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In Search Of Success In Spite Of A Mental Illness
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Charles Stanley once said: “Success is the continuing achievement of becoming the person God wants you to be and accomplishing the goals God has helped you to set”. In this world, because of the consequences of sin, many people today have a mental illness, and everyone has a “spiritual mental illness”. To over abundantly find freedom from both, we must make sound decisions, which involves: obeying God’s love laws, having an intimate love relationship with Christ, surrendering your will to the Holy Spirit, and finally, overcoming life adversities in the process.
Key Quote: “In this life, we have to make many choices. Some are very important choices. Some are not. Many of our choices are between good and evil. The choices we make, however, determine to a large extent our happiness or our unhappiness, because we have to live with the consequences of our choices”. James E. Faust
Point 1: “Faith in God can help those with a mental illness”.
Trying to find freedom from a mental illness is often a hard road to follow – especially when your disability is real problematic, meds don’t stabilize, and our support systems don’t provide love, support, and understanding. I experienced all this with my bipolar and OCD. Today, though, I have found freedom my illnesses, thanks very much to my faith in God. (Please read www.insearchofabettertomorrow.com to read my mental illness recovery story)
Scientific studies reveal “people with strong faith are more likely to experience fewer symptoms of anxiety-related disorders, than those who don’t pray or have little faith in praying.” Another related science study says “people with higher faith in God have better treatment outcomes (better well-being, less depression and anxiety” than those with less faith”. Science also says:
• Christianity also helps people cope with mental illness struggles, such as:
o Ability to take responsibility for one’s own actions, flexibility, high frustration tolerance
o Acceptance of uncertainty, involvement in activities of social interest, courage to take risks
o Serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change thing we can change, and wisdom to know the difference between the above
o Acceptance of handicaps, tempered self-control, harmonious relationships for self. Others, including Nature and God
• Citing a quote on an Internet article (The Bible Keys to Mental Health): “Many mental illness can be prevented, and the Bible provides helpful information to that end. After all, it is a handbook from God on what we should think and how our minds should work. Among other things, the Bible tells us how to relieve stress and the kind of stimuli we should allow into our minds”
• “Mental health, from a Christian perspective is a state of dynamic equilibrium characterized by hope, joy, and peace, in which positive self-regard is developed through the love, relationship, forgiveness, meaning and purpose resulting from a vital relationship with God and a responsible interdependence with others”. (Spiritual Dimensions Of Mental Health. Judith Allen Shelly; Sandra D. John, etc.)
Point 2: “Freedom requires sound decision making”.
Key Quote: “I've made a decision and now I must face the consequences.” (J. Michael Straczynski)
Freedom from anything requires sound decision making, as there is a consequence to every made decision. If you “text and drive” and your inattentiveness hits a pedestrian, the consequences of that unsound action is that you killed the individual, you lose your license, and are incarcerated. Even though the action was unintentional, the consequence of your unsound act remains destructive and irreversible. In a world of consequences of every decision made, freedom requires sound decision making.
Unstable life conditions often result from consequential poor decisions. Depending upon your mental illness, adversity experienced can often create malfunctions and additional chaos in the mentally ill mind. Because it can become so difficult to remove the “growing storm” that grows inside the mind, it may be even more critical to choose wisely. To prevent “our mental illnesses from pouring gasoline on a fire” that bad choices already created, we must learn to be more careful beforehand in our choices and actions.
For example, if a manic depressive person loses all his money from compulsive gambling, and thus, cannot pay his bills and goes hungry daily, these stressors could exacerbate the mania and severe depression problems, he already experiences. Or if an abuser abuses a mentally ill child, the resulting shame, negative self-concept, doubts and fears that the abused kid experiences can traumatize and worsen the child’s mental illness, inciting his OCD disability.
Consequences often put individuals “behind the eight ball”, especially the disabled. It often leads to negative thinking and emotions impairing how we “label” ourselves, others, and the past, present, and future. A self-fulfilling prophecy of negativity often intensities bad situations; thus, when we need to rely upon sound advice and know the difference between truth and falsehoods in the process. Since God knows all things and is perfect Love – we should rely upon God’s Word and direction, since TRUTH and LOVE combined never steers anyone wrong.
