‘Lord… You guard all that is mine.’ Psalm 16:5 NLT
Have you allowed envy to form a ‘stronghold’ in your life? Do you find yourself avoiding or feeling resentful of certain people because of their success? The Bible says, ‘Envy rots the bones.’ (Proverbs 14:30 NIV) and the New Living Translation paraphrases it this way: ‘Jealousy is like cancer in the bones.’
If you find yourself constantly criticizing someone and craving what they have, read these words and think about their implications for you and your family carefully and prayerfully: ‘I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen.’ (Jeremiah 29:11–12 TLB)
In essence, envy says to God, ‘You made a mistake when You made me like I am. I want to be like that other person, and have what they have!’ No, God has a unique calling and destiny for you. So instead of giving place to envy, let it motivate you to become the best possible ‘you’—the person God intended you to be.
If you’re fighting a losing battle with envy, here’s a prescription from God’s Word you need to take every day: ‘Lord, You alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land You have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance! I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.’ (Psalm 16:5–9 NLT)
‘Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.’ Psalm 107:2 NKJV
No matter how badly you have failed, God will give you another chance.
After Jonah had disobeyed God, spent three days in the belly of a whale, and been regurgitated on the shore close to where he started, the Bible says, ‘The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time.’ (Jonah 3:1 KJV) King David’s sins were front-page tabloid material. Yet God restored him, and he wrote: ‘He… brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay… set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.’ (Psalm 40:2–3 NKJV)
When God restores you, it doesn’t matter who’s fighting against you. When He raises you up, no one can keep you down. If God has redeemed you—say so. Nobody else can tell your story. Nobody else knows what God has done for you. Nobody else knows how far you’ve come. Nobody else knows what you’ve been through. But you do—you know it was only by God’s grace that you survived.
So don’t allow the devil to steal your testimony. It may have taken you longer than everybody else, but God has given you the victory. The devil would love to silence you. Why? Because when you tell people what God has done for you, someone else will be set free. The Bible says, ‘Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.’ So the word for you today is: shout it from the rooftops!
‘Be still, and know that I am God!’ Psalm 46:10 NLT
God can speak to you anytime, anywhere, through anybody, by dropping a thought into your mind (see 1 Corinthians 2:16). But because that thought can be crowded out by busyness, He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’
In stillness you can hear God more clearly. ‘Jesus used many… illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand… but afterward, when He was alone with his disciples, He explained everything to them.’ (Mark 4:33–34 NLT) Alone with God—that’s the key.
In High Call, High Privilege, Gail MacDonald writes: ‘Today there’s a strange logic that spiritual resource and renewal are found in constantly seeking new voices, attending more meetings… to exchange half-thought-out opinions… We fall into the trap of believing God is most pleased when we’ve maximized our information, our schedules, and our relationships. Disengagement means silence before God… a time of heavenly discussion during which we listen more than we speak. And silence demands solitude.’ In waiting quietly before God, your spiritual ear is trained to know His voice.
Sylvia Gunter writes: ‘I understand why David had to command his soul to be still… Being quiet is difficult… almost impossible for some of us. But I’ve discovered that my soul and spirit have been starving for stillness for a long time, and now that I’ve given my soul a taste of stillness again it will not be satisfied unless it’s a regular part of my day.’
‘And he was limping because of his hip.’ Genesis 32:31 NIV
The Bible says, ‘The sun rose above [Jacob] as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.’ That’s significant, because the thigh muscle is one of the most powerful muscles in the human body. In order to get Jacob’s attention, God touched him at a point of strength.
Once we start thinking, ‘This is what I’m really good at; this is where I’m really strong,’ God may have to touch that very thing to get our attention. Jacob’s limp served as a lifelong reminder that he was no longer to trust in his own power, but in the power of God. He was no longer to live in his own strength, but in God’s strength. And in so doing he became a much stronger person.
