. I must make the decision to be open to God and be teachable or not to be. God is going to continue with his plans, with or without me. It really all depends on where my eyes are fixed whether I am open and teachable or not.
GOD HELP ME FIX MY EYES ON YOU
Jesus had his eyes fixed on God His Father. We must follow his example.
Jesusí life is full of examples of how he fixed his eyes on the Father. Look at Jesus going to the cross. It is truly inconceivable that Jesus could have gone through with his incredible sacrifice on the cross if they were not fixed on his Father in Heaven.
"for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
The joy set before Jesus was Heaven and our salvationís path. We must follow this example with our lives. We must fix our eyes on what God has planned for us, not what we think should be the pathway of our lives!
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:18
When I am very sick and I have my eyes on myself and the circumstances of my health and not fixed on God I am not being an encouragement to God at all. I become whinny, selfish, prideful and just down right ungodly. We all must become open hearted and teachable in order to go forward with our lives and be joyful
Do we dare attempt this?
Do we dare become so vulnerable before God and each other?
Do we dare to learn to encourage God by being totally teachable? We must if we are to grow spiritually.
What areas of your pride or self-reliance stop you from being teachable by God?
Are you willing to get the advice and be open hearted enough to see these areas of your heart change?
Write out the areas of your relationship with God that your eyes are fixed on you and not on Godís plan for you life?
What steps are you going to take to change these areas?
Compare the areas of your relationship with God that you have surrendered and are joyful about; with those that you are closed off from God and are not joyfully surrendered no matter what circumstances you are in!
How will you change these areas that are not joyfully surrendered to God?
Will you Learn to Encourage God with deep, heartfelt, surrendered changes through repentance and love?
Will you study the Bible to understand?
Time to move on!
Are There Answers?
I remember a silly joke from when I was a young boy. Yes, I was very young, once upon a time! The joke went like this: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Answer: To get to the other side! I know it is a bit silly and it really doesnít have a lot of meaning. Or does it? A question was asked and an answer was given. The answer tells a ton about nature. To get to the other side. How many times in life do we just do something to get through it? To get to the other side of our troubles? There are many times in my life I did things to just try and survive. There was no plan of action. My reactions to the events in my life didnít have a shred of thought behind them to speak of. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the moment. Later on after the action was taken I asked myself, "What were you thinking?" Are you out of your mind? If only I had taken a few minutes to think things through, I would have done it differently. Sometimes I think if my head were not attached to my shoulders I would just lose it.
How could I have been so foolish? The myriad of questions just keeps on going like the Waters of the Mississippi River. Somewhere along the line I just need to stop the questions or I will drive myself crazy! I seem to give up on the answers and just continue to muddle through my daily life. I just wanted to get to the other side of the road. Have you ever felt stuck like this before?
There was a time in a different marriage before I became a disciple that I remember clearly. My wife had stated to someone that she was going to leave me but not until my mother had passed away. My mother was dying of ovarian cancer. I heard this and then my mother died. I was filled with the grief of momís death and the impending divorce from my wife! My life was falling apart at the seams. It took all the calm and courage just to make it through day to day. Mom died in May and in June my wife gave me my walking papers. The reasons for the divorce are not important but the heart and the hurt were very real. I was like that chicken, I just wanted to get to the other side and have it over with. I believed I was a Christian and thought I was relying on God but it was way far from reality. I prayed " God, is there an answer to this mess in my life? I was in an emotional fog. I was getting eaten alive by the events of my life and my faith, (what little there was at the time) was shaken and broken in many parts.
Desperation set in and I was lost.
"To you I call, O Lord my Rock: do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy, as I call to you for help, as I lift my hands toward your Most Holy Place."
Psalm 28: 1-2
This is how I felt. Broken, with no where else to turn! When my wife and I separated and I moved into an apartment. I was sad, hurt, angry, lonely, confused, and questioning what would it take to turn my life around.
In the apartment bedroom there was a spot I could stretch out, face first and cry out to God. I knew that my outward appearance was one of complete success and I faked being happy. Inside I was a tormented, hurting man. The night I moved into my new apartment I went before God with my face to the ground and cried out with real tears of sorrow and desperation. I remembered this Psalm but couldnít find it in my Bible. I prayed this passage the best I could remember. I remember telling God I was a beaten man. For a proud Irishman by birth it was no easy task to admit this. God knew it and I knew it. The difference was I couldnít change it and he could! I prayed "God lead me to your church. One that lived the Word of God and didnít just teach it. One that would be like the first century church and truly care about what someone was going through, even a very troubled time in his or her life.
There was a peace I hadnít ever known before after that prayer and slept well that night. The next morning I met a man named Blaine Gibson who shared with me about the church he attended and how it had truly turned his life around. He invited me and I said I would be there. Later on during the course of my business day I was reached out to by three other men at three different times to come to the same church!
It didnít take a rocket scientist to figure out that God had heard my prayer the night before. I said something to the effect of, "God I donít need a two by four over my head to get your point. Iíll be there."
Much to my surprise it was an experience of fellowship and caring I hadnít ever experienced before. My first though was "what do these people want? "No one is this happy and glad to see a stranger at their church." Then came the sermon! I was totally blown away. I had never heard such powerful and down to earth preaching in my entire life.
After service Blaine introduced me to many different people and their love was really apparent. For some strange reason it really scared me. I never would have expected it. They were asking questions about my life and were genuinely concerned.
For some reason (most likely guilt and having been convicted to the hilt) I just wanted to get out of there, fast! I went the next two Sundays and people remembered my name, and really showed a tremendous amount of love. I knew I had found what I was looking for. I didnít know however what I was in for!!
After three weeks of going to church I started to study the bible with them. They showed me things I never had seen before. I thought; "they canít be right, they are out of their minds. I went home after the first study and tried to prove them wrong by studying the Bible and finding passages that would disprove them. I couldn't. Instead, the more I studied the more I found they were speaking the truth.
