Purpose is everything and one of my greatest life mottos was to run every step of the race with purpose. I’m not just talking stepping with meaning, but actively living.
I believe that I was created by a loving God who cares for me and desires me to live for him. As a runner, I know that God created me to run fast and use that to glorify him. I love running!
However, what happens when suddenly you can’t run anymore? How can you run purposefully when you’re faced with the possibility of never running again?
In August I was hit with injury. My training hit a level where I just wasn’t improving or getting faster. I would wake up in pain and go to sleep in pain. When I ran, I felt guilty for potentially making it worse, yet when I rested, I felt rubbish in myself. Reaching out for help felt scary and facing the prospect of never running again was something I just wanted to avoid…
6 weeks later, having been diagnosed with the issue and working hard on physio, I was still having pain. Whilst I’d taken up cycling and swimming, I had fully given up on running.
Three weeks ago I moved to university and the pain was getting worse, not better. Within the first few weeks I found myself at church asking for prayer. I was prayed for twice. The first time, the pain got a little bit better but days later started to get worse again. No result.
Later that week, I went to an evening meeting and the lady who prayed for me asked me how I was. Reluctantly I agreed to let her husband pray for me, although at this point I was pretty skeptical.
However, as Peter prayed over me, he started to speak truth. He spoke about how he believed that God had made me to run and that he wanted to bless me as I ran for him. God was not finished. Why was I giving up? By giving up I was giving this pain the authority to be there when Jesus had put that to death on a cross.
Another weird experience of having oil put on my head later…
The pain is pretty much gone. Whilst I still get the odd achey leg that comes from general use and exercise, the pain in my knees has gone! I’ve joined an athletics club, been training and even done a park run. How incredible is this?
Now, when I run, I am reminded of his faithfulness! For me, running has become a form of worship in which I glorify God. For he has blessed me so richly. In a time when I wanted to give up, Jesus pursued me.
Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how good God is?! I’ve been praying for my leg for months. It wasn’t healed straight way in a swooping miraculous situation. Rather, as I trusted God and waited on him, he gradually turned the bad into good.
I still have a recovery ahead, but the progress has been crazy good! And in all of this, I can only glorify God!
It’s often difficult to persevere – always loving, always caring and always putting others first. This is something I’ve been learning about lately.
Aunty Rachel has taught me many things. Yet the greatest of these lessons has not come from words or teaching. It is modelled daily in her household…
Life as a mum of two boys is chaotic. There are mouths to constantly feed, activities to work around and a million other material needs to cover. Two parents, two children – yet not at all easy!
Add an autistic teenager to this mix and it suddenly becomes even more of a balancing act. Autism is fairly common yet unpredictable. Autistic people are so worthy and have every right to be who they are and embrace it. I know Aunty Rachel would never have Matthew be any other way!
However, alongside many joys, caring for a teenager has it’s tribulations. There are sleepless nights, long hours, sudden outbursts, slow mornings… you just never know! Understanding this is difficult – even when you live with it every single day.
Persevere like Paul
I have been reading about Paul’s sufferings. He writes to the Corinthians about awaiting a new eternal body in heaven, hoping in a glorious inheritance and dying to Christ. Paul was a highly persecuted christian and constantly taught the Corinthians about the reality of christianity…
We believe in a sincere God of sincere love who sent his Son to die. Have we realised the gravity of this? His hands were pierced with nails and his body hung on a cross. Dramatic trauma was caused to the lungs and respiratory system. He suffered enourmous pain until eventually, He gave up his spirit.
This trauma should compel something inside of you to do something! You should feel atrocity. Paul describes this emotion as, “dying to Christ,” and serving him no matter the cost is the product of this.
What does it look like?
Paul models what it is to die to Jesus: he discusses his pain, times of imporsionment and sleepless nights. They were times that demanded patience and understanding. There were beatings, sufferings and losses. He was treated like a foreigner. Paul lost everything he had.
