Does Pursuing Righteousness Pay Off?

Jodie Stevens
2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us:

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

While some changes may be instantaneous, for most of us that ‘new creation’ happens gradually over our lifetime.

You may feel like you’re not making much progress and then one day you find you’re not as angry or fearful as you once were. Perhaps you’re less impulsive and more discipline.

Often times it’s tempting to give up. Especially when feelings of hopelessness, defeat, fear, and self-pity engulf us and we can’t see who we are in Christ. In these instances It’s a good idea to pray for the continuance talked about in the Life Recovery Bible:

“Like a soldier, we are in a war that we can win only if we fight to the end. Like an athlete, we must train for a new way of life and follow the steps of recovery to the finish line. Like a farmer, we must do our work in every season and then wait patiently until we see growth. If we stop before reaching the goal, we may lose everything we have fought, trained, and worked so hard for.”

Furthermore, Galatians 6:9 affirms that if we diligently peruse righteousness we will be rewarded:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Jodie Stevens

Poor Boundaries and Anger

Jodie StevensBoundaries

God laid the word on my heart years ago after a road rage incident.

Almost a decade had passed since I kicked a hole in a door or smashed a jar of spaghetti against the wall. But I still couldn’t seem to master my emotions behind the wheel.

The problem was that I lacked healthy boundaries. As a child I learned to stuff my feelings and never verbalize them because I unconsciously believed they didn’t count, which opened the door for others to take advantage of me.

In the book Boundaries, Townsend and Cloud reference Galatians 6:2 which says we are to: “Carry each other’s burdens.” But they also reference verse 5 which says: “Each one should carry their own load.”

For so many years I was carrying my own burdens, which are meant to be shared with another. In addition, I was trying to help everyone else carry their loads, which are not meant to be shared.

As a result, I had a storage house of suppressed anger towards everyone I allowed manipulate or take advantage of me. Since I was afraid to stand up for myself, venting my anger on a stranger seemed safer than asking for what I needed.

Now I pray for the continual courage to speak up when it’s appropriate, say no when I need to, and let go of others peoples’ disappointments.

Jodie Stevens

Do You Make Decisions Based On Your Fear

Jodie StevensBehavioral scientist James clear says: “Fear based decision-making is when you let your fears or worries dictate your actions or in most cases, your lack of action.”

An example would be: “I’d love to write a book, but what if people hate it? Maybe I should read more before I start writing.”

I’ve probably lost more than I’ve gained using that line of reasoning.

The one benefit of doing nothing is the assurance that nothing will happen, which is initially very comforting. But eventually those unfulfilled desires will begin to nag at you.

For instance, I always wanted to do theater. I went to an audition my freshmen year in college:

“Keep going,” the director said.

“I can’t do this,” I replied, and walked off stage.

I was 19. Now I’m in my forties doing theatre and loving it. They say it’s never too late and while that may be true, most of the people I’m performing with are 15 to 20 years younger than me.

We’ve all heard the famous acronym for fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.

The only ‘false evidence,’ was my lack of self-worth. It was easier to give up and imagine I could’ve been great, than to face the possibly of rejection and have to live with it.

Isaiah 41:10 says: “Fear not, for I am with you.” That is God saying he is always present, the Bible’s version of ‘just do it’…

Now imagine what amazing things God might have for us if we could be obedient to His word and not give into fear.

Jodie Stevens

God Knows Why Before We Do

Jodie StevensPsalm 34:18 says: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

At times we may feel like we’ve ‘crushed our own spirit’ by our sin or addiction, we may not even understand why we’re doing what we are doing, but God does.

He knows when poor judgment is the result of our brokenness and pain. He knows every tear we’ve cried since the day we we’re born. He knows every abuse we’ve suffered and every painful memory we’ve stuffed.

He knows we have valid reasons for our fear, anger, sadness, addiction, and pain. He understands why we react to things one way when we should be responding entirely differently.

Often times our past circumstances render us powerless over how we react and interact today.

But God is able to restore us. He gently calls us into accountability. He understands our reasons for our actions, but they are not excuses. He is with us on the road to healing when we humbly call out to Him and allow Him to lead the way.

Jodie Stevens

Who Do You Thank For Your Success?

I was talking to an unbelieving friend about how grateful I am to God for my career. She said: “Don’t you think you’ve accomplished a lot of that stuff yourself?”

Even if that were true, the chance to accomplish anything comes from God. I was born in a country with endless opportunities. I’ve met people more intelligent than myself in my travels to Haiti, Guatemala, and Jamaica, who were born into desperate poverty with scarce opportunities. So it is not a case of intellect or talent being a recipe for success either.

It’s easy for people to rely on their own brilliance when life’s going their way. Where does that leave them when times get rough or they get disappointed with themselves or even angry at the God they don’t believe in?

Thanking Him for the good and learning valuable lessons through the trials is a double blessing. The world doesn’t gain knowledge and wisdom through their pain the way God’s children do. In this sense, being in America is more difficult as the distractions of our standard of living make it way too easy sometimes.

Paul writes in Corinthians 4:7:

“What makes you better than anyone else? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?”

Furthermore we are told in Psalm 24:1 that:

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all of it’s people belong to Him.”

When we thank God, our successes don’t go to our head and our failures don’t destroy us. It’s all God’s anyway.

Jodie Stevens

Enjoy The Moment Before It Ends

Jodie StevensHow many hours did I miss being single while I was lamenting being alone, and how many nights were wasted dreaming of the good old days which we’re told in Ecclesiastes not to ponder because we … “don’t know if they were any better than today” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

How many times I’ve missed the runner’s high waiting for the challenge to be over and how often a special moment came and went while I was anxiously awaiting the next one.

Frantically calculating my next word has caused me to miss the person altogether, and the joy of ‘what is’ endlessly gets replaced with how much better it could be.

So often it seems life is one dreaded event after the next filled with moments of relief when one culminates and the next has yet to begin.

Life goes by too quickly and too slowly we learn that it’s really about the journey, and I don’t want to realize it’s beginning only at the very end.

Jodie Stevens

Does God Care Why We Give?

Jodie Stevens

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 3-4).

When we give for the praise of others, while it may be beneficial to the recipient, our motivation is wrong.

It’s ok to be recognized for our acts of service, the problem is when it becomes our primary reason for doing them.

One commentary has this to say:

“…If we humbly seek to help others, we will be openly rewarded by our heavenly Father. What seems private and unnoticed by other people is public, even center stage, before God.” (Life Recovery Bible 1998)

So why does our motivation matter as long as the cause is just? Because God cares about who we are, and He judges our character based on what we do, even when no one is looking. He also cares about who we’re really doing it for.

Jesus said: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

If we are truly doing it for Him we will not need to “announce it with trumpets… to be honored by others.” (Matthew 6:2)

Jodie Stevens