How to apply God’s strength to your weakness

Strong in the lord_t_nvThe short Hebrew word El means “to be strong.” It is often used in combination with other words to communicate that God’s strength is unequalled. This applied truth  provides tremendous help for the one struggling with discouragement or self-pity. Meditating upon the strength of God encourages your heart, and moves your attention away from your personal weakness.  Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he said, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Dr. C.R. Marsh applies God’s unparalleled strength to his attributes, and comes up with an excellent list for reflection during your prayer time.

  • As to his duration, he is the everlasting God (Gen. 21:33).
  • As to this power, he is the almighty God (Gen. 17:1).
  • As to his exclusiveness, he is the jealous God (Ex. 20:3-5).
  • As to his holiness, he is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24).
  • As to his pity, he is a merciful God (Deut. 4:31).
  • As to his fidelity, he is a faithful God (Deut. 7:9).
  • As to his vitality, he is the living God (Josh. 3:10).
  • As to his greatness, he is the awesome God (Neh. 1:5).
  • As to his compassion, he is the gracious God (Jonah 4:2) (All the Divine Names and Titles in the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, p. 8)

Choose one of the italicized words, and shape your personal praise to God around that attribute. Then, dwell upon God’s strength in that area throughout the day. As you face challenges, remember to concentrate on God’s strength, not your weakness.

Advertisements

5 steps to developing a praise journal

Presentation1The 136th Psalm provides an excellent pattern for developing your personal praise journal. Read the Psalm, purchase a blank journal or notepad and get started.

Step 1: Start with the God’s attributes. Psalm 136:1 declares “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.”  Even if you believe your Thanksgiving list might be short, you can begin a praise journal by listing the attributes of God. Develop your own definitions of these attributes from the Scriptures.

Step 2: List God’s creative works. The Psalmist focuses on the creative work of God for six verses. The Bible says, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Giving God thanks for his creative work can prime the pump for  more praise.

Step 3: Reflect upon God’s protection and provision. The Psalmist remembers how God protected and provided for the Israelites. Make two columns. Title one  God’s protection and the other God’s provision. List the ways that God has worked in your past. Be specific. The events listed in Psalm 136 actually happened at a time in history so include the dates if you remember them.

Step 4: Tie it all to God’s mercy. The phrase “his mercy endures forever” is repeated 25 times in this Psalm. Tie your blessings and difficulties to God’s gracious hand. See Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Step 5: Review the goodness of God. The Psalms served as the ancient Hebrew’s songbook. The words would gain familiarity as the Israelites sang them in worship. Return to your praise journal regularly; not just to add to it, but to review, in order that you too can remember.

When faithfulness meets discouragement

faithfulness_std_t_nvOne of the ways that Jesus avoided potential discouragement amidst difficult circumstances was to focus on God’s will.

The ultimate test of submission to his Father’s will takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane, where his suffering spirit cries out, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

But how did Jesus get to this ultimate point of surrender? What steps did he take? And how can we follow?

One of the practical ways that Jesus did this was to give his undivided attention to the roles to which his Father had called him. For instance, he was appointed to be a prophet (Luke 4:43, Mark 6:4), priest (Heb. 4:14), and king (Matt. 2:2; 27:11).  As his teaching ministry matures, Jesus communicates his growing understanding of these roles and his desire to faithfully fulfill them. The fact that these roles are increasingly prominent in his thinking is evident even in his choice to return to the danger zone of Jerusalem for, in his words, a prophet must die there (Luke 13:33).

At one juncture in his teaching, he makes three “something greater than” statements confirming his understanding of these roles (Matt. 12:6, 41, 42). The ESV Study Bible explains:

Jesus claims that he is greater than the temple (Matt. 12:6), the prophet Jonah (v. 41), and the wise king Solomon. He thus elevates himself and his message of the kingdom to be greater than, and the fulfillment of, the three greatest institutions in Israel—priest, prophet, and king.

One of the practical implications of Jesus’ pattern is that you and I can live through our discouraging circumstances by giving our undivided attention to the roles God has called us to.

For instance, God has given me certain roles to fulfill:

  • I am Christian
  • I am a husband
  • I am a father
  • I am a pastor/teacher
  • I am neighbor/friend

I have discovered that when my focus is on being faithful in these roles, I give less consideration to my circumstances–no matter how difficult– and how they make me feel.

So what roles has God called you to fulfill today? Is your focus on being faithful or on the difficulties that surround you?