Yet Paul endured because he knew that his sufferings were nothing compared to what Jesus experienced. Compared to the glorious inheritance that we will receive, the pain amounts to almost nil!
When I read Paul’s examples of endurance, I am reminded of Aunty Rachel. She endures sleepless nights, rejoices over her tiredness (or pain) and always understands. She models sincere love, is patient and is kind. Relying on the Holy Spirit, Rachel uses truth and righteousness as her weapons!
Like Paul, Rachel knows of the glory to be received in moments of dishonour. Perhaps she is unknown to the world, but she is known to her God. Sharing all she has, she awaits heavenly riches.
For Rachel is saved. Good works aren’t done to be saved, but because we are saved.
Aunty Rachel inspires me to persevere in loving others whilst living whole-heartedly for righteousness. I am learning to pursue biblical values whilst having the understanding and patience for others to realise these same values. It is time to store up treasure in heaven!
I love you Aunty Rachel for you always trust, always serve and always love!
The other day we were asked a challenging question, which lead to a community culture conversation: What was most responsible for the growth that you experienced overseas in Guinea?
We had never thought about defining an overruling factor before. Of course, there have been umpteen challenges, growth points and stretching factors that we regularly highlight. But which had the most impact?
We found ourselves having a conversation as a team in front of our church audience that night, evaluating this question. The result? In a fashion, we each found ourselves approaching each other and naming one another responsible for our growth.
When we boarded an aeroplane in October, our families’ expectations were that we were flying the nest and becoming independent. Our western culture models independence as the ideal lifestyle, forgetting community culture. Yet little did we know that as we held hands on take off, prayed for a safe flight and left all things comfortable, we were about to become the most dependent we had ever been…
We depend on the body of Christ. Alone, we could not and would not have navigated a new culture, a wave of hardships and incredible joy. It was impossible. We left our familiarity but held onto each other, strengthening one another and running at God together in all that we did. We ate together, prayed together, worked together, read books together, studied God’s word together, worshipped together, lived under the same roof… One of our team values was “laugh together, cry together.”
Depending on each other was crucial.
Speaking of a new culture, the greatest change was switching from, “me,” to, “we.” In fact, when we claim to speak French, we can actually only conjugate the “nous” form! We never used, “I,” or “she,” throughout our six months. In Guinea you just don’t speak individually. Everything is about community. The things you do affect whole neighbourhoods and what you speak, you speak on behalf of your family or tribe. Community culture is quite literally the opposite of British lifestyle, where everyone thinks for themselves and actions don’t affect others.
The craziest thing is that we never questioned this. Somehow, we automatically switched into the community culture and it felt natural.
When we apply this to faith we see something greater. The Guinean church will never talk about, “my faith,” or say, “this is what I believe,” as we do in the west. Instead the church will always talk about, “our faith,” proclaiming, “this is what we believe!” Faith is not an individual belief or opinion. No, it’s a system of hearts coming together, abandoning certain individual values that misalign and pursuing the values and beliefs that Christ set, together.
This is the body of Christ that Apostle Paul talks about in the bible. This is a body of people from different backgrounds and tribes, coming together, to journey onwards. Prayer in Guinea is not individual either, but collective. Christians meet regularly (if not daily) to pray together and build one another up. They have not yet achieved the goal. At times tribal culture may cause disagreements but as a community they uplift this to God and make one kingdom decision together. In times of trouble, the body of Christ come alongside each other and depend upon one another for strength. Perhaps neither knows the answer but living alongside each other, they can try to move onwards as one.
Imagine if this was the vision of the western church today. Imagine if we lived together in a community culture – what would that look like? Would it be open doors, shared houses, a redefinition of the word, “family?” Perhaps we would scrap the “this is what I believe,” statements and move towards, “this is what the bible says we should believe and so let’s pursue it together.”