Think about it: every time Jacob got in a mess, his first response was to turn tail and run. Sound like a familiar pattern? Do you do that? So God finally said, ‘I know how to take care of that—I’ll put a limp in his walk!’ And for the rest of his life Jacob would have to stand and face his problems head-on, not in his own strength but in God’s strength. How about you? What’s the one thing you’d most like to change about your life? Do you want God to help you? He will—in His own way. He will use the process of crisis, commitment, confession and cooperation. And when God does the changing, it will be permanent. You won’t have to worry about willpower and sticking with it because you’ll be cooperating with God, relaxing and trusting in Him alone.
‘Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face.”’ Genesis 32:30 NIV
Change happens through cooperation. God started changing Jacob the moment he admitted who he was and began to cooperate with His plan. Jacob named the place where he wrestled with the angel ‘Peniel’, meaning ‘the face of God’. Each of us must eventually come face to face with God, and when we do He can change us.
In essence God told Jacob, ‘Now we can get down to business. Cooperate, and trust Me. I’ll make the changes you want, and I’ll bless you.’ Notice: God didn’t say, ‘Try hard and use your willpower to become perfect.’ That doesn’t work, and God knows it. Willpower alone doesn’t bring lasting change in our lives. It just deals with the outward circumstances. Internal motivation brings about lasting change, and that’s what God works on. He told Jacob, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel.’ (Genesis 32:28 NIV)
Jacob would never be the same. Once you have a personal encounter with the living God, He changes you. He changed Jacob from a ‘cheater’ to a ‘prince’.
God saw his potential. He looked beyond the tough exterior of a guy who portrayed himself as hardened and worldly-wise. God saw all Jacob’s weaknesses, but He also saw beneath the surface: ‘That’s not the real you, Jacob; you’re actually an Israel—a prince.’
And the same goes for each of us: ‘We are…heirs…and joint heirs with Christ…that we may…be glorified together.’ (Romans 8:16–17 NKJV) In the words of Paul: ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.’ (Philippians 1:6 NIV)
‘The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered.’ Genesis 32:27 NIV
Change happens through confession. When he identified himself as ‘Jacob’, which means ‘deceiver’, Jacob was acknowledging his character flaws. This is an important part of God’s process for changing us, because we never change until we honestly face and admit our faults, sins, weaknesses, and mistakes. We need to say, ‘Lord, I have a problem, I’m in a mess and I admit I made it.’ Then God can go to work. Ever noticed how easy it is to make excuses? We become experts at blaming others and saying things like, ‘It’s not my fault, you know. It’s the environment I was brought up in—my parents are to blame.’ Or, ‘The situation I’m in at work is because of my boss.’ Why do we act and talk this way? Because it’s hard to admit our personal faults and failings, and it can be scary to ask for help. Why do we need to confess our faults to God? To let Him know what’s going on? No: He already knows that! When we tell God we’ve sinned, it is no surprise to Him; He knew our problems all along. We confess to Him because He wants us to say, ‘You’re right, God; I have a problem. I’ve blown it.’ It is humbling to admit our mistakes, but once we do, God gives us access to His power to help change us for the better. And at that point we start to become the person we’ve always wanted to be. The truth is: God loves you just the way you are—but He loves you too much to leave you that way.
‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ Genesis 32:26 NIV
Change happens through commitment. When Jacob realized he was wrestling with the angel of the Lord, he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ That’s what it takes—commitment. Jacob was committed and persistent; he stuck with it until he worked his way through it. He didn’t like where he was any more than you do. It was frustrating and it was getting him down. But he was totally committed to sticking with it until God turned it around for his good.
When God gets our attention through a crisis, He doesn’t always solve it immediately; sometimes He waits to see whether we really mean business. We’re so conditioned to instant everything—instant food, instant internet access, instant success—that when we don’t get an immediate answer to our prayer or an instant turnaround we say, ‘Forget it, God.’ The fact is you didn’t get into this mess overnight, and you won’t get out of it overnight. Sometimes God has to remove our weaknesses layer by layer.
