‘Anxiety in the heart… causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.’ Proverbs 12:25 NKJV
When Enrico took his first voice lesson at ten, the teacher said, ‘You haven’t any voice at all.’ But Enrico’s mother heard greatness in her son’s voice. She believed in his talent. And even though they were very poor she put her arms around him and said, ‘My boy, I’m going to make every sacrifice to pay for your voice lessons.’ Her confidence in him and her constant encouragement paid off, because he became one of the most beloved and widely acclaimed singers of all time. His name? Enrico Caruso.
When the world tries to tear us down, we need people who build us up, people who recognize our talent and help us make the most of it. Consider these ‘commands for parents’, written from a child’s point of view:
(1) My hands are small; please don’t expect perfection whenever I make a bed, draw a picture, or throw a ball.
(2) My legs are short; slow down so that I can keep up with you.
(3) My eyes have not seen the world as yours have; let me explore it safely, and don’t restrict me unnecessarily.
(4) Housework will always be there; I’m only little for a short time. Take time to explain things to me about this wonderful world, and do so willingly.
(5) My feelings are tender; don’t nag me all day long. Treat me as you would like to be treated.
(6) I am a special gift from God; treasure me as God intended you to—holding me accountable for my actions, giving me guidelines to live by, and disciplining me in a loving manner. Today, be an encourager!
‘I have refined you…for My own sake.’ Isaiah 48:10–11 NKJV
Undercover Boss is a popular TV show where company owners disguise themselves as regular staff members and work with everybody else. Some of the discoveries they make are real eye-openers—leading to changes that make the company more efficient, profitable, and enjoyable for everybody to work in. To ‘understand’ people, you have to ‘stand’ in their shoes. Ezekiel said, ‘Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib… and I sat where they sat, and… the word of the Lord came to me.’ (Ezekiel 3:15–16 NKJV)
In order to heal the pain, you must be able to feel the pain. The Bible says Jesus can be ‘touched with the feelings of our infirmities’, because He walked in our shoes (see Hebrews 4:15). He experienced family conflict, rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and hunger. He walked the path you’re on and He knows how you feel; that’s why you can turn to Him when you’re in trouble and get the help you need. ‘For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.’ (Hebrews 2:18 NKJV)
When you offer advice, people want to know if you’re speaking out of experience or just head knowledge. So God will permit you to go through experiences you don’t enjoy or understand, to equip you and make you effective in ministering to others. Job said, ‘When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.’ (Job 23:10 NKJV) If you’re in the refiner’s fire today, it’s because God has something He plans to do through you and for you.
‘How long will you neglect to go and possess the land…?’ Joshua 18:3 NKJV
When it comes to building good relationships, you must be proactive. This calls for knowing who you are as a person, and what you want from the relationship. While it seems counterintuitive to focus on who you are individually versus who the two of you are as a couple, the whole is only as strong as the parts. Great relationships are based on each party being truthful and up-front about their real needs, desires, feelings, and values. While as a couple you must make decisions together, decisions about who you are as a person and what you want your life to be are yours alone to make. Allowing someone else to make those decisions for you is a mistake. When you let someone else decide who you are and what you want, you give away the power that God gave you.
Understand this: (1) Doing nothing is not making a decision. (2) Sitting back and pretending not to see a situation for what it is, is not a decision. (3) Procrastinating about what to do until something happens where you’ve no choice but to go one way or the other is not a decision. It’s passivity, and in the end it won’t serve you well.
Sometimes you have to accept unchangeable circumstances, but you always have the choice to decide what you want to be within them. This principle is taught clearly by what God told His people on the threshold of the Promised Land: ‘How long will you neglect to go in and possess the land which the Lord… has given you?’ So, be proactive.
