Be Courageous; Be Strong

Matt and Tiff

I was reading in 1 Corinthians 16 this morning, and these verses hit me like a ton of bricks: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”

This is exactly what I needed to hear as I weigh our future. My husband and I are flying half-way around the world to Australia on January 17th, 2019 to start our exciting adventure as we partner with many to plant a church. There is much to be done in Brisbane, and I know God has led us there to be a part of His wonderful work – his miraculous plan – and I can’t wait to see what He does in and through us!

Despite my excitement for all that is to come next month, I’m still fearful. It will be very difficult to leave behind family. We still need to raise funds as we are not yet fully supported. When we arrive, we need to find a place to live, furniture to fill that place, a car to drive, and so much more. And once we are settled, we will move immediately into ministry opportunities as God continues to open doors. This is where 1 Corinthians 16 verses 13-14 come into play.

Paul encourages us to be on our guard, and I know I need to protect myself from ways in which the enemy is looking to ruin this whole experience. We are instructed to stand firm in our faith, which is so applicable when it comes to our ministry work and trusting God as He provides for our needs. I need to be courageous and strong as I face the sorrows of leaving my loved ones, the hurdles of everyday life that come when you’re leaving everything behind and having to start over, and the struggles – spiritual, emotional, and physical – of such drastic change. Finally, through all of this, I need to do everything in love, especially as we seek to reach the lost through the ministry opportunities that our loving Savior provides!

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Epilogue: Finding Hope in Heartache

There are times when there is no rhyme or reason to heartache, but occasionally it is revealed to us why we have had to endure such hardships. What heartaches have you had to endure, and where do you find your hope for healing?

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Bonus section! As you read through the epilogue of Love’s True Colors, you come to understand what God was doing all along. He was molding Tessa’s heart, changing her character, and teaching her how to rely on Christ. And I think he was doing this to prepare her heart (my heart) to become a pastor’s wife.

As you can see throughout the entire novel, Tessa is resistant when it comes to her involvement in the church. Her wounds were deep, and she also feels like her life experiences would hinder her integrity as a role model in the church.  “He explained that he wanted to be a pastor…I stared at him for a while with my mouth gaping. He knew how I felt about pastors, about being overly involved in a church, about my hesitations toward trusting the church” (page 312). Nevertheless, Mason wanted to follow God’s calling, even if that meant losing Tessa. This placed Tessa in a difficult position, but ultimately, she knew that if this was what God wanted for her and Mason, then He would work all things out for the good.

Your heartaches will be different than Tessa’s, but I’m sure you’re grappling with your own specific hardships. The question is how you deal with those heartaches? Do you see Christ working in the midst of your heartache? Jeremiah 30:17a says, “‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord…” (NIV).

Christ is working in your life, whether or not you’re able to see the purpose of your heartache. No matter what you’re facing today, know that there is hope in Jesus. He is trustworthy, and He redeems you from your past so you can use your story for the betterment of others. I always wanted to write my story because I think it’s such a beautiful testimony of who Christ is and how He works in the midst of our lives and heartaches. He’s working in your life too, so place you’re trust in Him because hope can be found in heartache!

Chapter 25: Desires of your Heart

Sometimes we focus on the right things, but for all the wrong reasons.
When have you found your desires changing as a result of focusing on the right motives?

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We reach the beautiful ending of this novel in chapter 25, and there is much to celebrate. However, before we delve into the fairytale ending, we need to step back and analyze Tessa’s heart. She loves Mason, that much has remained true throughout the entire novel, but she misunderstands a conversation she has with him and makes a drastic decision as a result. “I want to be his wife. I want to be the mother of his children. I want to wake up every day next to him. This is my heart’s purest and most desperate desire, but his deliberation on the phone earlier this evening spoke loud and clear – I’m alone in my feelings, and that is why this friendship has to end. Tonight” (page 303).

Tessa isn’t focused on the way God is molding her heart through the pain she’s endured in her relationship with Mason. Instead, she’s focused on how much she can handle emotionally. So, she shuts down. As a result, she is somewhat tainting the surprise that awaits her at the airport. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV). Tessa certainly doesn’t spend the flight delighting in the Lord, but He certainly gave her the desire of her heart by the time the plane landed.

What are the desires of your heart? Are you taking delight in the Lord, whether or not you will receive the desires of your heart? Have you ever noticed that, while taking delight in the Lord, He has changed the desires of your heart?

God is sovereign. Delight in your Lord and Savior – the more you make this your sole focus, the more you will realize that God gives you the desires of your heart. Your desires might change as a result of your Christ-centered focus, but that’s the beauty of following Christ whole-heartedly. He molds us, He grows us, He completes us. If you don’t know Jesus today, let my full story be a testimony to how fulfilling and satisfying a relationship with Christ is.

Christ’s steady love, through the highs and the lows, drives the ultimate story of love in Love’s True Colors. There is no other love, peace, or joy that triumphs over a relationship with Christ and all He has to offer us. If you don’t know this to be true, please make it a point to talk with me directly. God loves you, more than you can ever fathom, and He wants to claim you as His child today! Make Him your ultimate desire, everything else will fall into place!

Chapter 24: The Gossip Mill

Gossip not only ruins reputations, but it is also destructive to the
growth of individuals, especially when a difficult past is brought up.
Have you ever judged people unfairly as a result of gossip,
or have you even been misjudged because of the rumors spread about you?