GETTING THE REAL PICTURE
Kevin Mains, the evangelist for the church challenged me to the max. It hurt yet at the same time was refreshing. The more I was challenged the more I wanted. God had answered my prayer! I finally found a church that really lived out to the best of their ability the Gospels. Six days after starting to study I was baptized for the forgiveness of my sins. My old life was gone in Godís eyes. My new life was just beginning. I had the whole Bible to back up why and what I believed! The Bible passage that really made me believe was Mark 16:15-16: He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." The other passage that spelled out a purpose and the path to salvation was Matthew 28:18-20.
"All authority has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."
It felt so good to be broken. It was a wonderment to me that God would be so merciful to forgive a man like me and take me in His arms. I know he did because ever since that day my life has only gotten better. Despite the M.S., the Chronic Fatigue, the Chronic Pain syndrome and all that went with it, MY LIFE WAS / IS SO MUCH BETTER!
God in his incredible mercy, love and grace had carried me to the other side of the road! I was starting to learn that in order to encourage anyone else around you, you first had to understand what it meant to be biblically encouraged.
God allowed me to stay very healthy for a few years and in that time I grew and grew with help of the Bible and many other men God had put in my life. The challenges didnít stop, in fact they got even more intense and hit home even more deeply. In that time, I had the awesome privilege of helping others come to know the Lord Jesus Christ in truth, from the Bible. It was so exciting. I met my wife and was married. Work at a new job went exceptionally well and I felt like I was on top of the world.
God however, saw my deep-rooted pride. He saw that I was not using the talents He had given me to their fullest and therefore He allowed me to go through some very deep and hard struggles when my health went in the sewer. God felt it was time to call me higher in my love for him, my surrender to him and my dedication and commitment to gospel of Jesus Christ. God saw it was time that I started to rely on him so completely, so absolutely, that I could become an encouragement to him. I had no idea how far it would go and even today I donít really have a clue to how far Jesus will take me with my illness. I do know this: God is God. He is in control. He sets the time and place for everything. I am already dead to myself, so I can live only for him.
Therefore I will not even entertain the thought of turning back, turning my back on God, or stop living my life for him no matter what circumstances my life will face. If I were to die now, I know God would absolutely take care of my wife and children. He is God. I am not. I will not compete. I only want to live my life in such a way that it is encouraging to God.
This chapter hopefully has given you a more solid idea that God can and does answer prayers when they are from the heart and you want to change Godís way.
Have you ever felt that at certain times in your life there were not any answers?
Have you ever just wanted to through the troubles you were facing and get to the other side of the road?
Have you taken these questions and troubles to the cross?
Have you trusted in God enough to surrender them to Him?
If you answer these questions with a sincere heart and take them to Jesus, you will find the answers and start on the road to learning to be an Encouragement to God.
Applying Some Learned Lessons
I wish I had a dollar for every time I learned a practical lesson in life and didnít apply it. I believe I would have a large savings account! It is not that I am ignorant or dumb. It is because I have been very foolish at times in my life and not paid attention to the lessons learned!
My son Zachary is two years old. He has been told not to touch a certain article in the house like a hot stove. He touches it anyway and ouch he cries. A few minutes later after the tears are dried he goes right back to the same stove only this time we catch him first and sternly remind him of the ouch he got the first time. The next day he may well do the same thing again! Does this sound familiar? I do not mean with your children if you have them, I mean you! I know for myself as an adult, I have had God show me ways in my life that will cause spiritual ouches and I have ignored his warnings. The warnings may come from a person God has put in my life or just plainly my conscience telling me. Yet for some strange reason I can remember time after time in my life having turned a deaf ear to what is right and good. Iím not a psychiatrist but it doesnít take much thinking to figure out why! It is called a sinful nature. One that is selfish, prideful, and sometimes downright obstinate!
After so many failures and defeats in life, somewhere along the line we have to start learning and applying the lessons learned. My dad once told me he went to the school of hard knocks and I was doing the same thing! Guess what? He was right.
Have you ever noticed how smart your parents get when you become an adult? Before that, many times, they donít seem to be very smart. Then one day it dawns on you that "hey theyíre really smart!"
I believe many times we treat God the same way as we treated our parents! God has given us all the tools in order to live our lives according to His Will, yet inevitably, we turn a deaf ear to His truths. Just like our parents give us tools to use. Then something happens in our lives and Godís answers become very clear and necessary. I love Proverbs because Solomon must have been just like any one of us. It is interesting since God made him the wisest ruler the world has ever known yet he made a ton of mistakes. It is good to know we are not alone! Being wise does not guarantee being right! In Proverbs 2:1-11 Solomon gives some very clear and precise instructions.
"My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of faithful ones.
Then you will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you."
In very direct terms we are shown that we must seek wisdom and understanding. It does not come naturally to man! The only true way to gain absolute correct wisdom and knowledge and understanding about life is if we work to achieve it by Godís rules, not our own. When we follow Godís way we are learning to truly be encouraging to him!
I have had the privilege of knowing some very brilliant people in different fields of expertise. They have excelled in their careers and have won awards and bountiless praise for their achievements. The fact is that if you look deeply into these individuals lives you will see that their lives are not as good as they appear. They have their weak spots and troubles and problems like anyone else. Their wisdom and knowledge in their field of expertise can not be used in their everyday life in all areas, they are limited by their own pride in the knowledge they themselves posses.
Solomon is not talking about a particular area of an individuals life such as a career or profession. Solomon is talking about an individuals whole life in every aspect! "Then you will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path." "every good path" means exactly that, every step, of every day of our entire life.
This is what it means learn to be an encouragement to God. Every step we take must have Godís precepts in our minds and hearts. Is this possible? The only person to ever live who did exactly this was JESUS! Jesus gave us the perfect blue print of how to do it.
This does not mean we will because of our sinful nature; but we are promised that when we are tempted to sin "he will give us a way to stand up under it." We have the means to follow Jesus as perfectly as we can, if we choose!
Simply put, if we are truly Christians, we will look at the perfect life of Jesus and try to apply it to our own. We will look at our own lives, study the lessons we have learned, see how Jesus would have handled it and try to apply these principles in action to our own. There is a way to learn from our mistakes and grow. There is a way to walk on the right path with wisdom, understanding and knowledge. This definitely encourages God. The hardest step on any journey is the first step. Are you willing to take this first step? How?
