Spiritual warfare

Joshua 8:1 NKJV

After Joshua conquered Jericho, God said to him, ‘Take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king…his people…his city, and his land.’ These were warriors who were strong and equipped for battle. In a similar way, we need to take people who are strong and equipped in spiritual warfare with us when we are fighting spiritual battles. These are the people who are experienced in spiritual warfare and know how to deal with the enemy. They have strategies for victory that they know will work, and a firm faith that rises up and says, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31 NIV). The people of war are the people of the Word. They know how to take the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, and use it to defeat the enemy (have a read of Ephesians 6:17). Anybody can stand with us in the good times, but when we find somebody who can stand with us in the bad times, we need to make sure we don’t take them for granted and that we build a relationship with them. The Bible says, ‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity’ (Proverbs 17:17). Real friends stick by us when we are struggling. It’s in those times that we need friends who are ready to enter into battle with us, who will declare God’s promises over our lives, and encourage us to keep fighting when we feel weak and discouraged. So next time we are facing a spiritual battle, let’s make sure we are surrounding ourselves with people who are ready to enter into spiritual warfare with us.

2 Sam 22:31-24:25; John 4:13-26; Ps 32; Prov 23:29-35

Are you a “me first” person?

Philippians 2:3 NIV

If you’re a “me first” person, here are some verses of Scripture that is designed to keep you on your toes, and your knees! “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but…to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5 NIV). That’s how Jesus treated people, and you have been called to do likewise. Is doing this easy or convenient? No, it runs contrary to everything in our self-centered natures. And because you were gracious yesterday, is no guarantee you’ll treat people the same way today. Grace is like a garment; you have to put it on each morning and wear it all day. “How can I live like that?” you ask. By drawing daily on God’s grace, and deciding to put others first. By looking for ways to support and encourage them. Everybody you meet is fighting a battle of some kind, and you may be the one person that crosses their path who is able to speak a word of encouragement to them (See Proverbs 16:24 NLT). Don’t let them down. Humility is an attitude that determines ahead of time: “I care about the people around me. I don’t always have to be first. I’m going to help somebody else win for a change.” Humility prays, “Lord, teach me to curb my competitive nature and turn that energy into loving and lifting others. Show me how You did it, and help me to do it too.”

Soul food: Est 4:9-5:3; Heb 4:7-16

Friends “in the woods”

1 Samuel 23:16 NKJV

The first African American to play major league baseball was Jackie Robinson. While trying to break through baseball’s color barrier, he faced insults and abuse in just about every stadium. One day at his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made an error and the fans immediately turned on him. While they jeered, Robinson just stood there at second base, humiliated. At that point shortstop Pee Wee Reese ran over, stood beside him, put his arm around him, and together they faced the crowd. Within seconds the fans grew quiet. Years later when Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, he said, “Reese’s arm around my shoulder that day saved my career.” Jesus knew Peter would “strike out” and deny Him, yet He extended grace to Peter even before it happened. Here’s what He told him: “When you have come back to me, help the others” (Luke 22:32 CEV). When God restores you, you’ll want to reach out to others with His love. It will be as natural to you as breathing. You’ll live by the Scripture: “Strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong…for your God…is coming to save you'” (Isaiah 35:3-4 NLT). In Scripture “Jonathan…went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand.” When you feel lost “in the woods” you need a Jonathan. That’s when you prove the truth of the old adage: “In prosperity our friends know us, but in adversity we know our friends.” They’re the people we turn to in times of trouble. So if you think you’ll ever need such a friend, be one!

Soul food: 2 Sam 7:18-11:27; John 2:1-11; Ps 110; Prov 23:6-9

Strengthen others

Luke 22:32 NLT

Jesus knew Peter would deny Him, yet He extended grace to Peter even before it happened. Here’s what He told him: ‘When you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.’ When God restores us, we should want to tell other people what He has done. We should want to show His love to them, and encourage them to keep trusting and keep believing. Isaiah said: ‘Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come’ (Isaiah 35:3-4 NIV). And that’s what we are called to do too. When the valley seems never-ending, the darkness seems to be taking over, and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything, a word of encouragement from others can make all the difference. Before Jesus told Peter to strengthen others, He warned him that the devil was wanting to ‘sift [them] like wheat’ (Luke 22:31 NLT). We all go through times of ‘sifting’, when the enemy is trying to see whether we will cling to God or find our strength in things apart from Him. He wants us to falter and trip up on obstacles that he has placed in our way. God promises to strengthen us during this time. But He can only strengthen us if we bring it all to Him, and trust Him through it. Sometimes we need others to remind us that God is trustworthy when things are going wrong around us. We need to be reminded that He is good, despite what the circumstances suggest. We need them to remind us of His promises to us. When we have experienced breakthrough, it’s a great opportunity to use our increased faith and expectancy to encourage those who need to be reminded of these things.

2 Sam 7:18-11:27; John 2:1-11; Ps 110; Prov 23:6-9

Loving others in the church (3)

1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

A key way of loving others, and promoting unity in our churches, is to encourage people. When we criticise others, we can make them feel inferior or cause resentment to develop. That doesn’t mean we should let ungodly behaviour go unnoticed; there’s a place for discipline and constructive criticism, but it should be done with love and sensitivity. We should be aiming to be positive with our words, to tell people when they’ve done something right and to speak positivity into people’s situations. The Bible says, ‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.’ Encouragement can go beyond words. We should be encouraging people to try something new, step out of their comfort zones and bring new ideas. Sometimes we can be wary of change, afraid that it will mess up our traditions and our routines. But when we invite people to start to use their gifts, they can bring freshness and creativity. We should be encouraging people to get involved and use what God has given them to develop the church. Forgiveness is another important part of having a loving and united church. When someone hasn’t been encouraging towards us, we have a choice. We can either let bitterness take root, or we can forgive them. If we don’t choose to forgive, bitterness and resentment can start to affect how we respond to that person, and to others. And if we choose to talk to others about what that person did to us, it can cause resentment and tension to spread around the church. The Bible says, ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). Let’s choose to live by that verse, and love others with encouragement and forgiveness.

1 Kings 6-7; Mark 8:1-13; Ps 97; Prov 12:1-3