‘We saw the giants … and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight.’ Numbers 13:33 NKJV
Wherever you go, you take your mentality with you. After four hundred years as captives in Egypt, the Israelites developed a slave mentality. Because they were dominated for so long, they never learned to be decision makers. They functioned best when other people told them what to do. Consequently when they approached the Promised Land and their leader sent twelve spies in to check it out, ten came back, saying, ‘The inhabitants of the land are giants. We are like grasshoppers compared to them.’ But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, knew God was with them so they reported the opposite about the land: ‘We are well able to overcome it.’ (Numbers 13:30) Joshua and Caleb developed the capacity to see things from God’s vantage point. It spelled the difference between success and failure—and this one secret will change your world. You learn to ‘mount up with wings’ like an eagle (Isaiah 40:31 KJV) and see every situation from a higher viewpoint: through God’s eyes! You stop looking at the devil’s picture of defeat and focus on God’s portrait of success. This is your ticket to the Promised Land! Having consulted with God, start speaking what you desire—not what you dread (see Psalm 107:2). Speak your expectations—not your fears. This isn’t mind-over-matter or pop psychology. It’s standing on God’s Word instead of thoughts that have held you captive. It’s declaring instead: ‘I am what God says I am … I have what God says I have … and I can do what God says I can do!’ (see Philippians 4:13).
‘We can come before God … without fear.’ Ephesians 3:12 NCV
Dr James Kennedy said: ‘I read an interesting book by an unbeliever who attempted to “do in” the Christian faith. Despite his lack of belief, I found insightful something he said regarding prayer. He called it “the most incredible conceit in the history of mankind,” arguing that if you worked for General Motors as a lowly employee and wanted to see the boss, you wouldn’t have the remotest chance … Think about it. What would happen if a citizen tried to speak to the President of the United States? I’ve thought about putting in a call just to see … I’d probably speak to a secretary or an assistant to somebody, but not likely the President … “And so,” says my skeptical friend in his book, “What an incredible conceit to suppose that at any moment we can talk to the boss of the whole shebang.” And indeed the concept of prayer would be an incredible conceit … if it weren’t true. But it is … and it’s the most incredible condescension on the part of a gracious God. You could probably never speak to the highly placed people in this world, yet the most highly placed person in the universe—“the boss of the whole shebang”—waits patiently to hear what you have to say. “We can come before God with freedom and without fear … through faith in Christ.” Don’t you find that amazing? This day … You can talk to the boss, tell Him your worries and cares, share with Him your triumphs and joys—and He always has time to listen.’ Prayer gives you access to God!
‘An intelligent person aims at wise action … a fool starts off in many directions.’ Proverbs 17:24 GNT
Successful people have one thing in common: they’ve developed the habit of doing what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do. We all want more money, but we don’t all want more work. We’d all like to be slim and trim, but we’re not all willing to eat right and exercise daily. The bookends of success are commitment and consistency. Without commitment you’ll never start, and without consistency you’ll never finish. Getting started is the hardest part, because we come up with so many reasons not to. So: (1) Start small. Take the first step. You can’t take step two until you’ve taken step one. Taking the first step to prioritise your life will focus you in the right direction. But don’t expect to immediately understand all that’s required. ‘By faith Abraham … went out, not knowing.’ (Hebrews 11:8 KJV) God guides you when you’re in motion, so ‘you’ll know as you go’. (2) Start with yourself. If you want others to respond to you differently, give them a different set of attitudes and actions to respond to. (3) Start early. Someone said, ‘Noah didn’t wait for his ship to come in—he built one.’ Hard work is an accumulation of the easy things you didn’t do when you should have. The truth is, the work doesn’t seem nearly so hard once you stop putting it off. (4) Start now. What are you waiting for? Until you finish school, get married, have kids, the kids leave home, you retire, or you die? If you wait long enough you’ll only have one regret—that you didn’t start now.
