Whole-Heartedly Following (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Proverbs 3 5-6

These two verses have helped me get through some crazy times in my life. When I felt called to leave my university and go to Bible College halfway across the country. When I accepted a position as a youth minister in a small rural town with only one paved road. When I moved back to Washington after living in Kansas. When I moved to a small town and church back in Kansas. When I started school (each time I’ve gone back). When I started bi-vocational ministry. The list could go on.

The point is, whenever I have had to make big decisions in life, these verses have helped me have comfort in the fact that as long as I’m seeking God first, with my whole heart, I have confidence that he will direct my paths.

Seeking God with your whole heart doesn’t mean that you won’t have doubts – I know that I have had plenty of them! But it does mean that you are confident that you are willing to take the steps necessary to do what you feel God has called you to do in spite of those doubts. It means that you’re focused on his will for your life instead of your own plans. It means that your desire is to bring glory to God instead of to yourself.

When your heart is aligned to God’s will and God’s plan for your life; when you’re not depending on your own understanding; when you’re seeking him in all ways; then he will show you which path to take. That doesn’t mean, however, that he will show you quickly or in your time – he will show you in his time.

I’m in the midst of a season of waiting on the Lord. I am trying to seek God with my whole heart. I am trusting in his plan and timing. But he hasn’t shown me the path I’m supposed to take. Instead I just see roadblocks and do not enter signs. While frustrating at times, I know that I need to have patience and wait on the Lord. He WILL direct me and open up the path he wants me to take.

In times like these it is helpful for all of us to ensure that we’re following God with our whole heart and seeking his will. If we are, then he promises to direct our path. No matter what season you are in – waiting, going, or seeking, trust that God has a plan and path for you.

Assurance of our Faith (Hebrews 11:1)

Hebrews 11 1

The writer of Hebrews begins chapter 11, a chapter filled with heroes of the faith, by stating that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. The word translated assurance is an interesting word. In one sense, it has to do with the guarantee of ownership of something – in other words the title deed to something one possesses, much like a house or vehicle has a deed. The title deed for the things we hope for in Christ is our faith.

Faith is the essence of the Christ-follower’s walk with God. We have faith in the fact that Jesus, very God in the flesh, came to earth, lived a sinless life, died a horrible death, was raised up from the dead, and is now in heaven preparing a place for us. That’s the essence of the gospel message – the core foundation of our faith. For the Christian, there is no greater truth.

Yet, while we believe that truth, we can’t see that truth with our own eyes. Instead, we have to first rely on the character and trustworthiness of the writers of Scripture, themselves inspired with the very words of God. When we read the eye witness accounts about Jesus and his resurrection, when we read the accounts of the many miracles of God, and we see not just fairy tales, but real life, historical events that took place on earth. We recognize the miraculous workings of God and we are encouraged in our own faith because we see a glimpse of who God is and what he is capable of.

When we look back into the pages of Scripture, it is helpful for us to remember that the God we serve is the same God Moses, Abraham, and Paul served. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the constant source of truth and love. So when we are anxious, confused, or downright distraught, we can reread the pages of Scripture to strengthen our faith.

While we cannot see God face-to-face, we have the experiential and Scriptural knowledge that he is living within each one of us who believes. If God now lives within us, though we cannot see, we can have faith, which gives us assurance in trying times. The Holy Spirit within us should give us comfort, peace, and ultimately faith; faith in Christ and faith that he will get us through everything that comes our way.

Enter into the Presence of God (Philippians 4:6-7)

Philippians 4 6

“Don’t be anxious” = don’t worry!

“In everything prayer” = pray about everything!

“Supplication” = tell God what you need!

“Thanksgiving” = thank God for your blessings!

“Be made known to God” = share your feelings with God!

Then what will happen? Verse 7 says, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT).

Do you want to experience peace? Do you want God to guard your hearts and mind? Then you need to do what Paul says to do in verse 6! Basically, he says to pray about EVERYTHING!

But when we hear that, we think, does he really mean everything?

I knew a guy who told me that he didn’t want to pray for himself because he didn’t want to burden God with his insignificant problems (he said this even when his problems were not insignificant to most). He said he felt greedy or selfish when he prayed for himself. Do you feel that way sometimes?

Let’s think of it a different way. Think of your best friend or maybe your spouse or child. What’s the longest you have gone without speaking to them? Hopefully, not too long, right? Why is that? Because we need to communicate and share with the people we love. Our words and presence build the relationship. Without communication and presence, how can the relationship grow?

In order to grow and nurture a relationship, presence and communication are required. We can see it in our human relationships, and it’s the same for our relationship with God. God WANTS us to communicate with him. God WANTS to spend time with us in prayer and worship. And he WANTS us to share with him what’s going on in our hearts. If it’s important enough for us to worry about or even think about, then it’s important enough to share with God.

Prayer is not about giving God a magic wish list; it’s about building an authentic relationship with our Father.

