Romans 1:12 NCV
Did you know that trees communicate with each other? They use a network of fungi in their roots to create a support system that allows them to share resources and send out warnings. A tree that’s being attacked by insects can send a warning to other trees. A tall tree that gets plenty of sunlight can send vital nutrients to shaded saplings. Alone they’re more vulnerable, but together they can grow, thrive, and withstand problems. It’s a great illustration of how God wants His church to function.
‘The whole body depends on Christ, and all the parts of the body are joined and held together. Each part does its own work to make the whole body grow and be strong with love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 NCV). Often, we want to work alone, especially if we’re a more independent type. But sooner or later, we’ll come up against a problem that makes us realise our need for:
1) Encouragement. Even Paul needed cheering on. He wrote: ‘Everyone in Asia has left me, even Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord show mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, who has often helped me and was not ashamed that I was in prison. When he came to Rome, he looked eagerly for me until he found me’ (2 Timothy 1:15-17 NCV).
2) Sympathy. We all need to be understood and have our feelings validated. But sometimes we’re in such a hurry to ‘fix’ people, we forget to sympathise with them.
3) Grace. ‘Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others’ (Colossians 3:13 NLT). God’s grace to us should motivate us to show grace to others, and we’ll never be asked to show more grace to someone than God has already shown to us.
Exo 22-24; Matt 6:1-8; Ps 71:1-16; Prov 2:1-2
Romans 1:12 NCV
Next time you take a walk in the woods stop and think about what is taking place right under your feet. As the roots of the trees connect with each other they form a support system. One has access to water, another to nutrients, and another to sunlight. No single tree has it all, but together they can grow, thrive, and withstand the storms of life. “Then we will grow in every way to be more like Christ, the head of the body. Christ holds it together and makes all of its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love” (Ephesians 4:15-16 CEV). Some of us independent types have difficulty with this concept. We want to fly solo until we crash, and then we realize our need for:
(1) Encouragement. Even Paul needed cheering on: “Everyone in Asia has turned against me, especially Phygelus and Hermogenes. I pray that the Lord will be kind to the family of Onesiphorus. He often cheered me up and wasn’t ashamed of me when I was put in jail. Then after he arrived in Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me” (2 Timothy1:15-17 CEV).
(2) Sympathy. “Be sympathetic” (Colossians 3:12 GWT). We all need to be understood and have our feelings validated. But sometimes we are in such a hurry to “fix” people we don’t have time to sympathize with them.
(3) Grace. “Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (v. 13 NLT). What motivates us to extend grace to others? God’s grace to us! Remember, you will never be asked to extend more grace to someone than God has already extended to you.
Soul food: Exo 22-24; Matt 6:1-8; Ps 71:1-16; Prov 2:1-2
Deuteronomy 11:11 NKJV
As we go through this year, we’ll face some mountains and go through some valleys. We need both. The strength we gain from climbing and conquering the mountains is what helps us get through the valleys. And we need to face the valleys because they’re where the sweetest fruit grows as they’re watered by streams that flow from the mountains. Jesus said, ‘You should produce much fruit and show that you are my followers, which brings glory to my Father’ (John 15:8 NCV).
This year Jesus wants us to be more fruitful in His service. ‘Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce fruit. But without me they can do nothing’ (John 15:4-5 NCV).
God is looking for us to be fruitful in the things we do for His kingdom. The Message paraphrases Paul’s words: ‘When we live God’s way…He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely’ (Galatians 5:22-23 MSG). So this year, when we face a mountain or go through a valley, let’s remember that God is with us every step of the way.
Exo 1-3; Matt 3:11-17; Ps 90:1-6; Prov 1:1-4
Deuteronomy 11:12 NKJV
As we begin a New Year, let’s reflect on this Scripture: ‘The land which you go to…is not like the land…from which you have come…the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord…are always on it, from the beginning…to the very end of the year’ (v.10-12 NKJV).
For the next few days, let’s take a closer look at these verses and discover how they can help us look forward to the New Year that lies ahead. ‘The land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come.’ For the Israelites, Egypt was a place of stress, sorrow, and struggle. But Canaan, the land they were heading for, was a place of God-given success, self-worth, and spiritual growth.
Jeremiah said: ‘Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: 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, to those who search for him’ (Lamentations 3:21-25 NLT).
This year doesn’t have to be like last year. We don’t have to dread what lies ahead, because we can put our trust in God, who loves us and has a plan of goodness for each of us. This year, let’s intentionally seek God and experience His love, mercy, faithfulness and goodness in our lives like never before.
Rom 13:12-14:19; John 1:1-14
Romans 12:6, Romans12:8
Did you know that there’s such a thing as “the gift of encouragement”? There is! The Bible says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is…to encourage, then give encouragement.”
And you don’t have to be talented or have a high IQ to demonstrate this gift. Every day you meet people in need of encouragement. They may not show it on the surface, but underneath they’re struggling to keep their head above water. Some of them are at the point of despair, and your words can lift them. Even a smile can do it.
Job said, “When they were discouraged, I smiled at them. My look of approval was precious to them” (Job 29:24 NLT). Solomon said, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad” (Proverbs 12:25 NKJV).
Don’t assume because people exhibit the trappings of status and success, that they don’t need encouragement. David was a best-selling author whose psalms are still read around the world. He was Israel’s most popular king. His victories in battle are the envy of every military academy strategist. But he had days when he felt so low that he was reaching up to touch the bottom: “I am on the verge of collapse, facing constant pain” (Psalm 38:17 NLT). It’s not just average people who need encouragement – best-selling authors, kings, and generals need it too. Everybody does! And that’s good, because when you have the gift of encouragement you will never be without a job.
So today be sensitive to God’s leading, and when He prompts you to encourage someone – do it!
Soul food: Mal 1-2; Matt 2:9-15; Ps 139:1-12; Prov 31:25-27