NO PRESTIGE NEEDED
© By Sharon Tubbs
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standard; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. –I Corinthians 1:26-29
They kept coming and coming, toting their conference bags, their writing pads and pens.
Vivian hadn’t expected that many people to attend her breakout session at the women’s conference—maybe a couple dozen at best. After all, it was her first time speaking at our church’s annual event. Not to mention, she’s originally from Colombia and speaks English as a second language, so she was nervous about conveying her message and about how others would receive it.
Then the flow of women streamed in and simply didn’t stop. They wanted to hear her talk on surrendering to God’s will. I did, too. Not just because she’s my friend—I knew God had given her a word of encouragement for me.
By the time maintenance men lugged in waves of extra chairs and someone had scurried to run off more copies of Vivian’s handouts, more than 100 women had crammed into the small room, some sitting cross-legged on the floor.
Eva recognized my face that day as I sat at Panera Bread. I had been the speaker on a few occasions at church, and she stopped by my table to introduce herself. I invited her to sit down and have lunch with me. We talked, exchanged phone numbers and went our separate ways.
Weeks had passed by the time she sent me a text message out of the blue. From the language, I could tell she was nervous and uncertain about sending it. According to the text message, she felt God had spoken to her that morning concerning me. There was a new job opening at the church, and she believed God wanted her to encourage me to apply.
What she didn’t know was that I had thought about the job briefly but quickly dismissed the idea. Her text gave me the unction to reconsider. Just a few weeks later, I got that job.
Vivian and Eva were humble, unassuming and without lofty titles. Yet, God used them to touch others’ lives. When they yielded to Him, setting aside their fears, their reservations and insecurities, they made a difference. They are proof that God can use all of us to speak His word, to encourage someone else, to bring about change.
If you’re reading this, I believe He wants to use you, too, no matter your level of experience, how popular you are or how much confidence you have. While those traits may impress the people around us, they don’t impress God. What really counts is our willingness to trust Him and overcome our weaknesses and doubts. When we do that, He uses us to show everyone that it’s His strength and the spirit inside of us that matter most.
NEVER TOO LATE TO SOAR
© By Sharon Tubbs
It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. –Hebrews 11:11 (NLT)
The flight attendants went about their routine, securing bags in luggage bins and snapping them shut, checking for fastened seatbelts, pointing out the exit rows. They had no idea something epic was about to happen on American Airlines Flight #2853.
The plane taxied down the runway and I cleared my throat, straightened myself in the seat.
I turned to my mother, seated beside me, and studied her face for a moment. It was surprisingly calm. “You want me to close the window?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No.” From her aisle seat she looked past me, peered out to the runway. In the distance, another plane lifted for take-off with the grace of a giant bird. “Keep it open,” she said. “Keep it open.”
That’s when I knew everything would be all right. I smiled to myself and felt a silent “Whew!”
You see, Julia Tubbs had dared to take her first plane flight—just shy of her 70th birthday.
She has taught me countless life lessons, but on that day, she taught yet another: It’s never too late to soar.
Have you ever thought that it was too late for you to “fly high,” to reach your goals, to realize your dreams? I know I have. Sarah initially felt the same way when God told Abraham that she would bear their first child in her old age. Eventually, her faith strengthened and God proved it wasn’t too late at all.
My mother had never seen the sense in flying. When I was growing up, our family vacations always began in the backseat of a car, my father at the wheel, my mother in the passenger seat, us kids in the back.
As an adult, I moved away from home and flew plenty. It’s just like riding a bus, I told my mother. One of these days, I warned, I’m going to get you in a plane!
Yet, I wasn’t expecting the call earlier this year. She’d gotten the unction to visit my 103-year-old grandmother, she said. Would I escort her on the trip—by plane—from Indiana to Dallas?
Of course, I wanted this to be a good experience. On the morning of our big adventure, I prayed for ease through security, for low turbulence, for a smooth landing. My aunt surprised us by showing up at the airport to see my mother off. But Mrs. Tubbs had the biggest surprise, declaring that she would not take the sleeping pills she’d asked her doctor to prescribe. She initially wanted to be knocked out during the flight, but no more. “I don’t think I need it,” she said, wheeling her suitcase to our gate, stepping spryly in her comfortable white sneakers.
As the plane rumbled forward, we heard the engine revving up. Then slowly, surely, we were airborne and the giant landscape disappeared.
“That looks like snow,” my mother said after some time.
Um, no… I’m afraid we’re up a little higher than the snow-capped mountains, I explained. “That,” I told her, “would be a cloud.”
She shook her head in disbelief. To see the works of God and the knowledge He gave man to fly so high, she said, was truly amazing.
