On Deeper Faith

Two Sundays ago, I had the privilege to share one of my faith journeys during the worship service. I know I’ve blogged already about this 3 years ago, but I just thought it would be good to share again. I hope that this will encourage you to entrust your life to Jesus Christ so that you can walk in deeper faith. Blessed reading!

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Before I came to know Jesus I was a very independent person.  I am logical and thorough in my decision-making that I barely asked for counsel or advice from others. I would always want things done my way and was the type of person who would never make a decision until I was sure it would work out.  I was even awarded Most Self-Reliant in grade school.  Before I became a Christian, I did not know that God is not just an idea but a real person whom I can depend on and lead me. It took me a long time in my Christian walk to be in a place of surrender and dependence on God.  This is one the stories of the how the Lord shook my faith and brought me to that place of surrender and dependence.

It happened in the late part of 2013. My theme verse for that year was Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” — As I wrote in my journal, Jan. 20, 2013, “At this time of my life, I can sense God testing my faith. I can feel His hands pushing my faith beyond what I am used to.” End of writing– This was a time in my life when I had been praying if I should quit my corporate job and work fulltime in ministry.  By faith, I was ready to say yes to God and was ready to give up my career, my opportunities, my dreams – including my dream of immigrating to Canada.

In October 2013, there was an open position for Online Evangelism which I was very interested in. I submitted my application and went through the process. I said to myself that the result of my application will be my confirmation if I should stay or leave my corporate work. Of course I had to make sure, right? However, God had a different plan.  I sensed He wanted me to walk in faith and not by sight. So despite not being sure if my ministry application would be approved, and even with a chance of a promotion at work, I decided to resign. It was not an easy decision to make but God gave me a peace that “transcends understanding”.  November 23, 2013 –I wrote in my journal, “Many would say that I should not quit unless I have a new work to move to. However, that wasn’t what God is telling me. Every decision I made has been a step of faith and I’ve been grateful that God has been enabling me. I never thought I could make such decisions on my own. Without God, there would only be fear and doubts and lots of anxieties. And as I decided, it is with great faith and trust that God holds my future and it is for the best, it is for His glory. Whatever it will be, I know that He has prepared it and He will be with me as I journey towards it. End of writing —

Dec 27, 2013 was my last day in the company that I’ve worked for almost 9 years.  That was a day I will never forget. Do you believe in God’s perfect timing? That same day, I checked my personal email and saw a message from CCF HR. My application for the ministry was not accepted. Great timing, right? Of all the days I could’ve received that message, it was on my last day when there was no backing out of resigning.  I thought that when God asked me to walk in faith, it was about my willingness to give up my career and work full time. But His thoughts were different. He wanted me to walk in faith by bringing me to a place of uncertainty, to a great unknown.

In 2014 while everyone was looking forward to new beginnings, I was facing a new year of uncertainty. I got confused and lost. Walking in faith was getting harder. God asked me to quit my corporate job but it seemed He did not want me to do a ministry either.  Also, I prayed that when I quit my job I hoped there wouldn’t be any unplanned expenses for my family because I would no longer have health coverage but just 2 weeks after my last day my dad got into an accident. Talk about timing! God was really testing my faith. But despite the circumstances, He also enabled me to keep trusting Him. His peace did not allow fear and worries to overpower me. He showed to me in a very personal way that He had my back. All I needed to do was to depend on Him because I was reminded that He is the one who provided for my family and not me. He had the power to bless them without my help.

My journey into the great unknown continued. I kept seeking God on what He wanted me to do but the waiting was getting more difficult.  A GLC position in CCF became available and I thought, maybe this was what God wanted me to do and not the Online Evangelism job. I went to CCF to meet the GLC director and I was told that they really wanted me however there was no definite timeframe on when they would hire. It was very clear that God was once again saying, “No.”  That was another day I will never forget.  I was discouraged and everything just overwhelmed me. I felt like I gave up my career for nothing!  On my way home that day, I cried and got a bit annoyed with God. I asked Him, “Why don’t you want me to work fulltime for you when I already gave up my career and my dreams so that I can fully serve you? It just doesn’t make sense.” At the end of that day, I just gave up and surrendered to God. I stopped rationalizing. I decided to stop asking what, how, why, when. He wanted me to stay still and wait. And the only thing I can really do was to obey. And, so I did.

