‘The Lord rewarded me because I did what was right.’ 2 Samuel 22:25 NCV
You can be successful yet still feel empty inside. Solomon’s life proves that. He was the world’s wealthiest man, as well as one of the most famous. Yet amazingly he begins the book of Ecclesiastes with these words: ‘Everything is meaningless.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2 NLT)
Solomon discovered that a fulfilling life can only be built on two things: relationships and purpose. And the first and foremost relationship you must establish is with God. Once that happens you discover your life’s purpose. And as you start walking in it your joy and fulfilment knows no bounds. Self-help gurus tell us, ‘Look inside yourself and you’ll find the key!’ But how can you uncover the plot for your life by simply examining your life? You’ll have more luck following ‘the yellow brick road’! No, ‘All things are done according to God’s plan and decision; and God chose us to be His own people in union with Christ because of His own purpose, based on what He had decided from the very beginning. Let us, then, who were the first to hope in Christ, praise God’s glory!’ (Ephesians 1:11–12 GNT)
Your life’s purpose has already been determined by the greatest mind and the kindest heart in the universe: the mind and heart of God. You say, ‘But things aren’t working out too well for me right now.’ We all have times like that. But here’s a promise you can stand on: ‘He makes everything work out according to His plan.’ (Ephesians 1:11 NLT) God knows the purpose of your life. Pray and He will reveal it to you.
‘I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Matthew 11:29 NLT
Jesus said, ‘I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ We’d all be a lot better off if people like Jesus ran the world, because those who aren’t gentle are making a real mess of things! Francis de Sales said, ‘Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing so gentle as real strength.’ Just as you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, people respond more readily to gentleness than aggressiveness. The famous football coach, John Wooden, told the following story: ‘My dad, Joshua Wooden, was a strong man in one sense, but a gentle man. He could lift heavy things men half his age couldn’t, but he would also read poetry to us each night after a day working in the fields raising corn, hay, wheat, tomatoes, and watermelons. We had a team of mules named Jack and Kate on our farm. Kate would often get stubborn and lie down on me when I was ploughing. I couldn’t get her up no matter how roughly I treated her. Dad would see my predicament and walk across the field until he got close enough to say, “Kate.” Then she would get up and start working again. He never touched her in anger. It took me a long time to understand that even a stubborn mule responds to gentleness.’ When the Bible speaks of humility and meekness, it’s not speaking of weakness. Meekness means ‘power under control’. An unbroken horse is useless; an overdose of medicine kills rather than cures; wind out of control destroys everything in its path. Jesus was powerful but He was gentle. And you are called to follow in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21).
‘I have…treasured His words more than daily food.’ Job 23:12 NLT
Your quiet time with God is more than just a good idea, it’s vital to your spiritual survival. It’s also essential to your spiritual growth and maturity. You say, ‘But I go to church every week.’ Can you imagine what would happen if you ate only once a week? The patriarch Job said, ‘I have…treasured His words more than daily food.’ Peter described the Scriptures as nourishing milk (1 Peter 2:2), and the writer to the Hebrews called the Word of God solid food (Hebrews 5:14). Your quiet time is also like a spiritual bath. Jesus said, ‘You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you.’ (John 15:3 NKJV) You shower every day to stay clean and avoid body odours. It’s not easy to be around someone who smells badly, and you run the risk of offending them by telling them so. But if you love them you’ll do it. Paul describes the Christian as: ‘…the aroma of Christ to God.’ (2 Corinthians 2:15 ESV) Here’s the bottom line. Unless you protect your quiet time with God: (1) you’ll be cut off from your source of strength, guidance, and wisdom; (2) your usefulness to God will be limited; (3) you’ll be inconsistent in your Christian life. You say, ‘But I don’t have time!’ You have the same 168 hours each week that everybody else has! And how you spend them is determined by what you think is most important. So if you think being in fellowship with God is important, begin to make time for it.
