Reaching Your Maximum Potential

  • How Do You Reach Your Maximum Potential?

    by Bill Rudge

    Is it by tapping into latent powers within your mind or body? Is it by becoming one with the universe and realizing you are God? Is it through some esoteric technique or ritual? No! It is by having a personal relationship with the resurrected Christ; coming to know Jesus in a real and personal way and living by the truth and principles in His Word.

    The Bible is not a record of humans’ quest for God, but rather God’s revelation to humanity. Christianity is not merely one of a myriad of religions, but it is a relationship with the Master of the Universe. Jesus Christ is not one of many ways to salvation; His death and resurrection provide the only hope of eternal life.

    See Reaching Your Maximum Potential – Posters at the end of this series of articles for the list of biblical principles God used to transform my life. Although as a teenager, I had violated every one of these on a regular basis, after giving my life to Jesus Christ at 18, I realized the essence of true strength and wisdom. God’s Spirit began to transform my life as I implemented these biblical principles.

    Jesus really can change the life of one with seemingly little hope or potential. As you read each principle, contemplate how God would have you apply it to your life; then ask Him, by His Spirit, to begin transforming you.

    The origin of the list came about during an outreach to Haiti. I had shared with several missionaries these biblical principles which have molded my life and ministry. They were so touched they suggested I make them available in poster format so they could be reviewed daily. The missionaries told me these were some of the most powerful truths they had heard and that every believer needed to be reminded of them.

    Read the posters frequently. They will inspire and encourage you to walk in faithfulness with the Lord and honor His Word. Begin this exciting journey today. May the Lord bless, guide and empower you as you grow in your relationship with Him and in reaching the full potential and purpose for which He created you.

  • part a – God Sees Our Potential

    By Bill Rudge

    It was during my first year of coaching soccer that I met Michael. Tryouts had just begun, and we coaches had gathered to evaluate the skills of the new kids being tested. We were looking for raw talent – someone we could work with – and then I spotted him. He was the heaviest and slowest kid on the field. None of the other coaches seemed interested, but I saw potential in him; I felt the right training could turn him into a great player.

    For the next two years our team won the championship, and Michael played a crucial role, putting his training into practice. He shut down the other teams’ offense, used his great size to power kick the ball down the field and taking penalty and corner kicks. As a result, all the other coaches wanted him and encouraged their “big” players to imitate him.

    Michael went on to excel in wrestling and football: He won the high school PIAA state heavyweight wrestling title in his senior year, and received a full football scholarship to the University of Buffalo where he became a standout in football. Well respected, he ranked nationally in wrestling, while still maintaining Dean’s List academic standards.

    Michael now has a successful career in Pittsburgh, is married to a wonderful woman and has three beautiful daughters (all of whom have taken the challenge of the Obstacle Course at Bill Rudge Ministries). Michael and his mom attribute much of his success in sports and in life to inspiration from the early influence I had on him when the other coaches saw no potential.

    Jesus Christ viewed His disciples in this same way. Although the growth of His Church did not depend solely on that group of ordinary people, their development was assured by the power of His Spirit and by His sovereign design. Jesus chose to begin His work with weak, sinful people who later turned the world upside down for Him. And Jesus sees potential in each of us. Through the power of His Word and by His Spirit, He continually works in us; fulfilling His purpose as we give our lives to Him and live by the principles of His Word.

    Are You a Zero?

    Some of you may feel that your life equals a Big Zero and that “0” is meaningless. I asked several people what a zero meant. “Nothing” they replied. So I said, “Since ‘0’ means nothing, write me a check for $1.00 and let me add a few zeroes!” They got the message: Even though we may think we have no real value or potential, we could not be farther from the truth! When a person is infused with God’s Spirit, he or she has unlimited potential to fulfill the purpose the Lord has for our lives. We have great value because God values us.

    The aim of Bill Rudge Ministries is to challenge believers to reach their maximum potential in Christ – physically, mentally, emotionally and above all, spiritually. You will discover as you continue to read the articles in this section (and in a new and expanded book when this series is completed) the dynamic biblical principles that have transformed my life and molded my ministry. Jesus Christ can take an ordinary person and use him or her in an extraordinary way. That’s what He did with me, and with thousands of others who have accepted the challenge. As you apply these truths, you too, will begin to reach your maximum potential in Christ!

  • part b – The Quest, Examining the Evidence

    by Bill Rudge

    “Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for the hope you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

    With so many religious and philosophical options to choose from, why are you a Christian? Is it because you’re convinced that Jesus Christ is who He claims to be and that the Bible is the unique revelation of God?

    1 Peter 3:15 encourages us:

    Always be prepared to give an answer [make a defense] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

    The Quest

    I shared Christ with a young man to whom I was giving a ride. He said, “Bill, don’t waste your time. I don’t believe in Jesus Christ, and I don’t believe in the Bible.” I responded, “That’s fine Dan. You have a right to believe whatever you want, but don’t be so foolish as to reject the Bible and Jesus Christ without first examining the overwhelming evidence.”

    I then shared with him some of the archaeological discoveries that have established the historical accuracy of innumerable biblical details, as well as the scientific evidence, and the accuracy and superiority of biblical health and nutrition principles. I shared some of the messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) that had been made at least 400 years before Christ walked on earth, explaining the mathematical impossibility for anyone to fulfill just a few of these prophecies, yet Jesus fulfilled them all. I explained to him how the evidence of the resurrection is undeniable and asked him what other religious leader has an empty tomb.

    I asked Dan to consider the numerous biblical prophecies written almost 2,000 years ago concerning the end times in which we are now living – prophecies foretelling a one-world government, a one-world monetary system, and a one-world religion. The specific details and exactness of these and many other prophecies that are being fulfilled right before our eyes would have been impossible to foretell without divine inspiration.

    Finally, I shared the reality of Jesus Christ through the tremendous way in which He has transformed my life and millions of others throughout history, as well as the miraculous interventions the Lord has done in my life and ministry. These evidences and many more are the reasons why I gave my life to Christ.

    The Three Questions

    I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ and become a Christian out of random chance or haphazard choice. Initially, there was an intentional bias on my part and a deliberate rejection of Him due to lifestyle choices, ulterior motives, or being unable to resolve the conflict of a loving God with the suffering and death I was witnessing.

    Lasting fulfillment always eluded me despite all my searching which either proved insufficient or led to a dead end. My restless heart and relentless quest for truth and purpose forced me to honestly consider three crucial questions:

    1) Is there a God? If there isn’t, then I can live any way I want. However, my search and research convinced me there is a Creator.

    2) If there is a God, are there many ways or only one way to this Supernatural Being? After examining the evidence I was convinced there is only one way to God – through Jesus Christ.

    3) How do I come to know God and what does He require of me? My spiritual journey proved fruitful. I could not deny the truth. At age 18 I became an ardent believer in and follower of Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. God’s Spirit began to transform my life as I spent time in Scripture, prayer, and fasting and started living by biblical principles.

    I have grown in my faith over the years and my continuing investigation and research confirms the wisdom of committing my life to Jesus Christ. There is only One before Whom I willingly bend my knee and bow. To Him alone do I entrust my life, my future, and my eternal destiny!

  • part c – Counting the Cost

    by Bill Rudge

    “No one can become My disciple without giving up everything for Me.” Luke 14:33

    Once you are convinced that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God uniquely manifest in the flesh, and the only way of salvation, you must count the cost before you give your life to Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus shared the importance of counting the cost before following Him. He said, “One should not start building a tower without counting the cost, lest he run out of money and be ridiculed when unable to finish it. Should not a king about to go to war first consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose a force of 20,000?” In the same way, Jesus said, anyone who wants to be His disciple must count the cost of giving up everything for Him.

    Before I was a Christian, I thought I was god. Not God the Creator, but god in the sense that I was invincible. I did some crazy things because of that philosophy. Deceived by the same lie Satan used on Adam and Eve, I was walking in rebellion against the one true God.

    But I came to the realization that I was not god — that Jesus Christ was God’s unique revelation of truth. He was the One I needed as my Savior and Lord.

    I Made the Choice

    Once I examined the evidence, and was convinced who Christ is, I had to make a choice. Do I reject Him and walk away in rebellion and self-deluded pride? Or do I humble myself, admit my rebellion, and trust in Him for my salvation?

    By God’s grace, I chose to give Christ my life. Making a 180-degree turn, I began following Him as Savior and Lord. It’s called repentance. It’s dying to self and living for Christ. We must dethrone self, quit playing God, and place Christ in His rightful position as Lord of our lives. Then His goals become our goals. His desires become our desires. His will becomes our will.

    To illustrate, let’s pretend you are on one trapeze and Jesus is on another. You have one hand holding onto your trapeze, and one hand holding onto Christ. You want to live for Christ, but you also want to live for self. You want to obey the Lord, but you also want to have your own way and do your own thing. You want Him to be your God, but you also want to be your own god. You want to run your own life, make your own decisions, have your own goals, and fulfill your own desires. But you can’t hold onto both. Eventually the two trapeze bars go in opposite directions. If you try to both live for self and for the Lord it will tear you apart.

    That’s why there are so many neurotic Christians walking around confused, depressed, and discouraged, not knowing what they believe or what God’s will is. When Christians are only half-committed (trying to live for self and trying to live for the Lord) they are the most miserable of people. They go out to witness and say, “Don’t you want what I have?” The non-Christian says, “No thanks, I have enough problems already.” Instead of having an impact on their world for Christ, as the first century believers did, their compromised lives tend to turn people off. That’s why we will never influence our world for Christ unless we ourselves are first totally sold out to Him.

    There is no middle road. You can’t straddle the fence. You must totally accept or reject Him. And to not totally accept Him is to reject Him. Don’t let Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:16 be true of you:

    So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.

    You must count the cost and then make a wise choice – total commitment to Christ as Lord!

  • part d – Total Commitment

    by Bill Rudge

    Everybody wants it, but few are willing to give it: Coaches want it from their players; drill sergeants demand it from new recruits; teachers and professors love it in students; employers require it from their employees; husbands and wives desire it from their spouses. What is this characteristic most everyone wants from others? Total Commitment!

    While speaking at a pastors’ conference I asked, “Do you believe in God? Everyone said a hearty Amen! So I asked again, “Do you really believe in God and Jesus Christ?” Same response as they all acknowledged they did. Then I asked, “Do you really believe the Bible is God’s Word?” They all enthusiastically affirmed they did. So I said, “If you really believe in God, Jesus Christ and the Bible, then it should radically affect your life: how you live, what you watch, what you say and what you do.” They got the message.

    However, as I travel and minister throughout the U.S. and around the world, I find that many who profess faith in Jesus Christ – even many leaders and pastors – are not totally committed to Him as Lord of their lives.

    Heart Commitment

    When I use the words total commitment, I am not talking about what you say with your mouth, or what you appear to be on the surface. I am talking about a heart commitment. I have learned from experience that outward appearances and words can be deceptive. Man looks at the externals, but God looks at the heart. Are your heart, your motives, your will, your goals, and your desires fully committed to Jesus Christ?

    Many Christians believe the Bible and live for the Lord, so long as it poses no difficulty and agrees with their preconceived beliefs and ideas. When Scripture contradicts what they want to hear or do, they discard, deny, compromise, or attempt to twist it to say what they want it to say. Many have a “dip and skip” mentality: They dip into all the promises, blessings, and miracles, but skip all the responsibilities, commitment, and obedience.

    For every gift and privilege God gives, responsibility and commitment are required:

    If you want the mountaintop, you must walk through the valley. If you want the benefit and blessing, you must pay the price of commitment. If you want the victory, you must fight the battle. If you want the gifts of the Spirit, you must develop the fruit of the Spirit. If you want spiritual power, you must develop spiritual muscle.

    God Wants First Place

    Throughout the Old Testament, God emphasized the principle that He wants first place in our lives: When He said, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse,” He was saying, “I must be first regarding your finances.” When God said, “The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work,” He was saying, “I must be first concerning your time.” When God said, “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God,” He was saying, “I must be first in regard to your business and livelihood.” When God asked for the firstborn of all cattle, He was saying, “I must be first regarding your belongings.” When God said, “You must give [consecrate] to Me the first-born of your sons,” He was saying, “I must be first concerning your family.”

    God does not need your money, cattle, produce or your possessions; He wants you! Jesus said:

    Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

    When Satan tempted Jesus by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world, he said, “All this I will give You, if You will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). Then Jesus said to him, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only’” (Matthew 4:10). Jesus clearly revealed that God not only wants first place, but He must be the only Lord and God in our lives.

    Why does the Lord not allow anyone or anything else to be god in our lives? Because not only has He created us and deserves that unique position, but He knows that anyone or anything else controlling our lives becomes our god – and eventually that god destroys us. In contrast David said, “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15).

    Take Up Your Cross

    If you think total commitment is only for those in Christian leadership, look closely at Scripture. Luke 14:25-27 says:

    Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: “… Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.”

    Jesus is not saying we are to carry a literal cross around, but He is making it perfectly clear to the crowds that to be His disciple requires total commitment.

    The disciples knew what Christ meant when He said:

    If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34,35).

    Being well aware of Roman crucifixions, and of their context in the culture, they knew that Jesus was speaking of dying to self and of total commitment to Him.

    Evaluating the Four C’s

    There are acceptable and unacceptable types of commitment mentioned in the Bible. Which of the following four categories is most like your commitment?

    Committed to Rebellion

    Are you like King Ahab who, in outright rebellion against the Lord, did evil in His sight with no desire for repentance?

    In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him (1 Kings 16:29, 30).

    Although Ahab was king of the northern tribes of Israel, he openly rebelled against God. Similarly, there are many who name the name of Jesus Christ outwardly, but according to God’s Word, their hearts are in outright rebellion in the way they live, the things they do and in their associations.

    Committed – Sort Of

    Do you serve the Lord halfheartedly like Amaziah, king of Judah?

    Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Jehoaddin; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2).

    Wholeheartedness matters to God.

    Committed – Sporadically

    Like Uzziah, king of Judah, when the Lord blessed him and he became powerful, he also became proud and turned away from the Lord.

    Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. … He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success. But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God… (2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 16).

    Do you want to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, but have not maintained that commitment your whole life?

    So far we have three types of commitment: those who live in outright rebellion and do evil before the Lord; those who only halfheartedly serve the Lord; and those who wholeheartedly serve the Lord, but only for a short duration. Will you run the race for two, or even twenty years, then get weary and fall away?

    Wholeheartedly Committed

    Or are you like Abraham, Moses, Caleb, Ruth, Elijah, Daniel, Paul, and many others who made their commitment to the Lord, and served Him wholeheartedly all the days of their lives? It is this kind of commitment that God desires from those who name the name of Jesus.

    Consider the words David spoke to his son, Solomon:

    And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever (1 Chronicles 28:9).

    Do not serve the Lord halfheartedly all your life – or even wholeheartedly half your life. Instead, serve the Lord wholeheartedly all of your life!

    Beautiful Waterfalls

    I believe the old adage, “You are only as good as your word,” and I do everything possible to keep mine. If you make a commitment to Christ today and then next week you give up, then it really was not much of a commitment. A true commitment isn’t for just one day or one week, but the rest of your life. It isn’t just one or two hours on Sundays, but twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We should seek to live under His Lordship and glorify Him, not only when in church, reading our Bibles, praying or witnessing, but also when we are at home, at work, at school, engaged in sports or social activities, working out at the gym – anytime and anywhere.

    When I was on a speaking tour in Tobago, in the West Indies, I learned there were two waterfalls on the island. One was an easy two or three minute walk. Although very nice, the other one was far more beautiful, but would require a 45-minute hike through streams, over stones and rocks, across slippery ledges, and through thick brush.

    Having a few hours of free time, my ministry team decided to go with me on the longer excursion. The waterfall was awesome, forming three tiers of pools. When we swam in the cool and refreshing waters, it was like being in paradise.

    Most people visiting Tobago avoid the more difficult way and are satisfied to see just the first falls. As one who is willing to pay the price for that which is truly worthwhile, I led the team into a breathtaking area, unsurpassed in beauty and serenity, rather than to settle for second best.

    Too many people settle for convenient Christianity. But real blessing, power, and victory manifest in the lives of those totally committed to the Lord, with all their hearts. Believe me, it is well worth it!

  • part e – Bridge Burning

    by Bill Rudge

    Suppose you and I were in the military and our commanding officer said, “Up ahead is enemy territory and the only way to get there is by crossing this wooden bridge. Underneath the bridge is a body of water infested with piranhas, alligators, and poisonous snakes. Once we cross into enemy territory, we are going to burn the bridge behind us so there is no going back: It’s either death or victory!”

    Likewise, when you give your life to Jesus Christ, you make a bridge-burning commitment: No going back. So, when I gave my life to Jesus Christ at the age of 18, I burned my bridges; there was no going back to my old lifestyle.

    Besides, had I turned from the Lord, where would I go? Back to the martial arts and involvement in Eastern Religions, or the power of ki and ch’i? Back to a pleasure-seeking life: immorality, lust, and violence? All are inferior to the power of God and the relationship I have with Jesus Christ! None can compare to the fulfillment Jesus Christ has given me! They are not options for me.

    Could I return to pretending there is no God? How, when I know the reality of the God of the Bible and have experienced His goodness? Perhaps I could go back to New Age spirituality and just go with the flow of whatever I want to believe and do – jumping on the bandwagon with other “Christians” who have compromised or abandoned a commitment to Jesus Christ and His Word. Yet, how could I (why would I) deny the faithful God of my life, or reject the truth of the Bible, or forfeit God’s genuine power and lose the comfort that comes from knowing Him?

    Therefore, I am in no dilemma: There is no other alternative for me. I have tried them all. I have evaluated them all. There is only one option, and that is total commitment to Jesus.

    Egyptian with One Arm

    While ministering to the U.S. military in what was then West Germany, I had an opportunity to speak in a large house-church. Among the many West Germans and American GI’s, there were also several people from East Germany, Russia, Poland, Romania, and Egypt. Speaking through an interpreter, I shared parts of my testimony and the requirement to be totally committed. Many raised their hands in response to this challenge.

    Following the message I remained for over an hour praying and sharing with several of the people. One man from Egypt was formerly a Muslim, who spoke to me through my interpreter in a combination of broken English and German. Between us we were able to decipher what he said: We learned that when he became a Christian, his Muslim family threw him off a train in an attempt to kill him, which resulted in the loss of his arm. This man, who had paid a tremendous price for giving his life to Christ, was not requesting prayer for his difficulties; rather prayer for him to know and serve Jesus even more. This man had a strong desire to grow closer to the Lord, no matter what the cost – a desire all believers should have.

    Gave My All

    Before I was a Christian, I was totally dedicated to weight lifting, karate, and the pursuit of pleasure. I was 100% committed to serving myself. How much more then, should I commit my entire life to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

    You see, I am an “all or nothing” person. I either want to serve the Lord wholeheartedly or not at all. Anything less is really not Biblical Christianity. If I am going to live for Christ, my desire is to live for Him with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my strength. I will not settle for a superficial Christianity. I want everything God has for me. I believe you do, too. In this age of apostasy and compromise, God is raising up believers who refuse to live a nominal, shallow, or imitation Christianity. They are committed to the Lord and seek to walk in sensitivity and obedience to His Word and His Spirit.

    Before I gave my life to Christ, I learned to use almost every part of my body as a weapon. I learned to use my hands, feet, knees, elbows, and fingers as destructive weapons. Should I not now seek to use every part of my life to glorify the Lord?

    His Lordship affects everything we do and how we live. It affects:

    • What our eyes see
    • What our mouths speak
    • What our ears listen to
    • What our hands do
    • Where our feet go
    • What our minds think
    • What attitudes we adopt
    • What emotions we allow
    • What our hearts desire
    • How we care for our bodies (temples of the Holy Spirit)

    His Lordship affects every aspect of our lives: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

    Have I Achieved Perfection?

    Not in this life! We all struggle with temptation. However, commitment to Christ enables me to overcome any temptation so that nothing but He, Himself, controls me. I am not trying to be a self-righteous person. In fact, if you could follow me around, you would see flaws and imperfections in my life, but you would also recognize the sincere desire of my heart: to live totally for the Lord by glorifying Him in all things; to fulfill His purpose for my life and ministry. My righteousness is not that of self, but by the righteousness of God’s Son: my salvation is not the result of works or self-effort but by faith in Jesus Christ.

    We become Christians entirely by God’s grace and mercy through faith. (See my book, Who Is This Jesus?) And, as the apostle Paul reveals in Galatians 3:2-5, we continue to live by faith after we are saved. Paul states in Galatians chapter 5:

    It was for freedom that Christ set us free [from unsuccessfully trying to fulfill the law to earn our salvation]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh. … Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:1,13,24,25).

    Therefore, we must achieve a balance of God’s grace, and our responsibility to live under Christ’s Lordship by walking in obedience to His Word.

    Had to Grow

    After committing my life to Christ, I had to grow. Sure, I failed and fell many times, but I did not lay there and quit nor give up in defeat. I asked for forgiveness, and by God’s grace, got back up and kept on going.

    1 John 2:1 (written to believers) says:

    I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

    And 1 John 1:9 (also written to believers) states:

    If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

    If a Sheep Falls in the Mud

    I used to struggle with such questions as, “Does it matter if we fall into sin because we have Scriptural promises of forgiveness and liberty in Christ, or must we strive to live legalistically, trying to achieve perfection?”

    A professor at Bible college helped to answer that with the following illustration. He explained that if a pig falls in the mud, it lays there and wallows in it because that is its nature. However, if a sheep falls in the mud, it gets out. It is contrary to its nature to lay in mud. So too, nonbelievers may wallow in sin without remorse or guilt, while believers who fall into sin will repent and come out as God’s Spirit deals with them and speaks to their hearts.

    If you continue in willful sin, then you had better reevaluate your relationship with the Lord. I am not talking about making mistakes; rather if you have a pattern of continual, willful sin, there is something wrong. You need to examine your commitment to Christ:

    No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him (1 John 3:6).

    Feelings Change like the Weather

    Our commitment to Jesus Christ must not be based on feelings. We may not always feel like praying or reading our Bible or doing what God wants. Sure, we may get discouraged and want to give up, but nowhere does the Bible say we should base our relationship with Christ on feelings. We live by faith and walk in obedience to God’s Word and Spirit.

    I feel great when the Lord blesses, but even when I don’t see the blessings and even when things are going wrong, I still serve Him. My feelings may change like the weather, but my commitment to Him is unchanging!

  • part f – Walking in Obedience

    by Bill Rudge

    Throughout the Old and New Testaments we meet people who offered sacrifices and demonstrated the appearance of spirituality. However, God labels many of them as lukewarm, disobedient, stiff-necked, stubborn, rebellious or apostate. Why? Because God is more concerned with the attitudes of the heart than with outward displays. God desires a people who are obedient and faithful.

    King Saul learned the hard way that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” Following Saul’s lame excuse for only partially obeying the Lord’s command, the prophet Samuel rebuked him with the following words:

    Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice… (1 Samuel 15:22).

    It is very important that we not only talk our Christianity, but that we walk it. Titus 1:16 states:

    They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him….

    All through the Scriptures we meet those who were tempted, tested, and confronted by obstacles. Some disobeyed, rebelled, and turned from the Lord. Others remained faithful – no matter the cost. Those who disobeyed suffered the consequences; immediately or in the not-so-distant future. Those who obeyed received God’s blessing and ultimate victory.

    On Talking Back

    When I was in gymnastics and my instructor would say, “Billy, climb the rope to the gym’s ceiling. Do a round off and several backhand springs in a row on the mat. Get on the trampoline and do a double back flip.” I did not say, “I don’t feel like doing that today.” I did it!

    When going out for football and the coach would say, “Hit the sled and keep hitting it until I tell you to stop. Run the ropes. Take five laps.” I did not say, “Well coach, I am not in the mood to do that today.” I did it!

    When, in karate, my instructor said, “Do knuckle pushups.” I did knuckle pushups. When he said, “You, Rudge! Come here. I want to use you for an uke and beat on you for awhile.” I did not say, “Not today, Sensei. Maybe next time.” No, I stepped forward and let him demonstrate strikes and kicks on me. When I was told, “Lay down and put this potato on your chest so I can slice it in half with this sword.” I did not say, “That’s a bad idea.” I obeyed. When he said spar and fight, I sparred and fought!

    Should I obey any less the King of kings and Lord of lords, the God who created me, the God who came and died for me, who bodily rose from the dead, and who is coming again to rule and reign for all eternity?

    When His Word and Spirit tell me to do something, how much more should I obey without talking back or whining or complaining or making excuses? I do not say, “Well, if I feel like it, Lord,” or “Maybe I will think about it,” or “I don’t know if I want to do that.” I obey! That is what it means to be submitted to Christ’s Lordship.

    But is this biblical? In Luke 6:46 Jesus asks:

    Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?

    In John 14:15, 24 Jesus said:

    If you love Me, you will obey what I command. He who does not love Me will not obey My teaching.

    In Matthew 7:21 Jesus states:

    Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.

    1 John 2:3, 6 says:

    We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

    And the manner in which Jesus walked was in humility and obedience (Philippians 2:8).

  • part g – Surrendered and Available

    Once you give your life to Jesus Christ, God begins to work in and through you to accomplish His will. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:13 states, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” First Thessalonians 5:24 promises, “The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.”

    Submit or Resist

    The choice is yours. Either you submit and say, “Here I am, Lord. Accomplish Your plan for my life.” God then molds you, leads you and enables you to achieve His purpose. Or you resist; becoming increasingly stiff-necked, obstinate, hardhearted and rebellious, struggling against the free reign of God’s Spirit in your life. But then you will not be useful in bearing fruit in Christ’s Kingdom or achieving the full potential and purpose He has for you. Will you be submissive and surrendered or resistant and rebellious?

    Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord asking, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” His response was, “Here am I. Send me!” (6:8). Isaiah went on to become one of the greatest biblical prophets.

    When I first started our ministry, I was no speaker or writer. The odds were not in my favor; I had no hope of real potential. So I prayed: “Lord, here I am, I yield myself to You. No matter what it costs, I am willing to do Your will!” On my weekly fasting list was a plea: “Take my weaknesses and make them my strengths. Please speak and write through me.” God has molded my life and ministry over the years – often in the wilderness of adversity. He has used our publications, audio messages, speaking engagements and radio broadcasts to have an impact on tens of thousands of people around the world.

    Two Attitudes

    As I deal with Christians involved in a variety of questionable or clearly unscriptural practices, I find they have one of two attitudes:

    First, some respond: “I really don’t care what you say or how much evidence you have concerning the potential danger or what the Bible says about it.” They become defensive and somehow try to justify or condone their involvement. As long as they have this attitude, God cannot guide and direct them to accomplish His purpose.

    2 Chronicles 30:7, 8 was a warning sent throughout Israel and Judah by King Hezekiah. It stated:

    Do not be like your fathers and brothers, who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their fathers, so that He made them an object of horror, as you see. Do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were; submit to the Lord ….

    Stephen echoed a similar rebuke which resulted in his being stoned. In Acts 7:51 he cried out:

    You stiff-necked people…You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

    Proverbs 29:1 states:

    A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed – without remedy.

    Many years ago David Wilkerson was speaking at a national convention I was attending. He gave an anointed message on purity of life and mind. He warned the pastors and leaders to turn off the filth on television. One of the pastors I knew said, “He’s not going to tell me what to do.” Later that night he went to his hotel room and watched an R-rated movie. Several years later, after losing both legs to diabetes he was a changed man with a true heart for the Lord. He dedicated the rest of his life to missions until He went home to be with the Lord.

