“Not in human wisdom but in the power of God.” 1Co 2:5 NLT
One of the greatest breakthroughs in modern psychology is the Law of Reversibility. It works like this: when you feel a certain way, you act accordingly. And when you don’t feel like doing something but you do it anyway, that same dynamic creates the feeling consistent with your actions. Dallas Willard put it like this: “You can live opposite of what you profess, but you can’t live opposite of what you believe. Invariably what you believe is revealed by what you do.” Because fear is a learned response, it can be unlearned. There are two kinds of courage. The first kind calls for action. President Andrew Jackson said, “Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in. One man with courage makes a majority.” The second kind calls for patience: the tenacity to keep persevering after you’ve done your best and before you’ve seen results. Often the difference between a hero and a coward is that a hero hangs in there five minutes longer! When you run from intimidating situations, fear multiplies until eventually it controls your life. But when you tackle your problems head-on, “not in human wisdom but in the power of God,” your confidence rises until you reach a point where you’re no longer controlled by fear. William Cowper wrote: “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread, Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.”
“Don’t be afraid…I am with you.” Isa 41:10 NLT
There are different kinds of fear. There’s the kind that warns you to stay away from fire. There’s the kind that cultivates respect for God (See Ps 2:11). Oswald Chambers said, “When you fear God, you don’t have to fear anything else.” There’s fear that makes you feel helpless; sometimes it’s rooted in parental criticism or a bully’s threats, and although it’s groundless, it still haunts you. There’s the fear of failing, which if left unchallenged becomes the father of failure. Job said, “What I feared has come upon me” (Job 3:25 NIV). There’s fear of the unknown where your imagination runs amok. What if you never meet the “right person,” or you lose your job, or the biopsy confirms the worst? Over and over in His Word God says, “Don’t be afraid…I am with you.” Paul Tournier notes: “Life and faith always insist on moving on—and I cannot move forward without leaving something behind. The trapeze artist must let go of one trapeze at precisely the right moment and hover in the void before grabbing the other. Faith calls us out of our comfort zone…to learn new skills and minister in different ways.” But we get uptight. We think, “What if God asks me to do something I can’t do? Or I don’t have the strength, wisdom, or faith?” If you were relying on your own resources, you’d be in trouble. But the fact is, “God…knew you and chose you” (1Pe 1:2 NLT). Every time you meet a new challenge He strengthens you by proving that He not only supplies the tools, but is responsible for the outcome.
“Ezra…stood on a platform…which they had made for the purpose.” Ne 8:4 NKJV
Standing on a specially built platform within Jerusalem’s newly built walls, Ezra the scribe read God’s Word to the people for six hours. As he read it they wept, worshipped, and went home rejoicing. Think: God’s Word is so powerful that all you have to do is expose people to it and their lives are changed. Notice the words, “Ezra…stood on a platform…they had made for the purpose.” When the printing press was invented, one of the first books produced was the Bible. It gave birth to the Reformation, influenced the Industrial Revolution, and changed the world. Now fast-forward to the age of the Internet. Today we have a “platform” capable of reaching every level of society, all the way to the most remote corners of the earth. Instead of complaining about the garbage on the Internet, become an Internet evangelist, teacher, counselor, or encourager. Don’t let the Enemy monopolize it! “Those who turn many to righteousness [will shine] like the stars forever and ever” (Da 12:3 NKJV). A geologist-turned-missionary was asked by a large oil company to go to work for them in the country where he ministered. His annual salary would be more than he’d make in his entire lifetime as a missionary. But he said no. When they asked, “Isn’t the salary big enough?” he replied, “The salary’s big enough; the job isn’t!” Jesus said, “When I have been lifted…I will draw all people toward me” (Jn 12:32 GWT). And we have been given a platform to reach the world—let’s use it!
“Pray without ceasing.” 1Th 5:17
When the Bible says, “Pray without ceasing,” that means pray every day, not just periodically or when you’re in trouble. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas 5:16 NKJV). The word “fervent” means passionate, persistent, and determined. It’s not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they may be; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they may be; nor the music of our prayers, how sweet our voice may be; nor the logic of our prayers, how argumentative they may be; nor the method of our prayers, how orderly they may be; or even the theology of our prayers, how good the doctrine is, that God responds to. Fervency of spirit is what “avails much.” The most powerful thing you can do is pray! And when you join with a prayer partner, your potential is awesome. “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that [you] ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (Mt 18:19 NKJV). It works like this: the less you pray, the less you want to pray; the more you pray, the more you want to pray. Nothing will motivate you to pray like answered prayer. But you can’t start with the answer; you’ve got to start with the prayer! Here’s a fact of life: we only keep doing what rewards us. So the key to building a great prayer life is to pray until you get answers. Think how deeply rooted doubt can become in our hearts when we’re actually surprised to find our prayers answered! So pray in faith and expect God to answer!
“Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get.” Eph 5:15-16 TM
Following a plan is like using a GPS device (Global Positioning System). If it knows where you are, you tell it where you want to go, and it creates a personalized road map. The difference between a GPS and you, is you have to create all your own turn-by-turn directions. Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting the first one.” To reach your destination you must ask yourself three questions: (1) What’s my present position? It’s impossible to ignore the reality of where you are right now and still be successful. The former CEO of General Electric observed, “Strategic management is trying to understand where you will sit in tomorrow’s world, not where you hope to sit; it’s assessing where you want to be, and where you can be.” (2) What’s my desired destination? Write down what your dream will look like when you’ve achieved it. Henry J. Kaiser, founder of Kaiser-Permanente health care system, said, “The evidence is overwhelming that you cannot begin to achieve your best unless you have some aim in life.” (3) What are the in-between steps? Don’t expect them to be quick or easy. Creativity is messy. It’s far from an exact science. But unless you know where you want to go and identify the steps that will get you there, ten years from now you’ll still be where you are today. So the word for you today is: “Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get.”
“He…gave some to be…pastors.” Eph 4:11 NIV
Pastors have a tough job. They get more kicks than kisses. If a pastor is young he lacks experience; if he’s gray-haired he’s too old. If he has five kids he has too many; if he has none he’s setting a bad example. If his wife sings in the choir she’s being forward; if not, she’s not dedicated enough. If he preaches from notes he’s dry; if he’s extemporaneous he’s too shallow. If he spends too much time in his study he’s neglecting his people; if he makes home visits he’s not a good time manager. If he’s attentive to the poor he’s grandstanding; if he attends to the wealthy he’s ingratiating. If he suggests improvements he’s a dictator; if he doesn’t he has no vision. If he uses too many illustrations he neglects the Bible; if he doesn’t use enough stories, he’s unclear. If he speaks against wrong he’s legalistic; if he doesn’t he’s a compromiser. If he preaches for an hour he’s windy; less than that, he has nothing to say. If he preaches the truth he’s offensive; if he doesn’t he’s wishy-washy. If he fails to please everybody he’s hurting the church; if he tries to please everybody he has no convictions. If he preaches tithing he’s a money-grabber; if not, he’s failing to develop his people. If he receives a large salary he’s mercenary; if he doesn’t it proves he’s not worth much. If he preaches on a regular basis, people get tired of hearing the same person; if he invites guest preachers he’s shirking his responsibility. Wow! And you thought your pastor had an easy life! How’d you like to changes places? Bottom line: love your pastor.
“Let us lay aside every weight…and let us run.” Heb 12:1 NKJV
In the days of the Roman Empire, Olympic runners practiced with heavy weights strapped to their bodies. But on the day of the race all the weights were stripped from them; hence we are told in Scripture, “Let us lay aside every weight…and let us run.” When Elijah passed by, Elisha was busy plowing. This was Elisha’s moment of opportunity. He could become a prophet and enjoy twice the success of his new mentor. But first he had to be willing to break his plow and sacrifice his yoke of oxen. His plow and oxen represented the financial security he was willing to walk away from in order to fulfill God’s plan for his life. Think for a moment about your dream, and everything that will result from it. If you’re like most people, what comes to mind are the benefits you’ll receive, the places you’ll go, the people you’ll meet, the things you’ll own, and the position or title you’ll earn. Do you notice anything in particular about that list? It outlines all the things that will be added to you, and none of the things you’ll have to give up in order to achieve it. And your greatest challenge won’t be giving up the obvious things you know will hurt you; it’ll be giving up the good things you like but won’t help you. Removing the non-essentials from your daily routine will be a constant struggle, but it’s worth fighting for. Why? Because most people who fail to reach their destination aren’t stopped because of insurmountable barriers, but because they’re worn out trying to carry too many things on their journey.
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Eph 6:10 NIV
The Bible says, “God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensible weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out” (vv.10-18 TM). The way to make a comeback is to get back up and move forward. Winning consists of getting up one more time than you were knocked down. Booker T. Washington said, “Success is not measured by the heights one attains, but by the obstacles one overcomes in its attainment.” The God you serve is bigger than the obstacles you face. The strength He provides is greater than the forces arrayed against you. So be strong in the Lord!
“Wives, understand and support your husbands…Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives.” Eph 5:22, 25 TM
If you want a great marriage, you’ve got to work at it every day. The Bible gives us God’s blueprint for one: “Be courteously reverent to one another. Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife in the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything He does and says is designed to bring the best out in her…And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already ‘one’ in marriage. No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of His body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become ‘one flesh.’ This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband” (vv. 21-33 TM). That’s how to build a great marriage!
“But none of these things move me.” Ac 20:24 NKJV
Paul writes: “The Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy” (vv. 23-24 NKJV). Dr. John Maxwell says one day when he was discouraged and tempted to quit, he took out a dictionary and looked up the word “quit.” After spending a few minutes considering that option, in a symbolic act of defiance he took out his scissors and cut the word right out of his dictionary. It didn’t make his problems go away, but it sure did strengthen his resolve. When every avenue looks like a dead end and you feel like you’ve exhausted every possibility—you haven’t. There are always other ways, other options, other opportunities. Even if you don’t see them right now, they are there. So don’t give up. Former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey once said, “A champion is one who gets back up when he can’t.” People who reach their goal keep going when they think they can’t. They’re tenacious, and as a result they keep moving closer to their goal day by day. Some days they may be moving only a few inches at a time, but they’re moving forward. They believe in their God-given destiny, they believe in themselves, and they say so. Now, saying you believe in yourself won’t guarantee your success, but saying you don’t believe in yourself will guarantee your failure. The truth is you’re not alone, God is with you. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isa 40:29 NIV). So be tenacious!