Rejuvenate Life Following Defeats

Rejuvenate Life Following Defeats

Chapter Three

Rejuvenate Life Following Defeats
God-Given New Life Out Of Your Barreness 48 Gideon Is My Name 56
God-Given Opportunity To 'Start Over' 50 Knowing Healing From Pain 58
The Restored Quilt 52 Hoping For The Best 60
A Flag On The Play 54 Discussion Questions 61

Luke 13:1-9

God-Given New Life Out Of Your Barreness

Fifteen years ago, when we first moved into our house, there were several rose bushes planted beneath our living room window. We anticipated seeing beautiful roses throughout the summer months. However, the roses never bloomed. We fertilized and worked the soil and did all that we could to help the plants develop, but to no avail.

I recalled the little lesson in the Bible where someone wanted to dig up a fig tree, which had not produced any fruit, but the owner of the land said to wait. If it did not produce fruit later, then it could be cut down. That little story kept me from digging out the rose bushes because I kept believing that "next season" they would blossom. They never did. Finally, I took the old spade out of the garage and began to dig. They were stubborn and hard to remove, but I completed the task and we planted a different type of flower in its place.

About two years ago a rose bush started growing in that same location. Apparently I had not completely removed all of the plants. For those two years I was tempted to dig it out, but never found the time to do so. As I walked by the side of the house today, I witnessed three dozen roses blooming on this one bush.

I don't know why the original bushes never bloomed. I don't know why this one plant did not die. I cannot explain why only this year did the roses appear. But I do see that God has a message for me, which took fifteen years to be told.

God is patient. He is in no hurry. And what seems hopeless, even to the point of being destroyed, is simply a new and better beginning. We tend to give up. God never gives up. We may feel useless, but just as God puts life into the root and the plant produces beautiful fruit, so will we, as He puts His life into us.

Do you feel like God has given up on you? Be patient. He isn't through with you yet. No matter how much you have been torn apart, where there is life, there is hope. He will make something beautiful of you.

"Thank You, eternal Father, for never giving up on me! Thank You for always giving me another chance. By Your grace, stir within me the desire to serve You with all my heart. Like a summer rose, I desire to display Your splendor, so plant me where You want me to bloom, prune me that I may grow straight and strong, and patiently work the soil of my soul until I bring forth the fruit of Your glory. Amen."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Lord will make something beautiful of my life.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Matthew 6:25-34

God-Given Opportunity To 'Start Over'

I felt like a home-wrecker! The Christmas wreath which had hung on our porch was beginning to turn brown, and, since Easter was only a week away, I decided to take down the wreath. As I placed it in the trash can I noticed a small bird's nest built in the top of the wreath. I felt so bad! I was destroying some little bird family's home. If birds have feelings, I am certain they were absolutely devastated by my unkind actions.

Immediately a familiar scripture came to my memory: "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them" (Matthew 6:26). I could just picture the little birds sitting in a neighbor's tree watching me tear down the home on which they so ardently labored. Perhaps they were chirping at me and I didn't even notice. Yet I knew, because of God's love for each sparrow, they would be building a new nest the very next day.

There is a tremendous lesson to be learned by a bird's tenacity. Even though their home was destroyed, they did not despair – they simply started again. Had that been one of us, we would have cried and screamed and even cursed God for our bad fortune. We would have spent weeks, even months, agonizing over our loss, complaining how unfair life is.

Jesus taught us to consider the birds of the air, but actually we are taught to consider what God does for the birds of the air. He gives them feathers so they are warm and able to fly. He provides them with food. He gives them ample opportunity to build their homes wherever they choose to raise up a strong and happy family. He gives them a song with which they sing their praises to the Lord. Most of all, God gives them faith, for in the face of adversity, they choose to keep going. Jesus added in verse 26: "Are you not much more valuable than they (the birds)?" Yes, we are, and yes, we can face all of our tomorrows!

To prove the point, I watched the little sparrows build a new nest the very next day. They built it in my gutter, right above a downspout. So, I climbed my ladder to clean out the gutter and put some screen over the opening. Home-wrecker!

