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
Psalm 23:1 NIV
At the start of Psalm 23, David says: ‘The Lord is my shepherd’. By saying this, he was affirming that he had a very personal relationship with God; one that was unique. God has given each of us a one-of-a-kind personality, gifting, purpose, and calling. And He wants a relationship with us that is unlike the one He has with anybody else. Just like our fingerprints are unique, so is God’s interaction with us. We need to learn how to hear His voice and to know when He is speaking specifically to us. David goes on to say, ‘I lack nothing’. The shepherd was the provider for all the sheep. He kept them safe and made sure that they were led to places where they could eat and drink. And, as our Shepherd, God does that for us. He keeps us safe and He provides for all our needs. We can often get stressed because we forget that we have a Personal Provider. We forget that God cares about us so much that He will meet all our needs. In Matthew, Jesus says: ‘Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?’ (vv.25-26 NIV). We’re so valuable to God, He sees us as individuals. He wants that unique relationship with each of us. And He knows the things we need (have a look at Matthew 6:32). So we don’t have to stress, we have a Personal Provider looking after us.
Matt 5:5; Num 12:1-15; Ps 37:1-9; Phil 2:5-11
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
1 Kings 3:9 NIV
When God asked Solomon what he wanted, Solomon gave what we might think of as a surprising answer. Out of everything he could have wanted, he asked for the gift of wisdom. He prayed: ‘Give your servant a discerning heart…to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’ Solomon recognised the value of wisdom. We all need wisdom. From decision making to solving conflicts, we need to be able to make wise choices. And discernment fits in with this. Being able to discern between right and wrong, the truthfulness of a statement or the character of a person, helps us make those wise choices. The Bible says that discernment is a spiritual gift. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul shows us that people are given differing gifts (see v.10). So some of us have discernment as our spiritual gift. But for those of us who don’t, we can ask God to help us be discerning and wise in our everyday decisions, faith, relationships and workplaces. ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you’ (James 1:5 NIV). And when we’re filled with God’s wisdom, the decisions we make will bring peace, justice and goodness. And that will bring glory to God. When Solomon received the gift of wisdom, he was soon put to the test when two women approached him both claiming to be a baby’s mother. He managed to discern who the real mother was and we’re told that the people were in awe of him because they could see God’s wisdom in him (see 1 Kings 3:28). Can people see the same in us?
Judg 7:1-9:33; Mark 10:23-34; Ps 93; Prov 13:7-8
Philippians 3:13 NIV
Whatever our past may have been, God has a better future in mind for us. But too often, we keep ourselves stuck in the past. We hold onto bitterness, hurt and disappointment. We keep thinking about the things that have happened to us, or the mistakes we’ve made. We prevent ourselves from moving forward into that better future that God has for us. We need to forgive the people who’ve hurt us, forgive ourselves, and let it go. But forgiving others can be a lot easier said than done. We feel that they don’t deserve our forgiveness, or feel that forgiving them somehow excuses what they did to us. But the truth is, forgiveness sets us free. It cuts the emotional tie between us and the people who’ve hurt us. It removes some of the heavy baggage we’re carrying around. God sees and knows what’s happened to us. We can give it all over to Him and find peace and freedom in forgiveness. ‘Forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ’ (Ephesians 4:32 NCV). This includes forgiving ourselves for things we’ve done. We can end up beating ourselves up over things we’ve done, or not done. And God doesn’t want us to live like that. He forgives us, so we need to forgive ourselves. God’s got incredible plans for each of us. The Bible says: ‘God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing’ (Ephesians 2:10 NCV). But stepping forward into those plans requires us to stop stepping back into the past, let go of things that are holding us back and instead strain towards what’s ahead.
Gal 5:22; Luke 19:11-26; Ps 36:5-9; Heb 10:19-23