‘You are a letter from Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 3:3 NIV
When you consider some of the people Jesus called to be His disciples, the word ‘dysfunctional’ comes to mind. But Jesus wasn’t put off. Like finding treasure in the rubbish, He was able to see their potential, draw it out and develop it. And that’s your story too, isn’t it? Paul writes, ‘You are a letter from Christ… written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.’ Other people don’t write your story. Even you don’t. ‘The Spirit of the living God’ is writing it. That means your best days are still ahead!
An old Bible lay on a bargain table along with hundreds of tattered books. A lot of people had picked it up and thumbed through its pages. It wasn’t in very good shape—certainly not worth very much—so it was cast aside. Then a man picked it up, stifled a shout and, rushing to the counter he paid the meager asking price. Turns out it was an original Gutenberg estimated to be worth more than a million dollars! How many times did that old book change hands before it was redeemed? How many times did the world cast it aside, unaware of its value?
The truth is, we were all passed over until Jesus saw value in us. But rather than paying bargain price, He paid the highest price possible. ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8 NIV) So when you’re having a bad day, look in the mirror and remind yourself, ‘God loves me calvary-worth!’ Then go out and try to see others as treasures God couldn’t live without; sinners Christ died to redeem.
‘He…encouraged them for the service of the house of the Lord.’ 2 Chronicles 35:2 NKJV
The Bible says King Josiah ‘set the priests in their duties and encouraged them for the service of the house of the Lord.’ Josiah did two things: he instructed them, and he encouraged them. Why? Because one without the other doesn’t work! How often have you left church feeling lifted, encouraged and inspired by the sermon? Question: have you ever thought of telling your pastor how much it meant to you, or sending them an email to let them know you appreciate their ministry?
Pastors get more kicks than kisses. Some 37 percent quit the ministry because of discouragement. Did you know that? Even the great apostle Paul got discouraged: ‘When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy!’ (2 Corinthians 7:5–7 NLT)
Titus encouraged Paul in two ways: (1) By showing up. ‘We were glad just to see him.’ Like it or not, when you don’t go to church you’re saying, ‘Pastor, you’re not worth coming to hear.’ (2) By offering encouragement. ‘He told us how much you long to see me.’ This week, encourage your pastor.
‘Wives… submit yourselves to your husbands… Husbands, love your wives.’ Colossians 3:18–19 NIV
Picture two little rowing boats setting off across a choppy lake. A man sits in one, and a woman in the other. They have every intention of rowing side by side, yet they begin drifting in opposite directions until they can hardly hear each other above the wind. Soon the man finds himself at one end of the lake and the woman at the other. Neither knows how they drifted apart, or how to reconnect. Now picture two newlyweds. They stand at the altar and pledge to live together in love and harmony. Unfortunately, 50 percent of the time it doesn’t work that way. Unless their relationship is maintained and cultivated, they will grow distant. That is why two romantic little rowboats often drift toward opposite ends of the lake.
So how can husbands and wives stay in love, and stay together for a lifetime? The answer is to row like crazy! Take time for romantic activities. Think about each other through the day. Avoid that which breeds conflict and resentment. Be aware of each other’s needs and desires. These are the keys to harmony and friendship. Yes, it’s difficult to keep two rowboats together, but it can be done if each partner is determined to row. Nothing beats a good marriage, but you have to work at it because the currents of culture and the stresses of life can cause you to drift apart.
Hence the Bible says, ‘Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.’ (Colossians 3:18–19 NIV)
‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Matthew 22:39 NLT
When it comes to loving others:
(1) You need to say it. An old fisherman who’d been married for fifty years to his patient, long-suffering wife, rarely took time to express his affection. Finally in frustration one day she said to him, ‘How come you never tell me you love me?’ Without batting an eyelid he announced, ‘I told you I loved you when I married you, and if I ever change my mind I’ll let you know!’ That’s a cute story, but not so cute if it’s a reality. Your husband or wife may know you love them, but they still need to hear you say it. And so do your children, your friends and the people in your circle of influence. The fact is you can never say ‘I love you’ too much! (2) You need to show it. Everybody needs ‘a pat on the back’. Dr. Dolores Krieger, a professor of nursing at New York University who conducted numerous studies on the power of human touch, discovered that both the ‘toucher’ and the ‘touchee’ experience great physiological benefit from human contact. It works like this: red blood cells carry haemoglobin, a substance that transports oxygen to body tissue. And Dr. Krieger found that when one person lays hands on another, the haemoglobin levels in the blood stream of both people increase. And as they rise, body tissue receives increased oxygen, which invigorates you physically and can aid in the healing process. What you’re seeing is the literal power of love in action.
Loving is good for you! There’s nothing as rewarding, satisfying, or encouraging as loving others through your words and actions.
‘On the seventh day you shall rest.’ Exodus 34:21 NKJV
One of the best ways to maintain your perspective on what’s truly important is to plan times of rest and recreation. The word recreation means to ‘re-create’: to recharge your batteries physically, spiritually, emotionally and relationally. Rest and recreation restore your creativity, fuel your vision, and bring balance to your world.
The fact is, some of the people we admire most are socially and relationally dysfunctional. For example, if you took the pulpit away from certain preachers and the CEO title away from certain executives, they’d be totally lost. And if you’re honest, you’d conclude that in all likelihood they needed counselling. They’ve only one string on their fiddle—work. Without it they don’t know how to live! The Bible says, ‘God…rested from all His work.’ (Genesis 2:2 NIV) Now, since God doesn’t sleep and never gets tired, clearly He was setting an example for us to follow. Purpose-driven people can become obsessed with work and believe they don’t have time for fun. Some may even consider fun to be ‘carnal’. But Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ (Mark 6:31 NIV)
God, who thought that taking time off was so important that He put it in the Bible, said, ‘…if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord.’ (Isaiah 58:13–14 NIV) So the word for you today is: ‘Start taking time off.’