    The second attitude, and the one God desires us all to have, says, “Father, more than anything else I want Your will for my life. I may not see anything visibly wrong with what I am doing, but I will read and search Your Word. I will get on my knees and pray and fast and be sensitive, submissive and obedient to what Your Word and Your Spirit lead me to do.”

    Don’t Condemn

    Speaking with non-Christians, I do not condemn their music, alcohol, smoking or sins such as sexual promiscuity or occultic activities. I may warn them about potential consequences, but I do not condemn them, because even though they cease that involvement, they are still lost without Christ. I share the overwhelming evidence for Jesus and the superior peace, joy and power that is available through the resurrected Christ!

    I was training Mike, a man from California, who was accompanying me to Haiti later that month on a mission trip. It was close to midnight when we went into some rough areas of Oceanside where there are many gangs, homeless and a high presence of military recruits from nearby bases. After sharing Christ with several gang members and then about 10 Marines waiting for a bus, Mike and I moved to another place in front of a gay bar. I started a conversation with a young man who quickly proclaimed, “I am gay and an atheist!” I replied, “I am not concerned about your sexual preference.” The young man’s response was “Wow! You are the first religious person to make that comment.” I said, “First, I want you to come to know the Creator. Look into the sky and consider that there are billions of stars in billions of galaxies. Also consider your DNA and you can begin to realize how complex the universe and our bodies are. This did not happen by random chance. An intelligent Designer created us.”

    I continued, “God says in the Bible that if you search for Me with all your heart, you will find Me. My main concern right now is to challenge you to search for the evidence of the God who created you. Coming to know Him will lead you to Jesus Christ. Then, by His Word and Spirit, He will deal with the other issues in your life.” As we parted, the young man seemed visibly touched by what and how I shared.

    Don’t let the enemy sidetrack you regarding peripheral issues. Remember, the Lord Jesus did not enter Jerusalem and cleanse Pilate’s judgment hall or Herod’s palace, but He did cleanse the Temple! Besides, when non-Christians come to faith in Christ and are truly submitted to Him as Lord, His Spirit and Word will begin to transform their lifestyles.

    However, when I deal with Christians who are involved in unscriptural activities – that is different. I let them know that they need to clean up their lives, and I challenge them to become sensitive and obedient to God’s Spirit and Word.

    One Reassuring Fact

    A Christian woman, involved in a questionable practice that was spiritually dangerous, felt God was leading her to quit, although she did not know why. She saw nothing outwardly wrong with it. After talking with her, I shared some facts that she was not aware of. Tears began to flow down her face as she said, “You have confirmed what God’s Spirit has been speaking to my heart.” As a result of her sensitivity and submission to the Lord, He was able to protect her from a dangerous practice and lead her in the path He desired for her life.

    It is reassuring to know that when you remain yielded, available and surrendered to God, it is impossible for you to get too far out of line. If you get involved with a practice or belief that is unacceptable to Him, He will speak to your heart through His Word and Spirit, and the Great Shepherd will guide and direct you back to the path of righteousness.

    The problem starts when you become insensitive, stiff-necked, obstinate and hardhearted or try to justify your involvement. Then you get out of God’s will and resist His Spirit’s dealings with you. This kind of rebellious attitude before the Lord, carries one promise – that of reaping what you have sown. But when you are sensitive and yielded to the Spirit of God and obedient to His Word, you have the promise of eventual blessing, victory and of all things working together for good. You will be aware of God working in your life to achieve the purpose and potential He has for you.

    Almost Hit by Bus in the Himalayas

    After speaking at a convention in the Himalayas of northern India, my team and I were making our way down the winding mountain roads as we headed to Calcutta. We stopped in the village of Darjeeling. Standing in the middle of a narrow road for a more panoramic view, my son and I surveyed this Himalayan mountain village deciding which direction to go. Suddenly a bus came speeding around a sharp curve heading straight toward us. Horn blaring, the bus maintained its speed as it rushed nearer and nearer with no sign of slowing down.

    Sizing up the situation, I glanced to my right and left. Instinctively grabbing BJ, my then thirteen-year-old son, I quickly tried pulling him to the left, but his impulsive reaction was to go in the opposite direction. Adjusting my momentum to accommodate his motion, I pushed him to the right. He simultaneously responded to my initial tug by moving toward the left. There we were in the middle of the road going in circles as this massive bus came bearing down upon us. I could have jumped out of the way and saved my life, but I promised my wife I would bring our son back alive. If he was going to die, then I was going to die with him on the streets of India, so I hung on.

    BJ was in near panic, and I was not doing very well myself. With adrenaline flowing and my heart pounding, thoughts of how we were both going to be killed flooded my mind, because buses in the Himalayas are notorious for not stopping for pedestrians. I personally have seen them barrel down the road, stopping for no one as young and old alike hurry to step aside or leap to safety seconds before the bus speeds by, missing them by inches.

    Realizing this, our situation seemed hopeless. Fortunately, by the grace of God, the driver realized we really were in trouble, and to our amazement, suddenly slammed on the brakes and slid to a stop no more than two feet in front of us. I remember standing there in the middle of the street after it was all over, looking at the flat front of the bus directly ahead of me thinking, “I could not even have jumped on its hood to get thrown to the side. It would have hit us, dropped us in the street, and then run over us. We would have had no hope for survival!” Thank God for His mercy and protection!

    The point of this illustration is that when our heavenly Father is leading us in one direction, and we insist on going in another, then dangerous and sometimes fatal consequences occur. Rather than going around in circles in your life, take your lead from the Lord.

    Four Options

    When I was involved in the martial arts (before the Lord led me out) the easiest way for me to lead someone’s body was to lead their head. Wherever their head went, their body would follow. I used to demonstrate this with a volunteer from the audience. It was easy to lead a person who was submissive and yielded. But if they would stiffen their neck and resist, I would explain my choices:

    1. I could exert more force and possibly injure his neck.

    2. I could break his stiff neck.

    3. I could knock him unconscious and then drag him wherever I wanted.

    4. I could let him go his own way and bang his head against the wall, or against my knee, or whatever, as a natural consequence of his resistance.

    When we resist the Lord’s will and refuse to submit, He also has choices:

    1. He can exert more pressure in our lives to get our attention.

    2. He can break our stiff necks and rebellious wills by humbling us.

    3. He can knock us unconscious by not using us anymore or allow Satan to render us ineffective.

    4. He can let us go our own rebellious ways and reap the consequences, until we learn and are ready to submit.

    Meekness and a Strong War Horse

    Throughout the Scriptures we frequently see the word “meek.” Many wrongly equate the meaning of meek with its rhyming word, weak. But that could not be further from the truth. When the Lord said in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” He was talking about those who will rule and reign with Him.

    While in Bible college, I learned that the word meek was used in the Greek in reference to a strong war horse which was prepared for battle. With just the slightest touch on the reins, the horse would go in the intended direction of the rider. It became submissive and sensitive to the rider on its back. The horse had not lost any of its drive or dynamic power as a strong stallion, but had merely been brought under the mastery of the one who rode on its back. If its spirit was broken, its strength drained or any of its dynamic qualities changed, then it would be useless for its purpose. But as it was brought under control and submission, it was said that the horse was now praus, translated meek (or prautes, translated meekness) throughout the New Testament.

    Vine’s Expository Dictionary states:

    It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His [God’s] dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting; and as such, we do not fight … struggle and contend with Him …. It must be clearly understood, therefore, that the meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power. The common assumption is that when a man is meek it is because he cannot help himself; but the Lord was “meek” because He had the infinite resources of God at His command.

    Isaiah 45:5, 9 declares:

    I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from Me, there is no God. … Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker. … Does the clay say to the potter, “What are you making?”

    When horseback riding as a teen, the horse I was on was determined to knock me off. It tried to smash my legs by continually running about two inches from the trees. I had to keep pulling one of my feet out of the stirrups and lift my leg over to the other side of the saddle to avoid having it smashed against a tree. When that didn’t work, the horse tried to “clothesline” me a few times by going underneath low branches. I had to keep ducking down to avoid getting knocked off.

    There I was on this out-of-control horse, pulling as hard as I could on the reins in an attempt to stop it or even slow it down – so hard that its mouth was bleeding. But it would not stop; it ran even faster trying all the harder to knock me off. Finally, so upset with my trying to slow it down, the horse impulsively ran off the trail and burst through a barbed-wire fence in racing back to the corral. Its chest had multiple gashes, blood mixed with sweat streaming down. My pants were ripped and my legs had several cuts.

    That horse was rebellious! I could not control or lead it. God does not want you to be like that horse because you will bring destruction on yourself. He tells us to be meek, humble and yielded so He can work in us; so He can speak to our hearts and lead us where He wants, without having to hit us over the head to get our attention or to force us to obey.

    Psalm 32:9 states:

    Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check…. (NAS)

    The praus horse also had a bit and bridle, but to get it to obey one did not have to yank the reins and bit or bloody its mouth. Rather, one lightly pulled on the reins to guide and direct the horse. It willingly followed the master’s direction. God is not telling us to be weak or a doormat. He is saying, “Have your dynamic strength, but do not resist and fight Me. Be submitted to Me.”

    Instead of being stiff-necked, obstinate, hardhearted and rebellious, let’s be praus. Let’s be sensitive, submissive, surrendered, yielded and available so God will work in and through us to accomplish His purpose for our lives!

  • part h – Meek and Powerful

    by Bill Rudge

    Throughout the Scriptures we frequently see the word “meek.” Many wrongly equate the meaning of meek with its rhyming word, weak. But that could not be further from the truth. When the Lord said in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” He was talking about those who will rule and reign with Him.

    While in Bible college, I learned that the word meek referred, in the Greek, to a strong war horse prepared for battle. With just the slightest touch on the reins, the horse would go in the intended direction of the rider. It became submissive and sensitive to the rider on its back. The horse had not lost any of its drive or dynamic power as a strong stallion, but was completely under the mastery of the rider. If its spirit was broken, its strength compromised or its dynamic qualities changed, then it would have been useless for its purpose; but brought under control and submissive, it was said that the horse was now praus (translated meek or prautes, translated meekness throughout the New Testament).

    Vine’s Expository Dictionary states:

    It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His [God’s] dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting; and as such, we do not fight … struggle and contend with Him …. It must be clearly understood, therefore, that the meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power. The common assumption is that when a man is meek it is because he cannot help himself; but the Lord was “meek” because He had the infinite resources of God at His command.

    Out Of Control

    When horseback riding as a teen, the horse I was on was determined to knock me off. It tried to smash my legs by continually running about two inches from the trees. I had to keep pulling one of my feet out of the stirrups and lift my leg over to the other side of the saddle to avoid having it smashed against a tree. When that didn’t work, the horse tried to “clothesline” me a few times by going underneath low branches. I had to keep ducking down to avoid getting knocked off.

    There I was on this out-of-control horse, pulling as hard as I could on the reins in an attempt to stop it or even slow it down – so hard that its mouth was bleeding. But it would not stop; it ran even faster trying all the harder to knock me off. Finally, so upset with my trying to slow it down, the horse impulsively ran off the trail and burst through a barbed-wire fence in racing back to the corral. Its chest had multiple gashes, blood mixed with sweat streaming down. My pants were ripped and my legs had several cuts.

    That horse was rebellious! I could not control or lead it. God does not want you to be like that horse because you will bring destruction on yourself. He tells us to be meek, humble and yielded so He can work in us; so He can speak to our hearts and lead us where He wants, without having to hit us over the head to get our attention!

    Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check (Psalm 32:9).

    Dynamic Strength

    The praus horse also had a bit and bridle, but to get it to obey one did not have to yank the reins and bit or bloody its mouth. Instead, one lightly pulled on the reins to guide and direct the horse: It willingly followed the master’s direction. God is not telling us either to be weak or a doormat. He is saying, “Have your dynamic strength, but do not resist and fight Me. Be submitted to Me.”

    Instead of being stiff-necked, obstinate, hardhearted and rebellious, let’s be praus. Let’s be sensitive, submissive, surrendered, yielded and available so God will work in and through us to accomplish His purpose for our lives!

  • part i – Living a Life of Integrity

    by Bill Rudge

    Every day brings opportunities to cheat, lie and exaggerate. We live in a society where lying and deceit are rampant and considered by many to be normal and acceptable. But are they beneficial or detrimental?

    Before becoming a Christian, I had been a con artist, liar, manipulator and thief. I had stolen and robbed and cheated many people. After giving my life to Christ there were so many things that needed to change – and the God of the Bible, through His Word and Spirit, began to transform my life.

    Deception Breeds Deception

    One week after giving my life to Jesus Christ, Karen and I decided to run away to West Virginia to get married. I was 18 and she was 17. Once the clerk at the courthouse verified our ages, she told us we needed to get blood tests and to get parental consent as well since we were underage. After getting our blood tests in West Virginia, we went back to Pennsylvania where we filled out the marriage application form. The notary, who was a neighbor of mine, said we needed to have at least one of each of our parents sign in his presence. Knowing our parents would never sign, I deceived the notary by saying that my mom was very sick at home in bed and unable to come to sign and that Karen’s mother was also unable to do so. We forged our mothers’ signatures and took the form back to the notary to be notarized.

    After forging the signatures, we thought that was the end of it, but we were wrong. As the Scriptures illustrate through the lives of such important biblical figures as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, deceit leads to deceit:

    • Abraham deceived the Pharaoh in Egypt, and later King Abimelech, by claiming his beautiful wife Sarah was merely his sister (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18).

    • Abraham’s son Isaac did the same thing by saying his wife Rebekah was his sister (Genesis 26:7-11).

