This past week I was rebuilding part of the website for Anchor Movement and looking at ways to continue bringing quality content to our readers when my past suddenly flashed before my eyes. I sat there in silence reliving some of the worst mistakes that I had made over the last 33 years of my life and then there was a single comment that broke the silence, “You aren’t qualified to tell others about Jesus.” At that moment, a feeling of shame and overwhelming grief covered me like a cold wet blanket. I couldn’t shake it. I thought about giving up. The voice was right. I’m not qualified. I have made some huge mistakes in my life and I ran from GOD for a long time. I drank more alcohol than I care to remember. I partied at places that are unmentionable. On top of all that I don’t have the education to share the gospel. No seminary degree. No doctorate in Greek or Hebrew. No learned skill set in the hermeneutical, philosophical, or theological interpretation of the Bible. The voice was right. I am not at all qualified. As I sat there mediating and sulking over my past a story came to my mind. It was about another man who made some huge mistakes in his life, but GOD chose to use him anyway. This man was chosen by GOD before he was ever born to establish the nation in which GOD’s people would come from and ultimately the Messiah. He was a liar, a cheat, lacking in character, and mischievous, but GOD chose him anyway and used his unique skill set to continue the Blessing of GOD and to establish the twelve tribes of Israel. This man was Jacob and he wasn’t qualified either.
If you read the story of Jacob, many church people believe that Jacob stole the blessing from his brother Esau. In my Bible, the title heading for chapter 27 says, “Jacob’s stolen blessing.” Now keep in mind, that title was not put there by GOD, but by the people who interpreted the scriptures into various languages and organized the Bible so we can accurately find scriptures today. What that title should say is, “Jacob given the Blessing.” If you turn back a few pages in Genesis to the birth of Jacob and Esau, you’ll see what I mean. In Genesis 25, Rebekah is pregnant and in her womb the two babies are wrestling with each other. As a concerned mother, Rebekah goes to The Lord and ask what is going on. His response is key to understanding the rest of Jacob’s life:
“And the Lord told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.” And when the time came to give birth, Rebekah discovered that she did indeed have twins! The first one was very red at birth and covered with thick hair like a fur coat. So they named him Esau. Then the other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. So they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when the twins were born.” Genesis 25:23-26 NLT
Did you catch that? The older son will serve the younger son. Who was older? Esau. Who was younger? Jacob. Jacob was the son GOD chose to be the next in line for the Blessing not Esau. God chose Jacob before either child was ever born. During that time period, the older son was always the son of the family blessing. That usually meant his inheritance was double that of any of the other siblings, but in this case, GOD chose the youngest son, the second born, the least likely, to be the continuation of GOD’s great plan. His parents even named him Jacob which means: supplanter, schemer, and treachery. Wow! Talk about a promising start, but how many of us know that GOD is not concerned with what people say, but only what He says. For most of Jacob’s early life he lived up to what his parents had originally called him by blackmailing his brother for his birthright and “stealing” the blessing Isaac meant to give Esau. Jacob defined himself by what others called him and let his actions mirror those expectations, but GOD used these past experience to put Jacob on the road to becoming the father of the twelve original tribes of Israel. Jacob ran from his brother and family and fled to another land to a farm owned by his uncle Laban. There he married Laban’s two daughters and they had children. When it came time for Jacob to leave his uncle Laban and travel back to his home country, he was still the same man as before until he had an encounter with GOD. In what is one of the most interesting stories in all the Bible, Jacob physically wrestled with GOD all night. When morning came, in order to stop the wrestling, GOD dislocated Jacob’s hip and called him by another name:
“Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel; you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.” Genesis 32:28 MSG
God looked at Jacob and said you are no longer who you think you are. You are now who I say you are. You are Israel. You are no longer defined by what others have said or what you think, but you are now defined by the future that I have for you. In the New Testament, Paul describes this transaction for us in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV
Just like Jacob, GOD doesn’t define us by our past mistakes or sins. He looks at our future and says, “You are the righteousness of GOD. You are made perfect in Me.” Before Jacob was ever born, GOD called him Israel and before you were ever born GOD called you by your distinct name. You were destined for greatness before you were ever formed in the womb. Satan always wants to remind us of our past, but your true past was destined before you ever took a breathe. When Satan tried to remind me of my past and how unqualified I am to be sharing the gospel through Anchor Movement, I just remind him of Jacob. When you read the genealogy of Jesus you see Jacob mentioned third from the top after his Grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac, but what you don’t see is anything mentioned about his past. GOD doesn’t record Jacob’s past when describes his future. GOD only remembers his future and that is the only thing he remembers in your life. GOD doesn’t look at your past and define you by your mistakes or sins, but he looks at your future and says, “you are chosen, loved, and intended for greatness.” The next time Satan tries to remind you of your past, just tell him, "My name is Jacob!"