Perhaps this is one of the secrets that Jesus discovered that gave him the grace to live through imperfect times and still become the perfect prophet, priest, and king.

How to overcome discouragement

dealing with discouragement_t_nvThe circumstances Jesus faced would have caused the strongest of individuals to feel sorry for themselves.

Consider:

  • His own family didn’t believe his message and desired his destruction.
  • When he prayed, he didn’t get the answer he desired.
  • He was betrayed by Judas, a professing friend.
  • He was falsely accused, and unjustly tried.
  • His most devoted followers first slept and then ran, in his greatest hour of need.
  • He faced the injustice of the official who was in place for his protection (Pilate)

Through it all, Jesus expresses pity for others, but he never engages in pity for himself. When we examine his responses, we gain a greater understanding for where our focus should be, and how we can avoid self-pity’s dead end road.  Jesus would dwell upon the love of God, seek the will of God, and live for the glory of God.

If you are struggling with discouragement today, try this three-fold plan. Over your lunch break make a list of the ways that God has shown his love to you. Next, consider what would God have you do right now?

  • Doing an act of kindness for a fellow worker in need (Luke 10:25-37).
  • Showing love and respect to your spouse (Eph. 5:33)
  • Exercising patience in traffic (1 Thes. 5:14)
  • Being a wise steward of your time and finances (Matt. 25:14-30; Eph. 5:16).

Such actions focus us on doing the will of God in the moment.

Finally, consider how you might walk in greater humility, focusing other’s attention towards the glory God and away from self. John the Baptist had it right when he said, “He [Jesus] must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Dwell upon the love of God, seek the will of God, and live for the glory of God.

Why do we procrastinate?

FEAR AND PROCRASTINATIONThe new year is often a stimulus for change. New Year’s resolutions abound. We may even be bold enough to share them with others. After all, we don’t want to still be eating Christmas cookies in February, nor buying Christmas gifts in March. We know we cannot live like December the other eleven  months of the year.

While we may start the new year fresh with resolutions intended to change us, by the second week of January a familiar friend shows up: procrastination. He reminds us:

  • It’s too cold to exercise this morning, you can always start tomorrow.
  • You can make up your Bible reading later in the week when there’s more time.
  • Why hurry with those resolutions, you  have the whole year ahead of you.

Often in my personal battle with procrastination, I’ve assumed I only needed to be more diligent. Work harder. Get up earlier the next morning. Only to discover, that when I got up earlier, I still didn’t get to the task I was supposed to get up earlier to do. That is because there is an underlying cause for procrastination that most of us fail to deal with: fear.

We’re afraid we might fail again. We’re afraid we’ll make the effort to change – really give it our best shot – and it will go unrecognized. The truth of the matter is we’re afraid, that while we really want to make a difference in this world, our life may not make much of a difference after all.  Starting something and quitting clearly feels like failing, but not starting something until tomorrow doesn’t seem to carry the same stigma. Still, whether we quit before we start, or quit after we start the end result is the same: we were unable to accomplish what God wanted us to do that day.

The Bible is filled with characters who sensed their own inadequacy, and were afraid, yet still stepped out on faith. Feeling a sense of his personal weakness, Gideon did most of his work at night (Judges 6:, 15, 27). One of the leading hero’s of the Jewish faith, Moses, claimed a stuttering problem (Exodus 4:10). Joshua feared he would be unable to lead as well as his predecessor (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9).

Procrastination could have played a part in these men’s lives. Can’t you hear it’s voice: Gideon, wait until you feel braver. Moses, work on your speech impediment for a few months before you go back to Egypt. Joshua, you need a few more years developing your own reputation before you lead.

Each of these men stepped out on faith, in spite of their fear, and God used them. One strategy for overcoming procrastination is to face that fear head on, and then act by faith not by fear. Procrastination doesn’t say “quit” it says “wait,” but in the end it’s all the same.

Good questions for a new year

its a brand ne w year is it the same old you_tIn my reading this morning I came upon a startling quote by Jim Elliot, who,  this week in 1956 was killed by the Auca indians when he was attempting to share the gospel with them. Knowing that his venture into the South American jungle was dangerous, he was reported to have said, “When it comes time to die, make sure all you have to do is die.”

Perhaps you, like me, struggle with putting a few things off. Elliot’s 15 words are a wake up call. Would you live this year differently if you knew you didn’t have this entire year to live? Here are  10 questions from Don Whitney to alert you to where some changes need to take place.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?

I’m looking to find some time alone and prayerfully consider these questions. Perhaps you should do so as well.