2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV
Did you know that over half of those who enter the ministry quit before retirement? Why? There are lots of reasons – here is one of them: They discover that great revelation comes with a “thorn.” The apostle Paul, who wrote half the New Testament, says: “To keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV). Pastor, there are 168 hours in your week. The hour you spend in the pulpit on Sunday morning showcases you in the areas of your gifting and strength. So your challenge will always be to remember that it is God’s Word and God’s power, not yours, that changes lives and gets the job done. Notice what Paul said: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh.” Paul’s thorn came in the form of “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties.” What’s your thorn? You can only stand strong before people if you discipline yourself to spend time before God in prayer and Bible study. That’s how to stay effective and finish strong in ministry!
Soul food: 2 Chr 19-21; John 12:1-11; Ps 76; Prov 27:4-6
Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
God’s peace is a wonderful thing. And some of the people around you today are in need of it. It comes when you commit your life to Christ and live by the principles laid out in Scripture. When you “commit” something to the Lord, you transfer every part of it from you to Him (See Psalm 37:5). Peter writes, “Casting…the whole of your…concerns, once and for all, on Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 AMPC). What a privilege. Have you been availing yourself of it lately? “How do I cast all my cares on Him?” you ask. Through prayer! As soon as you become aware that you’re starting to worry and lose your sense of peace, take it to God immediately and leave it with Him. Don’t give the Devil time to work you over. The longer you wait, the greater his hold over you becomes. “But I can’t help thinking about it,” you say. “What can I do?” These two things: (1) Give it to God and then start to focus on other things. It’s a learned response, one you’ll have to practice daily. Paul writes, “Whatever is true…honorable and worthy of respect…whatever is lovely and brings peace…think continually on these things” (Philippians 4:8 AMP). In other words, redirect your thoughts! (2) Find out what God says in His Word about your situation. Then line your thoughts, words, and actions up with it. When you do this, “You will experience God’s peace” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Soul food: 2 Sam 20:1-22:30; John 4:1-12; Ps 100; Prov 23:22-28
Philippians 3:14 NIV
In 1972, Life magazine published a story about the amazing adventures of John Goddard. When he was fifteen, his grandmother said, “If only I had done that when I was young.” Determined not to make that statement at the end of his life, John wrote out 127 goals. He named ten rivers he wanted to explore and seventeen mountains he wanted to climb. He set goals of becoming an Eagle Scout, a world traveler, and a pilot. Also on his list was riding a horse in the Rose Bowl parade, diving in a submarine, retracing the travels of Marco Polo, reading the Bible from cover to cover, and reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. He also planned to read the entire works of Shakespeare, Plato, Dickens, Socrates, Aristotle, and several other classic authors. He desired to learn to play the flute and violin, marry, have children (he had five), pursue a career in medicine, and serve as a missionary for his church. Sound impossible? At age forty-seven, he had accomplished 103 of his 127 goals! Now, your list of goals may not be as extensive as his, but if you don’t have some goals for your life you’ll have little motivation to get up in the morning and little satisfaction when you put your head on your pillow each night. And unless you try something beyond what you’ve already mastered, you won’t grow. So set your goals in prayer, and with God’s help work toward them each day.
Soul food: 2 Sam 17:14-19:43; John 3:22-36; Ps 89:38-52; Prov 23:19-21
Matthew 6:7 NLT
Here’s what Jesus taught about prayer: “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” Then He gave us two specific instructions. First: “Shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private” (v. 6 NLT). Second: “Your Father knows exactly what you need…before you ask him” (v. 8 NLT). Heartfelt prayer isn’t meant for human ears. In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way: “Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play.” In heartfelt prayer the Holy Spirit brings to the surface things you’ve carefully hidden from others, and even yourself. Like a mirror, He confronts you with the truth and demands that you confess “the hidden things of dishonesty” (2 Corinthians 4:2). Once you’ve done that you can leave God’s presence cleansed, corrected, confident, and clear as to His will. Nothing fuels heartfelt prayer like real need. It causes both the prominent and obscure to acknowledge, “Lord, without you I can do nothing. Indeed anything I could accomplish without you would mean nothing!” This is the place of naked prayer. Hannah was there when she cried to God for a child. She was so passionate that Eli the high priest thought she was drunk (See 1 Samuel 1:13). But God heard her cry. That day, Samuel was conceived in her heart, and shortly thereafter he was conceived in her womb. So don’t leave the place of prayer until you conceive, until the embryo of God’s purpose for your life starts to take form within you, and your vision is born.
Soul food: Eph 4:17-6:24; John 1:14-28; Ps 29; Prov 22:26-29
Mark 1:35 NIV
Make prayer your daily habit. Prayer is the great stress-reliever. Jesus began His day with prayer. He often stopped throughout the day to pray, and He ended each day with prayer. Now, if Jesus made time for prayer as busy as He was, how much more do you need to do it! Time alone with God can be a decompression chamber for life’s stresses. We talk to God in prayer, tell Him what’s on our minds, and let Him talk to us as we read the Bible. Then we look at our schedule, evaluate our priorities, and wait for instructions. If we lived that way, the pharmaceutical industry would go broke because we wouldn’t need a fraction of the tranquilizers they market! Many of our problems come from our inability to sit still. We just don’t know how to be quiet. God says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). And one reason we don’t know God more personally is because we can’t be still. We’re too busy to be quiet and just think. Someone said, “It seems to be an ironic habit of man that when he loses his way he doubles his speed.” The story’s told of a World War II Air Force pilot who flew over the Pacific. When he radioed the tower and the controller asked for his location, he replied, “I don’t know – but I’m making record time!” A lot of us are like that, speeding through life without knowing where we’re headed. We need to start our morning with prayer like Jesus did, and stop throughout the day to pray again and recharge our spiritual batteries.
Soul food: S of Sol 5-8; Matt 26:1-16; Ps 39; Prov 21:9-13