“Why am I not more spiritual? Why do I make the wrong decisions? Why do I seem to be going backward in my Christian walk?” We have all asked these questions before. We are discouraged because there is no apparent progress in our Christian life. However, God sees things differently. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6) God begins His excellent work in our lives at the moment of salvation. Our Lord is always working in our lives. Don’t be discouraged because God knows what He is doing, and He is not going to quit His work in our hearts and lives.
A Prayer “Dear Lord, I don’t always see what you are doing in my life. I get discouraged because I do not see the growth that I expect. Please help me to understand that you are very patient and loving in your making me into the Christian that I ought to be. Thank you for not only the exciting times of spiritual growth but also the quiet times. Amen
An old children’s song says:
He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me
There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
Don’t judge him yet, there’s an unfinished part
But I’ll be better just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master’s loving hands
Have you ever felt pulled in several directions at once? You know you should have faith in God, and yet worry, and anxiety have a chokehold upon your whole life. Your life seems to be going nowhere. You find it difficult to sleep. You ask: “Where is God in all of this.” Despair is ruling your life. What can you do?
The word “worry” comes from the West Germanic word, “wrygen” which means “to strangle” or “to choke.” Worry chokes us spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically. God knows the power that worry and anxiety have upon us. He tells us in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
How do we break this chokehold that worry and anxiety have upon us? God gives us several ways to break this chokehold.
1. Understand the consequences that worry and anxiety have upon our lives. The words “be careful for nothing” have the idea of “stop being pulled in different directions.” Worry is a sin because it keeps us from giving glory to God. It also keeps us from serving God and others to our full capacity. Worry causes us to doubt the goodness of God, which creates confusion in our lives.
2. Focus upon God and not upon our circumstances. The above passage says, “Let your request be made known unto God.” God is the source of peace. When our eyes turn from our trials and focus upon God, we will see the greatness of God’s power, wisdom, love, and sovereignty. We know that we can trust Him regardless of what comes our way because God is greater than any circumstance in our lives.
3. Talk to God about the source of our worry and anxiety. The passage says: “but in everything by prayer and supplication.” God, our loving Father, wants us to take every hurt, misunderstanding, health issue, family issue, financial problem, and doubt, unto Him. He alone can carry that burden. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Worry and anxiety say I will carry my burden. Faith says I will take that burden to the Lord and leave it there.
4. Learn to give thanks to God in everything. Many problems and heartaches that choke us can be turned into blessings when we learn to give God thanks in everything that happens. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Th 5:18) When we thank Him in everything, we are saying to God: “I commit this circumstance, person or problem that is choking my life unto you. I thank you that you are fulfilling your great purpose in my life even amid this great trial or burden.”
5. Enjoy God’s promise of His Peace. God tells us that His peace “passeth all understanding.” God’s presence and peace shine forth in those who face their deepest trials with faith in Him. I have been beside many people who are facing death, and yet they had a peace that passes all human wisdom. God’s peace doesn’t make sense to the people around us. They only see our difficult circumstances, but they don’t see our enjoyment of the presence of God.
God doesn’t want any of us consistently pulled in two directions. He wants us to turn our faces directly towards Him. The songwriter wrote: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace.” God will break the chokehold of anxiety and worry in our lives. Will we trust Him to do so? “The truth shall make you free.”
Twenty-seven years ago, I said goodbye to my father. He had suffered a stroke. I traveled from Portugal to see dad one last time. Did he recognize me? I will never know. My return to Portugal was with a heavy heart. I would never see my father again. My father didn’t leave me by choice, but he was gone. I miss my father.
In life, we all face separation from loved ones. This separation is painful; however, there is One who will never leave us. Our Heavenly Father is always with us. Hebrews 13:5 says: ” Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” God is with us in the good times, and He is with us in dark times. How does His presence affect our lives?
God’s presence gives us contentment in dark times. The tendency in life is to complain about everything. As a result, when things don’t happen the way we want, we become bitter and complain. Our lack of contentment is saying that God is doing a poor job of taking care of us.
