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Is your life limited by labels the world and other people have used to define you?
Labels you have internalized and apply to yourself every day. Labels like Afraid. Or Addict. Orphan. Damaged Goods. Failure. Maybe even Religious. These labels might be sewn into your life with such tight little stitches that they feel like a part of you. They feel like they define you. But that?s a lie. If you let Him, Jesus can remove those old labels and tattoo new ones onto your soul. Then ...
Is your life limited by labels the world and other people have used to define you?
Labels you have internalized and apply to yourself every day. Labels like Afraid. Or Addict. Orphan. Damaged Goods. Failure. Maybe even Religious. These labels might be sewn into your life with such tight little stitches that they feel like a part of you. They feel like they define you. But that’s a lie. If you let Him, Jesus can remove those old labels and tattoo new ones onto your soul. Then you’ll begin to see yourself as God the Father sees you. The limits will be lifted, and your life will be transformed. It’s the truth. Join Pastor Derwin Gray on a fascinating journey into what can happen when you offer your head, your heart, and your hands to the only one who can offer you truly limitless life.
FROM AFRAID TO COURAGEOUS
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
PICTURE A BATTLEFIELD. THE PHILISTINES HAVE GATHERED THEIR ARMY for battle on one side of the mountain; the Israelites are gathered on the other. Between the two armies lies a valley.
But there is far more than a valley separating Israel from victory. Yes, a giant named Goliath—a seasoned, undefeated champion—towers over them.
And yet, something even more dangerous than the indomitable giant stands in their way. What could possibly strike more fear in their hearts than this unconquered foe? A message that evokes insecurity, an even more insurmountable opponent—the label stitched in Israel's heart: "Afraid." Its message has been ingrained so deeply that fear has paralyzed them and robbed them of the ability to seize their destiny.
In the days of ancient Israel, wars were sometimes settled when the two champions from rival armies fought to the death. The victor and his people would then enslave their opponents. For forty days, Goliath demanded that an Israelite fight him, but none stepped up. No man from Israel had the courage to enter the valley and fight on behalf of his nation. Not a single one was willing to defend God's honor.
For a while it appeared that fear had won the day. Each Israeli soldier had surrendered his destiny because he'd accepted the "Afraid" label and allowed it to produce such fear in him that even living as a slave became an acceptable alternative to taking up arms.
Then God sent David.
DAVID WAS DIFFERENT
The daily routine of Goliath's challenge to Israel and their refusal to rise to the occasion continued—until one day, when a boy named David arrived on the scene. The lad showed up believing his assignment was to see how his brothers, soldiers in Israel's army, were doing. Little did David know that God had a plan in sending him. The God of Israel was getting ready to rewrite history.
As David was checking on his brothers, the teenager heard Goliath challenge the armies of the living God. These taunts pierced David's heart, and he was stunned that no man from the nation of Israel would accept Goliath's challenge.
But David was different. Though limited by size, experience, and strength, he accepted the giant's invitation to battle.
Goliath seemed superior to David on all fronts, so why did the teen respond to the call? What made David think he would fare any better than every man in Israel's army? He responded because he was courageous. Instead of allowing the label "Afraid" to define him, he permitted the life-giving label "Courageous" to guide him. David knew who he was and whose he was, and therefore he knew how to be courageous. David had a firm grasp on his identity as a child of God, and it was his faith in that label that enabled him to act—and history was changed.
The "Afraid" label produces fear. And fear is a thief that steals the courage of far too many, paralyzing and imprisoning them in a life of mediocrity. I've not only seen it, I have experienced it. My story is tattooed with "Afraid." Perhaps yours is too.
FEAR OF REJECTION
My dad was nineteen when I was born. By the time I was six, he was pretty much out of my life. I only saw him from time to time after that. My precious mom was seventeen, just a baby herself, when she gave birth to me. Yet for one so young, her heart was already deeply wounded due to the many destructive labels painfully stitched into it. The damage they'd inflicted was an ongoing struggle in her life, so my grandmother primarily raised me, and my grandfather provided for my physical needs.
