Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew if they refused to bow down to the thirty-meter-tall statue of King Nebuchadnezzar, they would be executed. But they made a defining decision to stand up for what was right, rather than bow down to what was wrong. Most of us could have come up with a dozen rationalizations: ‘I’m bowing down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside,’ or ‘I’ll ask for forgiveness right after I get back up,’ or ‘What good am I to God if I’m dead?’ But it’s our rationalizations that often annul His revelations. When we compromise our integrity, we don’t leave room for divine intervention. When we take matters into our own hands, we take God out of the equation. When we try to manipulate a situation, we miss out on the miracle. If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had compromised their integrity and bowed to the statue, they may still have been delivered from the fiery furnace—but it would have been by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, not God. And it would have been from, not through. They would have forfeited their testimony by failing the test. And while they would have saved their lives, they would have sacrificed their integrity. It was their integrity that triggered the miracle. It was their integrity that allowed God to show up and show off. Their integrity paid off: ‘Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.’ (Daniel 3:30 NIV) Bottom line: when you do the right thing, God will do the right thing by you!
‘When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.’ Acts 27:20 NIV
There are times when God seems inaccessible. When you pray, you feel abandoned in your present circumstances. And not just abandoned, but terrified and even hopeless. Paul understood that feeling. He’d longed for an opportunity to preach in Rome and was on his way there when a cyclone destroyed his ship. Paul not only foresaw the loss of the ship, its crew, and cargo but ‘our own lives also.’ (Acts 27:10 NIV)
He tried to warn the crew of the impending tragedy, but his words were disregarded by those in charge. In short, Paul and 276 others were placed in a life-threatening position by the wilful disregard of others, and there was nothing he could do about it. Feeling a sense of despair, he and his believing companions declared, ‘We finally gave up all hope of being saved!’ Then after fourteen days lost at sea—when the cyclone was fiercest—God sent an angel. ‘Do not be afraid, Paul… God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ (Acts 27:24 NIV) When it looked like Paul’s consuming desire to preach in Rome would be thwarted, God faithfully piloted them through the storm to the exact destination He’d planned for them. Paul would go to Rome and declare God’s Word before Caesar!
Are you caught in a storm? Whatever trial you’re facing today, know this one thing: you can trust God to carry you through it. He determines ‘the end from the beginning’ (Isaiah 46:10 NIV), so you will come out of this stronger and wiser.
‘Let us go on instead and become mature.’ Hebrews 6:1 NLT
We all get the same 168 hours in our week. But if the only time you devote to your spiritual growth is the time you spend in church on Sunday morning, you’ll never move beyond spiritual infancy. Think about it. An infant can’t feed itself; it chooses chocolate over carrots; it constantly falls down and has to be picked up; it keeps wandering off and getting into trouble; it’s basically self-centered and needs to be disciplined and trained. Are you getting the picture? The new birth is exciting, but it’s supposed to be your launching pad, not your cot. The Bible says, ‘Let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.’ Note the words: ‘Let us.’ That means it’s up to you! At some point, you’ve got to say to yourself, ‘Starting today I’m going to do what it takes to grow up spiritually and discover God’s plan for my life.’
One day at the end of World War I, General Louis Lyautey asked his gardener to plant a particular type of tree on his estate. The gardener informed him that the tree, being unusually slow to grow, would take nearly a century to reach maturity. ‘In that case,’ the general replied, ‘there’s no time to lose. Plant it this afternoon!’ Here’s a fail-safe plan for growing into spiritual maturity: ‘They delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.’(Psalm 1:2–3 NLT)
‘He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs.’ Acts 1:3 NKJV
Evidence of Christ’s resurrection has been examined more carefully than evidence of any other fact in history! It has been weighed and considered by some of the greatest scholars, among them Simon Greenleaf, who held first the Royall, and then the Dane, professorships of law at Harvard University from 1833 to 1848. He helped bring Harvard Law School to prominence and is viewed as one of the greatest authorities on legal evidence in the history of the world. When Greenleaf turned his mind to the resurrection and examined it in light of all the laws of evidence, he concluded that it was a reality, that it was a historical event, and that anyone who honestly examined the evidence would be convinced this was the case. And it was for Dr. Frank Morison, a British lawyer/engineer who set out to write a book repudiating the resurrection of Christ. He did, in fact, write his book—but it wasn’t the book he intended to write! As he examined the evidence, this skeptical lawyer found it so overwhelming that he was forced to accept it, and became a believer. The book he wrote, Who Moved the Stone?, details evidence of the resurrection, and the opening chapter is entitled: The Book That Refused to Be Written. A Union general in the Civil War, attorney Lew Wallace, also set out to write a book disproving the deity of Christ and His resurrection—and ended up defending it in his famous book Ben-Hur, described as ‘the most influential book of the nineteenth century’. Christ arose! Your redeemed loved ones will too, and you can spend eternity with them in God’s presence.
