Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us
My absolute favorite airline, Southwest, has a “Bags Fly Free” campaign going on. Most other airlines charge up to $100/bag that is checked. Southwest does not. To say I love LUV is an understatement.
But in life, we all have baggage. And for most of us, the older we get, the more baggage we accumulate. If we had to pay for our emotional, spiritual, and physical baggage over the course of our lives, I would reckon to think that we would live our lives a little more carefully and intentionally. Unfortunately, in this life, bags fly free.
I’ve been dating a wonderful woman, Mimi. Our relationship is great. God has blessed us beyond measure with a single goal in life, to see our families and others come to Christ. Mimi is not only a very physically beautiful woman, but her spiritual side amazes me every day. Our relationship can be summed up in the phrase “iron sharpens iron.” We help each other understand the gospel of Christ in relationship to what is going on in our own lives.
She and I have been dating since August of last year. At first, it was difficult. She lived in Minnesota and I live in Maryland. Over Christmas, she moved to within 2 hours of me. We’ve been able to see each other much more consistently, but still can’t just easily get together when we get off work.
To offset our lack of being able to get together physically, we’ve taken to Skype. While on Skype, we spend a LOT of time talking about our personal lives and our spiritual lives. We decided to go through a devotion together called Devotionals for Dating Couples by Ben Young and Dr. Samuel Adams. It is a great devotional that takes us through a 9-week devotional that investigates our spiritual lives and helps us to get on the same page in our relationship with God.
One thing we have learned in the past 7 months is that we both have a lot of baggage. I’ve spoken on here about my past divorce. Mimi has also been divorced, although for very different circumstances. Regardless of the circumstances, our pasts have resulted in each of us with our own set of issues to get past in this relationship.
The same can be seen in all relationships everywhere. Whether it is Mimi and Fred, relationships at work, or even the church, we all bring our baggage into our relationship. Ours is a world in which everyone seems to be a victim. How can we get rid of the baggage and move from victim to victory?
BUT GOD DOES NOT PLAN FOR US TO BE VICTIMS!
We are not defined by our past circumstances, our present ailments, or our baggage.
Look at some of the Biblical characters just to get an idea of how people with baggage became victors in their situations. These victims of their circumstances called upon the power of God to overcome their issues.
1 Samuel 30:1-6
While David was away, the Amalekites came and destroyed the city in which he and his men lived. David’s men were speaking of stoning him. David did not let this moment take control of him. He suffered through it with grace and prayer and let the Lord lift him above his circumstance. While his men were sinking in their despair, David was setting in place his foundation for rising to power.
You can’t have an example of bad circumstances without thinking of Job. But I don’t want to just tell you to read the book of Job (which you should anyway). The book of James puts it very well when he explains Job’s situation. He breaks it down into three elements: suffering, perseverance, and blessing. Job suffered. WOW, did Job suffer! But Job also persevered in the grace of God, staying close to Him in prayer, and in the end, Job came out with a lack of baggage.
Paul and Silas go to Macedonia, cast out evil spirits, and then get imprisoned. But during their imprisonment, which they could have been depressed about, they praised God. Because of their perseverance, their praise, and their belief in the God of miracles, the jailer came to Christ.
Every single one of those situations could have ended with the person or people letting their circumstances take control of the situation. What would have happened if David would have moped around? His men would have seen him as weak and stoned him to death! What would have happened if Job would have allowed his extreme circumstance to drive him into depression? He never would have been used as a strong instrument of God! What would have happened if Paul and Silas simply hardened their hearts while in jail? Their ministry would have ended RIGHT THERE and the spread of Christianity would have been in jeopardy!!!
God wants us to grow from our circumstances, not wallow in them. His design is for us to turn them in to stepping stones to victory.
So how can we claim victory over the circumstances?
1) Choose to LIVE! Deuteronomy 30 tells us that death, bad circumstances, and trials will follow us. But so will blessings, prosperity and LIFE! (if we choose it) Many people have been beaten down by the negative circumstances in their lives. Most people don’t see a way out. But God has a way out of your circumstance! Have hope in the God of HOPE! (Romans 15:13). When you feel life beating you down, fight back. Yell loudly “I CHOOSE TO LIVE!” After you have done so, write down what you are going to do to turn yourself around. Journaling is a great way to get out of depression.
2) Know you are LOVED! God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and His love falls into that category! He will not forsake you even though you are forsaking your commitment to Him. He does not love you any less. Romans 8:31-39 proves this to us. Read those verses, but focus on one verse, verse 37. After you have chosen to LIVE, yell out “I AM MORE THAN A CONQUEROR!”
3) Have FAITH! When we walk by sight, all we can do is see our circumstances. When we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) then we look beyond our circumstances and to the power of God.
4) Be ENCOURAGED! Look at Philippians 4:8, Paul encouraged the reader to think on that which is good. Even David, in 1 Samuel 30:6 focused on the strength of the Lord, especially when his men were looking to stone him to death.
5) CARRY ON! Do NOT give up! If you are saved, the Devil knows the only way he can stop you from living a strong life for Christ is to give up. If you give up, the Devil wins! If you CHOOSE to keep trying, then you WILL be victorious! You WILL overcome!
So bringing this back to Mimi and myself, yes, we have baggage. Yes, we struggle with Satan attacking us through any insecurities that we may have. But we have CHOSEN to LIVE. We have CHOSEN to LOVE (and be loved!). We have CHOSEN FAITH. We have CHOSEN to ENCOURAGE one another in our relationship. And we have CHOSEN to PERSEVERE.
Regardless of all of the free bags that are flying on our trip together in this life, I have found myself smitten (yes, I ACTUALLY used that word) with Mimi and am blessed with an opportunity for each of us to grow from being victims to being victors.
I know that there are people reading this post who are going through significant trials right now. Perhaps you have lost a job and are at risk of getting evicted. Perhaps you are suffering from the death of a loved one. Maybe you feel stifled by your circumstances. I pray that you reach out. It is time to get you connected with a church, if you aren’t already. If you are, it is time to consult with your leadership at the church.
I want to be able to pray for you. Please reach out. You can email me if you would like at firstname.lastname@example.org. God wants you to be victorious over your circumstance.