‘These little troubles are getting us ready…’ 2 Corinthians 4:17 CEV
Everything Jesus did for His followers, the Holy Spirit does for you. Jesus taught; the Holy Spirit teaches us. Jesus healed; the Holy Spirit heals us. Jesus comforted; the Holy Spirit comforts us. Jesus sends us into new seasons, and He sends His Counsellor with us. Your journey in the company of the Holy Spirit is a promise from Christ, in fact the very last promise He made to His disciples just before His ascension was, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:29 ESV) When change comes, embrace it, don’t resist it. Change is not only a part of life, it’s a necessary part of God’s strategy for your life. To use us to change the world, He alters our assignments. Gideon, the farmer, became a general. Mary, the peasant girl, became the mother of Christ. Paul, the rabbi, became a world evangelist. God changed Joseph from a baby brother into an Egyptian prince. He changed David from a shepherd to a king. Peter wanted to fish the Sea of Galilee; Christ called him to lead the first church. God gives us our assignments. But what about painful changes that are hard to understand? It’s like your time in the womb: you are being developed for a greater time outside the womb. Inside the womb you had the ultimate comfort and security. But only outside the womb could you fulfil God’s purpose for your life. Your life in this world is simply to prepare you for your life in the next one. That’s why Paul wrote, ‘These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing.’ (2 Corinthians 4:17 CEV) Eternal glory—you can hardly imagine it!
‘…The Holy Spirit–He will teach you everything…’ John 14:26 NLT
As a departing teacher might introduce the pupils to his or her replacement, so Jesus introduces us to the Holy Spirit. And what a ringing endorsement He gives Him! He calls the Holy Spirit His ‘representative’. The Holy Spirit within you comes in the name of Christ, with equal authority and identical power. How comforting it is to know that, when you’re entering a new season of life in which so many things will be different. This verse is translated in different ways. In the New International Reader’s Version, the word ‘counsellor’ is rendered ‘friend’. In the New King James Bible, He’s called ‘Helper’. In the Amplified Bible, He’s referred to as ‘Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener’. In the original Greek, the Holy Spirit is referred to as ‘parakletos’, a compound of two words: para, which means ‘alongside of’, and kletos, which means ‘one who’s designated to you’. The Holy Spirit has been assigned to come alongside you. He is the presence of Jesus with and in you. Can you see how the disciples needed this encouragement? It’s the evening before the crucifixion. By sunrise they will all have abandoned Him. Within 24 hours He will be hanging on the cross and their world will seem like it’s been turned upside down. But Jesus wants them to know: ‘You’ll never face the future without My help.’ And neither will you. Wherever the journey leads, He will be there by your side. The songwriter said, ‘And He walks with me, and He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.’
‘…He will give you another…Counsellor.’ John 14:16 AMP
In the Bible, Solomon lists 28 different seasons in life. Here they are: ‘A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to stop searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:2–8 NLT) God determines each of your life’s seasons. The Psalmist said, ‘My times are in Your hands…’ (Psalm 31:15 AMP) So what should you do when you enter a new season of life? Reach for the Holy Spirit’s help because He’s a ‘Counsellor’. Jesus told His disciples, ‘I will ask the Father, and He will give you another…Counsellor…to be with you forever.’ (John 14:16 AMP) When you need an advisor because you’re not sure what to do or which way to go, the Holy Spirit is available to guide you. That means you must be sensitive when He highlights a particular Scripture you’re reading, or plants a persistent thought or idea in your mind that won’t go away, or speaks to you through a friend. You’re not alone, unless you want to be. Just consult the ‘Counsellor’ within you.
