Being a leader is hard work. It requires you to be strong when others aren’t, make tough decisions, and stand for what you believe is right; but we are all called to be leaders. A leader is simply one who leads a group, pretty basic stuff right? What this looks like is simple, yet complex. That’s one of the things that never ceases to amaze me, how simple God works to do incredible things. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” You see, we were specially designed by God, made in his image, he gave us abilities and talents that are unlike anyone else. He made us, but we have a calling that he gives each of you, use what he has given you to do good works. Those good works are simply serving others, treating others as you want to be treated.
Each day, we create a story. We take on new challenges, we meet new people, and we fight to make it through the hardship. You have a story. You have a past that has led you to this point, you have the ability to make choices now that will propel you into a future God has for you, and you have the power to leave a legacy that will last forever. Over the past three weeks I have written posts to help you understand that we have all been given a story. We all have a past where we can see that God has brought us from, good or bad. We all have the power to choose to live daily seeking Christ, not choosing to be of this world. All ending in our future, that once we trust God with it, we can leave a legacy that matters. These are all things that are vital to your story, but today there is a conclusion that may be the most important aspect of your story. Your story needs to be shared. Another word for your story that we see over and over in the bible is that of your testimony. A testimony is simply a declaration of what you have experienced. Your testimony is unique, because it is yours. Your testimony in Christ has power to it, it has the power to cast out darkness and push the enemy down. Revelation 12:11 says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” We have been saved by grace and our testimony of that fact gives us the power over the darkness. We become the light, and when there is light, darkness flees.
Last week I talked about making a very important choice, a choice that will affect the rest of your life, but what happens afterwards? How do I go about living my life? So often we are able to make the choice, but we continue to live our lives as they were. This isn’t me saying we should all become hermit people only reading the bible every moment of the day, not a bad thing just basically impossible if you have to drive and interact with people, what I am saying is that we become changed people. A relationship with God isn’t some checklist to complete, that isn’t a relationship. We are in relationship with so many people, friends, family, co-workers; but the most important relationship we have is with our creator. When we spend time with these people in our life, we make an effort to connect with them, that’s what God wants for us. When we make the effort to connect with him, our outlook is altered.
Hello again my good reader! Over the past couple of months on this blog I’ve been focusing on different aspects that we can learn and use to build our arsenal against the trials that life throws at us. It has been somewhat of a theme, but today I want to focus in on the reason behind why I’ve been writing about these traits. My reasoning is because I have seen that only you can strengthen yourself. Here’s what I mean, we as people can listen to inspirational speakers, read the best books, talk to the wisest of people, but there’s one thing that we all forget. All of these are good, but it comes down to the fact that only you can make the choice over your life. This is one of the most beautiful lessons that Jesus teaches us, a gift he gives us. We all have a choice, and this choice is the decision of life or death. Yeah, that serious. Paul gives us the two options in plain, clear, view. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.” One of the things that is so good about the bible is that things are so simple, a choice of living in sin, or turning from sin and running into freedom. It’s the choice, meaning the only choice we need. Do we follow the world, or do we choose to follow Christ? Without choosing to have a relationship with Christ, you can still work on the skills that I’ve written about, but it isn’t sustainable. Think of it like an environmental standpoint, if we keep using a non-renewable resource, we are left with nothing. Things break down, we lose the ability to live like we once were. The same is true without Christ, without having a daily renewal, we break down. We need to make the choice.
I want to talk about something today that I feel like doesn’t get talked about enough. Creativity. We look around every day and look at a world filled with beautiful nature, excellent craftsmanship, and individuals who are each unique in every way from us. We look at it all, but something doesn’t quite sink in. We live in a world that was designed by an all-powerful creator, yet we forget to acknowledge the power that is in that. We forget the intricate processes of the body that allows us to function on a daily basis. We forget the fact that nature has an inner working system that literally gives life. And we forget that we have been designed with the ability to use our own creative minds. Each of us is unique, designed by a creator, each with the ability to give back with our own gifts. All of us have talents and abilities that add to the kingdom and the world we live in.
One of the biggest questions I think everyone has asked themselves at some point is, do I even matter? It’s kind of a frightening question to ask oneself. Do we actually matter to the landscape of the world we find ourselves in? The answer, in our own eyes, varies all over the place. Success is subjective in the eyes of the person trying to obtain it. Success in the world may be fame, fortune, and glory; but if this is the standard for if we matter, most of us will fail. I know for me I’m a broke college student who is trying to figure out how I get to the place God has called me to. I don’t exactly meet the fame, fortune, and glory type of success. There has to be something more, right? I believe that God’s idea of success is so much more powerful than we could ever imagine, and it is so much greater than our worldly desires. Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither- whatever they do prospers.” This verse I believe answers that question of why we matter.
