I had a Starbuck’s date with a friend about a week ago and she completely got my life together. Listen, you need people who you can do life with that makes your baby leap, okay? I’m talking Mary and Elizabeth style leap (Luke 1:39-45). Any who, we were talking about life and she was saying how she read Joshua 1:9 and the fact that God gave Joshua a command really hit her one day.
God didn’t just tell Joshua to be strong and courageous; before He tells him that, He says, “This is My command.” Hold up, wait a minute...that’s a game changer folks! It’s so easy to encourage ourselves with the “be strong and courageous” part and the reminder that the Lord is with us, but those aren’t the most important parts of this text. The key is that before God says any of that, He tells our friend Josh, “This is My command.” In other words, “be strong and courageous” is an instruction. It’s not just a good pick me up to say, nor is it simply a suggestion or recommendation. He commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous.
I laughed to myself as I read this because for a moment I thought why? Then I could imagine God replying as any great parent would with the infamous one liner, “Because I said so!” Alright, it’s settled then! If you pay attention, however, you’ll see that God actually answers the why multiple times. He tells Joshua to be strong and courageous two other times before He commands Him to do so in verse 9. Each time He said this to Joshua it was right before He gave him instruction on his assignment. I love this because it helps to put into perspective that God already knew the why! Let’s break it down right quick:
Verse 6: Be strong and courageous,
The Why: for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.”
Verse 7: Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do
The Why: Because I just gave you the tools you will need to be successful.
Verse 9: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.
The Why: For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
So, God told Joshua to “be strong and courageous” because He knew Joshua was the person who could
handle the assignment, He provided him with all the tools necessary to be successful, and He would be with him wherever he went. Tell me that’s not good stuff right there?!
What makes it even better is the reality that if He did it for our boy Jo Jo, what makes us think that we don’t have the same qualifications to be strong and courageous for where it is that God is leading us to? You have to trust where He’s leading you because He’s confident in His choice in you. He knows that you’re the one to get the job done, but do you? Do you not think that as God is giving you vision, instructions, and calling you out of your comfortable place, that He doesn’t already know that you’re qualified to handle where He’s leading you to next? Do you really think He would lead you somewhere to see you fail or to a place that He wouldn’t go with you? He’s given you His word and that’s all the tools you need to be successful!
I know it can be easier to say than to believe it, but be strong and courageous walking in the assignment that God has given you. The reason it is an instruction is because He already knows that you won’t fail if you allow Him to lead the way. I want to encourage you to surrender to His will today. Lay down your questions, worries, frustrations, doubts, fears, and everything else. Trust Him in the midst of transition. Trust that He is a good good Father, even when what you may be experiencing doesn’t feel good. Trust that He will never lead you down a path that He hasn’t already gone before you. He’s assigned you to this task and assignment because He knows that you can handle it. He’s prepared you, and now He needs you to walk boldly and courageously into this new season because this is what He equipped you for. Yes, it will likely be hard, yes, this may be the biggest sacrifice you’ve ever had to make, yes, you may have questions, but just go. Go in faith and trust that He will be with you.
Stay classy, keep it holy
If you haven't watched the video on my faith journey, be sure to watch that first! You’ll learn about what led to me quitting my full time job with a salary, benefits, and retirement plan to be unemployed on November 10, 2016. Since that time, so much has happened and I promised I would do updates on my faith journey, so let’s get into it!
One of the things I was most excited about while being unemployed was being able to spend time with God! Before my last day of work, I had made up in my mind that I would spend every morning at the feet of Jesus. I was expecting to have a glow that was reflective of being in glory for hours at a time. I’m talking about to the point where people would think, “Angel you’re glowing! You got a boo or something?” in which I would respond with a slight chuckle before saying, “Nope, it’s that Jesus glow.” I was going to read my bible, worship, and pray, then go sit at some quaint coffee shop and write blogs or plan out my day. None of this happened…
The first month after I quit, I spent the majority of my days in bed and/or crying. I still had a lot of anxiety attached to work even though I was no longer there. I felt guilty because I wasn’t able to get as caught up as I wanted to before quitting, therefore I left a lot of things undone. The lesson I learned from this is to not slack off just because you’re at a place that you don’t want to be. Continue to work as though you’re working for the Lord and not bosses or people (Colossians 3:23). In addition to anxiety, I also had to deal with the silence in my apartment. It was already quiet because I live by myself but I had also disconnected the cable and internet in order to reduce my bills. Needless to say, the silence started to get very noisy after a while. I began questioning if God really told me to quit or if I jumped the gun. I felt irresponsible being an adult who was unemployed with no source of income in sight. The only money I had coming in were my last two paychecks and the payout for all the annual leave I never took. I had budgeted my bills around these checks for the next three months but that would quickly fall through as well.