As a little guy, I really couldn't process what was going on in my family. I just knew that Dad was not around and that Mom was in and out of my life. In my little child's mind, I understood that certain people who should have been close to me were not consistently around, though I didn't know why. As early as I can remember, an "Afraid" label in my heart produced a fear of rejection. And it limited me.
Just like the Israelites, I was paralyzed by "Afraid." I couldn't fight for my destiny because fear stood in the way. By the time I reached my early twenties, that label had become so firmly affixed to my heart that I feared every relationship I had would end with rejection. I was consumed with thoughts such as, Why let anyone get close to me when ultimately they will leave me? I intentionally kept people at a distance. My heart was in a steel cage, and I wouldn't let anyone have the key.
FEAR OF NOT BEING "GOOD ENOUGH"
The "Afraid" label also produces the fear of not being good enough. It certainly did for me. Despite my success as an NFL player, I never felt I measured up—in anything.
That fear started when I was about nine and tried out for my first football team. I still remember the coach calling out the names of the players who made the cut. As he called out each one, I waited to hear my name, but I never did.
One of the coaches approached me, and I remember trying my best to hold back the tears as he said, "You've got to come back next year. You were not good enough this year." With that, the fear of never being good enough began lodging itself in my heart. I wish just one person had told me, "Derwin, your value as a human is not in making a football team. You are valuable because God purchased your life with the life of His Son."
Although I did not make the first team I tried out for, I developed an insatiable work ethic from the experience. It propelled me to work hard as a high school football player for the legendary coach D. W. Rutledge, at Converse Judson High School in Converse, Texas. We won the 1988 state championship, and I was named first team all-state. Later I was the recipient of a Division I scholarship to Brigham Young University (BYU).
Despite this success, however, the "Afraid" label already had been firmly embedded in my soul. I was still afraid I was not good enough. I learned that even earthly success couldn't strip away negative labels. No matter how successful I was, I remained crushed under the weight of fear. This continued to plague me as a college football player at Brigham Young, and later in the NFL.
The Israelites were crushed by this same fear. All they could see was Goliath's size and reputation. They could not understand, as David did, the strength that would be theirs through their faith.
FEAR OF NOT BEING SMART ENOUGH
Ever felt dumb? For much of my life, I did. Yet I'm one of the only men in my family to graduate from high school or college.
As a child, I was pretty much on my own with my homework. My grandmother only had a sixth-grade education, and no one else was around to help. Additionally, I had a severe stuttering problem and did not dare ask questions in class. Who wants to be laughed at? In tenth grade, I took French, and for one of the tests, everyone had to stand in front of the class and speak in French. Because of my stuttering, I just couldn't do it. Mercifully, the teacher let me make my presentation after class. With those significant obstacles in my way, school was an ongoing struggle, and I labeled myself as "dumb."
Throughout high school and college, I took classes I knew I could pass with ease in order to stay eligible for football. I didn't challenge myself in school. I took the easy road, all because I thought I was dumb.
The irony is that today I have a master's degree with honors (magna cum laude), and a radio show that reaches about 350,000 people per week. I've worked for ESPNU and FOX TV in Charlotte, North Carolina, as a football analyst, and I'm a pastor. None of these accomplishments fits with the "dumb" perception I had of myself. None could have been realized if I had continued to wear the "Afraid" label. I allowed that label to rob me of so much in my youth, unlike David, who did not allow his youth or the label his people wore to stand in the way of doing what he knew was right.
FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN
At BYU, I met Vicki, a striking javelin thrower. She became my girlfriend in the winter of 1990, and my wife on May 23, 1992. She was twenty-two, and I was just twenty-one when we got married.
Neither Vicki nor I went to church. We hadn't a clue who Jesus was or how His love had the power to transform lives. What we did know was that we were afraid. Vicki's parents had gotten a divorce when she was five. And the first wedding I'd ever attended was my own!
My bride and I had no idea how our labels would negatively affect us after saying, "I do." My fear of rejection would limit my ability to let her love me and would cause me to withhold love from her. At the same time, her fear of being discovered as imperfect would limit her ability both to love me and to receive love from me.
