The Last One Standing

By Linda Tancs

Do you know what it’s like to be “the last one standing?” Sometimes, it might connote something victorious, like winning on the Survivor reality show. Or, if you’re like me, it means being picked last in gym class, which was tantamount to not being chosen at all.

Rejection hurts. Joseph (Barsabbas) knew the feeling. He was a contender for the role of replacement apostle after Judas’s betrayal, but Matthias got selected instead (Acts 1:23-26). And, of course, no one knew rejection better than Jesus. But the fact remains that you’ll never be chosen last by God (Psalm 94:14). People may offer rejection, but God always offers acceptance. His opinion matters more; let His offer of acceptance create an atmosphere for you to thrive in the way that He’s called you.

In Sync

By Linda Tancs

The belief that all things work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28) is a recognition of Divine order. It’s an abdication of the need to know how things will work out (Proverbs 3:5). Instead, it’s an acknowledgment that things will work out. All things. Not some things or even most things. God is the ultimate timekeeper, syncing all the times of your life into a harmonious whole. You can probably look at some circumstances already and see how it worked out for the best. God’s not done yet.

More Than a Conqueror

By Linda Tancs

There’s no shortage of famous conquerors in world history, like Napoleon—renowned for his strategy and command of the battlefields of war (until Waterloo, that is). For most of us, there’s a different battle brewing. It’s in the mind, where nagging thoughts often plague and condemn us that we’re not where we need to be, not up to the task, not able to navigate life successfully, and so on. When the mind wages war we need to remember that we’re more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). What does it mean to be “more than a conqueror?” It means that, unlike Napoleon, there is no battle and, therefore, no need to conquer. We’ve already won. Through Christ, we are ready for anything and equal to anything that comes up in life (Philippians 4:13). Victory is assured; you needn’t worry about meeting your Waterloo.

What’s In a Name?

By Linda Tancs

In Hollywood, every producer wants to cast a movie with a “bankable” name. Likewise, in other fields, big names garner authority and leverage.

The Bible, too, has its share of heavyweights among God’s people, like Abraham, Moses, Job, David and Daniel. But just as noteworthy are the unnamed—anonymous people, even outsiders, immortalized for their deeds in the service of God and his kingdom. Consider, for instance, Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well. She’d had many men in her life and, worse yet, was a Samaritan engaging in conversation with a Jew. Jesus’s gentle correction of her sinful ways and His mere knowledge of her past had her undone in a matter of minutes. Despite her bad reputation and limited knowledge of the Messiah, she drew many in her town to the Gospel (John 4), making her one of the most unlikely evangelists in human history. Just before Jesus’s death, another unnamed heroine mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels anoints Him with expensive oil while He is dining with his apostles. Although the apostles are indignant at this display and intrusion, Jesus remarks that what she has done will be told in memory of her whenever the Gospel is preached (Matthew 26:7-13).

You don’t have to have a big name to make a big difference.

Sweet Surrender

By Linda Tancs

Waving the white flag. It’s an action many a child undertakes when engaging in a fake war on the playground or in the backyard. It’s a sign of surrender, giving up all rights to the opposing force. Surrendering to God is like that. God has a plan for our lives, and surrendering to Him means we set aside our own plans in favor of His—the better plan (Jeremiah 29:11).

Romans 6:13 says that God demands that you surrender all of yourself; we don’t get to reserve a portion of our life for our own ends, a little corner dedicated to our career interests, ambitions, life goals or luxury goods. Indeed, Jesus said that His followers must deny themselves (Mark 8:34). That’s a complete call to surrender.

Surrendering to the Lord is sweet. It is, like the songwriter John Denver wrote, a life without care. Like a fish in the water. Like a bird in the air. Their needs don’t escape the Lord’s notice. And yours don’t, either (Matthew 6:25-34).

Be Inspired, Not Tired

By Linda Tancs

How energized are you? Do you feel like the tortoise—or the hare? If your answer is the tortoise, know that you’re in good company. Recent studies show that, among other factors, stress and social media are taking a toll on energy levels. It’s disheartening, especially considering that Scripture exhorts us to begin each day with zeal and enthusiasm (Romans 12:11).

