Mark Kelly

Stories of faith and life

Tools

Have you ever tried changing the fuse in a plug by first trying to unscrew the central screw with a knife? I’m not talking a steak or bread knife, just a dull kitchen drawer knife.

I bet most of us have. I’ve tried unscrewing any number of things using the tip of a knife. I have only ever really found it to work best trying to change plug fuses.

I bet you’re asking, “Mark, why don’t you just use a screwdriver?” And that, my friends, is an excellent question. And the answer, to a degree, is laziness. My toolbox is generally stored in our utility room, and over a very short amount of time, it gets stuff stored on top of it. It becomes a pain to dig out and, well, the knife drawer is easier to reach!

On the occasion where I’ve needed to do a bit more DIY, I’ve have taken the time to dig out the toolbox, and boom, I’m ready! Using my electric screwdriver (of course I’ve got one of those), which is quite powerful. I proceed to unscrew something that’s been holding up whatever it’s been holding for years. In cases like this, you need to push a little harder to get it turning. However, in this instance, I use the wrong screw bit, it’s a little bigger than it needs to be for the screw. The screw’s old, and before I know it, I’ve somehow managed to wear away the pattern in the screw head, and my screwdriver is just turning, and turning … and turning.

In both of these cases, it’s plain to see, I’ve used the wrong tool for the job and made it somewhat harder for myself. The screw that’s worn away, in particular, has gone from a 15-second job to one that needs a drill, a drill bit, and smaller screw to go into the bigger screw … you get the idea! I should have just worked things out properly in the first place.

I reckon I’m not the only one to try and use a tool for a job for which it is highly inadequate. And when the father-in-law shows up with his massive tool bag of all sorts that’s been curated over decades and helps you finish the job in minutes, you can feel a little silly. (I’m not even joking about my father-in-law. He’s got an impressive collection of tools and pieces of equipment that would blow your DIY mind!)

In our lives, some things would be a lot easier if we simply found the correct tool for the job in hand. I’m not really talking about tools anymore.

How often have you taken the wrong idea or lousy attitude into a meeting at work, a position that really doesn’t help forward the discussion or bring resolution to a decision? Maybe you need to use the tool of understanding.

If you have to prepare for an exam or an assessment, have you used the tool of discipline to help you get to revise and organise yourself?

Where is the tool of peaceful thinking and patience when dealing with badly behaved children? Children who’ve had a tough day at school and they’re lashing out to those who they’re pretty sure won’t lash back, because you’re their safe place to vent.

Sometimes life feels like a battle, and we need some wisdom to help us get adequately equipped to deal with whatever skirmish we’re experiencing. The Bible helps us deal with this by encouraging us to wear a belt of truth – a tool belt, if you like, from which other tools hang – like patience, wisdom, and self-control. It mentions wearing holiness as armour that can protect our heart, in other words, how we think and the attitude we take in dealing with others. This helps keep us in a good place, one of love and acceptance. When we’re alert to how we’re responding in any less-than-ideal scenario, we can bring peace to that environment, by using the tools of understanding and kindness.

In the practicalities of life, as in real DIY, let me encourage you to use the correct tool for the job and save yourself some time and a lot of hassle. But also bring those tools I’ve just mentioned to your attitude and response to people and circumstances.

Where in your life can you identify where you’ve been trying to change that metaphorical plug with a drawer knife? Or where you’ve worn away the imaginary screw head and made things so much harder than they needed to be?

There’s always time to put the wrong tool down and pick the right one up. It’s never too late.

Decisions can be really hard. And the odd thing about decision making is that sometimes the longer it takes to make a decision, the harder it can actually be to make the decision!

It’s true.

Try sitting down in front of Netflix, or Amazon Video or the other gazillion streaming services that have come online in recent years, and choosing what you might watch. You think you have a good idea when you open up the service what you might be looking forward to watching, but the longer you scroll, the more time you take, the more you become convinced that the next move down the list will present you with that programme you really, really want to watch. On so it goes on.

Or is this just me?

If you’re British, we seem to be stuck with a peculiar problem of making a decision when we are with a group of people. Maybe you’re at dinner together, and you’re presented with several dessert options, but there’s only one left of a particularly tasty dessert and two, or maybe three of the party, including yourself, want it. Out of some sense of charity, we can spend quite a while insisting that the other person takes it, and they reciprocate with a no, you take it. All the while, that inner voice inside you is screaming for you just to grab it!

