"If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall"
PREFACE: I always try to include scriptures that I come across that inspire the posts I write. The try to reflect idea of "right-on-time" messages, because that's what these scriptures always are for me. This time I may not be able to find a way to eloquently include them all so I will still list them at some point for those reading, so you that you too can reflect on them if they have served the same purpose in your life, at this moment.
"If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptations to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure."
-1 Corinthians 10:12-13
This has become one of my favorite scriptures and is one that I reflect on often (keep it posted on the wall right near my pillow) because every time I do, I get a humbling reminder of who I am, who I am not, and who God is. What I realized this past week especially, is that sometimes temptation doesn't always come in the forms you expect but can be as simple as allowing the burdens of your life to create an entry point for evil spirits to stir some things up inside of you.
This past week has done just about everything to TRY. MY. LIFE! I won't run down the full laundry list but from physical sickness, to being stressed and overwhelmed by school, to frustrating group projects, to financial burdens, this is the first time in a while I have felt so spiritually burdened; the most troubling part was that I had no idea where it came from nor could I shake the feeling. I was probably the last person my labmates wanted to be around this week. Prayer didn't even help. I felt defeated, powerless, inadequate, insecure, and all while still trying to live right but struggling so much internally that trying to live right and focus on God just didn't feel like enough this time. Even if only for a moment, the enthusiasm I had for serving the Lord somehow went away, and again I didn't know where it came from or how to get things right again. It was almost like a cloud with the heaviest winds, rain and thunder came on a sunny day out of no where, and because of that I had no umbrella, no rain boots and was just not prepared to handle it all.
Even this morning when I woke up to go to church, my spirit still felt so heavy, but something happened as I was getting ready. The Lord woke me up and told me that I would indeed be blessed in service today; He even told me one of the worship songs that we would sing today (because it is one of my favorites). So I went to church today hoping to be blessed and relieved of this burden, not even realizing that the word I got this morning was from God until I got there, and everything unfolded just as He said it would.
Today's sermon was about "A Liberating Jesus" reflecting on Luke 13:10-13.
"One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!" Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!" (Luke 13:10-13 NLT)
A few highlights and notes I took (I wish I could just replay the sermon because I know these won't do it justice):
A "spirit of infirmity" causes burdens that can manifest physically and in other ways but the root of it is always spiritual. As soon as you start living right, the devil is going to try to come in causing your spirit to be burdened and to throw you off course.Sometimes it's not always because of something you did wrong, but God is trying to use you and draw you closer to Him.God sees your condition, He knows the calls of your condition, He summons you with your condition, and will always set you free!
Y'all... I can't even begin to tell you how much clarity, and freedom I got from this word. I mean, I literally felt the spiritual burden I had been carrying ALL WEEK leave my body during service today and I feel like a brand new person than the sourly grouch I was this past week. I realized that what I had been feeling was that spirit of infirmity and it manifested in so many different ways allowing me to be troubled all week. Feeling like I was a failure to God for not being steadfast enough to withstand when in actuality this week was a test to see how I could actually endure and rely on Him to do so. I don't know how I measured up, if I'm being honest, because I already told you that I allowed myself to be burdened by everything, but when I didn't know what else to do, I still prayed. And God delivered, even if I didn't feel it at the time.
"Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me."
-2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)
So maybe that's the lesson in all of this. Which actually ties into last week's sermon too about giving God a "yet-praise". That's probably why I heard that word the week prior to going through all this... *palms forehead*. Does this seem trivial... probably. But how many times do we go through situations, and allow even the smallest bit of doubt to creep in? Or even if we know that God will deliver, how often are we so burdened that we speak the words but don't feel it in our hearts? Or even if we feel it in our hearts, still allow those burdens to overcome us? Yeah, I know I'm not alone with this one. Like Pastor said in church this morning, sometimes the point of pain is to draw you closer to God, and even He will use those negative spirits to help grow and stretch you!
"For his anger lasts only a moment but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning."
Going back to the first scripture (1 Corinthians 10:12-13), temptation takes shape in many forms. It's easy to regress to feeling frustrated rather than blessed. It's a lot easier to regress to anger than to stay joyful. Courage has been a reoccurring theme this week and I think that another lesson I've gotten out of this week (or at least was reminded of) is how much courage it actually takes to maintain a spirit of grace, peace and forgiveness even when you don't want to, because it is in fact a choice. It's not some disease that comes into you that you can't always control. One of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou that I share often is that "courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently." I believe this to be true, and my prayer for this week is that for myself and whoever may be reading this to have the ability to draw from the Holy Spirit a spirit of courage, so that no matter what temptations or negative spirits try to steer us off course, that we will be able to maintain a spirit filled with grace, love and forgiveness as You have given to us. And that even in the moments where we may not see You at work, that we have faith and know that You are working, intentionally, for the good of those who love You, Lord, and are called according to Your purpose! Amen!
Side note: Today marks exactly 6 years, that my grandmother transitioned from her physical life. The name I like to go by, Maya Elizabeth (which is my middle name), is because of her, and the beautiful spirit she carried while she was still here. And now even more recently, as my family has done some digging into our history, I found out that her mother, my great grandmother, was also named Elizabeth, and was a political activist in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. I like to believe in many ways that I am not just their namesake, but that I have some of the same virtues they did, and try to live my life,as they did, by living as Christ did. I believe I get my activist spirit from them both, as well (hehe). And so in honor and remembrance of their lives and legacy, I choose to go by Maya Elizabeth, and thank them both for being women of strength, justice, and love, for the many generations of women in our family to follow!