Archives for category: Grace

In the simplest of terms, a covenant is an agreement, a contract or a bond between parties—a binding promise.  When a covenant is called into effect, there is an expectation that the agreed upon terms will be enforced.  In our legal system, most people go into covenants with the assurance that the legal system will enforce the terms and conditions of the agreement.  However, while the law can often guarantee that all parties will abide by the term of the covenant, a level of trust is still required between the parties.  Most people do not enter into covenants with people whom they know to be unscrupulous.  Most legal covenants are often measures that reasonable people establish to safeguard themselves against unforeseen events.  Again, most people enter covenants with the assumption that the opposing party has a certain amount of integrity.  This brings me to the point of this blog: God’s covenants.

 

Number 23:19 says, God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill,” (NIV)?  This passage indirectly speaks to the Abrahamic Covenant where God promised Abraham that he would bless the Israelites and Abraham’s family line.  In Number 23, Balak wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites, but Balaam replied with, “‘I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it,’”(v. 20, NIV).

 

God cannot and will not change His mind.  He is in covenant with His people.  Number 23:19, not only speaks to the nature of God, but it is also a covenant in and of itself.  God is saying that his Word is bond.  Once he has said it, it is done.  Below is an exercise that I challenge all of us to do.

 

Covenant Agreement Between God and me

This Agreement made this __________ day of ____________20______ by and between _______________ and God.

 

Standing on the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, I am believing God for:

  1. _______________________
  2. _______________________
  3. _______________________
  4. _______________________

 

The Bible verses that I rest my beliefs on are:

  1. _______________________
  2. _______________________
  3. _______________________
  4. _______________________

 

This agreement encourages us to remind God what He has promised.  With that said, we should also remember that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  There will be times that our prayers go unanswered for reasons we cannot understand, but we should go into agreement with God knowing that He has heard our petitions and that He will answer; and if the answer is not what we expect, it is what God intended because He has deliberate acted.  Below are a just a few examples of how God acted on behalf of his people’s prayers.

 

Prayer for healing:

  • Hezekiah was on the brink of death and cried out to God to spare his life.
    • “‘Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life,’” (Isaiah 38:5, NIV).

 

Praying for a Godly partner:

Abraham, though his servant, prayed that God would find a specific wife for Isaac.  God led Abraham’s servant to Rebekah.  Isaac and Rebekah were later married (Genesis 24: 1-67).

 

Praying to have children:

Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The LORD answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins,” (Genesis 25:21, NLT).

 

Released from jail:

“But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out,” (Acts 5:19).

 

Financial breakthrough:

“The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it,” (Proverbs 10:22, NLT).

 

Spiritual breakthrough:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:4, NIV).

 

Fulfillment of God’s promise:

  • God had given Joseph a dream that he would become a mighty man. However, over the course of time, he was kidnapped, sold into slavery, accused of rape, imprisoned and forgotten.  Fortunately, God did not forget about him or the promise that he made to him.

 

  • 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you,” (Genesis 41:38-40, ESV).

 

Today, I pray that you remember the covenant agreement that God has made with you and with Abraham.  Stand on His Word as you pray for His favor!

This poem is dedicated to those who are praying without ceasing and are tirelessly waiting to hear from God.

Echoes of Silence 

The echoes of silence are all that I hear.

Humbled by life, I seek you in prayer.

A knock on the door—is anyone there?

Then it dawned on me—

Maybe He heard me, but don’t really care.

For the first time, I looked in the mirror and stared,

And wondered where is the God of old that nations once feared.

Who cared—

Who dared—

To put nations and empires to shame,

And recued those who called upon him by name.

Elohim, El Shaddai, El Roi,

Jehovah Jireh, Rapha, Nissi, my Adonai.

 

The echoes of silence are all that I hear,

Chanting the chorus, “God are you still there?”

World upside down.  Life—Unfair.

God, is silence from you just really a “no?”

My faith is slipping, and I’m letting it go.

Faith lukewarm.  Heart now cold.

Faded memories of faith once bold.

 

The ghost of Isaac and Abraham, they knock at my door.

The prophets and saints that went on before.

They said, “If He did it once, then He’ll do it once more.”

Like the judge who couldn’t ignore the knock on the door.