The Israelites encountered this same type of limiting fear. They cowered in their tents, allowing Goliath to mock their God and demean their people on a daily basis. But David waded into the unknown, trusting that the God in whom he had full faith would equip and protect him in defeating this enemy.
God has a stunning vision for your life, but if He showed it to you all at once, it would be too much to handle. In His grace, He gives small glimpses at a time, and His unimaginable vision for your life can only unfold as you have the courage, like David, to move into the unknown. But when the "Afraid" label is sewn into our hearts, we fear the unknown. This fear holds us back from seizing our destinies and accomplishing what God has called and created us to accomplish.
FEAR OF FAILURE
I'm often asked if I miss playing in the NFL. I always say, "No!" The reason is that for five of my six years in the NFL, I did not enjoy football because of soul-crushing fear.
As a little boy, my dream was to play in the National Football League. On April 25, 1993, that dream became a reality when the Indianapolis Colts drafted me. But I spent every day waiting for the coaches to tell me I was not good enough anymore, that I was no longer needed on the team. I lived in fear that they would fire me. And if I got fired, who would I be if not an NFL player? I'd be a nobody. And this thought made it impossible to enjoy living out my dream.
On June 17, 1996, my wife gave birth to Presley, our daughter. The first moment Presley's big brown eyes caught mine, she had my heart. I've been in love with that girl ever since. But immediately after she captured my heart, all kinds of thoughts ran through my mind: What kind of dad will I be? I never had a dad. Who is going to teach me to father her? Can I protect her from guys like I used to be?
Then, on August 22, 2000, my son, Jeremiah, arrived on the scene. Again, more fear and questions. Even though I was a Christ-follower by that time, that old "Afraid" label continued to limit me.
Today I am the lead pastor of an incredible church called Transformation Church. This was not on my agenda in any way when I was attending college. In fact, starting a church and becoming a pastor were never on my list of goals. But God had other plans.
I was in one of my seminary classes, working through the book of Ephesians, when God very clearly impressed on my heart: Start a church. Call it Transformation Church, because I transform lives. I want it to reflect My heart and be multiethnic.
I wasn't just afraid. I was terrified. How could someone who didn't grow up in church start one? How could a stutterer get up and speak to people on a regular basis? And I had struggled through school. How could I teach others?
Only God knows how many dreams have been killed at the altar of fear. It must break His heart to see dreams He has placed in so many people's hearts go unrealized because we have more faith in fear than in Him. But in a world with so many "Goliaths," how can we be fearless like David?
TIME FOR A NEW LABEL
We have looked at some of the many fears that can be produced by the "Afraid" labels in our hearts. Now it's time to begin replacing those labels with a new one: "Courageous." Let's walk through some keys to courage that will begin to wipe out fear's limiting message in your heart.
Key 1: Have a Humble Heart
At one point in Israel's history, God rejected the reigning king, Saul. The man just couldn't obey God, not even to save his life. (You can read about his shenanigans in 1 Samuel 15.) When God gave the prophet Samuel the assignment of finding the next king of Israel, He led Samuel to Jesse's home.
Jesse had several impressive-looking sons, and Samuel probably thought choosing a king from among them would be simple, a no-brainer—but God didn't want any of them to be king. He wanted the boy who stood among the smelly sheep, David. Why? Because David was humble. God only stitches new labels in the hearts of those who are humble enough to admit they need new ones.
We have a tendency to go after the Goliaths, seeking glory, before spending the time learning how to humbly serve where God wants us. Yet, before David stood ready to fight Goliath in the valley, he had stood in a different valley, taking care of a dirty, stinky flock. Before he defeated the great giant, he had humbly allowed God to shape his character while he had the seemingly insignificant task of tending some animals.
Many great, epic displays of God's glory through His children are built on hours, even years, of performing an unnoticeable, seemingly unimportant task. It was in the valley of sheep that God made humble David into "a man of valor." There God imprinted the label "Courageous" on David's heart, transforming a lowly boy into "a man of war" as he honed his skills at warding off lions and bears, and preparing him to defend what He would one day entrust to his care. While David wore a shepherd's garb, God was making him "a man of good presence" (1 Sam. 16:15), one who gained dignity as he took responsibility for his family in the absence of his brothers.