After four days, God gave me an answer. Feb. 22, 2014 – I got an email from Canada Immigration requesting my passport. My PR application for Canada was approved! I honestly thought it would not happen anymore because I already gave up on that dream.

That day, God once again showed to me how sovereign and gracious He is. Everything started making sense beginning that day.  For example leaving my job allowed me spend quality time with my family and friends before I left for Canada. Because I had a lot of free days, I was able to volunteer and be part of the Ravi Zacharias Conference in CCF.  And while I had financial challenges for my move to Canada, God was faithful and He provided for all my needs. He even prepared the way for me when I learned that just 1 month before arriving in Canada, CCF Vancouver launched and I had a home church to go to! I realized God did not really say, “No” to my desire to serve Him fulltime. It’s just that what He had in mind was different with what I had in mind. He allowed me to serve and be a part of this church-planting movement and meet such a loving family of God.  He also gave back to me what I surrendered to Him – my dreams, my career. Obedience is truly hard and it is only through the help of the Holy Spirit that we can take that step to keep trusting God amidst uncertainties. There were so many blessings that came with walking in faith and obedience. Indeed, He is an awesome and faithful God!

And while I am grateful for all those blessings, I honestly consider them as bonuses. The greatest reward I received was experiencing God in a very personal and intimate way as He led me on a journey that resulted in deeper faith and dependence on Him. Those moments will always remind me of the amazing love of God and how real Jesus is. Because of Jesus, who is my Lord, my Savior, my Source of peace and the Author of my faith, I was able to walk in faith and get out of the boat of comfort, self-reliance, fears and worries. Apart from Jesus, I will never be able to walk in faith towards the unknowns in my life.

My name is Stifany Araneta, I was self-reliant and I feared uncertainties in life but now by the grace of God through Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I continue to learn to depend on God and not on myself. I continue to learn to walk in faith and not by sight.  On times of waiting and uncertainty, Hebrews 12:2 says, let us fix our eyes on Jesus always, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Praise and Glory be to God!Sunset chaser

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Growing Together

I’m so blessed to be a part of other people’s lives by seeing them grow in their walk with God. As we say we are Christian, we must then believe that we are also commanded to make disciples just like what Jesus did with the chosen twelve. And to be a disciple and to make disciple is a privilege in our Christian walk. It must not be a burden for us but a joy as we experience God’s transforming power in our lives.

And being part of a discipleship group is never boring. It’s a great time of knowing the Lord deeper, knowing one another deeper, encouraging and praying for each other. It’s a venue where you can be yourself without fear of being judged. You get to travel together, do fun things together. And the other best part – there is always food! Haha!

I’m glad to be a part of a discipleship group. If you are not part of any, I hope you would start stepping out of your comfort zone and start reaching out. As our senior pastor said, (reason for not joining a discipleship group) if you think you don’t need help, then, be the one to give help. And I totally agree! Today, someone might need your encouragement, your blessing, your prayer. Don’t miss out on such a privilege!

FOCUS on 2015

Before 2014 ended, God impressed in my heart what should my focus be for 2015. And it’s really amazing how He confirmed it during the prayer and fasting week of CCF at the start of this year. It really assured me that it’s what God wants me to press on more this year.

What am I talking about? If I tell you, you might say that as believers we should be doing that all the time. It’s not just something you focus on for a specific year but on your day to day. And I would totally agree with you. It’s just that for the past years, I haven’t really been consistently preparing and even very intentional about it. And that’s why I believe God put it in my heart for me to really work on it as He enables me.

So, what am I talking about? I’m talking about “Evangelism”. As I’ve been reading the book of Bill Hybels entitled, “Just Walk Across the Room”, I realized I haven’t really been doing my part in the aspect of evangelism. I always pray to God to give me opportunities to share the gospel to people who haven’t heard about Him but I haven’t really been intentional in preparing for that opportunity. Even more, I don’t even depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit.

My biggest question to God was HOW? How do I share His Word in a country that has so much freedom and respect for each other’s belief? A country that values diversity of religion, culture and standards. HOW?

As I was going through the different stories in the Bible of how God used the apostles to share the gospel, I was reminded that the HOW should not be my concern. God will make it happen just like when God brought Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch for him to share the gospel (Acts 8:26-40). The only thing that God would require is “Obedience”. How far will I go? How willing will I obey? How immediate will I respond?