 

When echoes of silence are all that you hear,

When it seems like your prayers, they fall on deaf ears,

And the core of your life is rooted in fears,

Just trust and believe when he tells you He cares.

He’s the same one who says that He bottles your tears.

Loves you so much that He counted your hairs—

On your head.

And even notices that a sparrow drops dead,

For not one of these can fall outside of His care.

Ears fine-tuned.  Your whispers He hears.

His voice so soft—not found in the echoes or blares,

But in the spirits of those He consoles.

Remember Jesus?  His wrist: bloodied with holes.

He feels your pain.  Trust me! He knows.

Yet He overcame death and from ashes He rose.

 

When the echoes of silence are all that you hear,

Your beating heart is proof that He’s near.

 

Copyright 2016 Khadine Alston.  All Rights Reserved.

 

Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery

20 About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.”  2When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3“Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly.  4But before Isaiah had left the middle courtyard, this message came to him from the Lord: 5“Go back to Hezekiah, the leader of my people. Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you, and three days from now you will get out of bed and go to the Temple of the Lord. 6I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my own honor and for the sake of my servant David.’” 7Then Isaiah said, “Make an ointment from figs.” So Hezekiah’s servants spread the ointment over the boil, and Hezekiah recovered!  8Meanwhile, Hezekiah had said to Isaiah, “What sign will the Lord give to prove that he will heal me and that I will go to the Temple of the Lord three days from now?”  9Isaiah replied, “This is the sign from the Lord to prove that he will do as he promised. Would you like the shadow on the sundial to go forward ten steps or backward ten steps?”  10“The shadow always moves forward,” Hezekiah replied, “so that would be easy. Make it go ten steps backward instead.” 11So Isaiah the prophet asked the Lord to do this, and he caused the shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz!

2Kings 20:1-11

 

The message of today is, “Lord, Remember me!”

 

“Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me,” (Psalm 106:4, NLT).

 

Remember me has become the cry of a generation of Christ Followers.  In Psalm 73:2-3, the psalmist said, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

 

It is easy to look around at our world and think that God has forgotten about the promises that He has made to His people.  It seems that the wicked flourish and prevail, while the righteous cower and suffer.  Today, I challenge believers to remember who God is, and in our remembrance of Him, we ask that He remembers us!

 

While on the brink of death, Hezekiah asked God to remember him.  In humility, Hezekiah pleaded with God for his deliverance from the clutches of death.  How many of God’s people feel as if they are on the brink of death—spiritual, financial, emotional and/or physical?  How many people feel as though God has forgot about them?

 

Romans 3 says that not one single man is righteous—not one.

 

23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood,” (Romans 3:23-25, NLT).

 

As believer, we are made righteous, not through our own doing, but through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Today, as we cry out to our Father, we should ask Him to not only remember us, but to remember His son, Jesus, and His faithfulness.  We should ask our Father in Heaven to remember the promises that He made to us through Jesus.

 

Lord, many of your people are on the brink of all sorts of deaths, and we ask that You remember them because of your Son.  God, in humility, we ask that you remember us individually as we pray to you as Hezekiah did on his death bed.

 

16When he [Jesus] came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:  18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”  20He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

Luke 4:16-21

 

In John 14:12, Jesus told his disciples that, “anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works,” (NLT).  Therefore, we like Jesus, are called to the declarations of Isaiah 61:

 

Isaiah 61:1-3 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.  2He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. 3To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.  In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory,” (NLT).

 

Lord, I ask you to remember us because we have a job to do, which is to bring glory to your name!

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

1 Corinthians 1:27

 

I pray that this quote encourages you as much as it has encouraged me today.  God is about to do something in the lives of the unassuming—the brokenhearted, the forgotten and the unrecognized.  He is about to elevate leaders that the world has criticized, mocked, beaten, captured and imprisoned.  He is about to do a new thing.

 

I know that I am speaking directly to someone’s heart today.  The Lord is about to use you in ways that defy imagination.  He is about to make your enemies your footstool.  Every tear that you have shed has been captured.  Psalm 56:8 says, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?”  God has heard your cries.  There might seem as if there is no way out.  It might appear as if everyone has abandoned you and told you ‘no,” but please know that it is during your darkest hours when God does His finest work.  It was during the darkness that God called light into existence.  It was after Pharaoh’s heart was hardened that God parted the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians.  It was after Job had lost everything that God restored him two-fold.  Please be reminded that God is a God of grandeur, and while his preparation might be done in seclusion, His restorations are never done in private.  God’s promotions are for His glorious victory.  Therefore, they are always on display. Matthew 23:12 says, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” (NIV).

