Far More Strength

I find rest in God; only he can save me.
He is my rock and my salvation.
He is my defender; I will not be defeated. (Psalm 62:1-2, NCV)

I enjoy reading good post-apocalyptic stories, where some disaster has ended life as we know it and people are struggling to survive. One characteristic of these stories is the constant battle for safety and rest. Those who are alone are vulnerable and do not last long against savage attackers and the harsh realities of life. However, those who join forces with trustworthy and resourceful people are more likely to survive.

Sisters, you may feel like you are living a post-apocalyptic life. If not physically, then perhaps emotionally or spiritually. Trying to survive alone makes you vulnerable. You need a place of rest, a solid rock to support you, a defender who is stronger and wiser than your enemy, and someone to fight beside you when danger arises.

Far more life finds strength in God. It admits weakness, exhaustion, and vulnerability. It depends on Him to lead, strengthen, protect, and defend you.

How long will you attack someone? Will all of you kill that person? Who is like a leaning wall, like a fence ready to fall? They are planning to make that person fall. They enjoy telling lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Selah. (Psalm 62:3-4, NCV)

It’s not just your circumstances that makes life hard. It often feels like you are being attacked by other people. You may be misunderstood and rejected. Or slandered by someone spreading false information. People may say one thing to your face and another behind your back. It is painful, and you can feel helpless. You can feel at the end of your strength, barely holding on. Where is far more life then? What should you do?

The Psalm continues:

I find rest in God; only he gives me hope.
He is my rock and my salvation.
He is my defender; I will not be defeated.
My honor and salvation come from God.
He is my mighty rock and my protection.
People, trust God all the time.
Tell him all your problems, because God is our protection. Selah (Psalm 62:5-8, NCV)

Turn to your Heavenly Father. God is your only secure source of hope and protection. He sees what is exposed and hidden (Daniel 2:20-22). He understands your heart; no explanation is needed (I Samuel 16:7). He loves you (I John 3:1). He is always trustworthy (Psalm 145:13). Stay connected to Him and draw from His strength. Telling him your problems opens your heart to receiving his protection, provision, and perspective. You may find other sources of temporary strength, but eventually they will fail you. His strength is secure.

The least of people are only a breath, and even the greatest are just a lie. On the scales, they weigh nothing; together they are only a breath. Do not trust in force. Stealing is of no use. Even if you gain more riches, don’t put your trust in them.
God has said this, and I have heard it over and over:
God is strong.
The Lord is loving.
You reward people for what they have done. (Psalm 62:9-12, NCV)

God says you have no reason to be intimidated by people; they have no more power or control than you do. They live within the boundaries that He has established for them (Psalm 139). On the other hand, you have no reason to push for your own way, manipulate, coerce, or forcefully take what you need from others. Power, position, and wealth do not bring far more life. You can be honest with God. He sees and and knows all, yet He responds with grace and mercy. There is no reason to fear Him. There is no need to hide from Him.

Far more life trusts in God’s strength and finds safety there. It recognizes our own weakness, but not in a hopeless, helpless way. The Apostle Paul sums it up this way:

For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10b, NIV)

God can accomplish the seemingly impossible in your life. He is your personal superhero who will save the day. He is listening for your cry and is eager to ensure your needs are met. He loves you more than anyone else ever has, ever can, or ever will. His love is pure with no hidden agenda. It is secure, so nothing can separate you from His love: no secret from your past; no current weakness; no failure lurking in your future. His love is the source of all that is good, and He enjoys blessing you with good gifts — especially the strength to walk in love, joy, and peace. He enables you to do good then rewards you for it.

Far more life is built on God’s strength. It accepts His leadership. It trusts Him to fight every battle with you and for you. It is confident He will lead you to safety and eternal blessing.

Sisters,
In your struggles do you go it alone or cling to God?
What line of this Psalm describes the help you need from God?
What other sources of hope and protection are you tempted to turn to?
How has God been your personal superhero?
Thank him for leading you to far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso
Photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

Far More Fight

We can think of far more life as a leisurely, pleasure-focused existence we will have someday. When we are more spiritually mature. When we are not simply surviving. When we sin less. When we are out of a bad situation. When…

But far more life is not about us. And it is not a level of maturity we will achieve someday. Far more life happens each moment we choose to walk in the Spirit. Consider these examples:

  • Every time we do what is right even though our sinful nature is pulling us toward doing wrong we seize far more life.
  • Every time we express patience we are responding with far more life.
  • Every time we give our worries and fears to God rather than being swallowed by anxiety we release far more life.
  • Every time we focus on thanking Him in the midst of a hard situation we reap far more life.
  • Every time we forgive someone who hurt us rather than holding on to anger or resentment we unlock far more life.
  • Every time we seek God’s direction and adopt His mindset we discover far more life.

Far more life is a simple choice to trust and obey Him. Simple, but not easy.

