Through the Relentless series, I can truly say that what started as a desire...Testimony
Bella Sander's Testimony
Honesty hour: I'm an insecure person.
Then again, I don't know anyone who isn't.
I've struggled with this my whole life-- "I'm not pretty enough." "I'm not smart enough." "I'm not skinny enough." "I'm nothing. I'm meaningless. I have no purpose."
These are lies that the Enemy has whispered to me, my entire life -- lies I allowed him to cultivate within me. I bought into these lies.
I accepted Jesus into my life when I was six, but I didn't really know what it meant. I didn't live it out. All I received was a dunk in the baptismal and a shiny new brand: Christian. Once I became older, in my early teens, I began to see what Christianity was all about. Now, I didn't completely understand, but I knew enough to live a slightly less shallow life.
Over those years, I would have small spurts of blazing faith, where I would be so on fire for God (after returning from a Christian camp or conference). Regardless of my vigor, my faith did not have a firm foundation, was not disciplined, and was easily extinguished.
When I was fourteen years old, I fell right into the trap of depression. I felt unloved, unwanted, and overlooked by my friends and peers. A few months later, I started cutting myself. The pain gave me feeling—something that I had not experienced due to a persisting numbness. I wanted someone, anyone, to notice me, to help me, to pay attention to me—but no one did. Eventually, my parents figured out about it, and I turned to a few leaders in the church to help me fight against depression. They would function as my accountability partners. The enemy was, and still is, trying his best to break me for good -- to make me think I was/am worth nothing.
But why does Satan try to destroy something so persistently if it isn't of value?
Soon after I broke free from self-harm, I committed myself to an ungodly relationship. I felt freed from depression, but I still craved love, attention, and acceptance. I placed all of it in this one person that I thought could fulfill me, but one person was never meant to bear the weight of what only God could fulfill. Obviously, it failed, and I was crushed. I had stored up all my love, attention, and hope into this person who, of course, let me down. After this, I continued to turn to the world's favorite pastimes, specifically sexual immorality, to distract me from the emptiness I had.
See, God had broken the chains of self-harm, but I was still numb. I was still craving something, or someone, to love me. I knew God loved me; but, the lack of a tangible form pushed me to deny that love and caused me to forget how great His love for me really is.
I've had so many low points – feeling such brokenness, sobbing my eyes out, and praying for God to help. I prayed for God to please take it all away, to clean me, make me pure, and start anew in me. Shame would always take hold and the remorse would set in. I would feel so guilty and wish I could just take it all back. I constantly rested, and still do, on Romans 7:15, 17-25:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do... As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So, I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched [woman] I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
I often find myself in this place -- a place of saying, "Lord, I want to do your will!", but sin always catches me. I do it, but I don't want to do it. The Devil has convinced us that we can't live without it -- whatever it is, whether it's sexual immorality, drunkenness, depression, gossip, lying, etc. We aren't naturally good. We are inherently evil. Luke 18:19 says,
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone."
Since we aren't naturally good or kind, it is so easy for Satan to tempt us. It's easy for him to pull us into sin, because sin is natural to us. We would rather live in debauchery and feel good all the time, than abstain from what the world is doing and feel like an outsider.
I thought coming to college would be a great experience -- and I'm not saying it hasn't been. I've seen God move in my own life tremendously since I moved to Mobile, but I've also witnessed the Devil trying his absolute hardest to break me.
For my first semester, I struggled with disbelief and doubt. I thought, "I know God will provide for me. I know he has a plan and a purpose for me." But, I always had that voice in the back of my mind, whispering uncertainties to me and feeding me worry.
When January hit, I really began to get uncomfortable. My sister had moved out of the dorms on campus (and recently got married). I had a new roommate, a new set of classes, and a new job. Everything was changing, and I hate change (side note: I actually really like my new job and roommate -- change just makes me uncomfortable). It makes me uneasy. So, on top of being a freshman in college, my whole life seemed to be shifting again, right after I started feeling settled.
Every year, Church of the Highlands hosts a conference called 'Saturate' at Shocco Springs in January. It's a weekend event where students go and participate in an all-water fast. We pray, worship, listen to biblical messages, etc. It's a great experience, honestly. I've gone the past three years, and every time I find myself on the floor of the gym at Shocco bawling my eyes out.
And this time was no different.
