Choosing to Persevere

On difficult days, it is helpful to be reminded to persevere in order to fulfill the call of God on our lives. On those days when you feel like giving up, just remember that God has given you the power to hold on!

In the scripture for today we learn that Timothy was a young minister who simply felt like giving up. The fire that had once burned within him was beginning to grow cold. The church in those days was experiencing a great deal of persecution, and Timothy had some fears. Perhaps he felt worn-out and that everything was crashing down upon him. He had reached a place where he needed to be encouraged to stir himself up in faith.

Paul was saying, “Timothy, you may feel like quitting, but I am reminding you of the call on your life. Remember the power of the Holy Spirit that changed your life. He gives you a spirit of power, love, discipline, and self-control.” Paul encouraged Timothy to be stable.

If we have stability, we do what is right even when it is difficult and does not feel good. Be encouraged today that you can do whatever you need to do. In Christ, you’ve got what it takes!

Giving up is only an option for those who plan to fail in life.

Prayer Starter: Father, thank You for the power to persevere. Right now, I ask for Your supernatural strength, encouragement and peace to deal with every situation in life. Thank You for being with me every step of the way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Forgiving Ourselves

Psalm 103:10-14

Have you ever come to the Lord in repentance, confessing your wrongdoing, and yet still felt guilty? Sometimes the problem is that we can’t forgive ourselves. Therefore, we go into a self-punishing mode, repeatedly replaying the sin until we feel unworthy not only of pardon but also of blessings, answers to prayer, and the Father’s love. Eventually we build a prison of guilt because our offense seems unforgivable.

But what does such behavior tell us about our faith in God and our estimation of ourselves? According to the Bible, our Father freely bestows forgiveness on the basis of His Son’s payment of our sin debt—and has removed our transgression “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). Is our refusal to forgive ourselves a way of saying we consider Christ’s sacrifice insufficient? In other words, is our standard of righteousness higher than the Lord’s?

Two men in Scripture teach us about the importance of accepting God’s full forgiveness. One is Peter, who denied knowing Christ, and the other is Paul, who persecuted Christians. The Bible gives no evidence that either one of them refused to forgive himself. Although their offenses were great and both men probably regretted their actions, they received God’s forgiveness and lived in the freedom of His grace.

To be free of an unforgiving spirit toward ourselves, we must realize it’s the result of self-focus. Instead of believing the truth of God’s forgiveness, we’ve been relying on our own feelings and making them superior to His Word. It’s time to humble ourselves and place trust in God—not in our feelings.



Dangers of Unforgiveness

Genesis 50:15-21

One of the most beautiful examples of a forgiving spirit is found in the book of Genesis. Despite being the victim of jealousy, evil intentions, malicious plotting, and selfish disregard, Joseph had an attitude of forgiveness that is uncommon and hard for many of us to imagine. By responding in this way to new hurts, he demonstrated that he was a godly man who understood how to let go of resentment and grab hold of forgiveness.

If we refuse to forgive, we can expect to go through painful consequences:

We will have difficulty dealing with the wrong done to us. Instead of releasing it to the Lord, we’ll rehearse the offense and relive the pain.

Resentment will take root in our heart and mind, allowing bitterness to grow.

Negativity will begin to affect other areas of our life, such as relationships, emotions, attitudes, and even physical health.

Then feelings of discouragement will rob us of joy and contentment. We may look successful to the world, but deep inside, Christ’s peace is absent.

A buildup of ill feelings will start damaging our emotional health, which in turn hampers our ability to love others and accept love in return.

Eventually despair will set in. The inner turmoil may become so great that we might frantically resort to drugs, alcohol, affairs, pleasure, or excessive devotion to a career in an effort to find relief. 

The good news is that this downward spiral can be stopped at any point along the way by choosing to forgive. If opening your heart proves difficult, accepting help from a Christian counselor or pastor could be valuable.