My final paycheck, which I was expecting to be between $800 and $900 was $12.74. Yes, you read correctly. When I turned in my notice, I was told I would have to work until November 14th in order to get a full paycheck. I declined this as I was fine with my check being short for two days. My supervisor was actually incorrect about this because the pay period ended on November 9th and not the 14th. Since my last day was on November 10th, my final paycheck was for one day. My health insurance, retirement, taxes, and charitable donations were all taken from that one check leaving me with $12.74. I couldn’t do anything but laugh because the situation couldn’t be changed. I knew I could make it until I received my annual leave check a few weeks later so I didn’t worry too much about it. Well, they taxed the heck out of that check, so it ended up being a few hundred dollars less than what I had budgeted. To top it off, I forgot about a little thing called personal property tax that you have to pay in Virginia at the end of every year. When I received the bill in the mail, I had to look out the window to make sure my car hadn’t transformed into a Lexus or something nice. I just couldn’t understand why I had to pay almost $400 for the little Toyota Corolla that was sitting in the parking lot staring back at me. To say I was starting to get frustrated would be the understatement of the year.
In addition to all of my financial plans falling through, I had met someone over the summer who I thought I had a lot of potential with and in December that situation got completely shut down. The day this happened I wasn’t even upset or questioning anything anymore I just said, “Okay, God. What do You want to do? Whatever You need to do with me, do it.” I didn’t want to fight God and I wasn’t going to prolong my process by trying to hold onto the things that I was being stripped of. I just wanted to be completely opened to whatever He wanted and needed to do. From that day forward, I decided to be intentional about spending consistent time with God. I asked Him to reveal my heart to me and if there was anything that didn’t look like Him to uproot it. During this time, I developed such an intimate relationship with the Lord because I literally had nothing else to depend on. I had to believe Him to be my provider and I had to trust that He was enough for me. I already knew these things to be true but I was placed in a situation where I had to believe it while I was living it. This led me to draw near to God and be completely vulnerable and honest with Him about everything. If I was in a funk or just not feeling it, I couldn’t call one of my friends in the middle of the day because they had jobs. Instead, I got real chatty with the Lord about literally everything.
There were a lot of tears and brokenness as He took me through a healing process that I didn’t even know I needed. He dealt with a root of rejection that had been chillin’ in my heart for years and I didn’t even realize it until He brought it to the surface. He also showed Himself faithful as I was seeing prayers manifest before my eyes. An old friend had reached out to me with a prayer request and as I was praying, God showed me that within 3 days the situation would turn around. On the 4rd day,, before I could even check on my friend, she messaged that the situation had changed. I was like, okay God! I see You are not playing around and I am all here for it! This season has seriously increased my faith to the point that I believe God for anything. I’m waiting to run up on a mountain to tell it to move. #WhoGoneCheckGod?
In addition to this, God has shown Himself faithful over my finances as well. I’m going to be 100% honest, my finances were depleted pretty quickly. I had made provision for myself and all of that dried up before the first of the year. I ended up having to pay my rent and car note on my credit card for a few months because I simply didn’t have the money. I didn’t want to max out my credit card because I just didn’t feel like that was part of the plan or purpose of me quitting my job. I didn’t want to ask my mom for money because I honestly wasn’t struggling and I truly believed that God would take care of me. I eventually started to receive emails from PayPal that multiple people, who didn’t even know me personally, were sending donations through the Changed Hearts website. I’m like God, are You serious right now???