SEEK GODíS WISDOM
"Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding,"
It must be made clear that gaining wisdom and understanding in order to be an encouragement to God is because, the actions of our life's should, first and foremost, be allied with this thought. We should not seek Godís wisdom and knowledge for our own gratification but rather for the glory of God. When we are striving to live our lives seeking Godís wisdom and understanding it should only be because we want God pleased with our lives and therefore encouraged. The result of this type of lifestyle will be a happiness and joy that exudes from our lives actions! This does not happen overnight but it is definitely possible.
The question is how do we seek the wisdom of God!!!
What are we training ourselves for? Enoch is a perfect example. He trained himself not to accomplish works for God but rather to be godly in all that he did!
He sought to be wise with the actions of his life and had a solid understanding that all these other things would follow if he walked with God first. That it why it said of him that "Enoch walked with God." It has become very obvious to me while writing this book, that everything the great men of God cared about, was pleasing God by the walk of their lives.
Look at Paul, he tells us in many different ways that he is striving to be pleasing to God. In 1 Timothy Paul tells us that he once was a blasphemer, a violent man, the worst of sinners. He also explains that the reason he is now a man of God is so
"Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life."
1 Timothy 1:16
Paul gave all the glory to God and Jesus, not any to himself. Paul only wanted to be pleasing to God and that took training! This is the example he was setting for Timothy and for all of us. I know my life before becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ was full of blasphemy, violence and great sin. It was not until God led me to his Word that my life started to change for his glory.
When our lives have troubles in them whether sickness, or emotional or any other kind of trouble, we must research the Word of God thoroughly to find the answers. There is not a single problem that can not be solved through God and his Word. We must be disciplined and in training to overcome any obstacle or problem put in our pathway. We must look at the lives of people around us who claim to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Do they line up with truth of the Bible or do they pick and choose what they will and wonít follow? Those that pick and choose cannot give solid and godly advice! We can only prove we belong to Jesus if we live our lives in such a way that God is glorified. I am not talking about someone being perfect and sinless. I am talking about someone whose life is focused and sold out to our Lord and Savior Jesus. These are the people who dare to encourage God. Seek their advice and study the Word of God. Go into training!
Paul uses many different examples of training to obtain the laurel crown. He talks about athletes for example. But he also encourages us to seek the crown of glory that is everlasting, not temporary. Paul tells of the training he went through for three years prior to his going out into the mission field. He tells of athletes spending great amounts of time training for their competition. He even goes as far as telling us that he beats his body in order to keep his focus where it belongs; on God.
All these areas Paul talks about come from him applying the lessons he has learned along the road of his life. Not just the good but also the bad. As an example, Paul knew the Torah very well before his conversation with Jesus in the vision on the road to Damascus. His knowledge helped in his ministry prove that Jesus was the Messiah. Paul tried to take all these experiences of his life and the lessons used to bring glory to God. It is obvious that he did it well. Do you think God was extremely encouraged by the godliness of Paul's ministry? We are truly not any different than Paul was; just a different time. When we incorporate the lessons learned in our lives to bring God glory, God is definitely encouraged!
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
All things past, present and future!
Have you looked at the experiences of your life and tried to apply them to your life in a godly way?
Do you believe that God will use all of your life to bring glory to himself if we are we open to him? Why or why not?
How many lessons have you learned in your life and have never seen them as opportunities to bring glory to God and be an encouragement to him?
I urge you to pray these things through and ask God to show you how your past mistakes and present life can bring him glory! Learn to Encourage God!!
God, I Am Hungry to Change!
So far in this book we have discussed our hurts, becoming teachable, finding answers and applying life's lessons to bring God glory. The next chapters will hopefully challenge our hearts to build a stronger and more reverent relationship with the Lord God Almighty. First however, there need to be changes made in our lives on a daily basis. The wonderful and exciting part of writing a book is that I get to do a lot of study and have been convicted in my heart of hearts to change! Let me explain.
Have you ever been praying hard for and working diligently on a character issue you want to change in your life? Has it ever been frustrating because you feel like you are not getting anywhere? On top of it all have you ever become discouraged to a point of saying why try? I have on more than one occasion. One I remember so well was when I was challenged strongly to work on my pride. Now before I go any further I want to state clearly that I am still working daily on my pride. I am no where close to being as humble as I need to be and I am not sure Iíll ever get there in this life. The question I asked was, how do I even begin? There is so much pride, in so many different areas, I didnít even know where to start! I was told be open for people to point it out and pray. Now the praying part I had no trouble accepting, but having people point it out to me was a bit much. Then the proverbial light bulb went on! I can start right there! I can pray to have an open heart for others to point out my pride. I was a bit intimidated and somewhat nervous.
I was afraid that would be all anyone would talk to me about because there was so much pride. The topic of conversation today will be Gregís pride and tomorrow and the next day-and the next .........! Well that is not how it went; even though I am still challenged on my pride on occasion. The very wonderful part of all this thought process was the more nervous I got about it and the more discouraged I became, the stronger the desire became to change. I thought "I will work so hard on this pride that they will have to stand up and take notice how humble Iím being! (There is not a bit of pride here, RIGHT!) Sometimes I feel like something has to jump up and bite me before Iíll see the truth about my character. Yes, this is a true statement!
I formulated a plan without very much prayer. This plan I worked out didnít even come close to working. Why? Because in my heart of hearts I was trying to do it on my own power. I did not truly turn to God and surrender it (my pride) with my heart. I was not seeking Godís strength, Godís wisdom, Godís heart and most of all Godís love. Greg was going to show them! It was a rocky road as a baby Christian and if not for the love of several people in my life it could have been a ton worse. God knew I needed a firm, loving, faithful hand in my life and he gave one. Greg Armamentos was my life raft that God sent me when I was drowning. God knew I needed someone who could understand me, the struggles of my heart and love me despite it all. Greg will always be like my big brother when it comes to my spiritual life. I love him deeply for it and always will. Our evangelist used to smile at the Greg team.
Through all of this it made me finally cry out to God: "God Iím Hungry to Change". I longed to change and become more humble. I started to deeply long for God to be my best friend. I longed for a changed heart that would be pleasing to God.
BEGINNING WITH HUNGER
God honored this cry from my heart. It was not in the way that I thought he would but it was Godís Holy and Righteous way. You see my pride was then still too thick for God and Iím sure is still to this day. God knew my life and what it would take to get to the point that my life would have much more adoration, love, honor and hold Him up in majestic glory in my heart as He deserves. I needed to learn that his love was founded in grace and in the completed life of Jesus Christ with his death, burial and resurrection. I needed to come to the heart level knowledge of what David wrote in Psalm 42:1-2:
"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
It is not that this was not my hearts desire before this. It is however not the example of my life, mind, body and soul. I did not have this so deep in my heart; this is what was totally driving me and guiding me. Even as I am writing this it is so apparent to me that I must seek God even more, day after day. I must have a yearning for God that is all consuming in word, thought and action. I must let the blood of Jesus Christ unite me completely with the Father in Heaven. I can understand Paul when he talks about his struggles and how he just wants "to know Jesus Christ crucified and His resurrection." This process started when I started to understand that my sickness was not a punishment or discipline from God. It is in fact the opposite. My illness is a gift from God because he knew what it would take for me to really surrender all that I am to him and have a hunger to change.
The only way for me to change is to surrender each and every day to the God and Savior of my life. The Father in Heaven, is and always will be right and just in all He does. Therefore, if I question Him and do not surrender I am not seeking His truth, His righteousness nor His love. If you are sick in some form, if you are challenged in some very tough and seemingly endless battles in life; remember that you have nothing to fear. "Perfect love drives out all fear." 1 John 4:18. God Almighty is so perfect in His love for us that there are not words to describe it. Since Godís love is so perfect, if we let Him into our lives totally surrendered, He will drive out all fear. On the flip side of the coin; if we love Him with all we are, we have nothing to fear. This is the beginning of changing our lives and becoming hungry, thirsty, longing for that adoring, loving, reverent, and honoring relationship with an all holy and majestic God.
The one thing that we must remember, surrendering each day is a constant. We must remember Romans 8. "If God is for us, who can be against us?"
We can change because God is on our side if we want him there. The other point is that we can change out of love, because of love, Godís love. It is written in 1John 4:19,
"We love because he first loved us." We canít change for ourselves alone. We must change because we love God. We must engage our emotions to change because of our affection for God. We will change because we long for God, we thirst for God, because we are hungry to change!. Are you hungry to start to Learn to Encourage God?
A DESIRE TO EXPERIENCE GODíS TRUTH
In life we have all experienced let downs of one sort or another. We had certain expectations of people, of businesses, of relationships etc. and they have been a let down. It is however not true when it comes to God! God can not let us down because God is all perfect in all He does. It may seem like God has let us down when we donít get what we want, when we want it. This is not God, this is our selfishness or misguided expectations and desires. Remember, our desires are not always in our best interest and God knows this. Our expectations are not always well founded in truth and reality; God's are always founded in truth and reality. His truth and reality.
Is there anyone who wants to argue with God?????
In the life of someone who wants to experience Godís truth, it is not one filled with self-pity, whining, doubting and coldness. It is one of a person who is warm, filled with confidence in God, joyful, and dwelling on Godís goodness and righteousness. It is not a perfect person since only Jesus was perfect. It is however someone, no matter if they are disabled in some way, struggling with life's challenges in some form, who has the heart to overcome, to trust totally in God and has the deep and abiding desire to be pleasing in Godís eyes by the actions of their lives, the thoughts of their hearts and minds and their love for all around them who will experience Godís truth. David was so outstanding in expressing this desire. A few passages which really show how David longed for God and to know Godís truth and be with God are Psalm 27:4 "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple." Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you."
It goes back to the earlier statement, we must be totally surrendered to God, to the best of our ability in order to seek Gods truth. I have really one desire in life with my illness. I want to be content like David was. I want to be able to say with confidence, "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken." Psalm 63:1. When I can come to this point in my life in the deepest part of my heart of hearts, I will have found Godís truth in my life fully. Remember as David wrote; Ď"MY FLESH AND MY HEART MAY FAIL, BUT GOD IS THE STRENGTH OF MY HEART AND MY PORTION FOREVER." Psalm 73:26.
FELLOWSHIP WITH OUR LIVING GOD
In Genesis we know that God came down to the garden to have fellowship with Adam. In Genesis 3 we see the fall of man when Adam and Eve first sinned, yet God still came down in the "cool of the day" and talked to them. They heard him walking in the garden. This is not exactly what happens today but God still wants to have fellowship with man. He still wants man to be hungry for him. If this were not true, would God have sent Jesus down to earth to have fellowship with man through his life, death and resurrection from the dead? Would God have appeared to John on the Island of Patmos and shown him what is to come through Johnís vision? Would God have addressed each pillar church? Would we have the very precious Word of God, the Bible?
God is hungry to have a relationship, to have fellowship with us, to see us come to him with this same hunger and desire. God wants each and everyone of us to seek him with all our hearts and hunger for him with all our strength and trust in him because of his great sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. If we are hungry for God and his truth, if we are hungry to change the sinful life into one that is pleasing to God, if we are striving to surrender our lives fully to Jesus Christ, then we will be an encouragement to God and our lives will be full of peace and trust and fellowship with the one and true living God. Learn to Encourage God.
What Character issues in your life are needing change?
Are you open about them? Why or Why not!
Are you surrendering these issues to God or trying to change them on your own power? If on your own power what are you going to do to change this?
Are you hungry to change for Godís glory?
Do you strive to have a strong relationship with God in all areas of your life?
Is God the - Strength of your heart always?
Learn to Encourage God by really digging into your life openly and find power to change with God no matter what your disability or challenges are!!
