I’m Terrified, and That’s Okay

This week begins another phase in my life. My classes at the university start back, and that marks the beginning of a new semester in my life. Life will start to be more chaotic and my time will be filled with more work and studies, which isn’t always a bad thing. The girl I’m dating heads back to school herself which is hard, but will make the time together even more meaningful when we do see each other. My close friends start a new phase in their lives as well, so getting together is more of a challenge to stay in touch. I will take on new responsibilities within my serving at the church, I’m taking on the task of what it looks like to write a book, and I’m having to make the most with the time I’m given. All of this is good, and I’m excited for what the future will bring, but I’m terrified. This always seems to happen when big things are coming. The fear starts to creep in, I start hearing the whispers telling me I will fail, or that I’m not skilled enough to chase my dreams. I’m so scared that all the things God has made me for, I’ll screw it up or miss my chance to achieve it. I think a lot of you might feel the same. You may feel like your dream is so big, that there’s no way you could make it happen. Maybe you feel scared like me, and you know what? It’s okay.

Whenever these feelings creep in, I’m reminded of Joshua. No, that’s not a humble brag about me thinking about myself and being totally cool (Cue the sweet putting on of sunglasses). I’m talking about Joshua in the bible. I think many of us feel like Joshua. He was a slave that followed Moses out of bondage, because he had true faith in the one true God. He was eager, he was young, and he had a desire to be close to God. I know for me I feel this way, and many of you do as well. We have a drive to be all that we can be, we are young in our faith, and we want nothing but what God has for us. Joshua was so devoted, he was right by Moses to help him in any way that he could. There was one instance where Moses had a tent and told the Israelites that the spirit was in it for any to come be in his presence. No one went in, except for Joshua, and not only that, but when Moses left the tent, Joshua stayed and kept worshiping. So, when Moses passed away, the Lord appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. No big deal right? Actually yes, it was probably the biggest thing any of us could face. Joshua reacted like me, he was terrified. He didn’t run away from the challenge, but he was scared. I mean think about it, this was hundreds of people, people that would wander away like sheep without a leader. But God is way more awesome and bigger than we often make him out to be. You see, God isn’t a get out-of-jail free card or a nice guy, he is an all-powerful and all-knowing savior. He is on your side. When you look at chapter 1 of the book of Joshua, God reassures Joshua by simply saying, be strong and courageous. Today I want to encourage you, because this has encouraged me. I am terrified, but I have a God who is bigger than my fears, a God that simply says to be strong and courageous because he has a plan for you. When we look at Joshua, we see simple truths that each of us can hold onto, three little ideas that combat our fear, because we get scared, and that’s okay because God is with you.

God has designed you with purpose.

Sometimes it feels like I say this over and over, but it will always be true. One of my biggest fears that has come at me over my life, is the fear that I have no purpose. I know this is a fear for you, it’s one of the biggest questions people ask; why am I here? Many of us spend our lives seeking purpose in things that don’t last, maybe you’re seeking the perfect career, looking for a relationship to fill the void, or turning to the consumeristic pleasures to fulfill you. God made us for so much more. Yes, it’s nice to find a job that you love, a spouse to share life with, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life; but they are so small in comparison to what God has designed you for. God designed Joshua to be a leader, his purpose was to lead the lost into freedom, literally and figuratively. Your purpose isn’t a test grade that defines you, or being in the best job that fits all that you want, your purpose is what God calls you to. What is God asking of you? Maybe you are a leader who has a passion for small groups and helping people find true life. Maybe you have a desire to help those whom are less fortunate than you. Maybe you desire to lead the next generation to be the best they can be, and not see the world put them down as a lazy generation. Your purpose doesn’t have a set path, you have to try things and figure it out on the way. In high school, one of my small group leaders who we called, “Mike D,” taught me this. He was a real estate agent by career, but that wasn’t his purpose. He used his influence and the opportunities to be around people to lead them into the kingdom. He showed love, listened to their problems, and cared for them. He did the type of things you see Jesus do in the bible, and he was just a simple real estate agent. That’s a picture of living into your calling, and that’s what God has designed us to do.

God will be with you, no matter what.