As a team this is something we are exploring together and are passionate about. Whilst we do not yet know the answers, we are eager to journey together and wait upon God to see just how and where He will use us to build his kingdom in this way. We don’t believe that there is space in the kingdom of heaven for lonely individuals or huge theological disagreements. In our advancing individualistic nation, it’s devastating to see division over what certain parts of the bible mean or how a church should “do church.”
For the church is not a group of individuals using the same theology to live their own lives. The church is a body of people who come together, believe in one God, lay down their own lives and move forwards together, as one multitude of kingdom builders. A body who hear the truth and share it. A community culture.
Lately the question has been, “how was your trip?” As if I can summarise six months of my life in a sentence. Of course this is not something that I hold against people, for how could they possibly understand what it’s like to spend so much time in another culture? Besides, I love it when people ask me about my time overseas!
However, one thing I can share today is a testimony as to how mighty prayer can be. Not only have I seen miracles but I’ve developed strong prayer foundations that I am sure will carry me through the future.
Imagine having no water
Our biggest struggle as a team was water. After two weeks of living abroad, our water supply completely cut off and was pretty much finished for the six months. You can probably imagine how difficult this proves to be – ever had no hot water? You are frantically boiling kettles to fills baths. Now imagine no water at all.
We didn’t have a well. We had no tap water. What we did have was a ration of “bidons” (10 litre jerry cans) to last us for however long it was needed. This obviously wasn’t a long term solution and we were unable to refill the bidons ourselves. Worrying about this was incredibly stressful.
However in all situations, we turned to God in prayer not just wishing but anticipating that God will provide what we ask for in his will. After about four weeks of praying daily, our siesta was interrupted by a loud gushing sound… On inspection we discovered that our water tank was overflowing with water! This was such an unexpected miracle! Those one thousand litres lasted us just over a month.
Prayer is a Powerful Weapon
God didn’t just answer with a short term relief miracle but as the tank began to run dry again, he provided a long term solution. A local offered to bring us water from his well whenever we needed it and so faithfully, he brought 30 litres every single day in return for fuel.
And so as I have committed to praying (not just once but every single day) and trusting in God, I have learnt that God really does answer prayer. In the past six months I have witnessed God move incredibly: healing from illnesses; bringing an end to in-country strikes; protecting our house at night; providing results in our teaching; speaking to my heart…
13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! John 14:13-14(NLT)
As a result, I challenge you: commit to praying for something every single day and believe that it will be given. Be patient and anticipate the outcome – if it pleases God, he will answer!
What are you going to pray for? Have you ever prayed to God before? Try it!
Do you ever feel like you’re not fully conscious? As if you’re living the longest dream, blinking, about to wake up and return to reality?
Everything at the moment seems incredibly surreal. I leave home in under 2 weeks to start a gap year with BMS World Mission. I have always known that I would do this however now that it’s happening, it looks and feels so different to what I had imagined a couple of years ago.
First of all, I’m going to live in Africa for 6 months – one of the poorest places in the world! It’s going to be such an adventure. But the closer I get, the more I have to come to terms with things, and the more I have to give up: family, friends, diet, communication, reliable electricity, toiletries, clothes, money, a years worth of appointments and dreams… Even the freedom to walk or run alone!
I am quite literally laying my everything down right now! I am surrendering so much to God – so many things that I have never surrendered to God. Yet I am fully confident that it will be worth it. He will protect me and give me joy!
Already I have built strong friendships with the others on my team. Already so many unexpected donations have come through. Already so much equipment has been sourced.
Most of all, I know now that I am about to step into the unknown: a new country; a new culture; a new world of political background; an unknown landscape. There are almost no photographs to look at, very few travel reviews and I don’t even know the exact location of my accommodation yet. I have absolutely no control over anything! Am I willing to accept that?
God wants me to take my biggest leap of faith yet. Literally! I know for sure that I want to say yes – to let go of all control is to allow God to show me that he really is in control of everything. Only one thing remains – God’s compassion.
BMS World Mission are an excellent organisation and they look after their workers so well. I know that God will be my protector and that this next year will bring the adventure of a life-time as I learn to rely on the one true God, whilst helping others at the same time.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. He will keep me safe. He will go with me and He will allow me to have joy as I adventure further than I’ve ever been before!