‘He now showed them the full extent of His love.’ John 13:1 NIV
People spend hours every day on social networks like Facebook—in many cases because they’re lonely. Now, there’s nothing wrong with interacting with others this way. In fact, social media offers one of the greatest tools the Church has ever had for reaching the world with the Gospel. But in a day when it’s getting easy to neglect real relationships, let’s remember why we’re connecting with others in the first place. One author says: ‘Life is so much richer when we have friends with whom we can share our joys and troubles … Unfortunately loneliness remains a major problem and source of pain for many. But none of us need become resigned to loneliness; [it’s]…“treatable,” if not actually avoidable.’ Real relationships aren’t built by posting updates, or tweeting and re-tweeting the most thought-provoking quotes. It takes more time than that. The greatest social networking involves meeting someone’s needs in a way that never would’ve happened without a one-on-one connection. That’s what Jesus did. Most of His public ministry was spent pouring Himself into twelve men who, in turn, went out in His name and poured themselves into others. The Bible says, ‘Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.’ The psalmist spelled out how many people today feel deep down: ‘No one is concerned for me … no one cares.’ (Psalm 142:4 NIV) If you want to meet people’s needs you have to get ‘up close and personal’. That’s what Jesus did, and He’s your example.
‘Be beautiful in your heart.’ 1 Peter 3:4 CEV
Princess Diana was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. Yet she disliked what she saw in the mirror. This led to an eating disorder known as bulimia, which is caused by self-loathing. And the ‘beauty cult’ has infected many of us with a similar sense of inadequacy and inferiority. The problem is—we’re looking in the wrong mirror. It’s a good thing to stay physically fit and dress in a way that compliments you. But it’s a bad thing to base your worth on your physical appearance. Why? Because you are fighting a losing battle against Mother Nature and Father Time. Here are three Scriptures you need to think about: (1) ‘A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.’ (Proverbs 11:22 NLT) That Scripture could be reduced to one sentence: ‘Beauty is, as beauty does.’ (2) ‘Charm can be deceiving, and beauty fades away, but a woman who honours the Lord deserves to be praised.’ (Proverbs 31:30 CEV) That Scripture could be reduced to one sentence: ‘Beauty may attract attention, but only character will earn you respect.’ (3) ‘Be beautiful in your heart … This kind of beauty will last, and God considers it very special.’ (1 Peter 3:4 CEV) That Scripture could be reduced to one sentence: ‘God measures by a different yardstick; with Him, beauty is an inside job.’ And here is one more thought: people will treat you according to how you treat yourself. So as you begin to appreciate the ‘beauty’ God has placed within you, others will begin to appreciate it too.
‘You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.’ 2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV
When you give to fulfil the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth’ (Matthew 6:10 KJV), He will make sure you have everything you need when you need it. That’s His guarantee, and it should dispel your fears about giving. In fact, there’s really only one thing you should be concerned about when it comes to giving: holding back to the extent that God is no longer involved in your finances. There’s nothing you can do to earn or deserve God’s love, but you must exercise faith and follow His instructions if you want to walk in His blessing. So here’s the question you should ask yourself: ‘Who’s better able to meet my needs, God or me?’ If you’re generous with God, He’ll make sure you have more than enough so that you can continue to be generous. But first He wants to see you investing more in His Kingdom—not in order to get what you want from Him, but because you value His eternal purposes more than your own interests. Are you prepared to step out in faith and take advantage of the law of the harvest by inviting God to get involved in your finances? Money is often the last door we open to God because we think it represents our security. If you really want to become secure financially, get God involved in your finances as soon as possible. The sooner you start sowing seeds, the sooner you’ll begin reaping harvests. And when that happens, you’ll never go back to doing things the way you used to.