Point 3: “Making Sound Decisions Involves obedience to God’s love commands”
Key Quote: “Obedience is the mother of success and is wedded to safety.” (Aeschylus)
In Psalms 32:8, “The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise and watch over you.’” Positive consequences in our favor happen when we heed his instructions, including His commandments. For example, in Romans 13:9-10, it says:
“The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder”, “Do not steal”, “Do not covet”, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself. “Love does not harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
One reason why we should love is that it brings us joy, according to John 15:9-11:
“As the Father has loved me, so I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: ‘Love each other as I have loved you.’”
“Obeying God’s love laws does no wrong and provides overflowing joy to the giver (it also does same to receiver of love)”. In general, obedience to God’s instructions stabilizes us during our life storms; inversely, disobedience destabilizes us, especially when face adversity, according to Luke 6:46-49:
“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!” when you don’t do what I say? I will show what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters nd beat against the house – it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins
THE PROBLEM: The Society That Disobeyed
Key Quote: “The great test of life is obedience to God.” (Ezra Taft Benson)
Key Quote: “A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality. (Winston Churchill)
THE BRICK HOUSE
Floodwaters or life storms beat upon the brick house (freedom, hope, family, community, a dream to chase, an individual). If we build each brick (a decision, a thought, experience, person, family, races, communities, nations, world) upon a solid foundation (obedience to God’s love laws), the “house” will remain firm, “because it is well-built”. Unfortunately, if the “house” is structured upon instability (disobedience), it will “eventually crumble into a heap of ruins.”
The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man. (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn). Thievery, sexual promiscuity, rape, family discord, violence, lying, murder, hatred, and selfishness are all examples of sins that often destabilizes and eventually crumbles “houses”. In contrast, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” are all attributes that will stabilize and keep strong “houses” (freedom, hope, families, communities, dreams, a person).
Philip Zimbardo once said, “The line between good and evil is permeable and almost anyone can be induced to cross it when pressured by situational forces.” When a piece of wood repeatedly becomes hit by a swing ax, the resistance and binding power of the wood becomes weaker and weaker after each blow of the ax. Once the wood gets to its breaking point, it finally splits. This is the predicament of the human soul, as everyone has a breaking point, a threshold where people finally lose hope from adversity, and a breaking point of choosing good or evil. Once these lines get crossed, when people choose hopelessness and immorality, man will never be the same:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction . . . The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation”. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Strength To Love, 1963.
In this life, we have to make many choices. Some are very important choices. Some are not. Many of our choices are between good and evil. The choices we make, however, determine to a large extent our happiness or our unhappiness, because we have to live with the consequences of our choices. (James E. Faust)
“We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.”
― Ken Levine
Key Quote: “We are free to choose our paths, but we can't choose the consequences that come with them.” (Sean Covey, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens)
God created man “to be fruitful, to multiply, and to have dominion” over everything on this planet (Genesis 1:28). Adam and Eve, though, doubted God’s provision and warnings of sin and its consequences, thus creating a discontented heart that disobeyed God, creating shame and fear into the heart of man. (This is the cycle of sin: we doubt the truth of God’s Word, we experience discontentment which leads to disobedience, and then we feel shame and fear afterwards).
Consequentially, eating forbidden fruit led man to be born with “a spiritual mental illness” – a compulsiveness to do evil, an unsound-mind processing flaws, a consequential tendency to place self into harm’s way, a void of depression that only the Trinity can make right, a death sentence to hell. Here’s a list, I found on the Internet, of the consequences of man’s fall:
• Sufferings of man and creation
• Man spending entire life fighting for food and family – lifelong struggle to survive
• He came under the curse of death
• His innocence
• A hindered relationship with God
• Damaged relationships with others
• A changed (hostile) relationship with creation
• The joy of laboring
• The dominion he once enjoyed
• The privilege of reflecting as fully
• From the time of the fall on, men inherit from Adam a sinful nature which is hostile toward God.
Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death”.
POINT 4: “Love only is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence." - Erich Fromm
A. FREEDOM DEMANDS RECONCILIATION WITH GOD, WHICH HAPPENS WHEN YOU ACCEPT CHRIST AS YOUR SAVIOR
Key verse: Jesus: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Man’s disobedience brought death to every human, but Jesus’s obedience brings freedom to every believer:
“For the sin of this one man, Adam brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace, and His gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15b-17)
God is a god of unimaginable compassion. He doesn’t want you to go to hell so badly that He chose His innocent Son (Jesus) to die on a cross as a ransom for all your sins. Freedom is only freedom, though, if given a choice - you must decide to accept that gift.