‘Share each other’s burdens.’ Galatians 6:2 NLT
Dr Raymond Vath said, ‘We must do for others what they cannot do for themselves, but we must not do for them what they will not do for themselves. The problem is finding the wisdom to know the difference.’ You can be too helpful! By doing for somebody what they can do for themselves, you undermine their self-reliance and create an unhealthy dependence. So instead of rushing in and taking over:
(1) Show them manageable action steps. By helping them take charge of their life you’re arming them against despair and powerlessness. And by validating their efforts you’re helping them to rebuild their fragile confidence. A word of caution, however: when the crisis involves irreversible loss like divorce or death, the work of simply getting through one day at a time is action enough.
(2) Give them hope. In the depth of crisis there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel—a sense that the suffering will go on endlessly. Growth and improvement can’t happen without hope. Hope provides energy, and brings relief based on the conviction that things will improve. God promises, ‘I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering.’ (Jeremiah 29:11 CEV)
(3) Be sure to follow up. Crises are seldom resolved quickly. Although life may eventually take on some semblance of normalcy, there may be episodes of relapse into sadness, helplessness or loneliness. Your words may bring comfort, but your ongoing attentiveness will help the hurting person maintain faith and progress in their journey to healing.
‘He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others when they are troubled.’ 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT
One way to help a friend in crisis is to help them identify important resources-spiritual, personal, and interpersonal.
(1) Spiritual resources. ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ (Psalm 46:1 RSV) God’s Word illuminates the darkness and confusion. His Spirit is the source of all comfort—He gives ‘the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.’ (Philippians 4:7 RSV) His presence addresses the loneliness, and His power enables the hurting heart to overcome feelings of helplessness. People in crisis are often disoriented, which causes them to forget what God has already given them.
(2) Personal resources. Remind them of their unique strengths and skills. Help them recall past triumphs when they successfully navigated through tough times. Encourage a positive attitude that looks to the future rather than being paralyzed by present pain. Most importantly, strengthen their faith with prayer and truths from God’s Word. And last but not least, remind them of your support.
(3) Interpersonal resources. Family members, friends, business associates, and neighbors are likely to be supportive, and community resources are also available for medical, financial and material assistance. The local church is another network source. People in crisis are often too embarrassed to ask for help; they feel like they should be able to handle their own problems. Help them understand that you are blessed by giving and that one day they too will have an opportunity to help ‘someone else who is going through hard times’.
‘Offer each other a helping hand.’ Galatians 6:2 CEV
When a friend or family member is in a crisis, your aim should be to help them cope with it and grow through it. Sometimes that’s easier said than done! As their hurting hearts adjust to new and unfamiliar circumstances, they might be skeptical about whom to trust. But being there for them is what the kingdom of God is all about! ‘Carry each other’s burdens.’(Galatians 6:2 NIV) Your commitment can play a significant role in someone’s journey towards becoming emotionally healthy again. Here are three practical suggestions:
(1) Don’t expect them to initiate contact. It’s common for people in crisis to withdraw rather than ask for help. Often they’re too distraught to know what they need, so you’ll probably have to make the first move. And please don’t feel like you have to be a professional. Two simple steps can make the hurting one feel valued and understood:
(a) Listen carefully to their concerns and perceptions.
(b) Maintain eye contact and show genuine interest.
