‘God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid.’
Isaiah 12:2 NKJV
How much of a factor is fear in your life? Go ahead, take the fear test. Circle the number that best corresponds to how you feel.
(1) I don’t remember the last time I was really afraid.
(2) I am afraid rarely, and only when I or someone close to me is in physical danger.
(3) I am a little more fearful than I’d like to be.
(4) Fear is a significant factor in my everyday life. I avoid anything risky or dangerous.
(5) I’m afraid of many things on a daily basis, and it changes the way I live my life.
If you circled number one you’re an unusual individual who doesn’t experience normal fear. You may have to temper your actions with greater discernment and wisdom. If you circled number two, you have a healthy attitude towards fear and you’ve got a handle on it. You should try to encourage others who have a more difficult time with fear than you do. If you circled number three or four, you’re in an excellent position to improve your life by changing your attitude. Begin by identifying the source of your fears, and determining to turn your fear into faith in God
(see Romans 10:17). For each area of fear, figure out a positive opposite, and create a plan of action to cultivate that quality. Then focus on what you can control today. If you circled number five, chances are fear is getting the better of you and you’ll have a difficult time overcoming it on your own. So, pray and reprogram your mind with God’s Word
(see 2 Timothy 1:7). And don’t be afraid to seek help from a trusted friend or counselor.
‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning.’
Proverbs 1:5 NIV
In order to keep growing, you must understand three principles:
(1) You grow to the extent you give. By giving out, you create more room to grow on the inside. So, give until it hurts, and keep giving until it feels good. Always endeavor to leave people better off than you found them, and you’ll be better off too. Solomon said, ‘The liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself.’ (Proverbs 11:25TLB) This epitaph on a tombstone says it all: ‘What I gave, I have. What I spent, I had. What I kept, I lost.’
(2) To accomplish more, you’ve got to grow more. Do you feel stuck spiritually, relationally, career-wise, or at home? You won’t get unstuck by making external changes, like pursuing a new career, leaving your family, or changing churches. Nobody’s keeping you down but yourself. The lid on your life is—you. So, if you’re serious about getting unstuck, instead of looking for quick fixes take a long hard look at yourself, accept responsibility for what you see, pray, and decide to do something about it.
(3) It’s not enough to dream; you must do. The Tartar tribes of Central Asia are reputed to have used a particular curse against their enemies. They didn’t call for their swords to rust or their people to die of disease. They simply said, ‘May you stay in one place forever.’ If you don’t work daily to improve yourself, that will be your fate too. You’ll end up stuck in the same place, doing the same things, dreaming the same dreams, and never getting anywhere. So, keep growing!
‘Put on the new self.’
Ephesians 4:24 NIV
When you entertain wrong thoughts in the privacy of your mind, you may be tempted to excuse yourself by saying, ‘What harm will it do?’ More harm than you know! You become what you dwell on. The Bible says, ‘Put off your old self… put on the new self.’(Ephesians 4:22–24 NIV) You may not want to admit you’re still wearing some of those ‘old’ clothes (attitudes, pastimes and practices), but the truth is you can’t put on your new ones until you take off the old ones. Furthermore, you can’t hang your old clothes in the wardrobe for a rainy day, or leave them on the floor to be tripped over. You’ve got to get rid of them.
‘Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires… put on the new self, created to be like God… Put off falsehood and speak truthfully… Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up… Do not grieve the Holy Spirit… Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’ (Ephesians 4:22–32 NIV) The word for you today is: it’s time to take off your old clothes and put on your new ones.
‘Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble.’
Psalm 119:165 ESV
Are you easily upset? Even over little things? Spend more time praying and reading your Bible. The following article turned up in a newspaper: ‘A lady took my seat in church. She’s very nice… a good friend, in fact. I can sit anyplace; no big deal. My seat’s on the right as you enter the sanctuary. I can rest my arm on the end. It’s a good seat, but I wouldn’t raise a fuss about a seat… never hold a grudge. Actually, it was three months ago she took it and I really don’t know why. I’ve never done anything to her… never taken her seat. I suppose I’ll have to come an hour early to get my seat. She took it because it’s one of the best seats in the house. She’d no business taking it… and I’m not going to church two hours early to get what’s rightfully mine. This is the way social injustices begin: abusive people taking other people’s seats. It’s the way seeds of revolution are sown. A person can only stand so much. Where’s it all going to end? If somebody doesn’t stand up and be counted, nobody’s seat will be safe. People will sit anywhere they please, and next time they’ll take my parking place. World order will be in a shambles!’