    • Isaac’s son Jacob, coached by his mother Rebekah, deceived Isaac into blessing Jacob instead of Esau (Genesis 27:1-29).

    On and on, through the generations, deceit and dishonesty continued.

    • Jacob was deceived by his Uncle Laban who substituted Leah, his oldest daughter, for Rachel (the one Jacob loved) after he had worked seven years for her (Genesis 29:13-30).

    • Jacob’s sons deceived him by taking their brother Joseph’s multicolored robe, dipping it in goat’s blood and showing it to their father, letting him think Joseph was killed by a wild animal. In fact, they sold him as a slave into Egypt (Genesis 37:21-36).

    • For many years they let their father Jacob be deceived, until Joseph revealed himself to his brothers in Egypt and saved his family from starvation.

    But back to our story: When Karen and I returned to West Virginia with the appropriate paperwork, we were informed by the courthouse clerk that we needed both sets of parents’ signatures. So we lied and told her our parents were at a racetrack just down the road and we would have them sign. We forged the signatures and returned the signed document to the clerk who said, “Okay, you can get married now.”

    Learning Integrity

    So what happened to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Scripture informs us that God began to work in their hearts to such a degree that they are presented in Hebrews chapter 11 as heroes of the faith!

    • Abraham grew so much in faith that he was willing to offer his son on the altar as a sacrifice before God.

    • Jacob was humbled by God; he wrestled with an angel who touched his hip and caused him to walk with a limp the rest of his life, showing us that God will not let anyone get away with deceit and a lack of integrity.

    • Joseph’s brothers were changed men when he met them years later in Egypt, and they became heads of the tribes of Israel.

    Years passed before Karen and I realized that the minister who married us never sent us a copy of our marriage license. We wondered whether he even recorded it at the courthouse, and even if our marriage was legal since we forged the signatures. Not certain of the name of the city we were married in, and not wanting the hassle of tracking everything down, we forgot about it.

    While working on my records for an upcoming book entitled The Impossible, I decided to get a copy of our marriage certificate – if one existed. By doing some research into our old scrapbooks I discovered we were married in New Cumberland, West Virginia. I talked on the phone to the Hancock County clerk and told her I was compiling information for an upcoming article and book. She was most cooperative and even went to the courthouse basement to dig out the records from 1971. She graciously sent us a copy of our marriage certificate.

    I told her that when we ran away to get married, I was a brand-new Christian and we had forged our parents’ signatures. She replied that regardless of that, the marriage was still legally binding, and many people had often lied about their ages and later wanted to change the records for Social Security reasons, etc.

    She was happy to hear that we got our start in West Virginia and were still married, and was excited to hear how God had worked in our lives and ministry. In appreciation for her help I sent her a few of the books and pamphlets I had written.

    Like our forefathers in the faith, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God has brought us a long way. We suffered many consequences and challenges because of our youthful deceit, but God takes each of us where we are and works in us by the power of His Holy Spirit to transform our lives.

    Stolen Items

    Before giving my life to Christ, I had stolen hundreds of dollars’ worth of merchandise. A Christian for only a few months, God’s Spirit began to deal with me, and I began to return things to the different stores and places from which I had stolen them. At first I took back the things I liked the least: the rock albums, the clothes, the jewelry and the colognes. Then after a few more weeks, God’s Spirit dealt with me even more strongly, and I looked for more things I had stolen. I returned a billy club, bayonet and other weapons. Finally, a few weeks later, God’s Spirit came heavily upon me to get rid of everything. I returned the weights, the remaining clothes, my favorite speed bag and other things I knew I could never afford, but I had to obey.

    As new teenage Christians, Karen and I even took money to some of the stores where we could not return the items, because they were ruined or lost. The store clerks were bewildered. I told them, “Listen, I stole things before I was a Christian. Now I am a believer in Jesus Christ. Please take the money.” They thought we were crazy, but before my Lord, I wanted to maintain my integrity.

    $5 Becomes $1,800

    A couple years ago, our water distiller no longer worked but the 1-gallon plastic water collector was still like new. Rather than discarding it, Karen decided to sell it on E-bay for a minimal cost that would at least cover the postage to mail it to the buyer. She always encloses one of my books as an additional gift and as a spiritual inspiration.

    Karen received a response from a man who wanted to buy it at a lower price but said she couldn’t because the price she was asking barely covered the postage. The man then paid the asking price. When Karen received the payment, she realized that a shipping fee had been added to the amount he paid. Realizing that it was not free shipping for the buyer as she had thought, she refunded the $5.00 shipping fee to him with a brief note of explanation. He thanked her for her honesty, and within hours, he went to our website and donated $1,800 online to the ministry. What an unexpected blessing that helped at a crucial time! God is always faithful and uses our longtime ministry friends as well as new friends – some whom we have never even met.

    All in a Decimal

    Another of the many examples I could cite occurred when Karen received an order for two of my booklets from an ad in a magazine. However, she noticed the enclosed money order was for $250 instead of $2.50 (the cost for postage). With the volume of mail Karen has to deal with, she could have easily deposited it, not taking the time to check it out, thinking that maybe this person wanted to give an additional contribution as many do. However, she felt it was a mistake. She notified our local post office, who then contacted the Florida post office which issued the money order. The clerk at that post office greatly appreciated our honesty because she would have had to pay the difference of $247.50 out of her pocket.

    Gimmickry and the Gospel

    Honesty and integrity are obviously lacking in much of the secular world. Sad to say, even in many churches and ministries today, financial scandals, fraudulent fundraising and merchandising the Gospel are rampant. Some use manipulation to control followers, coercion to obtain funds or gimmicks to generate growth and excitement. Others charge exorbitant fees for their services and resources.

    How far removed we are from Jesus’ words to His twelve disciples of, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Choosing to operate on this biblical principle of “freely giving” I do not charge for speaking engagements, books, tracts, audio messages, the obstacle course, defense clinics, school assemblies or other services and resources our ministry provides. One of the points in my prayer and fasting list reminds me: I own no possessions, for all I have is Yours. I realize that God is my Source – I do not own a house or vehicle – and have little retirement since I gave most away and waived out of Social Security. Nevertheless, I persevere in faith knowing that He has met my needs thus far and will continue to do so as long as I continue to honor and obey Him.

    Some pastors and ministry leaders who misuse funds enrich themselves with great material wealth from those who have given sacrificially. Some suggest that donors give multiple tithes or even borrow money to donate to them! Religious shysters sometimes use “anointed” artifacts or promise healings and special blessings to those who give generous donations. In contrast to this deceitful gimmickry and blatant merchandising of the Gospel today, the Apostle Paul stated:

    Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God (2 Corinthians 2:17).

    Ponder on, and be inspired by, Paul’s last words to the elders of Ephesus:

    You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:18, 33-35).

    Samuel was a person of integrity all the days of his life. Before his death he asked the people of Israel to evaluate his life before the LORD:

    I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right. “You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” Samuel said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and also His anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said (1 Samuel 12:2-5).

    Despite varied opportunities to obtain temporal material gain through taking advantage of people or circumstances, believers and Christian leaders must walk before the Lord and the world in integrity. Financial scandals will cease in the body of Christ if believers and Christian leaders really believe God’s Word:

    [W]ait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God (1 Corinthians 4:5).

    Once you make a heart commitment to walk upright before the Lord, a life of integrity will become as natural as breathing.

    Not For Sale

    Sometimes we cannot defend ourselves, or what we appear to do, we must just handle ourselves with integrity until He vindicates us. This has happened to me several times. For example, I began to feel the Lord would have us sell the ministry center (mini-gym, all-purpose room, reception area, several offices, prayer room, radio studio, media room, fitness room and half of the property we used for recreation and the obstacle course) in order to have additional funds for expansion of the ministry and to print tens of thousands more books to meet increasing requests for free copies of my books and audio messages, from around the world. My hope was to relocate to a smaller facility in the area (with outsourced staff and volunteers) that would enable us to continue our growing ministry with less overhead and provide funds for additional outreaches.

    However, I was advised that to put a For Sale sign on the street in front of the ministry center would result in a loss of support due to the uncertainty of where we would relocate. Nevertheless, I felt that to be upright and transparent, the realtor should put up the sign. They were right about losing support – we lost almost one third of our regular donations while the building sat unsold. But we continued to trust the Lord to fulfill what He led me to do.

    Then a rumor circulated from a source who deliberately distorted the facts, claiming that I was selling the building, keeping the money personally and moving to California (where our daughter was then living). When later we dedicated our new ministry center on our original property – subdivided from and adjacent to the former ministry center – all was proved to be false and many people came to the Open House. With tears in her eyes, one woman who had discontinued support because of us selling the ministry center, apologized and began her support again – along with many new supporters. (Years later I officiated for her and her husband’s funerals. And instead of moving the ministry to California, my daughter and her family moved to Pennsylvania – volunteering in many ways to help with the expanding ministry.) God is faithful to defend us; we just must maintain our integrity and let our lives resonate the love and truth of Jesus Christ.

    A final note: During the construction of our current ministry center, even as the previous ministry center sat unsold and as the funds diminished, a man I do not recall meeting, but who had heard me speak (I was later told) left a large amount of money – the largest donation ever made to the ministry – in his will. It was just what we needed to make up for losses. When I meet this man in eternity I will be certain to thank him!

    A Verbal Commitment and Handshake

    In January of 2001, I sold my dream – the ministry center – to have additional funds to reach the world. That in itself is a long and amazing story. However, what I want to focus on is that by a mere verbal agreement and a handshake the deal was done – there was no contract at the time. Shortly thereafter, a doctor called to offer cash for our building, payable the next day. I explained that I had made a verbal agreement with the Area Agency on Aging, and my word was as good as a contract.

    At the dedication of the new building for the Mercer County Area Agency on Aging a state representative commented how amazed he was that by a mere verbal agreement and a handshake the sale of our former ministry center was accomplished. He went on to say that it would be great if all government agreements and transactions could be done in the same manner.

    Only As Good As Your Word

    “You are only as good as your word” is a principle I seek to live by. I am reminded of my fifth trip to Haiti: I gave my word to a former voodoo witch doctor in Haiti that I would return to see him. Yet, every imaginable obstacle and dangerous circumstance rose up to thwart the fulfillment of that promise:

    • I was told by the host mission I could not come because they were expecting violence against Americans. Haitians had blocked roads and stopped some American missionaries, harming them and damaging their vehicle.

    • There was to be a nationwide strike and there would be a lot of violence since there had already been several deaths from recent demonstrations.

    • Because of a gas shortage they could not run the generator at the mission compound.

    • The Iraq war was on the near horizon and things were very unstable and volatile.

    Nevertheless, I felt compelled to go because I had made a promise, and this was the only opportunity I would have for several years to return. So in spite of other obstacles and impossible circumstances, the Lord made the way possible.

    Before we left Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, for Gonaives, I told some vendors outside the mission guest house I would buy something when I returned. One of the women yelled out in Creole, “They all say that, but they never keep their word.” I assured her I would keep my word but she did not believe me. Several days later I returned. She was elated to see me and as promised, I bought souvenirs from her and the other vendors. They were most appreciative and repeatedly said, “You kept your word! You kept your word!”

    I promised my dad on his death bed I would take care of my mother. For 21 years I kept that promise – sometimes joyfully and a few times under great duress.

    I promised my mother that I would do everything possible to get all our family members into Heaven with her. That was sometimes a difficult promise but I persevered in sharing the love and truth of Christ with a growing family of several generations. Thus far, all who have gone on, have done so with the Lord!

    God Sees

    Character is not what you do when people are watching. Character is what you do when you think no one else sees. However, Somebody does see. Take a few moments to read Psalm 139 and Proverbs 5:21 which indicate that God sees and knows all about us.

    Frank Outlaw sums up the importance of character:

    Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

    My Prayer

    God is looking for men, women and young people who will live a life of integrity before Him and this world in these last days. That is why my prayer is:

    Lord, I am a person who was far from Your standard and made many mistakes. But early in my walk with You, You began to burn deceit and dishonesty out of me. Your Word and Spirit have taught and enabled me to overcome and walk upright before You. Cause me to always speak the truth in love without ulterior motives for selfish gain. Help me to honor You in all things.
    I also pray that Your Spirit speaks to the hearts of every person reading this article. Reveal any area of their lives where they are allowing deception, lying lips, dishonest gain or selfish motivation. Bring them to repentance; give them the assurance of Your forgiveness. Put within them a desire to walk in integrity all the days of their lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

    Excerpted from the Integrity chapter in Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ E-Book (you can find it under E-Books in the store).

  • part j – Self Control – The Essence of Strength

    The following is excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, “Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ.”

    From traveling and ministering throughout the U.S. and abroad and receiving thousands of letters from around the world, I have discovered that one of the biggest problems Christian adults and teens (as well as non-Christians) face is a lack of discipline and self-control. Almost all the troubles people get into and the problems they encounter, (whether it’s related to drugs or alcohol; lust and sexual immorality which lead to broken relationships, unwanted pregnancies, venereal disease, or AIDS; overeating, stealing, lying, or gossiping; jealousy, bitterness, revenge, outbursts of anger, or violence) could possibly have been avoided if they only had exercised more discipline and self-control.

    When I first started this ministry the Lord spoke to my heart that He would greatly use and bless me if I remained faithful. He warned that sin, especially sexual immorality or pride, would destroy my life and ministry, if I let either get a foothold. Therefore, whenever I spend time in prayer and fasting, I ask the Lord to help me by His Spirit to root out, overcome, and burn out of my life any sin, disobedience, immorality, and lust. I pray that by His Spirit, He will enable me to walk in obedience, control, and discipline, and to desire Him more than anything or anyone else — to have a hunger and thirst and passion for Him!