Gratitude Fills Us Spiritually
In my life I have noticed something that is a consistent pattern with my character. When I am hungry for God and hunger to have a great relationship with him I become extremely grateful. The flip side of this is: the more grateful I become the more I hunger for that relationship! When I am not hungry for God in my life I am not grateful and when I am not grateful for our Majestic God I lose the hunger. It is absolutely true for me. The question that will be explored in this chapter is how this can help us grow spiritually with our physical, mental or just life in general challenges!
Have you ever gone into your refrigerator looking for something to eat and couldn't make up your mind what you had a hunger for? Yet, your stomach is urging you to find something, anything, and put it in your mouth because you are so hungry!
This is the way our souls are in many ways. We are spiritual beings because of the spirit God has put in us. In this world there are literally hundreds of religions, philosophyís, ideas and causes. Some people try to fill their hunger on earth related matters; such as saving a certain type of animal from extinction. Another person wants to go to a church where they can just blend in, not being noticed and not be truly challenged in their heart about their lives. Another person believes there is some kind of higher power or being that is in control, but they will live their lives by the philosophy that as long as what they do isnít directly hurting someone else then they are OK!
We could spend a lot of time discussing these different ways of thinking but to me it is a huge waste of time. The fact is that all human beings have a void inside, a hunger that they are trying to fill. Sadly, there are many who never get filled, and are never able to experience real gratitude. Why? They are trying to fill that spiritual hole or emptiness with the wrong formula. The real answer to be filled spiritually and therefore becoming truly grateful is Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who come to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."
SEPARATING TRUTH FROM FICTION.
Clearly Jesus is not talking about a physical hunger or thirst. He is teaching about what is necessary to fill that spiritual hunger. Whenever we receive a gift from someone for any number of different occasions, we are grateful to that person.
For some reason though, when the Creator of the world, our Creator, gives us the true spiritual gift of life; many of us forget to say thank you. We are not grateful!
David wrote in his Psalms several times how thankful he was to God.
God had done so much for him and never failed to meet his spiritual needs. David wanted to let God know how he felt. One of my favorite Psalms and one of the shortest ones is Psalm 100.
"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations."
When I study this Psalm carefully, I must ask a serious question of myself.
IS THIS MY HEART?
Without much thought the answer is "no" not all the time or for that matter even the majority of time. Much to my heartfelt shame repentance was greatly needed in this area.
Like I started this chapter out, gratitude and hunger spiritually go hand in hand and cannot be separated. When I am grateful, thankful and joyful for what the Lord has done for me I am filled spiritually. When I am not there is an emptiness, an unquenchable hunger and thirst for my relationship with God. Gratitude does fill us up spiritually and hunger is the cause for that gratitude when we let it be filled freely by God.
GRATEFUL BUT CHALLENGED
Well, weíve talked about being hungry which is driven by gratitude and gratitude which is nurtured by the hunger for a great relationship with God. Now the question is; "how do I get to this point when I am constantly sick and hurting?"
Yesterday when I was starting to write this chapter I had an attack from my Multiple Sclerosis and Chronic Fatigue at the same time. It was like a semi tractor-trailer drove right over me. The fatigue was so intense that I could hardly walk and at the same time my eyes were so tired and burning I could hardly see. It is a very frustrating time if I let it be. By God's grace I didn't. Today my hands are very shaky and I am making many typing errors because my fingers are not going to the keys on my computer where I want them to go, (thank goodness for the Ďdeleteí key on my computer!). Yet my spirit is high and I am excited to be writing this. God's grace again. This is not how it used to be. I would get very upset and frustrated. Many times not acting in a righteous way. It took a lot of time, discipling, prayer and study in the word to be able to fight through these times.
At a Physically Challenged Ministry meeting at my house about a year or so ago, Wende Hamann made a comment that set me on my ear. We were talking about our challenges and she points out that at the time Jesus was on the cross for my sins, "Jesus was the most physically challenged person in history." I was stunned. I knew that in my heart, but never understood it so clearly until Wende said it. I donít know if was how she said it or the tone of her voice or
the look on her face. I do know that at that moment my heart was filled with a gratitude that I had never known. It was also an embarrassment I had never felt before. Not that Wende embarrassed me but that the conviction of the words she spoke did. It became vividly clear that I had not connected this thought so deeply to the truth of these words before. My Jesus went through more in the time from his arrest to the time of his death because of my sins than I could ever suffer with my different diseases in a lifetime. Jesus did this for me. Jesus suffered unimaginable pain so that I might come to the point of true salvation. GRATITUDE - GRATITUDE - GRATITUDE! I started to study the last hours of Jesus life from the garden to the cross very intently. The hunger grew and grew and the gratitude became deeper and deeper. This is how. From the time that Jesus started to pray in the garden, I realized more than ever that he knew every single word that was to be spoken to him, every slap, every hit, every lash of the whip, every swing of the hammer and every ounce of pain. This brought me to one of the most powerful passages in the bible from Hebrews 12:2-3
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
This next part in Hebrews 12:4 says it all:
"In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood."
After studying all of this with much prayer; my lifeís challenges do not even come close to what Jesus did for me. I am not going through MS for the souls of others. I had not looked at this disease as a joy set before me. Therefore, I was not grateful for Jesus. I was not being filled spiritually because of a lack of gratitude.
All these different points made me more and more hungry to be grateful to my Lord and Savior. What ever my days are like, good, bad or in between, they are not even on the same playing field as Jesusí last several hours before and during his crucifixion.
When I start feeling sorry for myself. I go to the cross and get grateful. This gratitude fills me spiritually. This gratitude helps me focus on my purpose as an adopted son of God. This gratitude gives me hope and freedom. My quiet times with the Lord are doubly impacting. My life is different. Once again we come back to the point of being grateful to be filled spiritually. There is not another way I know of to overcome the bad days and stay strong on the good days. There is no feeling sorry for myself. I know I could not have laid my life down under the same circumstances as Jesus did for others, for me!
We can not feel sorry for ourselves when comparing what Jesus endured. If we do, we are not hungry for a strong relationship with God, we have no true spiritual gratitude. This is NOT ENCOURAGING TO GOD!
