Isaiah 41:10 NLT
Two of our biggest fears are – failure and criticism. And they never completely go away. You can overcome them, but they’ll show up when you face your next challenge. It’s in accepting fear as part of life’s journey instead of running from it, that you learn to conquer it. Indeed, as you look back at what you’ve already overcome, you realize that most times failure doesn’t do permanent damage – you actually grow stronger through it. If you’re anxious today, God is saying to you, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.” So trust Him, and get out of your comfort zone! An unknown poet wrote: “I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I couldn’t fail; the same four walls of busywork were really more like jail. I longed so much to do the things I’d never done before, but stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor. I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much; I said I didn’t care for things like dreams and goals and such. I claimed to be so busy with the things inside my zone, but deep inside I longed for something special of my own. I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win; I held my breath and stepped outside and let the change begin. I took a step, and with new strength I’d never felt before, I kissed my comfort zone goodbye, then closed and locked the door. If you are in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out, remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.” The word for you today is: This year, get out of your comfort zone.
Soul food: Rom 13:12-14:19; John 1:1-14
Isaiah 41:10 NLT
Two of our biggest fears are: failure and criticism. And they never completely go away. We can overcome them for a time, but they will often show up when we face our next challenge. Yet when we accept fear as part of life’s journey instead of running from it, we can learn to grow stronger through it. When we feel anxious, God says to us, ‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.’ So we need to trust Him, and get out of our comfort zones. But that can be easier said than done. Entering a new year, we can have lots of ideas about how we’re going to change things and do things differently over the year, how we’re going to embrace our God-given calling or use our God-given skills, how we’re going to serve in new ways or finally get round to talking to a friend about our faith, or how we’re going to rebuild a relationship that’s broken down. But then the fear of failing or being criticised by others creeps in, and we can talk ourselves out of doing all those things. This was like when Peter walked on water. ‘Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink’ (Matthew 14:29-30 MSG). But Jesus saved Him. And when we step out and then become fearful, He will save us too. We just need to trust Him and take that step in the first place. So let’s make 2018 the year that we take the risk and step out of our comfort zones.
Rom 13:12-14:19; John 1:1-14
2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV
In the book of Hebrews we read, ‘By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going’ (Hebrews 11:8 NIV). When we follow God, most times we’ll go out not knowing as much as we’d like to. We want to be full prepared, to know what’s to come. We don’t like the unknown. But God calls us to ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’ He asks us to trust Him and step out of our comfort zone. He won’t give us all the answers before we step out, that’s where walking by faith comes in. We may not see where we’re going, but we know we’re being led by a God who we can trust to lead us to things that will ultimately be good, that He’ll walk with us every step of the way and will equip us to do everything that He’s calling us to do. The Bible says that we should: ‘Trust the LORD with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding’ (Proverbs 3:5 NCV). God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. We won’t always understand, but we always need to trust. God often shows us the way to go, and what we should do, one part at a time. So, like stepping stones, we need to just focus on the next step we’ve got to make and not worry about all the other steps to come. Living like this keeps us dependent on Him. And that’s exactly how He wants us to live. It takes time and practise to become dependent on Him, so let’s get practising.
Job 24-28; Luk 2:21-33; Ps 97; Ecc 10:15-19
Hebrews 10:36 NIV
Imagine what life on the ark must have been like for Noah. He probably didn’t get much sleep. He was feeding, cleaning, and caring for thousands of animals around the clock. It was smelly and messy. And that’s a pretty accurate picture of what obedience to God sometimes looks like. It’s hard work, and it gets harder. Sometimes, God’s blessings can complicate our lives. But they also bring joy and fulfilment that we can’t get from any other source. No matter what vision God’s given us, it’ll take longer and be harder than we ever imagined. So we need to persevere. Noah had to build a massive ark from nothing (maybe even being ridiculed by others while he was doing it), then look after all the animals, then wait for the flood waters to disappear. The Bible doesn’t tell us how long it took Noah to build the ark, but we do know how long they all had to stay in it. Genesis 7:11 tells us that they entered the ark on the seventeenth day of the second month. Then Genesis 7:13-16 tells us that everyone left the ark the following year on the twenty-seventh day of the second month, when the flood waters had completely dried. That means they were living on the ark for just over a year. If we had to face those conditions for that amount of time, most of us would want to give up. But Noah persevered, and God blessed him (see Genesis 9:1). When we say yes to God, we then need to trust Him to give us the strength, resources and perseverance to finish the task. But in the end, all the hard work is worthwhile when we receive God’s blessing.
Job 1-4; John 21:1-25; Ps 57; Ecc 7:13-15
Genesis 6:22 NIV
Imagine if God had asked you to build the ark. It’d be an incredibly daunting task. The Bible tells us that Noah’s ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high (we can find this in Genesis 6:15). A cubit is the equivalent of just over 44 centimetres, which means the ark was roughly the length of one-and-a-half football pitches. Inside, it would have been about the same size as 350 buses. If we take the average animal to be the size of a sheep, the ark would have been able to hold around 125,000 animals. Let’s put that into perspective…London Zoo has about 21,600 animals, so that means you could fit nearly six London Zoos on board Noah’s Ark. If you were under the same conditions as Noah, then as well as being tasked with building something of those immense dimensions, you’d have no power tools or machinery to help you build it. If we’re honest, most of us probably wouldn’t even try if we’d been asked to take on the task. It sounds impossible. But with God’s help, nothing that He asks us to do is impossible. All that He requires is that we obey Him, trust Him, and say ‘yes’ to Him. Then He can help us achieve the seemingly impossible. The Bible tells us that ‘Noah did everything just as God commanded him’ (Genesis 6:22 NIV). And the result was that Noah successfully completed the ark and saved his family and the animals when God flooded the earth. Noah’s act of obedience literally changed the world. Maybe God won’t ask you to take on a task as big as the ark, but your obedience to Him could also end up having effects that are just as world-changing.
Gen 44-46; John 18:1-24; Ps 105:1-7; Ecc 5:13-16