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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Whitaker House (March 2, 2010)
Danette Crawford is an author and evangelist who founded Joy Ministries in 1989 and serves as the organization’s president. Danette earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a minor in Bible from Lee University and a Master of Arts in counseling from Regent University. Joy Ministries, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and focuses on serving the needs of low income women and families. Her television ministry, Joy in the Morning with Danette Crawford, is syndicated around the world, reaching over 165 million homes each week. She has been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC, and TBN programming and has appeared on the 700 Club, Living the Life, and Paula White Today.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (March 2, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Are you in a storm the size of Texas? Are you looking up from a dark pit with high walls but see no ladder in sight? I want to extend a rope of hope to you!
If you feel like you’re in a pit, relax. You’re not the first person to find yourself looking up from within what feels like a deep, dark hole. In the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis, we read about a guy who found himself in his own pit—literally! His name was Joseph, and he was the eleventh son of a great patriarch named Jacob. The worst thing about Joseph’s pit was that Joseph’s brothers were the ones who threw him in there. Talk about rejection! For Joseph, that pit looked like a dark dead end, but it was truly a pathway to the palace—a direct route, at that. (See Genesis 37:11–37; 39:1–6, 20–23; 41:39–44.)
In the New Testament, we read about the apostle Paul, a respected Jewish leader who became a Christian, won souls for Jesus, and consequently found himself in his own pit. You see, being in a pit is a situation common to everyone—rich and poor, male and female, young and old, privileged and blue-collar. Paul’s pit was in the shape of a ship in a raging storm. Everyone wanted to jump off that ship, but God told Paul, “Don’t abandon ship—you’ll come through this!” (See Acts 27.)
I want to encourage you today—don’t abandon ship! Yes, you may be in the midst of the biggest storm of your life. Yes, your pit may seem overwhelming. But I can promise you that it’s only temporary. This too shall pass. It’s temporary as long as you make good choices and wise decisions as a result of your obeying Father God and doing what He tells you to do.
No, you are not alone; the Lord is with you no matter how deep and dark your pit may be. And no, you are not the only one who has ever been in that pit!
GRAB AHOLD OF THE WORD—YOUR ROPE OF HOPE
Both Joseph and Paul needed a rope of hope. There’s a rope of hope for you, too! It’s here right now in front of you. The other end of your rope is tied directly to the Word of truth—the Bible. God’s Word provides a map to guide us out of any and every pit that we find ourselves in. Psalm 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (nkjv). In other words, we all experience “pits” in our lives, but we must grab ahold of the rope of hope and be determined to climb out.
John 8:32 says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth on its own doesn’t set you free; it’s the truth that you know that sets you free. Our map to get out of the pit is the Word of God, but we must read the map. We must study the map, or we could stay lost in the pit. I travel a lot by car, and I always study the map before I leave. (I don’t like to use a GPS!) If I don’t study the map or refer to it during my trip, I’m just about guaranteed to get lost. Finding my way is as easy as reading the map, but I have to read it. I can’t obtain the knowledge by osmosis. The same is true with our map out of the pit.
(Insert call-out box) READ IT…’CAUSE YOU’LL NEED IT!
The good news is that every pit has the potential to be temporary because the Word assures us that God will deliver us from every affliction. One important key I have learned is that I must never quit; I must never give up. If I never quit, if I never give up, I can never be defeated. But if I decide to quit and give up, I will spend the rest of my life in the pit. The choice is really up to me. If I have a pity party in my pit…well, I’ll be there for a while! But if I grab ahold of the rope of hope every day, I can climb out of the pit and be back on the path to the palace.
DON’T LET THE LOCUST STEAL FROM YOU
What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. (Joel 1:4)
As an adult, I can look back and recall many times when the enemy sent locusts into my life to eat away at the blessings and the life that my heavenly Father had for me. These “locust attacks” became pits, and I had to choose not to allow them to be permanent states or seasons in my life.
Years ago, I was reading the Bible when I came across the above Scripture, Joel 1:4. I didn’t really understand it at first, but then the Lord started showing me that it described my life—one locust attack after another. And those locusts had stolen years of my life from me.
The locust of rejection had eaten away at my joy and self-confidence. The locust of anger had eaten away at my peace. And the locust of unforgiveness had eaten away at my very being. What wasn’t stolen in one locust attack was stolen in another. Years of joy, peace, and happiness were stolen from me when I was in the pits of abuse, divorce, and abandonment. I then began looking to the people who had hurt me to repay me for all of my losses.
Joel 2:25 says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” In other words, we are assured that the Lord repays us for all the years that the locusts have stolen from our lives. Other people can never repay us for years that have been stolen—only the Lord can. In reality, it’s not people who have stolen from us but the hand of the enemy. When we look to other people to repay us for our pain, we dig a deeper pit due to the unforgiveness and bitterness in our hearts. That’s a dangerous place to be, because unforgiveness prevents us from ever getting out of the pit!