Wait Patiently

James starts his epistle writing about patience, and here in the last chapter he writes about patience again. Patience is not just the ability to wait; it is the ability to keep a good attitude while we are waiting.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit that can only be developed under trial. That is the reason God permits us to go through times of testing and difficulty instead of delivering us from them as quickly as we would like. God always has a plan for our deliverance, but He wants us to grow and stretch so we will be stronger when we come out of the trial.

Isaiah 40:31 is a well-known verse about waiting on the Lord: But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; they will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not grow tired (AMP).

This verse teaches us that waiting on God is expecting, looking for, and hoping in Him. It is spending time with Him in His Word and in His presence. We do not worry while we wait on God; we do not get frustrated while we wait on God; we do not get upset while we wait on God. We rest in faith believing God will do what needs to be done for us at the right time.

Learning to wait with patience and hopeful expectation is a mark of spiritual maturity. When we find ourselves having to wait on something, we can patiently take a seat in Him and rest in God’s presence. The promise of God’s peace is not made to those who work and struggle in their own strength but to those who rest in Christ Jesus. As we wait on Him, our strength is renewed.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me to wait well—with patience and hopeful expectation. Help me to use the challenging times in life as opportunities to grow closer to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



The Lure of Momentary Pleasure

Genesis 25:29-34

After reading today’s story about Jacob and Esau, you probably thought, I can’t believe Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. How foolish! But let’s think beyond birthrights and soup. Is there anything of true value that you are trading for something of lesser worth? In other words, what is your “bowl of soup”?

Have you pursued wealth and a career at the expense of family? Maybe your busy schedule has kept you from spending time with God in His Word each day. Some people become involved in extramarital affairs, trading the well-being of their family for the satisfaction of lustful desires. Others sacrifice their health by consuming harmful or addictive substances, or even by overindulging in food. The list of ways we make foolish, shortsighted choices is endless.

Some of the decisions we make today could rob us of the blessings God wants to give us. When you yield to temptation, you’re actually sacrificing your future for momentary pleasure. We can’t afford to live thoughtlessly, basing our decisions on immediate desires or feelings. Since the principle of sowing and reaping cannot be reversed (Gal. 6:7), we need to carefully consider what we are planting. The harvest will come, at which point we’ll reap what we have sown—and more than we’ve sown.

Are you contemplating anything that could have serious long-term ramifications if you yield to the yearning? A wise person evaluates choices by looking ahead to see what negative consequences could follow a course of action. Don’t let “a bowl of soup” hinder God’s wonderful plans for you.



Created To Serve God

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

One of the characteristics of fallen human nature is the rejection of what’s best. This began all the way back in the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Eve to rebel against God and exert her right to determine her own course. Ever since, people have been pursuing their desires based on self-interest. It’s understandable that this is the world’s mindset; sadly, though, it is also the attitude of many Christians who attend church but consider serving an encroachment on their time. 

Such self-centered reasoning is grounded in three misconceptions.

1. We don’t understand who God is. He’s the divine Creator of the universe and the sovereign Ruler over heaven and earth. He redeemed us from sin with the precious blood of His Son—in other words, He purchased us from slavery to sin. In that way, we become His slaves, who serve Him out of love and gratitude.

2. We don’t understand why we are here. We were created to worship and serve God. This is our destiny and the way we glorify Him.

3. We don’t understand the Lord’s great purpose in the world. He is building His kingdom, and we have been commissioned to be involved in this process by ministering to one another and proclaiming the gospel near and far.

God intended Christian service to be a divine privilege, a fulfilling opportunity, and an avenue of blessing. To say we can’t fit it into our schedule is a rejection of what God has commanded and ordained as best. But the truth is, what we forfeit by not serving is far greater than anything we could gain by selfishly pursuing our own way.



An Unselfish Attitude

Disciples of Jesus are called upon to deny themselves and their own interests (see Mark 8:34). I am sure that doesn’t sound too exciting, but it does provide a quality of life that we cannot have while being selfish and self-centered. True happiness is only found when we find something to live for other than ourselves.

