Encouragement from Pastor MicahJanuary 23, 2023 Update
Hey Gospel City family,
I was so thankful for our time worshiping Christ together yesterday, and particularly thankful for the kindness of God to meet us as we opened His Word and responded in repentance. While God’s Word is sharp like a sword, and often pride-crushing and soul-piercing, it is encouraging to know that we are being created in the likeness of God together by His Spirit!
I want you to know that I am praying for you as you continue to fight the battle of putting off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life, being renewed in the spirit of your minds, and putting on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:22-24).
Attached to this email are three things that I hope encourage you this week: A video sharing my heart and encouragement, a testimony from a church member, and a helpful worksheet related to yesterday’s message.
I simply wanted to share my heart and burden with you a little more as I fight the battle of putting off sin, and putting on Christ with you. God is sanctifying us through devotion, through suffering, and through chastening—and as we look to Christ together we can find victory this side of eternity.
Stacey Martin is a member in our church. She is a wonderful writer and open about her faith journey on her blog. She wrote me a wonderful sentence a couple weeks ago: “I would love to know more about how God is moving in our church and our members’ lives—is there a way to do this?” Doing her part, she also sent me a very encouraging personal testimony of what the Lord is doing in her life as she fights to walk in a manner worthy of her call. I hope it blesses you in your fight today:
I’ve been having some trouble with doubt lately. It’s been creeping in. Not all at once, but slowly, gradually, over time as I’ve become more consumed by the demands of daily life and less devoted to feeding my soul.
Four years ago, when I was first rescued by Jesus and delivered from my mess, I was a girl on fire for the Lord. I feasted on God’s word and poured my thoughts out in journal after journal, writing until my hand tired and my eyes grew weary. I devoured books from notable Biblical scholars, I charged through daily devotionals, I read commentaries when I didn’t understand something and sent emails to friends in ministry for further explanation. I wrote a blog. I wrote a book. I celebrated my salvation, big time.
And then, life.
I added another baby to the mix, and then there were four little people needing my attention and chauffeur services. Instead of getting up early to read my Bible, I got up early to make a bottle. But I can’t blame being a busy mom on my despondency from God because it was more than that. I became complacent. Being a Christian became less about living it and more about just saying it. Some Sundays, it felt like I went to church to check it off the to-do list for the week. Occasionally, I read a compelling verse of the day and made it into a pretty image to share on social media. I had plenty of time for Jesus right after I did the laundry, wrote an email, took the kids to practice, made dinner, and caught up on the day’s events according to Facebook.
And this life, one foot in and one foot out on faith, didn’t feel like a bad life—quite the contrary. With a handsome husband I loved, healthy and happy children doing well in school, and a home with a beautiful writing room, I had everything I’d ever wanted.
And that’s when the doubt started to creep in.
The enemy’s whisper campaign sounded something like this:
“Do you really need God for everything? Looks like you’re doing just fine on your own.”
But I wasn’t. I knew that, and it wasn’t a secret to God. The irony is, In my quest to build a beautiful Christian life, I’d somehow neglected to keep Christ as the center. The more I learned the “right words” and did the “right things,” the less I depended on God to guard my heart and guide my steps. Slowly but surely, I’d begun a backslide into my natural state as an independent, self-sufficient, self-reliant sinner. I was “playing” a Christian instead of “being” one.
But the truth was, I really missed God.
And He missed me, too.
So, I scheduled an appointment with Him. Every morning. I opened my Bible again in the early hours before the whole house came alive. Just me and God, and coffee. I would face my doubts head-on and ask the Maker for help. I figured I could follow the example of the father in Mark 9:24, who cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
This time, I didn’t dive in head first and swim around for hours in His Word. I waded in slowly, wanting to savor our time together and treat it as a conversation rather than a seminar. I spent time pondering one passage or verse, writing it in my journal, and wondering about the significance of each word and how it applies to my life. I spent an entire day thinking about Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens, and he does all that he pleases.” Each word of that verse speaks to a Holy, Sovereign, Personal God….and the depth of those 12 words continues to hold me daily.
In my sanctification, I’m coming to realize that the journey of Faith is a personal one, filled with many twists and turns, peaks and valleys, aimless wanderings and joyful homecomings.
And in running back home to God, I’m rediscovering His goodness and basking in His light, and He’s revealing a whole new level of Truth in His Word. The more honest I become with my need for Him, the more He pulls me close and guides my steps.
Take this morning, for example.
I turned to the day’s entry for New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp and read, “Doubt is natural. Fear is natural. But faith simply isn’t natural to us.”
Can you imagine how relieved I was to read this? So often, I feel like my faith is counterintuitive to the world around me and that I must lean in to withstand the winds that want to pull me back into doubt. I must plant my feet firmly on the rock and look up instead of out.
Tripp explains that faith is a gift of God and that in his grace, he grants us to believe. He continues, “God gives us the power to first believe, but he doesn’t stop there. By grace he works in the situations, locations, and relationships of our everyday lives to craft, hammer, bend, and mold us into people who build a life based on the radical belief that he really does exist and he really does reward those who seek him.”
Tripp suggests readers turn to Mark 6:30-52 to explore further the experience of doubt within the pages of the Bible. The passage is about Jesus feeding the 5,000, performing a miracle that people could see AND eat, yet they still doubted his divine existence. (It makes me feel a little better about my own doubt.) The story continues and tells of Jesus going up on the mountain to pray and instructing his disciples to get into a boat on the Sea of Galilee and sail to Bethsaida. Because this body of water is lower than sea level, it’s subject to frequent downdrafts of wind that churn up the water and make it difficult to cross, and this is exactly what happened that night. Watching their situation from land, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. The Gospel of Mark reads,
“He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded.”
Did you catch that? Instead of scolding them for their disbelief and making a big scene about their lack of faith, he just got in the boat with them.
It reminded me of when my kids get scared at night, either from a bad dream or waking up disoriented in the dark, and they call out to me. I don’t barge into their bedroom with a sermon on why their fear is unwarranted or unreasonable. I just get in the bed with them. Why? Because my presence makes them feel safe, loved, and calm. They need me to be by them, and then all is right in the world again, and they can drift back to sleep.
This is what Jesus promises us, too. When we’re tossing and turning in the waves of life, he won’t abandon us in fear and darkness. And he won’t stay on the shore either, shouting words of affirmation into the wind and leaving us to fend for ourselves. He’ll do the most Fatherly of acts and get in the boat with us, healing our hearts and calming our fears simply by his presence.
Suppose Paul Tripp is right, and God reveals Himself to us daily. In that case, I want to hear those stories and hold onto those examples as anchors, grounding me in my belief that God wastes nothing and works everything for good, according to his purposes for those who would believe. There’s no doubt that he leaves evidence all around his creation for those who make room in the boat for him to get in.
-Stacey Martin, 1.10.23
PUT OFF, PUT ON WORKSHEET
Gospel City has been friends with Life Action Ministries for a long time. They have a helpful worksheet that simply consolidates all of the scriptures’ statements for putting off the old, and putting on the new. This would be a great worksheet to use in your devotional time with the Lord in this season. Identify the specific areas that you need to render useless, and the qualities that you need the Spirit to help produce in your life.
I hope some of these pieces encourage you to continue in the faith. As the Lord continues to sanctify you, I want to encourage you to testify of His faithfulness! Like Stacey, you can submit your testimony by clicking the button below!
Again, continuing to pray for you as you fight the good fight of the faith, and take hold of the eternal life to which you were called (1 Tim 6:12).
You are loved,