Why is Advent Important?

This week began the season of Advent, the celebration of the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Different churches celebrate Advent in a variety of ways. You may also have a personal way in which you honor God during this time. There is no one tried and true way to live out this season, but it can be an impactful time of preparation, reflection, and spiritual rebirth. 

It is an old tradition within our faith, but one of powerful significance. There are layers of meaning beneath what it appears to be on the surface. The time of Advent is a season of preparation and anticipation for Jesus’ entry into the world. The word “advent” means “coming” in Latin. 

What we typically see as a remembrance of Jesus’ birth actually has a threefold meaning. What are these three meanings found in this season?

Celebrating Jesus’ Birth

This meaning is the most obvious. Advent is a Christian celebration of the Christmas season lived out through intentional worship practices. There are many ways that Christians live this out in practice, but the idea is the same. One of the most widely spread traditions is the Christmas tree. It is set-up on the first day of Advent as a visual reminder and celebration of the season for many people of faith. 

Remembering Jesus’ Impact on our Lives

Advent can also be an excellent time to reflect on Jesus’ arrival in our lives personally. As Christians, we all have a story of when we came to faith in Christ. Just like Jesus’ entry into the world was the defining moment of human history, His arrival into our hearts was likely the most impactful of our life. Let this season also serve as a reminder of that moment.

Just like Jesus’ entry into the world was the defining moment of human history, His arrival into our hearts was likely the most impactful of our life.

Anticipating Jesus’ Return 

The third and perhaps most relevant meaning of Advent is the hopeful anticipation of Jesus’ return. The Biblical story has not come to its conclusion. Jesus died for our sins, was resurrected, and has ascended, but He will return once more. Acts 1:11 reads, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (NIV). Advent is also a season to humbly prepare for the time when Christ returns to usher in God’s future Kingdom once and for all. 

This Advent season, consider everything this time represents and use it as motivation to deepen your faith. During your time living out your regular holiday traditions, remember Jesus’ presence in your life and the real meaning behind everything that you are doing. Also, take the time to further a spiritual discipline in your life, whether it be Bible reading, prayer, fasting, etc. Advent is the perfect time to recommit to your faith, striving towards a deeper relationship with Jesus!

How Does Faith Change Your Life?

Hebrews 11:11

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen (NLT).

During the formative years of one’s life, most people dream of becoming something like a doctor, teacher, or famous athlete. All I wanted to be was a dad. This desire to be a parent was the primary driver for many decisions in my life. I had felt this calling on my life and knew what path I was supposed to be following. I met the woman of my dreams, and we got married. All the pieces were starting to come together: until they weren’t. 

Our first two pregnancies ended in miscarriage. We were devastated. God had called us to start a family together, but it wasn’t happening. Every attempt that we made ended in heartbreak. We found ourselves without answers, wondering where we had gone wrong. The tragedies before us quickly eroded our faith. 

Life can be tough, no doubt about it. We aren’t always in control of what happens to us. There are times when there’s nothing we can rely on except our faith. In those moments, we realize the real power behind our faith and its ability to take a challenging situation and turn it into something beautiful. 

There are times when there’s nothing we can rely on except our faith.

My wife and I came to a critical decision. We sought answers, prepared the best we could, and took a leap of faith. Together, we entered our third pregnancy. We didn’t know what would come, but we decided to lean on our faith. Our decision paid off in ways we could never imagine. We are now the proud parents of the perfect baby girl. Faith changed our life and led us to our greatest victory. 

How does faith change your life? 

Faith Gives You Confidence

Faith reminds us that God is always by our side, no matter what we are going through. We will assuredly go through trails, big and small, in our life. But faith is the reminder that we never walk through any challenge alone. God promises to lead us to something better on the other side: Never forget that “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT).

Faith Reminds You of the Truth

Satan is a thief, seeking to steal your joy and security. His greatest weapon against our faith is lies. He slings them at us relentlessly, attempting to break our trust in God and distract us from the truth. He aims to do this because the truth is powerful beyond measure and fills us with love, peace, and joy as we’ve never known. Let Jesus’ words be a reminder always to remember the truth when you are assaulted with lies: “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, NLT).

