Fear of Commitment




There may be more underneath the surface if you have an intense fear of commitment.

What do I do to overcome my fear of commitment or fear of failure in choosing or being chosen by the wrong person?

You ask a good question and sound like you have a lot awareness in terms of where to look for the answer. What I mean by that is you are looking at yourself in terms of your ability to choose and to figure out how you want to order your relationships. Many people just see it as a problem in the “other person.” They never get to where the real issue is and where the power is to change lies—in one’s own spiritual growth. (Matthew 7:5)

Having said that, let’s talk about the things you mentioned. The first is you can see your hurt in the past two relationships has brought you some pain. It is important you get with some good people to help you process all of that hurt, so you can deal with it fully and put it in the past. Cry it out, express the hurt and anger, forgive and then, let it go. But that is not all. The next step involves the great lesson of hurt—learning. Ask God to help you (Psalm 139:23,24)

Look at the past relationships and find the themes in the relationship that say something about you. What were the qualities you were drawn to? Were they good qualities of character and depth? Or were they things that made up in some way for aspects of yourself that you need to grow in?

For example, if you are particularly outgoing and spirited as you described, did you pick someone who was too passive and ultimately could not make the kind of commitment you needed? Or if you have some self-esteem issues, did you pick someone who had a lot of investment in their own “perfectionistic” image but did not have the depth qualities needed to sustain a relationship? There are many variations on this theme, but the problem is we often pick people out of some deficit in ourselves, and then their own deficits come out in the end. Find out what about you needs the kind of person who lets you down in some way.

The other dynamic that tends to come into play in this way is for someone to let the love “blind” them to other issues in the relationship. What about these men do you see now that you allowed yourself to not see then? Were there clues present that you ignored for some reason? Sometimes they have the same negative traits you have not faced in your family of origin, and so you are blind to them in others. If you have not worked through family issues, then they will often surface in the people you choose.

The way you describe your fear is that someone will “cage you in.” This has a couple of possible dangers. The first is that you may be a bit on the “hyper-independent” side of things, needing to remain a bit too autonomous in a relationship. If this is true, you need to find out what the underlying fear is and where it comes from. It could be a fear of intimacy or a fear of losing your boundaries when you are in a relationship. You need to be able to be close and at the same time not allow someone to control you. If your boundaries are too weak, then you may need to create distance in order to maintain them.

The other side of this problem is if you are hyper-independent, then you may be attracting dependent men and that is why they have a tendency to fuse with you early in the relationship. To the degree we are somewhat imbalanced, we will find imbalance that equals us in the opposite direction.

To discover these things about yourself and help you grow through them will require being in good friendships and support systems that will help you. As you change and are able to be close to others, maintain your boundaries, not be afraid of your own imperfections and other important dynamics, you will pick people of the same maturity. Mature picks mature. A good counselor who understands these kinds of issues can be of great help.

In the final analysis, we need to be able to recognize and pick people of good character—those who are able to be close and at the same time remain separate and independent in themselves…those who are able to be honest, real and not perfect, and to be equal and mutual. But to find them, we need to be able to do these things ourselves, and that requires spiritual growth. As you grow in these areas, you will be able to discern people of good character (Hebrews 5:14). I also recommend our book, Safe People (Zondervan) which was written about this very issue of how to discern the right kinds of people to date and to be close to. God Bless.

Have You Ever Had The Wrong Thing In Mind?

If you want to live a successful Christian life, you have to take a stand against the negative invaders of your mind.


Mind Monsters

Have you ever had the wrong thing in mind? Have you ever had one of those moments when it dawned on you, “I haven’t been thinking right?”

It’s as if a light suddenly comes on, and you realize you’ve been giving a voice to mind monsters, those negative invaders that come and:

  • Steal your joy and peace
  • Disrupt your relationships
  • Take away your contentment in life

They steal your life, one day at a time. As you read this, you may be thinking, “I attend church. I’ve given my life to Christ. I shouldn’t have to deal with mind monsters, right?” The truth is, a person can be saved and on his way to heaven and still have to battle mind monsters.

Mind monsters are nothing new. In fact, they are at least as old as the Bible, all the way back to the Book of Judges, where we can read about a man named Gideon who had to conquer some mind monsters on his way to defeating the Midianites.

The Israelites were in trouble. Their land had been taken over by the Midianites, and they were feeling the weight of oppression. In the middle of this was a lowly farmhand named Gideon. In Judges 6:14, God appears to Gideon and tells him, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Pretty strong words to hear directly from God Himself. And yet Gideon immediately let a mind monster jump between him and God. In the very next verse, he replies, “Pardon me, my Lord, but how can I save Israel? My clan is weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (v. 15).

Can you believe it? God just gave Gideon a job, and Gideon refuses, saying he isn’t strong enough.