I came to bring them life, and far more life than before. (John 10:10b, PHILLIPS)

A relationship with Jesus is the only source of far more life. But His promise falls in the middle of a teaching about the spiritual battle we face. Surrounding verses describe our enemy, Satan, and his agents as thieves and wolves who want to kill, steal, and destroy us. Far more life is hard to maintain because we have an enemy working against us! Did you realize you are engaged in spiritual battle every day you live on this earth? Or have you been under siege without even knowing it? God provides all we need to overcome Satan. But He does not miraculously extract us from the battlefield; He expects us to fight.

Put on the full armor of God to protect yourselves from the devil and his evil schemes. (Ephesians 6:11, VOICE)

Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12, NLT)

Even though we have to fight, He doesn’t want us stuck in a deadlock. We can win more battles and enjoy far more life as we follow our Commander, God. As we learn to replace the beliefs that underlie our worry, fear, hopelessness, apathy, and sinful choices with His truth we are strengthened and become victorious more consistently.

Some of the spiritual war we are fighting is around us:

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (I John 5:19, NIV)

Satan has transformed our culture into a minefield of anti-God pursuits: Destroying sexual purity and cheapening sexual intimacy. Seeking wealth, power, and fame. Bullying, disrespecting, and harming other people for personal gain. Failing to care for His creation. Ignoring His priorities and making creation the top priority. And many, many more. Sometimes we can skirt the minefield, but other times we find ourselves surrounded by danger. We can find far more life in Christ from either position.

The spiritual war is also fought in our minds:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8, NIV)

Satan actively advances anti-God ideas to draw people away from God: Heaven and hell aren’t real. People are good at their core. Each person has the right to decide what is right and wrong for them. We deserve to be spared from pain and difficulty. And many, many more. We walk securely in far more life when we reject Satan’s lies and cling to God’s perspective on this life and eternity.

Since battle is imminent, we are wise to keep our spiritual armor and weapons in the best condition possible. This, too, is far more life. Maintaining a close connection to our commander, God, results in far more life. Making relationships with other spiritual warriors a priority can also provide far more life. Recognizing and working to overcome our weaknesses produces far more life.

While we need to be prepared for daily battle, the intensity will vary. Some moments we will fight hand-to-hand. These are times we wrestle with our sinful nature and fight hard to achieve or maintain righteous actions and thoughts. I have engaged in sin and had to fight my way out rather than being pulled deeper. (Those moments in your life may not feel like victories, but they are!) Other times we will recognize our enemy from a distance and evade his attacks. I have learned to avoid certain situations where I know I will be tempted to sin. I am learning to recognize my “emotional hot buttons” so I can step back when they are close to being hit.

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. (Revelation 19:6b, NIV)

Far more life is not our future goal; we can experience it today. In moments of victory over sin and Satan, we find far more life. In our moments of defeat, we can also find far more life through God’s forgiveness, comfort, and direction. Each moment we walk with God, whether in training or battle, is far more life. And when the final battle is won, every moment in heaven will be far more life. Praise God!

Sisters,
Are you waiting for far more life? Or do you embrace it in daily moments?
Are you aware of our enemy? Or is the news that you are in a battle surprising?
Where do you see the battle around you? Within you?
Stick close to your Commander this week to find far more life in and between your battles!
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: Blake Bottomley

Overflowing with Grace

Think of a time something happened that you were eager to tell others. I bet you could hardly keep it from bubbling out! I feel this way when my hopes or dreams become reality or when something good happens unexpectedly. But the biggest, most exciting thing we will ever experience is God’s saving grace! He wants us to freely share that good news through words and actions that show how He changed us.

God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will overflow in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8, EHV)

All grace. All things. All times. All you need. Every good work. Wow, God is serious about this! But notice the verse begins “God is able…” Being filled with His grace and power — and overflowing with good works — is for our best, but God does not force it on us. Far more life is letting God’s grace fill us to overflowing. We know we are overflowing with grace by the changes in our thoughts and feelings. Others know by the changes in our actions.

One person in history was perfectly filled to overflowing with God’s grace: Jesus. His thoughts, feelings, and actions were always in line with God’s. The gospels are full of incidents where people experienced His grace in action. The Bible records how those in His hometown responded:

Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. (Luke 4:22a, NLT)

Overflowing grace makes you stand out! Jesus stood out because He was different. Our natural human reaction to challenging people and situations is defensiveness, anger, callousness, or other sinful responses. But when we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, we — like Jesus — are different. We have power to respond with gracious thoughts, feelings, and actions. Those are moments of far more life.