‘I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind…’ John 14:27 NLT
Life comes with surprises. Some of them you welcome, and some of them you don’t. One summer you take a trip to the beach, next summer the beach is covered with oil. One month your stocks are soaring and your investments are growing, then suddenly it all comes crashing down. And the ‘brains’ you thought were running the system sit at session of parliament and say, ‘We just never anticipated this.’ And in those rare seasons when you think the world has settled down, watch out! A malignant cell shows up in a colon, or a cyclone rips through a neighbourhood flattening a house. So what are you going to do? When Jesus told His disciples He was leaving them, they were in panic mode, so He said to them, ‘…When the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I’m leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.’ (John 14:26–27 NLT) You need to recognise the presence of the Holy Spirit who lives within you, and build a relationship with Him. He’s not an ‘it’ or a ‘thing’ or an ethereal spirit that’s beyond your reach. He is Christ’s ‘representative’. He’s willing to teach you what you don’t know, and to remind you of the things you so easily forget. And best of all, He will give you ‘peace of mind and heart’, regardless of what life throws at you.
‘…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…’ Isaiah 40:31 NIV
The prophet Isaiah tells us God ‘…gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar…like eagles; they will run and not grow weary…’ (Isaiah 40:29–31 NIV) When an eagle is on the ground it’s vulnerable to attack by predators like snakes and wolves. On terra firma its surroundings are a fixed reality the eagle can’t change. So what does it do? It rises above them! From the air, everything looks different. The eagle’s altitude transforms its attitude—and that can happen for you too. ‘…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…’ Here are two illustrations of what it means to wait upon God: (1) Like a wide–winged eagle waiting for a thermal current to carry it heavenward, you must stay in God’s presence with your heart attuned to Him. Do you have duties and demands? Yes, but none as important as this. Why? Because you understand that if you don’t get into God’s presence and stay there until He refreshes and restores you, you won’t make it. (2) Like an attentive waiter at a fine restaurant, whose only aim is to please, you wait on God, sensitive to His voice and surrendered to His will. Have the pressures of life left you drained? Watching television may entertain you for a while, but it won’t restore what life takes out of you. Only God can do that, so learn to ‘wait’ on God.
‘Arise, take up your bed…’ Mark 2:9 NKJV
They came to Him, bringing a paralytic, who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic: ‘Arise, take up your bed…’ (Mark 2:9 NKJV) We learn from this man’s story that some people are incapable of getting to Jesus on their own; their condition makes it impossible. Notice two important things here: (1) When you’re weak or low in faith, gather others around you to encourage you in the Word and to lend a helping hand because fellowsip is important for us. ‘And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.’ (Acts 2:42-43 ESV) (2) They didn’t let the crowd stop them from reaching Jesus, it took some effort, a degree of difficulty and a measure of ‘chutzpah’ (boldness), but they didn’t quit. Jesus didn’t disappoint them, and He won’t disappoint you either. Don’t give in to weariness or discouragement, don’t stop until you get them to Jesus.
‘…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.’ Hebrews 10:24 NIV
Here’s some advice for making your dating experiences something you can feel good about afterwards: (1) Be spiritually prepared. Talk to God while you’re getting ready. Time spent before the mirror is important, but time spent with God is all–important. This is never more so than when you’re looking for someone to spend the rest of your life with. (2) Talk openly about sex before it becomes an issue. Physical intimacy is a wonderful thing, but the Bible confines it to marriage where two people are committed to one another. So think protectively—and proactively. Genuine love doesn’t say, ‘If you loved me, you would…’ It says, ‘I love you too much to take advantage of you, or cause you pain, or ask you to do something you feel is wrong and that you’ll feel bad about tomorrow.’ (3) Limit the time you are alone; it can easily lead to things you’ll regret later. When your friends start saying they never see you anymore, chances are you’re becoming too exclusive, and setting yourself up to fail. Don’t always date as a couple; spend time in the company of others too. (4) Do it right this time. If you’ve been permissive in past relationships, don’t be discouraged. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins…’ (1 John 1:9 NIV) That means you can start again with a clean slate. The strongest relationships always put God at the centre. They strive to demonstrate the kind of love Paul describes in First Corinthians chapter thirteen. Make a point of reading it today!
