Week 4 Devotionals

Week 4
Memory verse: Luke 19:26: "'Yes,' the king replied, 'and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.'" (NLT)
Have you ever gone along with the crowd? Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances where we are forced to make a decision between playing it safe and doing what is right, going along with the crowd or standing alone. It's not an easy decision, because although doing the right thing could cost us in reputation, etc., playing it safe comes at a much higher price. Bible hero Esther's example shows us some lessons on how we can find the courage and trust God enough to do the right thing regardless of how it turns out. Esther becomes queen even though she doesn't want to be, and her cousin Mordecai has a feud with the king's right-hand-man Haman. Haman plots to get rid of all the Jews and those events put Esther in a very precarious position. It's rare that people go looking for leadership. They'd rather go quietly about their lives. But then circumstances occur and they have no other choice. In these instances, a leader is born. So it was with Esther. Her example shows us how important it is for God's people to have the courage to take the necessary risks, to do the right thing and let God take care of the rest regardless of what happens.
Dear Lord, You are not faint of heart. Please give me the courage to do the right thing in all circumstances. In Jesus' name, amen.
Where do we find the courage to risk? God is sovereign. However, that fact doesn't mean we don't have some personal responsibility. God is going to do what God is going to do, but that doesn't let us off the hook. We can't say "Well, He's sovereign, so He's going to save who He's going to save and I can't do anything about it." We can't say "He doesn't need me to go to Zambia, or invite that person to lunch, or help that neighbor,  He'll save them if He wants them." Possibly their salvation will come from somewhere else. But God put you there for a reason. Perhaps their salvation is to come through you. Look around you. Find courage in the thought that there are no coincidences. That things happen for a reason. That
God intends to work all things for His good and for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28.) That possibly God put you where you are today, tomorrow, or any day "for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14,NIV)
Dear God, I want to do my part to bring glory to Your name. Show me what You would have me do today. In Jesus' name, amen.
Another place that we can find the courage to risk is when we trust in God's goodness and His purpose for our lives. Mordecai encouraged Esther to do this. He reminded her that even if she didn't act, the Jews' deliverance would come from somewhere else because that is what God promised and He's not a liar. His character is unchanging. He is a promise-keeping God whose good purposes are carried out in our lives. Mordecai was saying "If you really believe this Esther, then you have nothing to lose." This realization led her to take the risk and approach the king uninvited, an act punishable by death,  and foil Haman's plot.
Did you ever take a swimming lesson when you were a kid? You start by sitting on the side of the pool with just your feet in the water and eventually move into the water, holding onto the edge of the pool. Then the instructor tells you to let go and doggy paddle out to them, only there's no way you're letting go of the edge. After a couple of lessons you start to think maybe it's not so scary and you do let go and doggy paddle out. Well, as Christ-followers we like to swim, but rarely do we get in the water. Or, if we do, we hang out on the edge because it's safe there. It's familiar, we're in control and we know nothing is going to happen to us. But, who knows what would happen if we actually go out and do something like teach a class or lead a small group or go on a mission trip to Africa? I know, we say "I could fail or something bad could happen." Yes. But something worse could happen if we don't. Nothing. Wouldn't we so much rather perish doing something meaningful for Christ with our lives than living a meaningless one at the edge of the pool?
Dear Lord, give us courage today to take the risk. To let go of the edge and swim out in faith. In Jesus' name, amen.
We can find courage in community. You've heard it said that there is strength in numbers. That is especially true with the body of Christ. We can find courage when we look to our brothers and sisters for the strength we need to face the challenges ahead of us. Esther did this when she called on the Jewish people to fast for her for 3 days before she approached the king. She understood there was strength in numbers. She also understood that there is power in prayer. She was counting on a miracle from God and she had no intention of doing it alone. She called on God's people for help. They were going to do it together. We need to call on God together too, we need to build strong relationships with other believers. When we don't we're basically saying "I can do it myself." Dependence, in this case, is a very good thing. It's a risk to say "I can't do this alone,  I need your help." Let's find courage together, in each other, as the body of Christ.