‘He went out into the mountains to pray, and prayed all night.’ Luke 6:12 TLB
Why do you need a quiet time with God each day? Because Jesus did, and He’s your example: ‘He was up long before daybreak and went…to pray.’ (Mark 1:35 TLB) The truth is, we make time for what we value most, for the people we love most, for our highest priorities, and what we find most rewarding. Notice, Jesus seldom prayed for anybody in public. Why? Because He’d already done His praying before He got there! He made deposits each morning so that He could make withdrawals all day long. And the busier He got, the more He prayed. Did He know something we don’t? Jesus had no difficulty choosing between the crowd’s agenda and His Father’s will. ‘I can do nothing on My own. I judge as God tells Me. Therefore, My judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the One who sent Me.’ (John 5:30 NLT) Why do spiritual leaders sometimes fall? Because they get caught up in the work of the Lord and neglect their relationship with Him. Throughout history, anyone who has been greatly used by God was a person of prayer. Martin Luther said, ‘I have so much to do that I must spend the first three hours each day in prayer.’ Ceaseless activity will drain you and leave you vulnerable to Satan’s attack. The sign on a church bulletin board says it all: ‘Seven prayerless days make one weak Christian.’ So the busier you become, the more time you need to spend with God. Simply stated: if you’re too busy to have a quiet time with God, you’re too busy!
‘…it is for Your pleasure that they exist and were created.’ Revelation 4:11 NLT
Did you know: (1) God created you for His own pleasure and His greater glory. He also saved you ‘both to will and to work for His good pleasure.’ (Philippians 2:13 ESV) Your attitude towards quiet time with God will be transformed when you realise this. Time spent with God brings Him great pleasure, honour and glory. He waits for you and welcomes you into His presence—He knows how much benefit you will receive from Him. (2) The cross is what made this relationship possible. When Adam sinned, God drove him from the Garden of Eden and placed angels with swords at its entrance so that mankind could never re-enter. Then God did something truly amazing; He took on human form, lived among us, died in our place, and was cut down by the sword of divine judgment at the cross, providing us with a way back into His presence. Wonderful, isn’t it? In the Old Testament only one man, the high priest, could go into the Holy of Holies. And he could only do it one day a year. A thick veil separated God from the people. They stood outside wondering what God’s voice sounded like, what His presence felt like and what His glory looked like. Only the high priest knew. But when Jesus cried, ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30 NKJV), the Bible says, ‘The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.’ (Mark 15:38 NKJV) Now, as ‘priests unto God’ we can come into His presence at any time and meet with Him (Revelation 1:6 KJV). What a privilege! Grace makes it possible. And gratitude should be the magnet that draws you there each day.
‘Seek first the Kingdom of God.’ Matthew 6:33 NKJV
Jesus said, ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.’ What kind of ‘things’ was He talking about? Things like money, houses, relationships, health and jobs. What did He mean by ‘the Kingdom of God’? Living under the rule of Christ each moment and submitting to His will in all things. When Jesus used the word ‘seek’, He called for three things: (1) Intentionality. When something important is lost, you must put aside other things and seek until you find it. (2) Importance. Position, performance, prosperity, and popularity can be good things when properly used. But without the rule of Christ in your life, you’ll always be vulnerable to the devil. (3) Importunity. No matter how long it takes, how hard you must work, or what you must rearrange, restore your quiet time with God to its rightful place. The psalmist wrote, ‘When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”’ (Psalm 27:8 NKJV) ‘Quiet time’ has been called many things throughout the history of the Church: morning watch, daily devotions, appointment with God or personal devotional time. It really doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you have it regularly. Your quiet time with God is just daily fellowship with Him through His Word and prayer. It’s a time you deliberately set aside to meet with Him. The goal is that you might grow in your personal relationship with God so that you can know Him, love Him, serve Him and become more like Him.
‘If you love someone, you will…always believe in him.’ 1 Corinthians 13:7 TLB
There are very few monuments erected to sceptics. That’s because instead of building people up, they tear them down. David’s older brother Eliab was like that. Here’s his story. When nobody else in Saul’s army, including Eliab—who was a general—was willing to take on Goliath, David volunteered to go out and fight this ‘uncircumcised Philistine.’ (1 Samuel 17:36 KJV) In Bible times circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant of protection and provision for the Israelites. And David knew this bully had no such relationship with God; only the Israelites could claim such a benefit. As a result, David was very secure in the covenant, and embraced God’s promise. Obviously this wasn’t the case for Eliab. His ‘anger burned against David and he said: “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.”’ (1 Samuel 17:28 NAS) Interestingly, the name Eliab means ‘God is my Father’, so Eliab not only represents secular cynics, but Christian ones too. Yes, we have them in the Church! All it takes is one sceptical member and soon all those with weaker faith, or no faith at all, start chiming in and perpetuating the negativity. Beware: cynicism can wreak havoc in any relationship and environment. That’s why the Bible says, ‘How blessed is the man who does not… sit in the seat of scoffers.’ (Psalm 1:1 NAS) Think twice before sitting down in that seat. If you stay there too long you may not be able to get up again!