This is the most comforting part about being strong and courageous, God never just simply leaves you. It may feel like he isn’t as close, or feel like he is letting bad things happen in your life, but he never leaves you. Once you make a choice to have that relationship with him, he is always with you. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the trinity that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he is vital. He is the one that is in you, the voice that helps guide your choices, and the one that convicts you in your wrong doing. The Holy Spirit walks with you in the good and the bad, he is there to listen and wants to be with you. The choice is, will we seek after him or not? Like any relationship, the only way we grow closer is by communicating. God tells Joshua to not let the word of the Lord depart from his mouth, what he is saying to Joshua, is that he needs to actively seek the Lord and be in the scripture to truly grow. The same is true for us. In the moments when we are terrified of what happens next, or when we are given more responsibility, we need to seek out the Lord. God is with us no matter what, but in order to hear him, we must pursue him. When you love someone, you pursue them, you understand that you have a deep connection and you will do anything to grow closer and care for that person. The same is true of our God. We need to pursue him in the calm and in the fear, we need to actively grow closer to him, so that when the fear comes, he will speak to us.

God wants us to obey.

Whenever I think of the word “obey,” I think of a parent and their child. Working in next gen ministry has shown me this. You have the kids who run around like crazy people, and their parent walks up, says their name sternly (and if it’s really bad, you hear the middle name), and they tell their child to stop and listen to them. I think that is a picture of how God feels with us. We are like crazy children running around with scissors trying to live the way we want to, and God just needs us to stop and listen. The parent is always right, even though the child may think jumping off the playground is good or that eating off the floor is totally fine, the parent knows what is best for their child. God knows what’s best for us. We need to stop and listen to what God is showing us. It may not be easy, it may mean giving up something you want. You may need to give up work and spend time with your family. It may mean to live authentically, rather than wearing a mask. It may mean putting boundaries in place for your relationship. And it may mean making choices to living in Christ rather than your own desire. Simply put, when we are scared, God wants us to stop and listen to his voice; “be strong and courageous.”

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I don’t know what your life looks like, and I don’t know what you are going through. All I know is that it’s okay that you’re terrified, because I am too, but I will not live that way. God tells us to be strong and courageous. So when I go to class today, or when I sit and write my book, and even when I miss the people whom I love; I will be strong and courageous. It’s like I am a ship on the sea. The storms will come, I may have to navigate rocky waters, but I will trust the wind to guide where I’m headed. I choose to be strong and courageous with everything, I will trust my God because he has designed me with purpose, he is with me, and I will obey his wise guidance. I choose to be like Joshua, to desire God and follow him no matter what. This year will be unknown and exciting, and I am terrified, but it’s okay. God is bigger and I will trust him.

Be strong and courageous.

-Joshua Thomas

What Holds You Back

Life is filled with questions. Questions about the future, questions about what I should do and whom I should spend my time with. The list goes on and on, but when we face those questions, something often holds us back. It looks different for each of us, but one thing keeps us from pressing forward. You may be trying to think about what the one thing that all of us relate to when it comes to being held back, and the answer is simple. You are the one who is holding yourself back. Over the first week of Daystar’s 21 days of prayer and fasting I have been thinking a lot about this idea, what is the thing that holds me back, and my answer was me. I hold myself back from accomplishing what God has for me. It’s so easy for me to find myself in a state of complacency, I don’t push myself because I fear the reaction that may occur. New places and different faces cause me to get anxious, so I decided to ask God why that feeling of anxiety is filling me when I try to move forward. The conclusion that I came to was that I have not been keeping God in the right place. Yes, I know you may think I’m some mysterious perfect person, but that’s not true for me or any of you reading. Yes, you. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all screw up, we all have the days where we don’t feel like turning to God when life gets tough. What happens then is we start putting things in Gods place, good or bad, we take God out of our thoughts. The thing that holds us back, is the failure to press into an authentic relationship with Christ.

