It’s About Him – Not You
‘…This work had been done with the help of our God.’ Nehemiah 6:16 NIV
After scoring a goal for his team, a big, rugged AFL player started dancing and beating his chest as if to say, ‘Look at me, I’m the greatest.’ Then the opposing team gained possession of the ball and their centre kicked a goal from outside the 50. But unlike his opponent, the centre offered up a quick ‘Thank You, God’ before turning to celebrate with his team. Now meet another team player, Nehemiah, the king’s royal cupbearer. When he heard about Jerusalem’s broken-down walls, he set aside his own problems and focused on the nation’s. Nehemiah was so burdened for the city where his forefathers were buried that he ‘…wept…mourned…and prayed before…God…’ (Nehemiah 1:4 NIV) He remembered his roots, and reminded God of His covenant with His people by, in essence, praying: ‘I know who You are, God, and I know who are. Your people have rejected You, but we’re coming back and You can give us success.’ God honoured Nehemiah’s prayers and Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt in 52 days, causing the enemy nations who heard to lose ‘their self-confidence, because they realised this work had been done with the help of our God.’ When God looks for a leader, He knows the kind of man and woman He can count on. He knows that a leader who’s a team player can turn weakness into strength, obstacles into stepping stones, and disaster into triumph. You may not see yourself as a leader per se, but people watch you every day. The question is, do they know who you are following? And that it’s about Him – not you?
Faith: the Power to Overcome
‘…This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.’ 1 John 5:4 NIV
When your health, your finances or family are at risk, you suddenly realise how fragile life is. Today you may be living on the sunny side of the street, but if you live long enough adversity will come knocking on your door. When it does, you’ll discover that things like power, possessions and popularity won’t sustain you. If power could do it, Joseph Stalin wouldn’t have been afraid to go to sleep at night or been so paranoid that he appointed a soldier to guard his teabags. If possessions could do it, fear wouldn’t have caused billionaire Howard Hughes to live like a hermit and die alone. If popularity could do it, John Lennon’s biographers wouldn’t have described him as a fearful man who slept with the lights on and was terrified of germs. Earthly supports can only sustain you so long. Courage for living comes from a deep abiding trust in God, whose Word says, ‘This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.’ But faith is only as valuable as the thing it’s placed in, and our faith is in a God who never fails! David said, ‘Through You we push back our enemies; through Your name we trample our foes.’ (Psalm 44:5 NIV) Jesus said, ‘I have given you authority to…overcome all the power of the enemy…’ (Luke 10:19 NIV) Paul said, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.’ (Romans 8:35-37 NIV)
The Right Word at the Right Time
‘What you say can mean life or death’ Proverbs 18:21 NCV
There’s a story about a teacher who, to honour her students, gave each a ribbon that stated, ‘Who I am makes a difference,’ and asked them to pass it along to someone who’d made a difference in their lives. One kid gave his to a young executive who helped him plan his career. He in turn gave it to his boss, who was hard to get along with. He told him how much he’d been influenced by his creativity, and asked him to give the ribbon to somebody he admired. That night the boss told his fourteen-year-old son, ‘I’ve thought about who I want to honour-and it’s you. My days are hectic, and I’m always complaining about your grades and your messy bedroom. Tonight I want to let you know the difference you’ve made in my life. Besides your mother, you’re the most important person I know, and I love you.’ Fighting back tears, the boy replied, ‘Earlier today I wrote a letter explaining why I’d taken my life, and asking you to forgive me. I was going to do it when everybody was asleep. I didn’t think you’d care. I guess I won’t need the letter now.’ Upstairs in his son’s room the father found the anguish-filled note beside a loaded gun. God can help you to ‘…speak a word in season to him who is weary…’ (Isaiah 50:4 NKJV) Words change lives: ‘What you say can mean life or death.’ So go out of your way today to speak words of encouragement to somebody you don’t normally think about. ‘…a word spoken at the right moment-how good it is!’ (Proverbs 15:23 AMP)
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” 2 Corinthians 13:5
If you are into gym exercise you will know that you are repeatedly told to strengthen your core muscles i.e. back, side, hips, abdominal muscles and so on.
According to Harvard Medical School exercise holds all sorts of advantages to your body, health and sense of well-being.
I think the same is true for us as Christians. We continually need to go back to basic spiritual truths so that we can remain strong, assured and growing spiritually. Hence Paul advises his friends in Corinth to examine themselves. We should do the same. But how do we examine ourselves?
We all know what it means to keep a check on ourselves in other areas of life. Diets are a great example. We usually start off with great enthusiasm, then we begin to cheat a little; then we begin to cheat a lot. Eventually we abandon our diet, but it’s not as if we did not know we were doing so.
So with our spiritual lives. We need to keep examining ourselves and the examination should probe our inner lives. We know very well when we begin cheating spiritually. We should ask ourselves certain questions. Do we still believe what we said we believed when we became Christians? Are we still unashamed of Christ? Do we still maintain our devotion to Him? Are we faithful to Him when the going gets hard?
Paul says “test yourselves”. If Christ is in you, you cannot help being a Christian and doing the right thing even though it is sometimes very hard. Is your spiritual core strong?
It would help us immensely if we kept up a regular bible reading programme accompanied by times of meditation on what we read. And of course we should be in church regularly with other believers to worship God.
These and a whole host of things which are really simply common sense can help us to examine ourselves and our devotion to Christ. In this way we assure that our spiritual core remains strong.