I was praying for something specific. As I was praying, hoping, I just kept hearing this voice in my head, saying, "This isn't it. This is just you, not God." And all I could think was, "God, how long will I live in disbelief and doubt?" So, at that moment, I literally yelled, "Get behind me Satan! You will not keep me from what God has for me, and you have no power here. I am covered under the blood of Jesus Christ!" No one heard me because the music was so loud, but God heard me and so did the Devil.
I received what I was praying for by the grace of God. Ever since, I've been trying to live my life through a lens of belief -- that God is a God of miracles. I've seen God do great things in the last three months that I never would've credited to God before. The status quo and the coincidences are now miraculous events from God.
Moving along, I knew God had a plan for me, but I was still worried (not as much, but somewhat). So, long story short, my new roommate turned out to be awesome (shout out to Anna Claire). Once we had gotten to know one another better, she said something to me that shifted my perspective. She said,
"I wasn't sure how you would take it because I didn't know you yet, but God gave me a word for you before we had met. He said you’re an explosive force of creativity. You’re creative in so many things and even things that you aren’t open with. God wants you to know that you have a place in ministry, and it’s going to be amazing, and you’re going to do great things. "
Y'all, I almost started sobbing right then and there. What she said was so amazing, but what really shook me was: "God wants you to know that you have a place in ministry."
She brought up the very thing I had been struggling with. God knew exactly what He was doing when He placed Anna Claire in my life. She is here to encourage me. I no longer felt lost -- I knew this was what God had for me. Of course, uncertainty always strikes, but it's easier to beat it when you know for certain that God has it all planned for you.
This was an amazing time. However, since this word was spoken over me, I have been under extreme oppression from Satan. See, before, I was self-doubting. Self-doubt is a slow, silent killer. (I think a lot of people in ministry allow their self-doubt to choke out their chances of being successful agents for Christ.) Anyway, before, I was wallowing in self-doubt. On the outside, I acted confident and assured, but on the inside, I had no clue what was going to happen. The Devil didn't have to mess with me, as much, then because I was sabotaging myself. I was doing his work for him. But as soon as I began to cast off doubt and disbelief, he saw. He began to fear -- and he came after me (and continues to do so).
The Devil isn't creative, y'all. He dredges up old habits and tries to use them against us again and again. We often fall into his trap, but we often find freedom. Thankfully, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I have not self-harmed, and I am adamant that I will not.
Now that I'm awake to what God has for me and now that I can see His goodness, it's also easier to see where the Devil is trying to cultivate evil. Now that I know my purpose and am no longer laying in doubt, Satan, as I said, is afraid. He knows I'm a powerful agent for Christ. He knows I'm valuable and that I have a purpose given by the kingdom of Heaven. He's pulling out all the stops trying to get me to doubt again, trying to get me to run away, or fall down.
And yes, I may doubt. I may fall. I may run. But the important thing is that I always come right back. I take every thought captive as soon as I think it. I don't let it culminate; I don't let myself believe it. I call on the name of Jesus, who has so much more power than Satan ever will, and He delivers me. He destroys the darkness. All of my insecurities,
"I'm not pretty enough." "I'm not smart enough." "I'm not skinny enough." "I'm nothing, I'm meaningless, I have no purpose."
are crushed in the name of Jesus. The Devil utilizes the insecurities to hold me back. If I don't think enough of myself, how could I ever share the Gospel? How could I ever be confident in telling people about Jesus and His love, sacrifice, redemption if I don’t love myself, a creation of God himself?
I used to say, "I hate myself" a lot. It was more of slang if I did something awkward or weird, but I've noticed that the more I say it, no matter how much in jest, the more I believe it. I've started saying, "I love myself" no matter what occurs. The more I've begun to say it, the more I'm starting to believe it. This is such a simple thing to do, but it really works. I have to choose to say:
"I am God's masterpiece."
"I am made intelligent through Christ and his love."
"I am beautiful regardless of my size -- God loves me for who I am, not who I want to be."
"I am worth so much, and I have such a large calling on my life from God."
Hillsong Worship has a new song out called, "Who You Say I Am," and I am completely in love with the lyrics. The chorus goes like this:
“Who the Son sets free Is free indeed.
I’m a child of God Yes, I am.
In my Father’s house There’s a place for me.
I’m a child of God Yes, I am.”
Like, wow. I am free indeed, because Jesus has set me free. I am a child of God -- not of the world, or of sin, or of death, or of evil. I am God's child, He is my Father. In my Father's house, there's a place for me. God has a place for me. Even though the earth may not, my Abba does. Even though the world may reject me, hate me, tell me I'm not good enough, it doesn't matter. The opinion people have of me matters very little to me. I am who God says I am, not who the world tries to brand me as.
