By Major Nancy Halverson Denver Citadel, CO – Intermountain Division
It was 4:31 a.m. on January 17,1994 when the scariest “storm” of my life jolted us awake. It was an earthquake that caused a lot of damage throughout Southern California, and a lot of damage to our sense of security. As we felt the shaking and heard the groaning of the house, for a moment, I was scared we weren’t going to survive. For days we felt the effects of that earthquake with numerous aftershocks, it was a scary time that affected us emotionally and mentally. Luckily, the physical cleanup at the house was not too hard for us, but the emotions and fear left behind was harder to sweep away. We had to turn to our faith in God to walk us through the aftereffects of the “storm”.
Storms, trials, struggles, are a part of life that we all experience. Do you hold onto your faith through them? Do they make your faith stronger for the next storm? Are you walking through a storm right now where you need to put your faith into action?
As a Christian God is deeply invested in your spiritual growth. He uses the storms of life to wean you from dependence on yourself. He’ll intentionally put you in situations where you need to trust Him more fully. Consider three passages from Matthew as you consider how God is trying to build your faith through the storms of life.
1. Faith that Follows where Jesus leads
As we grow up, the best way we learn is by following the example of someone else. In many cases that is our parents. When we learned how to tie our shoes, or cross the street safely or to cook, we likely didn’t do it on our own, but followed closely as they showed us what to do. In this text the disciples are learning and growing in their faith by following where Jesus leads. They followed Jesus as he led for three years, but in this instance, it was into a storm.
Read Matthew 8:23-27
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Jesus led the disciples onto the boat. At this point they believed in Him, and they obviously trusted him to lead them, otherwise they would not have followed. It is one thing to believe in something, it’s another to trust and even more to obey. We need all these to follow Christ. We must be willing to trust and obey Christ as Lord of all things in our lives. Our faith is built up when we follow where Jesus leads no matter where that takes us. Sometimes it is into a storm, but our faith tells us that Jesus is there with us in it. In this passage Jesus was asleep on the boat. This is an example that we can live by.
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
Is there somewhere right now you’re afraid to follow Jesus because it might be into a storm?
2. Faith that Follows when Jesus Tells you to Go
The beginning of our faith journey is like learning to walk as a baby. We depend a lot on our parents to help us, pick us up and keep encouraging us to try again. When we’ve been walking in our faith for a little while we become like teenagers. As a teenager, sometimes we just need to listen to what we are told to do because it’s what’s best for us. Now we look at a time after the disciples have been walking with Jesus for a while and He sends them out without Him.
Read Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Jesus MADE the disciples get into the boat without Him. He knowingly and purposely sent them into the storm, it was no accident. They could have refused but instead they obeyed the word of the Lord. During this storm they did not have the luxury of waking Jesus to help them because he wasn’t there. He let them struggle in the storm for hours in their own strength before he came to them on the water. When he showed up, he did not explain anything, he just offered his presence in the storm. Here he showed them his power over creation and control over chaos not just from within the boat but outside the boat as well. When they realize that it was Jesus, Peter makes a bold move and asks to meet Jesus in the tumult. Jesus tells him to come but doesn’t calm the storm for Peter. In faith and obedience Peter walks on the water, but then he becomes scared by the wind. He takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink. Jesus asks Peter why he doubted, He does not question Peter’s faith, for he stepped out of the boat and obeyed Jesus’ words.
Here, Jesus is stretching and growing Peter’s faith through his obedience. The disciples are slowly learning to trust when Jesus is with them in the boat AND now when they are unaware of his presence in the storm. This story holds the promise that Jesus comes to us during the storm and reminds us we need not be afraid because He is present with us. We need only to trust and obey.
This is the story of every Christian. Our story too, as we move back and forth between doubt and faith, sometimes focused on the storm and sometimes focused on Jesus.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
In what situation in your life do you need to put your faith to work and step out in obedience?
3. Faith that is Tested
How do we know when we’ve truly learned something and grown in our knowledge of a subject? In school we had tests to determine whether we were learning and growing in knowledge. Sometimes we did well and sometimes we did not. Do you recall a time when you did not pass a test?
So, too, as we grow in our faith, we will be tested in many circumstances. The disciples faced many kinds of tests of their faith during their time with Jesus. As they’re nearing the end with Jesus, they will face one of the biggest tests of all.