    I Was Out of Control

    Before coming to Christ, I was out of control in almost every area of my life. I couldn’t control my stealing. I would walk into a store and walk out with almost anything I wanted. I stole so much it became second nature. I’d steal without hesitation and sometimes without even realizing I was doing it. Even as a new Christian, when I was in a store or situation that was very similar to something I was in before I was a Christian, my mind would flash back, and I’d still feel guilty and strange as if I was being watched because someone thought I was trying to steal something.

    Eating was another area in which I was out of control. As a kid I was a junk food addict. I would steal money from my dad and oldest brother to buy candy bars and all kinds of junk food. I craved chocolate, sugar, salt, and greasy foods. One time I stole $20 from my oldest brother and took a neighbor girl to a nearby convenience store. I bought her milkshakes, candy bars, and other items. When I paid with a $20 bill, they called my parents. My brother came to get me, and smacked me all the way home for stealing from him.

    When my friends and I became teens, we frequently slept out under the stars. We would load up on junk food to eat throughout the night. Usually I would buy a couple quarts of soda pop or a half gallon of chocolate milk, along with cupcakes, donuts, candy bars, and potato chips. My friend’s girlfriend worked at a candy store. On Sunday afternoons she would be working alone, so we came in to eat anything we wanted, and also took bags of candy home. As a child, almost all my baby teeth were rotten, and as a teen I had teeth pulled and many fillings due to all the sugar-laden foods I had consumed.

    Drinking was also a problem for me. I couldn’t control my use of alcohol. I lived to get high on weekends and holidays. One night I was so drunk I almost fell through a large storefront window in my hometown. On numerous occasions I was in wrecks and near tragedies because of being out of control due to the influence of alcohol.

    I loved gambling so much that it, too, began to control me. For weeks at a time my friends and I would go on gambling sprees, during which my whole life would revolve around gambling. We would play cards all night and even developed an intricate cheating system by using our eyes. This system won us a lot of money, but it eventually almost got us “lynched.” Once at a local bazaar, I convinced the dealer in a poker booth to give me extra cards, with the promise that afterwards I would split the profits with him. He did, but I took off and never gave him anything.

    My mouth was out of control. If I wasn’t lying, I was telling someone off. I couldn’t control my lying. I lied so well, I convinced myself. My mouth was always getting me in trouble. I often had older guys waiting for me after school or looking for me or sending someone else after me because of something smart I said to them or something offensive I said to their girlfriend.

    Controlled by lust, I was compulsively looking for more excitement and pleasure. In the process, I used and abused a lot of people.

    Addicted to adrenaline, I would try every thrill imaginable to experience a temporary high, like the time I drove down the highway at 115 mph in my dad’s convertible, thinking I was god, and that if I hit something I would not be killed. The fastest I ever went down a highway was 135 mph in my friend’s car. I loved the sensation of speed and thrived on jumping trains and bumper dragging cars in the snow. I jumped off train trestles into the waters of the dam even though I was afraid of heights. I forced myself to do it because of peer pressure and a desire for another thrill. Any adventurous activity became a passion.

    My cheating was uncontrollable. I cheated or charmed my way through much of high school, and I thought I got away with it. Answers would be written up and down my arms, hidden under my desk, on my belt, and in my socks. I would sweet-talk girls to do assignments for me and pay or threaten guys to do them. But guess what? The only one I cheated was myself!

    I expected to spend my life lifting weights and loafing on some secluded island beach somewhere. You could not have convinced me back then that God would one day change my life and call me into the ministry, that I would go to Bible college, and that I would need to apply what I learned in high school: English to write books, science and history for the research I would do, geography for the traveling I would be doing throughout the world to minister, math and algebra to understand finances, or languages when I went on missionary outreaches to foreign lands. At school, the only areas in which I applied myself were physical education and lunch.

    When I went to Bible college, I had to spend time looking up words in the dictionary for spelling and meanings. It was much more difficult for me than most of the other students, because I had to learn what I missed in high school, as well as try to keep up with the information the Bible college instructors were teaching us. This difficulty was the result of the wasted high school years when I thought I was getting away with my cheating.

    An additional problem was in the area of finances. When my wife and I ran away and got married as teenagers, although we were poor, we eventually followed the traditional American lifestyle of charge cards and loans. Before long we were over our heads in debt.

    The Lord dealt with us, and we got rid of our credit cards and refused to take out any more interest loans. Eventually we did get more credit cards, but we pay them off each month so as not to incur any interest. We have applied the lessons we learned regarding finances to our ministry. That is one reason why it has operated so effectively on limited funds, and why we live better and happier than most people who have much more money but are deeply in debt.

    I know what it means to be out of control. If God could bring my life under control, He can bring anyone’s life under control.

    The Scars Remain

    The Bible says in Galatians 6:7,8 ―

    “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

    I am a good illustration, for I am suffering many consequences from the foolish things I did before committing my life to Christ. I am not only trying to reverse some of those consequences through healthy living, but I am also letting people know that the Bible is true — you do reap what you sow.

    Ecclesiastes 11:9 and 12:1 cautions us concerning how we live during our youth ―

    “Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’”

    Ecclesiastes 12:13,14 wisely concludes ―

    “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

    You’re free to make almost any choice you want. You can involve yourself in any kind of lifestyle you desire, but it’s like being on a high roof. You can jump off if you want. You are free to make that decision. Once you jump off, however, you are no longer free. You are now a slave to the law of gravity which will splatter you on the ground below.

    While you do have freedom to choose to get involved in drugs, alcohol, immorality, gambling, stealing, lying, fighting, vandalism, gossiping, gluttony, or other destructive behavior, the consequences will one day catch up to you. I’ve seen it 100% of the time. Maybe not overnight, but eventually you will reap what you sow; physically, mentally/emotionally, and spiritually. So, use wisdom deciding in what you participate.

    God will forgive, but the scars and consequences often remain. For example, if a drunken driver kills a little child, God will forgive him if he asks, but he’ll live with that memory for the rest of his life. That’s why it is so important to develop self-control now!

    Weakness is Lacking Self-Control

    Proverbs 25:28 states ―

    “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”

    In Biblical days cities often had walls built around them, which made them strong and easy to defend fortresses. If the walls were broken down, the people were vulnerable and defenseless against the enemies’ attacks. So God is saying, “If you have self-control, it’s like having a wall around the city — you’re strong. However, a person without self-control is weak, defenseless, and vulnerable.”

    Alexander the Great was a powerful man who conquered and controlled most of the known world. His empire extended from Greece to India, but he could not conquer his lusts. He died at age 33 after taking ill following a prolonged banquet and drinking bout. Is that real control? Is that strength? Is that what you want in your life?

    Consider many of the rock stars, movie actors, and great athletes who are often idolized. They flaunt their out-of-control and rebellious lifestyles. Many covet their fame, money, and power. But the outcome of their lives is often tragedy. That’s not the end result that God desires for you.

    Proverbs 16:32 says ―

    “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” (NAS)

    You can go out and conquer a city — even conquer the world — but if you cannot tame your spirit, you have not achieved the strength that God wants you to have. Controlling your very spirit, temper, desires, thoughts, and behavior, is better than conquering other people or achieving great accomplishments.

    I know those who can do phenomenal, almost superhuman, feats. Yet many of those same people can’t control their tongues or tempers. They are unable to control their lust, jealousy, hatred, bitterness, worry, or fear. That is weakness, not strength. Is there any real benefit in the ability to do phenomenal feats when the rest of a person’s life is out of control? Far more important than external displays of power is the inner molding of our character, attitudes, and spirit.

    The Essence of Strength is Self-Control

    The world’s view of strength is distorted. It equates strength with fighting better, drinking more alcohol, jumping from bed to bed, acting wild and crazy, robbing and vandalizing. But that’s a lie. I know because I lived that lie. If you think that is strength, then you are being deceived. I have told young people and adults, including many military, martial artists, weightlifters, gang members, and prisoners throughout the U.S. and world that anyone can live a life out of control. I can teach anyone to fight, rob and steal, vandalize, swear, smoke, drink, and do drugs. Any wimp can do that. But it takes true courage, strength, and self-control to resist the peer pressure and live for Christ. Let’s expose the lie that the world has been telling us about what is cool and what is strength.

    Before I stopped doing demonstrations, I illustrated this point in school assemblies and detention centers by doing two back kicks. First, I would demonstrate a kick to the chest with no control, knocking my assistant back. “Anyone can do that,” I’d say. “It’s very easy to kick with no control.”

    The second kick was also at full speed, but I would stop my foot within a fraction of an inch of my assistant’s face, or lightly touch his face with the bottom of my foot. I would also do about 15 hand techniques at full speed, within a fraction of an inch of my assistant’s face. Because I used control, I never touched him. “To have control,” I would explain, “requires far more strength and ability.”

    It is the controlled person who is the powerful person. In the Greek, “without self-control” means powerless or without strength — therefore, the Biblical inference is: a person without self-control is weak, and a person with self-control is strong.

    Before I became a Christian, I thought Christians were weak. That’s one reason why I didn’t want to give my life to Christ. I later discovered it takes more strength to live for Jesus Christ than for any other lifestyle.

    I equated strength with how much you could bench press, how many people you could beat up, or how much you could drink. I soon realized that is not the essence of true strength. Physical strength does not impress me now as much as inner strength. Being able to chug a six-pack of beer, bench press 400 pounds, or defeat ten others at the same time is not as powerful as having self-control. There is a power greater than physical strength, and that is the inner strength and control that comes through the transforming power of God’s Spirit.

    Even after I became a Christian, I had an extensive, intensive, and rigorous weightlifting and martial arts training program before God led me out. In three hours a week, I would accomplish more and achieve a higher level of conditioning and efficiency than most people did with ten hours a week. But God began to deal with me about what constitutes real strength. I still exercise to keep in shape, but I have discontinued my extensive training. I put down my desire for physical strength and power for something far more important — inner strength, character, and spiritual power.

    How to Develop Self-Control

    Some of these illustrations show the consequences of not having self-control and the great benefits from having it. I could have shared many more, but hopefully I have given enough to motivate you to desire the tremendous benefits that having self-control will bring. So how do you develop self-control? I am going to share some practical, yet crucial, principles from God’s Word concerning how you can begin to develop discipline and self-control over every aspect of your life.

    Many have made mistakes from being out of control in some area of their lives, but no matter what you’ve done, there is hope. As Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery,

    “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

    Written to believers, I John 1:9 states ―

    “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

    You have to assume responsibility for your behavior. Many people like to blame their problems on their parents, their environment, peer pressure, God, or Satan. That should not be surprising, for from the beginning of human history, we have been blaming others. When God confronted Adam after he ate the forbidden fruit, Adam blamed Eve and said, “It’s the woman you gave me, God.” Eve said, “It’s the serpent.” So, too, many Christians today attribute their out-of-control behavior to Satan or someone or something other than themselves. If we are going to change, we must assume responsibility for our own behavior and quit blaming others.

    I have cautioned many people who were abusing themselves physically by over consumption of junk food and other unhealthy practices. Most smiled at me and said, “No problem. It’s not hurting me.” I usually responded, “You can either choose to discipline yourself now or one day you will be forced to.” Sure enough, because of health problems, many of these people have already been forced by doctors to change their diets and lifestyles. For some it was too late, and contributed to their untimely deaths.

    You Have to Be Motivated

    I prayed many times to overcome several sins from my past that controlled me. However, I was continually defeated because I was not really motivated. But the Lord knows how to motivate. He convinced me that my old lifestyle led to death and destruction. That motivated me to take steps to bring my life under control.

    When I really wanted to be set free, and I truly repented before the Lord, He intervened and gave me the wisdom and power of His Spirit to walk in victory according to the principles of His Word.

    Flee Youthful Lusts

    Follow the advice of II Timothy 2:22, “Flee also youthful lusts (KJV).” Avoid movies, music, magazines, places, and people that entice you to sin. Before you let the situation get out of control — STOP! Think about the consequences. Depend on the Spirit of God to give you the wisdom and self-control to resist the temptation and to even flee the scene if necessary (Genesis 39:7-12).

    When I taught self-defense clinics, I demonstrated how to avoid potential confrontations and how to deal with attack situations. “But the most important principle,” I would tell the group, “is to use wisdom in avoiding places, people, and situations in which you know a confrontation or an attack is likely to occur.” Likewise, to overcome temptation that controls you, avoid places, people, and situations that would entice you into sin and into compromising circumstances. I Thessalonians 5:22 wisely admonishes us to

    “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (KJV).

    Jesus knew how important it is to deal with and remove our source of temptation. He said in Matthew 18:8,9 ―

    “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

    Jesus did not mean for you to do this literally. If that were so, the disciples and New Testament believers would all have been maimed and crippled. Rather, He wanted to emphasize the importance of using wisdom in removing and avoiding sources of temptation.

    Stand faithfully on I Corinthians 10:13 which promises ―

    “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

    Do not purposely place yourself in a tempting situation and expect this principle to come to your rescue ― that’s flirting with failure and tempting God.

    When you sin, quickly go before the Lord and confess your sin, realizing that He is now our great High Priest as shown in Hebrews 4:14-16 ―

    “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are ― yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

    Mental Discipline

    If you want to change your behavior, you have to change your thought life. Mental discipline is crucial. If you want to control your words and actions, learn to control your thoughts and attitude.

    Coaches tell players, “You give up first in your mind, then your body quits.” When I was totally exhausted from working out on the trampoline, my gymnastic instructor would say, “You’re not really tired. You can keep going. It’s all in your head.” I would think, “That’s easy for you to say. I can’t; I’m going to die.” Then some girls would walk into the gym, and I would quickly revive. He was right, it was all in my mind.

    Whether you’re at work, on vacation, watching TV, driving down the road, walking at the mall, or even sitting in the pew, there are constant sources of temptation. We’re all exposed! Billboards, advertisements, magazines, books, TV, music, and scantily clad people constantly stimulate the mind into lustful thoughts and lure us with temptations of pride, greed, and self-indulgence. It’s only by the grace of God anyone survives unscathed in this decadent society.