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In this chapter, Tessa is able to have a heart-to-heart with her mom. During this time, she opens up about some issues she’s still facing as a result of gossip from the past. “I verbalize the emotions that marked my heart the night before, opening wounds that have not had time to heal, no matter how long ago the incident was” (page 292-293).

Gossip can be incredibly destructive. Whether you have believed something false about somebody or someone has believed something false about you, we can all admit that gossip hurts. This is why the Bible says, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” (James 3:5, NIV).

We are all guilty of partaking in gossip, I certainly know I am. There’s just something about juicy gossip that piques our interest, and whether or not we are the ones sharing, we are participating in the spread of rumors just by listening. However, how would that person you’re gossiping about feel if they were sitting in the room with you – if they heard everything that was said? Pretty terrible, right?

Ultimately, not only do we need to consider how destructive our own tongue can be, we also need to realize that we are participating if we choose to listen to the rumors. Guard your tongue and honor those who aren’t in the room to defend against the rumors that are being spread about them. In the end, we don’t like being gossiped about, so this should be reason enough for us not to partake in it. Have wisdom and pray about certain work situations or other environments that have the tendency to cause you to stumble in this area. God is sovereign, and He will give you the strength to keep information to yourself or to get up and leave when someone is gossiping around you.

Chapter 23: Ghosts from the Past

There are moments, maybe even seasons, where we have to grapple with regret. Have there been times where you have had to face your regret or a ghost from your past; and if so, what is the best way of dealing with the emotions evoked?

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This chapter is riddled with complex situations. Tessa has been removed indefinitely from her volleyball team, she endures a conversation with someone who reminds her of guilt from her past, and she runs into a man who has hurt her and her family. By the end of the chapter, she is trying to grapple with these various ghosts from her past. “Tears start streaming down my face, but Mason doesn’t say anything, so my thoughts come pouring out all at once” (page 286-287).

Tessa chooses to talk about her many emotions evoked by encountering these ghosts from her past. Mason listens to her, and he comforts her too (read to the end of the chapter for Tessa’s little ray of hope)! However, despite the benefit of talking through our emotions, we still need to turn to scripture for clarity.

Pauls writes, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV).

Keep your sights focused on Christ. You may be faced with ghosts from your past, but press on toward the goal of honoring Christ with your words, actions, and relationships as you forget what is behind. This is much easier said than done, but choose to forgive and love as you leave the past in the past.

 

Chapter 22: Submission to Authority

Unfair decisions that are made without our input can frustrate us.
When a person of authority goes over your head, what is your initial
reaction and does that often cause more conflict?

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Have you ever had to submit to your superior even though you know the decisions they are making are unfair or unwise? Perhaps this is common in your career field, or with your boss. Maybe you experience this in the classroom, or even with your parents or spouse. Do you react with anger and vengeance when this happens, or do you submit to authority?

Tessa finds herself planted in a sticky situation when her new coach makes her arch nemesis the co-captian of the volleyball team. Tessa knows that their combined leadership won’t serve the team well, but the coach is not willing to budge on this decision. With great effort, Tessa keeps her opinions about the coach’s decision to herself. “I purse my lips knowing that there is nothing I can do about this situation, and with determination, I offer a curt nod” (page 271).

When a decision is made that affects us, but we have no control or input in the situation, what is the best way to respond? Titus 3:1-2 says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (NIV).

This verse definitely challenges me, even to this day. If you’re anything like me, you think your way is better, or you believe that if you argue enough, the other will see your side and eventually agree with you. However, the Bible instructs us to be obedient, peaceable, considerate, and gentle during these moments. It also instructs that we be ready to do whatever is good, so if what you’re being subjected to isn’t good (challenging and good could mean two different things), keep in mind that the Bible doesn’t say submit to destructive behaviors/actions.

I pray this challenge applies in your life, one way or another, today. Maybe the challenge will be met at work, school, or within your family, but maybe this simply means to be gentle when speaking of your government, making the wise decision “to slander no one.” No matter what this might mean for you, pray that God will give you the strength to follow these commands, because we can’t do it without Him…I know I certainly can’t!

Chapter 21: Are They Worth It?

We can often perceive friendships to be deeper than they actually are.
When you feel like you’re not loved or valued in your friendships or other relationships, how do you determine what relationships are worth keeping?

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The friendship between Tessa and Mason continues as this chapter progresses. However, Tessa is grappling with the fact that this thing she has with Mason is really only a friendship in Mason’s eyes. “Tonight has proved that Mason only wants to be friends…” (page 265). Tessa is weighing whether or not she should throw in the towel. She loves Mason, and that will never change, but she is trying to determine how much her heart can handle at this point.

So, is giving up on a friendship biblical? Maybe it is, given the situation and the circumstances. However, the Bible does say, “…let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV). You see, if Mason needs Tessa’s friendship, although it may be difficult for her heart, she shouldn’t give up on him, especially if they are spurring each other on toward good deeds.

And there we have it – a lens to examine our friendships/relationships. What is the relationship producing? Love for others and good deeds, encouragement in Christ, spiritual mentorship with the Day of Christ’s return approaching? If so, then don’t give up on that friendship! However, if the friendship is actually causing you to stumble in any way, especially in a way that may cause you to sin, it’s worth stepping back and asking God to lead in that friendship.

Spend some time praying through your friendships so you can determine how to spur others on toward love and good deeds. No matter what frustrations you may be experiencing, remember that God uses you to help your friends as much as He uses your friends to help you!