Prayer: Almighty God. I feel I have been losing my grip on you lately. I need to keep examining myself. Please help me. Thank you for knowing and loving me in spite of my weaknesses. Please give me grace to strengthen my inner self to love you, serve you and glorify you each day. Amen.
A Memo from Heaven
‘…Conquer evil by doing good.’ Romans 12:21 TLB
It’s easy to forget why God saved you, what He’s called you to do, and how you’re supposed to live. So here’s a memo from Heaven: ‘Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of good. Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honouring each other. Never be lazy in your work but serve the Lord enthusiastically. Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble and prayerful always. When God’s children are in need, you be the one to help them out… If someone mistreats you… pray that God will bless him. When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Work happily together. Don’t try to act big. Don’t try to get into the good graces of important people, but enjoy the company of ordinary folks. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone will see you are honest clear through. Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible… never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for He has said that He will repay those who deserve it… Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be heaping coals of fire on his head. In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you. Don’t let evil get the upper hand but conquer evil by doing good.’ (Romans 12:9-21 TLB)
‘In Him we have…forgiveness of sins’ Ephesians 1:7 NKJV
When God forgives you but you refuse to forgive yourself, you’re spurning His grace and choosing to be miserable. When you do that:
(1) Your loved ones are at risk. It’s not just about you. When you wallow in guilt you tend to be more withdrawn and critical, and less open and affectionate. So your spouse, children, parents, co-workers, friends and even your pets suffer along with you.
(2) Your health is at risk. Your mind affects your body. Doctors say bitterness generates chemicals that affect your vital organs. They increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, disrupt your digestion, tense your muscles, dump cholesterol into your bloodstream, and reduce your ability to think clearly. Each time you rehearse the past those bad feelings deliver more corrosive chemicals. Science is now confirming what God has said; namely, that those who don’t forgive themselves, and others, are more prone to heart attacks, depression, hypertension and other serious illnesses.
(3) Your future is at risk. The Bible says, ‘You will again have compassion on us… You will…hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.’ (Micah 7:19 NIV) Stop dredging up what God has buried. Start looking ahead; otherwise you’ll get mired in a bog of your own making. The Bible says, ‘He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.’ (Ephesians 1:7-8 NLT) With God’s forgiveness comes the wisdom and understanding to not only survive your past, but grow stronger as a result of it.
‘Bless the Lord…who forgives all your [sins]’ Psalm 103:23 NKJV
We tend to forgive others more easily than we forgive ourselves. This is especially so when we fail in a major area like a marriage or career, or our actions have hurt others, or our habits have hurt us, or we know we are not doing what we should. So what should you do?
(1) Acknowledge it. Don’t be afraid to confess what you’ve done. You’re not unique. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last to fail. Once you’ve obtained God’s forgiveness, get the support of a trusted friend. ‘Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.’ (James 5:16 NKJV)
(2) Delete it. Often it’s not the offence itself, but the guilt and stress associated with remembering our actions that make us feel bad. Our reaction is the problem! Continually revisiting our failures doesn’t help at all, and it disappoints God. So catch yourself doing it-and hit the delete button! Focus on the fact that God has forgiven you, then put it behind you. ‘In Him we have…the forgiveness of sins…’ (Ephesians 1:7 NKJV)
(3) Replace it. Instead of guilt, choose gratitude. That’s not hard to do; just begin to reflect on God’s goodness. That’s what David did: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies.’ (Psalm 103:2-4 NKJV) When you start to look for them, you’ll find lots of things to thank God for.
Be Enthusiastic About Your Work
by Rick Warren
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10a NIV)
If you want your work to be blessed by God, the first thing you must do is start working enthusiastically.
Enthusiasm is not based on how fun your job is or how much it pays; it’s based on why you do what you do. In fact, the word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek words “en theos,” which means “in God.”
If you want to be enthusiastic about your work, remember these three things:
- Your work is a test from God. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much … If you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” (Luke 16:10-12 NIV)
- God is watching what you do, even when no one else is. “Work hard so God can say to you, ‘Well done.’ Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work” (2 Timothy 2:15 LB).
- Your attitude determines your joy. “The diligent find freedom in their work; the lazy are oppressed by work” (Proverbs 12:24 MSG).
You can’t succeed in life until you change your attitude about the work you are doing right now. Romans 12:11 says, “Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically” (NLT).
Talk About It
- Why do you do the job you have? What motivates you to work hard and well?
- In what ways can you show enthusiasm about your work?
Turn Your Work into Worship
“Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24 NLT)
Your boss is not really your boss; your boss is Jesus.
There are two things I want you to see in our verses today.
- First, it says, “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23 NLT). It’s easier to be enthusiastic about your job when you turn the focus of your work from “I’m doing this for my boss” or “I’m doing this for a paycheck” to “I’m doing this for the Lord.” With that in mind, you can do anything — scrape paint, wash dishes, repair a car — and turn it into worship.
- Second, when you turn your work into worship, you start storing up credits in Heaven. Colossians 3:24 says, “Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ.” As you work for God, you are making eternal deposits in Heaven.
“So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV). It doesn’t matter if you’re rearranging papers or signing bills; any job can become an act of worship if you do it enthusiastically for God.
Talk About It
- As you think of your “credits in Heaven,” how does an eternal perspective help you keep your focus in your work?
- How can an “attitude of worship” be applied in other areas of your life as well?
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller “The Purpose Driven Life.” His book, “The Purpose Driven Church,” was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
This devotional ©2012 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.