‘Learn to sense what is vital and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value.’ Philippians 1:10 AMPC
To achieve greater self-discipline, you should:
(1) Start your day by doing the hard things first. And when you get side-tracked, make yourself go back and complete them. For example, make your bed, pick up your clothes, and wash the dishes; don’t make extra work for others. And don’t start several projects at once; the feeling of ‘getting something done’ will help you grow in self-respect and self-discipline.
(2) Make a commitment to be punctual. Tardiness is a hard habit to break. To conquer it you must be willing to call it what it often is—inconsiderate, selfish behavior.
(3) Plan ahead. Everything takes longer than you think, so don’t wait until the last minute and then rush around like a chicken with its head cut off. ‘Living under the gun’ can give you ulcers, whereas allowing extra time is good for your health and peace of mind.
(4) Accept correction from those who care about you, without sulking or retaliating. Until you’re willing to take correction, you’ll never be qualified to give it. The Bible says, ‘Wisdom is found in those who take advice’(Proverbs 13:10 NIV), so if you’re wise you’ll welcome feedback and seek counsel.
Ask God to help you control your unruly thoughts, feelings, desires, and behaviors. Identify the unmanageable areas in your life, stop making excuses, face the truth even if it hurts, refuse to feel sorry for yourself, and set a few attainable goals. In other words: ‘Learn to sense what is vital and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value.’
‘God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.’ Romans 12:6 TLB
Paul writes: ‘Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function… We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.’ (Romans 12:4–6 NLT) Dr. John Maxwell recommends that you work where you’re strongest 80 percent of the time, where you’re learning 15 percent of the time, and where you’re weakest 5 percent of the time.
So, what are your strengths? To find the answer to that question, you must:
(1) Be secure. If you allow your insecurities to get the better of you, you’ll become inflexible and resistant to change. And if you don’t change you won’t grow.
(2) Get to know yourself. Spend time exploring your gifts, ask for feedback and receive it, and be honest about your blind spots.
(3) Trust your leader. If you can’t trust the person you’re following, you should look for someone you can trust, or get on another team.
(4) See the big picture. Your place on any team only makes sense in the context of the big picture. If your sole reason for finding your niche is personal gain, your wrong motives will rob you of the very joy, fulfillment, and success you desire.
(5) Rely on your experience. The only way to know you’ve discovered your niche is to try things, take risks, learn from your failures and successes, and discover what God has gifted you to do.
‘The godly love to give!’ Proverbs 21:26 NLT
The level of financial blessing God will entrust to you depends on three questions:
(1) Are you mature enough to handle it?
(2) Are you hoping to reap but unwilling to sow?
(3) Are you a hoarder or a giver?
God knows we can’t all give the same amount. Jesus honored a widow for giving her last two coins, saying: ‘they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.’ (Mark 12:44 NLT) On the other hand, businessman Barnabas ‘sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.’ (Acts 4:37 NIV) The more God blesses you with, the more He holds you accountable for. Jesus said, ‘Much is required from those to whom much is given.’ (Luke 12:48 TLB)
At offering time, a pastor told his congregation to reach out and grab the wallet or purse of the person sitting in front of them. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘open it up and give as much as you’ve always wanted to give but felt you couldn’t afford!’ The truth is, we’re not all called to give equally but we’re all called to sacrifice equally. That levels the playing field. Isn’t it interesting how you can go to dinner at the home of somebody who doesn’t have a lot, and leave feeling like royalty because of their hospitality? That’s because the essence of generosity is self-sacrifice. God entrusts financial blessing to people who aren’t controlled by the love of money. How can you tell when you’re controlled by the love of money? Because instead of giving when God tells you to, you withhold. Understand this: when God impresses on you to sow a seed, there’s a harvest coming your way.