Say you’re shopping on the high street, and you find the perfect pair of jeans, but something inside you encourages you not to buy. You find yourself thinking that the next shop might have an identical pair at a fraction of the price, or sometimes not even a fraction, just a few pounds – but it’s oh, so worth it, right? You spend the afternoon, walking from shop to shop and end up not buying anything at all. All you’ve got to show for your endeavours are sore feet and a sense of frustration.

So there are lots times, when making a decision can be a bit of a chore, but these do tend to be, like those scenarios I’ve just mentioned, not quite life or death situations. When faced with a decision that needs to be made in the moment, with very little time to think about it, we quite often make it. It doesn’t always mean it’s the correct decision, but at least we’ve made a decision, and we go with it. In the aftermath of such a pressured, decision-making moment, we often reflect, and we consider the choice we made. In our minds, we even retrospectively make different choices, and we try to figure out where those other options would have taken us.

When I was a teenager, I went through a period of where, as I’ve just described, I would take every decision I was presented with and try and take each path of possible action to its conclusion. I found this period of my life incredibly debilitating and frustrating. Decision making came at a snail’s pace, and people around me probably didn’t appreciate the wait.

There came a day where I’d just had enough and made the decision – somewhat ironically – to go ‘cold turkey’ in my thinking. I purposefully made myself not think and ‘just do’ when presented with choices. This is who I am today, someone who can evaluate and make decisions quite quickly. I’m not suggesting things always turn out for the best, but I’d rather be moving, and sometimes needing to backtrack a little, rather than stall and stagnate.

I know that some of you might be screaming at me right now, shouting, “No, Mark, that’s not how you do it. You take your time, you think carefully, you consider the alternatives, and most importantly you pray.” And you know what, I get this – as a Christian, I especially understand the praying bit. In any decision, I would always want to involve God in it.

But as I look around, I see a culture of extremes. One that is stuck far too often in introspection – there’s undoubtedly no prayer to God – only thinking on how decisions might affect oneself. On the flip slide of that, there’s a desperate desire to try and please everyone. And so ultimately, nothing of any real consequence, ever really happens at all.

So, my challenge to you is to be confident in your decision-making process, but make sure it’s a process. This means it’s going from point A to point B, there is momentum and movement. Maybe, there’s a decision you need to make today, that you’ve been putting off from working through for years and you’ve gone back and forth with how it might work out. Do something about it in the next 24 hours, see what happens and enjoy the adventure. If you’re a Christian, give the decision you’re facing to God and stop giving it to everyone around you, seeking their advice. Some of this will probably be wise, but your first and last stop should always be God.

In the Book of Proverbs, from the Bible, chapter 3 from verse 5 says for you to “5 Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on Him to guide you, and He will lead you in every decision you make. 6 Become intimate with Him in whatever you do, and He will lead you wherever you go.”

We bought a dog last year. Our very first family dog, in fact. She is a beautiful Border Collie with a gorgeous black and white coat, and we have named her Charley. When we went to have a look at her, she had about seven other siblings with her, and two things attracted me, in particular, to her. The first, and most apparent, is she has two different coloured eyes. One brown as you would expect, the other is blue (a bit like you’d find more traditionally in Huskies). Apparently, it’s not really blue, it just looks that way. Something about inheriting a Merle gene from one of her parents and therefore a lack of brown pigmentation. Whatever the reason, she is very striking to look at, and I thought it wonderfully quirky.

The second reason was intelligence, or at least what I interpreted as the potential for being intelligent. Border Collie’s, as a breed, are regarded as the most intelligent of all dogs and so with a little patience and a lot of love they can learn some amazing tricks. As I looked down at this gaggle of pups (I don’t think that’s the plural for puppies, but we’ll go with it!), I observed her, and her brother’s and sister’s, behaviour. She certainly wasn’t a shrinking violet, unlike a few of her siblings who were just meekly sitting in a corner, looking like they were wondering what was about to happen next – Charley was the thing that was happening next. Yapping and running, nibbling and sniffing, she just came across as a doggy individual who wanted to know her environment and control her environment! I knew straight away, she was going to be the dog for us, and even though I also thought that the behaviour she was exhibiting might mean she would be quite strong-willed, I thought myself up for the challenge, if it brought with it a dog that would listen and learn.