Fortunately, when God chooses you, you stay chosen. Gideon essentially spends the rest of the chapter disbelieving God, and God spends the rest of the chapter convincing Gideon that he is, in fact, the one chosen to rescue Israel from their captivity. And from then on, Gideon finally accepts his role and kicks the invaders out. (It’s a great story—read Judges 6-8 for all of it.)

There’s also the New Testament story of Joseph, where a mind monster almost kept him from marrying the mother of Jesus. When we read the story of Jesus’s birth, it’s easy to see how close Joseph came to messing up God’s plan. The Bible records in the first chapter of Matthew that Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married. Back in those days, if you were engaged, you were committed; it took a divorce to become unengaged.

But then the unthinkable happened, which we read about in verse 18: “Before [Joseph and Mary] came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he knew it wasn’t his child. He also knew Mary’s penalty could be death—it was a horrible disgrace for a woman to be pregnant out of wedlock. His decision? “He had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19).

He had in mind…! Notice how Joseph’s thinking had gone off course. His mind was on a completely different track than the plan of God. An angel came along and pointed this out to Joseph. I imagine the conversation went something like this: “Joseph, you’ve got the wrong thing in mind. God’s got a plan going on here, and you’re not thinking right. You’ve got to get the right thing in your mind” (see Matthew 1:20-23).

If you want to live a successful Christian life, you have to take a stand against the negative invaders of your mind.

Wayward Thinking

Have you ever felt sad the moment you woke up? Your mind is whining, “Oh boy, another day! Oh my, a blue Monday! A terrible Tuesday! A weird Wednesday! A tough Thursday! A frightening Friday! A stinking Saturday!”

These wayward thoughts cause you to turn on your country western music and sing, “It’s raining outside, and it’s raining inside too. I’ve got trouble on my mind, and I don’t know what to do.”

What happened to “This is the day the Lord has made; [I will] rejoice and be glad in it”? (Psalm 118:24). It went out when sadness came in. The sadness created wayward thoughts, and the mind monster of sadness started jumping around inside your mind wreaking havoc! It said, “Let’s go claim Monday as a day of sadness. Let’s go ahead and move into Tuesday and call it terrible.”

When the mind monster is at work, everything is sad, everything’s gloomy—but there’s really no reason for it to be that way. The negative invader of your mind came in and created wayward thoughts—thoughts that would get you off course. God had an assignment for you that day. You were supposed to go to work happy. You were supposed to walk in and smile at the folks in the office, greeting them with good cheer.

If you want to live a successful Christian life, you have to take a stand against the negative invaders of your mind.

You were supposed to let your light shine before men so they could see your good works, and then honor and glorify God (see Matthew 5:16). That was God’s plan before sadness—the monster—invaded your mind. Now you’re on a completely different track, feeling bad and walking into the office with your head hanging low. When your coworker asks, “Did you have a good weekend?” you can barely respond. You’re moping around and sacrificing influence with your poor attitude.

You’ve just been taken over by a mind monster. Get back on assignment and live out the purpose God has for you by understanding that these wayward thoughts are really mind monsters trying to hijack your day and your destiny.

The Trains of Thoughts

A few years ago, my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a trip to Europe. Most of the time we were away we were transported between cities and countries by train. It was an experience that turned out to be much more difficult than we imagined. The signage was insufficient, and finding someone to help us with directions seemed impossible. We ended up being confused for a good portion of the trip. It wasn’t until the end of our time in Europe that we began to understand the routing system and train-car assignments.

Have you ever taken a train? If so, you know you don’t get on one without knowing where it’s going. After all, that’s the whole point; you’re on board to get somewhere. In my book, Forces That Form Your Future, I wrote about the way thoughts are like trains—they take you somewhere. But so often we jump on these trains of thought without knowing our destination!

So many people end up in places they don’t want to be and then wonder how they got there. But it only makes sense that they boarded a train of thought to Self-Pity City, Anger Town, or Lonesomeville without even realizing it.

Many times, they assume God put them there. I’ve heard people say, “You know, God put me in this wilderness. I’m hungry, and I can’t feed my kids, but God put me here.” That usually is not the case. More often than not God is saying, “I didn’t put you there. You boarded the wrong train of thought.” The wrong train carries:

  • thoughts of worry
  • thoughts that create guilt
  • thoughts that cause you to feel insecure and question yourself
  • thoughts that bring sadness
  • thoughts that cause suspicion of others’ motives
  • thoughts that bring doubt of God and His Word
  • thoughts of inaccurate assumptions

For example, have you ever met a person who assumed something about you that wasn’t true? I remember a day when I left church quickly to catch a plane for a speaking engagement. My assistant had picked up a sandwich from Subway for me because I didn’t have time to eat lunch. I raced to the airport with no time to spare.