"Help me to consider Your ways, O Lord, for they are far above my understanding. Even the birds of the air notice Your love for them… that You provide for their every necessity. May I, too, soar in Your grace, hide in the shelter of Your Hand, feed on Your provision, and sing Your praises. Amen."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is always with me, even when I must start over.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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John 14:27; Mark 2:21; Psalms 23:3

The Restored Quilt

When all six children had left home, my husband and I moved from Seattle to Timberlakes, a wooded community on the Olympic Peninsula.

One day our youngest daughter, Monica, arrived on our doorstep and announced what she really wanted to take with her to graduate school in Boston, MA, – on the other side of the nation. "I really want my baby quit with all the little angels on the back side," she announced. "Those angels always helped me to go to sleep. They have been my friends since I was born."

"No amount of money could pay me to restore that quilt," I exclaimed, "but love will find a way since you want a bit of the past to carry into the future." How many times I regretted agreeing to that assignment as I worked on it. It was impossible. Much of it was threadbare. The tiny animal blocks were still in good condition, so I removed them. I remembered how my mother had drawn the outlines of a cat with "c-a-t" under it, a dog, a duck, an owl, a bird, a deer, and a rabbit on the blocks along with the word. When I was eight years old, I had learned to embroider on those blocks. The blue borders for each block were pretty frayed, so I removed and discarded them.

When my grandmother's sister died, her children gave me several 12 by 12 quilt blocks. At 87, my great aunt had cut pieces and hand sewed them together to make eight pinwheels, but now, years later, they had all come apart. I carefully removed the blocks and hand sewed the pieces back together. Then I reinforced them with a backing. What a job!

Now what to do? Anyone knows you do not sew old material and new material together for the new will tear the old. I finally found a large piece of sky-blue material and superimposed the blocks on it. I did manage to keep the pink backing with the angels, although it was quite faded. This time the lining was batting. Monica was elated I presented her the completed quilt. Her beloved quilt had been restored.

Many times as I was working on that quilt, I thought of how God was working on me, His creation. When my life becomes frayed with anxiety and the worries of this world, I need my Lord to restore the peace that only He can give. When sin and sorrow leave their mark on me, I need cleansing from my Lord.

His word says, "Peace I give to you, not as the world gives. Let not your heart be troubled." Psalms 23 tells me that the Lord restores my soul and I experience His gentleness as he renews my spirit and, taking the broken pieces of my life, puts them

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together to become something beautiful.

"Lord, here I am again with my life all torn and tattered. Restore it with Your beautiful touch that the world may wonder at the mighty works of your hand".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God loves me and shows it by constantly making me a specimen of His love.

– Laura Drewer –

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Philippians 3:12-16

A Flag On The Play

It matters very little when the NFL or the colleges begin their football seasons. In Texas, football season officially begins with the first Friday night game by the local high school team. In small Texas towns, there are signs posted for the away games: LAST ONE TO LEAVE, TURN OUT THE LIGHTS. Texas high school football is unique among our nation's sporting activities. It does, however, share a language common to all of football at all levels. Go to any football game and you will hear things like: first and goal, blitz, draw, screen, sack, safety, clip, pat, etc.

In every game, sooner or later, you will hear the announcer say, "Hold everything, folks. There's a flag on the play." A flag is a yellow handkerchief thrown on the field by a referee to indicate an infraction of the rules.

The most penalty-marred game in NFL history was played on November 25, 1951, between the Chicago Bears and the Cleveland Browns. The referees stepped off an incredible 374 yards on 37 infractions. Cleveland was flagged 21 times for a record 109 yards. In spite of this, they won the game 42-21.

It is always disheartening when your favorite team has a flag on the play. It means something went wrong; things did not turn out as planned; somebody broke the rules.

In this respect, football is like life. There are victories and defeats, successes and failures. In the business of living, things do not always turn out as planned, and there is "a flag on the play". Things go wrong, people make mistakes, trouble happens… there is "a flag on the play". These flags come in a variety of forms; Bob lost his job; George lost his leg; Erlene lost her marriage; Peggy lost her life. There are hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires. People hurt themselves; sometimes people are hurt by circumstances beyond their control. It is not possible to anticipate "the flag" before it is thrown.