 

Be grateful for all who denied you.  God is elevating you in a manner that you will be indebted to none other than He.  The blessings of the Lord make a man rich, and it adds no sorrow with it, Proverbs 10:22.  Know that God has already blessed you, and He is about to make a public proclamation.  In Jesus, name, Amen!  The Bible also says that even before God restored Job, Job repented and humbled himself.  He praised God even while he was covered in ashes and riddled with sore.  Wherever you are, praise God.  Praise His glorious name.  Know that the end of your story was written even before the beginning, and it’s not over until God says that it’s over.  Glory to God.

2But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

I had nearly lost my foothold.

3For I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:2-3

 

During this season, I have experienced some of life’s greatest disappointments and setbacks.  Most recently, I entered a business venture. As part of my due diligence, I implemented all the necessary safeguards to reduce, if not, eliminate my risks.  I read.  I researched.  I hired an attorney. I had a contract drafted.  However, life sometimes teaches us that there are no failsafe plans.  There are no world systems that could entirely mitigate moral corruption.  Although most, if not all, legal agreements are drafted based on the worse case scenarios, most people enter contacts with the assumption that the opposing party has some semblance of integrity, or at the very least, he or she has a fear of or a reverence for the law.  A year and a half after signing my contract agreement, the opposing party involved still managed to express flagrant disregard of the agreement by violating several terms of the contract. This morning, as I evaluated my situation, I thought about the above verse.

 

Oftentimes, it feels as though the lives of the wicked are bountiful.  Many of them cheat, lie and steal, yet they still manage to thrive beyond the imagination of the meek.  It’s easy to look at the proud and the arrogant and be envious.  They leap and abound.  Their lives are grand.  They enjoy fine things, and they seldom seem concerned with the toils of those who are pure at heart.  “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong…they are not plagued by human ills,” (verse 4 and 5, NIV).  They play by their own rules.  They scoff at honor and valor.  The lives of the wicked seems grand, indeed.  However, there will come a time when the Earth’s grandeur will cease.  Each man will be equal, and God will judge each man according to his deeds.  “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad,” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).  It’s so easy to want the wicked to pay—to take vengeance into our own hands because it might seem as though God is moving too slow.  However, Romans 12:19 says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD,” (NLT).

 

The truth is, waiting on God can seem slow, and, at times, feel torturous.  However, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).  In His justice, God has given even the sinners time to change their wicked ways.  Psalms 73 goes on to say that God has placed the wicked on slippery ground.  The wicked will perish if they continue to do wickedness.

 

To those who are longsuffering, I ask that you give your suffering to God.  Leave your vindication in His mighty hands.  God is just, and He judges fairly.  Even King David, whom the Bible refers to as a man after God’s own heart, experienced God’s immense favor despite being reprimanded for his egregious sins. Although David had many shortcomings, God did not forget the promises He made to David.  During earlier times, God decreed that David would not only rule as king over all Israel, God also promised David that he (David) would always have a line to the throne (Jesus).  One of David’s biggest fall from grace was when he had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers named Uriah.  As a result of the affair, Bathsheba became pregnant.  In an effort to cover his tracks David tried to convince Uriah to sleep with his wife, Bathsheba, so that he could pass off the baby as Uriah’s.  Uriah, who was a committed soldier in David’s army, refused to lay with his wife because he did not want to break his allegiance to his fellow fighters by indulging in merriment during battle time.  After David realized that his attempt to cover his tracks had failed, he gave orders to have Uriah killed.  Fortunately, God did not allow David’s position as both king and the “apple of His eyes” to usurp Uriah’s life.  God was not only faithful to David, He was also faithful to Uriah, because the Bible says that God is not a respecter of man (Acts 10:34).  God avenged Uriah’s death by destroying the seed that was created from David’s and Bathsheba’s deception. Thankfully, God did not stay angry with David forever.  He pursued David and blessed him.  Moreover, David repented for sinning against God.

