08 Feb Day 16
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Observation: Although we sometimes question God’s will for us, he gives us clear direction in his word to surrender to his instructions and continually be joyful, prayerful and thankful. When we make the sincere effort to do so, our relationship with Jesus becomes more personal. And as our connection to Jesus grows, God gives us a greater desire and ability to be joyful, prayerful and thankful.
Application: Surrendering to God can seem like a challenging or even scary concept, whether we are new in our faith or have been following Jesus for a while. Even though I put my faith in Jesus many years ago, at times I have fallen into that “somewhat mature in my faith, but challenged to fully surrender” category. That is until December 14, 2020, when surrendering to God began to take on deeper meaning.
I remember the day vividly – I was working from home due to the pandemic and had just finished a phone call. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I had a full-blown panic attack that gripped me to my core. What came over me was the most intense feeling of dread regarding my health. I had never been great about making regular doctor’s appointments, but I was generally healthy and not having any medical issues. Nevertheless, I was nearly paralyzed by panic.
The very next day I took actions that I thought would help my physical and spiritual health. I scheduled a long overdue doctor’s visit, started a new exercise regimen, and completely changed my diet. I also restarted the habit of beginning each morning by praying and reading the Bible — what Journeyers call having a “Slot & Spot.”
I would love to say that those steps immediately solved my problem, but they didn’t. Even after receiving positive medical reports and starting every morning with prayer and Bible reading, I still struggled with severe anxiety.
After shameless persistence in my prayers for help, God helped me to realize that even though I had taken very positive actions to address my panic and anxiety (including having my morning Slot & Spot), I had not taken another critical step — surrendering to him. I was praying, but not surrendering my worries to God. I also had not conceded shame and regret for past mistakes and shortcomings I had already confessed, which hindered my closeness with Jesus during my prayers.
Over a year later I still have days when my anxiety is a challenge. However, God’s grace has helped to make me significantly stronger in my battle with anxiety. I’ve tried to truly surrender every part of my life to him daily, and not hold onto things he wants me to give him and not take back.
Surrendering isn’t automatic for me every day. But when I intentionally hand over my anxiety and other cares to God, allowing him to fight my battles, it helps me to focus more on being joyful, prayerful and thankful. And I know that is God’s perfect will, as spoken in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Prayer: Abba Father, I pray that you open my heart to spend time in your presence daily, in intimate relationship with you, so that I can fully surrender my sins, cares, and struggles to you. I pray that you show me that the gifts of joy, prayerfulness and thanksgiving, which you want for my life, are waiting for me when I surrender to you. In the precious name of Jesus, I pray, amen.
- Have you considered that God loves you so much that he wants you to fully surrender your cares, struggles and sins to him during your prayer time and not take them back? [Read: 1 Peter 5:7; 1 John 1:8-9; Philippians 4:6-7]
- Schedule a time for your Slot & Spot. Your relationship with Jesus will become more intimate over time and you may find that joy and thankfulness replace the struggles you are trying to surrender. [Read: Psalm 145:18; Psalm 119:105; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18]
- If you haven’t done so yet, go through Plugged In! It will help you learn about next steps to help strengthen your faith journey – by joining a J-Group or the J-Team – so that you can spend time with people who encourage you, while living a life aimed at following Jesus fully.
Omar McNeill/Hockessin Pastoral Care and Code Red J-Teamer, J-Group Mentor
Omar McNeill has been gathering at The Journey, with his wife, since just before Easter in 2021. Omar first began gathering online and then in person at the Newark location, before finally becoming hooked on the amazing environment at the Hockessin location. Omar jumped into The Journey experience with both feet by immediately joining three different J-Groups, even before participating in Plugged In later in the summer of 2021. This January, Omar began again co-leading the Anéndotos (“Unyielding”) J-Group, striving to follow Jesus fully with some awesome men.