I hope you all are staying warm and safe from the icy roads! I am currently in a hotel in Lillington after spending a day visiting a friend. It was very crazy having my dad call me to tell me that the roads were too dangerous for me to try and make it, so I made reservations at the hotel. It’s currently raining and freezing from outside a coffee shop here in the town, and this situation, as well as what I’ve been learning throughout this week has lead me to one central idea. Trust. Trust is something that is hard for me, the word itself means to have a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. That’s a pretty big role to fill, yet God wants us to put our complete trust in him alone. For me, it’s hard to trust things and people, because all of us are sinners, people who are not perfect. If we expect imperfect people to be perfect, we will be disappointed. I often make that mistake, I really do mean often. I look to other people to trust in, because I can tangibly hear and see them, but I make them into a higher position than God himself. This is a dangerous way to live, Jesus called out the religious leaders of his time because they similarly put their trust in the law, while missing the son of God who was in front of them. I think that’s the danger of putting trust into someone or something until it turns into faith, and that’s something hard to admit.
Life gets hard. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that fact. Sometimes it happens in unforeseen ways, giving a sucker punch to our gut. Other times, our own dumb mistakes can bring on heartache and pain. I know for me, both are true. I’ve faced storms throughout the past year and this year has been a fight as well. I’ve made mistakes, let my anger take over in moments of weakness. It’s a challenge I’ve always had, anger. Anger against those who hurt me, anger towards those who hurt others, and anger towards myself. I hate that part of me. I seek peace and a laidback nature, but when I don’t let God have control, I lose it. I’ll say things I can’t take back, whether true or not, the words will hurt. I share this because I struggle. I’m not a perfect person and neither are you. Maybe you struggle with anger like me, or maybe your thorn is of another kind. Addiction, holding on to grudges, pride, judgement, abuse; all of these many of us struggle with on a daily basis. All of these can cause a fracture in our relationships, hurting our families, friends, or our overall persona that people perceive of us. The funny thing is, we expect everyone around us to be the perfect person we are not. The dichotomy becomes our expectation of others perfection to counter our imperfection, thus creating the fracture. The only thing that can counter our imperfection is God’s complete perfection.
I think we have lost something. Lost something that brings us closer to God. Something that is a necessity of life. Prayer seems to be put on the back burner of most of our lives. I know for me, I often don’t think about the importance of prayer, so I’ll get caught up in serving others and pursuing God’s vision and I forget to come to him first! It’s such a silly thing, I’m running after what God wants for me, yet I forget to come to him first in all things. I think that is a trait that has been happening to many believers, we are running after the vision, but we forget to come humbly to God in prayer first. Now I know some of you may be thinking, I haven’t lost prayer, I pray in the mornings and before I eat a meal! This is good and is vital to our walk, but I think there is more to prayer than just once in the morning and before I eat. There is a power that comes with stepping into the presence of God. Prayer is direct communication with God, it’s the way we are able to cultivate that relationship with him, and it is the main way to prepare our hearts for what he wants to bring us. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, I feel myself getting set in a routine and trying to check it off my checklist. Pray in the morning, check. Read my bible, check. I am so focused on checking things off, that I miss what God wants to teach and reveal to me for that day. I meet with my dad each week and we started talking about this very idea. It was interesting to see that he felt the same way, that prayer has become a routine, when it should be a necessity to living life! That’s what I want to focus on today, how we as believers need to reclaim the power of prayer, because it will change and shape our life for greater things to come.
I hope you have been able to stay warm this past weekend if you were like me and caught up in a crazy snow storm. This past weekend I had a lot of free time on my hands, the cabin fever was strong with me. While I had time on my hands, I had to write a brief paper on social media and how I present myself for my relational communication course. It was a strange project, not the paper itself, but the idea of looking at how I present myself to the world. It was enlightening, because of the fact that it made me look introspectively, and it reminded me of things that I have learned on how I define myself. In high school, I came to the realization that I want to be who I am, not wear a mask or pretend to be someone that I’m not. From then on, in every area of my life I wanted to be me, because I have been defined by something greater. Someone greater. I have been designed by an all-powerful God, one who has given me talents, gifts, and interests that make me unique. Too often I used to waste time trying to fit in, pretending to like the things that everyone else liked, talk the way others talked, did what everyone else did. These weren’t me. When you choose to not live like everyone else, others will try to define you by your earthly achievements. I was weak because I didn’t excel in sports, I was a fool because I didn’t learn like everyone else, and I was an outcast because I wanted to truly follow Christ. These accolades, grades, and feelings of an outsider didn’t define me. Only God can define you.