‘Teach the wise, and they will become even wiser.’ Proverbs 9:9 NCV
Whether God has called you to be a leader in church, in business, or at home, here are two important principles you must always practise: (1) Reach for people who stretch you. Solomon said, ‘Teach the wise, and they will become even wiser.’ You can tell a lot about the direction your life is heading by looking at the people with whom you’ve chosen to spend your time and share your ideas. Their values and priorities impact the way you think and act. If they’re positive and dedicated to growth, their values and priorities will encourage you and reinforce your desire to grow. It’s not always comfortable to associate with people who are ahead of you in their growth, but it’s always profitable. So try to cultivate relationships with people who stretch you. And don’t think only in terms of what you can gain; bring something to the table yourself. Remember, you’ve got to make the relationship a win/win, or it won’t last. (2) Realise there are trade-offs. As responsibilities increase, rights decrease. In a world where perks and privileges often accompany the climb to success, sometimes little thought is given to the responsibilities of the upward journey. As John D. Rockefeller Jr once said, ‘Every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.’ Jesus bottom-lines leadership in these words: ‘To whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.’ (Luke 12:48 NKJV)
‘Whoever says to this mountain.’ Mark 11:23 NKJV
Does the problem you’re facing seem like a mountain to you? Jesus said: ‘Assuredly … whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and … cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore … whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in Heaven may also forgive … your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father … forgive your trespasses.’ (Mark 11:22–26 NKJV) Here Jesus gives us three keys to answered prayer. (1) Keep speaking God’s Word over your problem. ‘My word … shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and … prosper in the thing for which I sent it.’ (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV) (2) Keep feeding your faith and starving your doubts. ‘Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.’ (Mark 11:24 NKJV) (3) Keep forgiving. ‘Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him.’ (Mark 11:25 NKJV) The mountain in your life can’t be removed if you’re harbouring unforgiveness. God’s willingness to answer your prayers depends on your willingness to forgive the person who hurt you. So ask yourself: is it worth holding on to bitterness? Bernard Meltzer says, ‘When you forgive, you in no way change the past, but you sure do change the future.’ Whether or not you think your offender deserves to be forgiven, do it for your own sake—so that the mountain can be moved.
‘God shows no favouritism.’ Acts 10:34 NLT
A lot of us are like the lady in the prayer meeting who said, ‘I always love everyone I see.’ The problem is—she had her eyes closed! Discrimination makes us accept without question the opinions and biases we’ve heard growing up, and the pronouncements of narrow-minded people. Rarely do we stop and ask, ‘Is this right?’ Or more importantly, ‘Is it Christ-like?’ Discrimination relegates people to second-class citizenship because of their colour, gender, economic status, church denomination or the circumstances of their birth. Sometimes our biases are so ingrained that we can’t see them in ourselves and we react in anger when confronted with them. But God doesn’t let us off the hook. Paul challenged Peter, the future head of the church, over the sin of discrimination: ‘He [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they [the Jews] arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.’ (Galatians 2:12 NIV) Paul didn’t give Peter a free pass because he had other redeeming qualities. No, his behaviour was hurting people and reflecting badly on the church. The most quoted text in the Bible is: ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16 NKJV) Note the words ‘whoever believes’. That means we’re all equal at the foot of the cross. There God makes no distinctions. And before you can deal with the prejudice in someone else’s life, you’ve first got to deal with it in your own. So acknowledge your hidden biases and deal with them.
‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.’ James 1:5 NKJV
Yesterday we talked about children who are compliant, compared to those who are defiant. Every parent with two children or more is probably blessed with at least one of each. When one child is a stick of dynamite and the other is an all-star sweetheart, the cooperative, gentle one can easily be taken for granted. If there’s an unpleasant job, they’re expected to do it because Mum and Dad don’t have the energy to fight with the tiger. When it’s necessary for one child to sacrifice or do without, there’s a tendency to pick the one who won’t complain as loudly. Under these circumstances, the compliant child gets the short end of the stick. The consequences of such inequity should be obvious. The responsible child becomes angry over time. They have a sense of powerlessness and resentment that simmers below the surface. They’re like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32). He didn’t rebel against his father, but he resented the attention given to his irresponsible brother. That’s typical! So you must try to balance the scales in dealing with your compliant child. Make sure they get their fair share of attention. Help them find ways to cope with their overbearing sibling. And, within reason, give them the right to make their own decisions. There’s nothing simple about raising kids. Even the ‘easiest’ of them need our very best effort—and God’s wisdom. And it’s available: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.’