Suffering in Style
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, Philippians 1:29
It may not be the kind of message that will see your non-church friends sprinting into a Sunday service, but Jesus never hid uncomfortable truth. ‘Taking up your cross’ wasn’t just poetic language. It meant something very visible for the people of the early church, and they knew it wasn’t nice.
It was this kind of preaching that made the disciples question Jesus’ choice of message, but He didn’t shy away from it. The Bible seems to ask the impossible when it tells us to think of times of suffering as opportunities for punching the air in joy. It seems to have a different outcome in mind to the rest of us;
‘When your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow…When your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.’ (James 1:3)
We want to be happy. But God wants us to see things from His point of view, leading to holiness. Then, our happiness isn’t based on shakable things.
Joy depends on Jesus, happiness depends on happenings. Paul said that he’d
‘learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.’
The secret? He saw things from God’s point of view, not his own. He had God’s perspective, right priorities and knew the best source of Power.
Heavenly Father, help me to know that the times of “suffering” – for You, are times that I grow and expand and You shape and mold me into someone stronger and better. Help me accept that. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
Whether you know it or not, you’re being watched. Not by Big Brother, but by other people. And especially by God, ‘For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth.’ (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Sports players, celebrities and sadly even politicians provide society with shaky role models. Even though they’re shot into the limelight, it doesn’t take much scratching to discover all sorts of junk lurking beneath the surface. At a time when things we used to rely on are falling apart, it’s the church’s chance to offer an alternative. So the question you need to ask is- ‘what are you modelling’?
There are countless ways to bless people around you. Is your friend going through a tough time? Take them out for a coffee and encourage them. Are your friends counting the pennies? Give them a generous treat. Has your church leader asked you to serve coffee? Go the extra mile: clean the kitchen while you’re at it. Darkness might be all around but your good deeds can penetrate any gloom. A little love goes a long way,
‘For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are’ (Romans 8:19).
Heavenly Father, help me to be a bright spot to those around me, someone who can reflect Your nature and character. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
Feeling lost isn’t new to the society we’re in. It’s the result of ‘doing our own thing’, which human beings have done everywhere at every point in history. Giving in to temptation ends up leaving you dejected and fed up. But: everyone gets tempted. Others have resisted; and so can you. God, your God, will show you a way out.
Great, but what does that help look like? The first practical tip is recognizing which people and situations can cause you to fail badly. Be honest. Secondly, get-outta-there. Change the channel and choose not to give in to your feelings. Make a phone call. Get accountable. Pray. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there and attempt to fight it with your own willpower. Maybe turning to someone outside of yourself feels the same as giving up. But the first thing Christianity teaches us is that every one of us, on our own, will fail when left to our own devices. It’s absolutely valid – and a much better option – to look outside yourself and to God, even when all you feel is the desire to sin. Look to God, because He’s bigger than our own drive to do wrong. Turn to friends who you trust and that love you, and who will stand with you.
And, when you see one of these exit routes, take it. Ways out can be here one second and gone the next. Don’t miss out on stepping out of temptation, and into God’s better life.
Heavenly Father, help me to remove myself from temptation – and when I can’t to seek help in temptation – through You and other Godly people. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:8
Capability without character is a lethal combination. Just look to some of the celebrities who are ruined by drugs, money, or pride. When your time on planet earth is up, it’s not your career but your character that goes with you. Christ-like character is what God wants you to grow in most of all.
But what does character actually look like? You could say it’s doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. A pat on the back from people is fine, but watch out that you’re not riding the wave of people-approval; you never know when the compliments could come to a crashing halt. Obviously, the best example of character is found in the life of Jesus.
But how do we make that part of our lives? Peter fleshes it out for us like this: ‘Make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone’ (2 Peter 1:5-8). Your faith in Christ has to be more than belief in certain facts; it needs to result in action and growth, otherwise it could begin to wither.
Heavenly Father, help remind me daily that I am to be more and more like You each day so I can reflect You to others who do not know You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Just the Good Stuff
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance — Proverbs 1:5
Here’s a key point to take from yesterday: actually growing as a Christian will involve walking away from things that might look good and feel good, but aren’t actually ‘good’ in God’s eyes. Ignoring that warning God’s giving you will lead to bitter aftertaste of disappointment, distraction or complacency. Has your focus ever shifted from living God’s ways? Thought so. Happens to all of us. How can we ‘grow on’?
Well, some of the MOST important things God wants to teach you go way beyond any knowledge you can learn and repeat exam-style. Our God-given passions and talents can often only be learned through experiencing tough times head-on. But would you rather experience triumph over that thing that held you back from God, or let things ‘blow over’ (which is often an excuse for letting complacency control you)?
Choosing to learn from these experiences is important. We all have talents, but unless you work on those God-given gifts, you’ll never know what could have been. Paul encouraged a young Timothy to, ‘Fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you’ (1 Timothy 1:6). It wasn’t the time for asking for fresh revelations (see verse 13); it was time to stick with what he’d already learned. It’s time to work with the most of what we’ve got, and where we are.
Prayer Heavenly Father, help me sort through the things that help me grow and those that don’t – and do the things that do! In Jesus’ Name, AmenRead more...