Sometimes, God uses strangers to bring a message home to us, whether it be a message of hope, comfort, love, or warning.
I used to think that only those of my personal faith could be used by God to encourage me. God proved me wrong!
He not only used those not of my faith but he used their messages to inspire and encourage me. Why?
It reminds me of a family. You hear your family tell you the same thing over and over again, so much so that you get used to it. Then a stranger comes along and tells you the exact same thing, albeit with a different spin, and you hear, you listen, you learn. A light bulb goes off and you think “why didn’t my family tell me this sooner?”
It’s not that they couldn’t. Instead, our minds had become so saturated with what our family said that we grew accustomed to it. We could even accurately predict what they were going to say, how they were going to say it and the methods or tactics they would employ to get their point across. With a stranger, on the other hand, you least expected what they were going to say, you never saw it coming.
You found inspiration in an unlikely place.
I had grown numb in my Christian walk. I got up one morning not caring about whether I picked up my Bible or not. “I just don’t care”, I thought. I spoke with God and said “Lord, I just don’t care anymore. How do I care”.
I did a Google search, yes, you read right. I searched for “How to Care”.
I came across a Forbes articled titled “How To Make Yourself Care”.
It was not too long after reading it that I realised who had led me there.
What struck me was Kristi Hedges opening line “what we give our care and attention to grows”. That was it! I had grown used to navigating my walk with God by my feelings and not the very core and essence of this walk. Faith!
I nurtured and encouraged thoughts and feelings of doubt, bitterness and envy. Had I instead nurtured faith, joy, a spirit of gratitude, those negative thoughts would have disappeared. I continued reading and found peace in the simple solutions outlined.
Inspired, I drew on a few take home points which I have outlined below to remind myself how to cultivate and grow my faith. A key step in a series of steps on a walk, a journey to caring for others by caring for myself.
Give care and attention to nurturing your faith.
“Whatever we give our care and attention to grows”. If it’s feelings of bitterness, it will grow. If it’s worry and anxiety, it will grow. If it is faith, it will grow. An attitude of gratitude, it will grow.
Spend time nurturing positive things, work at it daily. Giving all diligence, start with faith. Then to faith add virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness charity. “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1:5-8 (KJV). Faith comes before brotherly kindness and charity.
Do not wait until you feel like doing it.
If you wait until you feel like praying, studying, sharing and spending time with others, you probably won’t ever do it. God has given a great gift to man: the power of the will. This is the power of choice and the “deciding factor” in the life of man. By this, man can choose right or wrong. By this, we can choose to engage in positive activities, whether we feel too or not. Choose wisely!
Develop a routine. Keep it simple!
To fight against negative thoughts or emotions we have to develop a routine, a simple strategy, much like a Defence/Offence plan. The Defence gives us a game plan of sorts of what to do if/when the enemy attacks while the Offence spells out what to do to prevent the enemy from attacking again.
There are only 24 hours in a day, and while we have limited control over what happens on a day to day basis, our choices help to ensure that we get the most out of each day. Actively engaging in positive activities increases the likelihood of experiencing positive emotions. The more negative activities we engage in during the day, the more likely we are to feel depressed, exhausted and worn out.
A self-improvement plan can take the form of a list or prayer, where we outline how the day is actually spent, earmarking areas for improvement (e.g. time with God) and working steadily, inch by inch, at increasing the time spent on positive activities.
Start by being honest with yourself. How do you spend your day, I mean, really spend your day (time spent sleeping, watching TV, playing video games, getting to work, at work, cooking, cleaning, etc). How should you spend your day? Carefully evaluate this and put this time into hours and minutes.
Who do you spend your time with? ‘By beholding we become changed’. If we spend time with persons of Christ-like characters, we are drawn to Christ through their conversation and deeds. Added to that, if we spend time daily, hourly, with Christ, we become more like Him and our character becomes assimilated into His character.
Caring for Him and for others then becomes second nature to us. But it all starts with faith!