And to be honest, it’s easier said than done. With a lot of things going on, I can so easily be distracted that my focus on what God wants me to do will become blur until it will become a least priority. And that’s why my very reminder for this year are these verses in Colossians 3:1-2, Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

There is a lot of harvest in this country that would really need the body of Christ to be very intentional not just in sharing the Word of God but importantly in living out His teachings. Evangelism will never be effective if even your own life was never changed by the power of the gospel.

Pray with me that we will never lose sight of the thing that really matters to the very heart of God. May we have the boldness to make Jesus known, that people may experience Jesus to the fullest, so that when our Heavenly Father looks unto us He will say, “Kamukha niya ang ANAK ko (Christ-likeness).”

What is God telling you to focus this year?

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The Great Unknown –  My “Awesome” 2014

Who would have thought that I will be part of a church-planting movement in Vancouver?

Who would have thought that I will start a discipleship group in this side of the world?

Who would have thought that I will work for a big retail company this year?

Who would have thought that I will meet more people from different countries and make new friends?

Who would have thought that I will be sitting here in my room, watching snow falling from my window as I look back about my 2014?

God knew. Even before all these things happened, God knew already. Nothing comes as a surprise to Him.

Those are only few of the tangible things that I never thought would be part of my 2014.

As I wrote in my journal  at the start of 2014, I was totally clueless of how things will be.

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God made me leave my job but He did not open any new doors for me right after, as I thought He would.

You know, that confidence that you feel like everything will fall into place just as you expect them to be?

I thought that I will work full time in a ministry in 2014. But, God had a different plan.  Much bigger plan.

You might not know, but I really wept when God shut all doors for my ministry application. I could not understand why when my desire was to serve Him full time.

And that question still remains half-unanswered until now. Half- answered was because He wanted me to move here.

Still, I believe that’s not just it. It’s something I look forward to be answered in the coming years.

Anyway, so 2014 turned out to be a big surprise for me. That’s what God is so good about – making us in awe of Him.

For the first 5 months, I had no job. Then, God made me move to another country after 5 months of no job. Thus, no sufficient funds for it.

But God said so, so I just had to obey. Those 5 months were life changing.  It was a very special walk with God. I had nothing but only Him.

Most difficult part was when you feel you can do something but God just keeps telling you, “Sit down, stay put, be still.”

God really did a perfect job of sustaining me. Apart from Him, I would have gone a different way.

The second part of my 2014 was the overflow. See, God had to prepare me first before He blessed me.

It wasn’t an easy journey at the beginning. Again, I wept in desperation as I was looking for a job.

As I didn’t have enough funds, I was praying so hard that I can find a job after a month since I arrived here.

Slowly, I saw how God had been preparing things for me here. Right time, right place.

What’s also amazing was that when I learned my visa got approved, my home church also announced that a church will be planted in Vancouver.

I got really excited! Right time, right place.

I may not have worked full time but God opened doors for me to be able to serve Him in this side of the world.

I can never take credit for all the things that had happened to me last year.

God’s faithfulness in my life overflows not just in me but also through me that I can share the blessings to others. Such a privilege!

If I summarize my 2014, I can do it in 2 parts – preparation and overflow. God had to mold my character first, before He reveals His great plan.

God is sovereign. He was in control. He is truly amazing!

My 2014 theme verse truly spoke how my year turned out. A time of surrender and loss for the sake of knowing, obeying and following Christ.

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TO GOD be all the GLORY for my awesome 2014!!!! Thank You Lord!

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Daily Thoughts

Wednesday

In the bus, on my way to Richmond tonight, I saw a man in the street proclaiming about God. I don’t know what he really believes in but I really admire his courage to go out to the street and tell people about God. Inside the bus, there were these three teenagers who made a comment about what religion the guy could be in. Then, one of them said a statement which really pinched my heart. They were discussing about the end of the world and then one said, “I’ll just accept whatever my fate is.”

In my mind, I was thinking if that person truly understood the weight of those words. These encounters remind me how much Jesus need to be made known to people.