When I arrived, I jumped out of the car, hurried to the check-in counter, and said, “Is there any way you can get me on the plane? Can you get my baggage checked through? I have a speaking engagement tonight, and I’ve got to get on this plane.”

I remember watching the attendant work slowly. I was wondering, “What’s bothering him? Why is he treating me this way?”

Finally, he blurted out, “The next time you’re running late to the airport, don’t take the time to stop at Subway and pick up a sandwich.”

Now, in that moment I didn’t have to be a great man of God to recognize the mind monster of anger that jumped into my thoughts. Longing to leap over the counter and grab the attendant by the neck, I saw a flash, a picture of that negative imagination.

I rebuked that thought. I cast it down. I brought my thoughts into captivity and kindly responded with something like, “I really didn’t get the sandwich myself, but that’s okay. Would you just please let me on the airplane?”

Everyone makes inaccurate assumptions from time to time. The man at the ticket counter put two and two together and assumed I stopped and hung out at Subway, and as a result was late for my flight.

He concluded that he shouldn’t have had to rush. He probably told himself, “This tardy customer isn’t going to create an emergency for me! I’ve been here all day waiting for him to get here. He obviously stopped at Subway, and now he wants to fire me up and get me going. I’m not hurrying for him, because I know what happened. I see the bag in his hand!”

I have to admit, I’m not immune to making inaccurate assumptions myself. As a Pentecostal preacher’s kid, I grew up assuming certain things about people who weren’t part of our specific brand of Christianity. It seemed to me that those in other denominations were less informed, less sincere, and just all-around less spiritual than those of us in my dad’s church. I stereotyped them as not being on “our side.”

But then along came Reggie. We met during football camp while we were in high school and hit it off right away. We saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things and had many of the same interests, including several classes together. He was a fun, good-natured guy and a terrific athlete, so we became friends.

Then I discovered the worst: he was not only one of “them”—his dad was the pastor of one of those “other” churches! Yet here we were: two preachers’ kids in a large, secular high school. I began to realize that our commonalities were so great they rendered our differences irrelevant, and I stopped making all those negative, incorrect assumptions.

Looking back, I can see that God had a bigger plan for me, and that even then He was beginning to free me from false assumptions. He was preparing me for what I enjoy now: friendships and camaraderie with pastors and leaders of various doctrinal and denominational backgrounds. My world is so much bigger today than it ever could have been had I held on to my “us and them” mentality. I had to change my mind to change my world.

Every day, you’re going to be bombarded with mind monsters coming to steal your joy, take away your confidence, mess up your relationships, tempt you to doubt God’s Word, keep you focused on your flaws and shortcomings, and create chaos and havoc. There’s no condemnation in the fact that mind monsters are lurking in your life—everyone has them. But you have a choice: Will you allow them to stay, affecting who you are and God’s plan for your life, or will you conquer them?

Shocking Stats Regarding The Bible In America


As Americans, has our perspective on the Bible changed? Are our convictions regarding the Bible changing? In a world where the Bible is the most-read book, why does it seem like the times are changing? The Bible has been the same for thousands of years, so what’s happening now? For the past 30 years, Barna Researchers have gathered data to uncover these very answers. They have discovered that the percentage of people who say that they read their Bibles at least once a week is slowly decreasing. Perhaps cultures are changing; skepticism is on the rise and becoming increasingly antagonistic towards the claims of faith in the Bible. Does the increase in accessibility to the Bible play a role in decreasing the sacred stature of the Bible? Technological advances have made the Bible easily accessible to everyone around the world, but could that have an impact on the way we look at the Bible? The research below identifies some key trends that give us insight into the changes that we are seeing in today’s society. The following report takes into account the last 6 years of statistical data from the Barna Research Group


The Bible Then and Now: A 6 Year Trend

Research Provided by: The Barna Research Group

In the last six years alone, we’ve seen unprecedented changes. Nearly a quarter of a century ago in 1991, 45 percent of American adults told Barna they read the Bible at least once a week. In 2009, 46 percent reported doing so. These percentages were remarkably consistent over the course of nearly two decades. But since 2009, Bible reading has become less widespread, especially among the youngest adults. As more and more Millennials join the ranks of adulthood, the national average continues to weaken. Today, about one-third of all American adults report reading the Bible once a week or more. The percentage is highest among Elders (49%) and lowest among Millennials (24%).

For more than 30 years, Barna has studied the Bible’s role in and influence on American society, painstakingly collecting the pieces of data we need to understand the big picture. And for the past six years, we have partnered with American Bible Society to add depth and detail to the picture, and to identify changes over time. Since 2011, Barna has conducted more than 14,000 interviews with American adults and teens on behalf of American Bible Society to create annual State of the Bible reports. The Bible in America, released in May 2016 to commemorate American Bible Society’s bicentennial, represents one of the largest sets of aggregate data Barna has ever collected on any single topic.