We've all watched a seed grow, right? I get one each year for Mother's day. One of my daughters plants it at school or in a Sunday school class, brings it home and present it to me (surely because I'm such a great mom). I look at it sweetly for a few days and then forget about it until it is a dried, shriveled up chunk of rock-hard dirt in a Dixie cup. Thank goodness God doesn't do that! What God is given, He multiplies. 2 Corinthians 9:10 tells us "He who supplies the seed to the sower, will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness." (NLT) Meaning, the things we do that please Him, He will increase. Farmers know you have to plant the seed to see any harvest. If you've ever had a garden, you know this too. The seeds don't do any good if they sit in their little square packet in your kitchen junk drawer. You have to plant them. If we plant one watermelon, do we get one watermelon? No, we get many and each one is filled with more seeds. Whatever you give God, big or small, He multiplies. So let's give God our best , our most,  so that it can be multiplied! The Bible says too "remember this: 'He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously for God loves a cheerful giver.'" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7, NIV.) I don't know about you, but I'm one of those people who believes it's better to have too much than not enough. I'm also on board with the waste not, want not theory too,  but a happy medium can be had if we take the risk and sow the seed. God will multiply as He sees fit. He will not allow our harvest to be more than we can handle. Let's take a risk and trust Him in that today.
Dear God, I know there are many seeds You want me to sow. May I do it generously and with a cheerful heart today. In Jesus' name, amen
As we take some risks in our faith we should be ready to expect some things beyond our understanding. But take heart, because where God guides, He provides. Solomon talks in Ecclesiastes 11: 5-6 "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in the mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Sow your seed in the morning and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well." (NIV) So, we don't know what will happen, or what will result from our risk-taking efforts, if they will produce fruit or not,  but even if we don't see the result, we are instructed to do the work. "let not your hands be idle." We should still be busy doing something for God even if we don't know how it will turn out. If God has put a person in your path and you think you should witness to them, do it. Where God guides, He provides. He won't leave you hanging. If He gives you a task He will provide you with the resources to accomplish it. Trust Him. Take the risk.
Dear God, Your grace and Your provision are sufficient for me. Help me to see where You are guiding me today. I know You will provide all I need. In Jesus' name, amen.
Have you ever struggled with complacency? Complacency, according to Webster, is defined as: "self-satisfaction, especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies." Wow. Let that sink in for a minute. As a Christ-follower the actual dangers and deficiencies are being content where we are, satisfied to sit on the sidelines and not do any great thing with our lives for Christ. Do you know that is exactly the place Satan wants you to be in your walk of faith? Content on the sidelines. God wants you to take risks for Him and move out of complacency. How do we do it? First, we have to call on God. Peter took a risk when he stepped out of the boat. He didn't remain complacent, being tossed here and there by the storm. In verse 28 Peter calls out to Jesus. "Lord, if it's really You, tell me to come to You by walking on the water." (NLT) If we call on God in the midst of the storms of our life crises, death, financial difficulties, sickness, the name above all name, Jesus Christ, He will hear us and answer. Secondly, if we call on Him, we should listen to what He has to say. In verse 29 Jesus tells Peter "Come." We need to listen for His plan and His next steps. After that, we need to step out in faith. Verse 29 goes on to say "So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water and came toward Jesus." (NLT) Are you a doer or the word or just a hearer? (James 1:22.) Will you get out of the boat? Can we jump out of our comfort zone and let God worry about where we will land? If God is calling you to do something that is humanly impossible, guess what? It is! It wouldn't require faith if we could do it ourselves. Lastly, we need to focus on Jesus and not get distracted. Peter in verse 30 got distracted. "But when he looked around at the high waves he was terrified and began to sink." (NLT) We must keep our eyes on Jesus at all times.
The Sunday School teacher was describing how Lot's wife looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah and turned into a pillar of salt. Little Jimmy interrupted. "My mommy also looked back, once while she was driving, but she didn't turn into salt, she turned into a telephone pole!" Let's not get distracted by keeping our eyes on Jesus.