So how do you put some zest back into life? For starters, it doesn’t hurt to get inspired. As the literary figure Goethe allegedly said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.” What are you dreaming about? What did you dream about as a kid? What do other people think you’re good at? Do you have a hobby? Another tactic for zeal is gratitude, something encouraged in the Bible (Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 12:2-3). Jesus likewise encourages you to give your tired mind, body or soul to Him for refreshment (Matthew 11:28-30). Don’t be tired; get inspired.

 

Who, Me?

By Linda Tancs

“I’m not up to the task.” How often have you felt unworthy or unfit for a task? At least once, no doubt. We often shrink with fear when faced with an assignment that we perceive will test our limits—physically, mentally, emotionally or socially. During those times it’s good to remember how ordinary folks in the Bible were used by God to accomplish extraordinary things. Consider the prophet Jeremiah, called by God at a young age to minister to a nation; he thought he was way too young and inexperienced to be effective (Jeremiah 1:4-8). Mary pondered how she, a virgin, could become mother to our Savior (Luke 1:34). Moses felt inadequate to the task of demanding Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery (Exodus 3:11). Jonah was so intimated by God’s call for him to witness at Nineveh that he fled on a ship (Jonah 1:2-3). Gideon thought himself too lowly of a man to deliver Israel from the Midianites (Judges 6:11-16).

You get the picture. Yet in each case, God didn’t expect his draft picks to act alone. He promised to be with them. And so it is with us. He’s present in every task, duty, charge, assignment or obligation (Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 41:10; Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 28:20). Because of that, you can accomplish anything with the strength that He gives you (Philippians 4:13).

It’s Okay to Wobble

By Linda Tancs

If you’re of a certain vintage, you probably remember the Weebles toy—“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” Think of that toy as a metaphor for life. Each of us needs to bounce back in the face of setbacks. Maybe you’ve fallen short in some area of your life—marriage, career, parenting. Just don’t settle for lack; get back on the horse, as the saying goes.

Discouragement scourges and oppresses progress. Consider the Israelites, whose grumbling and complaining kept them out of the Promised Land, ultimately for 40 years even though the journey was roughly only 11 days (Numbers 14:2-4; Deuteronomy 1:2). And then there’s Abraham’s father, Terah, who set out with his family in tow for Canaan but then settled for Haran (Genesis 11:31). In each case, the parties outright surrendered to discouragement and thwarted the progress God intended for them.

Wobble if you must, but don’t surrender (see Proverbs 24:16). Don’t settle for less than God’s best. Pray for the strength to hold on and not give up (Luke 18:1). You can’t reap a harvest without tending to the field (Galatians 6:9).

 

 

When it Rains, it Pours

By Linda Tancs

You know what it’s like when you’re having “one of those days,” when everything that could possibly go wrong does exactly that. The prophet Habakkuk could relate. He lamented over fig trees that did not blossom, vines that bore no fruit, failing olive trees, fruitless fields, flock cut off from the fold and no cattle in the stalls (Habakkuk 3:17). I guess you could say he was having a bad day.

Do you often get overwhelmed when circumstances seem out of control? Habakkuk did, too, but God reminded him to trust Him in the midst of oppression and destruction. He instructed him, in essence, to create a vision board and stand by it (Habakkuk 2:3). After all, what’s the use in focusing on what is going wrong when you can visualize a better outcome? It’s easy to quit in hard times, the storms of life. Habakkuk resolved to trust God to make his feet like hinds’ feet—in other words, swift and nimble. How swiftly and nimbly do you act when life throws you a curveball?

Life Outside the Box

By Linda Tancs

Sometimes life may feel like one giant closet organizer. There’s a box for hopes and dreams. A box where we shelve our concerns about money. A box for work. A box for relationships, past or present. You may even put God in a box, usually opened on Sunday for an hour or so.

Benjamin Franklin said, “A place for everything, everything in its place.” Well, that might work for closets, but living a box-like life is stifling—and unrealistic. Life is messy. It’s hard to compartmentalize feelings, actions or emotions. We’re not robots; we’re human beings created to be interdependent. Living inside the box fosters independence, isolation and self-sufficiency; living outside the box produces reliance and interdependence.

Interdependence is vital to Christian unity. The Scriptures remind us of its value in personal relationships (Genesis 2:24; 1 Timothy 5:8), teamwork (1 Peter 4:10) and character development (Philippians 2:3-4). Thinking outside the box is a business cliché. Living outside the box is a profundity.