‘Gather in all the food produced in the good years… Otherwise this famine will destroy the land.’ Genesis 41:35–36 NLT
Joseph gave Pharaoh some sound financial advice that we would all do well to live by: ‘Gather into the royal storehouses all the excess crops of the next seven years, so that there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come. Otherwise, disaster will surely strike.’ (Genesis 41:35–36TLB) And how did Pharaoh respond? ‘Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh.’ (Genesis 41:37 TLB)
You’re making wise choices for your future if you practice these three Scriptural principles:
(1) Tithe. If you’re giving your ‘leftovers’ to God, what are you telling Him about your priorities? That He’s last and least? ‘“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in My Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of Heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put Me to the test!”’ (Malachi 3:10 NLT)
(2) Save. Discipline yourself to save a percentage of your income. Don’t worry if it’s a modest amount, just make it a priority! If you don’t, you’ll spend it on other things and never achieve your long-term goals for college, retirement, or helping the work of the Lord.
(3) Get out of debt. After giving to God and saving for the future, strive to pay off all your financial obligations. Stop paying the bare minimum on your credit cards. By not repaying them in full every month, you end up paying much more than you should. Put as much as you can towards eliminating outstanding debt, even if you have do without a few things for a while. In the long run, you’ll be way ahead.
‘The wise have wealth… but fools spend whatever they get.’ Proverbs 21:20 NLT
It’s foolish to buy things you don’t need and can’t afford, especially when your bills are overdue and you’ve nothing set aside for the future. Your financial security is determined by what you owe, not by what you earn! Having to work for years to repay debt severely limits your options.
So, determine your lifestyle by your actual income, not by what you wish it was or hope it will be. And when you get a raise, don’t automatically spend more. The Bible says, ‘There is precious treasure… in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it.’ (Proverbs 21:20 NKJV) One of the wisest things you can do today is to start saving for the future, and sowing a portion of your income into God’s Kingdom (see 2 Corinthians 9:6).
Author John Kennedy writes: ‘Peddling biblically-based financial advice has become a cottage industry. It’s not that the counsel is new, or that people haven’t heard it enough. The fact remains… Christians have racked up debt with no plan for financial accountability… they’re tapped out keeping up with interest payments.’ Is your philosophy in life, ‘Why wait and save, when a credit card will let me have what I want right now?’
If you’re buying things you don’t need with money you don’t have, stop it! Before you purchase anything else, ask yourself if you really need it. And even if you think you do, ask yourself if you can live without it for a while; otherwise you’ll become a slave to credit card debt. Here’s some sound financial advice: pray for God’s guidance before you make any non-essential purchase.
‘Straining towards what is ahead, I press on.’ Philippians 3:13–14 NIV
Developing your faith is like taking swimming lessons. Observe:
(1) Fear is like water; if you let it, it will take you under.
(2) You can only tread water for so long before you drown.
(3) When you reach a certain point, there’s no turning back.
(4) Faith is like the air in your lungs; it will sustain you and keep you afloat if you just relax.
Have you ever watched a seasoned swimmer? Stroke after stroke, he takes what’s in front of him and pushes it behind him, letting it propel him towards his goal. He literally takes what stands between him and his goal, and uses it to get there. Sometimes we despair and say, ‘I’m just keeping my head above water,’ and that’s ok as long as you keep ‘stroking’ and pressing on. It’s when you feel backed into a corner with nowhere to turn, that you’ve got to take hold of the faith God has placed within you and keep moving forward. Jesus said, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.’ (Matthew 11:12 ESV) The word ‘violence’suggests ferocity, passion, and intensity. You must be relentless and fight your way through, confident that God is on your side—because He is (see Psalm 56:9). The waters you’re in don’t determine your destiny; they either carry you over or take you under. It takes faith to keep going. When you quit, God can do nothing more for you! So today whether you’re doing breaststroke, backstroke, or some other kind of stroke that nobody’s ever heard of—keep pressing on.
‘Few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.’ 1 Corinthians 1:26 NLT
Max Lucado writes: ‘Edith Hayes was a spry eighty-year-old with thinning white hair, a wiry five-foot frame, and an unquenchable compassion for South Florida’s cancer patients. I was fresh out of seminary in 1979 and sitting in an office of unpacked boxes when she walked in and introduced herself. “My name is Edith, and I help cancer patients.” She extended her hand. I offered a chair. She politely declined. “Too busy. You’ll see my team here at the church building every Tuesday morning. You’re welcome to come, but if you do we’ll put you to work.” Her team, I came to learn, included a hundred or so silver-haired women who occupied themselves with the unglamorous concern of sore-seepage. They made cancer wounds their mission, stitching together truckloads of disposable pads each Tuesday, and then delivering them to patients throughout the week. Edith rented an alley apartment, lived on her late husband’s pension, wore glasses that magnified her pupils, and ducked applause like artillery fire.’