The truth is powerful beyond measure and fills us with love, peace, and joy as we’ve never known.

Faith Shapes Your Worldview

We live in a world where negativity runs rampant and is amplified by social media and the news. This worldview is not the way that God would have us operate. Our mindset shapes our lives and our actions. God desires for us to cultivate a worldview of positivity, love, and peace. We can build this kind of attitude in ourselves through the assurance we receive from our faith in God: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).

You hear stories time and time again of how faith radically alters the course of someone’s life. That life-changing faith is available to you as well! All you have to do is let Jesus into your heart and walk a life of faith in God. Jesus wants to enter your life, filling you with a faith that will carry you through even the most trying of times. If you make this choice today, all of the unparalleled benefits of faith can be yours. 

Faith and Fitness: Consistency is Key

Have you ever had that moment when it was difficult to see the impact of what you were doing as it was happening? Perhaps you were working tirelessly in your ministry, exploring every possible avenue for growth. At first, the growth didn’t come, and you figured your efforts were for naught. But then, all of a sudden, the seeds you planted started to sprout. Growth came, and it came in crashing waves. Your hard work paid off after all.

I remember being a new worship pastor at the church I used to call home. Going into the role, I was eager to hit the ground running and bring instant revival to the church. I found out quite quickly it doesn’t work like that. That vision that God put on my heart did indeed happen, but it took time.

Our world is one of instant gratification. We can get what we want when we want it. Modern conveniences have spoiled us, and it has eroded our patience. I find this to be true in my fitness journey as well.

I want to see results, and I want to see them now. When I try a new exercise plan or health supplement, I’m frustrated when I don’t see an instant change in my body. I know better. Real results take consistency and time. The same is true for our spiritual health.

When I run regularly, my cardio improves. I’m able to go longer and faster each subsequent run. I’ve ended up building up a level of stamina that it was hard to picture at first. Running started as a painful test of my will and transformed into a truly enjoyable, liberating experience.

Real results take consistency and time. The same is true for our spiritual health.

The same can be said of our spiritual disciplines. The more that we engage with our faith, the more we deepen it. Let’s take prayer, for instance. It may seem forced at first, and we may grasp for words, but the more we speak with and open our hearts to God, the easier it becomes. That’s when we see the actual results, and our relationship with the Lord blooms.

The act of reading the Bible is similar. Let’s face it: when we begin reading Scripture, it can be strange and confusing. Between the multitude of translations and the sheer amount of time that separates us from what was written, it can take us time to comprehend the Bible’s style and language. When we are consistent, though, we make great strides, and God reveals truth to us as we have never known before.

Recently, I’ve been noticing actual results in my life. My prayers have become more powerful. My Bible reading has become more consistent. I have been crushing my weight-loss and fitness goals. My marriage and family are growing more beautiful by the day. I credit all to God, who continually reminds me to stay focused on my path even when it’s hard to see results at the moment.

Whatever hurdle you face in your life, faith walk, or fitness journey, don’t give up. Stay consistent. Keep pressing forward, and you will be amazed by the things you can achieve!

If you’re interested in reading more about the relationship between faith and fitness, click here!

Peace Through Prayer

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you (NIV).

God convicted me yesterday. You see, I had my day all planned out. I was going to get 100% caught up on work. Then I was going to write my blog post while enjoying a cup of coffee. My baby daughter was going to nap when I expected her to. I was excited about this day. There were goals to conquer, and I was ready to do it.

It turns out things didn’t go as I had planned. As I failed to follow the worldless directions while building a piece of IKEA furniture, my dog attacked the parts I had organized on the floor. My daughter, who I thought was napping, started screaming out of the blue. The work that I had set goals to accomplish for the day never got done. It was a circus.

At first, I felt frustration taking hold of me, but God stopped me at that moment and asked me to pray. I did. He flooded me with a peace that I didn’t think I would find amid the chaos. 

God stopped me in that moment and asked me to pray.

We grew up believing that we have control of things. Yes, we have free will and can work hard to make things happen for us. Ultimately though, curveballs are thrown at us that no amount of preparation or hard work can help us dodge. 

