How to overcome discouragement (3)

Nehemiah 4:14 NIV

Fight a gloomy outlook. Attitude is a little thing, but it makes a big difference. Depression, gloom, pessimism, despair, and discouragement stop more people than all the world’s combined illnesses. The truth is, enthusiasm will take you where talent alone can’t. Think about it: Every day talented people give in to discouragement and quit, while people with less talent and ability keep going and succeed. Winston Churchill once quipped, “I’m an optimist. It doesn’t seem too much use being anything else.” If you really, really, really believe that God is on your side, you’ll be optimistic even in the face of overwhelming obstacles and discouragement.

In the Old Testament, a group of former slaves rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in just fifty-two days, and went on to prosper. How did they do it? Because their leader said, “Don’t surrender to discouragement. Don’t give it an inch. Fight every step of the way!” And that prescription still works today!

One of Satan’s favourite weapons is discouragement. He knows you can never be defeated unless you’re defeated in your thinking. But you have the power to overcome him. The Bible says, “Submit…to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). When Satan brings discouragement to your door, what should you do? Don’t open the door! Don’t invite him in! Don’t accept the package! Don’t sign the receipt! Instead, submit to God – and resist him! From time to time we all experience fatigue, frustration, failure, and fear. But by standing on God’s promises and drawing on His strength, you can choose not to get discouraged. The choice is yours!

Soul food: 1 Chr 16-18; John 10:22-42; Ps 83:9-18; Prov 26:13-16

Doling out God’s grace (2)

Galatians 2:21 NASB

Chuck Swindoll says as believers we’re often intolerant “of those who don’t fit our mold – an attitude that reveals itself in the stoic stare or caustic comment. Such reactions will thin the church ranks faster than fire in the basement or flu in the pew.

Paul rebuked the Galatians for ‘deserting Christ’ (See 1:6), ‘nullifying the grace of God’ (See 2:21), and becoming ‘bewitched by legalism’ (See 3:1)…Sure, there are limits to freedom. Grace does not condone license…The opposite of legalism isn’t ‘do as you please.’ But the limitations are broader than most of us realize.

I can’t believe, for example, the only music God smiles on is highbrow or hymns…Nor do I believe the necessary garment for entering the Veil is a suit and tie…Let’s remember who gets wrought up over outward appearances. It’s not God! He ‘looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7 NAS)…

Jesus reserved His strongest and longest sermon…for…legalists – present-day Pharisees. When it came to self-righteous showing off, Jesus pulled no punches. He found it was the only way to deal with those who hung around places of worship distaining and despising others. No less than seven times He pronounced ‘Woe to you,’ because that’s the only language a Pharisee understands…

Two final comments: (1) If you tend toward Phariseeism in any form, stop it! If you’re the type who bullies and looks down on others…you’re a twentieth century Pharisee. (2) When modern-day Pharisees try to control your life, stop them. Remind those religious phonies that the splinter in your eye is between you and God, and they should pay attention to the tree trunk in their own eye.”

Soul food: 2 Sam 1:1-3:21; John 3:1-21; Ps 89:15-37; Prov 23:15-18

Giving thanks (2)

1 Thessalonians 5:16 ESV

When you’re going through a difficult time, do you ever find yourself asking, ‘Why me, God? Why don’t you answer my prayers? Why doesn’t Your Word encourage me like it seems to encourage others?’ Maybe your friends have tried to help by saying things like ‘stay positive’, ‘it’s all for the best’, or quoting Bible verses like ‘For I know the plans I have for you’ (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) or ‘Rejoice always’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16 ESV).

While all these things might be true, they often just make us feel worse. We might feel like failures as Christians because we’re not full of joy and we’re not feeling positive. When life overwhelms us, the last thing we feel like doing is giving thanks. So how can we cultivate an attitude like Paul’s, who sang hymns and worshipped God while in prison? Here are a few ideas:

1) Acknowledge how we’re feeling. We can think that we have to hide our feelings, because Christians are supposed to ‘rejoice always’. But we should admit how we’re feeling to God, then He can help us begin to heal and regain our joy.

2) Refuse to retaliate. When something bad happens to us, often our first reaction is to retaliate, get angry, or even to blame God. But as we saw in yesterday’s reading, there are still reasons to be thankful even in the bad times. Which leads us to:

3) Choose to give thanks. This might not come naturally at first, so we may have to make a conscious effort to be thankful.

We need to remember that God hasn’t let us down before, and hold on to the fact that He wants the best for us. When we do that, we’ll feel more able to rejoice and give thanks.

1 Sam 24-26; John 1:29-42; Ps 131; Prov 23:1-3

Money Mindset

Proverbs 23:4 NLT

1 Timothy 6:10 tells us that ‘the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’ (NIV). This verse is often misquoted to suggest that money itself is the most evil thing. The Biblical truth is that it’s our attitude to money that causes problems. With the right heart, having a lot of money can create real opportunities to do enormous amounts of good, though it’s not always necessary to have money to do Godly work. Jesus didn’t come from money. In Luke 2:22-24, we see that His family was too poor to offer the usual lamb at the time of his circumcision, and took birds instead. Jesus didn’t earn a salary in His years preaching, but He still built a network that eventually spread God’s Word around the world. However, to fulfil certain tasks in God’s Kingdom, money is necessary. As long as those involved maintain a sensible, generous heart, God can use all finances in a positive way. But if we start to love and crave money, or even develop anxious thoughts about it, money’s goodness goes out of the window. ‘All kinds of evil’ can creep in, and our attitude towards money holds an unhealthy amount of power over us. Proverbs 23:4 warns against letting our money mindset control our actions. It says, ‘do not wear yourself out to get rich’ (NIV). The most important thing is to have a prayerful sense of balance about our finances. If we’re in a season of having plenty, then we should hold loosely to what we have and share it generously. If we’re in a time where we have less, then we can use that as a reminder to rely on God, trusting that He always provides what we need.

Lev 16; Lev 23:26-32; Heb 9:1-14

Change your attitude!

Ephesians 4:23 AMPC

We can learn a lot about the importance of a good attitude by looking at the children of Israel. It’s estimated that about 1.5 million Israelites came out of Egypt. God delivered them from slavery and led them to the Promised Land. The trip should have taken about eleven days, but instead it took forty years. Why? Because they were constantly complaining about everything! They complained about the food God sent from heaven each day. And any time something difficult crossed their path they were ready to give up and go back to Egypt – back to slavery. What’s astounding is that out of the 1.5 million people who left Egypt, only two from the original group made it into the Promised Land. And today there are many Christians who have also escaped from “Egypt” (their former life of slavery to sin), believers who are always looking forward to the Promised Land, yet they end up wandering in the wilderness their entire lives, dealing with the same old problems and issues. Are you one of them? Do you feel like you’ve been circling the same mountain for too long? (See Deuteronomy 2:3). If so, here’s your answer: “Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24 AMPC). In other words – change your attitude!

Soul food: Eze 46-48; Luke 22:54-62; Ps 3; Prov 21:4-8