A few weeks ago, my friend Jermia texted me one day and asked who I banked with so that she could put money in my account. Initially, I told her she didn’t have to but something told me to check my bank account. My account was at -$17.79! I was shocked because the last time I checked it, I at least had three figures. The problem was, I hadn’t factored in annual fees for multiple things, such as my gym membership, that were scheduled to be withdrawn in January. What she put in my account that day, took me out of the negative and left me with some extra money. Although I didn’t ask my mom to help me with anything financially, both her and my sister have helped during times that they didn’t even realize I needed it. God always came through and opened doors financially even when I was twiddling my thumbs wondering if I was supposed to start applying for jobs or not. On top of this, I haven’t had health insurance since I’ve been unemployed and I’m thankful to say that I have not been sick once. I’m still binding that flu spirit in Jesus Name because what I don’t have time for, is that.
This season has truly blown me away at how faithful God is and how He continues to show Himself faithful. I’ve learned so much about His character and myself throughout this process and it has increased my faith beyond what I imagined. Although I have felt very stripped and vulnerable, it definitely has been worth it. Now I would be lying if I said that it hasn’t been hard. I’ve had days where I checked my bank account and there was nothing but change listed. I can truly say, however, I have been able to understand what it means to have the joy of the Lord and peace that surpasses all understanding. I’ve had some of my most joy filled days during this season where I didn’t have much of anything. I’ve truly had more peace in the last two months while not having any income, then I’ve had in the last six years with a steady paycheck. I’ve been stretched to the point where I feel like the modern day Gumby but that stretching has birthed things that I couldn’t have even imagined prior to entering this season. I truly believe God is capable of doing anything because I’ve seen Him do some amazing things over the last few months.
As I’m writing this book in February 2017, I’m still unemployed and to be honest, I have no idea what is next. Surprisingly, I’m okay with that. I know God has great things in store and I just want to be wherever He wants me to be. I know it can be scary to take a leap of faith when you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. That’s part of the process, though! Don’t be afraid to step out on faith and trust that He will never lead you down a path that He hasn’t gone Himself. God is for you and when you give Him a yes, He will take it and give you a beautiful exchange of beauty for your ashes.
Hold up, wait a minute…did that say book instead of blog? Yup and it’s not a typo! One of the amazing things that God has allowed to be birthed over the last two months is my new book, Changed Heart, that will be released in March! This blog is actually a snippet from chapter 12 and I am beyond excited to share my heart with you through this book. More details will be coming in the very near future but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of the cover!
P.S. Stay classy, keep it holy
Have you ever been in a season where you are trying your best to live a life that is pleasing to God yet it feels like you keep getting the short end of the stick in this thing called life? It almost feels like the more you pursue holiness, the more you tithe, the more you serve, the more you obey, the more you sacrifice…it just feels like you keep coming up empty. It can lead you to a place where you just question, God, what is going on?!? You feel like you’re trying so hard and it just feels like things appear to be looking up only for them to be quickly snatched away. Have you ever been there? It’s frustrating, it’s hard, and it’s really easy to become discouraged because you just feel tired and you don’t know what else to do and you feel like you don’t have much left to give.
Can I share my heart with you? This has been a very quiet, isolated, and stripped season for me. There has been a lot of closed doors and a lot of things that I had plans for that simply put, fell through. Today was one of those days that I had some of the above feelings as one more thing was added to the list of things that just didn’t seem fair. Let me tell you what else happened today though; as I was driving to the gym this morning there was a rainbow in the sky. I took a picture of it and was reminded of Genesis 9:12-13, “Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of My covenant with you and with all living creatures for all generations to come. I have placed My rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of My covenant with you and with all the earth” (NLT). I was also reminded of a post that I saw on Facebook the other day that said, “Every time God gives us a promise, the enemy comes in with a compromise.”
It’s not a coincidence that as you get closer to the promises being fulfilled that God has spoken over your life, that the tests in your life tend to get a tad bit more intense. It gets a little harder to press through and enduring almost seems impossible at times. It can lead you to question what has all the sacrifice been for? You may even consider tapping out and giving into things that you wouldn’t normally because it feels like your obedience is in vain. You know better, but you’re also tired of getting a no and multiple closed doors, while it appears everything is working out peachy keen for everyone else. It’s nothing more than a distraction from the promise. You have to understand that just because the path to the promise isn’t going the way that you planned, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be fulfilled. Don’t allow the tests, trials, or setbacks that you face to make you forget how confident you were when God gave you the initial instruction. He’s still for you and His promises are still true. You can't afford to give up or compromise now because you're closer than you think you are. Don’t get discouraged or distracted by the no’s and the things that aren’t working out. Believe it or not, there’s even provision behind God’s no, so trust that He truly is using all the things that you encounter and sprinkling a whole lot of Romans 8:28 on your situation.
After I saw the rainbow this morning, I received an email this evening and it was one of those messages where you think to yourself “yeah, I can’t do this tonight. I need to have some Angel and Jesus time.” While I felt myself getting frustrated over the circumstances, God reminded me of a message that I preached two years ago called growing pains. I keep all of my journals even after I’ve used them down to the last page so I went through my stash searching for the journal with my sermon notes on this particular topic. The scripture was Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (ESV). I know you may know this already, but can I just remind you that there’s something on the other side of your press that is worth growing through. There’s something on the other side of the tests that you are currently facing that is growing and developing areas in your life that are preparing you for where God’s promises are going to take you. It may seem empty right now and it may even feel dry, but don’t mistake the pain and frustrations that you are experiencing to lead you to think that the tests are going to take you out. They're growing pains as God is refining and maturing you and no it may not be easy or comfortable but I promise that it’s worth persevering through.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete needing nothing (James 1:2-4, NLT).
Can I share one more thing with you? The next page after my notes on growing pains was a journal entry dated October 23, 2015. I made the following list of things that I wanted and as I looked at this list that I didn’t even remember writing, God reminded me of something important. Although your girl is as single as they come with not even a potential prospect in sight, and there is no gut full of human in my near future, the restoration of the friendship that I wanted happened not too long after that journal entry. It was a reminder of how God has answered prayers and shown Himself faithful in the past. It’s easy to lose sight of what God has previously done and the prayers that He has previously answered when we’re in a season that just seems so empty. The beautiful thing about this reminder is that just as He answered prayers back then, He still hears, sees, and knows what you need in this season and He isn’t ignoring you. He hasn’t forsaken you and He hasn’t overlooked you. He sees your obedience, He sees all of the sacrifices that you have made and none of it is in vain.
I just want to encourage you to take rest in Him tonight. As you’re questioning God, when is it going to happen? Is it ever really going to happen? When are things going to change? Is it always going to be like this? Is the struggle always going to be this real? Where am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to be doing?…take rest in Him tonight.
“Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT).
Take rest in Him worship
For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee (Psalm 84:11-12, KJV).
Have you ever been in a season where it just felt like there was one closed door after another? I mean to the extent that it felt like a door was opening just so that it could be slammed shut right in your face before you could even walk through it…Does that sound familiar? You think there’s a yes around the corner and then boom, God hits you with a NO…It can be hard, uncomfortable, and just plain frustrating. You feel like nothing is working out the way that you want it to and it almost feels like the more you move forward, the more it feels like you’re not moving at all. What would happen if you removed the “feeling” aspect out of this thought? What would happen if instead of being emotionally led, you were led by the Holy Spirit and you allowed God to reveal to you what He is truly saying in His no…
When we look at Psalm 84:11, it tells us that God will not withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly. Let’s break this down right quick; If God doesn’t keep any good thing from those who are blameless, could that possibly mean that even in Him saying no and closing a door, in reality it’s still a yes because it works out for your good? Am I the only one hearing Travis Green’s Intentional playing right now? Ya’ll better catch that Romans 8:28 reference! It’s so easy to get frustrated with the no’s, upset with the closed doors, and discouraged by what are perceived to be missed opportunities when in reality if it was for you…it would’ve been for you. Don’t confuse the fact that simply because you have a desire for something that it means that it’s good for you or God’s will for you. Some of you are beating on closed doors for jobs, relationships, opportunities, and whatever else that you want so badly that you’ve allowed the desires of your heart to silence the warning that God is trying to relay to you in His no. You have to understand that anything that God withholds from you is for your good, so perhaps that “no” that you’re fighting is actually protecting you.