    Everyone has tempting thoughts, but you can control what you do with them. Your thoughts and temptations are not sin, unless you dwell on them or give in to them. What you do with those thoughts and with those temptations determines whether it is merely a temptation or actual sin.

    In Matthew 15:19, Christ reveals that sin begins in the heart. He states: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality ….” Sin first begins in our hearts and minds. Therefore, if we are going to overcome the temptations we daily face, we must effectively eradicate these thoughts before they can control and enslave us.

    What you program into your mind will eventually manifest in your thoughts, attitudes, words, and behavior. Your thoughts lead to attitudes. Your thoughts and attitudes produce an emotional response. Your thoughts, attitudes, and emotions lead to actions. Your actions lead to habits and patterns. Your habits and patterns lead to a lifestyle. Your lifestyle effects your destiny.

    That’s why God puts so much emphasis on the heart and the inward man. He knows that if you are going to gain victory over your behavior and actions, you must control your thoughts and attitudes.

    If you fill your mind with jealousy, you’ll eventually end up with bitterness and gossiping. If you fill your mind with hatred and revenge, you’ll end up verbally and/or physically abusing people. If you fill your mind with lustful thoughts and sex-oriented movies, books, and music, your involvement in sexual immorality is inevitable.

    It is not surprising that so many people have lustful thoughts and sexual problems. No wonder so many can’t control their tongues, tempers, or appetites, or are controlled by worry, fear, jealousy, and bitterness. Their minds are programmed with degenerate materials.

    The Lord has taught me that I must not tolerate certain thoughts. Thoughts of lust, worry, fear, jealousy, anger, revenge, pride, and greed that come into my mind are intruders that will destroy me. God says, “Resist them!” Fight against them as though you were fighting against an intruder in your house who was attempting to rape and kill your family. In such a situation I am sure you would stand and fight, and endure until every ounce of strength was gone.

    Those thoughts of jealousy, bitterness, lust, or pride are intruders in your mind that will eventually destroy you if allowed to stay. You must say, “I will not tolerate these thoughts. I choose right now by an act of my will to resist them. I will not let jealousy, bitterness, fear, worry, anger, pride, and greed control me. I choose to show love and forgiveness, to walk in courage, faith, and meekness.”

    We must persistently say, “No!” to our temptations. James 4:7 says,

    “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

    Titus 2:11-13 says ―

    “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

    II Corinthians 7:1 says ―

    “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

    We must develop discipline as the following Scriptures indicate.

    II Corinthians 10:5 encourages us to

    “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

    Romans 12:2 says ― ”

    Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

    Psalm 119:9,11 asks, and then answers a very relevant question ―

    “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”

    Philippians 4:8 tells us ―

    “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”

    Most Christians think all they have to do is avoid watching, reading, or listening to things that are bad for them. Scripture is telling us to not only do that, but to also watch, read, listen to, and associate with that which will be a positive influence in our lives and conform us to the likeness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

    Live by the Spirit

    We have freedom in Christ. However, if something controls you, you no longer have liberty, but enslavement. God wants you free.

    The choice is yours — will you be controlled by the lusts of the flesh that eventually lead to destruction, death, and eternal separation from God, or will you be transformed by the Spirit of Christ, the fruit of which leads to tremendous victory, blessing, peace, and joy?

    Galatians 5:16-25 states ―

    “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

    The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with it’s passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with [walk in] the Spirit.”

    Galatians 5:22,23 reveals that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, not of will power. If you try to develop self-control merely with your own strength and self-effort, you will be continually frustrated. You need God’s Spirit to help bring your life under control. He will enable you to apply the Biblical principles necessary for developing self-control.

    I tried to quit stealing. I tried to quit drinking. I tried to live by the Ten Commandments. But I was continually defeated. I was out of control. Although I could gain control for a few days or a few weeks at a time, it didn’t last.

    When I surrendered my will to Christ, He changed my life. As I sought the Lord with all my heart through studying His Word, prayer, and fasting, His Spirit continued transforming and empowering me. I was able through Him to develop the fruit of self-control.

    The closer we draw to the Lord, by getting into His Word and allowing His Spirit to work in our lives, the more we will be conformed to His likeness, and the more we will manifest the fruit of His Spirit in our lives and walk in victory over that which controls us.

    Controlled by Nothing but the Lord

    Paul said in I Corinthians 6:12 ―

    “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered [or controlled] by anything.” (NAS)

    I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be controlled by my temper or my tongue. I do not want to be consumed with lust, greed, or fear. I do not want to be a slave to destructive habits such as drugs, alcohol, or stealing. I do not want to be victimized by peer pressure. I do not want to be mastered by sinful thoughts, attitudes, emotions, or actions. I only want to be controlled by my Lord. I want to bring every area of my life under His control and walk in His wisdom, strength, and empowerment.

    It Takes Time

    People often say to me, “Bill, I want you to pray for me. I want self-control from God and I want it now!” I wish I could lay hands on you and zap you so you would have all your problems removed and have instant self-control over every area of your life, but that’s not the way it works. It took me years to obtain the self-control I have developed from walking with the Lord and applying the truth of His Word.

    What is needed more than instant deliverance or some easy technique or formula that only deals with the symptoms, is a consistent life of discipline and self-control. Never forget, the essence of true strength, is self-control ― being under His control!

    As a person who was totally out of control, I’m telling you that if God can change me and bring my life under control and give me the physical, mental, and spiritual discipline and victory that He has, He can do it for anybody. If you persistently apply the principles I have been sharing, you will reap some fantastic benefits and blessings.

  • part k – Courage to Stand Alone

    The following is excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, “Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ.”

    Throughout Scripture, we discover that living for God requires believers to occasionally stand alone — as did all of the great Biblical heroes.

    Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers. He was all alone, rejected, and sold as a slave into Egypt. In Egypt, because he honored God and spurned the affection of Potiphar’s wife, he was thrown into prison. Nevertheless, Joseph continued to honor the Lord and eventually God exalted him to the second highest position in Egypt and used him to save his family from starvation.

    Moses had a chance to enjoy all the riches of Egypt for a season. Instead, he chose to reject them. As a result, he wandered in the dry and barren Midian desert. Eventually he was greatly used by God to lead Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Hebrews 11:25,26 says of Moses ―

    He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

    David went out alone to meet the giant Goliath. David’s situation seemed hopeless, yet he won because the Lord was with him. He desired to honor the God of the Bible, and shut the mouth of Goliath who was mocking the Lord and intimidating the whole army of Israel. David’s attitude was one of confidence and faith in the Lord as seen in I Samuel 17:37 ―

    The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine ….

    David was willing to put his life on the line. He had been prepared for this feat by single-handedly killing a lion and a bear. David had all the odds against him: his opponent was bigger and stronger, his oldest brother Eliab opposed him, and even King Saul told him he wouldn’t be able to do it. His only weapon was a sling and five smooth stones, but David was courageous because he knew God was with him. As a result, he accomplished one of the most memorable feats in Scripture, and he is remembered as one of the great heroes of the Bible.

    Consider Elijah, a prophet of God, who had an encounter on Mt. Carmel against hundreds of prophets of Baal. Although he was a notable minority, God honored Elijah’s stand and his courage by consuming the sacrifice with supernatural fire from heaven.

    The Apostle Paul could have become discouraged and given up when everyone forsook him and he had to endure persecution alone. Nevertheless, he bravely stood for Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

    You read about all these great Bible heroes and desire to be like them. So do I. And God speaks to my heart, “Then you’ll go through the same training program that I put them through, if you want what I did in their lives.”

    All the Bible heroes had to one day stand alone. God is calling you to develop your spiritual muscles, because one day you may have to stand alone for your testimony for Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Following the crowd is not always the best way to go. In Scripture the crowd is often wrong, and the one standing alone is often the one honoring the Lord.

    You Won’t Be Standing Alone

    When I played football, or I should say, tried to play football, there was a sign in the locker room which read:

    Courage is not lack of fear, but standing your ground in spite of it.

    When I used to read about Bible heroes and their feats, like David against Goliath, I didn’t imagine their hearts beating faster or their breathing rate increasing the way ours do when we get into confrontations. I mistakenly thought they had no fear when they had to stand alone for the God of the Bible.

    God showed me through His Word, however, that they had the same emotional responses we have. Their faith in God overcame their fear, and each one stood in spite of having a rapid heartbeat, accelerated breathing, and wanting to escape. They went out in faith and confidence and God empowered them.

    Courage is not lack of fear. Courage is standing your ground for the Lord in spite of your fear.

    I know it’s convenient to compromise and conform in order to be popular and have everyone like you. But if you want God to use you in a great and special way, then you need to allow the God of the Bible to give you supernatural courage.

    Sometimes you have to resist conforming and compromising, and you might have to stand alone. Scripture promises that you really won’t be standing alone,

    “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

    Besides,

    “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

    90-Foot-High Golden Image

    In Daniel chapter 3, we read about King Nebuchadnezzar, who had just erected a 90-foot-high golden image and decreed that at the sound of the musical instruments everyone was to bow down and worship it. Then he had all the leaders gather in Babylon. They were all prepared to do what King Nebuchadnezzar had commanded; otherwise, they would forfeit their lives.

    Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were the only ones who refused to bow down. Here is what they said to King Nebuchadnezzar when their lives were on the line ―

    “‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up!’ Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual.” (Daniel 3:16-19)

    It was so hot that the king’s valiant warriors who were escorting the young Hebrew men to the fiery furnace were consumed by the heat. Scripture indicates that God protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego because of their faith and courage. They could have compromised and conformed. They could have easily made excuses and justified bowing down, but they chose to remain standing while all the multitudes of people bowed their knees to worship. God delivered them from the fiery furnace and greatly honored them.

    Love Not Your Life unto Death

    All the New Testament writers, with the exception of the Apostle John, were martyred for their faith. According to early Church tradition, Peter was crucified upside down, Paul was beheaded, James was thrown off the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem and then beaten to death with clubs, and John was thrown into a boiling cauldron of oil and exiled to the Isle of Patmos.

    During early church history many Christians were tortured, burned at the stake, thrown to wild animals, and beheaded. Some were made to serve as objects of amusement. Others were clad in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs. Some were crucified. Others were set on fire to illuminate the night. It is said that Emperor Nero had Christians set afire as human torches to light his gardens.

    Hebrews 10:32-39 says ―

    “Remember … when you stood your ground … in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

    I may one day die for Christ, but the Lord has assured me that my life will not be taken until His purpose is fulfilled. My prayer is, “Lord, let me have the grace, the power, the boldness, and the forgiveness of Stephen.” (Acts 6:8 – 7:60)

    I used to wonder why Peter, Paul, and other Bible heroes, as well as many believers throughout history, had to be martyred, and why I and others may one day have to give our lives for Christ. It seems like defeat. I thought a better testimony would be God supernaturally intervening and delivering His people, which He has sometimes done, but not always (Hebrews 11).

    Later I came to understand that enduring suffering for Christ was a sign and a seal that indicated the authentic nature of their testimony. When the world observed their unwavering faith ― even in the face of death ― they were more prepared to believe the message of the witness because they had validated it with their lives.

    In fact, the Greek word for witness is martus or martur which means “one who bears witness by his death.” This definition is evident in the lives of Peter, Paul, and others who lived and died what they believed.

    God’s Spirit transformed them. Peter, on the night of Jesus’ arrest, cowered at the accusations of a slave girl, but after seeing the resurrected Christ he became the man who not only boldly witnessed for Christ in Jerusalem (the very city where He was crucified) but he also courageously gave his life for the Lord by being crucified upside down.

    Leonard Ravenhill said, “He who fears God fears no man. He who kneels before God will stand in any situation.”

    Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 ―

    “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    I would rather die living for the Lord, than live denying Him. It makes sense that if I have the courage to die for Christ, I must necessarily have the courage to totally live for Him as well!

    God Transformed Me

    God transformed me from a person who always conformed to peer pressure to one who refuses to compromise and conform. I have had to stand alone for the Lord frequently in spite of being mocked, ridiculed, threatened, and having my life in danger on numerous occasions. His Spirit has helped me stand strong under such great pressures and opposition.

    God gradually changed my life. I didn’t wake up the day after giving my life to Christ and suddenly have the courage and strength to stand-alone. As I studied and obeyed His Word, His Spirit empowered me to live for Him ― no matter what the cost.

    Why does God allow all this peer pressure? God allows the peer pressure and obstacles we face to mold our lives, build our character, and make us strong and courageous for Him.

    In my basement, I used to have a speed bag on the left, a 70-pound heavy bag on the right, and a double-ended striking bag in the center. I would work out on all three simultaneously using both hands and feet. I used to put myself through all kinds of rigorous training. Why? Because I wanted to rise above any situation in which I would find myself. So, too, God allows us to face many obstacles and difficulties to help us grow strong and to keep us in shape spiritually. Then we can stand in any situation ― no matter how great the pressure is being put on us.

    Before I left the martial arts, one of the training exercises was to stand-alone in a big circle of 15-20 people. The idea was that each student would have a number, but it would be staggered so the one standing in the middle wouldn’t know from which direction an opponent would come. Then the instructor would call out a number. Whoever had their number called would attack the one in the middle with a strike or kick or a combination. When you were selected to be in the middle you had to block, then counterattack.

    Opponents might come from any direction. You never knew where they were coming from — front, back, or side. This experience was to train us on how to deal with unexpected situations on the street. So it is in life. God is allowing the obstacles, opposition, and pressure to mold us, develop our spiritual muscles, and prepare us for what lies ahead.

    Ultimate Peer Pressure

    Revelation 13:8 gives the ultimate form of peer pressure and reveals where a spirit of compromise and conformity will eventually lead. It states,

    “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast [the Antichrist].” That’s going to be the ultimate in peer pressure, conformity, and compromise. Deny or die! For all who refuse to worship the image of the Antichrist will be killed (Revelation 13:15).

    If you cannot resist the peer pressure now, then you’d better let God infuse you with His power, because there will come a day in the very near future when all of society will be in total rebellion against the Lord, and it will cost a high price to stand for Jesus Christ.

    Revelation 21:8 says ―

    “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

    “Why the cowardly?” Because out of fear for their life or loss of property the cowardly either refuses salvation though they are convinced of its truth, or they walk away from it in times of persecution. Those who conform and compromise, and don’t depend on God to give them the courage and strength to stand up and make their life count, are, in His eyes, just as bad as the murderers and the sorcerers, also mentioned in this verse, who will have their place in the lake of fire.

    God accepts no excuse for being cowardly and denying Him, like those who no doubt tried to justify why they compromised and bowed down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. Throughout the ages there has always been a remnant of God’s people who have had the God-given courage and strength to remain standing, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Remember, you can either stand-alone for the Lord now, or one day stand alone before Him in judgment!

    After graduating from Bible college, I took a position as a youth pastor in North Carolina. To supplement my income, I was employed by a small convenience store from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., the graveyard shift, where I was working alone. To show how potentially dangerous this was, a man in a similar store just down the road a few miles had recently been robbed and shot to death. It was in this setting that a gang would come into my store from a neighboring city, spread out through the store, and shoplift. Some young men who often came into the store said, “Bill, when that gang comes in again, we are going to stand with you, and we’ll get the stuff back.” I said, “Okay guys, great. Let’s do it.”

    Sure enough, the gang came when my buddies happened to be there. Like before, the gang went through the store and began to steal things. They paid for a few items and then walked outside with all the stuff they had stolen and got into their car. I said, “Okay guys, you told me if they stole again you’d stand with me. Let’s go out there and get the stuff back.”

    One guy said, “Man, there are six of them and four of us!” He went back in the cooler to hide. The other guy went in the rest room and locked the door. The third guy sat there saying, “No way! There are too many of them, Bill.” I replied, “Thanks guys!” and walked outside by myself. I knocked on their car door window and they rolled it down. “Guys,” I said, “you stole some stuff, and I want it back.” All four doors opened and the six of them got out and encircled me. There was no way in that close proximity that I could do anything to effectively defend myself. I was totally vulnerable.

    I said again, “Guys, you stole some stuff and I want it back!” They looked at me, then at each other. They didn’t know whether to attack me or what to do. Then all of a sudden they reached into their pockets, and began to pull out some of the merchandise. They threw it at me, got in their car, and drove off.

    Don’t be foolish or crazy, for that’s tempting the Lord. But there comes a point in our lives when we can no longer compromise and conform, but we must stand for what is right and true.

    The World Doesn’t Need More Conformers

    I used to speak at school assemblies on self-control, peer pressure, and courage. I would incorporate such demonstrations as kicking cigarettes out of volunteers’ mouths, and other feats which illustrated my message. I often ended the assembly by having four volunteers come forward. One grabbed my right wrist, one grabbed my left wrist, one came from behind to grab me, and the other attacked from the front. Each one pulled me the way he wanted me to go. They wanted me to compromise, they wanted me to conform. When it appeared I would be pulled apart I would say “No!” as I quickly kicked all four of them, one after the other, leaving them lying at my feet. I did this to demonstrate that we must refuse to be victimized by peer pressure.

    The world does not need wasted persons, burnouts, conformers, compromisers, or those who give in to all the peer pressure. There are already enough weak-kneed, cowardly people in the world, as well as in the Church today. What we do need are those with God-given courage to stand up and make their lives count. Instead of being influenced by the world, let’s influence our world for Jesus Christ!

    God Wants Champions

    I was in prayer near the end of a seven-day fast, at which time the Lord gave me the following:

    The world does not need another Savior or Messiah. He has already come and He will be returning again soon. What the world needs are champions to stand up and face the modern day Goliaths with God-given courage, faith, strength, power, and victory, and proclaim the true resurrected Messiah!

    I want to be one of the Lord’s champions who will do exploits in the last days, as Daniel (11:32) indicates. I want to be one who is mightily used by the Lord now (as a foreshadow of how He will use the two prophets in Revelation chapter 11).

    Will you also allow the Lord to make you into one of His champions by being totally committed to Him and by walking in obedience to His Word and His Spirit?

    In the age we are living, we must be true believers in Christ who will:

    • have God-given courage and strength

    • dare to be different and make their lives count

    • not compromise and conform, even in the face of extreme pressure and persecution

    • stand alone, if need be, and totally live for the Lord!

  • part l – Determination to Never Give Up

    The following is excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, “Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ.”

    I coordinated this (the Ultimate R.I.O.T.) for several years for various groups throughout the country. After the event I would evaluate the participants collectively as to whether they were wimps, whiners, or winners. I would explain that a wimp is someone who gives up; a whiner is someone who complains, blames others, or has a bad attitude; and a winner is someone who doesn’t give up and has a good attitude no matter what.

    Usually all the young people competed like winners. So when I shared my testimony at the end and spoke on peer pressure, I also encouraged them to live for the Lord the same way they competed in the Ultimate R.I.O.T. ― with all their heart, and like winners who have determined never to give up.

    Determination

    All through my life, people frequently told me: “You can’t do it! You’re too young … too small … too weak … too poor. You’ll never make it. You might as well give up!” I was frequently told that what I planned to do was impossible.

    So, as one who never really had much potential and was often considered the least likely to succeed, who would have thought that one day I would be leading an international outreach ministry which is impacting tens of thousands of lives.

    What has made the difference in my life? I had one God-given characteristic in my favor ― determination.

    During my junior year of high school I went out for football. Some of my friends said I would quit after a few weeks. Although I was a rookie and inexperienced, I was determined to stick it out. Unlike basketball in junior high where I was cut after the first practice, in football no one was cut, you just quit. But I was determined to hang in there.

    My coach began to notice that I was strong for my size. I weighed only 160 pounds but was able to bench press 250 pounds, so the coach would say to his upperclassmen players, “Look at Rudge, he’s benching more than you big linemen.” That didn’t make me real popular with them. A few times they formed a circle around me during practice so the coaches couldn’t see, and proceeded to hit me with their forearms and helmets and kick me with their practice spikes. But I wouldn’t quit.

    Even though I sat on the bench most of the time, I still wouldn’t quit. I didn’t play any varsity my junior year and only about five quarters my senior year. Part of it was my fault because when the coach would put me in during practice, I wouldn’t know the plays or I was skipping practice altogether due to chasing girls. I sealed my fate when I skipped a game for a party and then, realizing I might be thrown off the team, I drove alone to a game over an hour away, but I arrived too late to suit up.

    The few games I did get in, after the defensive play was called in the huddle, I would have to ask another player what I was supposed to do. It was midway through my senior season when I got motivated to play, but by then it was too late. The coaches had given me chances, but I wasted them.

    My main reason for going out for football was the physical conditioning. I guess I wasn’t motivated enough to really want to play. My goal was only to stick it out, and that’s all I achieved. You’ll never go higher than your goals.

    Years later, I sponsored a multi-media assembly at an area high school entitled Champions. Its basic message was that no matter what your circumstances or obstacles, if you have determination, you can be a champion. A true champion never gives up, never quits. Some of the film footage showed a Vietnam Vet who had both legs blown off, yet he refused to give up and became a weightlifting champion. The school principal told me that after viewing the media presentation, one of the worst students said, “Maybe there is still hope for me.”

    After the assembly, a teacher who was now one of the football coaches started walking down the aisle to the front of the auditorium towards me. I recognized that he was one of the big upperclassmen who had beat on me during football practice throughout my rookie year. My mind flashed back and I thought he was going to hit me upside the head and say, “You were a rookie then, and as far as I’m concerned you are still a rookie.” But he walked up to me and told me he thought our assembly was one of the best ever.

    When I began to lift weights in 7th grade, I was often told to quit wasting my time because I was too skinny and weak. The motivation that kept me going was my desire to become muscular like one of my older brothers. I wanted to overcome my puny physique because I was tired of being pushed around. My goal was to be the strongest in my class by the time I graduated.

    Sometimes I had weightlifting partners and sometimes I had to work out alone. After many years of relentless training my weak-guy image was changing. My skinny body was developing muscles. When I graduated, pound for pound I achieved my goal, because I weighed only 160 pounds and was benching almost 300 pounds. Eventually, at age 18 I reached my benching maximum of 335 pounds, which back in 1971 was fantastic, especially for my weight of only 165 pounds.

    When I started taking karate at the age of 17, I was told, “You’ll never be any good at karate, Rudge. You’re too muscle-bound from lifting weights. You’re too tight. You have no control.” They were right. I purposely had no control when sparring. By the second year, however, they were calling me Godzilla, because of my sparring ability and because I was the strongest and craziest in the class.

    I’m not conveying this to brag, but to illustrate that by sheer determination we can do things thought impossible. How much more could we accomplish for the Lord if we would only be this determined and sold out for Him?

    I graduated at age 17, which means I was always one of the youngest among my peers at school. I had to learn to fight to survive, but this adversity eventually turned out to be an advantage because it made me strong and determined.

    When I became a Christian, many of my friends rejected me. They thought it was just another fad and wouldn’t last. That was in May, 1971, and I’m still walking with the Lord.

    When Karen and I ran away and got married, I was 18 and she was 17. I was only making $10 a week cutting grass. Almost everyone told Karen to get away from me and said our marriage wouldn’t last a year. That was in June, 1971.

    My wife and I arrived at Bible college with little money and no jobs. Very few people thought we would survive. Most of the other students were raised in church and knew much more about the Bible than I did. I struggled with things like who Paul was and how to locate the book of John. Many of my college classmates thought I’d never finish Bible college because I had cheated my way through high school. Yet I finished all four years, even though I had to work 40-60 hours a week, as well as attend classes and do homework. I also taught self-defense and exercise at the college and YMCA, and served as youth leader for a youth group. Ironically, many of the students who thought I’d drop out were the ones who never made it into ministry or later quit altogether.

    In August of 1977, with literally no money, no staff, and no facilities — just a lot of God-given determination — Karen and I started this ministry in the upstairs apartment of my parents’ home. I used the kitchen table as my desk and Karen kept the ministry records in a file cabinet in our bedroom. Very few people thought we would succeed. Many said, “Others have tried and failed, and so will you.” But with God’s help we persevered.

    Almost everyone said there was no way we could build without a bank loan, but we knew that God is faithful to fulfill what He leads us to do. In obedience to His will, we stepped out on total faith as we began, continued, and finished our facilities without a cent of interest being paid. The dream and goal that God had given us became a reality. The Lord was greatly glorified because we dared to trust Him to overcome what plainly seemed to be insurmountable obstacles.

    The new president of the college from which I had graduated called to book me to speak there. During our phone conversation, he told me that back in 1975 (when I was fresh out of Bible college), the pastor of the church in North Carolina where I was youth pastor said to him, “Bill just doesn’t have ministry in him, and I advised him to give it up.” Now years later, the president of my alma mater was asking me to address the student body on The Impossible and how we had developed such a successful ministry. Isn’t it amazing how things change?

    There are many other illustrations I could share of how God has enabled us to accomplish that which others thought was impossible. In reality, however, people were right thinking that I didn’t have much potential. But I have built my life and ministry on Philippians 4:13,

    “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NAS).

    Has it proven true? God took a young kid from the West Hill of Sharon, Pennsylvania, who had no hope or potential, and He has done the impossible through my life and ministry.

    One of the reasons why we have such faithful volunteers and supporters for our ministry is they know I’m going to do what I say I’m going to do. If I believe God has led me to do something, nothing and no one will stop me. I will continue and I will endure until it is done. My procedure is to seek God’s will for my life and ministry, then to have the determination to never give up until the Lord either fulfills what He led me to do or gives definite, new direction.

    Most everything I have learned and done has not come easily. I guess my best degree is from the “school of hard knocks.” That is how God has built my determination. Sure, I have been knocked down many times, but God has always given me the strength and determination to get back up again. I have realized that real failure is not when you fall, it is when you lie there and give up.

    I have always enjoyed a challenge. It seems the more obstacles I face and the more opposition I receive, the more determined I become. Countless times throughout my life and ministry, I have had to face the cold reality that circumstances said, “You can’t do it,” and people kept reminding me, “You’ll never do it,” but God’s Word said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The Lord has instilled within me the mentality of never giving up ― it’s death or victory. No surrender and no retreat!

    To have the determination to never give up, you must have goals, dreams, and vision based on Scripture. Believe that through Christ you can do it. Be willing to pay the price at all cost, and be motivated and empowered by His Spirit to persevere.

    What is Your Dream?

    What goals and vision has the Lord given you through study of His Word and prayer? If you don’t have any, then spend time in Scripture, prayer, and fasting, and God will put His goals, His dreams, His vision, and His desires in your heart. One of the reasons I’m still in the ministry and still excited is due to my goals and vision for the future. As soon as I achieve one goal, God gives me two or three more. That keeps me motivated.

    I often pray to the Lord: “Put Your thoughts and attitudes in my mind, and Your emotions, desires, goals, dreams, and vision in my heart. Give me unwavering faith to believe You and the motivation and determination to persevere.”

    Motivation

    You can accomplish almost anything if you are motivated.

    When my daughter was a one-and-a-half-year-old toddler, I was in my senior year at Bible college. It was close to graduation, so we sold our mobile home and were living in a former teacher’s house on campus. Someone was supposed to be watching our daughter Tabitha. Suddenly I felt compelled to look out the second-floor window, and saw that she was playing in the middle of the road in rainwater and mud. The road had a sharp curve which would obstruct a driver from seeing that anyone was in the road ― especially a little one-and-a-half-year-old who was sitting down. If a car had come it would have smashed her little body. I had already lost a seven-year-old brother who had been hit by a car, so I was motivated to respond quickly.