We smile, but it’s amazing how quickly we get bent out of shape when our little routine is disrupted. Do you know why the Christian life is described as ‘the high calling’(Philippians 3:14 KJV)? Because it means taking the high road and serving others, rather than taking the low road and putting ourselves first.
‘His Word can cut through our spirits.’
Hebrews 4:12 CEV
As you read the Bible, God will give you strength and guidance for your life that you simply can’t get any other way. Eliphaz said to Job the patriarch: ‘He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.’ (Job 5:18 NKJV) That’s what God does to you as you read the Scriptures. ‘His Word can cut through our spirits.’ Others see what we do, but when we get alone with God and open the Scriptures, He reveals to us what we are. He brings to the surface long-standing and unresolved issues, and helps us to deal with them. He confronts us over our stubborn habits and shows us how to conquer them. He pinpoints our selfish and unloving attitudes, giving us a chance to repent and change our ways. The old Quakers had a saying: ‘Sin will keep you from your Bible, and your Bible will keep you from sin.’ You say, ‘But when I get up in the morning, I’m so busy that I don’t have time to read the Bible.’ Then read it when you come home at night! You say, ‘By the time I get home from work at night, I’m exhausted and can’t concentrate on anything!’ You must rearrange your priorities. If you spend hours watching television, surely you can spend some time each day reading your Bible. The truth is that we make time for the things that we want, that we value, and that we enjoy. So, ask God to give you a greater appetite for His Word. Then read your Bible, and watch your appetite for it grow!
‘Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’
Philippians 4:8 NLT
In order to change your life, you must first change your thinking. And that’s not easy when you’ve spent your life thinking a certain way. Minister and columnist Dr Frank Crane said, ‘Our best friends and our worst enemies are our thoughts.’ King Solomon put it this way: ‘As [someone] thinks within himself, so he is.’ (Proverbs 23:7 NASB) To change your thinking, you must do it—one thought at a time. That calls for discipline and determination. But it’s worth it. If you wanted to compete in a marathon you wouldn’t go on an all-sugar diet, would you? The fuel you put into something determines its performance. Yet we disregard this basic piece of wisdom: what you feed everything else is nothing compared to what you feed your mind! Here’s a truth that will transform you: think excellent thoughts! What enters your mind repeatedly, occupies it, shapes it, controls it and in the end expresses itself in what you do and who you become. Your mind will absorb and reflect whatever it’s exposed to. The events you attend, the relationships you build, the materials you read or don’t read, the music you listen to, the media images you’re exposed to, the conversations you engage in, and the thoughts you entertain all shape your mind, and eventually your character and your destiny. So, what should you do? Start each day by praying: ‘Lord, I want the kind of mind Your Word describes. One that’s filled with excellent, admirable, honorable, praiseworthy thoughts’ (see Philippians 4:8). Can you imagine what your life would be like if you constantly prayed that way and programmed your thinking accordingly?
‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity.’
2 Timothy 1:7 NIV
The Bible says, ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God.’ (Hebrews 11:6 NIV) So, don’t get involved in anything that doesn’t require you to use your faith. The key to momentum is always having something to look forward to and believe God for. You either venture, or you vegetate. Jesus deliberately sent His disciples into a storm. Why? To develop their faith, and show them that with Him on board you can get through anything! God will keep exposing you to difficult situations because He knows it’s the only way your faith will grow. Nineteenth-century American preacher and abolitionist Phillips Brooks wrote, ‘Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your power, pray for power equal to your tasks.’ You don’t tap into God’s resources until you attempt something that seems humanly impossible. That’s when you discover: ‘I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.’ (Philippians 4:13 TLB) All progress involves risk. In tennis, you can’t return every ball while your foot’s still behind the service line. And progress involves overcoming fear. One day, when David was tending his sheep, ‘there came a lion.’ (1 Samuel 17:34 KJV) But in God’s strength he defeated it—plus a bear, and later a giant called Goliath. That lion was just an opportunity in disguise. If David had wavered or run away, he’d have missed his chance to become king of Israel. So, when a lion of fear comes into your life, recognize it for what it is: an opportunity from God to rise up in faith and conquer it.