This brings us up to now, and yes, she has turned out to be as trainable as I thought, with lots of tricks in her repertoire. Charley is about about 19 months old now, and there are still things we need to work out. Like how to get her to walk to heal when she is on the lead, and not run off to try and play with other dogs she doesn’t know when off the lead. Some folks say this behaviour will actually get better with age. We’ll see, there are signs of her calming down, so they may very well be correct.

The fact is, she is an intelligent dog and loves to speak back. The chorus of howls she expects from the family when we all return home to her is something to be experienced! She’s also a big lover of bread and cheese. Apart from her own food (and walks, and footballs), these are her very favourite things, and she’ll often sit waiting at our feet, and sometimes on our feet, while we make sandwiches.

There was an occasion, just a couple of days ago in fact, when I thought I’d give her a rare treat and let her have some of my crusty bread. I ripped the roll into two. As I was about to give her half, a crumb fell to the floor and bounced a little way. She pretty much knew she was going to get the bigger bit as I’d told her as much, but despite her high intelligence and her awareness of the situation, she couldn’t help but chase after the crumb, even as I began to reach down with the larger piece. It was like every instinct in her felt that instant gratification for the smaller part was better than waiting for the potential of a greater reward.

You might see where I’m going with this.

Amazingly intelligent people can also seem not to have the patience or wisdom to wait for the greater reward, or preferred outcome, even if the promise has already been made. Some of us seem to prefer the hit of instant gratification and even seek this out in lots of different ways: money and sex, just to name the first few that come to mind. We don’t save, we use credit and sink further into debt, we prefer to sleep around rather than commit to a longer-term relationship, one that could provide comfort and support.

We can be tempted by the immediate and in doing so possibly sacrifice our future.

A story in the New Testament tells us of a time when Jesus was tempted in the desert by satan. Three times He’s promised all sorts of quick rewards if He would only bow down to satan and in doing so give over His future and, in fact, the future of all mankind, to a kingdom of darkness and hopelessness.

The good news for us is that He refused each temptation, He knew the plan and purposes of His Father and committed Himself to a victorious future.

Are you finding yourself tempted by what’s easy rather than learning to wait and possibly needing to work a little harder at getting? I’ve mentioned two earlier, but where else in your life do you think you might need to change how you approach it? Relationships at work maybe, where the quick, thoughtless put down of a colleague makes you seem the funnier guy, the one with all the wit. You might make ‘friends’ quickly, but you’ll find yourself trapped in a character you’ve had to create, one that needs to take things further each time, to keep up with your reputation and being with the ‘in’ crowd. Sarcasm and cynicism become your currency which you spend for cheap laughs and empty support.

Wow, all this from a dog preferring a crumb?

Yep, I’ve been patient, sitting on this moment knowing there was a word to bring and an encouragement to give. Why don’t you try and be the person who is prepared to wait, the person prepared to work at what is really meaningful and see what greater rewards might come your way?

To calibrate means to:
“To check, adjust, or determine by comparison with a standard.”


I’ve been teaching and preaching in church for over 10 years now. I remember the very first time I was asked to preach in front of a crowd. I was on a short placement at a church in Yorkshire, while attending a Bible college in the Midlands, around 2004.


I’d been a Christian for about 3 years, and even though I’d had a number management jobs, and within those companies, I’d also been asked to be a trainer, someone who, on a one to one, or one to many, would teach people how to do their jobs. But preaching in a local church? On a Sunday? Well, this was next level stuff!


What if I misread a passage from the Bible? What if I took a particular bit of Scripture too much out of context and changed it’s meaning completely? What if my, admittedly limited theology at that time, was also different from the church I was preaching at? When would the tomatoes be thrown? Pitchforks raised? Would I be run out of town accused of all sorts of heresy? It turned out I only needed to speak for about 10 minutes, which was a relief because at that time, the church I attended when back home in Leeds, the sermons could go on for well over an hour. Initially, this is what I thought I might be asked to achieve.