In the valley of sheep, David learned to depend on God. God's presence, provision, and power accompanied David wherever he went, and people could see it. This set him on the path to defeating Goliath. But in fact, because of his time alone with God, David had defeated Goliath before the battle even started. Muhammad Ali, perhaps the greatest boxer to ever live, was right when he said, "The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses—behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights."
Maybe you're in your own valley of sheep right now. Maybe you think you are going unnoticed and your assignment is not what you want it to be. Just remember, we must go through the valley, where we humble ourselves before God, before we can go out for God and bring Him glory by slaying a Goliath. You glorify God, too, by being faithful in the small things.
Many people never get to slay a Goliath because they think that taking care of sheep is beneath them. This is pride, and God resists the proud but generously gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
Key 2: Believe That God and His Love for You Are Bigger Than Your Giant
Fear caused the men in Israel's army to think that the giant was bigger than God. But David took Goliath's challenge because he knew God was bigger than the giant. When God stitches the "Courageous" label in your heart, giants seem small in comparison to Him. You will find yourself attempting things for God's glory that make no sense to most people. The odds will be stacked against you, but courage moves us to trust God, who is greater than any odds, to act on our behalf so He will be made famous through us.
Never forget this: fear paralyzes us from acting on behalf of God's glory, but faith mobilizes us to live courageously for God's glory. And David had faith that God loved him.
My children, Presley and Jeremiah, know that I love them. They trust me. And because of that, courage surges through them because they know Daddy has their backs. When we know God loves us, we trust Him. Do you know that God loves you?
I'm not asking if you simply know that as a theological fact. I'm asking if you have experienced God's love as the apostle Paul describes:
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Eph. 3:16–19 NLT)
Like David, when we know God loves us, we can trust Him when we face the giants of life. The Philistine giant didn't intimidate David because David knew God's love for him was bigger than Goliath. The giant didn't limit David's life because the God without limits propelled David to victory. You can face your giants and win too.
Excerpted from LIMITLESS LIFE by DERWIN L. GRAY. Copyright © 2013 Derwin L. Gray. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
ONE From Afraid to Courageous.................... 1
TWO From Addict to Free.................... 25
THREE From Mess to Masterpiece.................... 49
FOUR From Orphan to Adopted.................... 69
FIVE From Damaged Goods to Trophy of Grace.................... 87
SIX From Religious to Grace-Covered.................... 107
SEVEN From Consumer to Contributor.................... 131
EIGHT From Purposeless to Purposeful.................... 155
NINE From Worker to Worshiper.................... 177
TEN From Failure to Faithful.................... 197
About the Author.................... 225
Posted August 29, 2013
I just finished reading this book and it was amazing!!! I am so thankful to know we can all live a limitless life. I have started sharing this book with everyone I know. I think everyone can benefit from it. We all have labels, but only God can remove those labels. This book has also helped me to forgive a family member that I have a hurtful past with. I have chosen to let go of the hurt and release myself from the prison cell of unforgiveness. I'm even going to purchase the book for my family member because I want her to experience God's grace. This book has definitely been an eye opener for me.
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Posted September 6, 2013
Derwin Gray hit this one out of the park! I could not put this book down! Gray shares incredibly personal and powerful true stories that will hit home with every reader. Experiences (both those that we controlled and those that we didn't) have shaped who we are, but this book is a much-needed reminder that our past does not define us and that we can be so much more because God is in control of our future. I became a fan of Pastor Derwin's when a friend shared his book "Hero" with me a few years ago. God is using Gray's fresh perspective and down-to-earth voice to speak to the hearts of many!
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Posted December 13, 2013
What a wonderful book. We need to see ourselves as Jesus sees us, not through the false labels that we let define us. This is a good companion to Pastor Derwin's sermon series at transformationchurch.tc - look in the sermon archives for the Limitless Life series and way back to 2011 for the Labels series. Worth your time!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.