EVERY CHOICE CREATES INCREASE OR DECREASE
Every day of our lives, we make hundreds of choices. Those choices always produce either increase or decease in various areas of life. For example, when I decide to get up early and exercise, I make a choice that increases my health, even though it may decrease the amount of sleep that I get. Stop and think about it. Every decision creates increase or decrease. We must be led by the Holy Spirit and choose wisely.
When we panic in the pit, we often grab ahold of anything we can get our hands on—anything that we think might keep us from going deeper into the pit. Actually, the opposite usually proves true. If we panic in the pit, the thing we grab on to actually serves as a shovel and takes us deeper.
You’ve probably seen this before—a person who grabs on to, for example, a new relationship in an attempt to get out of a relational pit. What happens? Instead of getting out of that previous relational pit, she winds up going even deeper into it. Or perhaps you know someone who grabbed a drug or a drink in attempt to numb the pain from his pit, only to find himself in a deeper, darker, even more painful pit. Don’t panic in the pit. The key is not to react out of our flesh, or carnal instincts, but to act out of our spirits!
ACT, DON’T REACT
A good example of acting rather than reacting is found in the twentieth chapter of 2 Chronicles. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, heard from some of his men that a vast army was coming against him, and that they weren’t far away. They weren’t just an army; they were a vast army—a really, really, really big army! And they were not only coming after Jehoshaphat; they were also coming to destroy the whole city and everyone in it. They were advancing quickly. (See 2 Chronicles 20:1–2.)
It’s one thing when a storm or a battle is coming, but it’s a whole different thing when that storm is the size of Texas! The Word tells us that Jehoshaphat was alarmed, yet he did not react out of his flesh. Rather, he acted out of his spirit, meaning he took a deep breath and went to God with his troubles. (See verses 3–12.)
When we react out of our flesh, we freak out. We cry, we scream, we yell, we emit any other series of unproductive responses. Some people even run away from God at the very time when they need to run to God the most. Jehoshaphat didn’t react out of his flesh; he acted out of his spirit. Verse three tells us, “Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” And in verse four, we read, “The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord.” In the midst of the biggest battle or storm of Jehoshaphat’s life, he inquired of the Lord. He didn’t inquire of his friends, his pastor, his boss, or his spouse. He came before the Lord in fasting and prayer, and he encouraged those around him to do the same.
(Insert call-out box) DON’T PANIC IN THE PIT
Jehoshaphat was alarmed when he learned that a vast army much larger than his was coming to make war with him. He was alarmed, but he did not panic. He did not react. He acted. Many times, we react emotionally to our pit or to the crisis at hand. As a result, we waste all our time and energy, and we don’t help the situation at all. As a matter of fact, we may even make things worse.
After waiting many, many years to get married, I found myself in an abusive marriage to a man who had a sexual addiction. After dating for a year, we got married, and I immediately saw a side of him that he had never allowed me to see.
It took me a few years to realize that my husband had a sexual addiction, but as soon as I did, I panicked in the pit! I didn’t act out of my spirit by any stretch of the imagination. I reacted out of my flesh with a full-blown panic attack in the pit.
By His grace, God had supernaturally kept me hidden under His hand of protection, even though I had been raised in a fatherless home. I was very naïve in many areas, and I was vulnerable to my husband’s deception as a result.
When we find ourselves at the edge of a deep, dark pit, reacting out of our flesh is the worst thing we can do. When we react, we react out of our flesh, our emotions, or our natural minds. Reacting to the pit or the battle you are up against acknowledges how big and how powerful the enemy is. But when we act out of our spirits, we acknowledge how big and powerful God is. This enables us to come successfully out of every pit that dares to entrap us.
Unlike me, Jehoshaphat acted. Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast that he might hear from God on how to handle the situation at hand. Not only did Jehoshaphat seek the Lord, he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. Everyone in the surrounding towns came together to fast and to seek God’s direction. The people responded according to how Jehoshaphat handled the situation. If Jehoshaphat had panicked and had come unglued, the people around him would have done the same thing. When we react out of our emotions and we don’t act out of our spirit, we give place for the enemy to defeat us. But, if we act out of our spirit, if we look to the Lord for how to handle the situations we face, then we always come out on the winning side.
(Insert call-out box) DETERMINATION WILL GET YOU WHERE YOU NEED TO GO
“Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord.” To resolve essentially means the same thing as to determine. So, Jehoshaphat determined to inquire of the Lord—not his friends, not his coworkers, not his family, but the Lord! And think about Joseph. That young man was totally alone in his pit, without a friend or brother in sight. So, whether we are alone in the pit or sitting there with the opinionated words of others swirling about our heads, our first and best option is to inquire of the Lord and get His opinion on things.