There are a number of hopeful signs for those who advocate for the Bible’s continuing importance and influence:

Most Americans (including a majority of young adults) believe the Bible has been more influential on humanity than any other text.
A majority (also including young adults) believes the Bible contains everything a person needs to know in order to live a meaningful life.
Two-thirds of all Americans hold an orthodox view of the Bible, that it is the actual or inspired word of God.
Nearly half read the Scriptures at least once a month.
Fidelity to the Bible is strong among practicing Christians of all ages.
What are the other major trends uncovered over the course of six years?

Skepticism on the Rise
The Bible remains the top choice among American adults asked to identify sacred literature, and the number of people who choose the Bible, the Koran, the Torah and the Book of Mormon has remained relatively consistent through the years. However, the percentage of Americans who opt for “none of these” has doubled in six years, from 7 percent in 2011 to 14 percent in 2016. This increase is mostly thanks to Millennials (22%) and Gen-Xers (18%), who are significantly more likely than Boomers (8%) and Elders (7%) to say none of the options qualifies as a holy book.


Similarly, there is rising skepticism about the Bible as a sufficient guide for living a meaningful life. The percentage of people who strongly agree with the statement has contracted in six years from 53 percent in 2011 to 45 percent in 2016—and the percentages of those who disagree strongly or somewhat have increased over the same time frame, from 23 to 33 percent.


Trust in the Bible’s reliability is also dropping. Barna first asked American adults in 1991 if they agreed or disagreed that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.” Twenty-five years ago, 46 percent strongly agreed—close to half—but today, one-third of Americans say so. And the percentage of those who strongly disagree has nearly doubled in six years.


The national shifts in these three perceptions—the Bible is sacred literature, is sufficient as a guide for meaningful living and is reliably accurate—are the clearest indicators that skepticism about the Bible is gaining a stronger cultural foothold.

The overall trends are clear. Thus far, however, growing skepticism seems to have had minimal impact on Americans’ definitions of the Bible

Continuity in Defining the Bible
There has been remarkable consistency through the past half-decade when it comes to how Americans define the Bible; the changes from 2011 to 2016 are, for the most part, within the margin of error. However, Barna researchers expect to see significant shifts in the coming half-decade, as the proportion of Elders in the general population shrinks and the proportion of Millennials grows. Millennials (14%) are half as likely as Elders (29%) to believe the Bible is the actual word of God and twice as likely to believe it is a man-made book of teachings and advice (20% vs. 11% among Elders). (As we will see in a later section, among practicing Christians the distance between generations on this question all but disappears.)


It may be that the ongoing consistency we see in Americans’ definitions of the Bible is due at least in part to its ubiquity. Skepticism is on the rise, but a physical copy of the Bible is still a nearly omnipresent feature of American life: Nearly nine out of 10 adults and teens report owning a Bible, a proportion that has held steady over six years.

Bible Readers
Americans continue to own Bibles—but readership is not as ubiquitous as ownership. About one-third of Americans read the Bible at least once a week, and this proportion has remained fairly stable. Likewise, the two out of five American adults who read the Bible less than once a year or never has thus far proven to be a stable proportion. Unless something dramatically changes among Millennials, however, Barna researchers expect reading frequency in the general population to trend downward in coming years as Elders become a smaller share of the total: Half of Elders read the Bible at least once a week (49%), compared to one-quarter of Millennials (24%).


When it comes to the reasons people read the Bible, a relatively consistent majority of people does so because it draws them closer to God, though significant minorities in 2016 also point to a need for comfort (16%) or direction (16%). A majority also expresses a desire to read the Bible more than they currently do—about six in 10 American adults. This desire is a window of opportunity for leaders who care about increasing Bible engagement. Similarly, the “felt needs” that people bring to Bible reading represent an opportunity to help them engage more deeply with the Scriptures.


What the Research Means
“Even in just the few years Barna has been conducting ‘State of the Bible’ interviews, the data is trending toward Bible skepticism,” said David Kinnaman, president of Barna and director of the research. “With each passing year, the percent of Americans who believe that the Bible is ‘just another book written by men’ increases. So too do the perceptions that the Bible is actually harmful and that people who live by its principles are religious extremists.

“Of course, a healthy dose of skepticism means that people are still asking questions of faith, of Christianity and of the Bible,” Kinnaman continued. “I believe those questions, when asked and answered honestly and from a biblical point of view, can lead to the Spirit’s work in people’s lives.

“Thankfully, the data is not all bad news. In fact, our researchers continue to find bright spots that demonstrate the Bible’s cultural staying power and persistent hold on people’s hearts. Each of these realities, among others, is a window of opportunity open to leaders. But these windows are not likely to remain open forever, so we must take full advantage to advocate today for the Bible in our skeptical, self-centered, highly connected world.”