Donít go to the refrigerator for spiritual food and expect to find gratitude and true spirituality. Go to Jesus! God made it so easy for us to just come to him through Jesus!
Surrender your life to Jesus. Surrender your challenges to Jesus. Surrender your pride and stubbornness to Jesus. Surrender your way to Jesus. Live his way and you will find yourself grateful to Jesus and be filled spiritually by the true bread of life.
You will never hunger or thirst again. This is a promise that God will not break!
When we seek God this way every day of our lives; God will be encouraged. When we surrender ourselves to Jesus in whatever situation we are in, this will encourage God. Finally, when we step aside and let God fill us spiritually by his plan, we will become truly grateful! Dare to Encourage God!!
How deep is your hunger in your relationship for God?
How hungry are you to change your relationship with God?
Seek advice, pray and fast for this to change!
Where do you see your gratitude for Jesusí cross lacking?
Does your gratitude drive your hunger for your relationship with God?
Seek advice, pray and fast for this to change!
Make a plan to attack these areas of your character and have someone hold you accountable for these changes.
Do you Dare to Encourage God by being grateful and spirit filled?
Lord, Teach Me to Encourage
I remember a time when I was always the last one picked for sides on a team. It didnít matter what sport. I was clumsy and awkward with feet that were much too big for my size. In other words I needed to grow into the size of my feet!
It was interesting but my feet were always long and thin and always seemed to get caught on something or tangled into something. Sometimes Iíd trip over a painted line in the crosswalk. Just kidding! I remember in seventh grade I had a size 11 men's shoe. I was only 5í5" and 125 pounds. I remember hearing my aunt say Iíd grow out of the gawky stage into a fine athlete. Well I didnít really believe her but she turned out to be correct. In high school I was very fast and ran on the first place mile relay team in the state. Why am I telling you all of this? Well if you can imagine being clumsy in grade school, then you can also imagine how many times I was laughed at and teased. To say it was not encouraging is putting it mildly! We all have a story about our lives that in one way or another left us feeling discouraged and sad.
This chapter is not about being discouraged but the opposite. To encourage someone is not always easy. Some people are hard to love, some people are hard to understand, and some people are easy to do both and we must. In the same way it is not easy to feel encouraged when you are always sick or hurting or going through tough times in life. This is why we are commanded in the Bible to encourage one another, to love one another, to respect one another and do the same for ourselves.
There are many examples of each one these commands, though I found one that I hope hits home! 1 Thessalonians 5: 14 - "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone." For ourselves, we are also encouraged by Paul, to "Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Godís will for you in Christ Jesus." 1. Thessalonians 5:16.
ENCOURAGEMENT IS IMPORTANT!
There are other words for "encourage." To be an advocate for: to show favor, to please, gladden, delight, inspire, support, bolster, enhance, reassure, strengthen, help, assist or benefit. When we read the Bible there are many different passages which confirm these. We have it more clearly shown to us by the life of Jesus and the saints in the first century. This is really what this chapter is all about. How do I become an encouragement through all the troubles I myself have gone through? How do I teach others around me to be this way?
Passage after passage show us how, though my favorite is 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."
I studied this scripture passage time and time again. It took a while for me to truly grasp its depth. The key line in this passage for me is "which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer." This is how I learned to encourage others. The more I prayed to have this heart of comfort from God, the more I pleaded to have my heart softened, the more I cried out to God to understand how to apply this to my life, the easier my disease became to deal with and surrender. How? Simply put; GOD.......
The changes had nothing to do with my ability to overcome. It was the ability of God to teach my heart how to overcome! When this started to happen, the self-pity started to disappear and my love for God deepened. An openness in my heart began to appear that had never been there before. I was deeply seeking God and his mercy, grace and love to change my heart more than I ever knew before. Guess what? He answered these prayers! My heart softened and opened wider for others who were hurting. The level of compassion for others became a compassion of love, real, more Christ like, not pity. I can claim no credit for this at all. This is and always will be all God. The one thing I can say. I had to want it! I had to sincerely seek Godís way, not mine. Other than that it was totally God.
From this point God was able to change my heart to have a new level of patient endurance of the same sufferings that others were suffering. I am not even going to try to explain how God did it because I am not able to explain God. I am not able to explain how God would take a whinny, self-pity filled man like me and change me. I am not able to explain how God was able to teach my heart and mind to push past some of the pain and serve him. This is not normal human behavior, actually it is the opposite. God is the total opposite of man in so many ways! Believe that God keeps His promises. Believe that God hears your prayers, because he does. You will be in complete awe of Godís incredible love, patience and mercy. God answers prayers in the most magnificent ways one can imagine!
From all of this the Physically Challenged Ministry has grown leaps and bounds in Milwaukee. Why? Look at Jesusí ministry. Who did Jesus reach out to? It wasnít the rich and righteous. It wasnít just sharp people. Jesus touched and reached out to the sick, blind, lame, hungry, mentally unstable, possessed and those the rest of society looked down upon. Yet Jesusí love turned ordinary, uneducated, crude and poor fisherman into powerful men of God who did the same thing he did. The rulers made mental note that these men had been with Jesus.
LEARN TO ENCOURAGE!
The best way to learn to encourage others is to look to Jesus. Imitate Jesus. Once again I must put a disclaimer in here: I am not even close to having the heart Jesus did. I am just saying Jesus is my hero! Jesus, while dying on the cross, reached out and saved a robber, made sure his mother Mary was taken care of and forgave his murderers (mankind) for hanging him on a cross. This should be the biggest lesson of encouragement ever taught. How encouraged do you think the robber was before he died next to Jesus on a cross? How encouraged were Mary and John when he made them mother and son? How encouraged should we be that Jesus, our Savior and Lord, while suffering the most painful death, forgave us for our sins?
Is it so hard to see past your own challenges now? Is it too hard to pray about and surrender what you are going through in your life now? Can you see yourself being changed by Godís power? Can you see yourself becoming an encouragement to others around you, who are suffering because you are out of yourself, giving, loving and caring? After studying these things I had to ask myself these same questions. The answers were agonizingly painful and difficult to face because of my selfish and sinful nature. The best part of it all is that I must ask myself these same questions many times over and they become easier to answer out of love for God.