I have noticed that whenever there is a flag on the play in a football game, it does not mean that the game is over. There will be a delay. Some adjustments will be necessary, but the game goes on. The penalized team has a huddle, goes back to the line of scrimmage, and tries to overcome the disadvantage.

So it is in life. Whenever there is a flag on the play, it does not mean that you are defeated and the game is over. Adjust, regroup, take a time out; then go back to the line of scrimmage and carry on in the game of life and the adventure of living. Winning is always a possibility.

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In John 16, Jesus said something to this effect: "In the world you will have some flags on the plays; but take heart! I have overcome the world."

"Dear God, help me to see beyond my defeats to the glorious victories You give."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Whenever discouragements and disappointments happen, I will not give up. I will press on.

– William Jenkins –

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Judges 6:1-16

Gideon Is My Name

"If God is with us, why is this happening to us?" (Judges 6:13)

I wish I could say that I have never asked Gideon's question; unfortunately, I cannot. I have heard well-meaning preachers lash out at his unbelief, but I have heard his words in various contexts from many lips. Whenever tragedy strikes the innocent or sin blind sides the believer, whenever power struggles demoralize the universe with murder and war, whenever plagues and earthquakes and floods overthrow the earth raining disaster on good and evil alike, the question thunders behind the clouds of catastrophe: "Where is God when we really need him? Why would a God who cares allow such things to happen?"

Make no mistake. Gideon had experienced hardship from birth on. He had been hungry and cold. He had worn rags and been beaten by enemy whips. He had been forced to bow at the feet of a strange god fashioned by the hands of men. His question was not so much a question of accusation as it was one of confusion. First of all, why would a "mighty man of valor" be threshing wheat by a winepress and hiding it from the Midianites at night? If Jehovah who brought His people out of Israel was present, why were they again in bondage? Gideon had only heard the stories. He hadn't experienced first-hand deliverance. He hadn't known about the Moses from the backside of the desert, only of Moses, the great emancipator of the Jews. No wonder he pointed out to God that not only was he not born in a strong man's house, but he was also the baby in the family.

As much as I hate to admit it, I would probably have asked for a fleece, too. The thing that amazes me most about this story is that God understood and obliged. He didn't tongue lash Gideon for his lack of faith. He didn't look for another volunteer. He didn't belittle his question or sidestep the issue. He simply gave him his sign and reassured him of his closeness. The end result was a hero who conquered a sea of Midianite soldiers with three hundred men, some trumpets, pitchers, and torches.

If I had my choice, there are other Bible heroes I would rather emulate, but the truth remains that too often I find myself in Gideon's shoes. Standing on the street corner of confusion, I step out into the highway of unbelief and find myself asking: "If God is with me, why is this happening to me?" Too shallow to see beyond the present, I limit God's power by questioning His judgement. The miracle of it all is that He gives me my fleece and uses me anyway.

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"Heavenly Father, thank you for understanding my weakness. Help me to utilize Your strength."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's strength moves in unlikely vessels.

– Loretta Jenkins –

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Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 27:27-44

Knowing Healing From Pain

My blind friend Rod lived in a large apartment complex for the handicapped. One dark night, he left his guide dog in his apartment, and alone made his way to the top floor and found an open balcony, and jumped off!

Life had become too painful. He was overloaded with problems he could not solve. He felt isolated and abandoned. What Rod could not know was that the balcony he chose was above a scraggly tree. In God's providence, his plunge was broken by that tree. His broken, almost lifeless, body was taken by the Aid car to the local Trauma Center, where life support began immediately, and Rod lived.

When I saw Rod, he was bound to his bed by tubes, wires and restraints, a picture of pain and suffering.

When we read the Scriptures (above) we see another Man, nailed to a cross, (his bed of pain and suffering) and see One who went there voluntarily, but in no way with suicide on His mind. It was not loneliness or depression that put Him there, but the weight of the sins of the world, for which only He could atone!