Read Matthew 26:31-35
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’[a] 32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” 34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
The disciples had been growing in their faith as they travelled with and served alongside Jesus. Peter’s walk of faith is shown throughout the gospels as he tries, learns, and fails. In this Scripture portion we see his confidence in himself, but he seems to forget that on his own he is weak. We, too, must learn to trust God’s strength for help in every situation. Our faith is consistently tested as we weather the storms of life. We can be confident only when we look to Him for our strength.
God allows testing because He knows we need trials to deepen our roots and our relationship with Him. If things are easy, we are quite content to just drift along. We go to church, pick up our Bible now and again, and hang out with others who call themselves Christians. We consider ourselves strong, mature, and a prize among God’s saints. However, our roots are actually shallow. Unless we are tested, they will remain shallow. If you talk to people who have been through great trials, they will often tell you how much their faith grew during that time. When they were at their weakest, they had to trust most fully. And that is when they found the Lord to be most faithful.
Recently, I experienced a time where my faith was tested. May of 2020 my husband and I were told that we would be moving to a new appointment. It was in the beginning of COVID, in the height of uncertainty and fear. I asked God over and over to change this situation. When moves were announced nothing had changed, so we began preparing to move, yet hoping that God would change the outcome. I had to either accept that God wanted me to walk in obedience and faith on the path that lay ahead of me or step out of that path toward something else. It was a decision we struggled with and though we accepted that path we continued to struggle with the decision. I’ve felt like a caterpillar during these past two years. I’m in the cocoon where I’m supposed to be but struggling with the process before turning into a butterfly. I feel like I’ve been battered a bit by this storm, but God continues to work in my life as we go through it. He has shown His presence in it and I’m thankful because I couldn’t do it without Him.
Peter went through a serious testing as Jesus was taken away. He had been so confident that he would never desert Jesus but when the time came, he gave in to fear and denied the Lord. Peter wasn’t the only one who faltered that night. The other disciples ran away. This test of faith was a hard one, but it brought the disciples to even greater faith that would lead them to do great things for the building of God’s kingdom and the church. Even when we fail, God is there to restore us when we come back to him. As long as we don’t turn our backs completely, if we repent, God will restore us and our faith will grow stronger through the storm.
Song #498 in the Salvation Army songbook talks about different aspects of faith. Verse 4 says:
“The faith that cannot fail, That makes salvation sure, Anchored within the heavenly veil, The faith that will endure.”
Can you think of a time when your faith was tested? How did you hold up, did you fail or come through it stronger?
No matter what storms you might be going through, hold fast to your faith that cannot fail. It is a faith that will endure and will be strengthened by the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. With God, your faith can tackle any storm, nothing is impossible with Him.
When I think of tests and trials and those who’ve overcome them, I think of people like Helen Keller, a blind and deaf author and champion of the power of the human spirit. C.S. Lewis, who overcame atheism. Tim Tebow, prejudiced for being a Christian, Carrie Underwood who’d suffered through many miscarriages, and Stephen Baldwin who overcame his addiction to drugs. What do they all have in common? They’re Christians. Some grew up in the faith, and some became born again. All overcame great adversity and flourished in their fields.
But what about “ordinary” folk like me? Can I overcome my trials and go on to flourish? The simple answer is, yes! Mark 10:27 explains that with God anything is possible! There are so many beautiful, frustrating, difficult, and loving examples in the Bible. Moses stuttered and was afraid to lead two million enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, one of the most powerful nations of that day. But he listened to God and God gave him the strength and help to accomplish just that. Deborah, the only female prophet and judge in the entire Bible, went to war with the warrior Barak, at his insistence. John the Baptist, cousin to Jesus, was tasked with spending his entire life in the wilderness. He persisted and successfully baptized thousands into the kingdom of God. There are many more – Jeremiah, Esther, King David, Joseph, Sarah, Job, Gideon, and the thousands of people who approached Jesus for healing.
The Hebrew words for “flourish” are revive, blossom, and sprout. Psalm 92:12-13 say, “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.” Palm trees are strong and last a long, long time. Cedars can grow up to 120 feet high and up to 30 feet in circumference. They’re strong and immovable. King David is talking about us and our faith. If we have faith and believe that God will get us through, how much more can we accomplish in His Name?
