The transforming power of gratitude (2)

1 Thessalonians 5:16 NKJV

Ever find yourself asking, “Why me, Lord? How come You don’t answer my prayers? Why doesn’t Your Word work for me like it does for others?” Well-meaning friends tell you to keep your chin up, things will get better, but you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. And just when you think things can’t get any worse, you pick up your Bible and read, “Rejoice always…In everything give thanks” (vv. 16-18 NKJV), as if you’re supposed to enjoy your situation!

Alexander Maclaren said, “Seek to cultivate a buoyant, joyous sense of the crowded kindnesses of God in your daily life.”

The fact is, however, when life overwhelms you the last thing you feel like doing is giving thanks, right? But as Nancy Leigh DeMoss observes: “Unless you just love the way duty feels when it wakes you at three in the morning, or hijacks your plans for your day off, or hands you an unexpected bill that wasn’t in the budget…don’t try living the Christian life without gratitude. By sheer willpower and effort you may succeed at ‘gutting out’ right responses, but your Christianity (so-called) will be hollow, hard-edged, and uninviting…If all our faith had to offer were words that only fit in a theological textbook, it would be unkind to extend them to someone struggling to survive. True Christ-centered, grace-motivated gratitude fits life’s most desperate moments and difficult situations. When there are no answers, it gives hope. It transforms overwhelmed strugglers into triumphant conquerors…Gratitude is a hard-fought, grace-infused, biblical lifestyle…and [its] transforming power is reserved for those who know and acknowledge the Giver of every good gift, and who are recipients of His redeeming grace.”

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

How to walk by faith

Romans 4:12 NKJV

The Bible talks about those “who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had.” How do you walk like that? (1) Abraham believed “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (v. 17 NKJV). When God makes you a promise, He has the power to bring it to pass, even when all the evidence and surrounding circumstances run contrary to what He said. (2) “Who, contrary to hope, in hope believed…that he became the father of many nations” (v. 18 NKJV). When all reason for hope was gone, Abraham still hoped. Why? Because his hope was in God! If you’re feeling hopeless today, think about these words: “Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you” (Zechariah 9:12 NKJV). (3) “Who…believed…according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be'” (Romans 4:18 NKJV). Note the phrase “according to what was spoken.” When God makes a promise, it contains the self-fulfilling power to bring it to pass. “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and…prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV). (4) “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith” (Romans 4:20 NKJV). The word “waver” tells us Abraham didn’t dither, vacillate, argue within himself, or let other people’s opinions influence him. Instead, he remained resolute and steadfast. That’s how you walk by faith!

Soul food: 1 Sam 1-3; Luke 23:50-56; Ps 68:1-11; Prov 22:1-2

Walking by faith

Romans 4:12 NKJV

The Bible talks about those ‘who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had’. But how do we walk by faith? 1) Abraham ‘believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing’ (v.17 NLT). When God makes a promise, He has the power to make it happen, even when all the circumstances say that it’s impossible. 2) ‘Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping – believing that he would become the father of nations’ (v.18 NLT). When it seemed like there was no hope left, Abraham didn’t give up, because his hope was in God. When we’re going through times when things look hopeless, let’s think of these words: ‘Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you’ (Zechariah 9:12 NIV). 3) ‘For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have”‘ (Romans 4:18 NLT). When God makes a promise, it contains the power to make it happen. ‘The same thing is true of the words I speak. They will not return to me empty. They make the things happen that I want to happen, and they succeed in doing what I send them to do’ (Isaiah 55:11 NCV). 4) ‘Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God’ (Romans 4:20 NLT). Abraham didn’t doubt God, argue within himself, or let other people’s opinions influence him. Instead, he remained steadfast and trusted God. And by doing that, he glorified God. So let’s use him as our example of walking by faith.

1 Sam 1-3; Luke 23:50-56; Ps 68:1-11; Prov 22:1-2

You can start again

Matthew 12:20 NIVUK

God is a mender and not a discarder. With Him, broken lives aren’t the end of the story. When we feel broken, useless and that we’ve gone too far away from the path that God wanted us to go down, there’s hope. God doesn’t give up on us. We’re never too broken for Him to restore. In Matthew it says: ‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.’ This is actually a quote from the prophet Isaiah (have a read in Isaiah 42). In this chapter, Isaiah’s prophesying about Jesus. The ‘bruised reed’ represents people who feel weak and fragile, while the ‘smouldering wick’ represents people who have almost burnt out, their light is fading and their hope is nearly gone. Jesus doesn’t give up on us when we’re feeling like that, instead He works to gently restore us. He gives us the opportunity to start again, however badly we think we’ve failed Him. And the truth is that we all fail at some point. The Bible is full of people who failed. Abraham lied and put Sarah at risk. Jacob was a cheat and self-promoting con artist. Moses determined to do things his own way and ended up a fugitive. David cheated on his wife and betrayed a faithful friend. Peter turned his back on Christ. But, the thing is, God used each of them. And He’ll use us too. He’s the God of unlimited grace. As long as we recognise our failures and desire to start again, He’ll begin the process of restoring us. No matter how broken we’re feeling today, let’s grasp that offer of a second chance.

2 Cor 11:16-13:14; Luke 23:26-31; Ps 54; Prov 21:18-21

At your breaking point – turn to God

Psalm 27:14 KJV

David had reached his breaking point. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13 NKJV). Can you identify? Have you reached your breaking point? If so, you have two options: Break down or break through. It all depends on what you do. There’s an old saying, “The same sunshine that melts the butter hardens the clay.” When trouble comes, you can either turn against God because you served Him and don’t understand why He’s allowing it, or turn to Him for strength and understanding. That’s why what David says next is so important: “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart.” Sometimes God changes our circumstances; other times He uses them to strengthen us. Try to understand this. It’s not just about you, but those God wants to reach through you. “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT). Nothing catches God off guard, and nothing’s too hard for Him to handle. The situation you’re in right now can become a platform for Him to demonstrate His love and care for you. “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him!’ The Lord is good to those who depend on him” (Lamentations 3:22-25 NLT).

Soul food: Acts 16-17; Luke 9:28-36; Ps 42:1-5; Prov 16:16