The toughest battle we face is not between other individuals or nations, but it’s the battle between our ears. How many books have been written about our mental health and defeating our adversaries in our mind. It’s why books like “The Battlefield of the mind” by Joyce Meyer and “Switch on Your Brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf sell so many copies. People are starving for the ability to win the battle of thought in their mind. Statistics prove this out: suicide rates in America are up 24% since 2000 and almost 25 million Americans are on some sort of antidepressant. Now listen to me, all victory begins and ends with Jesus, but in between are steps we can take in order to capture the thoughts that want to hold us down. Everyday we are inundated with images, perspectives, and thoughts that can either harm us or help us and without a clear strategy for protection it becomes an overwhelming task. The screens on our desk, in our pocket, and hanging on our walls have become the barometer for a life well lived, but how can we attain something that is edited, cropped, and cleaned up for a mass audience? As a husband I see men who are in perfect shape, have ample time for their families, and have amazing jobs. How can I compare to that? As a father I compare myself to other fathers who never yell at their kids and have a constant petting zoo in the backyard. How can I compete with that? The truth is I can’t, but the truth is they can’t either. What I see on my Instagram feed is just a highlight reel of a moment in time, but I take it as a blanket affirmation of their entire life and a constant reminder of my deficiencies. This is a battle that we all face and what I want to do is give you three practical steps for conquering the battle between your ears.
1. Ignore them!
“When Saul returned to his home at Gibeah, a group of men whose hearts God had touched went with him. But there were some scoundrels who complained, “How can this man save us?” And they scorned him and refused to bring him gifts. But Saul ignored them. 1 Samuel 10:26-27A NLT
After Saul was made king by the prophet Samuel he went back home and the reception was not what you would suppose a newly announced king would receive. Many of the people who knew Saul growing up looked on his new occupation with scorn and contempt. In today’s world we call these people keyboard gangsters. These are the people who blow up your Facebook news feed with negative comments, misguided opinions, and asinine assumptions about you and your life. When these haters decide to unleash their useless jargon we have two options: respond or ignore. If we respond, we are no better than they are. If we ignore the battle begins in our mind. With each comment we must ask ourselves, does this truly define me or is this someone just being judgmental? If it’s the latter, which is what Saul faced, do what Saul did—ignore them. Your life is better without them and so is your mental health.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” II Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV
Sometimes thoughts won’t leave and that is when you must go to battle. We can either let our thoughts control us or we can control our thoughts. I like what I heard a pastor say about thoughts, “you can’t control a bird from flying over your head, but you can control whether they build a nest.” Our thoughts are like the birds that fly over. Sometimes something might pop in your mind that you never even thought of before. How did that get in there? Where did that thought come from? I’ve felt that before. Especially when I’m making a big decision or a decision that I feel is going to have a big impact on my life. It’s in those moments that I wrestle with this verse. It’s wrestling with the thought and bringing it to GOD’s Word. If my thought says “you’re not good enough” I remind my thought “I am the righteousness of GOD through Christ or if my thoughts say “you’ll never have enough” I emphatically tell my thought, “my GOD shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.” It’s not always easy especially when the thoughts come like a river, but I know when they do, it’s by bringing those thoughts to GOD’s Word that I find peace in my mind.
For me this is the hardest step in my mental struggles. It’s the ability to release what others have said or what my own thoughts say to me. Ignoring a constant battle sometimes becomes overwhelming and once I’ve captured the thought with the Word of GOD it becomes a situation of where to put it. Like a prisoner of war, I need somewhere to put this thought so that I can move on with my life. That is where this third step comes from: release. Release where? Glad you asked. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” A yoke is a wooden beam that is fastened between two animals, normally oxen, that enables them to pull together on a load. When we are struggling with our thoughts or that inner voice it’s like being hooked together to that thing with a yoke. You are trying to pull one way and the thought is pulling you in another direction. Jesus said let me pull that yoke with you. Release what is pulling you in the wrong direction and come pull my yoke. Jesus understands what feels like to have great sorrow and stress. He felt the loss of loved ones, the pain of betrayal, and the physics anguish of the cross. What better person to pull the yoke of life together with. Release your yoke and take hold of His. When we allow ourselves to do this, we will find out what it truly means to find rest for our souls.
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