As I write this, my own trials surface, constantly repeating in my mind, swirling like great hurricanes seen on radar screens. My oldest son declared that God doesn’t exist, because if he did, he wouldn’t have dropped us down here on earth to figure it out for ourselves. I found myself thinking . . . “What am I going to do?” Why do we forget to go to God first before thinking something like this? Because our trials are here, are real, and often, very scary. When we’re afraid, we tend to panic and forget there’s a real, loving Father right here by our side.
Some time ago I was driving my van and it started to rain, hard. Once again, I’d forgotten to get my windshield wipers replaced. Yep, you guessed it, I had to drive like I was 3 feet tall and 100 years old. I was so close to the windshield so I could see, that my body turned along with the steering wheel! While comical, that was a stressful test of my own doing! Is God responsible for that? No. But if we neglect stuff in our lives, they add to the stress we may already be under and can become frightening.
So, too, the world can be very frightening with the ever-growing identity crises of our young people, attitudes of instant gratification, disrespect of authority, “do what feels good” attitude, and lack of moral absolutes (it’s wrong for you but not for me), just to name a few. Circumstances of life, tests and trials are exacerbated when we already feel the stress the world’s troubles cause. I know God doesn’t want us to feel this way, so what must we do?
Get to know God by reading the Bible. No kidding, right? If you’re like me, you may need to read a study Bible and keep a Bible journal asking honest questions to understand its message more thoroughly. Be sure that you’re talking to others who share your faith in Jesus. They may not have the answers, but conversations can sometimes lead to answers in other areas of your faith. Get involved in a Bible study and ask questions, even if you feel they’re silly. You’d be surprised at how many others are thinking the same thing! Read trusted and well researched online Biblical websites.
Pray. In fact, turn your worries into prayers. Pray all the time, everywhere as if you’re talking directly to God, there in front of you. Be honest. Write your prayers down in a notebook or journal. Ask God to teach you through your own circumstances. Listen to God’s answers. He speaks to us in some of the most unusual ways sometimes!
Recently, I attended a conference where the speaker talked about the book of Jude, a tiny, short letter just before the book of Revelation. It was written by the brother of Jesus who reminds us of what we must do to keep our faith strong. Verse 23, “Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgement. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” By the glorious words of God through Jude, I know my path. God was speaking to me and giving me comfort at the same time. I know my Lord is there with my son, and I know, because of His Holy Word, what I must do. Through it all, I will flourish because I have His Word and promises to keep me firm in my faith and sure of my steps. With these tools and wearing the armor of great faith, you can’t go wrong. In fact, like the cedars of Lebanon, you’ll stand strong and flourish!
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/march-devo-scaled.jpg25601707Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2023-02-16 08:48:002023-02-16 08:49:04March 2023 Devotional: Flourishing in the Tests and Trials Season
When I think of “Flourishing in the tests and trials season” two things came to mind, the first was a flower breaking through the winter snow. It fights so hard to get through the snow and to show off it beauty. The second thing is how God can take the brokenness that we experience through tests and trials and turn them into something beautiful. So why not combine the two and create something beautiful to remind us that God can create something beautiful through our trials.
Garden Mosaic Tiles are actually very easy and inexpensive to make. And the great thing is that no two are alike, just like us.
Stones or White Plaster Mix
Shape or mold to hold plaster
Something hard to set the mold on while it hardens
Large Ziplock Bag
Pieces of tiles. Size will depend on the size of the shape or mold you use. You can also go to a Thrift Store and buy dishes to break into pieces. Thus, the need for the Ziplock bag and hammer.
STEP 1: Decide what design you want to use with your tiles. It is helpful to draw out your design on a piece of paper. You will use this for two things. The first is to use this pattern to trace onto the plaster. The second it to help you lay out the tiles to figure out any pattern you wish to use. Make sure that your design is not bigger than the mold or shape you will be using.
STEP 2: Mix plaster per directions. It should have a batter type consistency, you don’t want it to be too runny. You will need enough plaster to fill the mold or shape.
STEP 3: Pour plaster into the mold or shape. Tap it gently on a surface. This helps to evenly spread out the plaster. Once it is level, set it aside to allow it time to begin to harden. Place on a hard surface that you can easily move.
STEP 4: Trace your pattern into the plaster.
STEP 5: If using precut tiles, begin placing them around your paper pattern. This gives you a chance to play around with colors and shapes of tiles. If using dishes from a Thrift Store, place them into the Ziplock bag and break into pieces with the hammer. Then when you have the desired sizes, begin placing them onto the paper pattern.
STEP 6: Continue arranging the pieces onto the paper pattern until you have a design you are happy with.
STEP 7: Begin transferring the tiles one at a time from the paper into the plaster. You can either use your finger to press them into the plaster or the popsicle stick. Continue until you have transferred all the tiles into the plaster.
STEP 8: Tap gently on a surface once again to make sure all the tiles are securely into the plaster. The plaster should come right up to the top edge of the tile to make sure they don’t fall out.
STEP 9: Set aside for approximately 24 hours to allow time to fully harden.
STEP 10: Using the sponge and warm water, wash off the tops of the tiles to remove any unwanted plaster.
By Major Deborah Greene (Retired) Intermountain Division
God always supplies what I need just when I need it. There is an idiom which says, “Into every life a little rain must fall”. But God is my umbrella who protects me from the downfalls, discouragements, and trials I face. As I was thinking about sharing words of encouragement regarding the “Tests and Trials, in the Seasons of Life” a song came to me “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carol King. It’s a secular song but to me it speaks of Jesus.
[Verse 1] When you’re down and troubled And you need some loving care And nothing, nothing is going right Close your eyes and think of me And soon I will be there To brighten up even your darkest night
[Chorus] You just call out my name And you know wherever I am I’ll come running To see you again Winter, spring, summer or fall All you have to do is call And I’ll be there You’ve got a friend
As I take my journey through the winters, springs, summers, and falls of my life, I always find my friend, Jesus. When I am down, I try to stop, close my eyes, and think of Him being near and ready to brighten my circumstances. This past year has been a challenge and opportunity to experience God’s presence anew and afresh.
I share with you the winter journey in my life. As a 71-year-old retired officer I never dreamed I would again oversee a Salvation Army unit. But as things happen in The Salvation Army, a breakdown occurred four hours from where my husband and I retired. One day, after Home League, I heard from my Corps Officer that a change of officers was necessary in our division. Regular moves had already occurred, and the Intermountain Divisional Headquarters were at a loss to find a replacement. I went home and said to my husband, “We could do that!” So we called the Divisional Commander and said if they needed us, we would be willing to go. The Divisional Commander responded with “I shall get back to you”. Shortly after our conversation ended, he called us and said, “You are an answer to prayer. We shall send the necessary paperwork and you are to report August 4th”.
We were sent to the St. George Outpost to continue the beautiful work the Lieutenants began 3½ years before. They had been assistants at our home corps, and this was their first appointment in charge. Having retired eight years ago I did not realize how overseeing a Salvation Army Unit has changed. In the first few months I experienced feelings of frustration, bewilderment, and exhaustion. Technology is way above my pay grade! “Smash Lab”, a business across the street from the St. George Outpost, has axe throwing. When I saw that I said to my husband, with tongue in cheek “That’s what I need, axe throwing to relieve my stress.” However, I went for the tried-and-true method of calling on the name of Jesus, running to Him, and He came as He promised. He has my back. Our God is a God of miracles! As I trust in Him, He provides strength, encouragement, and wisdom to complete any task I am given.
The greatest blessing of this appointment is the loving people who attend for worship. They are a family. Every Sunday we have Praise and Prayer time. The congregation is a mixture of homeless individuals and working people and I am amazed the way our “family” steps up and helps with projects. My husband and I had to be away for Easter because of the death of our son-in-law. Two women stepped up, offering to oversee the Sunday activities. My husband asked the gentleman who collects the Sunday offering to preach. He accepted the responsibility with no reservations.
The springtime of my life was our appointment out of Training School. As our Commissioning Day approached, my husband and I conferred with each other and said we would go anywhere but our home division, Southern California. We did not want to raise our children in the hustle and bustle of the area. Our Training Principal asked what we saw as our ministry in The Salvation Army. My husband said we would like Harbor Light Ministry. Commissioning Day arrived. We saluted and were given our assignment, “You are assigned to be Youth Team Leaders for the summer to the Southern California Division.” What?! It was where we said we did not want to go. We did not consider ourselves as musically inclined to supervise four teenagers and conduct meetings in ten different Corps.