Comment on this research and follow our work:
Twitter: @davidkinnaman | @roxyleestone | @barnagroup
Facebook: Barna Group

About the Research
The data reported above originated from a series of telephone and online interviews with nationwide random samples.

Date Audience Collection method Sample size Sampling error*
2011–2016 US adults telephone and online 12,187 ±0.9
Jan–Feb, 2016 US adults telephone and online 2008 ±2.0
Feb. 2015 US teens online 1,056 ±2.9
Aug. 2014 US Millennials online 1,000 ±3.0

All telephone interviews were conducted by Barna Group. All households were selected for inclusion in the sample using a random-digit dial technique, which allows every telephone household in the nation to have an equal and known probability of selection. Households selected for inclusion in the survey sample received multiple callbacks to increase the probability of obtaining a representative distribution of adults. Regional quotas were used to ensure that sufficient population dispersion was achieved. There were also minimum and maximum ranges placed on the distribution of respondents within several demographic variables that were tracked during the field process to ensure that statistical weighting would not be excessive. When a particular attribute reached one of the parameters, the sampling selection process was varied to preclude individuals who did not meet the necessary demographic criterion, with the interviewer seeking a person from the same household who fit the desired criterion. Between 20% and 40% of telephone interviewing was conducted on cell phones.

Online interviews were conducted using an online research panel called KnowledgePanel® based on probability sampling that covers both the online and offline populations in the U.S. The panel members are randomly recruited by telephone and by self-administered mail and web surveys. Households are provided with access to the Internet and hardware if needed. Unlike other Internet research that covers only individuals with Internet access who volunteer for research, this process uses a dual sampling frame that includes both listed and unlisted phone numbers, telephone and non-telephone households, and cell-phone-only households. The panel is not limited to current Web users or computer owners. All potential panelists are randomly selected to join the KnowledgePanel; unselected volunteers are not able to join.

Once data was collected, minimal statistical weights were applied to several demographic variables to more closely correspond to know national averages.

About the Barna Group
The Barna Group is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

Live in His Presence


We know in our heads that God is there, but our hearts must also engage with Him and draw its life from him in order to live fully.

“After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence’” (Hosea 6:2).

Live in His presence so you can better live in the present. His presence is a reality check. His presence is pure and it’s purifying. You cannot live in the presence of the Lord and not be changed. Christ is combustible. His expectation is Lordship over His followers. This is why we submit to Him each time we enter into His presence. His looming presence means He is Lord of our life. We could say that He is ever-present. Therefore, we are perpetually in His presence. So whether we acknowledge His presence or ignore it, He is still there. It is, of course, to our advantage to acknowledge the Almighty all the time; this can become the habit of our heart.

Always look for ways to continually and quietly crown Christ as the Lord over your life. It is in His presence that this comes to light. This is why you intentionally enter into His presence. You need the reminder more than He needs the recognition. Although it is a form of respect to regularly recognize the One you love most, come into His presence out of sheer love and respect, with no agenda but worship. The goal is to live in His presence so you can live in the present. His presence arrests your worries and locks them away so you can live in today. His presence purifies your heart and mind (1 Thessalonians 3:13). His presence comforts and encourages like none other. It is living in His presence that provides strength for your lifelong journey. His presence is where love lingers and holiness hovers.

In the presence of Jesus, your perspective is aligned with the Almighty’s. God is great at giving a gut check. Take the time to tarry with the Lord. Christ can keep you from insignificant commitments. His presence points to your spot in His will.

The presence of God is experienced positionally and volitionally. You know in your head that He is always present. But your heart must volitionally engage with Him in order for you to experience Him practically. Learn to practice His presence. Think about Him often. If men can think about sex every seven seconds, surely thoughts about their Savior can exceed this. Women tend to worry regularly. So a healthy habit is to send worry out the back door of your mind’s control, and invite the Lord in through the front door of your heart’s faith. He does “stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20).

Moreover, live in His presence so you can live in the present. You stay tethered to eternity, but experience the moment. Live in the present, because this is where people live. You can help people live through another day when you lead them into His presence. Living in His presence is as much human as it is divine. It is as much vertical with heaven as it is horizontal with people. Live in His presence. After all, He is already there. So above all else, stay aware, alert of the Almighty’s precious and purifying presence.

Practicing His presence produces lasting relationships and right results. It revives and restores.

The Challenge to Be Content

The Challenge to Be Content



When life gets tough, giving in to self-pity can be a formidable temptation. But thankfully, there’s a better way—a time-tested strategy for not letting your circumstances hold you back.

As you sit there in your seat, reading these words, I’m willing to guess there are circumstances you’re dealing with. No doubt some of them are heavy things that rest on your conscience. Relationships that need attention, bills that need paying, dreams and goals and unfinished projects—life is so complex and so busy that at times it may seem like more than you can handle.

Let me save you some trouble: the truth is, your circumstances are already more than you can handle on your own, whether you realize it or not. Now, why do I say that? The answer is simple. You were never meant to live apart from the sustaining help of God, and it’s by His mercy alone that you’re able to continue day after day.

It may feel as though you’re managing on your own, but without God’s kindness, we would all be utterly incapacitated. That’s the first lesson. The second is that God doesn’t want you to go through life alone. He offers Himself to you in relationship, as a loving Father, to help and guide you through the most trying of circumstances. The question is, Are you willing to let Him? Too often we say that we want the Lord’s help, but our actions suggest that we’re unwilling to relinquish control and let Him take the lead.

At one time or another we all face situations that are less than desirable. In moments like these, we have two options: to live under our circumstances and try to get through them as best we can, or to humble ourselves in turning to God and letting Him lift us up. The choice comes down to faith in the Lord and whether or not, in our heart of hearts, we believe He’ll come through for us.

Can you relate to that struggle? Paul must have been tempted to be disheartened at times. You could argue that, as a man who faced extreme difficulty and suffering, he had a right to be frustrated with God. Repeated beatings, scorn, imprisonment—you’d think the Lord would always come to the rescue of His specially chosen apostle. But He didn’t. That hardly seems fair, considering how faithfully Paul had served Him.

But here’s what we need to notice: Paul didn’t let his circumstances dictate his behavior, shape his attitude, or control his mind. As he sat in that jail cell, he penned the following words to the Philippians: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).

Notice that Paul learned to be content. It wasn’t the result of favorable circumstances or an easy-going temperament. His contentment developed in hardship and was the outcome of his obedience. You and I can learn to live with that same contentment, no matter what comes our way.

Focused on Goodness

In Philippians, the apostle mentions Christ or Jesus 55 times, but he talks about his imprisonment in only a few verses of chapter one. There’s no complaining, self-pity, or blaming the Lord. In fact, the letter is filled with just the opposite—rejoicing.

Although his life continually hung in the balance, Paul could rejoice because he trusted God’s plans for his future. His life’s motto was, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21). He knew death would instantly usher him into Christ’s presence, and life would mean more years of fruitful service. Either way, God’s plans for him were good, even when his circumstances weren’t. The key to Paul’s contentment was his firm belief in the Lord’s goodness toward him, recognition of His authority over him, and absolute trust in His will for his life.

What we know for certain is that the Lord is good, and that in the end His goodness will win the day (Rom. 8:28, Phil. 2:13). We may not see or always feel Him, but He’s there, abiding within us and working among us.

From a worldly perspective, the Roman emperor may have held Paul’s life in his hands, but in reality, the Lord alone is the sovereign Ruler over heaven and earth (Ps. 103:19)—which means He’s in control of every event around the globe. Most people have a hard time with this statement because they can’t accept that a loving God would let bad things happen. But when it comes to why He allows evil and hardship to take place, He has purposes and reasons that may always remain a mystery to us. What we know for certain is that the Lord is good, and in the end, His goodness will win the day (Rom. 8:28; Phil. 2:13). We may not see or always feel Him, but He’s there, abiding within us and working among us.

An Opportunity to Serve

“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,” wrote Paul (Phil. 1:12).

Although imprisonment seemed like a huge obstacle preventing the apostle from serving the Lord, it turned out to be just the opposite. As a prisoner on house arrest, he had his own rented quarters, and people were allowed to come see him. So, he took every opportunity to teach his visitors about Jesus. Furthermore, he always quite literally had a captive audience, because he was constantly chained to a Roman guard (Acts 28:16, 30-31). Before long, the entire Praetorian Guard had heard about Paul and his imprisonment for the cause of Christ (Phil. 1:13). The gospel message even reached into the most unlikely place—Caesar’s household (4:22). Thanks to his imprisonment, Paul gained exposure to an audience he wouldn’t have had any other way.

Faithfully serving the Lord in difficult circumstances is a witness not only to the unbelieving world, but also to fellow Christians. Paul’s imprisonment inspired other believers to trust God and courageously speak His Word without fear (1:14). But there was an even more surprising result. Some believers who were envious of Paul started preaching the gospel out of selfish ambition, hoping to cause him distress. But even in this, Paul saw the blessing and rejoiced that whether in pretense or truth, Christ was being proclaimed (vv. 15-18).

How about You?

Where is your focus during difficult circumstances? Are you constantly looking for a way out? Or do you fret over the situation until it becomes so insurmountable in your mind that you give in to despair? Another option is to focus on yourself by wallowing in self-pity or casting blame on others—even on God.

