Week 5 Devotionals
Memory verse: Hebrews 12:1: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." (NLT)
Have you ever felt like giving up? Was it many years ago? 1 year ago? 3 months? Yesterday? The storms of life, whether they be a light drizzle, or a full on hurricane, can at times, whittle at our faith and make it hard to discern what's in front of us. These difficulties or distractions can create strong emotions that cloud our ability to think and make the right decisions. Jehoshaphat had a moment where he was faced with a large storm looming around Israel. (2 Chronicles 20: 1-4.) Three armies had formed together to destroy Israel. Jehoshaphat, in verse 3, "was afraid." But instead of focusing on the storm and all of its distractions, he "turned his attention to seek the Lord," and the rest of Israel followed suit by fasting, praying and seeking God's guidance in that situation. Remember, it's these times of trouble that test our faith. With each trial, God is attempting to pull us closer to Him. You can expect Him to mold you and make you, and expose you to just the right kinds and just enough pressure that you will be made into a flawless piece of work to fulfill His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
Dear God, please help me to seek You when I encounter the storms of life. Mold me into what You see in me. In Jesus' name, amen.
As we go through life, we tend to focus on the matters at hand, for the day, month, or year. We go to work or school and tend to our daily business knowing there is a goal that we (or our employer/teacher) have set for ourselves for that day. Sometimes, things get in the way of our goals and we miss out on our 'reward' for not completing the task at hand. As Christians, we sometimes lose sight of that reward that God has in store for us. Things get in the way of our witness to others, our prayer or devotional time. We focus on the here and not the hereafter. So what exactly is our reward as Christians? Eternal life with Jesus Christ. But not only do we get to spend eternity with our Lord and Savior, we are also given God's presence, righteousness, joy, peace, perfection, and love, to name a few. Peter writes, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith." (1 Peter 1: 3-5, NAS) Paul also writes in 1 Corinthians 9, "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." (NAS) Take time today to remember not only what Christ has done for you in wiping away all your sin, past, present, and future. But also thank Him for the imperishable reward He has in store for you in Heaven.
Let's face it. We've all been there at least once or twice. We put forth our best effort -- our heart and soul goes into something but the outcome was not quite what you thought it would be. So, we try again and the outcome is still mediocre success. Then it happens again, and again until finally you become tired and discouraged. Our faith wavers and we begin questioning if this was what God really wanted in the first place. We begin to doubt ourselves and ultimately, God. We're about to throw in the towel. How many times have you read through your Bible, finding many who had faced adversity, but through faith in God and His Word, overcame their fears and their trials? David, Nehemiah, Esther to name a few. Look in your past. How many times were prayers, big or small, answered whether it was yes, no, or wait? Faith and hope can be risky. Disappointment hurts, so we often resort to doubting. It means you don't necessarily have to commit to belief or unbelief, you can sort of wait it out. But we can't trade in our faith in God's power for a life of less struggled-for hopes so low they have no chance of disappointment. When discouragement or doubt is lingering, remember the words Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9 "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary."(NAS) Never lose faith; never tire of doing good. Knowing that we can "do all things through Christ who strengthens us." (Philippians 4:13, NAS.)
Dear God, give me the strength to run the race you've laid out for me. Help me to not grow weary, so I might reap your rewards. In Jesus' name, amen.
It's amazing what a hot shower can do for the psyche. You feel refreshed. Even invigorated sometimes. Oh how we'd like to feel that way all the time! But the reality of it is, that at times, we're so tired by the end of the day, all we want to do is fire down dinner, say a few words to the family and hit the sack. With the lifestyle that the world demands these days, I'm not sure how some folks do it. But God has His requirements for us as well, which at times get lost in work, making dinner, driving to soccer practice after picking up someone at band practice. Face it, we're bushed. The Lord asks us to treat our bodies like a 'temple.' How many of us these days have more of a 'shack' rather than a temple? Renewing ourselves physically is very important. We can only burn the midnight oil for so long before we become exhausted. Even in Psalms it says, "It is in vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives His beloved even in his sleep." (Psalms 127:2, NAS) Our Lord is giving to us even while we sleep! Rest helps our bodies to rejuvenate overnight. And if our bodies are physically exhausted, many times we become spiritually exhausted as well. Our devotion time becomes nonexistent. When this happens, we are ripe for the picking for Satan to separate us from the fold and pounce. Don't fall into the world's trap of doing more, more, more. Psalms 119 says, "Revive me, according to Your loving-kindness, revive me, that I may seek Your word." (NAS) Take the necessary time today to re-energize yourself, physically and spiritually.
Are you persistent? Exactly what are you persistent in? Work? Family time? Hobbies? Prayer? A friend of mine once told me that before we began our friendship, he had been praying for me for a year. A whole year! I was stunned. That to me is persistent. What kind of faith does it take to do that? Obviously, persistent faith. A belief that our Lord Jesus Christ will never change in any way. His promises will always hold true. Hebrews 13:8 reads, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."(NAS) Could it be more simple? However, doubt tries to worm its way into our lives on a regular basis. And if left uncontained, doubt will continue wear our faith down. Notice in Romans 5:3-5, "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance (persistence!), and perseverance, proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint" (NAS) Did you notice that it started at perseverance and ended in hope "which does not disappoint?" Persistence is defined as: "existing for a long or longer than usual time or continuously." Saving faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen (and remember, hope does not disappoint). We must continuously, have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11:6 says "And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (NIV) God's character never varies. As our situations change, He acts accordingly. But the merciful, loving, compassionate, and holy Jesus we know in Scripture is the same Messiah we can cling to today.
How's your life been going lately? Are you happy in your marriage? With your kids? Your job? Are you finding real purpose and meaning in the everyday? If you had positive answers to these questions, great! You are doing a good job of fighting off Satan's discouragement. However, if you're like most of us, your responses were probably not so positive. Why? Because we are being attacked by Satan and his weapon of discouragement. Feel like giving up on your marriage? Tired of the daily grind at work? Satan is winning. Have you lost interest in a ministry that isn't as exciting as you had anticipated? Satan shoots, and scores! God says we're letting him win. Like any other attitude, discouragement is a choice. No one is forcing us to feel that way, we're choosing it. The Bible says to resist discouragement, to fight it. God won't use discouraged people because they don't have any faith. Read Galatians 6:9 (Do you have this one memorized yet?) "Let us not get tired of doing what is right for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't get discouraged and give up." (LB) So if we press on, past Satan's lies and not get tired of doing what is right, what will happen? After a while, that's the faith part we'll reap a harvest of blessing. Have you ever experienced God's blessing on your life? If so, then you know it is well worth the effort.
Dear God, help me to not tire of doing what is right. Give me strength to see through Satan's lies. I want your blessings. In Jesus' name, amen.
Take some time today to identify the areas in your life where you need to be more persistent.
- Daily quiet time with God. Have you started a regimen of Bible-reading, but not been able to keep up with it?
- Praying for your kids/family? Are you committed to this daily?
- Do you pray for your spouse? For your marriage? These are the areas that Satan will attack you.
- Praying for your friends? For those in your small group?
- How about sharing your faith with neighbors or friends who don't know Christ?
- Tithing, are you persisting in faith?
- Exercise and diet. I'm not saying we should be able to run a marathon, but we need to take care of ourselves so we can be at our best.
- Controlling anger and watching our tongues. Are we being consistent? Our words are powerful tools for building up or tearing down.
- Managing our thought life. Are we thinking on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, etc., as Philippians 4:8 says?
- Are we trusting God with our pain and problems and not giving up?