Monday, December 15, 2014

5 Things You Need to Endure When the Holiday Season Gets Tough

I always enter the Holiday Season thinking I have everything planned and in place so I can relax and enjoy the surprises that always come our way during this season.  I have my mind set to be the one customer in cash register lines that is NOT in a hurry, and I smile and chat with those around me and bless the cashier during my turn.  But then there are things that happen like the cookies burning at 10 pm because my ancient oven decides to give a burst of heat to prove it isn't really that old...and the co-op homeschool party gets rescheduled 3 times!  The heater has gone out downstairs, but that is the room with a fireplace, so in actuality that is the perfect excuse to have more fires!
God is with me - all the time - and my life is good. 

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16:6

It isn't that life doesn't hold heart-ache.  We have had our difficult years.  I don't talk about this often, but we have an adult son who is in prison, and we are raising our grand-daughter (this is my sweet teenager I talk about).  We have been her parents since she was a baby.  She has learning differences that sometimes still take me by surprise, because she is so "normal" 80% of the time.  My career outside the home didn't happen as we had planned- well, it did and then we made the decision to homeschool her.  God has been with us every step.

But sometimes I feel that I cannot stretch again.  I become hard and rigid with others so that I don't feel the scraping and punctures of emotional hurts - whether intentional or not.

I am needy, too.  Sometimes life is hard.  I am in need of endurance and hope and encouragement just like anyone else.    Whatever is the name of your hard place - loneliness, illness, stress, fear, unrest, depression - because we have Jesus, we can stand strong in the midst of whatever is happening.

That is the kind of environment the new believers of the New Testament also dwelt in.  The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorted these young Christians to stand strong in the midst of their circumstances.  He reminded them of the deity of Jesus, of His fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah, how His life and sacrifice abolished the futility of the legalistic system.  How He had opened up the way to fellowship with God once again.  And he further encouraged them with these words:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, 
for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23 

Four of the five qualities we need to endure are in this verse:

1. Hold fast - In the original language, this phrase is put together from words that means to "pull down from a higher plane and to hold there.  I love the idea this creates in me - I "see" believers pulling down from heaven the promises of God, clinging to them in their present trials.

2. Confess our hope - The word "confess" here is homologia.  If you have been in a good Bible teaching church for a while, you may have already learned the meaning of this word: "to say the same thing about".  But even more deeply, it means arriving at the same conclusion.  We can "confess" without having the heart assurance, but this means that our confession is based on a conclusion that we have arrived at...we really need to have confidence in the thing we are confessing.  And hope is our confident expectation.  To confess our hope means to declare as true what we are confidently expecting when it comes to the promises of God.

3. Don't waver - Unbending.  Unyielding.  Resolute.  That is the meaning of the word translated "don't waver".  It must come from a place of strength; strength that is built by "holding fast" and true "confessing" the promises of God.

4. Be assured of His faithfulness - From  Strong's Word Studies:  1861 epaggéllō (from 1909 /epí, "on, fitting" intensifying aggellō, "announce") – properly, to declare a promise that is fitting (apt), i.e. legitimately applies. God specifically pledges (promises) His Word, and does so in particular situations.  And He is trustworthy (faithful) to fulfill what He has promised, not necessarily what we think He said.  That is why it is so important to know what His voice sounds like, so we don't go running around saying "thus says the Lord" when it is really just our own imagination!  So many writers are emphasizing this right now - know God's voice is definitely a "kairos" (always important but strategic for right now) word for the moment!

The fifth thing needed is other encouraging people:

and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another;
and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB

Not everybody knows how to be encouraging.  The word means to "put courage in", not to be critical.  Encouragement shows someone how to find strength even in their weakness, points them to Jesus, and stays in relationship no matter how messy it gets.  Encouragers never use shame to motivate.  Evaluate your relationships and let go of people who are the opposite of encouragement to you.  Pray for the Lord to send people that will build you up and support you in what God has called you to. You may find that you have to encourage yourself for a while until the right relationships have developed, and I have a video (coming later today) that will give you some ideas on "how".