(2) Help reduce their anxiety. Offer a calming presence by inviting them to share their feelings. And if their viewpoint seems distorted, say something like, ‘May I suggest another way of looking at things?’
(3) Help them focus on what’s important. They’re feeling overwhelmed, so help them sort out the issues that need their immediate attention. Instead of rehashing the past and worrying about the future, encourage them to concentrate on the present and ‘live one day at a time.’ (Matthew 6:34 TLB)
‘Take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.’ Romans 12:8 NLT
We say, ‘It’s not my responsibility. I don’t want to get involved!’ Ever said those words? You may have thought you had a good reason—perhaps it was an inconvenient time—but the bottom line is you didn’t offer to help someone in need. And you’re not alone. Research confirms that the trend to avoid involvement is increasing worldwide. Nevertheless, ‘being there’ for others is a Biblical mandate; it’s the practical application of loving God and your neighbor (see Matthew 22:37–39). Crises generally present themselves in three ways:
(1) Situational crises include serious illnesses, the death of a loved one, or breakdowns in family relationships. The patriarch Job experienced all of these!
(2) Developmental crises happen over the course of life—leaving home, going away to college, marriage adjustments, parenting, retirement or declining health. Abraham and Sarah knew all about living through developmental crises. They left their home and family and endured years of childlessness. Then on top of that God asked them to sacrifice their one and only ‘miracle’ son.
(3) Self-awareness crises are when you discover disturbing truths about yourself—you’re told that, humanly speaking, your illness is incurable, or you see yourself as a failure because now you’re too old to realize your life’s goals. Or you face the reality of being divorced or widowed, or you feel rejected because of your background. People like Elijah and Jonah are examples of self-awareness crises. Do any of these examples bring someone you know to mind? And if so, ‘be quick to respond’.
‘Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings.’ Proverbs 22:29 NIV
Here’s a prayer for success at work: ‘Lord, I thank You for the way You’ve made me, for the many gifts and talents You’ve placed within me, and I trust that I’m the best person for this job. I am grateful for each and every one of the personalities I work with, even the ones I don’t particularly like or understand. I ask that my focus would be on accomplishing the goals You have set forth for me to perform during my time in this position. Give me wisdom and discernment on the job, even in the midst of a hostile environment. Help me to learn what You want to teach me here, and give me patience as You prepare me for the future. Help me to do my best, and to always remain positive and hopeful. Please quiet the complaints and disappointments of my heart with Your perfect peace, and allow me to trust You with my job. Dress me in the garments of praise and the righteousness of Christ that I may bring You glory where I work. Allow me to know my true identity, to walk in Your favor, and to seek to please You more than those with whom I work. Where there is contention, let me be a peacemaker. Where there is deceit, let me speak the truth. Where there is despair, let me bring hope. Where there is fear, let me bring faith. Where there is darkness, let me bring light. Where there is sadness, let me bring joy. These things I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.’
‘Give Your servant a discerning heart.’ 1 Kings 3:9 NIV
Dr John Maxwell writes: ‘Several years ago when I was speaking to a group of executives, someone asked me what principles I follow when hiring. “I have only one rule,” I explained. “I never do the hiring.” That got their attention. “And here’s why: I’m terrible at it.” I went on to explain my horrible track record…“Because I’m so optimistic and have a high belief in people, I’m unrealistic. It doesn’t matter what red flags come up during an interview with a candidate, I always think, I can help this person to improve and succeed. That’s not the right attitude for an interviewer. To be successful in this area you need people who are sceptical—the kind of individuals who wouldn’t even hire their own mothers. When I quit hiring, it took my organization to a whole new level.” When I told this room full of executives that I didn’t do any hiring anymore, I could see their first reaction was negative. But as I explained it, I could see they appreciated that I knew my own weaknesses, and they respected my honesty. Few things are worse than someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, making things up as he goes along, and pretending he has expertise when he really doesn’t have a clue.’
If you have a poor track record in hiring people, delegate the job to those who are gifted at it. And if you must do it yourself, pray Solomon’s prayer: ‘Give Your servant a discerning heart to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great person of Yours?’