From both Rod and Jesus I learned that unbearable pain and suffering can lead to positive outcomes, if we will read through to the end of the story.

  1. There is fellowship in suffering. Rod felt forsaken and abandoned. When he regained consciousness, he found a long-lost brother at his side, along with care givers and counselors and officials, all eager to help him recover.

    Jesus found fellowship on the cross. Count the family and others at the cross who countered the abuse of opposers. In times of great suffering we need companionship, not explanations. Jesus was identifying with sinners, to give them hope in their darkest hours.

  2. Peace is possible in the midst of suffering. Did not Jesus find peace in committing His spirit to God?

    "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator." (1 Peter 4:19) In the midst of anguish and desolation, there is a Rock beneath us. God knows what we can bear, and will temper our trials to enable us to endure them in peace, to which Jesus showed the way.

  3. There is value in suffering. Hebrews 12:11 – "For the moment all suffering seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." The Cross of Jesus has proven to be incalculably

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    fruitful. There is value there. Find it.

"Dear Lord, I know suffering will come. Prepare me now to find peace, healing and fellowship in those times."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My times are in His hands. I know He will not fail to support me when suffering comes.

– Eugene Stewart –

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Hebrews 6:19; 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Hoping For The Best

HOPE: "I HOPE SO." "Don't lose hope." "I'm hopeless." "I'm hoping." Hope is a common word, often used carelessly, but it refers to something very precious. Without it, we can die.

I won't forget Pastor Joe. He used his computer concordance to print out every Bible verse on 'the poor.' Computer paper spilled down the front of the pulpit and onto the floor. We got his point – God cares for the poor. If we printed out the 125 verses about hope, we would be just as convinced of its importance. God has given us hope as a 'shining rope' we must hang on to. We need it very much in these turbulent times when new crises comes so often, so suddenly.

The dictionary defines hope as "desiring with the hope of obtaining." The Bible goes beyond this and illustrates hope for us. David said, "we wait in hope for the Lord. He is our life and shield!" (Psalms 33:26) So hope isn't a vague abstraction but it is alive and it protects us.

In 1 Timothy 1:1 we see it is "Christ Jesus our hope." As He shares His life with us "we have his hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

Other Bible pictures show hope as confidence, a stronghold, a refuge, a fortress and a helmet of salvation, strengthening, steadying and keeping us.

We can count this 'chicken before it hatches' because it is guaranteed by Jesus. "He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – into an inheritance that can never perish." (1 Peter 1:3-4) Now that is something you can hang on to!

Some days you need to do like the Psalmist and talk to yourself He asked himself why he was so depressed and then told himself "Put your hope in God." So he did. And so can we. Reach out and hang on to that 'shining rope' which is anchored in Jesus in heaven – that life insurance with an unbreakable guarantee.

This hope not only strengthens us in daily life now, but it assures us of heaven. It can sustain us in suffering now because we know we will spend eternity in our pain-free and beautiful resurrection bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:19) We know what is ahead and it is good! It fills us with joy and hope here and now.

"Father, we thank you for providing this sure hope. Confirm it, we pray, in our daily experience of you."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today I am holding on to hope in Jesus, my 'shining rope.'

– Beth Stewart –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Even though you may (at times) feel 'inferior', 'unneeded', 'unproductive', 'discouraged', inadequate', and 'unsuccessful', does God ever give up on you? When you stop believing in yourself, does God stop believing in you? Does God see 'potential' in you that you don't see in yourself? Is God more concerned that you are 'successful' in life than you are concerned in your own 'success'? Can God give 'new life' and 'new adventure' and 'new productivity' to you, in place of your own long-time barrenness? Can God enable you to 'stir up' your dormant talents and gifts in such a way that your life will be amazingly 'fruitful' for God's glory and for the benefit of many other persons?