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Galatians 3:9 so those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Today I want to talk about Paul, Silas and Timothy. These three leaders were incredibly influential and played a significant role in the faith of the church in Thessalonica. You can read all about their influence, the growth of this little church and the things that the three leaders taught in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians. However what catches my eye is how faith thrives amongst these three leaders…
In 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10, we learnt that Paul and Silas were suffering a horrid persecution. However Paul makes an effort to send Timothy to Thessalonica, in order to find out how the church is continuing to grow. When he discovers that faith is truly thriving in this church, he writes back immediately, encouraged by all that he has heard. In fact, by asking fellow Christians about how they are journeying with God, Paul was made alive despite all of his suffering.
Hearing testimony, even when we ourselves feel as though we are far, spiritually dry or simply insignificant, should shake us alive! How often do we ask one another, “what is God revealing to you right now?” Or perhaps, “what have you been challenged with recently?” This question is vital so that we may all be shaken to life, grow in the knowledge of the many marvellous ways in which God works and be leaders for each other.
So without further ado, “what is God doing in your life right now?”
I know for sure that within my own personal journey with God, I am learning more and more about how my faith applies to real world situations. Recently, God has been revealing areas in life where he is present. The recent general election has been a particular growth point – this year I was eligible to vote for the first time. Previous to this I had rarely payed attention to politics, knew very little about policies, cared even less about the need to vote and simply had never even considered how God could be present in politics. Over the past month through prayer, scripture and reading, God has shown me just how many Christians there are in politics and simply opened my eyes to be more aware of our country’s affairs. As a result, I was able to prayerfully make my own personal choice whilst having the confidence to know that God is in control and will use whoever is currently in parliament to govern our country. God is present in the every day.
I would also say that I have recently been learning from various leaders, including Moses, Paul and Jesus himself. I have been growing in the knowledge of how they actively lead their people in the small things – that leadership is largely about attitude, outlook, and humble steps. I’m still journeying through this and learning so much – this idea of making effort to ask each other for testimony is one of many little learning curves.
When turning to friends, I was amazed to hear some wonderful stories: the power of healing; finding purpose; walking alongside those who are questioning God…
May you share with one another and be made alive in the thriving of the faith of God’s church!
The question is, what is God doing in your life right now?
This morning I woke up as usual but as soon as I swiped right to turn off my alarm, the words “Manchester Terror Attack” boldly sat staring up from my lock screen. Immediately I awoke from my slumber and came to the realisation that the city I have known for so long, had now been targeted with violence. Reading those three words and shortly after discovering the details, I felt sickened, angered and completely speechless…
Half of my family live in Manchester. My best friend was supposed to go to a concert tomorrow – it could have easily been her. I’ve walked down those very same concert hall steps.
It really, utterly hit home and my heart just cried out for all involved – I honestly wanted to jump in my car, drive to Manchester and start helping those affected. But I knew that wasn’t possible.
All day I felt riddled with anger and upset, as I’m sure thousands have today. But when I came home, I turned to my bible and I randomly came across Psalm 141(NIV). What I discovered was incredibly moving…
This Psalm is a prayer written by David, who also found himself surrounded by a violence (whether physical, emotional or mental I don’t know) caused by someone else. David felt angry and frustrated. His heart also cried out for mercy. I found it incredibly comforting and humbling to read that I was not the only one.
We can’t deny that evil is in this world – after what happened today we can’t help but stand stunned, angry and devastated. But in a similar situation, David (who was just as stunned) turned to prayer and remembered the truth of who God is – despite how he felt.
In vs 3-4 David acknowledges that violence is a very real thing – daily, people are doing evil all over the world. David acknowledges that this indeed is sickening, poisoning and dreadful. He recognises that these evil things are devised from corrupt, lost and broken hearts that do not know what goodness really is – that being the goodness of God. He responds by looking to God, declaring His goodness and praying for rescue. By doing so he turns his focus from the violence (not a blind eye – he still acknowledges it but refuses to dwell on it) and surrenders the situation to God, knowing that God can bring rescue.
