Kingdom success

Psalm 37:23 NCV

We are all called to increase God’s kingdom. Whether that’s by introducing people to God, or by living in such a way that more of God’s kingdom is seen on Earth, our purpose is to follow God’s call on our lives. God uses us all for His kingdom. Maybe it’s a calling to share our faith with others, encourage those around us, glorify God in our job or something else, God has a purpose for us. Kingdom success is not like earthly success. We are often told that success means money, fame and power. But in God’s kingdom it’s the opposite. ‘The last will be first, and the first will be last’ (Matthew 20:16 NIV). Kingdom success is not about money, fame or power. It’s about becoming more like Jesus. It’s about sharing our faith, our lives and our gifts with others. It’s about unity, not competition and comparison. It’s about putting others before ourselves. It’s a cycle of receiving and giving, resting and working, praying and doing. Basically, it’s about retreating with God, then advancing with what we have been taught and what God’s asking us to do. The Bible says: ‘When people’s steps follow the Lord, God is pleased with their ways.’ When we do what God’s calling us to do, He’s pleased with us. When we’re desiring to get closer to Him, He’s pleased with us. When we are trying to become more like Him, He’s pleased with us. In God’s kingdom, it doesn’t matter whether we are popular, rich or academic. It doesn’t matter how attractive we are. What matters is our heart. Our heart for God, our heart for others and our heart for the things of the kingdom.

Ezra 3-5; Luke 10:1-12; Ps 78:1-8; Prov 19:21-23

Friendship (2)

Psalm 68:6 NIV

We all need friends in our lives. And when we don’t have them, we can feel lonely, isolated and like we have to go through life on our own. The Bible says that ‘God sets the lonely in families.’ He knows when we’re feeling lonely, and when we ask Him to provide us with true, godly friends, He will. Sometimes we don’t have the best experiences with our families and so our friends can become like our family. They support us, comfort us, encourage us and advise us, just like a family would. ‘Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family’ (Proverbs 18:24 MSG). Paul writes that when he was struggling, God comforted Him by bring along Titus (take a look at 2 Corinthians 6:7). And He can bring people into our lives as a form of comfort when we need them too. But we also have to play our part. The Bible says: ‘A man who has friends must himself be friendly’ (Proverbs 18:24 NKJV). If we want good friends, we must be good friends to others. We need to be vulnerable and let people into our lives. We need to be willing to encourage and support others, just as we’d want them to do for us. We need to sacrifice our time just as others would sacrifice their time to be there for us. Having godly friends means we have people we can call on when the going gets tough. Trying to do God’s work by ourselves can get tiring, we sometimes need the encouragement and skills of others to help us out. After all, we can achieve more together than we can alone.

2 Cor 11:16-13:14; Luke 2:21-33; Ps 8; Prov 16:8-11

Good examples

2 Chronicles 26:4 NIV

When we’re children, we respect and look up to lots of people. Sometimes it’s someone in our family, maybe a teacher or someone like a youth leader. We want to be like them and respect them. They set us an example to follow and show us right from wrong. They may even set us an example of how to live close to God and how to follow His ways. Timothy’s faith was influenced by his mother and grandmother. Paul says: ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also’ (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV). The example of strong faith from Lois and Eunice, inspired the faith of Timothy, someone who spread the news of God to others. And back in the Old Testament, Uzziah followed the example set by Amaziah, his father. The Bible says: ‘He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father…had done.’ Even as we get older, we still need good role models in our lives. We need people who can encourage us in our faith. People who can mentor us. And we also need to be good role models to others. We can mentor people younger than us. But we can also simply live in a Christlike way to show others the right way to live. The Bible tells us to ‘let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts’ (Colossians 3:16 NIV). When we live according to this verse, we’ll be a great example to all we meet.

Ezek 24:1-27:24; Mark 15:21-32; Ps 132:11-18; Prov 15:5-7

Being there (3)

2 Corinthians 1:4 MGS

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). God’s Word illuminates the darkness and confusion. His Spirit is the source of all comfort – He gives “peace…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.”

Soul food: Gal 5:23; Isa 40:9-11; Isa 42:1-4; Ps 18:31-35

Being there (2)

Galatians 6:2 NIV

When a friend or family member is in a crisis, we need to be there for them. Being there for people is what the kingdom of God is all about. We’re told to ‘carry each other’s burdens’. But ‘being there’ may look different depending on the person or the situation. Sometimes, we just need to be someone who listens and give people a safe space to express their emotions. Maybe we commit to praying for them in our own prayer time with God. Or meet up with them regularly to pray with them. Other times we offer practical help and advice to help them cope and grow through the situation they’re facing. But it’s not always easy. Sometimes people are hurting so much that they push us away, or don’t ask for help in the first place. We have to be perceptive to what people are going through, and what the best way to be there for them is. When they reach a stage of being open to advice, we can suggest a different way of looking at things. When we focus on our problems, we forget everything we’ve been blessed with and our problems seem huge. A change of perspective can help reduce people’s anxiety and the size of the problem in their minds. We can encourage them to concentrate on the present and ‘live one day at a time’ (Matthew 6:34 TLB). We can also encourage them to look to God in their situation. We can help them to focus on God and remind them of His faithfulness in the past. We can remind them that the Bible says: ‘The Lord is faithful and will give you strength and will protect you from the Evil One’ (2 Thessalonians 3:3 NCV).

Judg 16:1-19:15; Mark 11:12-26; Ps 47; Prov 13:11-12