I spent the first half of my life being self-absorbed, and then I discovered that Jesus died so I might no longer have to live only for myself. At that point I embarked on a journey of learning to live for God and others. I want to say right away that I have not arrived, but I do press on toward the goal.

Living only for yourself and selfishly seeking only what pleases you is like living in prison and being in solitary confinement. Unless we are willing to die to self, we abide alone; we live isolated lonely lives (see John 12:24); very few people call us friend; and when we are gone, nobody really cares that much. We have traveled through life, and the world is no better because we were here.

I invite you to declare war on selfishness! As occasion and opportunity open up to you, do good to all people (see Galatians 6:10). Be kind and do what is for their welfare.

Make a decision to put a smile on at least three faces today. You may be surprised to find that their smile will make you smile too!



What Takes Place After Salvation?

John 3:16-17

To truly grasp what Jesus did for us on the cross—and to be able to share the gospel effectively—it’s essential to have an accurate understanding of the terms we use to describe salvation.

Saved (Eph. 2:8). This is a synonym for rescued. Mankind needs rescuing because without Jesus, we are all destined for divine wrath, hell, and eternal separation from God.

Redeemed (Eph. 1:7). Redemption implies a transaction. Our salvation was purchased through the shedding of Jesus Christ’s blood.

Justified (Rom. 5:1). When someone trusts in Christ, God pardons that person and removes his or her guilt. A saved individual is in right standing with the Lord.

Reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Salvation results in a relationship with God. We were once separated from Him, but now we are His sons and daughters, and He calls us His friends (John 15:15).

Using words like redemption, justification, and reconciliation might not be effective when presenting the gospel to someone unfamiliar with the language often used in church. However, it’s important for us to understand what the Bible teaches about salvation, and these terms give us a framework for explaining the good news to others.

We must recognize that we are not saved by our personal works or performance. Salvation is ours by God’s grace—His unmerited, undeserved, loving favor toward us—and at the cost of Jesus’ own blood. Let us not take for granted how God has rescued us: by sending His Son to die in our place.



God’s Grace Is Sufficient

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The Lord pledges to give us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It’s a promise He always keeps. Yet when life hits us hard, we may be tempted to doubt and give up. If our faith starts to waver, we need to think about what we have already received from Him and then look for evidence that He’s at work.

We should remember that we’ve been freed from sin’s penalty. Because Jesus paid the full price by dying on the cross in our place, we owe nothing for our wrongdoing. God now regards us as blameless—at salvation, we each became a new creation and were given Christ’s righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). Originally, we were headed toward permanent separation from the Lord, but our eternal destiny has been changed to a heavenly home in His presence. And God’s Holy Spirit lives within us as our constant companion and source of strength.

We also should keep in mind that even in the worst of situations, our Father works to accomplish His will. Joseph experienced betrayal when his brothers sold him into slavery, and later he suffered injustice when imprisoned for doing the right thing. In the end, he realized that the Lord had graciously used those circumstances to rescue his family from a life-threatening famine (Gen. 45:5). In a similar way, God uses adversity to develop our character and dependence on Him. He works through trials to bless us and others.

Because of the Lord’s sustaining grace, we have access to His power, wisdom, and guidance. When we ask, God’s Spirit will provide the strength to persevere and help us fight doubt.



Possibilities

When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses felt very inadequate and kept telling God what he could not do and did not have.

God asked him what he had in his hand and Moses replied, “A rod.” It was an ordinary rod, used for herding sheep. God told him to throw it down, implying that Moses was to give it to Him. When God gave the rod back to Moses, it was filled with miracle-working power and was used by Moses to part the Red Sea as well as for other miracles.

If you will give God what you have, no matter how little and ineffective you may think it is, God will use it and give you back more than you gave Him.

In other words, it is not our abilities that God desires, but it is our availability He wants. He wants us to see possibilities, not problems. Don’t spend your life thinking “if only” you had something else, then you could do something worthwhile. “If only” is a thief of what could be.