So what do I do to get saved? Romans 10:9-10 says: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” Salvation has nothing do with works, but everything with Jesus and the cross.
God wants to give you a new beginning, a new start in life. Please accept Christ as your Savior.
“No man cometh to the Father and gets saved except through Christ.”
KEY QUOTE: God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. (Saint Augustine)
KEY QUOTE: ”The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” (Oscar Wilde)
B. MAN NEEDS TO BECOME CHRISTIAN AND TO BE OBEDIENT TO PRODUCE GOOD FRUIT AND STRIVE TOWARD SANCTIFICATION
KEY QUOTE: “What a miracle that God would take sinners such as ourselves and give us new hearts with a disposition to love him and trust him in the midst of our circumstances.” (Gloria Furman, Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home)
We live in a world today in desperate need of great change. People “injure” people for personal gain, and almost all suffer from some kind of “traumatic event”. Fear, shame, and rejection are the fruit of our mistakes and frailties. Dysfunctional “families”, in the form of families, communities, races, and nations; cannot get along, creating chaos, distrust, and unstable foundations for the next generation to reside in. Violence on TV, illegal drugs, dishonesty, sexual assault, single parents out of wedlock, homosexuality, no religion in schools, and no respect for another are the values we teach our children to believe in. How long are “our poorly-structures houses” (Luke 6:46-49) going to stay erect when the floodwaters (life struggles we daily create) keep beating on us?
The fact that Christians are in the minority rather than the majority in its population, and that not one is truly stable in its obedience, makes this world very unstable. However, in spite of all the world’s sins, God still wants to pour out His perfect grace toward the Prodigal Son (the world). If sinners would just “open their eyes” and “realize that ‘freedom requires sound decision making’ and “decide to turn from their evil ways and come to Christ” and “then rely upon the Holy Spirit” for godly living, this world would be greatly changed, as “houses” would become more and more stable against the floodwaters of life.
Jesus is the available psychiatrist who is capable of treating properly every person with a “spiritual mental illness”. Those who “trust in Him” and “accept His treatment plan” (salvation and sanctification), and “daily take His prescribed “antidepressants” (Holy Spirit) will become a “new creation” (a Christian), with improving symptoms (less sinful behaviors, to the extent you choose not to sin). In addition, the doctor’s therapist (God) will use His expertise (the Bible) to guide, empower, and stabilize patients like us.
Once you accept Christ as your Savior (choose Jesus to be your psychiatrist), the Holy Spirit (medication) will automatically enter the soul of the Christian. When we surrender our life to the Holy Spirit (takes the antidepressants), we will have the Holy Spirit’s perfect fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) produced in the spirit of the believer: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
Just imagine: if you habitually let the Holy Spirit control your life, you will experience His overflowing “love, joy, peace, . . .self-control” in your spirit, in spite of your real mental illness, in your life. (Since the Holy Spirit only resides in the heart of the Christian, you cannot experience these fruits until you get saved.) Regardless of the situations and troubles you encounter, when you surrender, the Holy Spirit’s overabundant fruit of the spirits will be emitted by Him.
In John 15:16-17, Jesus said to His disciples, “I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: “Love each other.”
In our daily lives, we daily face a crisis of belief: should I live my life to satisfy my personal desires, or should I daily live for Christ, letting the Holy Spirit work in my life, to accomplish my God-given dream (purpose)? If I choose the latter, according to John 15:16-17, “God will give me whatever I ask for”, in the constraints of His purpose for my life. Or should I do what I want, ignoring my God-given dream? What’s the other consequence of being self-centered?
In 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, it says, “Anyone who builds on that foundation (one of Jesus Christ) may use a variety of materials – gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” Do you want to build your rewards be based upon “hay, wood, and stubble, etc.” (the works of a worldly believer) which will “burn up”, or will you surrender to Him, to receive someday eternal rewards?
“Success is not measured in terms of how much material wealth we acquire, but rather of how much closer we are with God”. (Unknown)
C. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” (Matt 12:33)
C1. “Success is not measured by what you do compared to what others do. It is measured by what you do with the ability God gave you”. ( Unknown)
Matthew 25:19-30 talks about three servants who were given talents (five, two, and one bags of silver, respectively). In the parable, the two servants, who invested the silver bags, doubled what was entrusted to them (five bags of silver became ten bags, and two bags, four ). The master therefore said.: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” Unfortunately, the master was indignant at the servant who hid his silver: “You wicked and lazy servant! . .), and gave his silver to the one with ten bags, to further invest the master’s money.
