I know what it is like to struggle as a new Christian. I turned my life
back to God in jail, and when I got out, I had two years of probation
to complete. Prior to being in jail I had lived the past couple of years
in abandoned buildings or barns, etc.; and ate mostly out of the dump
behind Food Lion. I was a loner, and had become very good at surviving;
it had become easy. But after I was released from jail it was so hard,
as I tried to establish a life where I actually had bills to pay,
etc.,. I had never been able to complete a probation term before. The first
six months was a real struggle. Two or three times I flirted with the
thought of telling them what to do with their fine and probation; jail
was easier. And besides that, surviving on the street was easier than
paying rent, power, water, my car insurance etc.,. But I knew deep down
inside that God didn't want me to go back to living on the street, or
back to jail, so I couldn't quit; though it was tempting.

So I lived from paycheck to paycheck, by the skin of my teeth. Many
times I did not know how I would make the bills, but I always did;
usually just in time. Then one day, after about 6 months, it seemed as if
God must have said; "He's passed this test, and now I'm going to promote
him." Praise God! All of a sudden, things started getting better! But
before long, more trials came up. But I persevered, and when I passed
the next test, I felt I got another promotion! And the trials are still
coming, but by now I have learned that every time I pass a test, I am
rewarded. So I don't mind so much as at first. Except for struggling to
pay the fine and probation fees, I did do two years probation without
any trouble. It was the first time in my life I have ever made probation
without any violations. It's all behind me, now. And even though I am
still in the lower income bracket, I have much more than I have ever
been able to have before. In the past, I could never keep anything be
cause of my addictions. Material things only passed through my hands,
to the drug dealers. But now I can buy things and they can be a
blessing to others and me, and not to the drug dealers.
In the progress of obtaining material things, however, we must never
lose sight of the fact that these things alone will never give us
lasting satisfaction, but that our joy comes from our relationship with God
and our assurance that our sins are forgiven, and that heaven is our
destination. God has changed my life so much! He is so worthy to be
praised, and I worship Him continually. I have never known such
contentment, and peace about who I am in Christ.

And still the trials come, and sometimes I forget, momentarily, that
this means another promotion is on the way. For instance, a couple of
years after God began to changed me, I wanted to open a checking
account, but could not have one, because my credit was ruined. So I decided
to really get down and pay off all my debts; and I did. Then after
paying off over $2000 worth of debts, and not owing anyone anything, I
waited a couple of months for my credit to clear up. And then I went to open
a checking account again. Much to my surprise, I still could not get a
checking account! Even though I had paid my old debts, my credit was
ruined for letting these debts previously go without paying on them. So I
still had bad credit, and no bank in town would let me have a checking
account! People advised me to get a co-signer and borrow money, and pay
it off for a couple of years; but I simply couldn't afford to borrow
money right then. So this really burned me up. It was like I did what
I thought was right by paying off all my old debts, but the world
was still refusing to let me have a life! So I sulked for a couple of
days about this. Then I finally considered that it was just another test
that I could pass, with God's help. So I decided to get over it and get
on with it, and went to the Bible for some words of wisdom and comfort,
and the Holy Spirit took me right to the source!

Hebrews 10:32-39 Remember how it was with you in the past. In those days,
after God's light had shone on you, you suffered many things, yet were
not defeated by the struggle.
You were at times publicly insulted and mistreated, and at
other times you were ready to join those who were being treated in this way
You shared the sufferings of prisoners, and when all your
belongings were seized, you endured your loss gladly, because you knew
that you still possessed something much better, which would last forever.
Do not lose your courage, then, because it brings with it a great reward.
You need to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what he promises.
For, as the scripture says, "Just a little while longer, and
he who is coming will come; he will not delay.
My righteous people, however, will believe and live; but if
any of them turns back, I will not be pleased with them."
We are not people who turn back and are lost. Instead, we
have faith and are saved.

Now I know just how true this is. Just after I saw Godís light, I
went through the fire. A part of me wanted to give up; my old way of
life seemed easier. But really, easier is not necessarily better, is it?
Though surviving had been easy back then, I was miserable and wanted to
die! Now I am content, as long as I keep my focus on God, and what He
has brought me out of. Many of my new friends have never been where I
have, and they donít really understand, but I thank God they don't have
to. I have never suffered beyond what I was able to bear! And though I
still don't have great credit, a new car, or own my own home, I have
much more than ever before! I ended up with a job (not very long after I
had first tried to open a checking account), where my employers were
members of the federal credit union; and through this job, I did get a
checking account, and began to build my credit again; I even have a
couple of major credit cards, now, HA!!HAA!!! And life is still getting
better every day!!! Though my car is not new, it is paid for; it's
mine. Though my motorcycle is vintage, I paid cash for it; it's mine. I
have a computer, and all kinds of electronics and tools; everything I've
wanted, I've been able to get it, eventually, (still working on a
wife). But it didn't come easy for me. It has been a battle, but one worth
fighting for. These two verses in Hebrews really spoke to me: ďDo not
lose courage, then, because it brings with it a great reward" and "you
need to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what He
promises". See, these two things work together as the key to all locked
doors ... faith and patience.

James 1:12 "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for
when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God
has promised to those who love him."

This is the answer... faith and patience, and all in God's good
timing. We're going to be tested; but when we pass these tests, we get
rewarded with a promotion; and over all this, Godís grace and mercy
overflows into my life like a river. The main thing is not to focus more on
where you want to be than on what you've come out of. I would have never
believed, before, that my life could ever be this good; that I could
laugh and enjoy myself, and praise and worship God like I do now. He is
so awesome! May I never forget where I've been, so that I will never
stop being thankful for God's deliverance from all the terrible
oppressions of my past. Christ has won the victory for us, and we should walk in
the authority He has given us. "Behold! I have given you authority to
tread on serpents and scorpions, and over ALL the power of the enemy,
and nothing shall hurt you " (Luke 10:19).

So be patient, give thanks for Godís grace and mercy and for Jesus
dying on the cross. Remember that easier is not always better! The
promises of God are worth fighting for Ö Joe

John 16:33 I've told you this so that my peace will be with you. In the
world you'll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world."

Psalm 116:1-9 I love the LORD, because He has heard my voice and my
supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call
upon Him as long as I live. The pains of death surrounded me, and the
pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I
called upon the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!"
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful. The LORD
preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to
your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For You
have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from
falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

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