Three Lessons to Take Away from the 2014 Winter Olympics

Three Lessons to Take Away from the 2014 Winter Olympics

 

            Admittedly, I’m an Olympic nerd. I love the drama, the personal stories, the action and intensity of the individual events, and of course, I love rooting for my home country. Normally I tune in to my favorite events, usually whatever is shown on the major networks in prime-time. But this year was different. So far my 2014 has been wrought with more physical nightmares than 2013 delivered. Both my daughter and I contracted a rarer type of flu, one that sent us both to the hospital, one that had us sick for two weeks, and one that eventually gave me pneumonia (which I still have). So, aptly timed, the Olympics aired while I was on bed rest; quite convenient! Having the opportunity to watch not only my favorite events, but all of the events (yes, I even watched Curling!) afforded some great learning opportunities.

 

Shut Up and Own It

           

            After an abysmal performance in Speed Skating, an athlete provided an explanation in an on-camera interview, “I don’t know what it was, but I know it wasn’t me!” Um, ok bud, thank you for clearing up the confusion, because I’m pretty sure I just saw you put up a not-so-stellar time, in more than one race. But it’s ok, it’s not you. It’s the ice, the elevation, or the whacky design on your evidently not so aerodynamic skating suit. But it’s not you. Even worse, this was an American athlete. Not a proud USA moment for me but a clear reflection of how most of society thinks—blame someone else and avoid personal ownership, no matter how ignorant.

            But as much as I want to get down on the guy, I have to admit, I do the same thing. I get defensive about my performance as a Christian, as a wife, or as a mother and I make excuses for my behavior. It’s just easier to heap the blame on someone or something else than it is to own my mistakes, short-comings, or outright blatant meltdowns of maturity. Seeing that interview was like seeing my own reflection. I wanted to judge the guy, but I saw his excuses within my own heart. Maybe there are reasons, circumstances, or outside influences affecting my behavior, but in the end, what I say and do is my own choice. How I perform (behave) is my choice, how I respond to adversity is my choice, how I react to conflict is my choice. It boils down to an attitude and response that either attracts or repels others. Squashing pride, owning our choices, and humbly admitting our faults will attract the right attention (and people) in our lives. Making excuses, blaming everything and everyone, and refusing to take personal responsibility will only serve to show our immaturity and pride, while simultaneously poisoning the relationships in our lives. So, let’s all do each other a favor the next time our attitudes and behavior fall short; let’s shut up and own it, and move on.

Keep a Golden Perspective

 

            Dozens of athletes compete in each Olympic event, but only three walk away with hardware around their necks. Over the last two weeks of competition I’ve seen every range of reaction to a given outcome. Some athletes were overjoyed beyond comprehension just to get on that Olympic podium, they didn’t care what color they got, while others had no trouble hiding their disdain over the color of the medal around their necks (think USA women’s hockey medal ceremony—you would have thought that silver medal was battery acid). By far the attitudes of gratitude spoke volumes more to me than the whiny, it’s-not-good-enough looks of resentment. But again, I find myself looking in the mirror, seeing the reflection of my own heart.

            Truth is (I know, it’ll come as a shock, because we all know I’m perfect…) more often than not I have a spiritual attitude of ingratitude. I compare my circumstances (i.e. what medal I’ve received) and gripe about what the other guy got that I deserved. I studied hard, obeyed a lot, and tithed my paycheck, so why didn’t I get God’s golden favor of physical health and material wealth? But alas, in the real world it simply doesn’t work that way. Christianity is not a vending machine religion, where you dial up a result, put in your coins, and know what you’re going to get. You can do everything “right” and still end up as a widow, a grieving parent, or permanently physically handicapped. Our obedience to God, our choice to follow Him and choose to live from Truth guarantees us nothing (as far as circumstances goes) while we’re walking around on this earth (but it does guarantee a whole heck of a lot in eternity!). No, in this world we will have trouble, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have peace at the same time. That’s the promise of a golden perspective. When we keep our eyes focused on Truth we live and breathe the peace that passes all understanding. That other guy can get the gold medal, we’re fine with the bronze, because we know we’ve been promised much more in a time not too far from now. It’s easy to say but hard to practice, yet maintaining a golden perspective is what will determine how we react to the success of others (as well as our own failures).

 

Well, What Do You Expect?

