Keeping good company

Proverbs 2:6 NKJV

Proverbs 2:6 tells us that ‘The LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.’ (NKJV). However, other people can bring the opposite, questioning our motives, God’s power, or generally bringing negativity. We can find ourselves surrounded by people who shake our belief in ourselves, and sometimes, even in God. Jesus warned us about that negativity.

The Message version of the Bible paraphrases His words to His disciples like this: ‘Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation’ (Matthew 10:17 MSG). Because of the imperfect world we have created, opposition from others is unfortunately an unavoidable part of living for God. It’s important for us to use the Godly wisdom that Proverbs mentions, and discern which of the people around us increase our self-doubt, and who helps strengthen our faith in God. Whenever we can, we should look to distance ourselves from anyone who regularly speaks negatively into our lives. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says: ‘Do not be fooled. “Bad companions ruin good character”‘ (GNT). That’s an urgent statement.

Allowing our minds and hearts to be filled with ideas that go against God, no matter how much we intend to fight them, really can get to us. The best thing to do is to walk away. And when it’s impossible to separate ourselves completely from those bringing doubt and negativity to our lives, then the best solution is to cling to God.

We have to be active in this, because left unchallenged, words from others can take root quickly. If we can anchor ourselves in Scripture, and listen for God’s voice in prayer, we’ll find it so much easier to stand strong against the naysayers, and press on in Jesus’ footsteps.

2 Sam 22:31-24:25; John 5:16-30; Ps 5; Prov 24:8-9

Work hard, pray hard

Colossians 3:23 NASB

We can so often separate out the ideas of our own hard work, and God working in us, through us, or for us. The truth is, with the right mindset and prayer life, they should be the same thing. When you pray just as hard as you work, and vice versa, the game changes. Colossians 3:23 tells us ‘whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord’ (NIV). That focus is only possible with time dedicated to finding equilibrium in God. The balance between work, rest, and a relationship with God is so easy to miss nowadays.

Saint Benedict wrote a book of instructions for monks, and his message of ‘pray and work’ still stands in so many monasteries today. Benedictine tradition often follows a rule of ‘thirds’, with monks spending eight hours sleeping, eight hours working, and eight hours praying.

Our relationship with God must lead to action, but action has to be completely anchored in our relationship with God. One without the other won’t make the kind of difference to the world that God is calling us to. We have to make sure that our work gets done in a Godly way, because our tasks here on earth bring God’s heavenly glory into the world.

One of the last prayers that Jesus prayed was, ‘I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do’ (John 17:4 NIV). We can follow His example in prayerfully chasing God’s tasks for us and completing them for His glory.

From the biggest calling on our life right through to the simplest every day task, our to-do lists can bring praise to God when we root them in prayer and worship.

2 Sam 20:1-22:30; John 5:1-15; Ps 15; Prov 24:7

What to expect on life’s journey (2)

2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV

Not everyone who starts the race finishes it. Paul writes: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things…they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run…not with uncertainty…I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself…become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NKJV).

Paul isn’t talking about his salvation here; that was a settled issue. He’s talking about his heavenly reward, and these particular words should make you stop and think: “Lest…I myself…become disqualified.”

Here are some things that will cause you to stumble on your journey:

(1) Failure to read God’s Word and pray every day.

(2) Saying no to God when He deals with you about a specific area in your life.

(3) Moral failure stemming from wrong habits and relationships.

(4) Allowing doubt and fear to cripple you.

(5) Wasting time on frivolous pursuits instead of focusing on the “one thing” God has called you to do.

(6) Succeeding in your career and failing at home.

(7) Not sowing your treasure, talent, and time into God’s kingdom, resulting in a lack of resources to fulfill His will for your life.

The list could go on ad infinitum. Make this your prayer today: “Search me, O God, and know my heart…see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV). That’s the kind of prayer God loves to answer!

Soul food: Lev 23:33-44; Zech 14:16-21; John 7:1-40

A peaceful state of mind

Philippians 4:7 NLT

The word worry comes from a Greek word meaning “to divide the mind.” Worry splits you right down the middle; instead of dwelling on God’s promises, you dwell on your problems. Worry is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Instead of relieving you of tomorrow’s troubles, it robs you of today’s strength – and you can’t afford to lose your strength. So how can you stop worrying? The Bible has a two-part answer: God’s part, and our part. Our part includes prayer and gratitude: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (v. 6 NLT). In order to worry less you must pray more, and also remember to express your gratitude. You can go to God confidently for the next thing, when you’ve taken time to thank Him for the last thing. And what’s God’s part? “If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus” (v. 7 TLB). Note the words “You will experience God’s peace.” Imagine having God’s peaceful state of mind! Do you think He battles anxiety? Or wrings His hands and asks the angels for antacids? Your problem is no more challenging to God than a twig is to an elephant. He enjoys perfect peace because He enjoys perfect power – and He offers His peace to you. When you do your part through prayer and thanksgiving, you’ll have a peaceful state of mind.

Soul food: Heb 11:7; Gen 6:9-22; Gen 8:18-22; Matt 24:36-44

You’re in God’s waiting room (1)

Psalm 37:7 NKJV

When you’re in a doctor’s waiting room there are things you shouldn’t do – like try to treat other patients, or have them treat you. Or ask the receptionist for a stethoscope or a blood pressure cuff. And it wouldn’t be wise to ask the person sitting next to you, “What prescriptions are you taking? Perhaps I could try them.” It’s called a waiting room because you’re supposed to wait. But we don’t like to wait. We weave through traffic looking for a faster lane. We drum our fingers on the countertop while the microwave heats our coffee: “Come on, come on.” We don’t like to wait for anything, including God. Over and over in Scripture when it speaks about our relationship with God, the word “wait” keeps showing up. And here’s what we fail to understand: While we are waiting, God is working. Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work” (John 5:17 NIV). The sign on God’s waiting room reads “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). You can be still because He is active, and you can rest because He is busy. To wait, biblically speaking, is not to assume the worst, or worry, or fret, or make demands, or take control. Waiting is not inactivity. Waiting is sustained effort to stay focused on God through prayer and faith. To wait is to “rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him…not fret.” God is the Great Physician. You are in His waiting room. He knows what ails you better than you do, and He has a prescription to fix it. So trust Him, and wait.

Soul food: Jer 33:1-36:26; Luke 6:1-16; Ps 137; Prov 15:15-17