These are life’s tragedies. We will all encounter them in varying degrees. How we respond to them will dictate the course of our life. They will make or break us. We must find refuge in God’s peace. But what is that peace, and how are we to capture it?

Peace is the acceptance that we are not in control. Achieving this is challenging because we want to have a tight grip on our fate. Not having that causes us great anxiety. But we have hope because we have faith in the One who is in control! 

Peace is the acceptance that we are not in control.

The kind of peace that God offers reassures us that everything will be ok. It pierces through even our darkest moments. It doesn’t mean that we won’t grieve, and it doesn’t mean we won’t feel pain. It is the difference between being broken and having the strength to carry on. It’s the mindset that reminds you of God’s promise that He will redeem all.

Isaiah 26:3 reminds us that all we need to receive this peace is steadfast trust in God. Through our faith, He will continually renew our minds and grant us peace as we’ve never known. This peace will not only carry us through our most challenging trails but also through stressful days, like the one I had yesterday. 

He will continually renew our minds and grant us peace as we’ve never known.

Saturate your day in prayer, and ask God for the peace that only He can provide. Ask Him how to teach you how to keep your mind steadfast on Him, so that you can tackle everything the day brings. 

Faith and Fitness

1 Corinthians 6:19

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (NIV)

Before I was a Christian, and even to a different degree today, I struggled with my self-identity. There was always this enormous gulf between how I evaluated myself at the moment and what I knew I could become. Living in this disconnect left me constantly feeling frustrated and confused.

What they say is true: perception is reality. The perception that I had of myself was flawed. I still struggle with it. We never ultimately arrive at our destination, but I always feel like I should be one step ahead of where I find myself at the moment. That disconnect enters my life again, bringing back those feelings of frustration and confusion.

I have always found that pursuing a greater fitness level has helped me deal with this. Being more in touch with my physical self allows me to bridge the gap between my perception of myself and what I truly am. The change I feel happens for many reasons.

Since my mid-twenties, I have struggled considerably with my weight. I go back and forth between being a relatively healthy weight and being far too overweight for my overall health. When I find myself carrying more weight than I should be, it’s challenging to do the everyday things that I need to do. I don’t feel like myself at all. More often than not, the past few years, this was my reality, and I’ve struggled considerably with it.

I found my most significant victory at the beginning of this year. Between January and May, I lost nearly 50 pounds. During that time, I celebrated my 32nd birthday, but I was feeling more like 22. I felt a rush of self-confidence that stemmed from my ability to thrive in my everyday tasks and feel good doing it. It helped me to focus on a healthier perception of myself.

Since then, I have struggled to maintain the success I had found. In my efforts, I have uncovered new inspiration to continue by seeking the answer to a simple question: what is the relationship between fitness and faith?

Through prayer, God reminded me of a beautiful illustration that helped lead me to an answer. The Jewish temple that once stood in Jerusalem held powerful symbolism in its very architecture. You see, the temple consisted of multiple courts. As you progressed further into the temple, you entered more holy ground. The most sacred space of all was the innermost room, called the Holy of Holies. They found it so hallowed that only one person (the High Priest) could enter the room only one day out of the year. That is because the Holy of Holies was the part of the temple where they believed God’s spirit resided.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul reminds us of a beautiful truth: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (NIV). Does this verse draw striking similarities in your mind regarding what we learned about the Holy of Holies?

Our bodies that God has blessed us with are vessels of the Holy Spirit. Since the time of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon all believers, God’s Spirit resides not in the Holy of Holies but rather within each person that has professed faith in Christ’s name! Through it, He empowers us to fulfill the calling He has placed in our life to do.

Would you neglect or abuse sacred space in the form of your local church’s sanctuary? Why then would we not care for our bodies, which God has deemed worthy of holding the Holy Spirit? The journey that led me to ask myself this question has reinvigorated my passion for pursuing the best fitness I can attain.

When I start to fall away from my goals, I will ask myself those questions anew. I encourage you to do the same. I know I could use an accountability partner if anyone is willing. I am also available if I can do the same for anyone else that reads this. Please message me at Zachary@JacobsLadderCCW.com, and we can help spur each other on to conquer our goals. In the coming weeks, I will reflect on this journey and how it relates to my faith.

Praise be to God, who freely gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit!