‘Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.’ Psalm 120:2 NKJV
When you deliberately create a false impression, the Bible calls it dealing in ‘falsehood, untruth, error, deception, cheating.’ (Revelation 22:15 AMPC) That may sound harsh, especially if all you had in mind was making an extra dollar, sparing someone’s feelings or trying to make yourself look better. No human being would set such a standard, but God does. And He’s serious about it. Case in point: Ananias and Sapphira. When this couple tried to create a false impression about their giving, they dropped dead in the presence of the apostles. As a result, ‘No one else dared join them.’ (Acts 5:13 NIV) How long would you have lasted in that church? Peter said, ‘You have not lied to men but to God.’ (Acts 5:4 NIV) That puts a whole new slant on it, doesn’t it?
The story’s told of a guy who went fishing and caught nothing. So he stopped by the market on his way home and bought three fish. Then he told the shop assistant, ‘Throw them to me—that way when I get home I can honestly tell my wife I caught them.’
Solomon said, ‘My mouth speaks what is true… All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.’ (Proverbs 8:7–8 NIV) Some of the worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves, and end up believing. And another thought: a liar’s biggest problem is they can’t believe anybody else, because ‘how you live your life is how you judge your neighbor’. So if you have a problem telling the truth, pray, ‘Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.’
‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son.’ Genesis 21:10 NKJV
When Abraham tried to hurry the plan of God and fulfill it through well-intentioned but misguided human effort, Ishmael was born. Perhaps you have tried something similar yourself. We all have our ‘Ishmaels’—a good idea that wasn’t a God idea. And it can complicate your life. So God told Abraham, ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son.’ In other words: ‘It’s time to deal with your past and clean out your cupboard. This thing is holding you back, and until you deal with it you can’t move forward to your destiny. Get it out of your life and don’t look back!’
Sometimes your miracle (Isaac) and your mistake (Ishmael) can live together for a while under the same roof. Things can be so good in one area of your life, yet so bad in another. But there comes a time when God says, ‘Because of the plans I have for you, you must put this thing out of your life.’ And that’s not easy. It’s painful letting go of what your flesh craves or cherishes. But you have only two options: be led by your emotions and miss out on God’s best, or say, ‘As much as I love this person or thing, I love the Lord more.’ When you’re willing to walk away from something you thought you had to have because you love God more, that’s called ‘the sacrifice of praise.’ (Hebrews 13:15 NIV) And when you offer it up to God, you position yourself to experience a new level of His blessing. Is God speaking to you today about something similar in your life? If so, let it go!
‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ Romans 10:17 NKJV
Every day fear and faith will arise inside you, and you get to decide which one will prevail. An unknown author wrote, ‘Two natures beat within my breast; the one is foul, the other blessed. The one I love, the other I hate; the one I feed will dominate.’ Fear and faith will always be present in your life, and the one you feed will come out on top. You can’t expect fear to simply disappear. If you focus on your fears, entertain them, and give in to them, they’ll increase. The way to overcome them is to starve them. Don’t give them your time or energy. Don’t feed them with gossip, negative news reports or frightening films. Focus on your faith, and each day feed it through God’s Word (see Romans 10:17). The more energy and time you devote to your faith, the stronger it will become. Anytime that you feel afraid of something but do it anyway, you reprogram your attitude. In other words, when you feel afraid, it means ‘go’ instead of ‘stop’; it means ‘fight harder’ instead of ‘give up’. The most important step you can take to overcome fear is trusting God to do the thing you think you can’t do. No matter how strong a hold fear may have on you, it can be overcome. That’s because fear is in your mind, and your mind can be renewed by the Word of God. Here’s the key: ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ (Romans 12:2 NKJV)
‘Don’t worry about tomorrow.’ Matthew 6:34 NLT
Yesterday and tomorrow both clamor for our attention. Yesterday wants us to second-guess our decisions and worry if we did the right thing. That’s wasted energy. As President Harry Truman said, ‘If you’ve done the best you can—if you’ve done what you have to do—there’s no use worrying about it because nothing can change it.’ And tomorrow can also cause you to miss opportunities. Let’s face it, most people arrive at a different destination in life than what they expected—some better, some worse, but all different. So focusing on the destination isn’t necessarily a good idea. Besides, tomorrow may come, or it may not. There are no guarantees. Jesus said, ‘Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’ Jesus was talking to people who were worried about having the basic necessities in life, like food and clothes. And He said to them, ‘Don’t worry about these things… your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.’ (Matthew 6:31–32 NLT) The only place you really have any power—is in the present. Do what you can in the here and now despite your fear, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing everything within your power to reach your potential. If you project too far into the future, you’ll suffer from the ‘what ifs?’ and your fears will run wild. Both Winston Churchill and Mark Twain are said to have quipped, ‘I am an old man and have known a great many troubles but most of them never happened!’ Give your past and your future to God and live your life one day at a time, trusting Him. That’s how you overcome fear.
‘We shall reap if we do not lose heart.’ Galatians 6:9 NKJV
Don’t allow what you can’t do to interfere with what you can do. Boxing manager Cus D’Amato said, ‘The hero and the coward both feel the same fear, but the hero uses his fear and projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same fear; it’s what you do with it that matters.’ Most negative emotions can be converted into something positive to help us get further in life. Are you afraid of poverty? Convert it into a work ethic. Are you afraid of greediness? Convert it into generosity. Are you afraid of rejection? Convert it into the ability to connect with people. Are you afraid of insignificance? Convert it to the service of others.