I played it safe in the end and gave a short message on ‘having a servant heart’. I thought I couldn’t go far wrong asking people to be kind to one another – we’re Christians after all, this should be our thing! I was so nervous, so nervous in fact that I suffered a dry mouth on stage and literally began to fluff my words. And this from someone who loves acting and who has been on stage many, many times. But that wasn’t acting, this was the word of God, not a script. These were real people, not imaginary characters. So what I had to say, no matter how safe, had eternal ramifications. After several gulps of water, and the longest 10 minutes of my life, it was finally over, and I learned afterwards, I did an okay job.


Okay
, however, is not something that sits well with me. I want to do a great job! In everything, I want to go over and above what is expected and take things to the next level. And so began a decade long journey of comparison and checking myself against the standard of so many fantastic preachers. My style changed from month to month as I adopted the ways of the latest preacher I’d discovered on the internet or read the trendiest book on how to communicate well. I tried so hard to be other people, and no one was off-limits. I’d be shouty and challenging one month, softly spoken and encouraging the next. One month I’d be into telling stories and weaving a web of mystery, and another it would be a 3-point sermon as I dissected a verse or two.


The bottom line is, I hadn’t discovered me, hadn’t figured out who I was in God. And so my standard, on how to preach at least, changed depending on who was the most impressive communicator. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we can take this kind of thinking into lots of other areas of our lives.

  • Who looked like they were doing a better parenting job than me, let’s copy that.
  • Who is the most encouraging person, seemingly always happy and a fantastic person to everyone they meet, let’s be like that.
  • How does that person manage a successful business in such a relaxed manner, but the staff love them? Let’s find the magic ingredient, at least what we think is the magic ingredient, and be like them.


There are plenty more examples of people who are seen to all the world, better people – however you define that. Harder working, awesome parents, great friends, super pastors. If only we could be like all those better people, we would be universally loved and liked and be forever joyful. I tried for so long to be someone who I’m not, in various aspects of my life, preaching being one of them. Until one day, I had a fresh revelation: Jesus is the only standard by which I should compare myself. To try and be like other people, who are just as human as me, with all of humanities quirks and failings, only leads to disappointment and struggle. I needed to be me, the one that is being transformed by the Holy Spirit. A person not swayed by other peoples ideals and opinions, but one who is being re-formed into the image of Christ. For those of us who call ourselves Christian, I think this is a good starting point for us all. Every day we must recalibrate and align ourselves with God’s standard – which is His word and will for our lives. Because it’s so easy to fall back into the trap of comparison and envy.


Instead, we should daily fix our eyes on Jesus and let Him, by His Spirit, change us from the inside out.

Motorbike

In 2009, myself and my family made a ferry crossing over the channel and from there drove to the south of France. It was the first time that I had driven on the opposite side of the road to what I’m used to in the UK and only the second time that I had driven in a foreign country. The first being Ireland on our honeymoon, when we hired a car from Cork airport and drove southwest to County Kerry, a stunningly beautiful place by the way. Still, I wasn’t nervous about driving as they drive on the same side as the UK, the left, and all the road signs were in English! Driving on the European mainland was a different experience altogether.

I recall driving off the ferry at the port of Le Harve, feeling quite anxious. I was so nervous about all sorts of things, one of them was the roundabouts! I’d gone so far as to buy a small transparent sticker for the inside of my windshield which had bendy arrows pointing which way you should go round a roundabout. I thought I might make a big mistake and default to turning left, that would have been a disaster… but I digress.

I drove off the ferry, and we eventually found the main highway which had two lanes on either side, and I managed to drive on the correct one. I didn’t, however, drive in the correct lane. What my mind thought was the ‘slow’ lane (the left), was, of course, the ‘fast’ lane used for overtaking. After a few miles of folks beeping at me and making the odd rude gesture, I finally figured out what I’d done and made a move to the right. The rest of the drive went quite smoothly from there on in.

I say all that just to put something into context that I’d never seen before on UK roads. As I got used to overtaking and spending some time in the ‘fast’ lane, occasionally I would see in my rearview mirror a motorbike approaching, clearly going faster than I was. So I would indicate to go right so that they might pass without ‘undertaking’ me.