 

In all of our lives, there will be times when we feel forgotten about—by family, by friends, and even by God. Many of us feel like Uriah, a lone soldier in a vast army—a number in the crowd.  The temptation is to give up on God because we feel neglected or betrayed by Him.  However, just like God fought on behalf of Uriah, He will avenge us too.  The Bible says that God will leave the 99 sheep to find the one that has wondered away (Matthew 18:12-14).  It is during our weakest moments that God will seek us out and pursue us.

Empty Well

It is so important for us to read the bible in context.  So often, we memorize key verses and phrases, and neglect to see the bigger picture.  This morning, as I thought about this blog on empty wells, Galatians 6:2 came to mind: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” (NIV).  But as I meditated on the verse, I realized that it was the second verse of the chapter.  What did the previous verse say?  In fact, the previous verse served as a cautionary statement.  It said: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted,” (NIV).  The New Life Version reads, “You who are stronger Christians should lead that one back into the right way. Do not be proud as you do it. Watch yourself, because you may be tempted also.”  Firstly, the verse calls for the “stronger Christians” to lead his brother/sister back into the right way.  Secondly, it cautions the “leading” individuals to refrain from becoming proud and to be careful of falling into the same trap.  The truth is, we all have areas where we are strong and areas where we falter.  Moreover, these areas may vary by season and/or circumstances.  It is important for us to understand that while God has called us to bear one another’s burdens, there is only one Savior.  We were not designed to save everyone.  In fact, if we do not continue to replenish our wells, then we run the risk of running emotionally and spiritually dry.

If you are consistently playing the role of the go-to person in your relationships, there will come a point where your well will run dry.  If you incessantly pour out and do not replenish your reserve, you will bottom out.  This could have multiple physical, mental and spiritual ramifications.  Below are a few things that I have found helpful during some of my darkest moments.

  1. Be kind to yourself
    1. Know that some days you will fly, and some days you will fall. Some people will think you are the greatest, and some will think that you are the worse.  However, neither one of these things define who you are.  Only God defines you.  He made you, and He knows who He has called you to be.  No one else has that authority, including you!
  1. Keep inventory of your “well” reserve
    1. Most credit counselors advise against credit card use. Why?  With credit card usage, there is a tendency to spend more than we have.  Debit card are just as bad.  I would venture to say that most people are not balancing their account ledger after each swipe of their card.  It’s no wonder the banking industry makes so much money on overdraft fees.  The same is true of our emotional bank account.  If we are not keeping an accurate account of our balance, there will be a tendency to over extend and/or over commit.  If we don’t keep accurate accounting, we will spend more than we have to give.  This brings me to Item #3.
  1. Learn to say “No!”
    1. Saying “no” is way more than simply refusing a request. Sometimes saying “no” could mean declining to answer an email, a text or a missed called.  For some, this is the biggest step towards establishing healthy boundaries in relationships.
  1. Keep inventory of those who are making deposits and withdrawal into and away from your wells
    1. Relationships are seldom equal. However, our relationships must be mutually beneficial.  In other words, we will have relationships where one person brings more to the table than the other.  The important thing for us to remember is that we should maintain a healthy balance of the different types of relationships in our lives.  Again, if we are always giving more than we are receiving, then our relationships are out of sync, which will eventually lead to a dry well.
  1. Take note during your hour of darkness.
    1. Who are the ones calling solely to check on you—not to gossip, not to vent, but simply to check on your well being?  Oftentimes, when you tend to be the strong one in your relationships, people erroneously think that you don’t have problems or that your problems are secondary to theirs.  Please understand that is an unfair and unrealistic expectation.  The people in your life must be able to acknowledge that you too are human, and as such, you too have your cross to bear.
  1. Know that you cannot be everything to anyone person.
    1. I recently had a conversation with a friend who said to me that in relationships, we meet our needs by drawing from the many wells in our lives. Whenever, we start to draw predominantly from one well, we put that other person in an unfair position, which is too much pressure to place on any one person.

Now, after having said all that, I will say this:  When we are weak, God will make us strong.  There are times when God will push us beyond what we thought we could do or where we thought we could go.  However, the problem in many of our lives is that we fail to ask Him for His counsel, and we busy ourselves with things, people and tasks that He never commissioned us to take on.  Sometimes, God is doing a work in our lives and He is doing work in others’ lives as well.  My final parting note is that we should seek God in all that we do, and He will give us the guidance that we so desire.