If you’re dealing with stressful situations, it’s only natural to be concerned. But a child of God has the privilege of a higher focus. When circumstances seem overwhelming, all we have to do is fix our eyes on Christ (Heb. 12:2), turning our anxious hearts and minds over to Him. If we’ve trusted Him for the most critical issue in life—our eternal salvation—surely we can trust Him with all our temporal concerns. It’s possible to live with a sense of unwavering courage and confidence in the Lord instead of being swayed and defeated by the storms of life. The deciding factor is trust.

In the midst of Paul’s horrendous circumstances, his heart was set on the Lord—“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10). No negative circumstance could rob him of that longing. On the contrary, imprisonment was producing for Paul what he desired most: a more intimate relationship with Christ.

The right perspective on your circumstances begins with your thoughts. A mind focused on God and His Word looks beyond the temporal trials to His unseen hand at work. Once your mind is focused on Him and your trust in His sovereignty and goodness is firm, you’ll have no problem submitting to whatever situations He allows in your life. In fact, unshakeable contentment is available only when you’re fully surrendered to Christ. Then you can be at rest even when surrounded by chaos, as Paul was, because you’ll know the Lord is holding you in His loving hands, working it all out for good.

The article was selected from In Touch magazine.

Chasing Opportunity



Kevin Gerald

When you concentrate on making the most of every opportunity, God’s favor will be free to flow in your life and will open doors of greater opportunity.


People begin with thoughts like, “When am I going to get my big break? When is my talent going to get recognized?” In and of itself, those questions seem harmless. But the problem with that mindset is that it causes people to exhaust themselves chasing the favor of man rather than trusting God. It’s an easy trap to slip into. We can all be guilty of spending too much energy in pursuit of the favor of man rather than trusting that God’s favor will open up doors of greater opportunity in our life.

Every day has small opportunities.

Rather than chasing bigger opportunities, concentrate on making the most of those every-day opportunities.

Make the most of every opportunity (Colossians 4:5, NIV).

This is the key to staying in a place where God’s Favor can flow in your life. Concentrate and do your best with where you are and what you have to work with today.

There’s a difference between chasing opportunity and making the most of every opportunity.

When you’re concerned with chasing opportunity, you’ll try and determine which opportunities are important, and which are not. But we often forget that God has a way of using the unseen, unnoticed places of life to promote people. Some of the most visible people in life started in the most invisible places. Jesus showed us that to lead is to serve. Leadership starts with a basin of water and a towel, a moment often overlooked. And the big moments in life have their roots in small opportunities.

When we make the most of every opportunity we’ve been given…

God’s favor opens up doors of greater opportunities. We shouldn’t stress about finding opportunity or making something happen. When you make the most of every opportunity, God’s favor will make sure greater opportunity finds you.

  • If you’re a server at a restaurant, give people the greatest experience you can.
  • If you’re a gopher at work, running small and trivial errands, do it with the attitude of an executive.
  • When you’re out and about in daily life, have genuine conversations with other people.

Be silently hopeful that God will make a way for you to impact their lives through a kind word or act of love.

When you concentrate on making the most of every opportunity, God’s favor will be free to flow in your life and will open doors of greater opportunity.

The Most Important Lesson



Lysa TerKeurst

If you teach your children how to think, you’re establishing healthy processing patterns that will serve them when they’re no longer under your immediate watch.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

Early in my motherhood adventure I realized I could solve my kids’ problems for them. Not every problem. But for the most part when they had an issue I could step in and be the solution.

Or… I had another option. I could mentor and equip my kids to solve their issues. This approach is much more time consuming, brain draining, and sometimes quite frustrating. But for me, the most important lesson I want to teach my kids is how to think.

It’s that whole “give a man a fish” thing. Give him a fish and he’ll eat for a day… or teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.

I don’t want to train my children to always turn to me for solutions. I want them to learn to think in biblically and emotionally healthy ways and process life’s choices in grounded, mature ways. Eventually, they will become solution finders.

If I only tell my kids what they can and can’t do, I’m establishing rules for them to follow. This is a part of parenting for sure, but it can’t be the whole part.

If I teach them how to think, I’m establishing healthy processing patterns that will serve them when they’re no longer under my immediate watch.

For example, texting while driving is deadly. I’ve taught them this rule. But to help them learn to process the dangers of driving while distracted, I decided to have a family discussion.

Recently, I asked each of the kids to come to a scheduled family dinner equipped to present a brief report on the dangers of texting and driving.

As they presented their reports, I saw the light bulbs coming on in their thought processes. They weren’t just learning a rule; they were discovering how to think about this dangerous habit. They were passionate about it. And the best part? They independently committed to not text and drive.

They owned it. Not because I preached a rule at them. But rather, because I helped them learn how to think through this danger for themselves.