Once I started living this truth, the earthly things around me began to not matter anymore. I learned to love the hobbies that gave me joy. I loved comics, movies, and writing because God designed me to think through mixed media. I learned to be vulnerable, to be open with my struggles to help those who are suffering around me in similar ways. I learned that life is so much more fun when you live knowing that only God defines you. The pressure of trying to be perfect, or fit in with everyone else fades away. It fades away because it isn’t important. I am so thankful that God defines me. The verse that spurred on this post was Psalms 139:14 which says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” What a beautiful verse. When we believe that God has made us, we know that he defines us by saying we are fearfully and wonderfully made. When looking at how I present myself through social media, I am me. I am the same person on the screen as you will meet in person, and I do that on purpose. I want to be exactly who God has made me to be, all the time, no matter what form others see me in. I want you to believe that same truth, you can be all that God made you to be, when you start believing that he is the only one who will ever define you.
Know that you are beautiful.
God made you beautiful. Yes, guys too. The word beautiful means that something is aesthetically pleasing to the senses and has a high standard, something that is excellent. You are beautiful, because God made you. No matter what people have said to you, or how people may have treated you in the past, you are beautiful. You have a unique personality, one that is filled with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, a future that is unlike any other. I’m not saying this to make you feel like you are better than someone else, I’m saying this because you have been designed by an awe-inspiring creator. Without him we would have nothing, and he has given you so much. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that we are not good enough, saying we are worthless, but this is the lie. You are worth everything, that’s why an all-powerful God gave his son to die for you. God did that saying that he loves you so much, that you are his beautiful creation. Our society has put a standard up for what makes someone beautiful or special, young girls hate the way they look and young boys try so hard to attain what a “real” man looks like. This breaks my heart, because God has already made you to be exactly who you are. One day when I have children of my own, I hope to tell them that they are so special. One day I will tell my daughter that she is beautiful just the way she is. One day I will tell my son that a “real” man is one that follows God with everything inside of him. Today I am telling you the same. You are beautiful because God has made you, and you must believe that he is the only one that defines you.
Strive towards what is good.
Once you know that God has designed you, you must strive towards what is beneficial to your life. None of us would knowingly drink poison, so why is it that we make decisions that could harm us? We do this on a daily basis, it is the sad truth. God wants to be with you in everything, yet we choose to try and live life on our own strength. Time and time again we fail and get frustrated as to why God would let this happen, the truth is, we are not coming to God first. When God isn’t first, we lose sight of what is important. We let the small things slide. We hang around those people that really are terrible influences, we waste time with things that aren’t important, and sometimes we let our eyes fall into places they should never be. So we need to make a choice, will we believe that God defines us, or make compromises that only satisfies our flesh for a short time. I hope you choose to live the way that God made you to be. When you live that way, you spend time with people that push you to be better, we use our time wisely, and we focus our eyes towards heaven. It’s not big things, it’s the decisions to be wise. Finding community at your church, spending time in the word and in prayer, keeping your eyes guarded from the computer screen or that underwear commercial that comes on the TV. Strive towards what is good, because God has defined you to be a child of the most high.
Don’t define others.
We can forget this quickly. We start living without a mask and live the way God designed you to be, but when we see others, we are quick to judge. We need to live by the golden rule, yes that one. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you’ve ever experienced a hurtful word spoken about you, or had a rumor started about you, it is devastating. It hurts because people judge you for living the way God wants you to live, and that means that you seem weird to others. Why then would we do the same? It seems so simple, but it’s the truth. Only God defines you, and only God defines the people around you. So don’t gossip, don’t speak words that will only destroy the spirit of people around you, instead, speak life. Build others up, tell them the truth that you have found, show them that only God defines them. Come to them with love when you see they are not living the way scriptures say, and before that, make sure your life lines up with scripture. Don’t define others, because only God can define them.
How do you live your life? Do you try to fit in and let the people around you define who you are, or do you choose to believe that only God can define you? God has made you. All of your talents and quirks, he has made you to be exactly who you are. I love that verse in Psalms. There was a company that sells a T-shirt with the words, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” on it. I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a young girl, must have been around 7 years old, wearing the shirt. I love that. I think we should all be like that. Proud of who we are because we have been fearfully and wonderfully made. I hope my children one day know that truth and hold it that close to their own live. You were made by the same God that created the universe, the beauty and wonder that surrounds us, that same God, created you. Not by accident or by chance, God designed you and made you. God is the only one that can define you. So live knowing that you are beautiful, strive towards what is good, and don’t define others. God loved you, made you, and gave everything to save you.
God is the only one that will ever define you.