I have no inalienable right to question the things that I do not understand, for even among the best minds, comprehension is finite. Moreover, challenging the universe has led great men to even greater madness. The world around us is terribly complex and complicated. One of the hardest things to comprehend is human wickedness. Evil is ubiquitous. The seed of deception is often veiled by the garb of statues, religion, customs and institutionalized policies. Buried deep within all of us is the ability to delve deep into the clutches of wickedness. The pride inside me wants to say that some of us are closer to darkness’ grasp than others. The truth is, all of us have the potential for grave depravity. We all have catalyst(s) that could potentiate our fury. With that said, I guess it’s good that God offers salvation, even to the worse of us.

The carnal part of my mind (and my heart) doesn’t believe that heaven should be afforded to everyone, especially those who have committed heinous crimes against humans and humanity. My mortal nature would like to see those individuals “pay” and “suffer” for their misdeeds.

A few moments ago, I watched a movie on one of America’s greatest atrocities—slavery. My heart ached at the thought of the tragedies afflicted upon my ancestors. What was even worse was that many of those slave masters/owners were Bible toting proclaimers of the faith. They raped! They stole! They killed the spirits of a generation. Some of them used the name of God to do it. As I continued to watch the movie, a horrifying thought came across my mind. Their evil actions do not necessarily disqualify them from receiving salvation. Wow, there goes that five-letter “G” word again. Grace. In that moment, I realized that grace is bigger than me. It’s bigger than my feeble mind can comprehend. Here is what I learned: I might not know why God does the things that He does. I might not even agree with them. However, one thing I do know is that it would take a lot to disqualify me from the love of God. That’s huge. That’s bigger than everything. Again, the pride inside of me wants to say that I could never be as wicked as some of those other people. I don’t need all that grace. The truth is, grace is the best insurance policy ever created. The aggregate policy limit is greater than any debt we could ever incur.

Sometimes, it is hard to see God beyond the people who profess His name. In a culture where people try to politicize and “demonify” God, it’s hard to extract Him from religion. But when we do, we realize just how merciful God is. He is impartial. If He could forgive the unforgiveable, imagine what He could do for you!

The message on the tips of my fingers weigh heavily on my heart this morning. I feel an urgency to remind someone today that God is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19). While the promises that God has made to each of us individually might differ, His collective promises are true and are found in the Bible. Jeremiah 29:11 says that God has plans to prosper us and to give us hope and a future.

As we move into a new seasons in our lives, God has opened amazing doors that only He could have opened. Now, more importantly than ever, we have to remind ourselves that God would not have promoted us only to watch us fail. Know today that if God guides, He will provide. If He elevates, He will sustain. When doubt and fear threaten us with failure, we need to press into our yes from God. We shouldn’t just step into our yes, we should lean into it. Press into it. Aggressively pursue it. When God says yes, He will NOT change His mind. When God says yes, it cannot mean no! I’m telling you today that God has already said yes to you.

Favor:                   Yes

Faith:                     Yes

Peace:                  Yes

Hope:                    Yes

Health:                  Yes

Prosperity:            Yes

Safety:                  Yes

Promotion:            Yes

Increase:               Yes

Family:                  Yes

Friendships:          Yes

Marriage:              Yes

Fertility:                 Yes

Children:               Yes

Legacy:                 Yes

God has already said yes, yes, yes!!

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will crush your spirit, break your heart and demolish your dreams. For those of you who have ever heard that old childhood adage, you know that isn’t quite how the saying goes. In fact, that playground saying taught us, as children, that words are meaningless and non-impactful. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Words ARE powerful. They mold and shape us. It was with words that God created the heavens and the earth. Words have the ability to create and destroy. That is why it is so hard to escape the clutches of words, particularly negative criticisms.