Remember God (Psalm 46:1-2)

Psalm 46 1

This verse reminds us that God is always with us. The words in our verse “very present help” really can be translated an “ever-present help,” meaning that God is ALWAYS with us. When we’re in the midst of our trouble (meaning “an event causing distress or pain”), God doesn’t leave us.

When my daughter was younger, she would often get scared at night. She couldn’t fall asleep well and then her mind would fill with what-if thoughts about terrible things that could possibly happen to her and those she cared about. Those thoughts would swirl about her head until she was almost inconsolable. She doesn’t have those troubles anymore, and it wasn’t because of logic or explaining the statistical improbabilities of her horror-filled scenarios.

What we did was have her look up Scripture regarding God’s love and protection. Then she handwrote the Scriptures out and we covered her wall and headboard with verses about God’s protection and care. When she started to feel scared, she would turn on her flashlight and read the verses that promised God’s protection. This was a problem that we as her parents couldn’t solve for her – it was one that depended on God’s Spirit filling her with his words of protection and comfort.

The following verse is also powerful: “So we will not fear when the earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea” – Psalm 46:2 (NLT). As followers of Christ who are protected by Jesus, we don’t need to fear the earth when it shakes or the mountains when they crash into the sea. God’s got this and God’s got you in his hands.

When you’re in need of encouragement, go back and read the verses from the previous devotions in this series or look up your own verses about God’s promises to you in times of fear. Then write some of those verses out and put them in a place where you’ll see them. God’s Word does not fail.

Confidence in Christ (Psalm 112:6-8)

Psalm 112 7

The first question you may ask in reading this verse is who is the “he”? As I always remind people, “Context is King,” so we have to go back a verse to see the context. The “he” in this verse refers to the righteous. In fact, verse 6b says that the “righteous will be long remembered.” So then, who is not afraid of bad news? The righteous.

But who exactly are the righteous? The righteous are simply those who are in a relationship with Jesus – those whose sins have been covered and forgiven by the blood of Jesus. When you accept Jesus’ sacrificial payment for your sins, your sins are blotted out and your unrighteousness is converted to righteousness in God’s eyes.

As a redeemed, righteous, follower of Christ, we should not fear bad news! Why? Because our eternal destiny is secure in Christ! Not only is our eternal destiny secure, our present lives are also improved because we have the Spirit of God living within us and he will never leave us in our times of distress.

Verse 8 really adds the punch I love to this passage: “They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly” (NLT). As a follower of Christ, we should be confident and fearless. We can be these things because we have faith in the Lord. We cannot be confident, fearless, and trusting on our own – we need God’s assurance and assistance. When we put our trust in God instead of ourselves or someone else, then we find true confidence in life.

Think back to the story of the men put in the fiery furnace because they wouldn’t bow down to the king’s statue (Daniel 3). God gave those 3 men the courage to stand up to the king! Ultimately God choose to save them from the flames, and he promises us the same salvation when we put our faith and trust in him!

Called to Courage (1 Corinthians 16:13)

1 Corinthians 16 13

Everywhere you look there is temptation. Turn on the radio. Turn on the tv. Walk down the street. Go to Facebook. Temptation is all around us. As followers of Christ, Paul reminds us to be on guard at all times, to stand firm, to be courageous, and to be strong.

To be on guard means to be awake. It carries with it the idea of not sleeping on the job. In order to live the type of lives Christ has called us to, we need to be aware of what is going on around us. We need to open our eyes and see the dangers ahead and then do what we can to avoid them. Another way to say this is don’t be a sleepwalker wandering aimlessly about with no real purpose or conviction.

To stand firm means to hold one’s ground. Specifically, Paul is saying to hold one’s ground when it comes to the faith, that is, the gospel message. Don’t be swayed by popular opinion or the latest fads – the gospel is truth and it is absolute. The message that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, rose again to conquer death, and now invites each of us into a relationship with him cannot be changed by anyone. Don’t let others distract or burden you with “gospel +” – that is, people adding to the gospel message or on the other side, people subtracting from it.

Be courageous means having the characteristics of an adult as opposed to a child. Be mature in your faith and don’t allow little things to distract you from the message of faith and hope. Don’t be lured into fear when you already know the truth.

Be strong means to become strong beyond the average. You are not average! You are a child of the King! In him you can find strength to conquer whatever battles you face, whether they be outside temptations or the inner temptations, including the temptation to worry.

As a child of God you are stronger than you know, you are more courageous than you can imagine, and you can stand firm in your faith – all by the power of the Holy Spirit living within you.

Focus on What Matters (Matthew 10:28)

Matthew 10 28

This verse really causes us to put things into proper perspective, doesn’t it?

We are living life on earth and it’s important what we do, how we spend our time, and the relationships we make. But in the grand scheme of eternity, our life on earth is but a blip in time. The time we spend here is nothing compared to the eternity we will spend after we leave this life. Jesus is reminding us here that we should not fear those who threaten to harm or kill our bodies, because in reality, they can’t affect our eternal destiny.