Contentment means that we find our joy and happiness in our relationship with our Living Lord. In spite of the tough times, we know that He is right there with us. He will not leave us. He will walk with us through any valley. As the Psalmist says: “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”
God’s presence gives us strength in dark times. The Word of God informs us that Our Heavenly Father will never leave us. “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper. ” (Hebrews 13:6) The dark times in this life weaken us spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. We may feel like quitting. God’s presence gives us the strength to carry on. God told Paul: “For my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (Hebrews 13:6)Our weakness says to God: “I need your strength.” God will respond.
God’s presence gives us courage in dark times. Dark times can bring out the coward in us. We become fearful of people. We are afraid of the future. Fear of failure rules our hearts. Where do we find the courage to move forward. “I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:6) God’s presence and love will cast out the fear that torments us.
Many of our loved ones are no longer with us, but our Heavenly Father will never leave us. He is with us in good times and dark times. Yes, the clouds of darkness may dim our view of God, but He is still with us. May we lean upon Him in the darkest night; so that we may see his presence amid the darkness.
The year 2020 has arrived. Perhaps, we have already made some goals for our life. However, this is an excellent opportunity to take an inventory of our spiritual lives.
God says in Haggai 1:5: “Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.”God’s people had returned to their land, but they had neglected to rebuild the temple. The people placed God on the back burner of their lives. Their priority was building their own lives without any thought of God.
Today, we often neglect our spiritual lives because we become preoccupied with all the activities in this world. Like the Israelites, have we neglected to take an inventory of our relationship with God?
The word “consider” means to note thoroughly, to perceive clearly, to think deeply. This word is used sixty-six times in the Bible. Why does God place such a priority on this word? Is it because He knows that we have the habit of keeping busy so that we don’t take the time to consider our walk with Him? Here are some questions to help begin an inventory of our spiritual lives.
1. Do I know God? “That I may know Him.” (Philippians 3:10) These words show Paul’s great desire to know the Lord in a personal way. He didn’t just want to know about God but to know Him as His Father, Lord, and Friend. Will we sacrifice our time and effort so that we can know God better?
2. Do I know myself? “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psalm 139:23)We often find it difficult to allow God to search every aspect of our lives. We tend to excuse our sins and follies. God sees all and knows all. His examination not only shows us our sins and failures but also the way to move forward in 2020.
3. Do I use my time wisely? “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) Time is a gift that we often waste on matters that are not very important. Do we sacrifice the important things in life for the urgent? Time is a gift that we can invest in those things that promote our spiritual well-being.
4. Do I encourage those around me? We often focus upon our own lives, and we forget the impact that our lives have upon other people. One of my favorite Bible characters is Barnabas. He was a man who was always encouraging others.
He encouraged others by his example. (Acts 4:36-37)
He encouraged others with his friendship. (Acts 9:26-27)
He encouraged others with his words. (Acts 9:23)
He encouraged others by giving them a second chance. (Acts 15: 35-41)
5. Do I glorify God in all that I do? The highest purpose of our life is to bring glory to God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) God desires us to bring glory to Him in all that we do. Do we glorify God in our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions? De, we honor God in our family? Do we glorify God at work or at school? Do we glorify God with our plans and goals in life?
“Dear Heavenly Father, I am entering a new year. I need to consider my ways as I look forward to 2020. Please help me to know you more intimately. Guide me as to the use of my time. Use me to encourage the people you bring into my life. Above all, I want to glorify you in all that I am and do. Thank you for the blessings of 2019. Thank you for continuing your work in and through my life. Amen”
Where can we find love and mercy in this world filled with selfishness and bitterness? The Psalmist David found the answer! “I trust in the mercy (lovingkindness) of God forever and ever.” (Psalm 52:8)
God’s love is a breath of fresh air in a world of insensitivity, anger, and a lack of compassion. God’s mercy never ends. His love carries us through the hurts, pain, and hatred that is all around us. His mercy is like a plane that flies above the storm. With His loving hand, God can lift us above the animosity within the world. Will we take His hand, today?