‘Love…does not demand its own way…’ 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NLT
Some kids at a summer camp were discussing creation, and one asked, ‘If everything has a purpose, how come God made poison ivy?’ Another replied, ‘Because He knows there are some things we should keep our hands off!’ But keeping your hands off things isn’t easy when you’re insecure and controlling by nature. The Bible says, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they will become one flesh.’ (Genesis 2:24 NAS) Notice the word ‘become’. Leaving is the easy part; becoming is the hard part. It takes love, patience, kindness, and hard work. Jesus said, ‘…Stop allowing yourselves to be…unsettled.’ (John 14:27 AMP) If you’re ‘allowing’, you’re doing it to yourself! Learn to ‘let go’ and work on developing the fruits of the Spirit in your own life. Letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care; it just means allowing others to learn in their own way and through their own experiences. It calls for focusing on Jesus rather than obsessing on the other person’s behaviour. ‘You will keep in perfect peace…all whose thoughts are fixed on You!’ (Isaiah 26:3 NLT) Fix your thoughts on God, not on others. Letting go means caring about, instead of care–taking. It means stepping out of the middle and not trying to influence the outcome by fixing, judging, nagging, scolding, arguing, criticising and regulating. It’s about facing each day with God’s help and cherishing each moment. It’s about realising the only person you can ‘change’ is yourself. It’s about fearing less and trusting more. And it’s the only way to be happy.
‘My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.’ John 10:10 TLB
Living your fullest life requires three things: (1) A good mentor. Paul writes: ‘Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine.’ (Philippians 3:17 NLT) Good mentors lead by example; they know that in order to be followed they must first be respected. They carefully tailor their instructions by understanding your strengths and weaknesses—knowing whether you are right–brained creative/intuitive or left–brained analytical. They know whether you learn visually or verbally. They know when you need a pat on the back or a kick in the seat of the pants. If you have such a mentor you’re blessed. If you don’t, ask God for one. (2) Your best effort. Andrew Carnegie said, ‘There’s no use whatsoever trying to help people who don’t help themselves. You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb himself.’ (3) A little extra. This is the ‘extra mile’ principle Jesus taught (See Matthew 5:41). It involves: (a) Extra effort. (b) Extra time. ‘Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come.’ (Habakkuk 2:3 NIV) Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who created the memorial to the American Presidents at Mount Rushmore, was asked if he considered his work to be perfect. He supposedly replied, ‘Not today. The nose of President Washington is an inch too long. It’s better that way, though. It will erode and be exactly right in 10,000 years.
‘…How different from this way of faith is the way of law…’ Galatians 3:12 NLT
To fulfil God’s will for your life and become the person He wants you to be, you must deal with the ‘me’ you’re afraid God wants you to be. Most people equate spiritual maturity with trying hard to follow the rules of the Bible. But as long as you think God’s aim is to produce rule–followers, spiritual growth will feel like an obligation rather than a desire of your heart. Paul writes, ‘How different from this way of faith is the way of law, which says, “If you wish to find life by obeying the law, you must obey all of its commands.”’ (Galatians 3:12 NLT) Rigid adherence to rules and regulations produces a desire–smothering, emotion–controlling, self–righteous person. The Bible says, ‘…The written law brings death, but the Spirit gives life.’ (2 Corinthians 3:6 NCV) There’s a big difference between following rules and following Jesus, because you can’t follow Jesus without cultivating the right heart. Jesus didn’t say, ‘I have come that you might follow the rules.’ He said, ‘…I have come that [you] may have life, and…have it more abundantly.’ (John 10:10 NKJV) Until you understand that spiritual growth is about God conforming you into the image of His Son Jesus, the question, ‘How’s your spiritual life going?’ will intimidate you. A nagging sense of guilt and deceit will prompt you to say, ‘Not too well. Not as good as it should be.’ People are apt to use external behaviours and devotional practices to gauge their spiritual health. For example, they measure by how early they get up to read and pray, how long their quiet times are, or how often they attend church. That’s not what spiritual formation is about. It’s about your relationship with Christ, not rule–keeping!