‘They do not know what they are doing.’ Luke 23:34 NIV
Max Lucado writes: ‘It begins as a drop of water… Someone gets your parking place, pulls in front of you on the motorway, a waitress is slow and you’re in a hurry, the toast burns… Get enough of these seemingly innocent drops of anger and you’ve got a bucket full of rage… We trust no one…bare our teeth at anyone who gets near… become walking time bombs that, given the right amount of tension and fear, could explode… We can’t deny…anger exists. How do we harness it? Jesus said about the mob that killed him, “Father, forgive them…they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV)… He saw this bloodthirsty, death-hungry crowd not as murderers, but as victims… He saw in their faces not hatred, but confusion… He regarded them not as a militant mob but “like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34 NIV) “They don’t know what they are doing…”
Think about it… they hadn’t the faintest idea…They were a stir-crazy mob, mad at something they couldn’t see so they took it out on, of all people, God. They didn’t know what they were doing, and for the most part neither do we. Much as we hate to admit it, we’re shepherdless sheep… born out of one eternity and frighteningly close to another… We can’t answer our own questions about love and hurt… can’t solve the riddle of aging… don’t know how to heal our own bodies or get along with our mates… My point is: uncontrolled anger won’t better our world… sympathetic understanding will. Once we begin to operate not from a posture of anger but of compassion… we realize the lights are out… a lot of people are stumbling in the darkness… So we light candles.’
‘He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.’ 1 John 4:4 NKJV
The disappointments of life can cause you to see nothing but negativity in your future. You express hopelessness, belittle your own abilities, refuse to take any risk, say no to personal growth opportunities, complain about the unfairness of life, and say that nothing you do will make a difference in a particular circumstance. Do you recognize any of these attitudes in yourself? If so, there’s good news.
Dr Paul Meier, a Christian psychiatrist, said, ‘Attitudes are nothing more than habits of thought, and habits can be acquired. An action repeated becomes an attitude realized.’ That means with practice, you can develop an overcoming attitude. Here’s how:
(1) Be honest about your quest to conquer pessimism. Give someone you respect the permission to point out when you are being negative.
(2) Limit your exposure to negative input. Since you become like the company you keep, look for people who fortify your faith and not feed your fears. ‘Walk with the wise and become wise.’ (Proverbs 13:20 NLT)
(3) Volunteer to serve others who are less fortunate. Serving creates positive feelings and gives you a sense of value; it’s also the right thing to do.
(4) Look for the good in every situation and always express faith that it’s there! US President Harry Truman said, ‘A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities, and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.
When you face a difficulty today, see it as an opportunity because ‘He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.’
‘I am the Resurrection and the Life… Everyone who…believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this?’ John 11:25-26 NLT
We struggle with the idea of our own mortality. It’s alleged that Florence Nightingale feared death so much, after the Crimean War she went to bed and basically stayed there until she died in 1910.
Chuck Swindoll says we skirt the subject by using:
‘(1) Humour. Making a joke of it keeps death at a safe distance so we never have to face reality.
(2) Denial. King Louis XIV of France wouldn’t allow the word “death” to be uttered in his presence. But on September 1, 1715, he discovered that death can’t be wished out of existence. People spend so much on anti-aging creams, Botox, and plastic surgery to avoid seeing evidence of death’s approach.
(3) Romanticism. A man in Europe built a special room where he can live with his dead wife. His bed is next to her casket. He decorated the room with flowers and candles. He writes her poetry every day in a romantic attempt to avoid the pain of her passing.
(4) Fear. Observe fellow passengers on an aeroplane when turbulence causes sudden drops and vibrations. Young and old alike scream and cry out.’ The good news is you don’t have to fear death! The One who defeated it said, ‘Because I live, you also will live.’ (John 14:19 NIV)
When you repent and commit your life to Christ, you have His personal guarantee of eternal life. After Lazarus died, Jesus told his sister Martha: ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life… Everyone who… believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this?’ If you do, you’ll live forever with Christ.
‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us…?’ Luke 24:32 NKJV
After the resurrection Jesus met two of His disciples who’d seen Him crucified and didn’t know He’d been raised from the dead. Then later as He ate supper with them at their house, an interesting thing happened: ‘Their eyes were opened… they knew Him… and they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”’ (Luke 24:31–32 NKJV)
This story has much to teach us about keeping the fire of love and devotion to Christ burning in our hearts. As you walk with Jesus and spend time in His presence, He talks to you and reveals Himself through the Scriptures. We all know that to keep a fire burning you must tend it, stoke it, and keep fuelling it.
Why do some of us go on to higher heights and deeper depths in our walk with God, while others seem to go around in circles without getting anywhere? Because one group commits itself to pursuing God until His presence becomes a daily reality in their lives, while the other group doesn’t. It’s that simple. The question is, which group are you in? If you’re lukewarm and half-hearted in your walk with God, today He is saying to you, ‘Return to Me… and I will return to you.’ (Zechariah 1:3 NKJV) Or in layman’s terms: ‘Turn around and come back. You’ll find Me where you left Me.’
So the word for you today is: keep the fire burning.
‘But it was the Lord’s good plan to … cause Him grief.’ Isaiah 53:10 NLT
The psalmist wrote: ‘My God, why have You forsaken Me…I am…a reproach of men, and despised…All those who see Me ridicule Me…saying, “He trusted in the Lord… let Him deliver Him”…I am poured out like water…My bones are out of joint… My tongue clings to My jaws… They pierced My hands and… feet… and for My clothing they cast lots.’(Psalm 22:1–18 NKJV)
Think about it: David could be describing Jesus’ crucifixion in detail. Yet when he wrote these words crucifixion hadn’t been introduced as a form of execution. It was initiated centuries later by the Phoenicians, and long after that, it was adopted by the Roman Empire. Dr Charles Augustus Briggs says: ‘You can take this psalm… lay it side-by-side with New Testament accounts of the crucifixion… and see how they dovetail perfectly. It’s astonishing that someone could describe something so intimately and intricately a thousand years before it happened.’ Calvary wasn’t the result of happenstance.
Long before Jesus came on the scene, God had a plan to reconcile us to Himself through Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:18). Historian Paul L. Maier says: ‘In Isaiah chapter 53 we have almost a running commentary on what happened on Good Friday… It would be mathematically impossible for anyone else to fulfill all these parameters of prophecy in the Old Testament better than Jesus.’ Bottom line: ‘It’s what God had in mind all along… that He give Himself as an offering for sin.’ That means long before there was an Easter, God was thinking about you!
‘Go. From now on sin no more.’ John 8:11 NAS
The Bible says: ‘The Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery…they said to [Jesus]…“in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.”’ Jesus replied: ‘“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”…When they heard it, they began to go out one by one…Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”’ (John 8:3–11 NAS)
Notice two things:
(1) Those least qualified to condemn you, will. Jesus knew the hearts of the Pharisees. They made a practice of lifting themselves up by putting others down. Their aim that day was to trap Him by exposing her. Steer clear of modern-day Pharisees! Find your friends among those who’ve been redeemed by grace, and know how to extend it to others.
(2) The One most qualified to condemn you, won’t. Stay close to Him. When you do, you’ll discover your scars aren’t permanent and you’ll recover much more quickly. Christ will meet you in your dark places and heal the wounds of your past because His grace is greater than your shame. Where sin abounds—His grace super-abounds! There’s no limit to the depth of shame He can see us through, because there’s no limit to the grace He can supply.
Today, if you’re feeling the weight of your shameful past and sinful ways, come to Jesus. He’s ready to forgive you and set you free. But His invitation to freedom reads ‘R.S.V.P.’
‘[His] power…is at work within us…to [carry out His purpose].’ Ephesians 3:20 AMP
Jon Walker writes: ‘We manage time, waste time, spend time, and save time. We wish it would come… we wish it would pass… we see time fly… we feel it drag. We watch clocks and carry calendars… yet God controls time. He created time, and His creations are fenced by His time, directed and guided by His loving hand.
We’re surprised by unexpected developments, but God is never surprised by even the most disastrous turn of events. And your outlook on life changes dramatically when you know that at this very moment God is working within you “to carry out His purpose”. Think about how you’d live if you were absolutely certain God was at the end of your deadline. That even if there were mere seconds left, you believed with certainty He was working through your circumstances. Believing God is there and about to provide is the essence of faith. “Jesus…is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NLT)
Time can’t diminish His love or His power to work within your life. He was there in the past; He’s present in the now, and He’ll be there in the future.’ The truth is, God has time in the palm of His hand. ‘…a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday…’(Psalm 90:4 ESV) God’s ultimate goal is to bring to eternity, not just get you through to the weekend. Remind yourself that in every situation: ‘[His] power…is at work within us…to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly…above all that we [dare] ask or think…[beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams].’