Let’s break Psalm 84:11 down a little further…a lot of times when we read scripture, we like to quote/memorize the parts that benefit us. We like to say, “the bible says that the Lord will give me the desires of my heart” yet we leave out the “delight yourself in Him” part. Likewise, we like to reference the part that God will not withhold anything from us but we nicely and quickly disregard the latter half of “from them that walk uprightly.” When God is giving you a no, sometimes it’s because you need to do a life check. The world has created this misguided expectation that you can live however you want to and do whatever you want to and God will bless you and your mess because He is a God of love…Nah it doesn’t quite work like that. The bible clearly tells us “be ye holy, as I am holy” so in other words there is a standard in place. You can’t live like hell Monday through Saturday and then turn around with your hand out expecting God to do what you want Him to do in exchange for your church attendance on Sunday. Let’s be clear, you don’t live a life that is pleasing to God simply so you can get stuff from Him; it doesn’t work like that either. It’s not about manipulating Him into blessing you or giving you the things that you want. You live a lifestyle that is pleasing to Him out of reverence, because of who He is, because of the sacrifice that He gave in His Son for you to be reconciled back to Him, because presenting yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him is the least that you could do…When you read through Psalm 84, you can clearly see the focus is God, the heart’s desire is God, and there’s a longing for His presence; it’s not selfish. Sometimes God gives you a no to reveal the truth about your heart and to reveal the fleshly desires that point back to you instead of Him.
Alright singles, can we have a heart to heart right quick? How many times have you logged into social media and scrolled through your timeline only to see that someone else is announcing their engagement? Now some of you might get excited and think “yay!” but there’s a large majority that spread that petty mayonnaise and think "they’re not even saved!” or “how she get a man?” or our favorite one, “when is it going to be my turn?” Everybody posting pictures with boo, bae, or whatever else the kids are saying these days, and you’re just single with absolutely no options. Maybe you're in a relationship that you know isn't God's best for you but you took matters into your own hands because you didn't want to be single anymore. Even though God told you no, you convinced yourself that it was better to be with someone than to be by yourself. Trust me when I say that you can't afford to yoke yourself up with just anybody! When God is giving you a no on a person it is for your good but it's difficult to hear/see the NO when you constantly have seat fillers that aren't supposed to be there.
I get that it can be frustrating when you feel like you're waiting on God and all you're getting is a no. Early on in my walk, I felt like God didn’t want me to be with anybody. It literally felt like He had me in the secret services witness protection program in heaven because there were absolutely zero prospects in sight. If I met anyone that I thought might even be a possibility, God would shut it all the way down. No one was sliding in my DMs, no exes were trying to get that old thing back, no one was giving me a second glance or anything! I’m thinking to myself…I love God, I’m decent looking, and on a good day I’m relatively funny so what’s really going on God, I want to be married! God nicely had to show me that He had me in a season where I was hidden and it wasn’t just to protect me from counterfeit men but it was also to protect a good godly man from me. Ya’ll aint catch that last part…God knew during that time that I didn’t need to be in a relationship because I would have made an idol out of it. He also knew that there were some characteristics within me that He needed to prune and correct before He yoked me up with one of His sons. You see, sometimes you receive a no because you aren’t as ready as you think that you are for the yes that you want so badly.
Lastly, Psalm 84:12 reminds you that blessed is the man that trust in God. A part of trusting in God is also trusting in His timing; that includes when it doesn’t line up with your timetable. Perhaps God’s no is not as much a no, as it is a “not right now” so don’t forfeit the yes later on simply because you're impatient with the “no” right now. This is a temporary season of your life and you have to realize that so much can change in a year, a month, and even a day so don’t miss what is next simply because you were impatient and uncomfortable in your current. God’s timing is perfect.