Soul Searchin: Words of Encouragement – Straight From God

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by Tom Atkins

I was raised in a Christian home and attended church every weekend. I never heard the word sin in church. I never heard about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  After college I was married and attended Catholic churches. I never opened a Bible. We had a wonderful family with two daughters and I ran a successful engineering company. Life was good, but I knew that something important was missing from my life.

In 1993 my Jewish next door neighbor invited me to attend Saddleback Church with him. He was not a believer but attended Saddleback for about six months during that year. It was long enough to get me to come with him. Coincidence? Hardly!!

I thought Pastor Rick was speaking directly to me. Several times I sat there listening with tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I really don’t believe I was saved prior to this time.  I immediately bought a Bible and started reading it, front to back. I started singing in the choir and taking CLASS 101 through 401. God was growing me very fast. I had no idea why, but God did.

In 1995 the engineering company where I was the CEO was sold to another firm. The plan was for me to stay there for another five years. During that time period I started to feel that I wanted to serve God full time in ministry. That didn’t seem possible at the time. I was new to the church, and even though I was growing rapidly, I was still a relatively new believer with a lot to learn.  

In the summer of 1997, I unexpectedly lost my job. Oddly enough, I was actually excited. I thought this might be my chance to serve God. After a one month vacation, I called Pastor Rick Muchow and asked him if he wanted a full time volunteer. He said yes and I started serving on the magnification team, working on copyright compliance. Although I did not know it at the time, what God knew was that two months later my wife would be diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer.

Prior to coming to Christ I would not have had the emotional strength to lead my family through that journey. I had a new strength that came from my relationship with Christ and a growing knowledge of His Word. During the cancer journey God gave me the encouraging scripture verses that I am sharing with you below in this article. These are beautiful promises that he has given to all of us. We can count on them. All we need to do is to place them securely in our hearts, trust Him and follow his lead. God is in control!

As we struggled with cancer, a wonderful blessing for us during this time, was our new church. I cannot imagine a more loving and supportive church than Saddleback. I saw the love of Christ in action through His body.

Ultimately, God gave my wife her eternal reward in 1999. When she took her last breath I felt God was saying to me, “You have been praying for healing. I have just given her my best healing. She is with me.”

As Paul Harvey used to say, “Now for the rest of the story.” During the cancer treatments I was starting to get involved with a new small group initiative at Saddleback. I had never been to a small group or a Bible study in my life, so I was well qualified. In 2000 I moved to the small group team and started serving in men’s ministry. I also started seminary. A few years later I was remarried to a wonderful lady, Dianne, who is a breast cancer survivor. When we were married I moved over to serve couples groups and then added Spanish and International Groups. I moved from a full-time volunteer to part-time staff, to full-time staff. I also graduated from seminary and became a licensed licensed pastor. Currently, I am serving about 470 small groups. 

I remember the love and support that we received at a time when we truly needed it. That would not have happened if we were not connected and just attended on Sunday and went home. I needed a small group for support. When you look around your churches, just think, some of those people need the love of the church like I did. Do everything you can to get them connected in a small group.

And now I will share the verses that gave so much comfort to me. 

Tom Atkins is the Pastor to International and Couples Groups at Saddleback tom atkinsChurch. toma@saddleback.com

All verses are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Ex. 33:14 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jer. 29:11-13 

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isa. 41:13 

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Ps. 107:1 

Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Ps. 128:1-2

 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Ps. 73:23

 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. Ps. 130:5

 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Ps. 40:1-3 

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Ps. 23:1-4 

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps. 34:18 

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. Ps. 139:1-4 

…for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Ps. 95:7a 

Be still, and know that I am God; Ps. 46:10a 

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Ps. 91:4 

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. Ps. 55:22 

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Ps. 46:1 

But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,  Ps. 33:18 

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, Ps. 30:11-12 

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness.  For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn. Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel. Ps. 89:15-18 

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore. Ps. 125:2 

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. Ps. 55:22 

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Ps. 147:3 

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Ps. 9:9 

For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isa. 41:13 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isa 41:10 

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isa 40:28-31 

Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Neh. 8:10b 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matt. 28:20b 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Rom. 5:1-2 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16-17 

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5:4 

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;  Lam. 3:25 

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Heb 11:1 

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor. 4:17-18 

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Heb 11:6 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, 1 Peter 1:3-5 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:12-12 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:4-7 

We know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Rom. 5:3-5

 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Rom 12:12

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom 15:13

 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in all that believe in him, Eph. 1:18-19

 …the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6that has come to you. Col. 1:5-6

 …a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, Titus 1:1-2

 He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7

 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:22-25

 “`If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23

 
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14
 

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:26-27

 I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. Jer. 31:13

 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:56-57

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives.  So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 TLB

 Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Heb 13:5

 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:8-10

 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. John 14:1

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7

 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; Lam. 3:25

 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. James 1:16-18

 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Heb. 7:25-26

 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. Phil 4:6-7 TLB

 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, Matt. 6:30 TLB

 Yours is the mighty power and glory and victory and majesty. Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as being in control of everything. 1 Chron. 29:11-12 TLB

 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matt 6:26-27

 So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.  Matt. 6:34 TLB

 Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7-8 RSV

 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”  Rom. 1:17

 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Rom. 4:20-21

 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

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