‘I consider everything a loss compared to…knowing Christ…’ Philippians 3:8 NIV
While John was a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos, far from his loved ones and surrounded by the cries of abused captives, he had a vision of Jesus. He writes, ‘…When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead…’ (Revelation 1:17 NKJV) Incredible revelation in the midst of confinement, chaos and pain; that’s how it works! The difficult circumstances you’re going through right now can actually clear your perceptions, cause you to seek God as never before, and find answers for your life. John’s predicament proves that negative experiences don’t hide the Lord; they reveal Him. Instead of destroying you, Satan’s attack can actually develop you. Yes, it stresses you, but it also stretches you spiritually. In Hebrews chapter 11 we see two things: the deeds of their faith and the depth of their faith. Where did God prove His faithfulness to Daniel? In the lions’ den. Where did the Lord reveal Himself to the three Hebrew children? In a fire, heated seven times over. There’s a place in God where fiery trials consume everything except your desire to know Him. Though that place may sometimes escape your grasp, never let it escape your gaze. It was Paul’s all-consuming goal: ‘I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.’ (Philippians 3:8 NIV) There it is: no reservations, no retreat, and no regrets; just a desire to know God intimately and a commitment to ‘go all the way with Him.’ Let that be your heart’s desire today!
‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ Matthew 25:23 NKJV
God wants you to succeed in life (See Joshua 1:8). And He will give you the tools, strategies and relationships necessary for success. David started out as a lowly shepherd boy, but God made him King of Israel. The Bible says, ‘In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him.’ (1 Samuel 18:14 NIV)
But God’s definition of success is very different from the world’s definition. Former US Senator Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa. They visited the ‘House of Dying’ where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers faced daily. ‘How can you bear the load without being crushed beneath it?’ he asked. Mother Teresa replied, ‘My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful.’ Some of us are called to serve in the limelight while others are called to serve in the shadows. Some are privileged to receive the world’s accolades and rewards, but most of us aren’t. Should we be discouraged? Not for a moment! With God, faithfulness counts as success.
One day when you stand before God you will hear these words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’ (Matthew 25:23 NKJV)
‘Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.’ Mark 11:24 NKJV
One of the dangers in praying is not expecting God to answer. The Bible says, ‘Without faith no one can please God. We must believe… God is real and… He rewards everyone who searches for Him.’ (Hebrews 11:6 CEV) The only currency God trades in is faith, and ‘faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ (Romans 10:17 NKJV) As you immerse yourself in Scripture, faith takes root and begins to grow. And faith is what makes your prayers effective. But what if your faith lines up with God’s Word and the answer is delayed? Keep praying and believing! ‘Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.’ (Hebrews 10:35–36 NIV)
When a rural farming community was hit by severe drought, the local church called a prayer meeting. Almost everybody in town showed up (interesting how trouble has a way of getting our attention). As the pastor stood before a packed church he noticed an 11-year-old girl beaming with excitement in the front row. Lying on the pew beside her was a bright red umbrella poised and ready for use. The beauty and innocence of the sight made him smile, as he compared the child’s faith with that of all the others in the church. Looking at the congregation, he announced: ‘The rest of us came to pray for rain, but she came expecting God to answer!’
So don’t just pray—believe!
‘No plague will come near your home.’ Psalm 91:10 NLT
For nine-year-old Keith Pulles, winterizing the family swimming pool signaled the end of summer. He writes: ‘I watched glumly from the window as Dad opened a jug and started dumping chemicals into the pool. Then he got another jug and added more stuff. “That’s a lot of stuff to put into the pool,” I thought. Just then the phone rang and I ran to check the caller ID. “Unknown name, unknown number.” Mum and Dad had warned me about talking to strangers, but that day a voice inside said, “Pick it up!” The urge was so strong I lifted the receiver and said hello. “May I speak with Steve Pulles, please?” I didn’t recognize the voice. Probably a telemarketer, but something made me say, “Hang on. I’ll go get him.” I went outside, phone in hand, and shouted, “Dad! Phone!” He walked around the side of the garage from the backyard and took the cordless phone from me. “Hello? Hello? Who’s calling?” he hollered. A couple of seconds later he took the phone from his ear and turned it off. “Nobody there,” he said. Suddenly there was an enormous boom from the back yard. “The pool!” Dad shouted. It turned out he’d mixed two chemicals he shouldn’t have. The mixture exploded out of the water, leaving toxic fumes… if Dad had been out there at that moment he could have died. Unknown caller? I don’t think so. The person on the phone that day certainly had our number.’
The Psalmist said, ‘No evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.’ Today, pray for God to protect you and your loved ones.
‘His faithful promises are your armor and protection.’ Psalm 91:4 NLT
A vendor at a fair gave Mavis Gustafson Pigford a free Gideon Bible. She tucked it in her purse and forgot about it. Later as she walked along, a car pulled up, the driver pointed a gun and told her to get in. She writes: ‘I did as he said. He pulled over and tried to force me down on the seat. I struggled… and finally he ordered me out of the car. Before my feet hit the ground, I heard a shot and felt a sharp pain in my side. I collapsed, and the man came around… took my wallet… threw my purse at my head and shot it. I felt a dreadful impact. Still conscious… I heard the car drive away and I stumbled to a nearby farmhouse. The woman called for help… and as I was rushed to hospital, the police closed in on the drug-crazed driver who attacked me. Before surgery to remove the bullet in my side, my sister came to see me. “Do you know what saved your life?” she asked. She handed me the Bible from my purse. A bullet was lodged inside, its tip stopping exactly at Psalm 37:14–15 NIV: “The wicked draw the sword… to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.”’
Yet another example of how God’s always a step ahead: ‘He will rescue you from every trap… shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection… He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go…The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love Me… protect those who trust in My name.”’ (Psalm 91:3–4, 11, 14 NLT)
‘Before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.’ Isaiah 65:24 NKJV
When Wilda Lahmann’s husband woke in the small hours of the morning gasping for air and clutching his chest, there wasn’t time to wait for an ambulance. She got him into the car and he slumped against the door. She writes: ‘Fifteen miles to the hospital…we’re not gonna make it. Please send help, Lord! A mile down the road I saw something. Were my eyes playing tricks? It was an ambulance with a paramedic standing beside it. Was he waiting for us? Who could’ve known to call? I slammed on the brakes and ran screaming for help. They started treatment immediately and rushed Randy to the hospital. The next three days were touch-and-go. I never left his bedside, praying he’d wake up. When he did, he asked, “What happened?” “You had a massive heart attack. Another minute or two and who knows?” “You called the paramedics?” Randy asked. “No,” I replied. “They were responding to an accident at that intersection. They even called headquarters to confirm they had the right location. Then we came along seconds later.” Fifteen miles on empty roads in the middle of the night; Randy’s heart attack would’ve been fatal if the paramedics hadn’t been there. I’d say they were in the perfect location.’
Often in a crisis there’s no time to call the pastor or your prayer partner. That’s when it’s good to know God said, ‘Before they call I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear.’ He’s on the job 24/7, redeeming ‘your life from destruction’ (Psalm 103:4 NKJV) long before you even know you are in trouble!
‘To be controlled by the Spirit results in… peace.’ Romans 8:6 GNT
When your thoughts, actions and plans are approved by God, He’ll confirm it by giving you an inner ‘knowing’. (See 1 John 2:20) The Bible says: ‘Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers].’ (Colossians 3:15 AMP) When you’re being led by God, you’ll have a sense of peace even in the midst of difficult circumstances. His peace is like a baseball umpire who decides what’s ‘safe’ and what’s ‘out of bounds’ for you.