So how do we break out of the trap? Well a few things need to happen. Pray about what you’re placing in front of God, once you figure this out, then you can step into freedom. This can come in any size or shape. It could be a love of money, or it could even be your ministry. That’s mine, I find myself putting the ministry I do above my relationship with God. In my mind, I get worked up into the idea that if I am not directly in ministry, I have accomplished nothing. The enemy steps in and causes me to start believing this lie, so I focus on my ministry more than my God. I forget the reason I love doing ministry in the first place, because God radically changed my life and I want to help others experience that same relationship. It became an idol, so even something that can be used for good, could have been my downfall. Pray and think about what could be preventing you from your relationship with God. No seriously, do it right away, I’ll still be here. Now that you’ve prayed and thought about it, I want to spend the next few paragraphs on how we move from there. There is hope, you and I were made for bigger and better things, so press into your purpose.

Know that you are royalty.

God didn’t create us to be people enslaved to our selfish and worldly desires, he created us to be heirs. This idea comes from Galatians 4:6-7 which says, “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” God says that not only are we not slaves, but that you are a child of the highest king. He designed you to be exactly who you are, we are all unique and all have a great purpose for our lives, yet we choose to be slaves of this world. This is such a backwards idea, an heir to an empire would not live in the pit, but would live like royalty. We should live like we are a part of the royal family, because we are! Realize that what you have been making an idol of in your life, is keeping you from living into royalty. Live like an heir to the kingdom.

In our weakness, we are strong.

It’s important to understand that when we choose to put God first and live in royalty, we can’t do that all on our own. I’ve been reading through many of the books in the bible that Paul wrote and I have been amazed at how strong he was, even when he went through the hardest struggles many of us will never experience. One theme that keeps coming up over and over is this, even though we are weak God makes us strong in our weakness. That is an incredible testament to how much we need God. Paul says it best in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The moments where we find ourselves walking away from what we should do or let our fears hold us back, remember that in any time of weakness, when we rely on God, he makes us strong. Once we start trusting God, not even our human weaknesses can prevent us from achieving the purpose for our lives.

Run after wisdom.

This is the final part to breaking that mental wall that holds you back from your greater purpose. I actually have started memorizing a verse that we are using in Daystar Kids, and it is incredible how applicable it is for every part of my life. Proverbs 8:10-11 says, “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” Where does this wisdom come from? Well many places, but the number one is through reading the word. I can’t express enough how important this is, just try it and you’ll be amazed at how your life will radically change. The second is looking towards those who have gone before you, the people that you look up to. Talk with them, learn from them, and most importantly, listen. Wisdom can be found easily as long as you look towards life giving people and scripture. Running after wisdom will cause your fears to fall away and help you live in freedom.

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It’s hard coming face to face with what we actually put our trust in, because often we don’t want to lose what’s working. What we forget is while we are just existing, we are holding ourselves back from what could be, and what could be is a bigger purpose for your life that we can’t possibly comprehend. We don’t know the outcomes of life, and often this scares us. It causes us to not step out and take a chance on what God has for you. I don’t know what’s in store for my life, and to be honest, I don’t think I would want to know. All I know is that I am making a commitment to pursue Christ first in every area of my life, recognizing that I am an heir to the kingdom, that in my weakness God makes me strong, and to run after wisdom that gives life. When I step into this way of living, I have become free, I no longer will be held back by my own fears because I know that God holds me in the palms of his hands. We become free in our dependence on Christ. No lie from the enemy can stop me, and no words from those around me will ever make me compromise what the word of God says. We are all unique, we have a greater purpose, and we need to choose to stand with God. When we make this decision, nothing can ever again hold us back.

Choose to trust in Christ alone.

-Joshua Thomas

Starting Over

The idea of starting over and moving into an unknown is a daunting feeling. Often I find myself moving in one direction that I think is where I should go, but my path is changed. Even when I think I am following God’s path for my life, I can never be sure. Moments like this cause me to face the process of starting over. This has happened in my past, through the process of salvation, and it happens continuously. I’m sure we all face this on a regular basis, and to be completely honest, I don’t always want to change. My human self wants to stay safe, safe in the arms of complacency. Risks are unknowns to all of us, the outcome is often built up drastically in our heads, and we use that as an excuse to not change. Over and over in my life, I see myself taking steps in one way, thinking it is the best way, but it feels like the door that was once open, has now been slammed in my face. This is an awful feeling. Doubts are built up in my head, and I begin to doubt my potential. Whether it’s due to mistakes in our past, or the fear of new things, we refuse the gift of starting over.

