Matthew 3:8 NLT
When Israel’s leaders turned to Jephthah for help, they were in distress and wanted to ‘use’ him. So Jephthah said, in essence, ‘Let’s get an understanding of the type of relationship we’re going to have.’ At that point, he negotiated with them and ended up in a top leadership spot.
When our trust has been broken, we need to forgive. By doing that, we set ourselves free. But we need to use wisdom in how to move forward. Many of us will have experienced a similar situation to Jephthah’s at school, in the workplace, or even at church; perhaps someone has rejected, ignored, or laughed at us, but if they find they need our help, they want to build a relationship based only on the benefits they can get from it.
While it’s important for us to be forgiving, compassionate, and help people who are facing difficulties, God doesn’t expect us to put ourselves in a position to be hurt again. Forgiveness should be immediate, but trust must be earned. The person who has hurt us must show the fruit of repentance – consistent behaviour that shows he or she has had a change of heart.
Jesus said, ‘Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.’ We need two things: grace and wisdom. Grace means extending to others the same forgiveness that God has extended to us. Wisdom means understanding what kind of relationship we can have with that person in the future.
Phil 1-4; Mark 2:1-12; Ps 43; Prov 10:10
Isaiah 30:15 NCV
In most relationships, we’ll encounter problems and conflict at some point. As those difficulties arise, we’ll often need to become translators, negotiators, diplomats, and peacekeepers in order to find a solution. And at times like these, good communication skills are essential.
It’s really frustrating to be misunderstood, misheard, or ignored. But we have to be careful how we approach it. We need to talk to understand each person’s perspective on what’s gone wrong, but sometimes we can end up empowering the problem if we focus too much on talking about what’s wrong rather than working towards finding a solution.
God has given us the gifts we need to change the situation. If we misuse our words or let them come from a place of anger, it can lead us away from a solution we would otherwise see. James tells us that what we say has immense power for destruction. ‘The tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire’ (James 3:5 NLT). Just our tone of voice can escalate a conversation into a raging fire, but our words can also bring calmness and light to a difficult situation.
Responding appropriately often needs quietness and careful reflection. There are times when it’s better to remain quiet and step away from the situation for a few minutes. When we’re anxious, chances are we’ll over-talk. When we’re angry, we can make the situation worse. And when we’re too aggressive, we risk damaging the relationship and hurting the other people involved. The Bible says, ‘If you will be calm and trust me, you will be strong.’ Let’s remember that whenever we need to have a difficult conversation.
Gen 28:1-30:24;Matt 19:1-14; Ps 66:1-12; Prov 6:20-22
Matthew 19:4 NCV
When God designed the earth, He knew exactly what we needed, and worked it all out flawlessly. If there was even a small variation, we wouldn’t be able to survive. For example, if the earth was 10 per cent larger or smaller, life as we know it wouldn’t be possible. If we were any nearer to the sun, or any further away from it, we wouldn’t be able to cope with the temperature – it would either be too hot or too cold for us. Ours is the only planet in the solar system that’s tilted at an angle that allows the sun touch all parts of it over a year, which stops it getting too hot or cold.
God made this earth especially for us: ‘For this is what the LORD says – he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited’ (Isaiah 45:18 NIV). And He designed us to live in companionship: ‘When God made the world, “he made them male and female.” In the Garden of Eden, God created Adam and Eve as the perfect complimentary companions for each other.
That’s how much God cares for us. Using His infinite power, He built our incredible earth from nothing, and made sure He was meeting all our needs. And He’s still doing that today – every time we bring our prayers, our joys and our fears to God, we can trust that He’ll provide whatever we need. He knows exactly what’s best for us, just as He did when He created the earth.
Ecc 1-4; Matt 14:13-21; Ps 145:14-21; Prov 4:23-24
Psalm 13:1 NIV
When life is difficult, we can find ourselves thinking negatively, even questioning God. We sometimes allow this to damage our relationship with Him, worrying about sharing our raw, difficult thoughts in prayer. This often stops us praying altogether. But the truth is, God knows our hearts anyway. He welcomes us to share all our thoughts with Him. Psalm 139 says: ‘Lord, you have examined me and know all about me… you know my thoughts before I think them’ (Psalm 139:1-2 NCV). God wants us to be honest with Him. We’re only more likely to drift away form Him, and to continue hurting, if we don’t talk to Him at all. David begins Psalm 13 with an honest and desperate question to God. In verse 1 he asks, ‘How long will you hide your face?’ (NIV). Then a few verses later, the same hurting David declares, ‘But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me’ (vv. 5-6 NIV). David teaches us that crying out to God doesn’t mean that we can’t also praise Him. Even when we don’t understand, even when it hurts, we can still trust Him. Worshipping God in the middle of our questions can become a part of our healing. Yes, there are some questions that are so big that they will never be answered here on earth. We can wrestle with huge problems like death and suffering, and bring our thoughts and questions about everything honestly before God. All of that is okay, as long as we remember that our Father always loves us. We have to hold tight to our trust in Him, and continue to share praise for everything the He is.
Eze 14:1-16:52; Luke 20:9-19; Ps 112; Prov 20:1-4
Job 42:10 NLT
Judah faced huge destruction after the people had continually been disobedient to God. Joel wrote that ‘What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten’ (Joel 1:4 NIV). Sometimes it can feel like things in our lives have been destroyed too. It can feel like locusts have devoured our hope, our success, our joy, and our relationships. But even when everything seems like a mess, and there doesn’t seem to be any way forward, there is hope. Later in the book of Joel, God says: ‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…my great army that I sent among you’ (Joel 2:25 NIV). Other translations use the words ‘restore’ (ESV) or ‘give you back’ (NLT) instead of ‘repay’. God’s promising to bring goodness back to Judah again. He’s promising to restore all that was lost and destroyed. And He can bring restoration to our lives too. In the Bible, we read about a man called Job who faced immense loss. He lost his health, his wealth, and his family. But, in the last chapter of the book of Job it says, ‘The Lord restored his fortunes…The Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning’ (Job 42:10-12 NLT). Not only was Job’s life restored, but He was blessed even more. If we’re feeling like we’re broken and that our life is a mess, let’s put our trust in the One who can restore us. And let’s have hope that we’ll see God’s blessing more than we ever have before.
Acts 10-11; Luke 8:40-56; Ps 14; Prov 16:6-7