 

            Don’t even get me started on this issue of unmet expectations. Well I guess I got myself started. Anyways, I could easily be the poster child for this problem, but watching the Olympics reassured me that I’m not alone in the fight. As I listened to the announcers talk about the athletes I was left with an expectation of who was going to come away with the shut-out victory. I mean, the way some of these athletes were discussed, you would have thought everyone else should have just forfeited and handed them the medal. But then the competition would begin and whatever the announcers just said seemed, well, foolish. In some ways, it was humorous as the announcers would be just as shocked as everyone watching. But hey, the unpredictability of the games is part of the excitement. On one hand you’ve got an athlete who can scarce believe their own performance and the gold medal they’ve unexpectedly received, and on the other hand you’ve got a gold medal “favorite” sitting in 4th, 5th, or even 30th place, wallowing in disappointment and “what-ifs”.

            If there’s one thing nearly every conversation about disappointment and despair (“I want to quit!”) has in common, it’s the issue of unmet (and often unrealistic) expectations. Someone didn’t respond to us the way we thought they would (or should), the person we thought was our best friend turned out not to be a friend at all, our financial security was blown out of the water with an unexpected job loss, the happily ever after was cut short by a death…on and on we could go. Like it or not we all have expectations of ourselves and others, and when those expectations aren’t met we get grumpy. There’s a little phrase I learned as a kid, “Give all your expectations to God.” I wish I had paid more attention to it, because it could have saved me a lot of depression, despair, hopelessness, self-loathing, bitterness, resentment, hurt feelings, and lost relationships. Sometimes people won’t treat us the way they should, sometimes we won’t treat others the way we should—it happens. One way to avoid the trap of despair (and self-loathing and self-pity and living life as a victim) is to literally release all our expectations to God. One of my favorite quotes is from Charles Stanley, “Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.”

We have control only of ourselves, our own choices, and our integrity (that is, whether or not we have integrity). So then, the only thing we can reasonably expect is the unexpected. That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, it will be easy, or we should stuff our feelings down when things don’t go as planned, it just means we shouldn’t be surprised by it. Whenever we’re struck with feelings of resentment, hurt, despair, feeling like the world is out to get us, etc. it can likely be traced back to an unmet expectation. Like tracing our steps as we search for our lost car keys, we need to trace the pain back to its source and then give that “source” to God. We can try to manipulate others or our circumstances to fit our expectations, but we will never have peace until we relinquish the idea that we have control over anything other than our own free will.

 

Closing Ceremonies

 

            I actually had a longer list than this but I’m tired of typing and you’re probably falling asleep reading. So I’ll end it here. I hope the next time the Olympics rolls around you’ll watch and look for the lessons, because there are many to be found. So, this is Bob Costas bidding you a good night from Sochi…

Alright, it’s just Rebecca, and I bid you a “thanks” for reading, as well as inviting you to share what lessons you may have learned as you watched (or read about) the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 2)

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 2)

Rebuking the Devil

Continuing in our review of the sixteen deadly d’s of the Devil, today we’ll be looking at #4 and #5. (For a review of the first three, click HERE.)

 

4. Doubt

Like disappointment, doubt is another nagging negativity common to most Christians. From Adam and Eve to Moses, Gideon, King David, John the Baptist, and just about every other Bible “hero”, doubt has been a part of each of their stories, as well as yours and mine. To doubt is to question God’s word, “Did God really mean that?” It doesn’t take much research to discover how much doubt has crept into the church. Pastors and Ministers are reading God’s word and doubting what it says.

 

•“Did God really say homosexuality was a sin?”

•“Did God really say unbelievers will go to hell?”

•“Did God really say I need to be separated from the world?”

 

The Bride of Christ is being suffocated with compromise. Everywhere we turn there are more Christians living in the lukewarm middle, under the guise of, “Everyone has a right to choose, I don’t want to judge anyone.” Such compromise of God’s word is a direct lie from Satan—one many believers fall for.

Just yesterday a “Christian” friend posted on her Facebook page a message of tolerance and acceptance for alternative lifestyles because in her words, “Everyone has a right to love and be loved, even if I don’t agree with their choice of a mate.” Do you see how easy that doubt creeps in? This is only one example of many I see on a daily basis, and I’m sure you have your own. Friends, don’t fall for it! Recognize where doubt in God’s word got its origin: “Hath God said ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1, KJV)” Doubt is one of Satan’s oldest and most used tricks. Don’t let it get a foothold in your life.