But beware of false peace. Sometimes your desire to do a certain thing will be so strong that it will actually produce a false sense of peace that comes from your own excitement about the idea. As time passes this false peace will disappear and God’s true will, will emerge. So wait for it. As a rule you should never move too quickly on important decisions. The Bible says, ‘To be controlled by the Spirit results in… peace.’ So don’t proceed if your inner peace can’t hold its weight against what you think or hear. You don’t have to explain to others why you don’t have peace about it; indeed, sometimes you won’t know why. Just say, ‘I feel it’s not wise for me to do this at this time because I don’t have peace about it.’
There’s power in having peace. And one more thing: once you know that you’ve heard clearly from God, do all you can to keep your peace and don’t become anxious.
‘That the Lord…may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do.’ Jeremiah 42:3 NKJV
Twelve bees were placed in a jar in a darkened room. A light was beamed onto the bottom of the jar, and then the lid removed. Instinctively, the bees flew toward the light and couldn’t escape. So they died trying to buzz their way through the bottom of the jar. Next the researchers took twelve common houseflies and repeated the experiment. Within seconds the flies had found their way out of the jar. Now, bees are more intelligent than flies and their survival instincts are better. Yet it was those very instincts that doomed the bees. There’s a lesson here. You may be very intelligent, yet your preconceived notions can doom you to failure in life. Assumptions, rigidity and force of habit can cause you to keep doing things that don’t work and make no sense.
Dr. James Dobson says: ‘Until 1992 I wrote books with pencils and yellow pads. I did that for years after word processors were available. The twentieth century was almost over before I decided to join it.’ Are you afraid to abandon an old belief system, or learn a new skill or tackle a new project? When you’re finished learning, you’re finished! The only real limitations are those we place on ourselves by refusing to learn. ‘Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.’ (Proverbs 9:9 NKJV) ‘The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.’ (Proverbs 18:15 NKJV)
Don’t let your fears and preconceived ideas keep you from growing; be teachable.
‘Children are known by the way they act.’ Proverbs 20:11 NLT
When you see signs of adolescence in your child, it’s time to talk with them. As the parent of a preteen, your task is similar to that of a football coach who’s trained his squad all through the late summer and early autumn. Now the first game is about to occur, when direct coaching is not going to be possible. So the coach gathers the players in the dressing room and makes one last speech before they take the field. He reminds them again of the fundamentals of the game, and gives them the old pep talk about winning.
Similarly, as the parent of a preteen you’ve been teaching them through preschool and primary school years about right and wrong, what to believe, and how to behave. Now the big contest called adolescence is about to begin and your team will take the field. From that point forward, very little parental advice can be given.
A Christian psychologist recommends that parents take an eleven- or twelve-year-old child on a ‘preparing for adolescence’ trip, during which moral values and family principles are repeated and emphasised: sex education and the physical changes of adolescence, the approaching social pressures, and other fundamentals that should be discussed. When you’ve done this, you’ve two things left to do: (1) Assure them you love them and will always be there for them, and that will never change. (2) Pray for them every day. And don’t just pray, have confidence in the power of your prayers: ‘The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.’ (James 5:16 NLT)
‘The devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain.’ Matthew 4:8 NKJV
Temptation 3: The Bible says, ‘The devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan!…You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”’ (Matthew 4:8–10 NKJV) Paraphrased: Satan said to Jesus, ‘If you serve me I’ll help you rise to the top.’
When your ultimate ambition is to glorify God, you’re being led by God. But when your ultimate ambition is to glorify yourself, you’re being led by Satan. And he’ll appeal to your pride, for pride is at the very core of his being. His fall from the number-two spot in Heaven was preceded by these lofty aspirations: ‘I will ascend to Heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (Isaiah 14:13–14 NIV) Satan wants to take God’s place, but God isn’t moving. Satan covets God’s throne, but God isn’t abdicating. Satan wants to win you to his side, but God will never let you go.
The truth is: You can’t defeat Satan in your own strength, but you don’t have to. The Bible says, ‘Let us… feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.’ (Hebrews 4:16 NCV)