God has given all “talents” to be used for His own glory. Regardless of how many talents a person may have, God blesses the stewardship of his servants. In the human body, just as “the eye is needed as much as the hand and foot”, there is no unimportant person with talents. (1 Corinthians 12:22: “In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”). God doesn’t like it when people don’t use or misuse their God-given talents. Through the empowerment of the Vine, we should sow our talents to reap spiritual fruit.
C2: The Vine And The Branches
In John 15, Jesus used the “Vine and branches” concept, to delineate our new to rely upon the Trinity’s empowerment to produce fruit:
John 15:4-6: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
Disconnected from the vine, branches are incapable of producing fruit. So is man powerless to reap spiritual fruits when not abiding and surrendering to the Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit’s work is done internally, we may never see the reaping of His work in us; just as people cannot the process of a vine producing its fruit. Also, most spiritual fruit, produced by the Vine, cannot by us, the branches, we just need the faith to believe it is happening:
“Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Just like how a gardener does pruning to “clip away” bad branches that interfere with the further growth of fruit, God uses sanctification “to make our bad behaviors holy”, so the Trinity can bear more spiritual fruit in our lives. Sanctification involves habitual studying of the Bible (as a spiritual guidebook) to understand the “do’s and don’ts” of proper Christian conduct, and then relying upon the Holy Spirit to empower us in removing bad behaviors, and replacing with proper ones. Only through daily surrender and reliance upon Him can the “sanctification” and “fruit-bearing processes” work.
Jesus said: "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (John:15:1-2)“
C3: Not Sinning
KEY QUOTE: “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” (Nelson Mandela)
Every person has life areas which interfere with Holy Spirit’s fruit-bearing work in us. Many times we want to do right but cannot. That’s because we have a sinful nature that conflicts with the Holy Spirit for control. Whoever we yield to wins:
Galatians 5:16-18 says “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
The Trinity knows we will constantly fail in trying to do right in our own strength. So the Holy Spirit says “Let me do the work!”
In Galatians 5:25 says: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”. Rather than trying to do right, the Holy Spirit instead says, “Stop trying not to sin! All I want you to do is, in everything I do, everywhere I go, just be right next to me, take a step when I take a step, and follow Me! I won’t lead you to astray!”
In an analogy, when a woman slow dances with a man, she follows the lead of the male. Holding hands and enjoying the intimacy of the event, the female stays close to the guy. When the male takes a dance step to the right, she reciprocates. A step to the left, she does likewise. Not thinking about trying to dance, her focus is upon the relationship and the male dancer’s next step. The next thing she knows, as she follows His lead, she is slow-dancing quite well.
We are the female and the Holy Spirit is the man. Our focus when “dancing with Him” is the relationship and the process of “keeping in step” with Him. The next thing we know we are sinning less. Focus upon Him and watch and follow Him. Don’t try to lead and don’t force the movement of sinning. Just enjoy the intimacy, ask Him to take control and lead you in your daily walk with God, and then follow Him.
Because we are human, and the flesh still resides, many times we try to take control of the “dance moves”, or other times, we “slip and fall” as we try to “keep in step” with Him. Either way, just like how a male slow dancer doesn’t get rejecting at the girl he loves, when she falters; the Holy Spirit will still work with you in trying to “slow dance” as long as “you get up from the floor” and “be willing to continue trying to learn how to slow dance with the Holy Spirit, with Him leading the way.
D1. FREEDOM OFTEN DEMANDS LOVE IN FORM OF ANOTHER
KEY QUOTE: “Though we cannot see the heart, we can see the life.” (David Paul Kirkpatrick, The Address Of Happiness)
KEY QUOTE: “Choices made, whether bad or good, follow you forever and affect everyone in their path one way or another.” ( J.E.B. Spredemann, An Unforgivable Secret)
KEY QUOTE: “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable”. (Brennan Manning)
KEY BIBLE VERSE: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
To every believer, God has a giant-sized purpose to achieve through Him. “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive His power, and be ‘Christ’s witness’”, telling people about Christ in the manner and in the places He desires us to go. Without the power of Holy Spirit, and especially without Love, all our efforts are powerless and, usually counterproductive.
“A witness is “a person who affords evidence”, or “a person who gives testimony”. (dictionary.com).
Our life is comprised of all our actions, behaviors, decisions, thoughts, experiences, and emotions. How the Trinity has transformed our life, in all ways, represents our testimony. Thus, our testimony includes how the Trinity has impacted our actions, behaviors, decisions, thoughts, experiences, and emotions. This includes many aspects, inclusive of “how the conversion to a Christian by Jesus has “changed my life, before and after becoming a believer”.
Our testimony may include overcoming strongholds, new freedoms experienced, change in moral character, and positive attitudes of life in spite of great adversities. Unfortunately, Choosing self-centeredness, including disobedience, or just plainly making bad choices can be real consequential, in the Holy Spirit’s evangelistic plans, of your testimony. Joe Focht once said:
“There is no more confused message that you and I could give to a lost and dying world than to live in sin and at the same time to tell people about the transforming power of Jesus Christ. There isn't a more confusing thing we can do to our kids and the generation behind us, to this world.
God will not use a compromised life to reach a compromised world. God will use a life that is given over to Him, that is a demonstration of the message that through the power of Jesus Christ and His love He can transform our lives and set us free.”
― Joe Focht
Also note the following two quotes:
“We should remember that bearing a heartfelt testimony is only a beginning. We need to bear testimony, we need to mean it, and most importantly we need consistently to live it. We need to both declare and live our testimonies”. (David A. Bednar)
“The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual - for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost”. (M. Scott Peck)
Our testimony is our witness. When we live the life how God intends us to live, we “show evidence” (a witness) of who Christ is, and our experiences represent our “testimony” of what God has done for us.. “Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”
D2. APOSTLE PAUL: ROAD TO DAMASCUS
“God is not glorified in any transaction upon earth so much as in the conversion of a sinner.” (Archibald Alexander). Just note the conversion of the Apostle Paul:
The Apostle Paul was originally Saul, a Christian hater who persecuted Christians, and “approved the stoning of a saint name Stephen.” Saul ‘tried to destroy the church” as he “placed Christian men and women in prison.” Saul, according to Acts 9:1, “uttered threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.” That was the life of Saul before God converted him on the road to Damascus.
Seemingly every Christian knows that “Saul became Paul after a light from heaven made him blind. In Acts 9.5, a voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The next thing you know the Apostle Paul became of the greatest apostles ever. That is the power of the gospel.
Billy Sunday once said, “Conversion is a complete surrender to Jesus. It’s a willingness to do what he wants you to do.” How could a man who plotted to destroy and kill Christians instantly became willing to suffer immensely for the cause of Christianity? That is the power of the gospel.
With God, there is a future for every sinner, regardless of his or her past. The same God who transformed Saul into Paul, can also radically change the evil hearts of those who hurt you. The Trinity can transform violent people into those of compassion and love. In essence, the Lord can use former heinous people to create great change in this world. Nothing is impossible for the Lord!
It doesn’t matter what you may have done in the past, there is always a future for you, if you seek Him. His Love for His children is unfathomable, and His desire to adopt as His children, the worst of sinners is just as strong. If you surrender yourself to Him, He will never leave nor forsake you. He wants an intimate love relationship with you. Don’t pass Him by!
Every sinner has a future with Christ if they change their ways.
E1. APOSTLE PAUL: DOMINION OVER ADVERSITY = MASTERS OF LIFE
KEY QUOTE: “God can deliver you so well that some people won’t believe your testimony.”
(Shannon L. Alder)
In this world of consequences and sufferings, trying to remain free in spite of trials can seem a daunting task. However, there is always hope in those who put their faith in Jesus, the overcomer of the greatest of trials – sin and death on the cross.
“I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.” (Philippians 4:13) – these were the God-inspired words of the Apostle Paul, who endured enormous sufferings, in the name of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29: “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” However, in spite of all this, Paul still said in “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.”
In our hardships, we all have moments where we question God’s love. Paul, though, said in Romans 8:35-41: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does I mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? . . . And I am convinced that nothing an ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In a world of sin and consequences, God gave Paul his “thorn in the flesh”, so Paul would daily realize that “in his own strength he was too weak to overcome”, “but through God, all things are possible.” In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul reinforces this fact: “ . . so now that I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
In life, you may still feel confused and frustrated of why God gave you a mental illness. You also may at times feel like a nobody in comparison to those without a “thorn in the flesh” AKA a disability. However, “God chose the things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). That is one major reason why Paul, me, and you, have been blessed with a “thorn in the flesh.”
God made you weak so you can be living proof that He is strong. He uses trials to teach us to “stop relying on ourselves, but rather, solely on God” each day. Most importantly, He wants to train our faith and courage to believe in the power of 1 Corinthians 10:13: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (God-inspired author of 1 Corinthians 10:13: the Apostle Paul who suffered greatly).
James 1: 12
“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”
CONCLUSION OF APOSTLE PAUL
Saul was the worst of sinners; he in fact was persecuting and destroying God’s children (Christians). However, the fact that God still wanted to use him, reveals the remarkable grace of God. Also amazing is the power of the gospel, which converted a truly evil heart into one a compassionate man who immensely suffered for the cause of Christ. In addition, as we study the testimony of this great saint, we also see that Paul also had a personal “thorn in the flesh” (aka, a ‘disability’) that he had to daily overcome. This gives “mentally ill” people hope that “great things can be achieved” in spite of their limitations. Finally, the story of Paul gives us hope that in spite of great trials, great joy, derived from the power of Christ, can be still experienced. The Apostle Paul’s faith was unquestioned as he believed, in his own life: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me”, inspired words of God, written by the author Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:13. We can all find hope in the life of the Apostle Paul
F. “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” (Mother Teresa)
Small things done in love, can potentially lead to great change, in a rippling effect, when empowered by the Holy Spirit, and purposed by God. For example:
When I was a senior in college, my then undiagnosed manic depression, etc., almost led me to give up on life, as I considered suicide by purposely driving a car off the road and into death. However, when I needed it the most, LOVE intervened, as God’s played an inspirational song on the radio which gave me hope.
A few months later, LOVE (God) inspired a caring teacher, Professor Duane Dobbert, to take a further interest in me. Dobbert eventually led me to a physiatrist in Angola, IN, who diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. Years pass on and another doctor diagnosed my OCD. Because someone chose to care back then, I can gladly state today I am free from my mental illness.
I have spent years writing on the Internet, trying to encourage people with similar problems as I. I created two web sites – www.inpursuitoffreedomministries.com and www.insearchofabettertomorrow.com – telling individuals about Christ, including how He has helped me to overcome my mental illness. I also have published several Christian articles on Faithwriters.com, and I have made several posts on Christian forums.com, whether it, be a daily devotional I got permission to use, an encouraging thread, or just plain verses. I also pray almost every day to encourage, uplift, and inspire people I met. I also have told my mental illness recovery story to several people. I am not trying to boast, because only through God’s grace can I live a life of freedom. But the point is, I have a strong compassion to create great change in this world.
If it wasn’t for a teacher who chose to care, I wouldn’t have my mental illness diagnosed, and I would have probably, given up on life by now. I owe that teacher my life. If God didn’t give me my mental illness, if I didn’t have such enormous life mountains to climb, if the journey wasn’t so painful, and if I didn’t see so many hurting people in psychiatric hospitals, I would have never cared about writing this post, and I definitely wouldn’t spent the countless hours creating websites, etc.. God allowed my great sufferings for a greater, beneficial, purpose, and I strongly believe He has or is doing, the same for you.
If you are a child of God, just think: He loves you more than you could ever imagine. God will “never leave nor forsake you” in your journeys to find freedom. He also, will “never give you a trial beyond what you can handle through Him.” He is the Father who accepts every Prodigal Son with open arms and compassion. “He is close to the brokenhearted, he rescues those crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18
Just believe in the beauty and power of His Love, deliverance, and power to overcome. If you haven’t accepted Christ as your Savior, please do it now. There is no greater thing than being a child of God.
Even though I don’t know you, I still just want to say: “I love you”. Our Father in Heaven so desperately wants an intimate, eternal love relationship with you that He chose to have His Son die on the cross for you.
His Love to His children is unchangeable. His grace is always enough!
“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely. ... He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“There will always be someone willing to hurt you, put you down, gossip about you, belittle your accomplishments and judge your soul. It is a fact that we all must face. However, if you realize that God is a best friend that stands beside you when others cast stones you will never be afraid, never feel worthless and never feel alone.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Swami Vivekananda once said: “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” As we daily meditate upon that advice, listen also to the words of John Maxwell: “True success is obeying God.” Now incorporate that idea in your daily life.
“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.” Henry David Thoreau
“With man, this is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
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