‘I set before you today life and prosperity.’ Deuteronomy 30:15 NIV
God told His people: ‘See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you.’ (Deuteronomy 30:15–16 NIV)
One person with the love of God in their heart can start a chain reaction. John Wilkes Booth shocked the world by assassinating President Abraham Lincoln. At the time, Booth’s brother Edwin was considered one of the greatest actors in America. Believing the family name had been shamed forever, he retired from acting and went into seclusion. But his legacy turned out not to be one of death and disappointment, but of life and influence. A year or so before Lincoln’s assassination, Edwin was at a train station in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was standing nearby when a young man lost his footing on the platform and almost fell into the path of a moving train. Without hesitation, Edwin rescued the young man by reaching down and pulling him up by his collar. There was a brief exchange of gratitude, but Edwin never dreamed how significant that moment would become. Some years later he received a letter from then President Ulysses Grant thanking him for his heroic deed. Why? Because the young man he had saved was Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln. Edwin Booth took that letter to his grave; a reminder that we may not be able to change our past but we can certainly change our future.
And by God’s grace you can change yours too!
‘Go in the strength you have… Am I not sending you?’ Judges 6:14 NIV
Gideon came from a family of idol worshippers, so he didn’t think he had much of a future. But God thought differently. He said to him, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’ And today Gideon is remembered as one of the greatest leaders in the Bible. That’s what’s known as ‘the power of one’.
Do you doubt that one person can make a difference? Winston Churchill convinced England they could survive the Nazi war machine. Lee Iacocca turned Chrysler around and saved the company. Florence Nightingale transformed the care of patients by emphasising sanitary design and hygiene in hospitals, practices that carry over to this day. Rosa Parks, a lone black woman, overturned two centuries of racial discrimination. But you don’t have to be a George Washington, an Abraham Lincoln, or a Mother Teresa to make a difference. Your influence may not be as far-reaching as theirs, but ‘charity begins at home’, which means you can grow and thrive where you’re planted. In A Psalm of Life Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writes, ‘Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime; and departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.’
Like Gideon, you may not be able to change your family history or undo your past mistakes. But you can learn from them, grow, and create a legacy that outshines your heritage. Not sure where to start? Commit your life to Christ and start following in His footsteps.
‘For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV
You will notice that in the Old Testament God’s promises came with conditions that had to be met. In other words, you had to do something. ‘If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land.’ (Isaiah 1:19 NIV) To receive God’s promise there was a price to be paid, conditions to be met, and a performance of certain things on your part. But all that changed at the cross. When Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ the Greek text could literally be translated ‘paid in full.’ Hence Paul writes, ‘For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.’
Are you a redeemed child of God? Are you ‘in Christ’? Then God says, ‘Yes, I’ll meet your needs, I’ll do for you what I have promised.’ Just as a bank will tell you, ‘You’re pre-qualified for the credit card,’ as a believer you’re pre-qualified for the promises God has made to you in His Word. Under the Old Testament law God said, ‘If.’ But to those who are in Christ and living under grace, He says, ‘Yes.’
And what should your response be? ‘Amen,’ which means ‘So be it.’ This is a life-changing truth! Now you understand why Paul could confidently write, ‘And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:19 NKJV) Not only is God able to meet ‘all’ your needs, He’s looking for opportunities to do it.
‘Some friendships do not last, but some friends are more loyal than brothers.’ Proverbs 18:24 GNT
Who are your true friends? Stop and think about that for a moment. How many of the people you consider friends truly care about you? How many encourage you in your visions and dreams, and are there for you when you hit a wall? If we’re honest, most of us would have to concede that some of our so-called friends and associates aren’t there for us in a pinch. In fact, some of the people we spend time may be time-wasters who drain our energy and trivialise our dreams.
In the Old Testament David and Jonathan were willing to lay down their lives for each other. And Ruth told Naomi, ‘Wherever you go, I will go.’ (Ruth 1:16 NKJV) Do you have friends like that? If not, spend more time cultivating relationships with those who genuinely care about you; who don’t feel threatened by your success and want to see you succeed. You don’t need to be cold or rude to the others. Maintain their friendship, but spend your serious time with friends who believe in you and want you to achieve your God-given potential. Novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard said, ‘Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.’
Here’s a fail-safe principle when it comes to cultivating great friendships: whatever you desire in your own life, you must first give to others. If you want true friends, you must become a true friend. If you want a harvest of blessing in your own life, plant seeds of blessing in the lives of others.
‘My mouth will speak words of wisdom.’ Psalm 49:3 NIV
The Bible says that you are to be gracious in what you say. That means your goal in conversation should always be to bring out the best in others, not denigrate them or cut them off. Good communication makes good friends, so you need to be clear when it comes to your personal boundaries, beliefs, values and desires. It may well be true that more problems are forgotten than are ever solved, but healthy relationships sometimes call for healthy confrontation. And there’s a right time and a right way to do it.
When you have to deal with a difficult situation, pray and stand on this Scripture: ‘My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.’ Your words are the vehicle through which your thoughts are conveyed, and your tongue is the driver. So if you don’t want to end up on the wrong road, or end up in a wreck, pray: ‘Lord, give me words of wisdom. Help me to say the right thing, in the right way, at the right time.’
The Holy Spirit is a great driving instructor! He will guide you, instruct you and keep working with you until you get it right. He will help you grow in grace until you reach the place of maturity in your relationships where you’re able to say, ‘My advice is wholesome. There is nothing devious or crooked in it. My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge.’ (Proverbs 8:8–9 NLT) When you can say that, you know you’re making progress!