The Bible instructs us to teach our kids the truths of God by talking and processing with them all throughout the day. Obviously, texting and driving isn’t a biblical truth, but how powerful it is to apply a Biblical mindset to every issue we face.

So, be it a Scriptural truth or processing life stuff in general, I think the secret is tucked within the beautiful words of our key verse, Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (NIV):

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many…”

Yes, may our days together be many. Learning. Thinking. And processing each problem through the filter of God’s Truth.

Dear Lord, thank You for the opportunity to teach my children how to think in a way that is honoring to You. Use me as an example of Your love and compassion in their lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:
How can you begin to implement this way of thinking with your family?

Start small. Direct your child to Scripture, say a prayer with him/her, or make it an overall family discussion!

Power Verses:
Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (NIV)

Isaiah 54:13, “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.” (NIV)

Worth It All


Greg Laurie

If you are a true follower of Christ, there will be suffering in your life. And it’s worth it all.

That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). 

Sometimes as believers we can be spiritual lightweights. At the first indication of a hardship or difficulty, we fold like a stack of cards. We say, “I didn’t sign up for this. I don’t want difficulty; I just want to get along with everyone.”

But if you are a true follower of Christ, there will be suffering in your life. Here is a description of what it was like for the apostle Paul:

I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. (2 Corinthians 11:23–27).

Like Paul, if you are going to be used of God, then you are going to be attacked. If you are a real Christian, it will cause some friction. If you are a real Christian, you will face opposition.

I am not trying to paint a portrait of Christianity that is undesirable; I am just being honest as I describe what it means to follow Christ. And it’s worth it all.

You Are On God’s Mind


Anne Graham Lotz

Do you think God’s silence in your life means He has forgotten you?

I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands (Isaiah 49:15–16, NKJV).

Noah was totally helpless to change his situation. There was nothing he could do except to stay on the ark and tend to the needs of his family and those of the animals until God in some way brought deliverance. He had to keep his faith in God while simply waiting out the silence that followed the storm.

Although He had been silent, God had not forgotten Noah. In fact, since Noah and his family were the only living persons on the face of the earth, we can be sure they had God’s total, undivided attention every moment.

Do you think God’s silence in your life means He has forgotten you? Oh, no! God says He has engraved your name on the palms of His hands. He says that a mother could forget her nursing baby at mealtime before He could forget you! You are in God’s heart and on His mind every moment. He is fully informed of your circumstances and will bring about change when He knows the time is right.

Trading Names

Trading Names


Jud Wilhite

You have a new name: “Child of God.” Wear it proudly, and don’t allow your old name to remind you of the person you used to be. 

On the day of my daughter’s birth, I remember holding her and feeling overwhelmed with love. As I cradled her in my arms, I resolved to do anything to keep her safe, to take care of her and to protect her.

I called out her name—Emma—for the first time, and it was a beautiful sound.

Oh, the effort my wife, Lori, and I had put into choosing that name. Nine months of baby name books, website searches, and disagreements. Nine months of trying to anticipate any terrible nicknames playground bullies could create.

Emma. To us, it was beauty and gentleness.

If I were to ask you what your name is, you would quickly tell me the name everyone calls you. But what is the “name” that defines who you are and how you feel about yourself?

Perhaps it’s “Ashamed” or “Divorced.” Maybe it’s “Mistake” or “Screw-up” or some defining characteristic of your life.

What part of your life defines you? What is that name you have taken on and just cannot shake?

In the Old Testament, names often had layered meanings, especially the names of Hosea and Gomer’s kids. God asked them to choose very surprising names. Their first child, a son, is named “Jezreel,” which means “God scatters” (Hosea 1:4). A daughter’s name means “not loved,” and a second son’s name means “not my people.” The names of Hosea’s children point to the emotional intensity of God’s love and how His people betrayed that love.

The great news is God offers new names, better identities, to His people. We can trade in that old “name” that hangs over us.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Revelation 2:17 when He says to the church in Pergamum, “I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.”

White stones in Pergamum were given out to those who won athletic events. The white stone or pebble allowed a person access to certain environments and circles that otherwise would have been restricted. It caused others to show respect and admiration. It meant the person carrying it was a winner.

So Jesus is offering a new identity, a new name, a white stone that declares you are a winner in Him. We don’t have to wait to receive the new name to live like we already see ourselves differently.

People may have said you are a loser, but Jesus says you share in His victory. If you’ve heard you aren’t worth anything, Jesus says you are worth His sacrifice. You may have been told that you’ll never change, never make anything of yourself … Jesus says that your old identity is in the past, and He offers you a new name today.

Your name is Accepted.

Your name is Victor.

Your name is Loved.

Today, wear that new name proudly, and don’t allow your old name to remind you of the person you used to be. You have a new name, “Child of God.”