Experts tell us it takes six weeks of doing the same thing every day before it becomes a habit. Think of that in terms of developing the habit of praying and reading your Bible each day, or relearning to love your spouse. That’s six weeks… forty-two days… over a thousand hours… and Satan will fight you at every turn. So what should you do? Spend time with God. ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’ (Isaiah 40:31 KJV)
‘We are changed into His glorious image.’ 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT
Change happens through crisis. God changed Jacob’s name, which means ‘deceiver’, to Israel, which means ‘a prince with God’. And He did it through crisis. Realizing he had to go home and face the wrath of his brother Esau, whom he’d mistreated, Jacob became desperate. That night in his tent he wrestled with the angel of the Lord. And the change in his life didn’t come quickly or easily, because we’re told he wrestled until daybreak. But suddenly it dawned on Jacob that he was wrestling with God, and it was a fight he couldn’t win.
Likewise, God will let you wrestle with an issue you can’t resolve, to get your attention. He’ll bring you to the place where you must concede, ‘I can’t handle this situation. It’s too big for me. I need God!’ If that’s where you are today, you’re on the cusp of a breakthrough. If you’re asking God to make you comfortable in the mess you’re in, forget it—it’s not going to happen.
‘As an eagle stirs up its nest… so the Lord alone led him.’ (Deuteronomy 32:11–12 NKJV) A mother eagle withholds food from her children to persuade them to leave the nest and learn to fly. Can you imagine what they’re thinking? ‘It’s my mother doing this to me!’ And God will do the same to you. He’ll allow a crisis in order to get your attention. He knows you won’t change until your fear of change is surpassed by the pain you’re experiencing. Bottom line: ‘The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.’
‘Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor.’ 1 Timothy 5:17 NKJV
To be a spiritual leader worth following:
(1) You must be accountable to someone. Someone who knows you well enough to pray with you, strengthen you in your vulnerable areas, and counsel you on important decisions. Authority without accountability inevitably leads to disaster.
(2) Your personal priorities must be in order. Priorities have a way of slipping. Too many of us become successful at the cost of a broken home and failing health. Why? Because we allowed our priorities to slip.
(3) Your walk with God must be consistent. David said, ‘Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.’ (Psalm 119:11 NAS) A disciplined daily walk with God is your best protection against sin. If instead of spending time with God you’re spending it on things that have become more important, it should alarm you. Pay particular attention to the word ‘treasured’. It means to value and protect something, and let nothing threaten it. Take time to pray and read your Bible every day—and guard that time with your life.
Give God your mind every morning when it’s fresh. And if you’re a pastor, your first calling isn’t the building project, the board, or the budget, it’s ‘feed My sheep.’ (John 21:16 KJV) If Saturday finds you searching for a sermon outline on the internet, make some changes. Delegate secondary things and get back to putting first things first. ‘Seek out from among you… men… whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and… ministry of the Word.’ (Acts 6:3–4 NKJV)
‘The brook dried up.’ 1 Kings 17:7 NIV
The psalmist wrote, ‘Joyful are those…whose hope is in the Lord their God.’ (Psalm 146:5 NLT)
One author writes: ‘Sometimes when there’s not enough money to make ends meet, people tell us to budget and we chuckle. We look at the situation and say, “No way.” That’s the time to trust God. Your possibilities aren’t limited by past or present circumstances. If there’s not enough to pay legitimate expenses, do your best and then let go. Trust God to supply your need, then look beyond your wallet. Look to your source. Claim a divine, unlimited supply. Do your part. Strive for financial responsibility in thought and action. Ask for wisdom, and listen to God’s leadings. Then let go of your fears and your need to control. We all know money is a necessary part of living—and so does God.’
FB Meyer said: ‘The education of our faith is incomplete till we learn that God’s providence works through loss… There’s a ministry to us through the failure and fading of things. The dwindling brook where Elijah sat is a picture of our lives! “Some time later the brook dried up” (1 Kings 17:7 NIV) is the history of our yesterdays and the prophecy of our tomorrows. We must learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the giver. The gift may last for a season, but the giver is eternal. If the Lord had led Elijah directly to the widow at Zarephath, he’d have missed something that helped make him a better man—living by faith. Whenever our earthly resources dry up, it’s so we may learn that our hope and health are in God.’