When the people of Judah all gathered at the temple, Jehoshaphat stood up and prayed. He started his prayer by acknowledging God as the all-powerful, all-knowing God. He prayed, “Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you” (2 Chronicles 20:6). When we acknowledge God for who He is, we don’t have any trouble letting Him be in control. But when we forget what He’s done for us in the past and doubt what He will do for us in the future, we start acting out of our own strength; we want to take control ourselves.
Jehoshaphat acknowledged God in his situation. As a result, he looked to God for the solution to the problem. The Bible instructs us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). We need to recognize and acknowledge who God is in the midst of our pits and battles. Sometimes, we can get so caught up in acknowledging how big the opposing army is or how deep our pit is that we get distracted and forget that God is bigger and is still in control.
When we panic, we try to do in the flesh what can be done only in the Spirit. When we get in the flesh, we can dig an even deeper pit. It is my desire that you will refuse to grab a shovel but grab the rope of hope instead and determine to climb out, no matter how deep your pit may seem today!
Jehoshaphat was determined to inquire of the Lord. Determination will get us just about anywhere we want to go. If we are determined to go in a direction that’s opposite from God’s direction for our lives, we can. It won’t be pretty, and it won’t be fun, but our determination can take us in that direction—at least for a little while.
DETERMINATION—A GREAT GIFT
The Bible is full of great stories of men and women of God who went from pits to pinnacles in their personal lives or careers. Have you ever heard someone comment, “Today was a Jonah day”? When someone says that, you know she means that she’s had a very hard day or experienced an above-average rough time! Well, let’s look at how rough it got for Jonah.
The Lord directed him to Nineveh, where he was to convict the people of their wickedness. But Jonah was determined to go to Tarshish instead—and that’s exactly where he set out to go! His trip didn’t last long, and it wasn’t pretty, but that’s the direction in which his determination took him.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. (Jonah 1:1–3)
Jonah paid the fare to go in the opposite direction from the Word of the Lord. At the time, the fare seemed cheap, but the fare for disobedience is always extremely expensive. Sometimes, it can cost us everything, including our lives.
Because of God’s great love, He sent a violent storm to give Jonah another opportunity to use his determination to take him in the right direction. The storm was so violent that the ship on which Jonah was traveling threatened to break up. As the seas became rougher and rougher, Jonah admitted that everyone on the ship was going through the storm as a result of his disobedience.
Storms can come in our lives as a result of our disobedience, other people’s disobedience, or directly from the hand of God to prune us and cause us to be even more fruitful. Job is an excellent example of this.
When we walk in disobedience, God often allows storms to come into our lives to get us back on track. Not only does He allow storms to get our attention, but He supernaturally provides a way out of the storms, as well.
After Jonah confessed his culpability for the storm, he directed the sailors to throw him overboard. So, “they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:15, 17). After the storm subsided, Jonah woke up in the whale’s stomach with his head in a tangle of seaweed. Now, that’s a pit! What was the first thing Jonah did when he realized his predicament? He prayed.
ALWAYS PRAY IN THE PIT
Always pray in the pit! If you aren’t sure how to pray, you can borrow a few words from Jonah!
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:1–9)
Immediately after praying, Jonah was delivered from his pit. “The Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:10). God repeated His command for Jonah to preach His message to the people of Nineveh, and this time, he obeyed.
The Lord brought Jonah up out of the pit, and He will do the same for you today. It doesn’t matter how or why you got in the pit. The important thing is that you don’t quit in the pit, but you grab ahold of the rope of hope and climb out.
(Insert call-out box) FROM PITS TO PINNACLES
There’s nothing like a pit to get you to pray. Some of the best prayer meetings that I have ever had have been while I was in a pit! Don’t quit in the pit, but pray like you have never prayed before.
If we are determined not to quit, we can successfully make it out of whatever pit we find ourselves in. As a young Christian, I felt as though I didn’t have any gifts that I could use to bring glory to God. I told God, “I can’t sing, I can’t play the piano…God, I don’t have any gifts.” It was years later when the Lord said to me, “Danette, your gift is the gift of determination.”
Well, I had never considered determination a gift. But all of us have gifts that we don’t even realize. God gives us whatever gifts we need to fulfill His call and purpose for our lives. As I look back over my life, I can definitely say that God gave me the gift I needed the most—the gift of determination.
Perhaps it will help you if I share some of my very personal “pit stops.” Or, maybe I should say “pit pauses,” because I had to remain determined not to stop at the pits. My prayer is that this book will encourage you to make your times in the pit temporary seasons. Yes, we all have pit experiences. So, in the following pages, I want to teach you what I have learned over the years. But most important, I want to encourage you to be determined never to quit in the pit but always to grab on to the rope of hope—God’s Word. And remember, the Word promises us double for all of our trouble! (See Job 42:10.)