‘I will…remember their sins no more.’ Hebrews 8:12 NIV
When an accusing voice confronts you with your past, respond in the manner Jesus did—It is written: ‘I will… remember their sins no more.’ It’s not that God’s forgetful; it’s that He chooses not to remember your sins. And when you choose otherwise, you question His forgiveness, allow the enemy to guilt-trip you, and forfeit the confidence you need to receive what God has promised you (See 1 John 3:21–22). When you keep rehearsing your past you not only keep it alive, you empower it. What you keep on deposit, you’re more likely to withdraw and act on in a moment of weakness. Just as nobody knows when a dormant volcano may erupt, you can’t predict when an unresolved issue will resurface, turning your words into hot coals and your behaviour into a blaze of destruction. Only by the power of God’s forgiveness, and by forgiving others, is the hold your past has over you broken. Shame isn’t a blessing; it’s a weight Jesus bore for you on the cross. So set it down and walk away! God’s Word says, ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.’ (Psalm 103:12 NKJV) Notice, there’s a North Pole and a South Pole, but no east or west pole. Why? Because that distance is infinite and beyond measure. Are you getting the idea? Whenever you are reminded of past sin, the enemy hopes you’re ignorant of the truth in order to rob you of your future. Don’t take the bait! Instead look to the cross of Christ, refuse to dwell on it further, and keep moving forward.
‘Husbands… be considerate.’ 1 Peter 3:7 NIV ‘Wives… be…worthy of respect.’ 1 Timothy 3:11 NIV
A couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary was asked the secret to their success. The husband replied, ‘The day we got married we agreed that if an argument arose I’d go out and stand on the porch until I cooled off. And it worked like a charm; fifty years of being outdoors in all that fresh air was exactly what this relationship needed!’ If you’ve been spending too much time out on the porch, here are three ways to strengthen your marriage: (1) Commitment— ‘You’re first.’ Speaking those words on special occasions is easy, but you need to speak them seven days a week. A film star who’d been through several failed marriages told an interviewer, ‘I’ve given up trying to find the right person. Now I’m working at becoming the right person.’ That formula always works! (2) Concern— ‘What do you need?’ Husbands and wives are as different as chalk and cheese. And to complicate things further, their needs change according to the season of life they’re in. So when you ask, ‘How are you today?’ slow down and listen. Your wife may not want you to solve the problem, but to share it. Closeness in marriage isn’t an accident: it’s a decision you make, and keep making every day. (3) Coping— ‘We can work it out.’ Marriage may alleviate the problem of loneliness, but it presents the challenge of getting along with another person. It teaches you that you can’t always avoid conflict, but you can make it work for you. The truth is, unless there are two winners in a marriage, there are none at all.
‘Come with me…to a quiet place and get some rest.’ Mark 6:31 NIV
A competition was held between two men to see who could chop down the most trees in a single day. One man was older and more experienced, while the other was younger and less experienced. And that’s where the difference showed up. The younger man spent eight hours chopping down trees, and at the end of the day he had a total of twenty-five. Believing the older man lacked stamina and youth, he sat down, fully confident he would win. Meanwhile the older man, who had taken a ten-minute break each hour, ended his day by chopping down forty trees. In shock the younger man asked, ‘How is this possible, old man? I didn’t stop. You stopped every hour for ten minutes and yet you chopped down almost twice as many trees as I did.’ The older man replied, ‘Every hour I sat down for ten minutes and did two things. First, I took time to rest and recharge my batteries. Second, I took time to sharpen my axe. Yes, you were working hard but you were working with a dull axe.’ There’s an important lesson here for you. In order to succeed at what God has called you to do in life, you must always do these two things: (1) Make time for rest and renewal. You cannot always be giving out; you must also stop and take in. That’s where prayer and Bible reading come in: they restore what life depletes. (2) Stay sharp. When your axe is dull it requires more energy and produces fewer results. So take time to rest and sharpen.