FAITH IN ACTION
© By Sharon Tubbs
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
I had been a newspaper journalist for 17 years, settled comfortably into my career as a community news editor. Yet something inside just wasn’t right. I had lost all zeal and satisfaction for my work. At first I searched for jobs elsewhere—time to start a new career in a new city. I sent resume after resume. I networked with this executive and that CEO, but nothing came through. I knew I had to pray. I mean really pray—hard and long. The unction that I had to resign simply didn’t match my circumstances. If I quit, what would be the next step? I had some savings and a retirement fund, but nothing to brag about. I desperately wanted God to show me His plan.
For the most part, I was afraid. Sadly, what scared me most was what people would think of me. They would think I got fired, that I’d been a second-rate employee. No way would they believe it was my choice. No, I couldn’t leave under that kind of stigma. If God wanted me to leave my job, He’d just have to find me another one, something bigger and better—for the sake of appearances. I sent more resumes. More networking. More waiting and waiting and waiting.
I thought of the times I had told other people about the faith of Abraham. I talked of how he ventured out to a land unknown just because God told him to. I had talked about Moses, who led God’s people despite his own shortcomings. I thought of how often I’d encouraged others to step out in faith, to act on what they believe. Yet, there I was, not stepping out at all, afraid to act on the faith I wanted to inspire in others.
But the more I prayed, the more I began to fear what would happen if I didn’t resign. It was a turning point because I became more afraid of disappointing God than of other people’s perceptions. Without God, what lay ahead for me? If I didn’t follow my heart, would I live a life of mediocrity and missed opportunities? That fear stirred me to action. I decided to resign and shared my plans with others. I would use the time to do what I knew God purposed in my heart: to write more books, to start a business, and to develop myself as a speaker. Some thought I had either lost my mind or that I was being naïve and irresponsible. One person warned that I might even wind up homeless. But when the last day of my job came, it was like a breath of fresh air. I never turned back.
Now, one year later, I’m enjoying life. I have more confidence in who I am in Christ—a woman no longer defined by her occupation, but by her faith. I’m experiencing new challenges and developing different skills that God is using for His greater glory.
And yet another blessing, perhaps the most precious gift: He’s allowed me to actually experience the faith that I read about in His Word, the same faith that I’d told others about. Because of that, I know God has marvelous plans for me. I know that He—not my job or even my family—is the ultimate supplier of all my needs.
THE GIFT GIVER
©By Sharon Tubbs
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. –Luke 6:38 (NLT)
The little girl pointed at my necklace, her eyes round and hopeful. Her pudgy cheeks eased into a smile. We didn’t know each other. In fact, we’d just met at this fundraising event to help kids in need, kids like her. I’d heard some things about the girl already, from a woman who’d become her mentor. The girl’s family was recently evicted from their home—and not for the first time. Needless to say, there weren’t many extras in her life, other than what her mentor could provide from the sidelines.
“Pretty,” she said, gazing at my necklace. She touched it then grinned bashfully.
Give her the necklace. That’s what I heard the Spirit tell me. I didn’t hear it audibly, like a person talking in my ear, but rather spiritually, like a whisper to my subconscious. Now, this was one of my favorite necklaces, a black chain with dangling pieces that looked like charms. It wasn’t necessarily pricey, but it had matching earrings and was a go-to accessory that I wore with specific outfits. Considering this, well, let’s just say I didn’t want to be too hasty in handing it over. Admittedly, I delayed a moment by making small-talk, asking the girl something about having fun at the event. She nodded, still grinning, still looking at that necklace. Give it to her.
I reached up, unclasped the necklace and hung it around her neck. By then, her mentor joined us and I asked what she thought, wanting to make sure the necklace wasn’t too mature for a 10-year-old. We agreed that it looked cute with the girl’s new sundress, which her mentor had bought. The girl touched the dangly pieces around her neck. “Really?” she said, making sure she could keep it. “Really,” I told her.
I went about the rest of my day, not giving much thought at all to the necklace. In fact, I felt freer than I had in a while, knowing that releasing something so small in my life could put such a wonderful smile on a child’s face.
For lunch the next day, I met a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while. Afterward, she asked me to come to her car. Months before, she had gotten sick and missed my birthday celebration, so she wanted to give me the gift that had sat in her car the whole time. We had tried getting together sooner, but our efforts fell through. Until now. I reached inside the gift bag and couldn’t contain my grin as I pulled out the cutest necklace. It was silver, with dangly pieces. Much more stylish than the one I had given away.
THE REAL ROLE MODELS: US
©By Sharon Tubbs
Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure… Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. –Titus 2:4-5 (NLT)
The cutest thing would happen when my nephew, 3½ years old at the time, visited my parents. He mimicked my father at the kitchen table. From the deep South, my father likes to eat a slice of bologna with almost every meal. So, of course little A.J. wanted a slice, too. He’d sit across from his Pa-Pa, watching closely as my father folded his bologna to make it mouth-sized and took a bite. A.J. fixed his tiny hands to fold his bologna slice as best he could. Then he took a bite, set it back onto the plate, and waited to see what my father ate next. My father was oblivious to this at first. See, he wasn’t trying to give a lesson on how to eat bologna. He had no intention of setting an example. But my nephew saw a man who was older, wiser, and he wanted to do whatever Pa-Pa did.
Think on that for a second and you’ll understand why it doesn’t make sense when famous athletes, movie stars, and pop singers get caught doing something stupid and say, “I’m not a role model.” Uh, yeah, they are. In fact, we’re all role models whether we choose to be or not. From childhood to adulthood, we never lose the knack to influence or to be influenced by those around us. On Mother’s Day, we remembered mothers or mother-figures who taught us to be young ladies, to cross our legs, to say “excuse me.” We used to imitate them by playing dress-up. Now, women who are younger, inexperienced or less confident watch and learn from us. The only question is whether they’re learning what’s right or learning what’s wrong.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to be Godly role models to other women. That doesn’t sit well with some of us. Like those celebrities, we don’t want to be held accountable for our actions. We’d like to think that our lives are all about us. But that’s not true. God already knew our shortcomings, yet He charged us with teaching other women His ways anyhow. He tells us to become “Titus 2” women, trainers of wise and pure living.
We teach by the way we live. Others watch how we dress, how we handle difficult situations and relationships, raise our children, or talk about people. Not all of them will try to imitate us, but there are those sitting quietly, watching, listening, and waiting. Just like A.J., they’ll soon posture themselves to do what they’ve witnessed in us. No, we can’t be perfect, but we should be mindful of how we’re influencing another sister.
Sometimes God will bring a new woman into our circle who needs guidance. It’s much easier to talk about her than it is to build a relationship and help her, isn’t it? It takes less time to give her a piece of our mind than it does to pray for her and approach her gently in love. But we have to move beyond being just church members or coworkers or acquaintances to becoming real “sisters” who care about each other’s well-being, who pray for and encourage one another. When it comes down to it, we truly are our sister’s keeper. What have you taught your “sister” today?
NO SHAME, MUCH JOY
©By Sharon Tubbs
For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. –Phil. 1:20 (NLT)
Many of us have never been behind bars, never been in chains, but we’ve certainly felt “bound.” I think about this as I study the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Here, Paul had little control over his situation. He was in prison for preaching the Gospel and basically had to do his best to deal with it. Like Paul, we often feel bound by our circumstances. At times in life, we have no control over what’s happening to us. We’re not in a physical prison but we can only do so much, go so far. Are you there? Are you in a place where it feels like you’re powerless to change things? If so, you can relate to Paul. If not, take notes, because you’ll get there one day…
The curious part is that Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is known as his letter of “joy.” He wrote it while under lock and key, yet Paul speaks of rejoicing throughout. Part of the reason for this, Paul had a heart for the things that pleased God, a heart that allowed him to see great purpose in his struggles. Yes, he was bound but… He now had the opportunity to preach to Roman soldiers who hadn’t heard God’s Word. Plus, Paul’s willingness to go to jail and, perhaps, even die for the Gospel inspired other preachers to be bolder in their witness. Lastly, the news of his imprisonment became a hot topic and led more people to talk about Jesus. Some had wrong motives, but that didn’t bother Paul—at least the Word was being spread! And that was enough for him. The idea that his chains wouldn’t be in vain helped Paul overcome the sadness, the unfairness, and the horrible conditions of being a prisoner. As our hearts mature to rejoice in the things that glorify God, we, too, can have joy no matter our circumstances. When God is involved, there’s always a purpose, even in our pain.
One more thing that impressed me about Paul: He wasn’t ashamed of his struggle—he says so in Phil. 1:20. He believed that Christ would continue to be “exalted” or magnified through him. But can you imagine how people whispered behind his back and talked about him? “Where is his God now?” After all, he was supposed to be this great preacher serving a mighty God, yet there he was, powerless in chains. But Paul paid them no mind. He knew God had a plan. We should have that same assurance. We don’t have to hang our heads low or be embarrassed because we’re going through divorce, because we’re STILL single, our kids are unsaved and in trouble, we don’t have children (yet), our finances are low, our job was cut, we haven’t achieved worldly “success,” our baby’s father left, (fill in your blank)… Despite our feelings, we can be unashamed and joyful in knowing that God will work it out for His glory. Hallelujah!
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” –James 4:8 (NLT)
As a child, I used to play hide-and-seek. Whoever was “it” would count to ten, while the rest of us hid. We scrunched behind the couch, hovered in the closet, peeked from behind fat tree trunks. Most times, the “seeker” found us. After all, there weren’t many new hiding places around our yards and in our homes. Only occasionally would the seeker have to give in and cry defeat: “Come out, come out wherever you are!”
I’m reminded of this as I think about how we play hide-and-seek with God. At times in life, it seems He’s hiding from us. We want circumstances to change or we’re looking for answers, yet the Creator of the universe is nowhere to be found. So we cry out to Him, longing and searching for a breakthrough, as if He were a playmate gleefully hiding out of view.
In spiritual hide-and-seek, however, our motive for “seeking” God should be altogether different than the childhood game. We look for Him, not because God is hiding or lost, but because we are. The Amplified version of Psalm 70:4 tells us what seeking God really means: May all those who seek, inquire of and for You, and require You (as their vital need) rejoice and be glad in You…
When we truly seek God, we make Him vital to our lives; we make Him our No. 1 priority. When we don’t seek Him, we get lost in the cares of the world. It’s so easy these days to be distracted from our spiritual purpose by society’s definition of “living life to its fullest.” We focus on career ambitions, outer appearances, on unhealthy relationships. We scroll postings on Facebook and Twitter and envy the images of so-called success that we see in other people’s lives. Sometimes we just become self-absorbed, caring only about ourselves and our immediate families, unconcerned with God’s calling to impact a continually dying world.
All of those things can put us in the “wrong place” in life. That’s where we feel weary about our past and uncertain of our future. That’s where we become burdened by doubt and regret and our spirit cries out to God: “Come out, come out wherever You are!”
Still, God is so faithful that He will reveal Himself if we seek Him with all our heart. He doesn’t want to be apart from us. He’s not playing games, lurking on the side of the garage or hiding under the bed like our childhood friends. With each step we take toward Him in prayer, in studying His Word and focusing on His truth, God makes His presence all the more known to us. “Come close to God,” the Bible says in James 4:8, “and God will come close to you.”
“FAVOR AIN’T FAIR” STORIES
GOD’S FAVOR TRUMPS OUR PAST: By Cyndi Sims
I was living in a two bedroom apartment with my daughter and two grandchildren and she was sleeping in the master bedroom with both children. All the furniture I had was given to me over the years and was very old. I had a dresser literally with no drawers and my daughter’s bed was sunken down in the middle from being so old. I was ashamed to have people visit. Part of this shame was a result of being a drug addict and living in poverty most of my life.
I was involved in a women’s Bible Study and shared my testimony one night. One of the girls from the group was an interior designer so she came to my apartment, took pictures and told me she wanted to bless me “with a couple of nice rooms.” Well, when she saw the condition of my place, she knew she couldn’t give me just two rooms, that I did indeed need an entire makeover! So she went home, sent out some e-mails to friends and family, and the response was overwhelming. Everyone wanted to help and it became a community project! This was in December 2009, a month before Christmas.
They sent us to Busch Gardens for two days and nights while the home makeover was being done. We came home on a Sunday afternoon for the “big reveal”, and we walked in, saw how beautiful everything was, and just burst into tears. Channel 8 news team, Grace Family Church video production team and some of those involved in the makeover were there to greet us. We were blessed with new furniture, new dishes, linens and even a big-screen TV! God is SO faithful and I no longer live in shame!
WHEN WE’RE FAITHFUL, HIS FAVOR SHINES: By Tracie Meade
Favor Ain’t Fair (February 2012)
By Sharon Tubbs
Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
–Psalm 5:12 (NIV)
I couldn’t believe I got the job—and neither could my coworkers.
I was a cub reporter, barely out of college and working for a temporary newspaper program in the Philadelphia area. A sought-after paper in Florida had a job opening, a permanent position, and someone recommended me. Another reporter in the program had also applied. He had more experience. He’d been in the program longer and held a high-profile position with greater responsibility. Yet, the paper hired me.
Coworkers whispered their speculations in the break room and at gatherings after work. Maybe it was because I was black and the company wanted more diversity. Perhaps, the other reporter wasn’t as good as some thought. Could it be that executives just liked me more and chose personality over skill?
I asked myself the same questions, trying to figure it all out. Why me? I felt a little guilty, and had even asked my girlfriends to keep the new job quiet before finally telling others in the office. I was nervous, wondering whether I could do well enough to prove I deserved to be chosen.
Looking back more than fifteen years later, I know I didn’t deserve the job. Not on paper, anyway. My resume was less impressive than that other guy’s. God’s favor, not my qualifications, had promoted me.
The same thing happened in the Bible with Joseph. He was still young when God showed him, through a dream, that his brothers would one day bow down to him. Joseph hadn’t yet displayed any grand leadership skills, yet his fate was sealed with God’s favor. Even when his jealous brothers beat him, sold him into slavery, the Bible says that Joseph had favor and became a leader in the house of his master, Potiphar. Then, after being falsely accused of assaulting Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned, Joseph had favor behind bars; the other inmates looked up to him. He eventually saw his dream realized as he became a great leader in Egypt, and his brothers did bow to him. I wonder if Joseph’s brothers thought it unfair that he was the chosen one. Why him?
Then there was Moses, who killed an Egyptian man and fled his homeland to escape Pharaoh’s wrath. Why would God choose him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt? By all accounts, he was unqualified, a fugitive and a poor public speaker who some say stuttered. Yet, God empowered him, equipped him, and promoted him.
Neither Joseph or Moses, or many others in the Bible, initially seemed likely candidates for their destinies, but they had one key notation on their spiritual resumes: the favor of God. That trumped all the others who were more prepared for the task, those who looked stronger or acted righteous.
The only thing “fair” about God’s favor is that in some way, we all get it—if we are committed to Him. His Word in Psalms 5 promises that He blesses those who are in good standing with Him (the righteous) and that He surrounds them with “favor as a shield.”
Many days, I don’t see God’s favor in my life the way that I did when I got my first permanent job. My circumstances don’t seem particularly favorable, and I wonder where all that favor has gone. Then I remember that Joseph had favor in the midst of being falsely accused. God still favored him, even when he was behind bars. Moses had favor, too, but he still stuttered. He was chosen and covered with God’s favor, although life was hard with the Israelites in the barren wilderness.
Joseph and Moses not only had favor, but they began to believe in it and walk in it, no matter their situations. They focused on how God sustained them while in life’s “prisons,” knowing that His love and favor was, indeed, their shield.
I never asked my boss at the newspaper why he hired me instead of other applicants. I’m sure if I had, he might have come up with a logical, perhaps politically correct answer. I know the real story, though. God’s favor—unfair or not—was at play. Only thing left for me to do was to be like Joseph and work hard, doing my best so that my heavenly boss wouldn’t regret his decision.
“WHATCHA THINKIN’?” … by Sharon Tubbs
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…—Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)
I had heard the verse many times before, but for some reason, it rang especially loudly this time. It was Watch Night service on New Year’s Eve, and we were mentally counting down to 2012. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” the pastor said. She moved on to another topic, but my mind stayed right there, meditating. Put another way: It’s not the words that we speak with our mouths, the grins we paste on our faces, the skills we acquire, or the good deeds we perform that matter most. It’s simply the thoughts lodged deeply in our hearts that ultimately shape our destiny.
I know why the verse suddenly felt so profound: I had been thinking some negative thoughts for awhile. Maybe I’ll never reach the goals I’ve imagined for so long. I’d been worried about what others think of me. Why doesn’t she like me? I’d been looking in the mirror and scrutinizing photos of myself and seeing all the wrong things: Are those my thighs or two sacks of rocks?
After thinking these thoughts of insecurity and doubt, I would wonder why I wasn’t getting anywhere, why my life seemed to linger in mediocrity despite all of my hard work. Now, I think I’m finally getting it. See, the things I did sometimes failed to line up with the things I thought, and success requires both. I was putting in the work, realizing that it’s not enough to just pray and hope God will magically turn things around. (“…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” –I Corinthians 15:58) Still, my efforts were missing a key ingredient: thoughts of confidence and trust in God for divine favor, provision, and success—despite my shortcomings, my missteps, and even my thighs. Most disturbing, some of my negative thoughts had become so common, I didn’t even recognize them as self-defeating. I just called them “reality”.
Have you thought about your thoughts lately?
If you’re at a place where you want—need?—drastic change and you just don’t understand why your hard work doesn’t seem to make a difference, I challenge you to answer this simple question: Whatcha thinkin’? You just might find the key that unlocks the door to your breakthrough.
*This is the first in a series of devotionals to inspire positive life changes in 2012 that move us out of the “pink,” or spiritual mediocrity, and closer to God’s glorious light. An excellent resource on this topic is “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyer. Stay tuned next month when we’ll talk about “divine favor”. If you have a short story of God’s divine favor, tell me about it by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.