God, on the other hand, does control our eternity destiny. If we are right with God, then we have no fear about where we will spend eternity because he’s promised us eternal life in heaven. Why worry, Jesus asks, about those who can only affect our bodies? Why worry about a virus that you may or may not get because in the end, your soul is secure in Christ.

Jesus goes on in the next couple of verses to talk about God’s care for the sparrow – “not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (10:29). He also says that the hairs on your head are numbered. God cares deeply about his creation, of whom you, as a human being made in his image, are the crown jewel. He knows how many hairs are on your head – he knows what your deepest needs and desires are – he knows your most intimate fears.

Jesus encourages us to not be afraid of those things which can only affect the body because the soul is the most important thing we have and no one and no thing can touch that apart from God. Instead of worrying about things outside of our control, let’s spend time focusing on things that bring God glory – helping the poor, telling people about Jesus, spending time in prayer, and sharing our resources (time, talent, and treasure). When we are focused on God and his work we have less time to focus on the fears we may have.

Shame is the Devil’s Game (Isaiah 54:4)

Isaiah 54 4

Do you have a past filled with questionable or downright bad decisions? I’m sure we all do to some degree or another. We’ve all made choices that turned out to be wrong. Sometimes those choices have caused hardship, to ourselves or those we care about, or they caused setbacks to us, financially, relationally, professionally, or spiritually. This verse addresses those mistakes.

Isaiah is reminding us that even if (though) we have made mistakes in the past, with God, we can put the shame behind us. We will never forget what we have done, and there may be long lasting consequences, but the shame we feel can be a thing of the past.

Once we confess our sins to God, he offers us forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Those sins are cast away and we are renewed in Christ. The problem is that the enemy tries to remind of us those sins and cause us to feel unworthy of God’s grace and forgiveness. “How could God forgive me for doing that?” you may ask yourself. You may fall for the lie that you’ve done too much or that your sin is too great to be truly forgiven. That. Is. A. LIE. Do not fall for it!

Paul, himself, was a persecutor of Christians before he was forgiven by Jesus. David was a murderer and adulterer, yet still called a man after God’s own heart. Our past needs to stay in the past – experience God’s forgiveness and love and grace in the present.

When you find yourself entangled in the web of lies and shame, it’s no wonder you can’t find comfort or peace in these times of trials. Part of finding comfort in God is recognizing the grace and forgiveness he has already blessed you with and trusting him even more. Don’t let Satan’s lie keep you bound in the burden of shame and guilt. Accept Jesus’ forgiveness and grace and trust in him and his Word.

Play Offense (Isaiah 41:13)

Isaiah 41 13

Today’s verse is just a few verses past yesterday’s verse in context. The Israelites are in exile, foreign lands, under foreign powers, and they are afraid of what is to come. They wonder if God can help them and if he wants to help them. Here, God reminds them – rather, promises them – that he will help them.

Up to this point in the passage God has been content with telling them how he will protect them and keep them safe. Shortly after our verse, however, the tone shifts to offense. God is not only going to protect his people, he is also going to fight for them.

It’s incredibly encouraging to know that the God of the universe protects us and is with us at all times. Just as it is comforting for a child to know his parent is going to do whatever possible to protect him in times of distress. But in addition to protection, God is also going to fight on behalf of his people.

There is an enemy out there who is hellbent on destruction. He wants to destroy the world, and he particularly wants to destroy the faith of the followers of Christ. The enemy wants to plant seeds of doubt in your mind about who God is and what God can do for you. And when those seeds are planted, watered, and allowed to grow, loss of faith is the result.

What God is telling you today is that he will protect you from the enemy, yes, but he will also fight the enemy on your behalf. In fact, God enlists you to his army to fight the enemy with him! Paul talks about putting on the armor of God so that you can fight the battles that life throws at you. Jesus talks about the gates of hell no prevailing over you. In His Spirit you are powerful!

You have within you, by the grace and love of Jesus, the power to defeat the enemy and fight for truth. I encourage you today to claim this powerful truth and suit up! The battle is raging all around us and with God YOU have the promise of victory! Don’t just sit around waiting for the enemy to attack – read Scripture, spend time in study and prayer, and be ready to take the fight wherever God may lead.

In Your Corner (Isaiah 41:10)

Isaiah 41 10

In this section of Isaiah, God is speaking to the Israelites as they are in captivity. They are not free people at this point, and they have been exiled to other countries instead of the Promised Land God had for them. Here, as elsewhere in the context, God is reminding the people that he is with them and he will protect them.

There may have been a sentiment among the Israelites about whether or not God had the power to save his people anymore. They may have forgotten the power and majesty of the God of their ancestors – the God who marched his people through the Red Sea.

There may also have been a sentiment that God could help his people, but he simply doesn’t want to. Here God reminds them that they need not fear because he in fact does have the power AND the will to save them. He WILL strengthen, he WILL help, and he WILL uphold. When we face tough times, it’s easy to forget both who God is and what he desires to do. God is all powerful and he does want what is best for his people – all who choose to follow him.

Don’t forget who you have in your corner while you’re fighting fear and uncertainty, and don’t ever doubt that he will give you the strength you need to make it through!