Jim Martin's Encouragement Note #63

Feeling weak? . . . One thing you don't want to miss . . . A key to becoming who you want to be . . . How to trust God even when you are anxious

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(Unsplash - Markus Spiske)

The List of Five

Feeling Weak? This can be is a Game-Changer

I recently saw a 2019 tweet from Beth Moore that got my attention. She wrote:

The weakest person praying is stronger than the mightiest one who’s not.

You may believe, at times, that you are a weak, blundering, child of God. Yet, when you pray, you may actually be stronger than the smug, self-assured person who does not pray.

I was a young minister in Pulaski, Tennessee serving a small “store-front” church on Minor Hill Highway. This little group met in a former convenience store. Now, in a matter of about 42 months, I had graduated from a state university, moved from Dallas to Alabama, married, studied at a Bible college for a few years, and began preaching in a small town in middle Tennessee.

Just years earlier, I had no intention of serving as a minister or preaching anywhere. Fast forward, I was now was serving this congregation as its “preacher.”

One woman in the church, Mary Cordell, had a great influence on both Charlotte and myself. In casual conversation, she spoke often about her prayer life. She talked about God and how he had answered so many prayers in her life. I sensed this woman, several decades older than me, had a far greater daily dependence on God than me.

I never forgot these conversations. I realized that in prayer, I had great resources from God available to me and the congregation. I began to treasure verses like Psalm 121:1-2

I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

After a few years in Pulaski, we moved to Texas so that I could go to seminary. Yet, I continued to think about these conversations with this woman. She helped awaken me to the gift of being able to pray to a good, powerful, and faithful God!

When you reflect upon your faith, you may see in yourself everything that is lacking. You may see weakness, inadequacy and smallness. You may see your blunders and inconsistencies. You may focus on your immaturity and failure to have grown beyond where you are. Does this sound familiar? (Do I ever relate!)

Yet, Jesus sees you through very different eyes. You are his child and he welcomes your prayer and mine. He wants our dependance.

His invitation to you and me? Come. “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17)

One Thing You Don’t Want to Miss

Do you ever feel as if you are missing out?

If you spend enough time scrolling through social media sites, such as Facebook or Instagram, you may be convinced that you really are missing out. In a matter of seconds, you see pictures of a couple vacationing in Paris. You scroll down and see a family enjoying an unbelievable trip to an exotic beach. You may see pictures of engagements, happy weddings, amazing food in expensive restaurants, or a stay in a hotel with a stunning view of New York. And then, just before you turn off your phone, you look at one last picture - your smiling friend and her new luxury car. You may feel as if you are missing out.

Some may fear they are missing out on what others are experiencing and conclude they are missing something fundamental in their lives.

Much has been said about the fear of missing out that is present in this culture. In an article entitled, “How to Deal With FOMO in Your Life,” author, Elizabeth Scott writes:

The fear of missing out refers to the feeling or perception that others are having more fun, living better lives, or experiencing better things than you are. . . . It is often exacerbated by social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.

Scott goes on to explain,

FOMO is not just the sense that there might be better things that you could be doing at this moment, but it is the feeling that you are missing out on something fundamentally important that others are experiencing right now.

Yet, Jesus’ value is so great and his life is so satisfying that you and I can know we are experiencing the ultimate - his life. If we have that life, we can know we may not possess something others may have, but we are not missing the ultimate.

Charlotte and I sat with a couple in their living room. She was on the couch and invited us to join her. He sat in a nearby chair. They had called us earlier and asked us to come to their house. Now, they seemed quiet - very quiet.

Finally, she began to speak. “The doctor has discovered cancer in my body. This cancer is very advanced.”

Then she said, “I want you to pray for me, that I may not miss anything that God wants to do through me in this cancer.” Of course, she wanted to have her good health again. Of course she wanted to be well. However, her main concern was that she might not miss out on what God, through his grace, might do through her for his glory.

What is it that you really, really don’t want to miss?

For me, it is the life than goes far beyond existing. It is the life offered by Jesus, a life that is full, whole, and complete (John 6: 25-58). This life means you never have to settle.

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A Key to Becoming Who You Want to Be

James Clear wrote in Atomic Habits: “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

So what kind of person do I want to become?

  • A devoted follower of Jesus?

  • A Christ-like father or mother?

  • A person who finishes this life well?

The small actions matter.

Small actions can add to the formation of the kind of person I want to become. For example, I really want to finish well. Far too many people do well in their early adult years or middle adult years, only to fizzle out later or make a series of poor choices. One woman said regarding her mother. “All her life she taught us to be a certain kind of person. Her children are grown and she has grandchildren. Yet, she now is living the kind of life she warned us against when we were younger.”

If I want to finish well, this means I make the “little decisions” that are in line with who I want to be.

  • Are my social media habits (what I read and what I post) in line with who I say I want to be?

  • Does my attitude, whether displayed at church or at the Home Depot return counter, reflect the kind of person I want to become?

  • Am I investing time and energy toward becoming this kind of person or do I tend to be passive, assuming this formation will just happen?

Ten or fifteen years from now, what kind of woman or man do you want to be? What would you like to model before your children and grandchildren? What legacy do you wish to leave with them?

Consequently, today matters:

  1. Take the small step. It matters. For example, if you want to be a more gracious person, take a small step. Today, handle some situation in a way that you think fits someone who is becoming gracious.

  2. Now consider other conversations or situations that you will encounter. How would a gracious handle each one of these? What is a small step you might take in each situation?

How to Trust God Even When You Are Anxious (Especially for ministers and church leaders)

I was particularly nervous that Sunday morning.  I had been preaching for a congregation in Waco, Texas, for about a year. At the conclusion of the sermon that morning, I would make a difficult announcement to the church.

I had learned days before that I had a large tumor on my spine.  I was to have surgery in the middle of June (1994).  The surgery meant opening my chest.  Never having had surgery before, all of this was a new experience.  The doctor thought the tumor was benign. Nevertheless, because of the location of the tumor, there would be a neurosurgeon present in addition to the general surgeon.  I was nervous.

That Sunday morning, I told the congregation I was about to have surgery and that, according to the surgeon, I would be recovering most of the summer. I would not be preaching or even be present at church for six or seven weeks. 

I then said:

I am cautiously optimistic and scared to death.

I told the congregation I would appreciate their prayers. I spoke of trusting God and leaving this in God’s hands.

The church was so encouraging and supportive.  That morning, they prayed for us and communicated their love for our family.

Meanwhile, a former minister was present that morning and heard my announcement.  During lunch, he called our home and asked if we could meet that afternoon. I did not know him well but he was older and I assumed he simply wanted to pray for me. Later in the afternoon, I met with him and was taken aback by what he said:

You shouldn’t have told the church that you were “scared to death.”  They must not know this.  They need to hear that you trust God.

I told him that I do trust God!  I trust that he will be with me through this whole ordeal.  Nevertheless, my emotions are raw and yes, I am afraid and nervous.  Yet, I do trust God.

Days later, I had the surgery and yes, the tumor was benign. Nevertheless, I learned much about trusting God even when my emotions were raw.

As believers, we learn that we can trust God regardless of our emotional state. We can trust God even when there are obstacles and hurdles. We can trust his goodness, his power, and his wisdom!

Courage is not about putting on a brave face or pretending that nothing fazes you.  Courage is daring to trust God, even when your emotions tell you otherwise. Most ministers I know experience really tough seasons. Through it all, we are challenged to trust God.

Right now, in your ministry, where do you need to trust God? I love the closing words of Habakkuk (3:17-19) as he reminds us all that God is larger than our problems. Again, he is a good, loving, wise, God who has us in the palm of his hand:

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Reading and Listening

  1. David Brooks wrote “How to Find Out Who You Are” in The New York Times, July 28, 2022. Very thoughtful piece worth reading.

  2. See the article, “Reading Better” by Shane Parish. Perhaps one value of this article is that it challenged me to think about how I read.

  3. Cary Nieuwhof and Rich Villodas had an interesting conversation (podcast) regarding the “new exodus in church attendance” and other issues. Church leaders in particular might benefit from this.

  4. Had a wonderful lunch last week with a friend who mentioned the influence of Francis Schaffer on his life. This week I have been thinking about his influence on my own life, particularly when I was in college. I love this quote from No Little People:

    “The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”

Each Thursday/Friday, I post about ten tweets especially for ministers and other believers as they anticipate Sunday. You can find me @jimmartin.

I serve as Vice President of Harding School of Theology, Memphis, Tennessee. Every other Monday morning, I publish this “Encouragement Note.” You can subscribe at jimmartin.substack.com. You can also find me on Facebook - @jim.martin or Instagram - @jimmartin.jm. My e-mail address is: jmartin9669@gmail.com. Feel free to write. I would love to hear what is encouraging or helpful. — Jim Martin

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