In Upheld In The Battle , Linda Jo Reed gives testimony to God’s unfailing support even through impossible life circumstances. With grace and humility, Linda Jo addresses tough questions such as what does it mean to truly trust God in the worst of times, and can God, in fact, be trusted? The answer is a resounding yes. If you look to God in the difficult times of life, you will find He is there. When you risk your life for His use, He showers you with unimaginable treasures:
* He gives you courage to stand in heroic faith
* He gives you compassion to love others
* He gives you honor in opposition
* He gives you generosity toward others
* He gives you glory to create from your dreams
* He gives you justice and mercy in the face of unfairness
* He supplies your every need
Once you realize how God loves you personally and intimately, you will come alive. God has passion for you, His child, and you can make that passion an everyday experience. Take His hand through the valley and find Him faithful. Once you do, you will not be able to resist His life in you. Come and see.
About the Author
Linda Jo Reed is a writer with a mission: to encourage people to hope. Her message is that life’s battles are God’s and He will sustain each person engaged in it with Him.
Linda Jo is a widow, cancer survivor, mother of two and grandmother of 9 boys. She has published stories in two anthologies, articles in several periodicals, and won an Honorable Mention in the 76th Writers Digest short story contest. Currently working for Partners International , a 70 year old global ministry, she manages the Sponsor A Child program. She speaks at events and retreats. Website: http://www.lindajoreed.com
Read an Excerpt
A Living Sacrifice
Learning to Let Go of Earthly Hopes and Crushed Dreams
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:1–2)
Light flashed and the man was propelled off his horse and on his hands and knees before a frightening Presence.
"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
Awful dread must have crept over Saul as he asked, "Who are you, Lord?"
Then came the answer he probably suspected he would hear, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting ..."
In trembling astonishment, he asked, "What do you want me to do?" And the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city and you will be told what you must do." Saul arose from the ground, a blind man, who had to be led.
In an instant, his dreams were smashed, his identity was taken, and all his preparations and plans for the life he thought that he would live were wasted. Instead of being the man in command of his destiny and that of others, now, as a blind man, he needed others to lead him around and had to wait for further instructions.
Raised as a Jewish aristocrat with social position, a stellar education, Roman citizenship (which would open all doors to him), and perfect credentials, Saul was a Man With A Future. That is, until a lightning bolt shot him out of the saddle, killed his earthly dreams, and blinded his earthly eyes so he could see the Truth.
I never anticipated a bolt of lightning waiting for me either when I dreamed my dreams and made plans for my future.
Everyone loves a wedding. The relatives and friends come together, all dressed up and wearing their best smiles, to help the bride and groom celebrate the beginning of a new life together.
Humorous stories are often shared about wedding jitters. I have a memory of sunshine through stained glass highlighting the shaking hem of my bridegroom's tuxedo as I walked up the aisle on my father's arm. After the part in the ceremony that transferred my future from father to husband, I found myself holding up that nervous bridegroom. We laughed about it afterwards, but it seemed to me later that it was an indicator of what would come.
As pink roses on a cake, fancy dresses, veil, and a sporty jaguar faded away to memory, everyday life stepped in. Perhaps it is true with nearly every newlywed couple that high expectations must meet with down-to-earth reality. I discovered my husband could not meet all my needs. Nor could I fulfill his desires as he wished. Serious issues surfaced and I began seeking God for solace.
After my conversion to Christ, my constant prayer was, "Please, God, let my life be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to you." Serving this God I had just met was a priority. As the Romans 12 scripture said, I wanted my mind transformed, and I wanted to know what it meant to prove the will of God. It's funny how God takes us at our word.
As a young wife and mother, if anyone had asked me what a "living sacrifice" might look like, I am sure I would have said, "Huh?" With my life in front of me, I was ready for a great adventure, but I was unprepared for what that adventure would involve.
We had two children, a girl and a boy, and I expected to live what I considered a normal family life. However, life has a way of surprising us and my illusions were soon shattered.
My husband, Dean, was involved in an accident at work that caused a back injury. It was the beginning of a landslide of back injuries. His father passed away about the same time and this left him unable to cope. Over the years, his physical health deteriorated with more surgeries and other issues. He developed drug and alcohol addictions, and it became apparent that there were some mental disorders as well.
When I asked God to make a living sacrifice of my life, I wanted to honor God. I certainly did not mean traveling this road of suffering. Who of us does? Often I cried out, "God! Fix it! Hurry!"
Cutting across everything I ever believed or wanted was the idea that God might ask me to give up my desires and hopes in the day-to-day experiences of my life. In the Scripture, God called this my reasonable service, but I thought He couldn't possibly mean it. Sacrificing everything clashes with our own plans, and we don't want to go there. However, some of us find that we are in that place and not by choice.
For me, sacrificing meant letting go of my dream of the perfect marriage. I thought marriage meant I would have a wonderful companion who understood me and shared every dream. My husband would go to work to support us. I would stay home with the kids. We would go on wonderful vacations, and I would get to pursue my hobbies.
Instead, I learned to let go of expectations and even of who I hoped to become one day. In embracing a caretaker role that took a lifetime to unfold in a variety of ways, I allowed God to fashion me His way in order to serve Him best where He placed me. I learned that God had other plans for me than those I had for myself.
God calls this letting go "holy and acceptable." So what do we do if we are called to sacrifice?
Acknowledge Who Is In Charge
As my vain attempts to manage and control our lives constantly failed, I gained some familiarity with surrender. I didn't like it. I watched my hopes and dreams slipping away, and I could do nothing to hang onto them. I begged for miracles.
One evening, while writing desperate prayers in my journal, I heard God's words in my head. I asked Him to help me follow Him and to study His Word, the Bible, and to live it one day at a time. I could go no further.
Take your life off hold, Daughter. Stop looking for the time when circumstances will change to what you want. You are putting that first in your life, and not Me.
"I am? What do you mean, Lord?"
I have said I will give you the desires of your heart according to My will. Put Me first. Seek Me daily. Talk to Me. I want your companionship, not just a few words here and there. Talk to Me. Ask Me anything. Daily.
If I continued to insist on living and clinging to the tatters of my earthly hopes and dreams, then I was blind to the greatness that God wanted to call forth in me.
"Lord," I wrote, "How do I get joy in my heart? It's so heavy."
I Am the Answer, the Truth, the Life, and the Way. Joy begins when you seek Me with all your heart. I want your love as a lover who can't stand to be parted from the beloved. Will you accept Me on those terms?
I caught my breath.
"Is that ok?" I wondered, "or is it irreverent?" God yearned for me to desire Him. Like that? In the midst of the whirlwinds of life, God really comes!
It's true that we can't honestly live until we are ready to die. Only then can we live generously, prepared to give all we are and all we have to the One who loves us with all His being. And only then are we ready to give up our plans for something "greater."
Even as God loves us, He expects us to relinquish our lives to Him. This furthers His eternal kingdom. It may not look very pleasant to us, but He has the plan. It may include very difficult situations. It may include major health issues.
My good friend, Connie, discovered this one morning when she woke up and readied herself for work. She got in her car and drove to her job just as she did every day. However, twenty minutes after sitting down at her desk, Connie slumped over unconscious. She was suffering a major stroke. Her boss, a doctor, found her quickly, and in a short time she was hospitalized. For several days her family and friends held their breath not knowing if she would live or die. She was not in charge. What made this situation unusual is that Connie was a young and beautiful woman on the threshold of a new life as her children were just leaving home to attend college. Who would have guessed that such a thing would happen?
Connie survived her stroke, but it changed her life forever. Her steps were literally ordered by others for some time. Through a lengthy therapy, she recovered well, but now she lives a very different life than what she had planned.
She says, "If you truly live life, it is always risky. That's what I had to give up: the notion that life, if you lived it right, would be safe. But not even God is safe." For her, the acknowledgment that God is in charge was embodied in C.S. Lewis' famous line in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe when Mr. Beaver described Aslan: "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good." The notion that God should be safe is not particularly biblical when we consider that by safe we mean that God should do the things we want Him to do so we can be comfortable. Instead, God may do things that look like disaster in our eyes. However, God will always do what is best in His great plan.
God is in charge. God is good. Are we paying attention?
Be Not Conformed To This World
The challenge of living a life counter to what was safe and normal brought on much emotional and spiritual pain. I could choose to conform to the world's idea of safe and normal. I would then have society's permission to run from my situation. That would be much easier and definitely more comfortable.
On the other hand, I felt the tug of a higher calling to stay and see the situation through. Yet, even before I could determine the choice, I had to answer the fundamental question of whether something unknown could be more important than my earthly happiness and comfort level.
"God! Why does it have to be so hard? Why don't you just fix it?"
One summer when my children were elementary school age, we went on a road trip vacation. I did most of the driving. The kids stared out the back seat windows and my husband snored away in the passenger seat.
Quiet reigned momentarily, but not in my soul. I wrestled with my choices and with feeling abandoned by God.
Unexpectedly, I heard, "Trust in the Lord and wait patiently for Him."
I started in my seat and gripped the steering wheel. "Trust in the Lord and wait patiently for Him."
I glanced at my daughter through the rear view mirror. She was still gazing out the window.
"Trust in the Lord and wait patiently for Him." That sweet child's voice repeated the phrase for the third time. She thought she was memorizing Scripture, but it shot like a bolt to my heart. Through her, God reminded me that He had not left me and expected me to follow those instructions.
With His reassurance to continue on this spiritual road, I later read His encouragement, substituting "he" for "I" or "me," through Psalm 37:24, "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand."
A quiet voice within reminded me that God was still my loving Father, who would gently guide me as I followed Him. He would take me where I thought I could not go. As a father takes his precious child by the hand and walks through a difficult pathway, the child slips, but the firm grip of his father holds him upright. So God walked with me.
I chose to stay in my marriage. I came to the conclusion that if I ran from this painful plan, I would miss the fruit it would yield in time. To help me cope, God brought me wonderful counselors, help through group sessions with others in similar situations, a loving family, and a cheerful community of believers to love and support me. I found that living sacrifice happens in layers. It's not something that can be learned and it's done. It's living, after all, and therefore, ongoing.
So then, to "be not conformed to this world" must mean more than just the crushing of dreams. If we want more than what this world has to offer, the mystery is that it comes through the living sacrifice. As we go through this fire, we will reap the rewards on the other side.
God may appear to be an enigma to us, but He wants to be known. He asks us to trust Him. He asks us to train our minds through reading Scriptures, praying, and seeking wise counsel; to look to Him when the going gets tough. He will equip us to make choices and do things that seem far beyond us as we go through the trials that change our thinking processes. In this way, we learn of adventures in the spirit. We learn to live according to the deep places in our souls instead of on the surface of life where mere happenstance happiness is not enough.
Only He sees our secret torments and hears the cries that reverberate through our souls. He is the only one who can speak to those secret places with His soothing love and care. God's ear is always open to us. His answers are constant when we call, though we may not recognize them or like them. He doesn't require special sacrifices to attract His attention, He just wants our hearts. But this doesn't mean He never asks for sacrifices. Sometimes that is the only way to build character in us, or pry our fingers off something we think we want, or move us through a situation.
Our sacrifices will never be a criterion to get God's attention or a means by which we can move Him to act for us. He is aware of our manipulations.
God calls us to renew our minds. So that we may do so, He gives us His Word, the Bible, as the place to go for our help. As we read it, truth seeps into our souls with cool refreshment. Our circumstances may not change, but through the words we read, and through our prayers, comes a sense of comfort, something beyond ourselves.
Victor Hugo is reputed to have said, "There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees." I don't understand how my soul can be on its knees when I am otherwise busy, but I know that somehow God hears my deepest prayers even when I haven't uttered a word.
In those things that cannot be seen, somehow, as we come to Him in surrender, He transforms our souls. As hope renews our minds, we can go forward in the circumstances of our lives knowing we are not alone.
Our Dreams, God's Dreams
When I came to a place where I realized my dreams were gone, the agony went beyond feeling. My bewildered soul screamed the questions within.
"How could life betray me like this?"
"Where do I go from here?"
"How do I fill the black hole inside?"
"What do I do with the grief and the anger? Or the blame?"
"Can God be trusted?"
The American Dream was never God's goal for us. Knowing Him, His glory, and becoming like Him is at the forefront of the plans God has for us. This is our great discovery when we give up our hopes and dreams to allow Him to create a new life for us. Yet, it's such a struggle to accept His claim on our lives.
He shows us the promise of great adventures ahead when we are willing to move out into the unknown with Him. It's much better than the American Dream!
As we live our lives on earth, we have no idea how big God's heart is toward us. We don't know how much He wants for us, nor how great are the plans He has for us. We don't understand how carefully He is crafting our lives.
He plants seeds of greatness into our souls. The dreams that God grows in us are what draw us to that greatness if we do not lose heart. Max Lucado said, "God always rejoices when we dare to dream. In fact, we are much like God when we dream. The Master exults in newness. He delights in stretching the old. He wrote the book on making the impossible possible."
It isn't until we are ready to let go of our own crushed hopes and dreams that we are ready for the depths of knowing God. This is the place where only He can come into those deep chasms in our hearts that we are not aware of, touch us as He did Jacob when they wrestled at the foot of the ladder, and Jacob demanded God's blessing (Gen. 32:24–31). Only in those deep agonies does He burn his Spirit into us in such a way that we are branded by Him forever.
"The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints," (Eph. 1:18). In reference to this scripture, B. J. Hoff says:
Too many times, Lord, when I see a dream die, I lose hope because my plans have come to nothing. Help me to remember that your love is always greater than my disappointments ... and your plan for my life is always better than my brightest dreams.
What does it take to live in heroic faith? Over time, I learned that we bow before God in dependence on His power to lift us, preserve us, go before us, defend us, guard us, and teach us. By necessity, and through prayer, Bible study, and listening to teaching, I brought all aspects of my life to Him so that He could fit me into His kingdom in the place where I would be most effective on this earth. Continually I wondered if I would be willing to take the risks to fit that place. Would I be willing to trust Him to make new dreams an actuality in my life?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Upheld in the Battle"
Copyright © 2014 Linda Jo Reed.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
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.
Table of Contents
1 A Living Sacrifice 1
Learning To Let Go Of Earthly
Hopes And Crushed Dreams
2 A Commandment 13
Obeying Through Abiding
John 15:4, 8
3 Through Fire and Water 22
Learning About God's Protection
4 Failure and Forgiveness 34
Growing Through Failure;
Working Through Forgiveness
5 Fear and Sound Mind
An Introduction To Spiritual Warfare
2 Timothy 1:7
6 Keeping On vs. Common Sense 59
Learning To Lean On God
Psalm 27:3, 14; 30:5
7 Wrestling With Death 78
Learning About God's Watchful Care
Psalm 121:1, 2
8 Trust and Assurance 92
Trusting In God's Promise To Be Present
9 Discovery 106
Discovery, Truth, And Freedom
10 Reflection 126
Reflecting The Character Of God
11 A New Thing 136
God Is Doing A New Thing In A New Life
Isaiah 43:18, 19