Notice how that paragraph ended with the word “gift” used to describe starting over, yeah I did that on purpose. It is a good thing to start over, and I know this is true because I have been reading about one of the strongest leaders in the bible that started over. Paul was an amazing servant of the Lord who wrote most of the New Testament, but before he was Paul, he was a terrorist. His birth name was Saul and he was responsible for the capture and murder of Christians, but when God stops him where he stood, he gave Saul the chance to start over. He really started over, completely changing his career, I guess being a terrorist was his career (A bit creepy if you ask me), and giving him a new name. I hope none of you are in the business of being a killer, but God wants to help you start over. In reading through the ministry of Paul, I think there are three key elements that God has in regards to giving you the gift of starting over.

Your past does not define your future.

One of the biggest lies that Satan or the world may throw at you, is that you can never do anything good because of what you have done. This is so wrong, we all screw up and no one is perfect, so don’t be depressed because you won’t be perfect. God doesn’t use perfect people, he uses the broken. I have to remind myself that no matter how much I’ve screwed up, God wants to use me and elevate me from the dirt. If God can take a murderer and change him to becoming one of the most famous leaders in the bible, he can use you and me. The coolest thing about God is that he gives us another chance, something that I have been witnessing first hand from some of the hardships that I have witnessed and experienced through this past year. I have seen friends find their way back to Gods plan, I have seen the church rally around the family of a friend who passed away, and I have seen the redemptive possibilities that are here for my family. While my stories may seem distant, I know that you have been going through hard times as well. Let me tell you that your past and the struggles you have faced will never define your future. Your future is defined by how you follow Christ.

Trials Produce perseverance.

When we are faced with starting over, it is often the result of a struggle or problem that has risen up in our life. Unless you are an optimist, it’s not easy to see the good in situations like this, situations that test us and cause us to question everything. Paul during his time of ministry, faced many trials. He was imprisoned and faced death over and over, but he saw the purpose that it would be used for. Romans 5:3-5 says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” In the midst of the hard times and looking in the face of starting over, we have hope. A hope that is pure and godly, one that will give us a vision for more, rather than a fear of what might happen. The struggles we face guide us to the path we were meant to walk. So what does this mean to start over? Starting over essentially translates to redirecting my vision to where God wants me to be. Our passions may change, our path may have a shut door for us to find a new path, or God may have a sudden direction he takes you. All through the changes, when we keep God first, the rest will fall into place. This may mean changing a profession, not chasing after that one dream but following another, or letting go of things that will hold you back. Remember that in all things, even the trials, God will guide you.

Change is ongoing.

This is the final piece, and it’s the one you may wish I hadn’t revealed. The process of starting over and fully following Christ is continual, meaning that we are never fully finished. We have to constantly be redirecting our minds towards what will give us life. This is why fasting is such an essential part of our walk, taking something that we have elevated to the highest place in our life, and cutting it out for a season in order to focus on what is truly important in life. Currently, Daystar Church is in the time of their twenty one days of prayer and fasting, I am participating because it is such a life giving time to cut something out and grow in Christ. We are praying for a revival to come not only to our church, but to our city. It gets me excited to know that so many are on the same page of craving more of what God has in store for all of us. So ask yourself, what am I holding on to that prevents me from connecting with God? Knowing that the change will be continual and a process that we must strive for.

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The hope I have for you and myself is that we would both learn to start over. To hit the reset button for our life and follow God rather than our own desires. This thought of starting over can feel massive, like looking at a mountain and realizing how small we really are in comparison. The thing we forget when gazing upon the mountain is that we follow the God who created all things, put the stars in the sky, and crafted that mountain with his hands. That same God is with you. God may have you change your path, your dreams may radically change, but that same God will never leave you. He has never left me, and trust me when I say this, because I have faced many mountains in my life. God will help us overcome our toughest mountains when we redirect our focus on him alone. Don’t be afraid, God is with you. No matter what you have faced in the past, no matter what trials you face, and no matter how hard the change may seem, God will always be with you.

Start over with Christ.

-Joshua Thomas