When trying to overcome the aftermath of criticism with positivity, the ratio is seldom 1:1. Rarely, do we reverse the effects of one incident of spoken negativity with only one kind word. Oftentimes, the antidote for the venomous sting of harsh words is a superfluous amount of positive affirmations. Our human nature has a natural proclivity to negativity. We would sooner believe the worse about ourselves (and others) before subscribing to a kinder truth. Why do we accept harsh words as true, and why do we deliver them as fact? One of the best answers to that question came to me from a quote in Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s book “The Great Gatsby:”

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Many of us are like Tom and Daisy. We are careless and reckless, particularly with our words. We go through life regurgitating our unstrained thoughts on our unsuspecting victims and then we retreat into our ignorance, our wealth, and in some cases, our apologies. We hide behind popular colloquialism like, “I keep it real” or “I call it as I see it.” Here’s a truth: We don’t just get to impose our “truths” on others. We don’t have a right to just say what we feel—uncensored, unadulterated and unfiltered. Our words should edify and administer grace to those hearing it (Ephesians 4:29). It should not cause people to retreat into despair and desperation. We should also note that not everyone is equipped or called to deliver criticism. Criticism that is truly meant to correct should be delivered with love and with consideration given to the appropriate timing. Like they say, “timing is everything.” Constructive criticism should also be devoid of hatred, pride and/or malice. In other words, it should come from a good place.

In a perfect world, people would have tact and decorum. But our world, and the people in it, are far from perfect. So what can you do to disarm the sting of hurtful words? Below are my top ten ways.

  1. Know who God is!
  2. Know who you are! Know that everyone on this earth, including you, was made on purpose and for a purpose. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
  3. Know that you are not perfect, and that’s okay. Know that it is okay to be human.
  4. Know that not every criticism is a personal attack. Sometimes, other people have issues that have nothing to do with you.
  5. Learn to be introspective. Sometimes, you have to learn to look deeper at yourself. Even criticisms that come from a negative place might have some merit. Weigh the message and the source. Apply what’s applicable and discard the rest. The person you are today should always strive to be better than yesterday’s version.
  6. Know that you cannot please everybody. Strive to be your best, but know that some people will always be disappointed.
  7. Learn to laugh at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  8. Learn to laugh at others. Don’t always take people too seriously.
  9. Develop relationships with people who will keep you morally, spiritually and personally accountable.
  10. Don’t just wait for others to affirm you, compliment yourself. Sometimes, you have to learn how to encourage yourself.

Have you ever noticed how some people always seem to have an opinion that is far from encouraging?  Not only are these people opinionated, they are seldom shy about expressing their views.  Well today, I want to express some views of my own, and I hope they encourage you.  So here goes:

Today, I want you to know that God is NOT mad at you.  In your life, so many people will try to lead you to believe that your misfortunes are directly correlated to your disloyalty to God.

Before I move any further, let’s just get one thing straight, none of us are faithful to God.  We are all adulterous people.  The good news is that we are saved by Jesus’ righteousness, not our “good deeds.” Just know that if God was in the business of punishing us based on our actions, we would all be goners.  Thank God for grace.  However, with that said, know that we can be within God’s will and still face turmoil.  Doubt it?  Look at Job.  He was right smack in the will of God, yet he faced the fight of his life.

I don’t know where you are right now.  Maybe you made some bad decisions along the way.  Maybe you haven’t.  The truth is, it doesn’t matter.  Thankfully, God has never been a God that dwelled in the past.  He has always existed in the present.  The current condition of our heart is all that matters.  God will guide us through the rest.

In order to be encouraged, we need to know that there will always be people who judge us and say that our circumstances are due to our lack of faith, prayer, or action.  Know that their opinions are irrelevant.  God is the only one who truly knows our heart, and only He can judge.

Maybe, we are exactly where He wants us.  Maybe God is using our trials, not a punishment, but to develop our character and better prepare us for our future blessings.  Job’s friend had erroneously thought that his adversities were the result of dishonoring God.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.  Maybe our friends are wrong about us too.

When it comes to life, there are no experts.  The “expertise” of man can only take us so far.  The problem is, even the most scholastic theologians have based some of their theories on hypotheses and suppositions.  At some point, each and every one of us will have to embrace our Spirit and the Word of God in order to determine our right course of action.  The closer we get to God, the more we will be convicted about whether or not our actions are in line with His will.  The take home message is this: Don’t let others cast doubt into your relationship and your walk with God.  Find out who He is and who you are in Him so that you will be better equipped to ward off the attacks and commentaries of the enemy.