‘You can trust a friend who corrects you.’
Proverbs 27:6 CEV
Here are two ‘superglue’ qualities that can permanently cement any friendship: honesty and loyalty. The Bible says, ‘You can trust a friend who corrects you, but kisses from an enemy are nothing but lies.’ A real friend may upset you by telling you the truth, but he or she will tell you the truth nonetheless. They may not always tell you what you want to hear, but if they truly love you, they’ll tell you what you need to hear. In the short run it may hurt, but in the long run it will help you. When you want to measure a relationship to determine whether it qualifies as a genuine friendship, here are two questions you should ask the other person:
(1) Can I trust you enough to be totally honest with me?
(2) Can I trust you enough to be totally honest with you?
Only a true friendship expects and can survive such mutual honesty. The other quality involved in keeping a friend is loyalty. ‘There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’
(Proverbs 18:24 NKJV) The word stick refers to how fabric is sewn and embroidered together. It’s a picture of just how closely knit one friend should be to another. Loyalty is the one thing a person should never have to question about his or her friend. A true friend will always be your defense lawyer before he or she becomes your judge. There’s no such thing as a ‘fair-weather friend’. You don’t need friends in fair weather; you need them when the weather gets nasty. A ‘fair-weather friend’ is no friend at all.
‘He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.’
Proverbs 13:20 NIV
The story’s told of a farmer who was being pestered every day by a flock of crows in his cornfield. Deciding he’d had enough, he loaded his shotgun and crawled unseen along the fencerow, determined to blow those pesky crows out of the sky. Turns out this farmer had a very sociable parrot that indiscriminately made friends with everybody, and seeing the flock of crows he flew over and joined them in an effort to be friendly. The farmer saw the crows but didn’t see his parrot, so he took careful aim, fired, then jumped up and ran over to see how many crows he had shot. Lo and behold, there was his parrot lying on the ground with a broken wing and a chipped beak, but still alive. The farmer tenderly picked him up and brought him home, where his children ran out to meet him. Seeing the injured parrot, they tearfully asked, ‘Daddy, what happened?’ But before he could answer, the parrot spoke up: ‘That’s what you get for hanging out with the wrong crowd.’
You can never be at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, if you’re with the wrong crowd. And as a parent, you need to teach this to your children. Monitor their Internet use, and warn them about predators who deliberately prowl online looking for ‘friends’. Web-based horror stories of children being hurt and led astray are multiplying daily. If this sounds strong and urgent—that’s because it is!
‘A man who has friends must himself be friendly.’
Proverbs 18:24 NKJV
In order to have a good friend, you must first try to be a good friend. An unknown poet wrote, ‘I went out to find a friend, but could not find one there; I went out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere.’ Friendship doesn’t require having a dynamic personality. Even shy, quiet, and reserved individuals can learn to be friendly. It’s next to impossible to have no friends, if you yourself are friendly. And the opposite is also true. Psychologists asked a group of college students to jot down the initials of the people they disliked most. Some of the students could think of only one person, while others listed as many as fourteen. But an interesting fact that came out of the research was that those who disliked the largest number of people, were themselves the most widely disliked. You’ll find that the more likeable you are, the more likely you are to like other people and be liked by them. So here are five ways to make friends:
(1) Maintain eye contact. When you talk to people, look them in the eye.
(2) Smile! It takes seventy-two muscles to frown, only fourteen to smile—and a smile warms hearts and encourages conversation.
(3) Call people by their names. Strangers are just that, strange, but a friend is known.
(4) Talk to others about their favorite topic—themselves.
(5) Find an occasion to give a word of encouragement, a compliment or show an act of kindness.
When you find a person with these five traits, you’ve found someone who has a reputation for being friendly.