Hebrews 12:1 – ESV~
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
I have read this verse many many times, but when I sat down to write this devotional, I read something as if for the first time. When I read it before, I tended to almost ”gloss over” the first part of this verse. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” I was just struck by that phrase and it stopped me for a second. That is one of the most important and most beautiful things about being in the church. Through Jesus, we are all one family, we hold each other accountable to our faith, goals, and dreams.
It reminds me of the verses in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” I took that from the New King James Version because of that ”section title”. In the NJKV that section is called, “The Value of a Friend” I love the way that is put. There is great value in friendship, when we go through hard times we will have people there with us to help us through them.
That is one of the reasons why it is so important to have a home church, a place where we are known and loved by a family. Even if you are not going through a hard time right now, you can benefit from fellowship. If you don’t need encouragement (you’re lying, because everyone needs to be encouraged but anyway…) then you can encourage someone else. There is always a benefit from community if for no other reason than to remind yourself that you are not alone. This is a big world and it’s nice to know we don’t run alone. We are all working toward one goal, and we need each other to get there.
Today’s challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to find someone to encourage today. Let them know that you are rooting for them, it can be as simple as a “good job” to a coworker, teammate, or classmate, or as elaborate as you can make it. Go out of your way to be encouraging and brighten someone’s day.
Proverbs 18:21 – NIV
“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
Sometimes, it can be easy to say something before we really think about it. That can be true in any situation. When someone makes us mad, our first response is to defend ourselves. Another thing that is very easy to do is to say something as a joke, without considering if we actually want it to come true. I’ve heard so many people say or post on Facebook (don’t get me started) something like, “This job’s going to be the death of me.” Do you really believe that? Is that what you want your cause of death to be? Of course not. Then why did you say it? Oh I was just joking. Nobody actually thought I wanted that. But you still said it. Don’t get me wrong, I joke around as much as the next person (maybe more) but it’s always best to play it safe with that kind of thing and think before we allow it to come out of our mouths.
In most (if not all of them) of the gospels it is mentioned that at one point, Jesus said that if you tell a mountain to throw itself into the sea, it’s going to do it. Here’s the point with that, spiritual things don’t work because of what you mean. They work because of what you say. We, as Christians, need to be very very careful about what we say, because it’s important. So many verses in the Bible talk about how our words have power, not our intentions.
The good news is, there is a very positive side to that as well. Job 22:28 tells us that when we declare a thing, it will come to be. So, even if a situation looks hopeless and dark, Christians always have the upper hand because we have our God on our side. When we begin to speak life and declare the promises of God over our lives, things start to turn around. Where even moments ago discouragement was reigning, hope begins to rise. When we agree with the word of God and proclaim it over our lives, every thought, plan, stronghold, and assignment of the enemy gets canceled out by love. It happens that way every time because our God is stronger than anything the devil could dream up and He is better than we could ever imagine.
Today’s challenge is one that is fairly simple to say, but could be difficult to live out. Today, I want to challenge everyone to watch what you say carefully, and if it doesn’t line up with the Word of God, try not to say it. Also, look for an area in your life or the lives of others to speak life over and into that situation, so you can see the promises of God conquering everything that stands in their way.
1 John 3:16-18 – NIRV
“We know what love is because Jesus Christ gave His life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters. Suppose someone sees a brother or sister in need and is able to help them. If he doesn’t take pity on them, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, don’t just talk about love. Put your love into action. Then it will truly be love.”
Similarly to Ephesians 5, today’s verses talk about having Jesus has our example for how to love. The first sentence of this verse is just so powerful for me. Because of Jesus, we know what love is. It doesn’t say we know what love looks like, or what it might be like. We know what love IS. Since we know what love is, we should love others in the same way. It’s the same thing we talked about yesterday. Jesus is love, and since we have seen what Jesus did, we imitate Him. In doing so, we imitate the very essence of love itself.
The verse goes on to talk about when – not if – we see someone in need and we have the ability to help them. It’s not talking about when we see someone in need and we CAN’T do anything to help them. There are probably not going to be many times when we see someone in need and can do absolutely NOTHING to help them, but this verse is not talking about that.
Just this weekend I was at an event called BLAST (Building Leaders And Sharing Talents) and they had a special guest speaker come in. The example he used was of a car key. Cars cannot go anywhere if you do not first put the key in the ignition and start the car. (I suppose you could Hotwire it, but that is usually frowned upon.) As long as the key is not in the ignition, the car’s power remains potential. In the same way, when God gives us an opportunity to help someone and show them what love looks like, and we don’t do it, God’s power remains potential and the opportunity is wasted. But when we hear God speak, and decide to do what he says, God’s power is unleashed in ways stronger than we could have ever dreamed.
On Sunday, my dad was talking about Palm Sunday, and he said something that really challenged me and I was reminded of it when I read this verse. He was talking specifically about the colt’s owners and how they were willing to give up their brand new donkey just because the Lord needed it. What he said was essentially, when God gives you something, hold on to it very loosely, because He might need it back. Everything belongs to God. So when we are willing to let God’s love spill over onto someone else, it shows them love, and it makes our love authentic.
This one was kind of long, but I guess I just want to challenge everyone reading this, to show an authentic love today. Be real, be authentic, be OPEN to what God has to say, and I’ll see you tomorrow.
Ephesians 5:1-2 – ESV
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Have you ever tried to learn something without anyone showing you how to do it? It’s hard, you have no model for what things are supposed to look like, how things are supposed to go, and what the end result is supposed to be. Fortunately, that is not how God teaches us. God didn’t give us a set of rules and tell us to figure it out. Yes, He gave us rules and guidelines, but He also gave us His Son to show us what those rules look like. Are we going to get it right all the time? No. But God never gives up on us. God is a good Father, He doesn’t expect perfection. When babies begin to walk, we don’t expect perfection from them, it is the same principle here. As the verse says, we are God’s beloved children. He isn’t going to be angry with us, when we mess up a few times. God is less concerned with our ”perfection” before Him, than He is about our connection with Him.
God sent Jesus to show us how to walk. He lived and showed everyone what chasing after God really looks like. When we first start as Christians, we don’t have it all figured out. We have to learn, God has to teach us how to follow Him. We start out kind of wobbly, but we gradually gain the confidence needed to chase after God with everything we are and everything we have. I think that is a big part of what this verse is saying.
We need to love the way Jesus loved, chasing Him down with reckless abandon. Jesus loved all the way. He loves us so much that He was willing to give up everything He had, just to save us. Jesus was in complete surrender to God, there was nothing He held back or held out from God. We need to live our lives in the same way. It isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being willing. As long as we are moving forward and following the example that Jesus set for us, we will be moving closer to God. And as we draw closer to Him, God will draw closer to us. Which in turn will show the world who God is and how He loves.