‘Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.”‘ Psalm 3:2 NIV
Regardless of how badly you have failed or how often you have failed—God won’t give up on you. So don’t give up on yourself! Nothing you’ve done is beyond the scope of His grace. Others may give up on you, but not God. King David fell as low as a person can get. He was guilty of adultery, deception and murder—all major offences. But God forgave and restored him. He writes about it in two psalms. In the first psalm he writes: ‘Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him. But You, Lord, are a shield around me, O Lord; You bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side… From the Lord comes deliverance.’ (Psalm 3:2–7 NIV) Later on in the psalms he writes: ‘…He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.’ (Psalm 40:1–3 NIV) And the God who turned David’s greatest mess into a message, and his greatest test into a testimony, will do the same for you when you turn to Him and receive His forgiveness, mercy and grace.
‘…perfect love expels all fear…’ 1 John 4:18 NLT
God cares about you too much to leave you in any doubt about His love. The Bible says His ‘perfect love expels all fear.’ If God loved us with an imperfect love, we’d have cause to worry. Human love is flawed; it keeps a checklist of our sins and shortcomings—and consults it often. God keeps no such list. His love casts out our fear because it casts out our guilt. John writes, ‘…if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart…’ (1 John 3:20 NKJV) When you feel unforgiven, question your feelings but don’t question God. Go back to His Word; it outranks self–criticism and self–doubt. Nothing fosters confidence like a clear grasp of God’s grace, and nothing fosters fear like ignorance of it. The fact is if you haven’t accepted God’s grace, you’re doomed to live in fear. No pill, pep talk, psychiatrist or earthly possession can put your mind at ease. Those things may help numb your fear, but they can’t eradicate it. Only God’s grace can do that. Have you accepted Christ’s forgiveness? If not, get down on your knees and do it now. The Bible says, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us…and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:9 NKJV) The place of confession is also the place of cleansing and restored confidence towards God. Your prayer can be as simple as this: ‘Lord, I admit I’ve turned away from You. Please forgive me. I place my soul in Your hands and my trust in Your grace. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.’ Now, having received God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace—live like it!
‘…meditate on these things…and the God of peace will be with you.’ Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV
When you’re going through bad times, your goal should be to keep a good attitude. And with God’s help you can. Dr Viktor Frankl, a Nazi Holocaust camp survivor, said: ‘If a prisoner felt that he could no longer endure the realities of camp life, he found a way out in his mental life—an invaluable op-portunity to dwell in the spiritual domain, the one that the SS was unable to destroy. Spiritual life strengthened the prisoner, helped him to adapt, and thereby improved his chances of survival.’ Here is some practical advice on keeping a good attitude in bad times: (1) Always believe the best about others, but don’t get bent out of shape when they disappoint you. Nobody is perfect, including you. Just be grateful for the people that bring joy and endeavour to be counted among them. (2) When you are tempted to retaliate, judge or become impatient, say to yourself, ‘This is an opportunity for me to model a great attitude for the glory of God.’ You say, ‘But this person is driving me crazy.’ Then refuse to be a ‘passenger’ and go along with them. Take back the wheel, get into the driver’s seat of your life, and determine which direction you’ll go and what attitude you’ll have. The Bible says: ‘…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things…and the God of peace will be with you.’
