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When We Are Tested


18 February 2024

By Kris Judd of Des Moines, Iowa, USA

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:9–11

Standing before a congregation to share a message has grown to be much more comfortable over the years. Shy in front of groups, I made my way through prepared notes and apologies for what I had to offer. Over time and practice, my comfort level in public ministry grew. So, when I received the invitation to speak at a large youth gathering, I did not hesitate to say yes.

As I stood backstage, preparing to go out into the bright lights and to the large crowd, I listened to the person speaking before me. I had prepared my message based on the theme and what I felt led to share. But the tone and feeling the person on stage was encouraging didn’t match my message, which I was sure was going to be a disappointment. I thought, what am I doing here? How are they going to react? Who wants to hear what I have to say? Self-doubt overwhelmed me in that wilderness moment. Maybe I could just go off script and keep the applause and energy going, even if it felt artificial to me. That way they will like me.

I had a decision to face. Whose voice of affirmation and approval did I want to hear? A crowd of energized youth who could share on social media a great night with me on stage even if I felt like an unprepared imposter? Or that of the One whose thoughts and love I had felt led to share in my authentic voice, even if the message was to fall flat? Whose love did I need in that moment?

I have no real memories of what I said that night, or even how the crowd responded. What I do remember were those moments of temptation to be popular, to fit in, and to make an impression. And I remember the sacred reminder of my own belovedness. It did not matter what the crowd thought, regardless of who they were. God was inviting me to be myself and to share what needed to be said. For a moment, I considered selling myself out in order to be “loved,” when in reality it was only in owning who I truly was at my core, beloved, that I experienced the real Love.

Prayer Phrase

“For he will be like a tree planted by water…” (Jeremiah 17:8).

Spiritual Practice

Deepening Roots

A tree with superficial roots will wither during drought or severe storms may uproot it. A tree whose roots go deep is stable and draws from deep waters. Imagine yourself as a tree by a river or stream. Sense your roots extending deep into the earth in search of God’s Spirit. Reflect or pray about what you hope to find as your spirit searches for deeper identity in God.

Today’s Prayer for Peace

Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.

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