There are times we bite our tongues and put on a fake smile. That is better than spewing ugliness, but it is not grace. The grace that is evidence of God’s work in our lives is expressed as compassion and kindness. It is the result of a renewed mind, as described in these verses:

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. (Romans 12:2, TPT)

God’s grace transforms us, first changing our beliefs and thoughts, then changing our feelings and actions. The gospels illustrate this with the account of a woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Just watching this made the disciples uneasy, but Jesus explained:

“…The great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love.” (Luke 7:47, GNT)

This woman understood that her sin was great, but she also understood that God’s grace was greater. Experiencing the depth of God’s grace inspires us to show others grace. When we realize how many sins we have committed and how much God has forgiven us, our love for Him increases. This inspires us to show grace to those around us.

When my children were young I got tired of giving them the same instructions over and over. But one day I realized God did not become impatient or angry about giving me the same reminders over and over. Recognizing God’s grace toward me inspired me to show my children grace; I decided even if I had to give the same instructions every day for the next 18 years, I would do so with love and kindness. The result was far more life in my own heart and in my relationship with my children.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

God has a beautiful, satisfying and perfect plan for your life! And He offers you overflowing grace for each step of that plan. Far more life embraces God’s purpose and seeks to fulfill it. His plan for you is unique; no one else on the planet can do the specific good works He prepared for you. But these works are not hidden; there is no reason to fear you will miss them. Instead, when you focus on understanding and living through His grace, those good works will natural flow out of you. Frequently your good works will benefit the people you regularly interact with. At other times you will have a strong desire to love and serve those facing a particular struggle or a particular people group. Often your good works will be linked to a particular skill you possess, so you will be happy to do them. Some of these works are actions that reveal God’s work in our lives, but they can also be words that share God’s grace.

The grace that overflows from us can help others find far more life, too. We have a wonderful opportunity to be a fountain of His grace. And experience another aspect of far more life. Try it out this week!

Sisters,
Are you overflowing with grace? If not, what barriers are blocking the flow?
How do you feel about standing out for overflowing with grace?
Do you think God has shown you a little or a lot of love? How does this impact the love you show others?
How are you seeking to fulfill God’s purpose for your life?
Focus on letting grace overflow this week and share far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso

The Gift of Grace

God’s grace can be a hard concept to fully grasp, maybe because it is so different from our experience in everyday human interactions. I’ve heard grace explained using the acronym “Great Riches At Christ’s Expense”. I’ve also heard it is “getting blessings we do not deserve” while its companion mercy is “not getting the punishment we do deserve”. These are simplified versions of the Dictionary.com definition: “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings”. God’s Word confirms all those explanations are consistent with His expression of grace:

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17b, NIV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:7-8a, NIV)

Far more life understands that grace is a gift from God. A right perspective on grace enables us to live the best life possible. But we can think too much or too little of ourselves and miss the wonder of God’s amazing grace.

Thinking too much of ourselves leads us to minimize our sin and our need for God’s grace. We miss out on far more life when we believe our sins are “not that bad”. If this were true, then Jesus did not have to die to pay for our sin and the spiritual darkness it reveals! We could have overcome separation from God on our own; we did not need his gift of grace. These strong words from Romans 3 make it clear this is not the case:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NIV)

Grace is a gift. From God. Failing to recognize the Giver leads us to try and earn this precious gift, to prove our worthiness. But that is impossible. Earning it is not God’s plan; our efforts can actually pull us further away from the security of His grace.

On the other hand, thinking too little of ourselves leads us to minimize ourselves and reject God’s grace. We miss out on far more life when we continually question, “Why would God save me? I’m not worth it.” From God’s perspective we are the most important part of His creation. We are the only part made in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are the only part granted forgiveness (Colossians 1:13-14). And we are the only part that God lives inside (Romans 5:5, I Corinthians 3:16). We are worth it because God, our Creator, decided we are worth it.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)

If we don’t understand God’s grace we will be tempted to think that doing good works will prove our worth and love for Him; we believe that will make Him happy with us. So when we fail to obey — which we will! — we feel guilty and condemned because we believe we have let God down. We fear that he will pull away from us. We may even feel separated from Him and assume that He has pulled away. But far more life frees us from feeling condemned when we sin. Instead it understands that God’s children live under grace. It enables us to acknowledge our sin without letting it define or conquer us. It believes this Biblical truth:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, NIV)

Rather than being under the condemnation of sin, far more life is living in the power of the Holy Spirit. Grace-filled living is characterized by inner joy, peace, gentleness, patience, love, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness that radiates from us. God’s light shines through us and reveals the brilliance of His character. Grace also provides the power to choose righteousness rather than sin. We do not take Christ’s sacrifice for granted; our freedom was purchased at a high price. But that sacrifice was not the end; it was a new beginning. Jesus is alive. He overcame sin and death and sent His Holy Spirit to give us far more life. What a precious gift!

Sisters,
How do you define grace?
How do you minimize your sin?
How do you minimize your worth?
If you have not accepted God’s grace, what is stopping you?
If you have accepted God’s grace, how do you see His power changing you?
Praise God for the gift of grace and the power to live far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso