"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverence the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you do not grow weary or lose heart."
Back in April, I attended my church's annual women's retrat. I love women's retreat for many reasons such as the fellowship, the rest, the relaxation, the laughter, the tears, but most of all....the uninterrupted time with my Lord and Savior Jesus.
As you may have already read in one of my previous posts, this years retreat was very timely in my life. It happened a mere two days after I was told some very life changing news. That I was no longer going to be employeed. I was devastated but God made sure that He had something planned for me at the retreat that I could not have planned for myself: His peace, comfort, and control over the situation revealed to me at the perfect time.
Here is my recap of the retreat.
Session 1: Focusing on the race of faith
Colleen started the weekend off by comparing our lives of faith to running a race. As a runner gets ready to run a race, so we too need to get ready to run our race of faith. The first point that she made was that:
1. Faith is not a feeling. It is a choice.
You choose to believe in spite of how you feel. Sometimes our feeling can be so strong that we may "feel" like we will lose our faith in the midst of our trials, but we have to choose faith over our feelings. This is really hard for me, especially right now as some days I "feel" so much and then other days, very little at all.
One statement that gave me strength was, "When you are in the basement of your faith, go back to the truth." One way that she suggested to do this is to journal. She talked about journaling notes to yourself to process what you are feeling. When feeling confused take out your journal and tell God how you feel. One suggestion that Colleen gave that I liked was to journal notes to yourself. So if you are feeling that God is far away, tell yourself in your journal that you feel like God is far away but then, follow it up with the truth of the Word.
Speaking truth into our lives and specifically to our situation, is like learning to drive a car; it takes practice. This is also hard for me because I want it to be automatic. And it is not. It is a process. Another suggestion that she had was to sing to yourself to guard your thoughts. I liked this idea because I love music and am always singing along with my ipod or the radio. But to sing to myself even without music is probably a crucial activity to engage in because I have the tendency to run untruths through my mind.
The second point of running the race of faith is:
2. Faith grows
The growth that accompanies faith is not a single-time gift but rather, a process. It begins as a little seed, growing into a plant, then into a mighty tree. Because faith is a growing process, it is okay to be where I am at this moment. Growth will come through our prayers and God answers prayer. If I pray for my faith to grow, then I can be assured that God will answer that prayer.
One way to make sure that your faith is growing is the ability to praise God in the midst of the stormy times in life. When we praise, we benefit because we get to see who God is. As we praise the Lord, He will grow and eventually our problems will diminish.
Another way that faith grows is through hearing the Word of God. If one desires to grow, she must be in the Word. Being in the Word of God allows a believer to take small parts of scripture to meditate on. Then it is good to pray those word back to the Lord.
Ephesians 1:3 God has blessed us with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING.
Faith also grows through fellowship. In order for our faith to grow, we have to run the race with other believers. We have to be engaged in fellowship, having others know what is going on in our lives. As a runner in a race runs with others and receives encouragement to continue on by seeing others run, we too need to run with our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith and allow their run to encourage us to keep going.
The third point of running the race of faith is:
3. Faith is refined
This point was one that touched a chord for me. To think that we will walk this road of faith without a little burning and pain is naieve. In order for faith to grow, it has to be scorched. If we do not allow God to take us through the fire, we will never be able to affect the lives of others. God will bring peace to our thoughts, He will guard our hearts and minds.
In order to ensure that faith is reproduced, it needs to be scorched. God has allowed the circumstances in our lives that hurt to build our character and to teach us to trust Him. We must let Him bring us through the fire.
Colleen said at this point that "if you feel things contrary to faith, believe God anyway!" This is crucial as I feel a lot of things that are contrary to faith right now. But I must chose to believe. I have to believe that God has brought me to this point because He wants me to get to know Him in a new way. We learn to have faith not in faith itself, but in God!