Thursday

There’s a typhoon again that made a land fall in Northern Luzon. This is old news already. Every year, there’s always this season that the country experience terrible loss, destruction and flood due to typhoon. But recently, it makes me ask why God would allow our country to experience such yearly? He can stop these typhoons, but in my mind, God allows these calamities for reasons. Whyis He allowing this in our country? What does God wants us to learn and realize? I believe it’s really time that as a nation we start seeking God and asking for mercy. It’s time that as a so-called “Christian” nation, we live it out.

Stewardship vs Materialism

 

When I was packing my things for my big move here in Canada, it was only then I realized how much clothes I haven’t worn anymore, some I did not even remember I had. And even when I was giving away so much already, I still had so much left to give away.

Funny, when I arrived here, I realized I left so much that I only have like three t-shirts I can wear for summer. But yeah, I survived! Coming here with only two pieces of luggage was a challenge. But it is slowly teaching me to be content with what I have.

When you go to malls here or outlet stores, mark downs and promotions are just crazy. You will really be tempted to check out each store and see if there’s something you can buy at a very low price. And this is really a challenge for me. I love to shop during these periods – when items on clearance are buy 1, take 1; or, some items have triple discounts. Big sales!! Just crazy! Who would not love to shop?!

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gotcha!! years ago when I was so happy doing retail activity 🙂

One of the things that I really keep praying to God is that I would not go back to that “old me” wherein I feel like I owe myself a treat that I would just buy anything because I deserve it and it’s really a good sale. I want to be a much, much, much better steward this time. There are a lot of temptations here but I really pray that God would always remind me of what is important to Him.

One thing I got reminded in yesterday’s Sunday message was that the most effective way of overcoming materialism is through tithing. Tithing is not about giving to the Lord. What we have belongs to God. We are just stewards of everything that we have right now. Tithing is bringing to God what belongs to Him – the best of our crop.

As for me, tithing reminds me that what I have is not for me to just spend and enjoy but for me to make sure it is put to good use also.  There is nothing wrong with spending on things that we like or enjoy as long as we are not consumed by those things. That is when materialism comes into our life.

I’m excited on how God will continue to change me to become a better steward of the resources He has given and will give to me. Indeed, to be able to give is a privilege because it is only through God’s provision that we are able to do so.

As of today, I only have two pieces of luggage with me. And I intend to keep it that way. I’m really challenging myself on this and I hope that I would really be able to overcome being a “big sale” enthusiast! Also, I hope I would learn to let go of things when I have to. It was hard for me to give away my stuff before I left but that had helped me somehow not to hold on to things tightly.

Challenge is on!

“Because Your Love is better than life…” Psalm 63:3

 

Waiting Over

 

Yes, I’m back! I’m an employee again. 🙂

It’s been an amazing journey with the Lord as I entrusted to Him the work that He has prepared for me. I really prayed that I would be able to find a job within the first month that I arrived here in Vancouver. However, I never wanted to settle for just any job. I just had to trust that God would honor my desire to work for a role that I really wanted.

It had been in the third week of June and I still didn’t have possible job offers. All I got were initial interviews and emails. Then, no more follow ups. Until the right time came. I re-connected with a former colleague here in Canada and just mentioned that I was looking for a job. After that conversation, everything happened so fast. He spoke to his manager that I was looking for a BA role which they needed in their team because someone just left. I submitted my resume and went for an interview the next day. Then the week after, I got the job offer. The best part, they gave me a senior role and a pay which was more than I asked for.

However, these things were not really a surprise to me. I always knew that God would always do something amazing. He always does. Even if some people would tell me that a month is too short to find a job, I just trusted that God would provide within the month. As I reflected on this journey, I realized that my faith was much deeper during this time as I waited on God’s provision.  At some point in my life, I became very disobedient and I know that I have missed out a lot of blessings because of that. I’m just grateful that God is so gracious and loving that He gave me so many chances to become better. God showed to me the result of my obedience and that is His best plan for me.  I became more expectant in faith than I was before.  This journey was more of seeing how much I’ve grown in faith as I continue to experience God’s best.

Such faith excites me each day as to what could God possibly do. Experiencing God through obedience may always not be an easy path to take. However, taking a path that is outside of God’s plan for us will be more difficult in the long run. God’s way is always, always, always worth to take.

I’m looking forward to another journey of something that I’ve really been praying for. Waiting is over, another waiting starts.

To God be all the glory!

 

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