But then an odd thing would happen, they would pass by then gently stick their right leg out before zooming off. After this happened a few times it finally clicked what they were doing – they were saying “thank you”. Of course, they didn’t want to let go of the handlebars and raise a hand to say thanks like car drivers do in the UK, so they used their leg! They didn’t have to do this and say thanks. I was probably driving a bit slower than most folks were used to, and so it was quite right that I should move aside.

How many times do we say ‘thank you’ when we probably don’t need to? We would get away with it without any bother. But when we do say thanks, it makes everybody feel just that little bit better about the world.

When you’re crossing at a zebra crossing do you say “thank you” to the driver that has stopped to let you go, or do you think that as it’s your right to cross and you’re both following the rules of the road, you don’t have to?

When someone lets you in line in slow-moving traffic are you one of those people who puts the blinkers on as a way of saying “thank you” to the person behind? When this happens to you, does it make you feel happy, glad to have done your bit for your fellow human, and fleetingly everything is okay with the world?

I think that when we develop a habit of saying “thank you”, and adopt a lifestyle of thankfulness, it helps us truly appreciate what we have and what we have been given. When we put this into the context of our spiritual lives, it is good to cultivate thankfulness by giving thanks regularly to God.

As Christians, we believe that God created everything, and, at least in the beginning, God said it was all good. And although creation doesn’t look like God intended, I think that a thankful heart expressing that thankfulness regularly does something to the circumstances and the atmosphere around us. It gives us a glimpse of what life should be like; one that is worshipful and grateful for every breath and every new day.

There is a verse in the first letter to Timothy in the New Testament that says everything God created is good, and we should not reject any of it, but receive it with thanks.

When you’re next crossing that road, being let into line on the road, receiving change from a shop cashier, getting off that bus, or when a waiter brings you food and so on and so on, say “thank you” and cultivate a lifestyle of thankfulness. Just see what happens to you and those around you when you do.

Pavement

I like getting lost!

Let me clarify that a bit: I love walking and I love visiting new places to walk around in, and I usually don’t want a town or village map letting me know where I am in relation to everywhere else. This can, at times, make my wife Kathi a little nervous, as, despite her many, many other skills and talents, I’m sure she won’t mind me mentioning that she has a pretty poor sense of direction! So, when we’re just walking along, she’s gotten used to trusting me that we’ll find our way back to the car before, often as a last resort, needing to whip out the smartphone to open up a maps app.

I seem to have an innate sense of knowing where I am in geographically. My internal compass, more often than not, knows which way is where and I have a rough idea of where to go, even if I’ve not been someplace before. It’s a little like having an internal sat-nav which I’ve learned to trust will get me where I need to go, even if sometimes we might take an odd short detour, as I said, I like to get lost a little bit, would I see as much, or have as much fun, if we just went straight from A to B?

There’s a thrilling sense of the unknown and a voyage, or a walk, in this case, of discovery, when you set out not quite knowing if you’ll make it back without help! However, there are times when we need to know how to get from A to B in a much more direct way. In the journey of life, for example, knowing what the best decision to make next it is what we all desire, we want to stay on course, as it were, with as little disruption as possible.

Here’s the thing, we don’t need a sat-nav, real or imagined, to help us feel secure and safe when we trust our lives to Jesus. In one of the Biblical Psalms, there is a line that says God will watch over us, advise us, and find the best pathway for our lives.

If we learn to trust God, rather than listening to doubt and fear about which way to go, we’ll find taking the next step on our life journey easier than without. Even if you’ve got a great sense of direction built-in, you will, on occasion, stumble down a blind alley and need to perform a 180.

Sometimes His quiet whisper will make us take a pause, and almost mid-step He’ll help us reconsider the course we have set, and we might find we need to change direction as we focus on Him – as His desired will for our lives becomes our will for our lives.

Can you think of times, where you probably know you shouldn’t be heading one particular direction? A decision just didn’t feel right, but you took the plunge and pressed on ahead anyway, and things didn’t turn out the way you had imagined?

Why not take time to listen? Set aside time to listen to that still small voice inside, the one that doesn’t sound like a sat-nav, but the one that sounds like a loving Father wanting the very best for His child.

I hear the Lord saying,
“I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you
along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way
and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.
(Psalm 32:8-9)

Good Vibes Only

Until it completely healed itself a few short weeks ago, I had been suffering terribly for months with what turned out to be sciatic pain. This pain started as an odd sensation near my hip, feeling numb and a little uncomfortable and gradually turned into excruciating pain shooting down from the top of my buttocks to my ankle. I couldn’t walk properly and certainly couldn’t run. Sleeping was broken up. Night after night, I would be tossing and turning, trying to find a different position to relieve the pain but to no avail. To say I got a little grumpy would be an understatement!

The good news is eventually, with a combination of drugs, exercise and targeted prayer, the pain eased, and any sensation of numbness has pretty much gone. (If you’re interested you can find more info about sciatic pain HERE.)

There was a period as I was going through the worst of it, where I found myself sitting on my sofa, not wanting even to get up and get a drink of water. The thought occurred to me that I could either become very cross that the pain in my leg was stopping me from doing anything at all or take the opportunity to see if there was anything positive I could bring to the situation.

What positivity could there possibly be? It was when I realised that not being able to do much had given me time to slooooow down. Typically I’m going from one thing to the next, thinking about what needs to happen next at both Church and home. Not being active had forced me not to try and do everything. It’s not that I can’t delegate responsibilities, but if something needs doing, I often think it’s just quicker for me to get it done. Being incapacitated, however, makes you rely on other people. It helps you develop trust that they can do it just as good, if not better than you. They only need the moment to shine.

It’s not nice to be in pain, but pain can be a useful thing, physical pain tells us that something is wrong with our bodies and that it needs attention. Mental trauma is a different kind of pain, and sometimes even our reality will change as our brains try and protect us from a traumatic experience. This reality change is recognised as a psychotic episode. Most often, mental pain, however, is the pain of grief and loss, and the feeling of powerlessness.

I don’t believe that God brings us pain to test us, but I think He can use the pain to show us something, grow character and change us. For example, most of us will willingly enter into new relationships; the human condition makes this a priority. As Christians, the ideal is to copy Jesus in our relationships and try and fulfil His commandment of making disciples. We begin every relationship knowing that one day we might lose them – whether that be bodily, geographically or simply because people change. God still wants us to enter into relationships with others, it’s a Heavenly mandate, even though it has the potential to bring us pain, but, to repeat, I don’t believe He is the source of that pain.

Sometimes, as with grief, we have to walk through the deep pain of loss. We never deny the loss, but one day we realise we have moved on, never forgetting, but we find ourselves on a new independent path. Journeying through grief and pain is a normal process, but choosing to wallow in pain and misery is not a good thing. To wallow is to stay in one place, not willing to walk a path of healing, often feeling sorry for ourselves and hoping that others will join us in our pity party. 

To wallow is to stay in the water, or the mud. Wallowing might keep the flies off – like giant African beasts – and keep us safe from those people or that thing wanting to do us further harm, but if we never venture out, never attempt to step out despite our pain, then we’ll never have the chance to grow. We’ll never have the opportunity to change the world. We live in a fallen creation, but rather than abiding by it’s fallen rules we need to make creation abide by the rules of Heaven. We need to genuinely occupy our role as stewards and caretakers, declaring the goodness of God in all situations, 

As Christians, we believe that Jesus suffered considerable physical pain, and significant mental anguish was brought about by what He faced and what He ultimately conquered. God stepped into our anguish and fallen state and took on the greatest suffering, so we didn’t have to. The Father knows what it’s like to lose a Son, and the Son knows what it is to suffer as we do. However, despite what it may seem, this is a story of absolute assurance in the goodness of God, and regardless of the circumstances, indeed because of the circumstances, we can overcome every obstacle.

33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] JOHN 16:33 (AMPLIFIED BIBLE)

The disciples of Jesus didn’t know victory would come in the shape of their Master dying on the Cross, and near the end, they felt utterly defeated, they didn’t understand what had just occurred. The lesson from this is that we should not stop declaring how good God is despite what we see and despite how we feel. First and foremost in all situations, we should maintain we have a good God and speak out what we see through Heavenly eyes – which is seeing best for us, the best in us, and the best around us – declare what we desire as it lines up with God’s will for us. Even Jesus said as it’s written in Luke 22:42-44:

42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup of agony away from me. But no matter what, your will must be mine.” 43 Jesus called for an angel of glory to strengthen him, and the angel appeared. 44 He prayed even more passionately, like one being sacrificed, until he was in such intense agony of spirit that his sweat became drops of blood, dripping onto the ground.

Jesus, in this passage of Scripture, asked for the mental anguish, the psychological pain to be taken from Him. However, He immediately responds to His own request that His will be lined up with His Father’s will and through that He prayed even more. Jesus pressed into His Father even more, even though what is to come is not taken from Him. Jesus is still suffering, so much so that His mental state translated into a physical response as He sweated actual blood. But again He prayed, still leaned into His purpose and mission.

We see from this story that despite our declarations for healing and deliverance from pain, we may never see it in this earthly life. However, we will see it come to pass in eternity. 

Despite what I’ve just written, most of us who are believers will be able to testify that healing can come while we live on earth. We may even have experienced it personally. It might have come instantly, or it took several years to come. Here is a quote from a blog post by Jarrod Cooper, a Pastor, I might even say an apostle to the Church, who leads Revive Church in Hull, he wrote:

“Healing is a battle that must be won, not simply a “special moment” in a church service. Equipping people to fight and keep their healing, is as important as the powerful encounter that brings the healing in the first place.”

www.jarrodcooper.net


Part of that equipping is finding the positive in the circumstance and declaring the Goodness of God through it all. Let me remind you of a verse in James 1:17:

17 Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights, who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject to change.

I said to one of our children recently, who is struggling to say anything good about school, and as such, this is affecting their mood and their mental attitude: “You put positivity in, you get positivity out.” That sentence might sound a bit pithy and even a little trite to some, but at the heart of this simple phrase is a powerful key in helping us escape the wallowing in our pain or the room of self-pity into which we lock ourselves.

There is a reason why self-help gurus are the superstars in the first few decades of this new millennium, why positivity books are the new Bible for many – because it works. I think it’s incredible that as we smile, as we say good things or think positive thoughts, our bodies and our minds, for most people, are physiologically and chemically changed for the better. I’ve read many, many articles that all say it makes a massive difference to how we live our lives.

A simple example is that if we sit and walk with our backs straight, this will give us greater confidence and inner strength. Not only that, it helps physically with our posture, which reduces back problems! And if we tell ourselves out loud that we can swim that extra length or run that extra mile, we find the inner conviction to do it. As we do, we become healthier, we push ourselves, and we see the rewards of our positive mental attitude.

Now, imagine if in all that, through all that and around all that, is the Word of God! Imagine how much more powerful our positive declarations are when we invoke the power of Heaven. When we declare by His Holy Spirit, words of encouragement and speak His truths into all situations? Proverbs 18:21 tells us that our “words are so powerful that they will kill or give life.” Proverbs 16:24 says, “Nothing is more appealing than speaking beautiful, life-giving words. For they release sweetness to our souls and inner healing to our spirits.”

At the very beginning of time, God spoke creation into existence! Not only that, He said that what He had spoken into existence was good, and made well. Our words matter too. As humans, we are created in God’s image, the One who speaks life into being. We will experience pain, we will go through pain, but remember that the one who spoke creation into existence has also felt our pain and He has overcome. We are overcomers too, using our own words to inspire us and our positive thoughts to guide us, we can be who God desires us to be, in all situations and at all times. Our pain may stay with us, and in grief especially, but we can learn how to turn that process to good as we look to see how it can change us and grow us. We can do this because, despite our pain and our tribulations, we have a God who speaks, a God who acts, a Father who loves us and is with us through His Spirit. Romans 8:38-39 says that nothing can separate us from God’s love. I love The Passion Translation of the Bible, which reads: 

“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that His love triumphs over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that weakens His love. There is no power above us or beneath us – no power can ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”

God speaks life over us with His love! What an immeasurable gift! God gives our words power. God speaks life-giving Words over us through His people and His Scriptures. As Christians, we have a calling to speak life-giving words over others and ourselves, despite our circumstances. We can speak life through encouragement, adoration, love, and prayer.

“To be a believer in Jesus Christ means realising that what Jesus said to Thomas is true: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is not the road we leave behind as we travel, but the Way itself. By believing, we enter into that rest of peace, holiness, and eternal life because we are abiding in Him.” – Oswald Chambers