 

“To doubt is to forget 1 Timothy 2:8, ‘I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.’”¹

 

The only way to prevent such doubt is to take God at His word—to believe that He meant what He said instead of trying to find loopholes around His commands. He didn’t give us “rules” to stifle our creative process as human beings; instead, in His loving care, He laid down “the law” to protect us from harm. If we notice a spirit of doubt we must renounce it at once—out loud! “Lord, I confess I have doubted your word in order to sooth my conscience. In the name of Jesus, I renounce the spirit of doubt as a lie from Satan. I now choose to read your word and take it at face value. I will no longer compromise with your commands in order to gratify my longing to be liked and accepted by others.”

 

5. Disbelief

Though we’re usually quick to say how much we trust God and believe His word, our actions always give us away. When we worry about our circumstances, fear, or get anxious, we demonstrate with those attitudes a spirit of unbelief in God’s character and promises. In the same way that disappointment gives way to discouragement and despair, when doubt is left to fester, it gives way to disbelief.

“To disbelieve is to forget Hebrews 3:12, ‘Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.’”¹

If we notice a spirit contrary to God’s word and will reigning in our hearts (fear, anxiety, worry…etc.) we need to recognize the root source of such attitudes as disbelief. Though it’s not easy to admit we don’t believe God’s word, the only way to rest in His perfect peace is to confess when we have failed to trust Him. In order to eradicate a stronghold of unbelief, we need to pray out loud: “Lord, I confess the unbelief that has been displayed through my attitudes of ______________ (worry, fretting, anxiety…etc.). In the name of Jesus I renounce the spirit of disbelief and choose to replace it with the truth of your word. I choose to believe what you have said about me and my circumstances and act accordingly. Thank you for freeing my heart and giving me peace.”

 

How about you? Have you seen any of these deadly d’s take root in your life or the life of another believer? What was the end result?

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1- Dr. H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, 1984 by H.L. Willmington–all rights reserved.

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 1)

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s

Rebuking the Devil

 

In order to defeat the enemy we must first know our enemy. In our last post we studied the character of Satan. Knowing his character will help us understand what kind of thoughts originate from him (or his demons) compared with our own fleshly thoughts and desires.

Today we will talk about the various weapons of warfare Satan uses to attack believers. I’ll be using some references from the course I just finished at Liberty: The Doctrine of Satan. In it, my instructor lists the sixteen deadly “D’s” and I’ll be sharing his insights with you over the next several posts. I have no doubt you’ll recognize some of them in your life.

The Deadly D’s of the Devil

 

1.      Disappointment

 

What Christian (or human being) hasn’t experienced disappointment? Let’s face it; we all have expectations that are not met. We all have wants and desires that never come to fruition in our lives. Satan loves to capitalize on the demoralizing feelings of disappointment in the believer’s life. If we’re not standing guard with our weapons of war (the Armor of God—see Ephesians 6:10-18) we will be ill equipped to fight through disappointment successfully.

“To be disappointed is to forget Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.’

Disappointment is God’s appointment.”¹ <<<<(Click to Tweet!)

When the fiery arrow of disappointment is aimed at our heart, we need to take the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and deflect the attack with the truth. We need to pray out loud (this is VERY important because the devil cannot read our minds, he can only place thoughts there), “Lord, I am disappointed, but I know that this disappointment is merely Your divine appointment in my life, and You are working these circumstances out for my greatest good. I choose to reject the lie that I can only be happy when I am getting my way and believe Your word that you care for me and have provided all I need to be complete.”

2.      Discouragement

 

When disappointment is left unchecked, it deteriorates into discouragement. It’s important to note that any form of discouragement has its origins in the devil. Discouragement cannot come from God. When we walk around with a sore countenance, griping and moaning about our circumstances, we give over a place of our hearts to discouragement (a spiritual stronghold for Satan to gain ground in our lives), which completely contradicts our New Life in Christ. Not only are we opening the door for Satan, but we fail to display the joy and peace of Christ to a world that needs His hope.

