So Friday, which was January 8th, I decided to read in my NLT Bible (New Living Translation) rather than reading in my NASB (New American Standard Bible). Because I'm trying to read through the whole Bible in my NASB, I decided to take a break from my encouragement study through the book of Acts and pick something at random. That's not usually my style. I like to find a book to read through or study, but Friday night, I wanted something different. It was the night before that dreaded Praxis exam, and I was looking through the pages for a little encouragement. And boy, did I find it!
If you can, go find an NLT Bible (or look up this specific version of the Bible on the internet), and read Philippians chapter 3. That's where I found myself on Friday night, and I was incredibly blessed by what I read! And a little convicted. I'll pull out the four parts of this chapter that stuck out to me and why they stuck out .... as well as why they are considered a glimpse of God's grace in action in my life.
Philippians 3:1 .....
Wow! The very first verse I read on Friday blew me away.
..... "Whatever happens, dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you joy."
I was reading this chapter out loud that night, and I stopped after this first sentence and pondered it for a moment. I started thinking out loud with this small thought ... "whatever happens." I was so encouraged because ... well ... the Praxis has been a pretty big trial in my life. It has been a huge disappointment, stopped me from fulfilling the greatest dream of my life, and has almost literally shouted at me, "You're stupid! I STILL have power over you!" Of course, that's not true. I know I'm not stupid. But this test has been hanging over my head for 4 long years. All I've ever wanted to do is be the best teacher in the whole world! That's it. (Not asking for much, huh?) ;) .... And the only thing that stands in my way of that dream is this lousy test. .... But this verse. Wow. It was a reminder that no matter what happens, I have joy ... because joy is forever. :) And it convicted me ... because I haven't been living in joy as a result of failing this test 8 times (still waiting to hear about the 9th). So .... in one verse, I was more encouraged and, perhaps, more convicted than I've been in a long time after reading God's word. Amazing.
Philippians 3:3 .....
"We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us."
If I put on this attitude, I can be rid of the power that the Praxis has had over me because I have no confidence in it. It is of human effort. .... It's funny. My aunt Rose just posted on my facebook status (the one that I posted concerning the Praxis recently) that I have gifts and talents that make me who I am; a "man-made test" does not decide that for me. Cool timing, huh? Indeed. :) .... It's so true. If I can refocus my efforts to be on Christ and what He has done for me and focus my attention on honoring Him with my life, then I will put no confidence in human desires, plans, tests, ect. Awesome.
Philippians 3:8 .....
"Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
This is one of those "Christianease" verses. It's thrown at us a lot as "mature" Christians. And often, we read it, say "Alright. Good one, God" and move on. But if we really think about it, we can know that E V E R Y T H I N G in this life is W O R T H L E S S compared with knowing and loving Christ Jesus with our lives. Even a silly test. That doesn't mean I can't try. It just means that I don't have to consider this test "everything" to fulfilling my dreams. .... God is working to fulfill my dreams even now. They just may be completed (and perfected!) in ways I did not expect.
Philippians 3:13 .....
"I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead."
"Good one, God!" .... Oh, indeed!!!! ....... Although I am not completely and entirely the woman God wants me to be just yet ... and I have made mistakes in my past that have slowed that process of Christ-likeness, I can, right now, focus all of my time, energy, and attention on O N E T H I N G - forgetting my failures (real and unreal, literal and figurative), my "could-have-beens," my dreams and look forward to the adventure that is in front of me. I can because those failures, like I said, were both real and unreal. Many of them made up in my mind. Just because I didn't pass that Praxis doesn't mean I failed.
Ha! Did you get that?
Did YOU get that, MICAL?????????
Just because you didn't pass that Praxis doesn't mean you failed. ...... Failure is choosing to walk in your own way, choosing to give up on God's plan and will and purpose for your life. And you didn't do that. You persevered. You took that daggone test 9 times for crying out loud! You did anything but fail!!!! And that is the one thing - forgetting the "failed dreams" and moving on toward the "God dreams." They never fail.
And that! That, my friends, is my glimpse of grace for the day. I am not a failure.