In today's world, innumerable books, articles, and websites give advice on how to cope with life's situations. But it is how we think about our faith, family, and goals that remains at the heart of our desire to change. If we want ultimate victory, peace, and joy, then the solution is simple: we need to turn our minds to the Lord.
A unique self-help guide, Overcoming Life's Challenges shares scriptural principles that, if implemented properly, give you powerful tools for dealing with difficult times and circumstances. Through personal testimonies and biblical examples, Dr. N. George Utuk illustrates fourteen key concepts to developing "right" thinking during times of severe trials.
Dr. Utuk shares how to change thought patterns by focusing on God and developing a personal relationship with Him. Discover how to maximize your faith, become your own cheerleader, thrive in the midst of despair, and trust in God to keep you anchored to Him. In addition, you can learn how to live in joyful hope. But above all, you can decide that quitting is never an option.
Sure to give strength and hope for whatever journey awaits you, Overcoming Life's Challenges reveals the triumph we can find within the arms of the Lord.
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Overcoming Life's ChallengesFourteen Keys to Thriving During Difficult Times
By N. George Utuk
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 N. George Utuk, PhD
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGod Has a Plan for You
For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. &mdashJeremiah 29:11
God Has Plans
He was born to Christian parents. When his mother was pregnant with him, she went to church to pray. While there, she had a vision. In it, a beam shone through the stained-glass window of the church directly toward her belly. Then she heard melodious music coming from the light. It transcended any music she had heard on earth. A voice emanating from the beam announced that the music was sounds from heaven that God was releasing into the child in the womb. When the child grew up, he would release the music to be a blessing, bringing healing and joy to many.
In the fifth grade, the young boy began taking music lessons. When his parents relocated to another state, Paul (not his real name) began to study trumpet at the junior high school he attended and also at a nearby private school. While in high school, he played competitively and won several music awards, including the Amsterdam World Musical Award. As a result, upon graduation, he was offered several music scholarships.
In his sophomore year in college, Paul released his first album. In his senior year, he entered a national television talent search and won. Shortly afterward, Paul became nationally renowned while touring and recording with major artists. Unfortunately, during this time, he became heavily involved with drug use. At some point, it seemed, the vision that God had given his mother had dissipated into the clouds. But this was not to be, because his parents and many others were praying for Paul.
When all hope of serving the Lord with his musical talent appeared to have been lost, God stepped in and instituted His plan for this young man. On Christmas day of 1977, my friend and his wife decided to go to church for the first time in many years. According to him, they were both "filled with a new sense of dedication to their spiritual life" while the service was going on. In that service, Paul surrendered his life to the Lord and became a Christian. Consequently, he was immediately delivered from his drug use and dedicated his musical gifts to promoting his newfound faith. What the enemy had meant for evil, God turned to good.
After becoming a Christian and dedicating his life and musical talent to God, Paul was nominated and won such prestigious music awards as the Grammy for best gospel performer, the Christian Music Association Award for best musician, the Canadian Christian Music Award of the Year and the Gospel Music Association Dove Award for best instrumental album. In addition, Paul has been nominated for two additional Grammys for best pop album and best gospel Christian/pop album. Also, since the dedication of his music career to promoting the cause of Christ, Paul has performed for several presidents of the United States.
Satan Only Departs for a Season
The Bible teaches us not to be ignorant of the tactics of the enemy, and one of the tactics he uses to destroy God's people is to step back, regroup, and return at an opportune time after a failed attempt to bring them down. That was what he did with my friend Paul. Satan had tried at an early age to destroy him with drugs. He failed, though, when the young man gave his life to the Lord and dedicated his music to furthering the cause of Christ.
Unfortunately, when Paul was at the peak of his musical career, the enemy sought again to destroy him and his witness. Paul and his wife were falsely accused and indicted for tax fraud. While his wife was later cleared of all the charges brought against her, Paul was sentenced to one year in a federal penitentiary.
But while in prison, like Joseph in the Bible, he poured his life and gift into serving the Lord by ministering to the inmates and the officials instead of becoming bitter because of his situation. As a result of his dedication while incarcerated, he became so influential in the prison that when he left, the prison officials testified that the place would never be the same again. This was because of the influence of Paul on the other inmates and on the institution as a whole. But that was not all that God intended to accomplish out of that situation. Just a month ago as I was writing this book, after the case had been in court for three years, Paul was cleared of all wrongdoing by a federal judge.
Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God, I shall be exalted over the heathens, I will be exalted in the earth." Our problem as human beings is that we often give up on our situations before God is through with us. Many times, believers in Christ give up before the verdict comes in. Thank God that Paul never gave up.
Although the case was not retried in criminal court, it did go to civil court. After three years before a US Tax Court, the judge ruled in Paul's favor, stating that he had done nothing illegal. The initial lawsuit was based on the assumption that a minister could not receive parsonage allowance for two homes, which Paul did. But in his case, he used the two homes exclusively as homes, not for commercial purposes. Therefore, he did not break any law by claiming the two homes as residences on his income tax returns. The judge ruled that this was not illegal since he had regularly used the two homes as residences, thus clearing Paul of all wrongdoing and thereby extending victory to thousands of ministers all over the United States. Exactly what Paul's detractors meant for bad, God turned to good so that many would be blessed (Genesis 50:20).
Obviously, many of you reading this book may find it difficult to identify with the challenge of faith that my friend experienced, first because you are not a minister and secondly because you may not have multiple houses. These facts notwithstanding, I believe that we all can identify with the fact that regardless of the nature of the challenge you're now facing, God can step into the situation and bring something good out of it. When all the winds blow away, not only will you be vindicated, but God is going to use the outcome of your trial to bless many others.
Your Dreams Will Live Again
"So what is the point you are trying to make, Pastor George? What are you trying to accomplish by telling your friend's story?" I am glad you asked. My first point is that just because you are a Christian does not mean that you are exempted from attacks by the enemy, Satan. In fact, if you have dedicated yourself and your career to the Lord and His service, you should expect challenges from the enemy. But the good news is that it is never over until God says it's over. And when God says it's over, we always win.
The Bible tells us that God always causes us to triumph in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14). This is not to say that things will always go the way you expected at the initial stage of the journey. What I am saying is that even though your dreams may have vanished and your hopes may have dried up, if you listen carefully, you will hear God saying, "Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; ... If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay" (Habakkuk 2:2–3, ESV).
Secondly, I am saying that sometimes when you are dealing with God and His timetable, things may get worse before they get better. Like my friend Paul, you may have to suffer for something you did not do before being exonerated. Like Joseph in the Bible, you sometimes may have to go through the pit and the prison to get to the palace.
Obviously, no one wants to go to prison for a crime he or she did not commit. And every one of us who prayed and stood with Paul wished for him to receive justice from the criminal court judge and not end up in prison as he did. However, after all was said and done, the laws were changed so that no minister of the Gospel in the United States will ever again go to prison for owning two residences that he or she uses not for commercial purposes but as residential homes.
Let me encourage you, my friend, to refuse to listen to the voices of despondency, discouragement, and defeat that fight for your attention now. Instead, start listening to and claiming God's promises relating to your present situation. To tell you the truth, standing on God's word in your present situation is not only recommended but required. You cannot afford not to stand. Once you commit your life to God, you become a target of the enemy, who will do all in his power to try to take you out of the game.
Isaiah 30:21 (NIV) says, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" This was God's promise to His people at a time when they desperately needed answers to what they were facing in their personal lives. Ephesians 6:11 (NIV) says, "Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand against the devil's schemes." Standing against the devil's schemes involves digging your feet into the promises relating to your situation and arming yourself with God's word. So you see, friend, the two things you need most for your breakthrough are an ear open to hear from God and the courage and strength to stand on what He promises.
And let me encourage you, while you are standing on God's promises, to keep prophesying life to your situation. Keep speaking life to the situation you are facing until the dry bones in your valley of despair and despondency turn into an army of hope, promotion, and increase. The prophet Ezekiel, standing in the midst of the valley of dry bones, was commanded to prophesy over them in order to resurrect them. Speaking about his experience, the prophet said, "So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath entered them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet—an army" (Ezekiel 37:10, NIV). Friend, you must keep speaking life to your situation regardless of how it looks, and as you do so, expect a change for the better.
In anticipation of your breakthrough and while waiting for the fulfillment of God's promise to you, you must keep praising the God who "calls those things that are not as though they were" (Romans 4:17). Keep doing so, and watch God turn even the dead bones in your life into an army you can use to defeat your enemy. The God who restored to Job double his original possessions at the end of his life is the same. Right now, you may be living with the bruises or scars inflicted by life's situations, but you will live to see your scars turn to stars.
God Always Has a Plan
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says, "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Friend, regardless of what you are going through at this particular time in your life, God wants you to know that He has your back. He has a master plan for your life that no man or circumstance will be able to thwart if you stay faithful. There is no conceivable combination of circumstances that is capable of bringing down a man or woman who is established on the promises of God.
But God not only has a master plan for your life that can never be thwarted by any evil device, He also has specific plans that will enable you to come out on top of every specific situation you ever face. Yes, He has a specific plan for the situation you are wrestling with right now. This is not a plan haphazardly or desperately put together; it's a plan uniquely designed based on the fact that He knew what was going to take place in your life today.
If you stay faithful and refuse to give in to bitterness, doubts, and despair, God will use even humiliating circumstances in your life for your promotion and increase. He did it for His servant Joseph, He did it for my friend Paul, and He has done it for me innumerable times. So no matter how hard the enemy has worked to mess things up for you, no matter how crazy and confusing things may be right now, I encourage you to hold on to your faith in God and watch Him perform stupendous miracles on your behalf.
My friend, you must hold on to the truth that you serve a faithful God who will never abandon you in the middle of a fight. Hold on to the promise that "though weeping may endure for a night, your joy will definitely come in the morning" (Psalm 30:5). Yes, hold on to the promise that though your beginning may be small, yet your God will cause you to experience increase in your latter days (Deuteronomy 1:11). I assure you that God always has a plan to set things right, and when what you are dealing with right now is all over, your days will be better than anything you ever imagined or even dreamed about.
When the Egyptians enslaved the people of God for four hundred years, they thought that God's plan of a country for His people had vanished. But in the end, it was God who laughed last and laughed the best. After four hundred years of slavery, God delivered His people and eventually gave them the land He had promised to them. And so it will be in your present situation if you don't give up on God or His promises to you. When Potiphar sent Joseph to prison for a crime he did not commit, to many who knew Joseph, it seemed it was the last time anyone would ever hear from him. But in time, God's master plan overruled any plans that the enemy made.
When my friend Paul was indicted and sentenced to serve time in prison for a crime he never committed, the devil and his cohorts thought they had had the last say. All his critics and detractors thought they had him where they wanted him. However, God had a master plan that not only would exonerate Paul but also would provide protection for future ministers of the Gospel.
So never count God out and never think that you know all that He is going to bring out of a situation. Never put God in a box, because you don't have a big enough box to contain all God's plans, thoughts, dreams, and desires for you. Don't ever judge God by one snapshot, because no one shot is big or clear enough to show the full detail of God's plan for you. Sometimes, you may have to take a thousand or more snapshots and wait to put them together before you can have a glimpse of His plan for you. Galatians 6:9 says, "So we must not be weary of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time, if we don't give up."
Ruth, one of my favorite characters in the scriptures, is a typical example of what I am talking about here. Ruth went through serious heartache and pains after losing her husband and father-in-law to tragic circumstances. She had every reason to become bitter toward God. Believing that this was not the end of her story, she held firmly to her faith in this God. The heartache and pain continued until Ruth walked into one of those favorable moments arranged by God that completely changed her life forever.
The moment Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer, walked onto that farm, everything changed for Ruth. She did not even realize it until later on in her life. Similarly, God has set the moment, time, and place for your turn around. If you hold on to your faith in God and refuse to be bitter, you'll soon have a surprise of your life. Just as Boaz did for Ruth, God has ordered favor to be dropped on your path on purpose. Yes! Handfuls of favor, which include promotion, health, wealth, and increase, have been dropped on your path for you. Don't be shy. Go for it! And while you are pursuing God's ultimate goal for you, be content with what God has given and is doing in your life right now. Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) says, "Let your conduct be without covetousness and be content with such things as you have. For He himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"
Excerpted from Overcoming Life's Challenges by N. George Utuk Copyright © 2012 by N. George Utuk, PhD. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsWhat People Are Saying about This Book....................i
Chapter 1. God Has a Plan for You....................1
Chapter 2. God Remembers You....................9
Chapter 3. When You Don't Know What to Do....................19
Chapter 4. Each Day Is a Gift from God....................37
Chapter 5. Get Out of Survival Mode....................47
Chapter 6. The Power of Faith over Fear....................55
Chapter 7. Make Your Words Work for You....................67
Chapter 8. Train Your Mind to Work for You....................79
Chapter 9. He's the God of Completion and Restoration....................95
Chapter 10. A Prisoner of Hope....................103
Chapter 11. Great Is His Faithfulness....................119
Chapter 12. What Do You Know?....................135
Chapter 13. Become Your Own Cheerleader....................147
Chapter 14. Don't Quit!....................157
About the Author....................177
We Would Like to Hear from You....................183