“To be discouraged is to forget 1 Samuel 30:6, ‘And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.’”¹

If we’ve allowed discouragement to take root in our lives, we must pray out loud, “Lord, I confess my attitude of discouragement to you. I now choose to repent of this sinful spirit and renounce the lie that my joy and peace depend on favorable circumstances in my life. I choose to believe that my joy, security, and peace can only be found in You, Lord. From this moment on I am choosing to focus on the comforting truth available to me through Your Word.”

3.      Despair

 

Despair is the final result of disappointment and discouragement left to fester in one’s spirit. The despairing believer has no joy, purpose, or peace. I know a lot about despair because I lived a decade of my life in that place. I tried to commit suicide and suffered with addiction, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. It is impossible to effectively serve God  or experience the fullness of His presence in such a state of mind. The despairing believer has willfully traded the truth of Jesus for the lies of the devil.

“To despair is to forget 2 Corinthians 4:8,‘We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.’”¹

If we’ve found ourselves in this destructive place, we need to pray out loud, “Lord, I confess that I have believed the devil’s lie that I am __________ (worthless, purposeless, unusable, etc.) and I now renounce that lie and replace it with Your truth. I know You love me, have created me for a specific purpose, and have assigned good works for me to do while I am here on this earth. You have a plan for my life, and I now embrace that plan and choose to trust Your Sovereign control over my life and circumstances.”

The best way to keep these first three deadly d’s from gaining ground in our lives is to recognize where they are coming from (Satan) and fight against it with the Word of God and prayer. It all starts with a little disappointment, so remember—Disappointment is God’s appointment. Give it to Him the moment it occurs and choose His truth over Satan’s lies.

How about you? Have you ever seen these deadly d’s take root in your life? What was the end result?

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1-      Dr. H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, 1984 by H.L. Willmington–all rights reserved.

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Check out these posts for more:

Is Spiritual Warfare real?

What’s the difference between the flesh and Satan?

Can Satan’s influence affect children?

**If you enjoyed this post and others, please take a second to enter your email address into the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!**

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup has written devotionals and Bible teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

Golden Goggles

What a difference perspective makes.

One Olympian is devastated to receive a silver medal while another makes history with a bronze. One Olympian rejoices like the greatest victor making it to third place while another Olympian totes a sour demeanor as a second place finalist.

Throughout the Olympics I’ve noticed a recurring theme transcending every event. There are athletes only happy with a gold medal, and there are athletes who would be happy with any medal at all. There are countries who have never received medals in certain events and others who are expected to receive gold in every event. For me, the layperson at home, I marvel at the attitudes of some receiving silver or bronze medals. One athlete even sobbed uncontrollably at their disappointment receiving a silver medal.

If there was an event for coffee drinking I might have a chance at Olympic gold, otherwise my days will be spent in the mediocrity of mundane every-day living while the “real” champs make millions in endorsements.  I’d like to think if I was talented in a given sport, was honored enough to make it to the biggest forum the world has ever known, and took away a silver or bronze medal-beating dozens of other world-class athletes-that I’d be thrilled beyond comprehension. I’ve seen that response in a few athletes, but the overwhelming take-away from many post-event interviews is that anything less than gold is trash.

And what does this message teach? If you work hard, sacrifice much and come in second place you’re a worthless piece of garbage? What a shame. I’ve seen interviews where athletes are practically defending their silver/bronze medals to a broadcaster determined to squeeze out a dramatic interview. “Oh, you must be so disappointed you didn’t get gold.” One athlete responded to this statement (loosely paraphrased)”I’m at the Olympics and I’m on the medal stand-I think that’s good enough.” Bravo.

And how often does this type of thinking play out in every-day life? We have big goals, big dreams, and great ambitions-and then we fall short. We feel there is only one outcome that will work, and when that outcome isn’t realized we are sobbing in second place. Our golden-goggles blur our vision of greatness.

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, our less-than-grandeur finish was what God had planned for us all along? That perhaps our un-notoriety was the greatness God destined us for? Isn’t His plan the best plan, and His outcome the best result?

There’s nothing wrong with high aspirations, but we must remember our plans are not always His plans. When we’ve done our best and come up short of what we expected, we have to trust His purposes. That place of trust is the only place that soothes lost dreams and dashed hopes.

“Commit your actions to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

If I commit every action to the glory of God, the outcome will be a success in God’s eyes, though not necessarily in man’s eyes. I want to wear the golden goggles of God’s success. I want to be okay with His outcome. I want to have His perspective.  What color goggles do you have on today?

“We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:1-3