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 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

As I’ve been planning this series of blogs, I’ve been traveling around Europe for meetings, the biggest one being the annual convention of Rotary International. I’m attending this year for the first time, hoping to learn a bit more about the organization before I step into my role as president of our local club in Bryan, TX. Some 25,000 people gather annually at the Rotary convention to celebrate Rotarians’ common commitment to service and integrity globally. Rotarians are known as some of the finest leaders in their communities and businesses around the world. As I walked into the enormous convention center in Hamburg, Germany, I was eager to learn and take inspiration from the amazing speakers and leaders on stage. Still, my introverted self would have been happy to sit this one out.

The thing is, large crowds have an uncanny knack for knotting my stomach. And, full confession, I often struggle with impostor’s syndrome…that situation when you’re certain that you have no right to be in a position or among company that you hold in high regard. The Lord has been working on that with me quite a bit this last couple of years and the work continued during my time in Hamburg. The past few days, I was in a real physical and emotional battle but, by the grace of God, I remembered to pray all the way through it.

Sometimes, that meant praying so I could keep my head up and smile at strangers when I wanted to look down and pass by unnoticed. Other times, it meant praying for the courage to engage when presented the opportunity to converse with new friends. And, sometimes, it meant praying for another soul who I could see was working through his own private struggle.

Those prayers were in direct opposition to the enemy and his lies. I prayed because, despite all the gut-wrenching emotions brought on by an overwhelming crowd of respected global leaders, I know the truth. I am where I am because God lead me here to learn, and serve, and to glorify Him. So, I started each day in prayer and continued to pray each time the enemy stoked my insecurity, tried to bind me with his lies, and hold me back from realizing the fullness of my mission.

Maybe that sounds overly dramatic, but I believe most of us are walking through life’s challenges caught up in lies, entangled in fears, and blinded by pride. It’s no wonder we forget God’s promises; we often fail to hear them at all. And that’s exactly where the enemy wants us. The enemy wants us to miss God’s promises, ignore the truth, and stifle the desires of own hearts! And, if you think about it, that makes sense. If God has a plan for your life (and He does), you can bet the enemy does not share that plan. Satan will go to great lengths to keep you from recognizing, acknowledging, or believing in God’s plan because Satan doesn’t want what God wants for you.

Jesus came to give us an abundant life because that’s part of God’s plan for us. But just as Jesus had to die before He could rise from death, we must also die to sin before we can step up into our place in His Kingdom; into the plans He has for us. But what does that really mean? And, if Jesus defeated sin, why does it really matter? I think it matters because sin separates us from the Lord; it erodes our ability to believe. We need to reflect and repent, inviting our Savior to forgive our sin and make us whole in Him. Only then can we draw closer…close enough to feel His presence and hear His whisper; to understand the promise and plans He has for us. The Lord wants our undivided attention because when we get distracted, the thief comes to steal the very life Christ is calling us to. Jesus invites us closer to Him, so we can hear and fully know who we are and trust in all that He has for us.

But it’s hard to trust sometimes, right? It’s hard to believe and walk in that belief. It’s one of those things we as Christians may not want to confess. Maybe we don’t even recognize unbelief in our lives because Satan hides it in so many destructive forms. Pride is unbelief; evidence that we fail to believe all that Jesus says of us. Anger is unbelief that the things we so deeply desire are coming (or perhaps are already there but we are blind; unable to see). Unbelief threatened to steal all that many new experiences had to offer me over the last few years, including my first Rotary International convention. Fueled by the enemy, unbelief in the form of fear, anxiety, self-reliance, and so much more sought to kill and destroy my hope in God’s plans for me and rob me of the joy of new relationships.

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

In his letter, Peter warns us to pay attention; to be vigilant, ever on guard and aware that the enemy wants nothing more than to steal, kill and destroy. And Satan does that by slowly, wryly, tricking us into sin, blinding us to it, and gradually eroding our relationship with the Lord in the process. The good news is, Jesus overcame all sin–all that keeps us from being close to Him. The enemy preys on our weaknesses but he has no power over us as long as we remain vigilant, humble ourselves before our Father, and confess the sin that works to separate us from our Savior and the Advocate He sent to us.

As I was praying and meditating on scripture in preparation to write this blog, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Thomas and his doubts. It made me smile. I just love what this story tells us about Jesus; how He loves us so. Like me, you may have thought of Thomas as a bit of heretic. He wasn’t willing to take his fellow apostles’ word for it and believe that Jesus is risen. Instead, Thomas, in effect, confessed his unbelief. And what did Jesus do? He returned to the room. For Thomas and Thomas alone, Jesus showed up for the one who still doubted. That tells us so much about Jesus’ desire for a relationship with each and every one of us. Me. You. All of us.

Jesus will answer our unbelief. He will help us overcome and rediscover hope and joy and love and peace–all the gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as the unique talents and resources granted each of us for our work in the Kingdom. We have only to search our hearts, identify the sin that erodes our relationship with the Lord, and confess our unbelief, asking the Lord to show us the truth.

This past two weeks, I’ve been encouraging you to draw closer to the Lord. I’ve encouraged you to dream with Him, asking our good good Father to help you understand the desires of your heart and all the resources and capabilities He’s provided you. As you do so, it is likely the enemy is going to try to get in the way. Remember, Satan doesn’t want what God wants for you. Satan only wants to erode and destroy your relationship with Jesus. It is the single most damaging thing the enemy can do to destroy God’s plans for you. So, as you dream and take stock of both the desires of your heart and the gifts the Lord has given you to work with, in this or a coming season of life, it is most important that you also consider what forces are working to erode your ability to shine and stand out as a recognizable friend of Jesus.

This week, hope you will continue to draw close to the Lord, asking Him to help you see anything that is coming between you and Him, or anything that is or could work against His plans for you. If you’ve been capturing your insights through the last two blogs, I hope you’ll continue by writing down your answers to these questions:

  • What is eroding or could erode your relationship with Jesus?
  • Are you struggling with unbelief in the form of fear, pride, self-reliance or some other sin? If so, confess to the Lord, ask for forgiveness and for help to overcome.
  • Ask the Lord to help you identify any lies you’re believing that are fueling unbelief and sin. If the Holy Spirit reveals anything, make note of it and ask the Lord to show you His truth that counter’s Satan’s lies.
  • Take some extra time in the Word this week. When a piece of scripture catches your attention, stay with it. Ask the Lord to help you understand the message He has for you in His word and how it relates to His plans and purpose for you.

It’s important to be aware of sin and other aspects of our lives that erode our relationship with the Lord and our ability to be our best and glorify Him. In fact, it is essential if we hope to fully realize the desires of our hearts and live the joyful, flourishing life God has for us. So, take the time this week to talk with Jesus about what might be working against your relationship and take note. Next week we will continue the series on finding our place in His Kingdom, identifying ways we can defend against attacks from the enemy. Until then, I’ll be praying for you.

With the greatest of love,

Joan

This is the third in a five-part series on Kingdom work. Over the next several weeks, Joan will share scriptural insights into God’s divine plan for our lives. She and the Modern Day Mary team will be on hand to answer questions, offer insights, and pray for you. We hope you’ll join us for this journey as we all seek a deeper understanding of and commitment to the unique roles God has for each of us. In so doing, we believe we will know deeper joy and realize the truth of an abundant, flourishing life.

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