Edith’s story does away with the excuse, ‘I’m too old to do something for God.’ Noah was over six hundred years old when he came out of the ark and helped to start the human race all over again. If you’re an older person, think about it this way: you’re a walking repository of decades of wisdom and knowledge. So, before you leave this earth, endeavor to give to others what God has entrusted to you. Right now, somebody, somewhere, needs something you have, and if you ask God, He will show you who they are. When He does—get involved!
‘You will be My witnesses.’ Acts 1:8 NIV
A witness is someone who sees and experiences an event, then testifies to it in court in a way that convinces others. And that’s what you have been called to do! You say, ‘But I don’t feel qualified.’ God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. And don’t let Satan convince you otherwise, because he will try. He will tell you God has an IQ requirement, or an entry fee; that He employs only specialists, experts, and high-powered personalities. No, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘You will be My witnesses… to the ends of the earth.’ You uneducated and simple folk. You temperamental net casters and tax collectors. ‘You will be my witnesses.’
The one thing the disciples had going for them was their willingness to take a step when Jesus said, ‘Follow Me.’ So, if you’re more plumber than executive, or more blue jeans than blue blood, you’re qualified! ‘Few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.’ (1 Corinthians 1:26–27 NLT)
So, pray: ‘Lord, You’ve called me into Your Kingdom to serve You in this specific place, at this specific time, and for this specific purpose. Despite my ordinariness I belong to You—and You are anything but ordinary! Today help me to pour out Your grace and compassion upon others, that they too may experience the richness of Your love.’
‘Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf.’ 1 Samuel 14:6 NIV
During the early days of Saul’s kingship, the Philistines controlled much of Israel, and battle lines were drawn at the pass called Michmash. Saul seemed content to sit on the sidelines, but Jonathan wanted to be on the front line. ‘Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.’ (1 Samuel 14:1 NIV)
There was only Jonathan and his armor-bearer, so the odds didn’t look good. But when you make a move that is motivated by God’s glory, it moves the heart and hand of God. What it requires is a step of faith. And often it’s the longest, hardest and scariest step you’ve ever taken. Usually when Israel’s kings went into battle it was because they had received a word from the Lord assuring their victory. Jonathan had received no such word. He simply said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf.’ Most people operate out of the opposite mentality: ‘Perhaps the Lord won’t act on our behalf.’ They let fear dictate their decisions instead of faith. So, they end up with Saul, sitting on the sidelines.
And how did the battle turn out for Jonathan and his armor bearer? ‘So the Lord saved Israel that day.’ (1 Samuel 14:23 ESV) All it took was one daring decision! That’s all it ever takes. When you move, God will move on your behalf. And if you don’t move, you’ll always wonder ‘what if?’ Often our longest regrets are our inaction regrets—the things we would have, could have, or should have done but did not do. So, the word for you today is: trust God, and act!
‘They shall come back from the land of the enemy.’ Jeremiah 31:16 NKJV
Are you living under a cloud of guilt, feeling like a failure because your child has gone astray? Don’t do it! The Bible teaches that sometimes children simply won’t listen to the counsel of their parents. Solomon was probably giving a word of personal testimony when he wrote, ‘A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.’(Proverbs 13:1 NKJV)
Jesus didn’t hold the father accountable for the fact that his prodigal son went astray (see Luke 15:11). And if you did your best, God doesn’t hold you accountable either. The truth is that bad parents sometimes turn out good children, and good parents sometimes have children who go bad. God’s first two children were placed in a perfect paradise, yet they rebelled. Ultimately, we’re all given the power to choose. There comes a time when every child is no longer a child, and has to take responsibility for his or her actions. So, if you’ve done your best as a parent, don’t let the devil put a guilt trip on you.
And if you’ve failed as a parent, it’s not the unpardonable sin. Not only will God forgive you, but you can also claim this wonderful promise: ‘Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope in your future… that your children shall come back to their own border.’ (Jeremiah 31:16–17 NKJV) Don’t give up on your children, because God hasn’t. Keep praying and believing, and allow Him to work on them.