As disciples of Jesus we are in a huge spiritual battle with Satan. Only by the grace and power of God will we be able to be an encouragement to others. We can not win on our own. Satan is a prowling lion trying to devour those who are challenged as well as those who are not. The weaker someone is physically, psychologically, in their marriages, on their jobs etc., the more we must pour ourselves out to them. We must have a heart of love to be there to encourage them, not tease or look down on them like little children. In every bit of study I have done on this subject, it is more and more clear how desperately we must fight for the souls of the weak and struggling. The more it becomes clearer, the more desperate I become to learn how to encourage others. God and only God can and will teach this to our hearts and minds. God and only God fully understands and knows how to let the right words come out of our mouths to encourage others. God and only God gives us the strength to overcome our own challenges to be an encouragement to others; to love others as Jesus has taught us to love. When I started to learn this, and I am just in the crawling stages, then I was able to start to encourage others with their challenges.
Finally, the greatest joy of all of this is to see the comfort that God gives others through us because of what He has taught us. God uses the weak things of this world, the despised things of this world, the challenged people of this world to encourage others if we just let him use us!
Where can you start to let God use you as an encouragement to others?
What must you surrender in your life in order for God to teach you how to be a great and loving encouragement to others?
Write out your challenges to God and surrender them to him today.
GOD WILL BE INCREDIBLY ENCOURAGED BY THOSE WHO USE HIS POWER, GRACE AND LOVE TO ENCOURAGE OTHERS AROUND THEM! NOW YOU ARE LEARNING TO BE AN ENCOURAGMENT TO GOD! NOW CONTINUE TO STRIVE TOWARD THAT GOAL!
God, I Will Praise You Forever!
Godís supreme character is one that never fails. He will always meet our needs. It does not matter if we are sick. It does not matter if we are challenged in different ways. Godís character will not and can not change from its state of perfection. This perfection includes many, many different aspects. The most beautiful of all his character traits is his perfect love!
From this love, he always will meet our needs when we are fighting to live out his will.
The questions I must ask myself are these. Does my life portray a lifestyle that is God centered? Is my life full of devotion to God? Am I humble before God? Most of all, am I full of thanksgiving to and for God?
If I say I will praise God forever, the answer to these questions must be YES! Obviously my life is not perfect by any means, but this is my heart fully. There are so many things to praise God for. I could not even begin to name them all. God takes care of me physically and spiritually as long as I am willing to obey him. He takes care of me in every aspect of my life if I am willing to give my life for him, to honor him with all that I am, to acknowledge his majesty, faithfulness, grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and tenderness; despite what might be going on in my life that is uncomfortable. I tell you now; it is not comfortable to have Multiple Sclerosis. It is not comfortable to live constant pain in my back and neck, my legs, arms, hands and feet. It is not comfortable to be sick period. This in no way gives me the right to not honor God completely and fully in all his grandeur, majesty and glory!
I must praise God forever with all that I am. I wrote a song several months ago and since the book canít sing, Iíd like to share with you the lyrics.
To praise you God, is so sweet.
It brings victory from certain defeat.
To you I lift my eyes with tears.
To Your Son Jesus and you I resign my fears.
To worship you is an honor to keep;
Because my Lord, Your love runs amazingly deep.
Your mercy God brought Jesus to the cross;
So by Your love and mercy you could reach down and touch the lost.
To bow before you God; Your glory on my lips.
To drink from the precious cup of life, with awestruck lips.
To view your splendor and glory all around me face to face,
Helps me persevere faithfully that I can complete the race.
For you alone are the designer of life;
Your way Lord my God is truly right.
I will praise You, I will praise You;
To stay in the battle Lord;
With You win the fight.
I will praise You Lord my God
I will praise You, day...day and night.
I do not proclaim to be a great lyricist, but I pray I made my point. I learned that in order to praise God in all His glory and righteousness, I must have His praises singing in my heart continually. I must strive to be full of worship and thankfulness for His love all the time. I must never, ever, forget one ounce of the greatness and incredible sacrifice of the Jesus on the cross. I must always be willing to go down on my face, prostrate before the one and only God with trembling and awe!
PRAISE NOT EMPTY PROMISES!
There have been so many times in my life when I would pray and praise God. These prayers also had many empty promises in them. I would praise God for all the wonderful things He had done in my life; but it was only because I was anxious to receive more. These praises were empty because they were not truly gratitude filled. I would promise God that if this or that would happen I would do the following.
God would answer these requests but I would not follow through on my promises. EMPTY PRAYERS - EMPTINESS IN MY PRAISE FOR THE CREATOR OF THE WORLD! When I became a true disciple of Jesus this became very clear. It was like the lepers in Luke 17:11-19 who came to Jesus to be healed. Jesus told them to show themselves to the priest so they could be restored to their families as was required by Jewish law. Only one of the ten came back and said thank you. Only one of the ten thought to praise Jesus for healing him. My life was like the other nine.
There was an incident recently when a construction worker due to an accident got his leg caught under a large rock. He was willing to have his leg cut off if the workers couldnít get his leg free! Well eventually his leg was freed and he was able to keep both legs. He thanked the workers. He praised the technological knowledge of the people who freed him. Question. Who gave the knowledge to these people and who gave mankind the materials to use, to make the equipment that was used to free the man? God! Yet there was not one public word of thanks and praise for God. God freed this man who was trapped. This is the thinking in our society today.
The general public seems to forget to praise the Creator. Mankind has the habit of giving the praise to the wrong person(s) for great things happening!
REMEMBERING TO PRAISE GOD DAILY!
When I became a disciple of Jesus I had to learn to praise God for the ordinary, everyday things in my life like food, air, clothing etc. and not just praise him for the extra-ordinary events.
Praising God for our lives everyday is completely and absolutely necessary for us to have a growing and powerful relationship with God! Even angelic beings are shown in the Bible praising God continually in Heaven.
"Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under the wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
How can we say we are Christians, disciples of Jesus Christ, if we are not praising the Lord God Almighty daily? It is an intricate part of prayer. Can a prayer be complete without praise? David didnít think so. So many times in the Psalms, David writes of his gratitude and praise to God no matter what the circumstances of his life were at the time. Should we do anything less than the anointed of God?
"He who offer sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God."
Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare his praises?"
"All you have made will praise you, O Lord; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom."
ANOTHER SAINT SHOWS THE WAY FOR PRAISE!
Paul was always praising God and the Lord Jesus Christ throughout all his letters. In Ephesians 1:3 Paul writes: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." In 2 Corinthians 1:3 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,". Time and time again Paul and the other authors praise God for all that they are and all he has saved them from. It is abundantly clear that just because I am sick does not in any way preclude me from obeying the Word of God and praising God daily. Just because I have some very bad days is no excuse for me not to praise God for these bad days, for they truly help keep me more humble and grateful for my life. I could have it so much worse. I could be blind to the truth and never have an opportunity to praise God for my salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ!
This book is about learning to encourage God. When you are praised for a job well done are you not encouraged. Didnít God give us these feelings so that we could feel encouraged? Are we not made in the spiritual image of God? Therefore it only follows that God is encouraged when we praise him! When we praise God, it not only is encouraging to him, it is also humbling for us. Through praise, we can only realize the incredible power and awesome greatness of our God, Savior and Creator!
What makes me so excited about learning to encourage God through praise, is that it reminds me of all that God has done for me in life. All my sins he has forgiven through the blood of Jesus. All the blessings of the ordinary things of my life that keep me alive like food and water. It exemplifies Godís mercy toward me when I donít deserve it and gives me the confidence to go before him time and time again for that same mercy and grace. I trust God with all my heart because of his mercy and love. I trust God with my whole life because God has never failed to be exactly what he promises time and time again. Being completely just!
I love to just sit down at my keyboard and sing praises to God, making the song up as I go along. In Ephesians 5:19-20 Paul writes: "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Would I be obeying this command if I were not praising God for my illness? God will use all the sick, all the weak, all slow of mind, as powerfully as anyone who is healthy and wise and strong. We must let him. We must trust that God keeps his promises! One way to do this I found, was to spend more time praising God, which gives me less time to complain! This may sound funny but it is true. The other thing is that the more I praise God for my circumstances, the more God has shown me that he will in fact use me for his glory despite my illness!
FREE YOUR SPIRIT!
"So, then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." Colossians 2:6-7.
Paul puts this whole idea together. When we received Jesus Christ through baptism into his death and resurrection, this is where we start to praise our God and Savior. This is where we are set free to truly praise him for all things. Do you praise God daily for your salvation? Do you praise God for the breath that sustains you? It is amazing to me that God is aware of every beat of my heart! The more we praise God the more we will feel empty when we donít. This will cause us to desire to praise God more and more!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave is the most amazing thing to me. This puts to rest once and for all the nagging questions people are always asking about the power of God. What greater proof of Godís Supremacy do we need?
What greater way to start out praising God than to go down on your knees and praise God in awe of the resurrection of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ! This lifts my soul, my heart, to the greatest heights during my prayer. It makes me rejoice in the Lord God Almighty! When I am on my knees praising God daily, then my life is so much better. I can not put words on this paper to describe how it makes me feel. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. This does encourage God. This does Encourage God. THIS DOES ENCOURAGE GOD! THIS DOES ENCOURAGE GOD!
LEARN TO ENCOURAGE GOD by starting out each day on your knees praising God. This will kick start your quiet times with the Lord and your life will be full of gratitude and joy! Dare to Learn to Encourage God forever!
How much time each day do you spend praising God?
What are you praising God for? Things you want or what will be pleasing in His sight?
Is God so powerful and awesome in your life that you just canít wait to spend time praising God each day, no matter how you feel or what problems you are facing that day?
Let God be your highlight of each day and you will find a joy that you never knew possible.
Dare to Learn to Encourage God.
"MY FLESH AND MY HEART
PSALM 73: 26
I HOPE AND PRAY THAT THIS SHORT BOOK HAS GIVEN YOU TWO VERY IMPORTANT IDEAS TO THINK ABOUT AND PRAY ABOUT. FIRST: THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN YOUR CHALLENGES.
SECONDLY: THAT YOU NOW HAVE A SOLID TRUST IN THE POWER OF GOD TO HELP YOU OVERCOME AND DARE TO LEARN TO ENCOURAGE GOD WITH YOUR LIVES NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN YOUR LIFE ARE AT THIS MOMENT!!
God is so supreme that nothing that we are going through in this life is not under the loving and watchful eyes of our Savior and Lord.
NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD!
So many people in life like to place the blame on God or someone else. They like to blame themselves. but this is not true. God has great plans for all of us in this world who are his disciples and are willing to let God be in control of their lives.
Look around you and see how unhappy people are when they are not surrendered to God in everything. Yes; things in life hurt, Yes; we need to be made teachable, Yes; there are answers , Yes; we can apply lessons of life to bring glory to God, Yes; we need to be hungry to change, Yes; we need to be grateful in order to be filed spiritually, Yes; we need to learn how to be encouraging to those around us who are hurting or weak, and yes; we need to praise God for our lives as they are daily. But this whole process starts by letting God be God and surrendering all we are to him no matter what the circumstances are that we are in!
I pray from the bottom of my heart that this book has drawn you back to the cross of Jesus Christ; because that is where it all begins and his resurrection is where all Jesusí glory is revealed.
God can and will be encouraged when we are willing to be out of ourselves and giving ourselves to him 100% of the time. Yes we can learn to encourage God. YES WE CAN LEARN TO ENCOURAGE GOD!
YES WE CAN LEARN TO ENCOURAGE GOD!!
ALL MY LOVE IN CHRIST JESUS TO YOU.
CopyrightÓ Greg Gaumond 1997. All rights reserved. The intent of placing this book on the Internet is for the reader to glance through it or to print it out.