“Dear Heavenly Father, we need to focus on your love and mercy in this world that has turned its back on you. We see the selfishness, anger, and bitterness all around us, yet we know that your love and mercy never end. Please help us to share your lovingkindness and mercy with others who need you. Amen”
Are you feeling overwhelmed with all sorts of negative thoughts about yourself, people, your situation, and even your relationship with God? These thoughts can bring about depression, anxiety, and fear. What does God say to us when we are feeling overwhelmed? “In the multitude of my thoughts within me, THY COMFORTS DELIGHT MY SOUL.” (Psalm 94:19)
God, with His loving arms, says to us: “Come unto me, I will bring my comfort unto you and bring delight to your innermost being.” When God’s comfort enters into our lives, the negative thoughts will be turned inside out into positive and comforting thoughts focused upon Him.
“Dear Lord, you understand how life seems overwhelming to me. I can’t cope with everything that comes my way. However, your comfort carries me through these times and brings joy out of depression. You also bring peace out of anxiety. I thank you that you are always available with your loving arms outstretched to me. Amen”
Christmas in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1983, was quite different for our family of three. I had always been accustomed to cold weather and snow in Michigan. In Johannesburg, it was the middle of the summer. What could we do with our toddler? We ventured out one evening to nearby Joubert Park to see the annual Christmas displays. We were surprised that the displays had nothing to do with Christmas. Each display depicted a fairy tale story. What did the Three Blind Mice and Little Jack Horner have to do with Christmas? Where was Jesus in the manger? Where was the Christmas music? Finally, in a quiet corner, we found the manger scene lost amid the fairy tales.
Today, those displays remind me of how easy it is to forget Jesus amid all the activity, lights, music, and shopping of the season. We may give Jesus a little corner of our lives as the baby in Bethlehem, but are we willing to allow Him to rule in our hearts and lives?
Seven hundred years before Christ’s birth, the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning the birth of Jesus Christ. He not only spoke of His birth but revealed the character of the coming Deliverer of Israel. These words are quite well-known, yet do we know the meaning of this description of Jesus? “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
This description of Christ creates a spirit of prayer, worship, and praise unto Jesus. Yes, He came to earth as a baby, but He is unique. He is God in the flesh. Do we take the opportunity to pray, honor, and glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Will you join me in the following prayers based on the greatness of the baby in the manger.
“And His Name Shall be Called:
Wonderful-“Dear Lord Jesus, As I read the Bible, I often treat it as a textbook from which to learn the truth. I can lose the wonder of being in your presence. I can lose the wonder of all that you have done in my life. Please restore the wonder of your birth, life, death, and resurrection in my life. With wonder comes true worship. You are worthy. Amen”
Counsellor-“Lord, you are always there to guide me. When I don’t know what to do, you show me the way. When I need to pour out my heart to someone, you are always ready to listen. Thank you for being my counselor always and in every situation. You are truly the All-Wise God! Amen”
The mighty God-“Dear Lord, I often find myself trying to live the Christian life without you. I try to deal with life’s difficulties on my own. I forget that you are all-powerful and that nothing is too hard for you. Please help me to lean upon your all-powerful arms. Please enable me to trust you in every situation and to remember that nothing is impossible with you. Thank you for your patience on my behalf. Thank you that you are the mighty fortress to whom I may always flee. Amen”
The Everlasting Father-“Dear Lord, because you are the Father of Eternity, you are always with me. You love, protect, and provide for me. Thank you for giving me eternal life. Help me to love you even in a small way as you love me. Please help me to learn at your feet and be quick to obey you. Thank you that I can call out to you as My Heavenly Father, and you always answer! Amen”
The Prince of Peace-“Lord, thank you for dying on the cross for me so that I may have peace with you! I also thank you that when I cast my cares upon you, I may also experience your peace every day. Please work in the hearts of the many people who don’t know you as THE PRINCE OF PEACE. Amen.
This time of year is an excellent opportunity to renew our wonder of the attributes and works of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Jesus is more than the Babe in the manger. He is the Savior of the World and the Lord of our lives. Let’s do more than to keep in Christ in Christmas. Let’s keep Christ in the center of our lives.