‘Carry each other’s burdens…’ Galatians 6:2 NIV
Mark Twain said, ‘Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.’ Why does the Bible say, ‘Carry each other’s burdens’? Because one person can only carry a burden so far on their own. American novelist John Kennedy Toole quickly discovered that. As a young writer he worked alone writing a novel in New Orleans. When it was finished he sent it to publisher after publisher, but they all turned him down. Overcome by rejection, he took his own life. Some time after the funeral, his mother found a coffee–stained manuscript in the attic and took it to a professor at Louisiana State University who agreed to read it. Immediately he recognised its genius and recommended it to a major publisher. After its release, John Kennedy Toole’s novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, won a Pulitzer Prize and was heralded as one of the major novels of the twentieth century. If only he’d surrounded himself with friends who knew how to share his burden, encourage him when he faced rejection and motivate him to keep going, his life would have turned out very differently. So the word for you today is—‘Find people who believe in you.’ Encourage and support them, and welcome their support in return. Spend more time with those who sharpen you and make you better, and less time with those who drain your energy, time and talent. The truth is, friends who speak encouragement into your life are priceless. Their words are ‘Like apples of gold in settings of silver…’ (Proverbs 25:11 NIV)
‘…those who fear Him lack nothing.’ Psalm 34:9 NIV
There are three kinds of givers: the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. To get even a spark from a flint you have to hammer it. To get anything out of a sponge you have to squeeze it. But a honeycomb just overflows with sweetness. Which kind of giver would you like to be? The Psalmist writes, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him…for those who fear Him lack nothing.’ (Psalm 34:8–9 NIV) Tithing is an act of worship. Of the 100 to 110 hours you’re awake each week, one–third to one–half generally involve earning money. So when you give God your money, you’re giving Him your brain, your brawn and yourself. When you go to the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day, partake of the Lord’s Supper and put the Lord’s tithe into the Lord’s treasury, it’s an act of profound worship. Now, let’s be clear: a God who paves Heaven’s streets with gold isn’t going to go broke because you don’t give Him a tithe of your income. The act of tithing isn’t about the tithe; it’s about the attitude of the tither to the Creator. It’s not about the gift; it’s about the attitude of the giver to the Giver. It’s not about the money; it’s about the attitude of the man or woman to the Maker. It’s not about possessions; it’s about the attitude of the loved ones to the Lover. As the songwriter Isaac Watts said, ‘Were the whole realm of nature mine; that were an offering far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’
‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…’ Malachi 3:10 NIV
When you honour the Lord in your business, He will bless your business. Imagine the advantage you’d have in the marketplace with God as your partner! Many famous Christian business people throughout history were faithful tithers, including Henry John Heinz of Heinz 57 Varieties, and William Colgate, the toothpaste magnate. Some of these people were so blessed that, before their lives were over, they gave God 90 per cent of their income and lived on the other 10 per cent. God says: ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this…and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough to store it…all the nations will call you blessed…’ (Malachi 3:10–12 NIV) When you demonstrate that God’s business means more to you than your own, He will prosper you. And He invites you to ‘test’ Him in this. How long have you known that you should tithe, wanted to tithe, said you were going to, and yet you’ve never got round to it? Start now—and start with what you have! What you can do now is the only influence you have over your future. John D Rockefeller is reputed to have made the following statement concerning the habit of tithing: ‘I never would’ve been able to tithe the first million dollars I made if I hadn’t tithed my first salary, which was a dollar fifty per week.’ Tithing demonstrates that you’ve conquered self–interest and the fear of lack. It’s a demonstration of faith—and God always rewards faith!
‘…I will give you a tenth.’ Genesis 28:22 NIV
Jacob wasn’t a giver by nature. Quite the opposite, in fact! He cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright, which entitled him to twice as much of their father’s inheritance. And when he worked for his father–in–law, Laban took advantage of him too. But one night Jacob met God in a life–changing dream, and when he woke the next morning he told God, ‘…of all that You give me, I will give You a tenth.’ Note, this was hundreds of years before the Law of Moses was instituted, which said, ‘A tithe of everything…belongs to the Lord…’ (Leviticus 27:30 NIV) Jacob wasn’t motivated by law, he was motivated by love for God. You can give without loving; some folks give under pressure, or to impress others or to get an income tax deduction. But you can’t love without giving! The Bible says, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…’ (John 3:16 KJV) You’re never more like God than when you’re in the act of giving. Jesus said, ‘…seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.’ (Matthew 6:33 NKJV) Tithing is about putting God and His Kingdom first. When self, home, business and pleasure come first in your life, your priorities are out of whack. Tithing reverses that order and puts God where He rightfully belongs—in first place. When God instructs you to tithe, He’s telling you to establish the habit of putting Him in the number one slot as a life principle. When you do, Jesus said ‘all these things’ you’re so concerned about will be ‘added to you’.