Then in vs 4-5, David prays for protection. He is humbled by the violence, realising that He cannot keep himself safe. He chooses to rely upon God, and acknowledges the daily traps that entangle him, giving them to God. In the same way may I challenge us today to acknowledge the traps surrounding the Manchester Terror Attack:
- Terrorism causing fear – lets pray over our country, and the protection against fear so that we may rebuild a confident society, not allowing fear to cause worry or racial speculation.
- Blame: pray for protection against Islamic or Religious societies so they may not be trapped by prejudice labels regarding terrorism – sadly today I had to tweet somebody who wrongly and racially claimed that “religion has caused this hate.”
- Trauma: pray for protection against trauma, that all involved may be healed physically, restored emotionally and allowed to completely recover psychologically, not trapped by fear or trauma in the future.
Next, in vs 6-7 David cries out in mercy. Today’s events were sickening. As mentioned before, when I awoke today, my heart dropped and all I felt was compassion and hurt for all involved. Perhaps I couldn’t actively go and help, but like David, I could pray – I could cry out for mercy on behalf of those involved. Many injured may not know Christ and so as a follower of Jesus, my responsibility was to pray for them and ask the Holy Spirit bring comfort on behalf of them. I’m not talking about a quick, #prayformanchester tweet or arrow prayer. I’m talking about an invested, heartfelt faith-can-move-mountains prayer. Spend time praying and crying out to God for these people – prayer after all, is powerful.
When we look at vs9-11, we read that unfortunately, there will be people today who stand proud of what has gone on – how inhumane! Firstly whilst the psalm says that they will be, “thrown into the fire,” we must remember that these are David’s words, not God’s. Undoubtedly David, like many (including myself) today, was angry and craved justice. But unlike David, we have the truth of the New Testament. Jesus has died and rose victorious to take away sin, so all may be forgiven. I am not saying that the man who carried out the attack last night was right – he was very, very wrong. However, Jesus has already dealt with all wrongdoing. We don’t have the power to punish or judge this man (especially since he has died) but God does, and has already, dealt with it – we don’t know the outcome of this but we can trust that God is in control. Now, we must focus on applying the “all may be forgiven” aspect, not forgetting that what he did was wrong, but in our hearts coming to terms with it and moving on. This allows us to turn the tables, counteract the violence and have peace in our hearts.
World peace starts with inner peace and the first step is forgiveness. It’s hard and we don’t want to forgive right now – but the result will be worth it in time.
Finally, in vs 12-13, David finished his prayer with a great hope. He reminds himself that God is good and declares this over all of the violence. Right now it’s hard to see all the suffering and believe that God is good. But he is. Due to freewill, God can’t stop people from doing evil. He didn’t cause this pain, and he is rebuilding already through the work of emergency services and other aids. His presence is real and current – God is walking with the suffering.
We can all experience this goodness today amongst such violence – simply by opening our hearts with, “God, I need you – come and change my life, show me who you really are.”
If we do this, although there will still be hatred, we may enter a relationship with God and encounter his presence so that whilst in the storm, we may know and trust his good, strong and loving power.
This afternoon after reading and thinking about Psalm 141, I sat and prayed through all of these points. As I prayed for God to free and protect, I saw an image of a mouse trap clenched closed. But then the glorious light of Christ shone upon it, and set it wide open – free! In this moment, my heart suddenly felt peaceful. Suddenly I felt able to forgive and all my anger disappeared. I felt comforted knowing that the situation was now in God’s hands and that he is carrying those involved.
My prayer is that you may also know this freeing power in your heart.
Pray for Manchester – cry out for mercy and invite God in. Live freely set apart from all the violence in this world, simultaneously praying for, walking with and acting on behalf of those who are suffering.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)