  2. When life's difficult circumstances 'wreck your plans' and 'destroy your dreams' and 'bring an end to your projects and accomplishments', are you tempted to give up, and to despair, and to become embittered towards God and your fellow men? Why is the way of despair and quitting, the death knell to faith and hope in God? (Note Galatians 6:9) In terms of 'tenacity', what can you learn from the 'birds of the air'? (Matthew 6:26)

  3. From your understanding of Scripture, and from your own experience, tell how God is able to make something beautiful out of the brokenness of a person's life. (Psalms 23:3; John 14: 27; Isaiah 61:3; Psalm 51:12)

  4. When a Christian experiences 'reverses', 'setbacks', 'disappointments', 'failures', 'losses', 'tragedies', or other 'unexpected changes in circumstances' (i.e., 'flags on the play'), what should be his reaction or response to these hurtful experiences?

  5. Have you known persons who, in spite of the fact that they experienced many reverses and losses and 'failures' in their lives, finally and ultimately experienced great healing and restoration, and eventually came to the end of their earthly lives with great hope and assurance and spiritual victory? Does the fact that, in a football game, there are many 'flags on the play' necessarily mean that the faltering team is ultimately going to lose the football game? Does the fact that a Christian has experienced many 'flags on the play' (i.e., many 'failures' and 'setbacks') decide his ultimate failure in life? After many failures (mistakes and sins), can a Christian become 'strong in Christ' and ultimately become a 'winner' and find eternal life in heaven?

  6. Is it 'wrong' ('sinful') for you (as a Christian), when you are experiencing heartbreaks and losses in life, to ask God why certain things are happening to you? (Note Judges 6:13) Is one's questioning of God always a sign of faithless despair and unbelief, or can such questioning be the result of a confused child of God wanting to find 'rational' answers, and a hurting child of God wanting to find comforting reassurance? Even though the mysteries of life usually remain unsolved, and the questions of life usually remain unanswered, why is it nevertheless important for a hurting child of God to ask questions and to seek 'solutions' in conversation with Almighty God?

  7. As in the case of Gideon, does God often 'accommodate' Christians who need special reassurance and confidence, when they are confronted with life's great 'challenges' and are

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    called by God to fulfill great 'assignments'? (Note Judges 6:36-40)

  8. When the Lord spoke to Gideon and called him a 'valiant warrior' (Judges 6:12), what was Gideon's response (Judges 6:13-18)? When you personally feel 'inadequate' and 'overwhelmed' because of the magnitude of God's call in your life, what can you do to experience rejuvenation and renewed confidence to involve yourself in the fulfillment of God's 'assignment' to you? Does God's 'great confidence' in you (as shown by the 'great assignment' which God gives to you), the basis for your 'renewed confidence' in yourself? Does God ever give a 'difficult assignment' to a person unless God also gives His 'enabling power' to a person to fulfill his God-given task (call)? Does God like to use 'unlikely' vessels (persons) to accomplish His amazing purposes and places? (Note I Corinthians 1:26-31)

  9. From your own observation of life (people), share an experience of God's amazing power to heal a broken-hearted and depressed person, to enable that one-time 'drop out' or 'failure' in life to become a productive and strong 'servant' of Christ. (Have you ever known any drug or alcoholic or sexual addicts who were totally transformed, or 'suicidally' depressed persons who were restored to total mental health?) What scriptural evidence is there that Jesus understands those person whose pain is 'unbearable' and whose suffering is 'extensive' and that Jesus is the great defender and healer of such persons? (Note Luke 7:11-17)

  10. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "In times of great suffering we need companionship, not explanations."

  11. When a Christian is experiencing great suffering (i.e., when his heart is broken and his mind is confused and his body is weak), what should he do, according to 1 Peter 4:19?

  12. Give your interpretation and application of the following statement: "God knows what we can bear, and will temper our trials to enable us to endure them in peace, to which Jesus showed the way."

  13. Why is it so important to hang on to the 'shining rope of hope' , during times when new crises come so often and so suddenly? (Note Psalms 33:26) According to 1 Timothy 1:1, who is the foundation of the Christian's hope?

  14. According to Hebrews 6:16-20, in whom can you find 'an anchor' for your soul and why do you know that this 'anchor' is so trustworthy and strong for time and eternity?

  15. According to 1 Peter 1:3-4, what is the basis of your assurance that heaven will someday be your 'eternal home'?

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