    I jumped down one flight of steps, turned 180 degrees and then jumped down another flight. In my haste I forgot about the low ceiling at the bottom of the steps. My forehead hit the ceiling and split open. The impact was so hard it bent the metal covering and threw me back so that my lower back hit the front edge of the steps. But I was motivated and nothing was going to stop me from getting to her ― not even the dazed and disoriented state I was in, nor the blood which was now oozing over my head and face. I got up and ran directly to Tabitha, scooped her out of the road and brought her back inside. It was only then that I discovered how much my head and back hurt.

    The point is this: I had one goal in mind ― get Tabitha out of that life-threatening situation and back to safety ― and I had one motivation ― my overwhelming love for my daughter. We must have not only a vision but also the motivation, which stirs us to action.

    Even before I gave my life to Christ, I had determination. When I wanted to achieve something, I would not quit until I dropped. When I wasn’t motivated, I would get bored quickly and give up. That’s why I quit job after job and relationship after relationship. As a teen I wasn’t motivated to do very much except lift weights, practice karate, and have a good time.

    After hitchhiking across the country at the age of 18, searching for answers to life, I had an encounter with the resurrected Christ. I found the answers in Jesus Christ. He gave my life purpose and meaning. He was someone to whom I could totally and completely dedicate my life. He has increased and redirected my determination and kept me motivated all these years. That is why He has accomplished through me what others thought was impossible.

    Instilling Determination in My Children

    I have sought to instill this same kind of Biblical determination in my children. My son, B.J., started playing soccer at age 6. He didn’t like to practice nor did he see the importance of it. All he wanted was the excitement and challenge of the game and scoring goals. I knew if he was going to be good and achieve his potential he had to train.

    I made him practice every type of kick imaginable using both feet. I made him run laps and do various drills I would invent. I made him practice soccer in the rain, mud, and snow. Above all I sought to teach him the importance of honoring the Lord and having a good attitude. B.J. became so motivated and dedicated that he would train two to three hours on his own almost every day.

    The fruit of his labor paid off. By age 14, he had excelled in ability and was going to Europe with Team USA. Five days before he was to leave for Europe, he broke his ankle trying out for the Keystone State Games ― which he made. After his recovery from ankle surgery, he paid the price by training harder than ever, and as a result went to Europe in 1992 with the East–West Soccer Ambassadors. He was made team captain and scored the most goals for the U.S. team.

    He tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and did other damage to his right knee during the summer before his senior year of high school. After extensive rehabilitation, he came back to play for his team. After re-injuring his knee in another game, he had to have reconstructive surgery and was out for the season. In spite of physical setbacks, he came back to qualify for a scholarship at Geneva College. They won the national championship his freshman year. A week before the championship game, he completely tore the ACL in his other knee. After another surgery he did extensive rehabilitation and again came back. At the age of 18, he became a high school assistant soccer coach, and at age 19, he became one of the youngest head soccer coaches in the country.

    A soccer coach from a rival team wrote in our local paper concerning him:

    “B.J. Rudge has the magic touch with a soccer ball that I have never seen before around Mercer County.”

    Sure it was hard, but he’ll tell you it was well worth it. Even though over the years he faced many obstacles and injuries, he always persevered, and as a result won many honors and awards from his soccer skills ― and also trained and impacted many others as well.

    During track season, my daughter Tabitha was team captain in her senior year of high school, and improved each week. By the end of the season she was running times that seemed impossible for her just weeks before. Her determination and intensive training was motivated by three goals she developed for districts: break the school record in the open 800 meter, qualify for state, and at least place 3rd to receive a plaque.

    All season long I had been encouraging her before the race with Isaiah 40:31 ―

    “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (KJV)

    She was fantastic in the 800 meter relay at districts, and we were confident she would do well in the open 800. But it was not to be. She ran the 800, just missing the school record by a fraction of a second. She missed qualifying for state competition by two seconds, and she took fourth place, so she did not receive a plaque.

    Tabitha was crushed. To make matters worse, the following day there was a big picture in the local paper’s sports section of the 800-finish line. All season when Tabitha was winning, or at least placing, the pictures were of other track events, but this first picture of the 800 meter had a great close-up of the finish line, and showed only the first three place winners.

    Tabitha had honored the Lord all season, and we just couldn’t understand why the Lord brought her so far and then let her fall short of her goal. I said to Tabitha, “First, we have to get a proper perspective on this. Don’t focus on missing the state meet, but focus on the fact that you are number four in the district which is quite an accomplishment.” Then I told her, “Honor the Lord in this valley, and there will be a mountaintop coming up soon.”

    The next night Tabitha sang with the community choir at a large church in the area. I was way in the back and Tabitha was up front on the platform singing, but we simultaneously looked at each other as they sang one of their new songs, They That Wait Upon the Lord.

    The founder of this interracial and highly successful choir selected Tabitha and another young man to help him take the offering. But before he did and unknown to Tabitha, he spent several minutes sharing how Tabitha was instrumental in getting this tremendous choir started and how she has really lived the life and influenced many to come to Christ. It wasn’t the way we expected, but God had honored her for honoring Him. While track is very important to Tabitha, her walk with the Lord is even more important.

    Paul says in I Corinthians 9:24,25 ―

    “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

    At Geneva College, Tabitha faced additional obstacles, injuries, and sickness, but she persevered. She set two indoor track records ― one her freshman year and one her senior year. She also placed 33rd at nationals (NCCAA) in cross country her senior year at Geneva (although she had never ran cross country before) and helped her team place fourth at nationals.

    In her senior year, she placed 4th in the open 400 at NCCAA. Her 1600-meter relay team, which was undefeated in district, placed 2nd at nationals. And her Geneva College women’s team took second at nationals. The Lord has also honored and blessed her in many other ways for her faithfulness to Him.

    Pay the Price

    In 1986, I started coaching my son’s YMCA soccer team, the Strikers. We lost the first game to the Flash, an excellent team. So I gave the Strikers a choice. “Give up, or if you are willing to pay the price, I’ll train you hard, and we’ll go for it.” They agreed to go for it, so I trained them hard. We developed an extensive training program and obstacle course at the ministry center, scrimmaging older and better teams, showing special training and motivational videos, and so on. We used Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” as our theme.

    We won the rest of our games that year and also won the championship game. During the four years I coached we never lost another game, and our teams won both the league and playoff championships. Pay the price and the results will follow.

    The last year I coached youth soccer, I designed a 15-station obstacle course. They had to dribble around cones, then pass under a net, head the ball over or under a volleyball net, shoot on goal, chip over a picnic table, pass through two wooden horses, take five speed shots against the back of our building, dribble around more cones, run tires, cross monkey bars, chip over a picnic table, shoot on another goal, chip through a suspended inner tube, jump over a heavy bag, and do ten rebound kicks against an inverted trampoline. Not only did it develop determination and endurance, but greatly helped them develop key soccer skills.

    You Can Do It

    At the end of regulation play of our championship game during my fourth year of coaching, we were tied 1-1. I wanted to play it out so we could win or lose as a team, but the other team’s coach said, “No, we can beat you in a shoot-out.” So I said, “Let’s go for it.”

    I got my team together and said we need to pray for wisdom. I prayed and then I picked five shooters and the other team picked five shooters. We ended up with a tie again. I said to the other coach, “Let’s play it out,” but he said, “No, we can beat you in a shoot-out,” so I said, “Let’s go for it again.”

    I got the team together again and said, “We need to pray again for wisdom. I chose five more players. The Lord impressed on my heart to choose one of my worst players. I only played him a few minutes during the whole championship game. My assistant coaches and the players looked at me as if to say, “You’re crazy, coach!”

    When the other team saw who I chose and was up to shoot, they started laughing and saying, “He’s nothing, he can’t do it!” Right before he shot, I went up and hit him on the shoulder and said, “You can do it!” He blasted that ball as hard as he could and it went right over the goalie and into the net, scoring the winning goal. We won the championship.

    Don’t ever tell me you can’t do it. I’m the wrong person to say that to. If I could achieve all I have with no real potential, how much more for those of you who have been blessed with talents and abilities?

    Not by Might

    Zechariah 4:6 says,

    “… ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

    God has taken the bit of determination I had in my past and has redirected and increased it, and enabled me by His power to do what many people thought was impossible. In my records on The Impossible and Adventures in Missions, I document some of the many impossible situations the Lord has enabled us to overcome through unwavering faith in Him, obedient determination, and persistent perseverance.

    We Need Endurance and Perseverance

    During my senior year at Bible college, I worked as an area manager for an insurance and financial investment company. I was out on an appointment with Oscar, a new man I was training. It was his first opportunity to give the total sales presentation himself and he was bound and determined to make the sale. Somewhat nervously, and in a monotone voice, he shared his presentation for about five minutes when the client’s small dog ran over and started biting his hand and pulling on his shirtsleeve. Oscar didn’t want to lose his train of thought and momentum, so he kept right on talking, ignoring what was happening. A few minutes later the dog circled the room and came back and started to bite and pull at his pant leg, but once again Oscar ignored it and kept right on talking. The dog’s owner, probably hoping we would hurry and finish, did nothing. Then the dog circled the room again and jumped on Oscar’s leg.

    Oscar, being so determined to make the sale, did not chase it away. After we were done and outside the house, Oscar hurriedly took off his boot, turned it over, and dumped out yellow liquid. The dog, when it was on his leg, had actually wet in his boot, but Oscar kept quiet in hopes of making the sale. If Oscar had this much determination just to make a sale (that we didn’t even make), how much more should we as believers in Christ be determined in our commitment to serve our Lord?

    My First and Last Race

    Several years ago, Karen and I were with another couple at a recreation area. There was a night race and the three of them were running in it. The husband kept asking me to run too, but I had never run in a race. Finally I accepted his challenge, since I’m willing to try almost anything once. All the runners were dressed in shorts, tee shirts, and tennis shoes. I was getting interesting stares, since I was wearing street clothes. Jokingly I commented to the couple and Karen, loud enough so that the other runners could hear, that I was listed in Runner’s World (a magazine name I thought I made up ― but discovered it was actually the name of the premiere running magazine). I wondered why the other runners stared at me even more curiously.

    I positioned myself near the front of the line thinking I needed all the advantage I could get ― not realizing the best runners are supposed to take that spot.

    It was a 5k (3.1 mile) race. We were to run halfway around the lake, and then return the same way. I was involved in various forms of exercise, but running was not my forte because of injuries, and because I thought it was too boring. I liked exciting adventures requiring short bursts of energy. I had never run more than a mile before, so this was going to be a great challenge.

    Not to get trampled at the start of the race, my strategy was to get out fast with the pack. I stayed with them the first 50-100 yards and then quickly moved to the side of the road to continue at a much slower pace. During the race I wanted to stop many times, but I kept going ― refusing to walk. I kept hoping to see the leading runners returning ― at least knowing the halfway mark was not too far away.

    It seemed like an eternity before the first runners began to pass me heading in the opposite direction. Finally I made it to the halfway mark and thought, “I’ve made it this far, I can make it the rest of the way.” The friend we were with was still heading for the halfway mark when I passed her on the way back. She asked if I wanted to walk and I said, “No way!” My ankle and knees were now hurting, but I decided I was going to complete this race no matter what. As I ran I reviewed in my mind 10 Things the Lord Taught Me from my Fasting Prayer List, which helped greatly.

    Finally, I heard cheering and soon saw the lights by the finish area. The finish line wasn’t far ahead. I completed the race and was told my time was very good for someone who had never run before. Although half of the people beat me, I did manage to come in ahead of the other half ― including Karen and our friend’s wife. I paid the price for completing the race. The next three days my legs ached, but knowing that I would probably never run in a race again, and having gained a lot of respect for runners (especially my wife and daughter who ran in many more races, including a half-marathon ― 13.1 miles), I was glad I had accomplished this goal.

    The Apostle Paul likens our walk with the Lord as a race. In the same way an athlete must have determination to face and overcome obstacles and difficulties, so must we in living for the Lord. In Acts 20:24 Paul says ―

    “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me ― the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

    In Galatians 5:7, Paul asks ―

    “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?”

    In I Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul said ―

    “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

    Paul says in Philippians 3:12-14 ―

    “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

    Hebrews 12:1-3 admonishes ―

    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

    Never Give Up

    Bigger guys used to always want to fight me. So I would say to them: “You want to fight me, that’s fine. You knock me down, I’ll get back up. You knock me out, when I come to I’m coming after you. You break my arm, I’ll use the other arm. You break my leg, I’ll crawl after you. I will not give up, I’ll keep coming till I get you!” Most of them didn’t want to fight after that. We must have this same determination in our commitment to Christ.

    One of the most important admonitions ― repeated over and over in Revelation and in many other Scriptures ― concerns the Lord’s imminent return and is an exhortation to endure, be faithful, hold on, overcome, persevere, and stand firm to the end. (See Revelation 2:10, 25, 26; 13:10; 14:12; 21:7; Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Luke 21:16-19; James 5:8.)

    My desire is to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord and motivate them to walk in endurance and faithfulness to Him until He returns. As believers in Christ we must have the attitude that no obstacle or opposition will cause us to give up in defeat. Instead, we must endure to the end in our commitment to Him. We must persevere, remain faithful, and never give up until the Lord fulfills what He leads us to do or He gives us definite new direction.

    The Apostle Paul was in prison at Rome, knowing that his time on earth was about to come to an end. Yet with faith and determination he wrote these powerful words in II Timothy 4:6-8 ―

    “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering [he was about to be martyred], and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day ― and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”

    The Apostle Paul’s commitment to Christ resulted in unwavering faith and determination ― even to death. Ask God to instill in you the same kind of determination to never give up!

  • Reaching Your Maximum Potential – Posters

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