At the Santa Monica Corps we met a wonderful soldier who sang a song for us “The Hornet Song.” This song helped us to realize that God “does not compel us to go ‘gainst our will, He makes us willing to go.” During our tenure in Southern California, we discovered corps we would be willing to serve in. By the end of the summer, we were willing to stay. But God had other plans. Our 34+ year career covered three other divisions, but not Southern California.
Our tenure as officers has been challenging, rewarding, and sometimes discouraging, but never dull! My encouragement to you reading my testimony is, no matter what season of life you are in, remember your calling. God has called you and He will equip you.
“The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24, NIV
Always trust God.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6,NKJV
May God’s peace and blessing attend all your seasons.
https://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/march-story-scaled.jpg17082560Beth Desplanckehttps://usw-womensministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/uswLogo-300x75-300x75.pngBeth Desplancke2023-02-16 08:47:332023-02-16 10:47:15Flourishing Story: God's Blessing in the Seasons of Life
Just recently, my husband and I took a trip to celebrate our 25th anniversary and spent several days in Las Vegas. If you have ever been to Vegas, you know that there are lots of things to see. I had a list of all the “free” things I wanted to go see at the various hotels.
One of the places we visited was the Bellagio. As you enter the Bellagio’s hotel lobby, you can admire Dale Chihuly’s Fiori di Como, a glass floral sculpture that can be found on the ceiling. Yes, you have to look up in order to admire its beauty.
In the same area, right before you enter the Conservatory, there is a beautiful fountain. As my husband was busy looking down reading the sign about the fountain (he loves to read every little sign and plague), I looked up. The ceiling above the fountain was gorgeous; it might have even been prettier than the fountain.
That’s when I felt God’s Spirit said to me, “It’s important to look up!” After that, everywhere we went, I decided not to simply look down (some of the hotels and stores have amazing floors) or even what’s in front of me, but to look up.
Throughout our time in Vegas, I made sure to admire the upward view as well.
What a great reminder for especially when we go through hard times. When the difficulties of life come, it is easy to focus just on the problem: the unexpected diagnosis, the overdue notices in the mail, the pink slip, the angry text. No matter how many great things are still happening in your life, all you see is the one bad thing, the one difficulty, the one struggle. As the saying goes, sometimes we get so focused on the details, or the issue, that we can’t see the forest through the trees – you are unable to see the situation as a whole. Corrie ten Boom, said it this way: “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.” The secret to flourishing in the hard times of life (or for any time or season in our life) is simply EYES UP!
There is a great story in the 2 Chronicles 20, that tells of when three armies joined together to come fight against Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and his people. The Bible records in verse 3, that Jehoshaphat was afraid, but that he “resolved to inquire of the Lord.” He proclaimed a fast for all Judah, and the people of Judah gathered together “to seek help from the Lord” (v. 4). Jehoshaphat prays a beautiful prayer, and speaks one of my favorite lines in Scripture, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (v. 12b)
They aren’t looking at the armies that are coming towards them, they aren’t looking around at their own army, and their resources, they aren’t looking at each other in a panic, and they aren’t looking for an exit route, instead they chose to focus their eyes up! They turn their eyes up to God. Why? They understand that in this hard time, He has the answers, and He will give them direction in what to do. And He does (I would encourage you to read 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 for the entire story).
In Psalm 121, the psalmist makes a similar declaration: 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 (v. 1-2). Need help? EYES UP!
King David declared in 1Chronicles 16:11, Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always. This is such an important thing for us to remember that the Bible repeats this verse again in Psalm 105:4. Don’t forget: EYES UP!
Sometimes seasons of difficulty, troubles, struggles and pain last a long time. We can’t just look up to Him once, but need to continually make the choice that no matter how big the struggle is that I am facing, no matter how long the trial endures, I am going to make sure my eyes are looking up to Him!
I lift my eyes to the mountains You are higher still I lift my eyes to the heavens You are greater still My strength comes from the Lord The maker of it all My strength comes from the Lord A mighty fortress For every weakness I am not helpless You’ve never failed me once I have a Savior For every failure I am not hopeless You’ve never failed me
So no matter what we are experiencing, whatever hardships that might be in front of us, whatever struggles we may have to endure, may we be women who remember the key to flourishing, even in the hard times is the: EYES UP!