‘A tithe of everything…belongs to the Lord…’ Leviticus 27:30 NIV
If you put your mortgage before your gifts to God, you show more gratitude to your bank than you do to the One who made you. You say, ‘I earned it, so I own it.’ No. The Bible says, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.’ (Psalm 24:1 NIV) God owns every square metre of land on earth and every person who walks on it—including you. You’re not an owner, you’re a steward! And while a good steward deserves to be well rewarded by his master, his first priority is to please him and carry out his will. The Bible says, ‘A tithe of everything… belongs to the Lord…’ Get your thinking straight on this issue! In God’s eyes 10 per cent of your income is ‘dedicated funds’ to be used for one thing only—His purposes on the earth. Tithing isn’t how the church raises its budget; it’s how God raises His children. We distort God’s Word when we teach tithing as a means of getting money to pay off church debt, or as a substitute for other worn–out methods of fundraising, or as a cure–all for the church’s financial shortfalls. The Bible says, ‘…son (daughter)… give Me your heart…’ (Proverbs 23:26 NIV) When God has your heart’s deepest affection you’ll give gladly, not grudgingly. The first man in Scripture to tithe was Abraham. Why did he do it? Gratitude, because God had delivered him from the hand of an enemy who was out to destroy him. Has God delivered you? Has He blessed you? Then show your gratitude by giving Him His portion!
‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.’ Proverbs 17:17 NIV
If you’re wise, you’ll surround yourself with people who support you emotionally and spiritually, and you can share your dreams and ideas with them. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were members of The Inklings, an informal literary discussion group associated with Oxford University. It was comprised of teachers, writers and friends who met regularly at a well–known Oxford pub to discuss passages from their favourite books as well as their own writings. In 1936, they decided the world needed more novels that had faith and morality as their central theme. Lewis and Tolkien decided to write science fiction after realising the inferior quality of similar stories being published at the time. They literally tossed a coin to decide who would write a book on space travel versus time travel. Tolkien got the time travel nod, but his early efforts with such a story never really worked out. Later, however, he achieved great success with The Lord of The Rings. Lewis wrote his famous series of novels called The Space Trilogy, and from that momentum he eventually penned The Chronicles of Narnia. Now, you may not reach that level of success, but you’ll go further with the encouragement of true friends than you will without it. So ask yourself what’s involved in cultivating the kinds of friendships that’ll help you fulfil your God–given potential. It may mean coming out of your shell and reaching out to others. Could you encounter hurt and rejection? Sure! But you’ll succeed only if you’re willing to take that chance.
‘…Naaman…went away in a rage.’ 2 Kings 5:12 NLT
As a general in the Syrian army, Naaman was accustomed to having things his own way. So when Elisha told him to dip seven times in the muddy Jordan River to be healed of leprosy, he ‘went away in a rage’. He said, ‘I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!’ (2 Kings 5:11 NLT) Fortunately, he listened to his servants, swallowed his pride and received a miracle. There are important lessons here. Since all progress calls for adapting to change and overcoming obstacles, ask yourself: (1) What’s at the core of my fear and anger over this situation? Am I afraid of the unknown and the changes it may bring? (2) Am I being inflexible and trying to impose my will in this situation? Am I willing to forfeit God’s perfect will by resisting a change He’s orchestrating? Many of us miss God’s best. Why? Like Naaman, we are accustomed to being waited on and having our ego stroked. E.G.O. means Edging God Out! Are you doing that? (3) Am I being lazy or incompetent, not wanting to invest the necessary time and effort into the change? Unless you’re willing to change, you won’t grow. And if you don’t grow, you won’t position yourself to receive the blessing God has in mind for you. Charles Franklin Kettering said, ‘The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.’ Today ask God for the emotional and spiritual strength to embrace the changes He’s bringing into your life, and to help you to see them as being for your good (Romans 8:28).