The bridge is even better:
“I am chosen Not forsaken I am who You say I am
You are for me Not against me I am who You say I am”
I am chosen, not forsaken! I am not abandoned or deserted. Though the WORLD may leave me, God never ever will. Although they say I am nothing, I know that I am chosen by God.
God is for me, not against me. The world won't like what we have to say as Christians, but it does not matter. Because if God is for us, who can be against us? The world will try to keep us quiet, try to silence us through shame, past experiences, hurting us, threatening us, or killing us, but we will not stop.
Jesus, I am who you say I am.
And He says I am:
3. His own
7. co-heir with Christ
9. made new
10. set free
12. a masterpiece
13. more than a conqueror
15. citizen of heaven
20. child of light
21. alive in Christ
22. doer of the Word
24. His elect
25. O V E R C O M E R
He calls us to be so much more than what the world brands us. I am an OVERCOMER in Christ. I have overcome death, grave, doubt, depression, sexual immorality, jealousy, gossip, hatred, and grudges; because, I am MORE than a conqueror.
What could happen if we believed in His goodness -- if we believed we're worthy of the love that came to save us?
WHAT. IF. WE. BELIEVED. IT?
I don't know who this was for. I've always been so insecure about my testimony. I never want anyone to think less of me because of my past, or because of what sin ensnares me. But, I just kept feeling this pull to write it all out. Side note: Never let anyone discredit you because of what you've struggled with. NEWS FLASH: EVERYONE STRUGGLES WITH SOMETHING. Just because they may not wrestle with the same thing you do, doesn't mean they're any better than you, or that you're any less qualified than them. So many times, I've allowed someone to stop me from speaking life because of something I've done in my past. I know with other Christians we do this because we don't want the other person to be seen as more "spiritual" than us. Anyway, Christ has forgiven you, and if you've asked for forgiveness, then it's done. It's in the past. If you're around someone who constantly brings up your mistakes, then I encourage you to cut them out of your life (with mercy, of course). All they will do is bring you down and inhibit you from living a true life with Christ, telling others about Him.
So, I hope this helps someone who is struggling -- maybe with the things I struggle with or just with disbelief. Maybe you're hurting and trying to find who you are in Christ. YOU ARE WORTH SO MUCH. You are more precious than rubies.
When you wake up in the morning, make this your declaration: "Father, I am Yours. I am holy, chosen, beautiful, worthy, treasured, and blessed. You have made me, and I will rejoice that I have another day, and another chance, to tell Your truth to those around me. Thank you, Abba."
Say the list of 25 things; look at yourself in the mirror and say them, write them down, hang them on your wall, text them, and Instagram them -- whatever helps you see them and believe them. The more you say it, the more you believe it, and the more you believe it, the more God can use you for His purposes.
Michelle & Ben, and Jud & Susanne Gardner
"Through the Relentless series, I can truly say that what started as a desire to surrender my work/work problems/stress to God, has turned into a deep desire to lead others TO CHRIST!”
My name is Lindsay, and this is My Story.
I have been a Christ Follower since I was eight years old (I'll be 35 soon). Like most, my level of commitment and desire to put God alone on the throne of my heart has wavered. There are times that were a little more shameful than others, but I have a wonderful family that instilled an authentic faith in me - I have always been able to refocus after slipping. Here's where 3Circle comes in. My entire life, growing up in church, going to a Christian school, having pretty good friends, I can honestly say that I never really understood what my role was as a Christian. For so long I thought it was about me, my salvation, my doing right, my actions, etc. It was not until the Relentless series that I realized what I am supposed to be doing here!
Here's where it gets really cool. We (our family of three) moved here in late July, and my first visit to 3CC was the Sunday that we started the Relentless series. Our move to Daphne was for my job - a promotion where I was taking on a new role in my industry. I now know that even before I got here, he was preparing my heart for this series. I had no idea how He was planning to use me! Through these teachings, a door that was shut my entire career has been opened. Through the Relentless series, I can truly say that what started as a desire to surrender my work/work problems/stress to God, has turned into a deep desire to lead others TO CHRIST! That is all I want to do. And there are so many ways to do this in my line of work! Even if the earthly success I am experiencing was to vanish, I would be okay. I am ready and excited to share my faith with those at my workplace. When they ask, my answer will be JESUS!"