Tim Storey has said something that has made a very big impact on my life since:
Once you've touched the fire you can't live in the smoke.
In Joshua 24 Joshua takes the Israelites on a trip down memory lane. He starts off with God's promise to Abraham - leading him to Canaan and giving him many descendants; descendants who had wandered off, worshiping idols, and had eventually ended up in slavery in Egypt. Then, once they had turned from their wicked ways, God rescued them and blessed them, sending the ten plagues upon Egypt and delivering them out of the hand of Pharaoh and of slavery, followed by the pursuit of the Egyptians, the split of the Red Sea and the drowning of the Egyptians. The nations that God had promised and the nations that He had delivered into the hands of His people based on those promises - again and again. Crossing the Jordan River, bringing down the walls of Jericho, delivering more nations into their hands. He reminds them that those victories did not come because of their own bows and swords but that it was God who blessed and prospered them. And because Joshua had seen God's faithfulness throughout his live - having touched and lived in the fire - he challenges the people with this declaration: "But if you are unwilling to obey the Lord, then decide today whom you will obey. But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)
It is important for us to look back and remind ourselves of the times when God has been faithful, generous and kind. I find that it is most effective and powerful if you are able to pull on a first hand revelation - the demonstrations of God's goodness in your own life. Sometimes, when you're challenged with difficulty, someone else's story can sound like just a story at a time when you might feel like you need more than that.
I also think that this first hand revelation is one of the most radical catalysts for change in your life. When you've had a taste of something better for yourself, it fuels in you a fire of faith, inspiration and desire to have more of that good thing. Now you also believe that it is possible; You know it because you've experienced it!
As you slowly progress down this new path you eventually look back and wonder how on earth you ever lived the way you did and then you start to see just how far God has brought you. You start realizing the challenges that you've overcome and how God had made a way when there seemed to be no way and you start feeling encouraged that if He could do it then, He can do it again in your current situation.
Some of my best experiences with the Lord has been when I thought that there was no hope - no way out - and how He had then send people and resources in ways that I couldn't have imagined. My most desperate moments had also become my greatest source of encouragement. But not just that, it has also become my greatest source of praise.
These are two very powerful tools when you are fighting discouragement:
- Reminding yourself of God's faithfulness in the past to encourage yourself that He will be faithful again, and
- The more you remember his faithfulness of the past, the more reasons you find to praise Him in your present. (Worship wins the war.)
Let me share one of my favorite memories with you:
I had been going through a very difficult time in my life and feeling like everything had come apart. I was tired in my body, my spirit and my soul and I yearned for some pampering and tranquility. All I wanted for my birthday that year was to stand on a beach in Cape Town with my toes in the sand. watching the sunset. (Sunsets remind me of God's awesome power; His ability to do anything, and while I was broken and struggling I used to watch the sunset every day while pouring my heart out to the Lord. It was part of my healing journey - something intimate between God and I.)
I started telling people in January of that year that it was what I was going to do for my birthday that September. I calculated how much money I would need and for 9 months I could not afford it, but it was the desire of my heart and I kept saying I was going to go as if it was a done deal. Eventually it started seeming like I wasn't going to go after all and my faith started sinking in my shoes. Then, one week before I was planning to leave, some money was paid out to me that I did not expect - the exact amount that I needed for my trip!!
Still to this day that birthday is one of the best memories of my life! On that trip I had the best food, the best weather, the best fun, met awesome people and got some awesome birthday gifts. And as I stood on that beach my heart was filled with an overwhelming awareness of just how much God loves me and how He cares about even the small things because they matter to me, and I matter to Him.
Take a few moments now to think of an experience that you've had where God had come through for you in meeting a need, granting a desire of your heart or answering a prayer. Remind yourself that God never changes; He is the same God yesterday, today and until forever! If He had been faithful then, He will certainly be faithful again. Then make up your mind to trust Him to be exactly who He says He is!
I will [earnestly] recall the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will [earnestly] remember the wonders [You performed for our fathers] of old. ~ Psalm 77:11 (AMP)
I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. ~ Psalm 143:5 (NLT)
Remember, remember, remember... then praise Him by faith for what He is going to do.