As economist Roger Babson remarked, ‘If things go wrong, don’t go with them.’ Instead, seek a new way to do it. You can turn your life around by taking the thing that once created fear, and using that energy to do something worthwhile. There are many things in life you can’t control, and there’s no good reason to worry about those things. Writer Harold Stephens said, ‘There’s a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem; a concerned person solves a problem.’ How can you become a problem-solver? By focusing on the things you can control. And the first one is your attitude. Remember, what happens to you isn’t nearly as important as what happens in you. The second is your calendar. You may not be able to control today’s circumstances, but you can do your best to plan the time you have. Most of us fear the future because we don’t prepare for it.
‘His compassions fail not. They are new every morning.’ Lamentations 3:22–23 NKJV
Henry Thoreau said, ‘Don’t be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin!’ If you let fear take over your life, you’ll never fully live. The truth is that many of our fears are totally unfounded. Haven’t you found that to be so? Studies show that 95 percent of what we fear is baseless, and the rest are things we must learn to live with. Perhaps the best approach is to adopt the attitude of the poet Gertrude Stein, who said, ‘Considering how dangerous everything is, nothing is really frightening.’ Humanly speaking, there are no guarantees in life. We look at many things to protect us: insurance policies, burglar alarms, travelers’ cheques, aspirin, umbrellas, GPS systems, and airbags. But the truth is that life is dangerous, damaging to your health, and will eventually kill you. So you might as well live to the fullest.
Shakespeare said, ‘He is not worthy of the honeycomb that shuns the hive because the bees have stings.’ Don’t let fear keep you from taking small steps in your development. You never know where they may lead. There are two things that are ever-present with us in life: fear and faith. And every day you live, you choose one or the other. Jeremiah chose faith. He wrote: ‘Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.’ (Lamentations 3:22–25 NKJV)
‘I praise you because of the wonderful way You created me.’ Psalm 139:14 CEV
The story’s told of a man who had a morbid fear of thunder, so he went to see a psychiatrist. ‘You have a condition called brontophobia,’ the doctor said. ‘It’s silly to be afraid of thunder at your age. Just think of it as a drum roll in the symphony of life.’ ‘What if that doesn’t work?’ the man asked. The psychiatrist replied, ‘Then do what I do. When you hear thunder, stuff cotton wool in your ears, crawl under the bed, and sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” at the top of your lungs until the thunder stops.’
Seriously, most fears are based on feelings, not facts. Try to look beyond your fears and uncover the expectations that lie beneath them. For example, if you were raised in poverty you may be afraid to be generous. If you were abandoned you may be afraid to trust anyone, or you may cling to people and try to control them. If you were abused you may fear emotional and physical intimacy. If you were constantly criticized you may be afraid that God won’t forgive you. If you don’t feel beautiful or intelligent, or you’re not from a high-class family, you may be afraid to mix with people or talk to them in case they look down on you. American humorist James Thurber wrote, ‘All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.’ David not only pinpointed the source of his fears, but the source of his self-worth and security: ‘I will praise You, for I am… wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works.’ When you know you have God’s approval, your fears begin to die.
‘And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”‘ Acts 3:4 NKJV
The Bible says: ‘A certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God.’ (Acts 3:2–8 NKJV) This miracle begins with the words: ‘And fixing his eyes on him… Peter said, “Look at us.”’ And it continues with the words: ‘He took him by the right hand and lifted him up.’
In certain Zulu areas of South Africa, people greet each other with a phrase that means ‘I see you’. Could this be God’s strategy for human hurt? First, kind eyes meet desperate ones. Next, strong hands help weak ones. Then, the miracle of God. We do our small part, He does the big part, and life at the Beautiful Gate begins to be just that—‘beautiful’. To serve others you must first see them, and to lift them you must first love them because you know Jesus does.
‘And has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord.’ Acts 17:26–27 NKJV
Let’s look at three phrases in this Scripture:
(1) ‘And has determined their pre-appointed times.’ Your parents may not have wanted you, but God did. He scheduled the moment of your birth, has a purpose for your life, and you are constantly on His mind. If that sounds too good to be true, read on: ‘You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God.’(Psalm 139:16–17 NLT) And that’s a foundation to build your self-worth on!
(2) ‘And the boundaries of their dwellings.’ God’s will for you requires being in the right place; that’s why He sets ‘boundaries’. Sometimes He will say, ‘Don’t go there, I want you over here,’ or ‘Don’t stay here, I want you over there.’ Because someone else goes somewhere and succeeds, doesn’t mean you will. ‘The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.’ (Psalm 37:23 NLT) Include God in every detail of your life, for where He guides, He provides.
(3) ‘So that they should seek the Lord.’ Every act of God in your life is designed to increase your dependence on Him. Every assignment He gives you will require His participation in order to succeed. With all his great talents, Paul acknowledged, ‘Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.’ (2 Corinthians 3:5 NKJV)
‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’ Luke 9:23 NIV
In AD 44, King Herod Agrippa ordered James the Greater to be killed with a sword. He was the first of the apostles to be martyred. Reportedly, Luke was hanged from an olive tree in Greece. Doubting Thomas was burned in India. Philip was crucified and preached from the cross with his dying breath. Matthew was stabbed in the back in Ethiopia. Bartholomew was flogged to death in Armenia. James the Just was thrown off the south-east pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, then clubbed to death by a mob. Simon the Zealot was crucified by the governor of Syria in AD 74. Judas Thaddaeus was beaten to death with sticks in Mesopotamia. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot, was stoned and beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down at his own request. When John the Beloved survived being put in a cauldron of boiling water, Emperor Diocletian exiled him to the island of Patmos. Now you will probably not be called to die physically for Christ—but to be His disciple you must die to yourself. Jesus said, ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.’ (Luke 9:23–24 NIV) If you want to find yourself, you must be willing to lose yourself in the cause of Christ. If you want to come alive in the fullest sense, you must be willing to die to all forms of self-centredness and live for Christ.