Two the most taxing emotions are worry and anger. Worry robs us of our strength and anger blinds us. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about things that may or may not happen. My mind is excellent at going through all the worst case scenarios. If there’s a possible bad outcome to any situation, my mind will think of it and make me worry. That stress then wears me down to the point that my mind and body get exhausted. It hinders me from accomplishing the things I need to get done.
On the other hand, I’ve been so angry before that I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, I could only picture a bad scenario. That got me upset, got my heart racing and my blood boiling. It made me fantasize about doing evil things to pay them back that were worse than what they did to me. I didn’t want to get even, I wanted to get so far ahead that they never wanted to mess with me again.
These two emotions were given to us by God for a reason, but we can’t let them run wild and free or they will destroy us. Psalm 37:8 says, “Don’t give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble” (GNT). Notice how the writer didn’t say, “Don’t feel them.” No. He said, “Don’t give into them.” Don’t let them rule your mind. Left unbridled, they will destroy your well being and later your life. You can’t dwell on them. In both cases, you have to release them.
I know that’s easier said than done, but it is possible. In both situations, the way to release them is to trust God. Do you trust God to do what’s right for you? Then let go of worry and trust His plan. Do you believe that vengeance belongs to the Lord? Then let go of your anger and trust Him to do what’s right in the situation. If you’re struggling with either of these, pray and give the situation to God. When you release it, you will watch the worry and anger go with it.
I’ve been thinking of an old poem by Myra Brooks Welch turned into song and sung by Wayne Watson. It’s called, “The Old Violin: The Touch Of The Master’s Hand”. It starts off, “’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it hardly worth his while, to waste his time on the old violin, but he held it up with a smile.” He asked for a dollar for it, maybe two. Then an old man came up, tuned it and played a beautiful melody. The auctioneer then asked for $1,000. It then switches and says, “And many a man with life out of tune, all battered and bruised with hardship, is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd, much like that old violin…But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can understand, the worth of a soul and the change that is wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.”
In Matthew 14, Jesus is grieving John the Baptist’s death and just wants to be alone. He gets in a boat and sails to the middle of the Sea of Galilee, but the crowds follow His every move from the shore. He goes to the shore and heals the sick all day long. By late afternoon, the disciples catch up and presume to tell Jesus what to do. “You should send the crowds away to the nearby villages to buy themselves some food.” But Jesus has other plans and told them to feed the crowd. They answered in verse 17, “But all we have is five barley loaves and two fish.” “Let me have them,” Jesus replied” (TPT). He then fed the 5,000+ crowd with so little.
If you’re like me, you look at your life and say, “God, how can use you me? I have so little to offer.” But going back to the poem and the story in the Bible, value is measured based on whose hands something is in. You and I can only do so much with what I have to maximize our potential. The exponential change and growth happens when we surrender our lives to Him and place them in His hands. Your background, past and brokenness limit you in your own hands, but becomes limitless in His. Where you disqualify yourself, He tunes up and plays a beautiful melody that touches others. Submitting our life to Him is the greatest thing any one of us can do because that’s when we place it in the Master’s Hands.
In one of the sales psychology courses I took and later trained, there was an assessment you had to take beforehand. In the class, we read through 12 types of individuals and their accompanying behaviors, then we got our results. Mine said I was a Hyper Pro. I took it as a badge of honor when I saw the title. Who wouldn’t want to be hyper professional? Then I started reading the description, the behaviors and how it was holding me back. One of the things it said was that I project success in order to attain success, meaning I care more about my outward appearance hoping it would influence the buyer. In my mind, it was questioning my motives and I took offense to the assessment. That night I was discussing the results with my wife and how upset it made me. She listened to me vent, then simply asked, “But is it true?”
No one likes to have their motives questioned, but it’s something good to examine constantly. The answer to her question changed my life and how I live it. I realized I needed other people’s approval and it was driving so many areas of my life. My motives for how I dressed, what I drove, where I lived were for others. God challenged me that night to get to the root of my need in doing things. While man looks at outward appearances, God looks at our heart and motives. Are we doing things so that we look good and get the accolades? Are we trying to impress others, influence them, get “likes” or shares so that our name is magnified? Those are tough questions to sit down and answer as you look in the mirror.
Matthew 6:1 says, “Examine your motives to make sure you’re not showing off when you do your good deeds, only to be admired by others; otherwise, you will lose the reward of your Heavenly Father” (TPT). Each of us are to examine our motives in all areas of our lives, but especially those where we are representing God. If we’re doing it so people will think better of us, we’ve got our reward. Verse 3 tells us how to keep things in check. “But when you demonstrate generosity, do it with pure motives and without drawing attention to yourself.” Can you give, help or represent God without trying to show the world to garner “likes” or accolades? I’m not saying we shouldn’t record, post or promote what we’re doing. I’m saying, we need to check our motives first. Motives matter to God.
Thanks to @styleanthropy for making this photo available freely on @unsplash
One of the things we love to do is to sit at our table and watch the birds eat out of our feeders. There’s something mesmerizing about watching the different birds fly up, get a couple of seeds, then fly off into the trees. Recently my son asked me, “Why do you have to take down the feeders every year?” I explained, “Our feeders are an unnatural source of food for the birds. God designed them to find their own food. Normally, when their natural source of food dries up, the migrate south for the winter. If I keep this food out, they possibly won’t migrate like they’re supposed to and could die here.” My son was satisfied with the answer, but my wife said, “Did you hear the deep spiritual truth in there?”
In 1 Kings 17, Elijah declared there would be no rain in Israel until he said so. Then the Lord told him to go east to a certain brook where he would give him water from the brook and have ravens feed him. Verse 7 then tells us that the brook he had been drinking from dried up due to lack of rain. In verse 9, the Lord said to Elijah, “Now go to the town of Zarephath, near Sidon, and stay there. I have commanded a widow who lives there to feed you” (GNT). When he arrived, he found a widow collecting sticks so she could build a fire and have her last meal. Instead, she gave it to Elijah and God blessed her with a supernatural source of flour and oil.
I believe God is constantly migrating us from one place to another. We’ve all been through dry seasons where we seem to search for God and can’t find Him. I believe those are migration season where God is calling us into a deeper relationship with Him. We have a choice in those times. Are we going to stay put looking for unnatural food sources or are we going to follow where God is leading us? The Christian life is not a stagnant one. There’s always more for us to find and grow into. Even Paul said he had not yet attained perfection in Philippians 3. He followed that up with verse 14 saying, “So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.” He kept moving, and so should we. Where is God migrating you to next? It’s time to leave the unnatural sources of food.
Thanks to @inuetc for making this photo available freely on @unsplash
One of the things Mary Kay taught her salespeople was that every person they meet has an invisible sign around their neck that says, “Make me feel important.” She knew the key to building great relationships was to treat each person as important. John Maxwell says the way he adds value to his teammates is that he imagines each person has a “10” stamped on their forehead. He’s found that when he treats people based on their potential than their performance, they respond by increasing their performance. He also says that when we are with people, we either add value or subtract it. Adding value takes an intentional effort. You and I have to push past our unconscious biases to make sure we add value to each person we come across.
The Bible uses the word “honor” in these cases. Over and over it tells us to honor people or to add value to them. Part of the culture my church tries to cultivate is honoring people. We say, “Honor up, honor down and honor all around.” We want people to see others as being made in the image of God, and are therefore worthy of being honored and respected. It’s easy to honor and add value to people who are our leaders, but are you honoring those who aren’t as well off or as far along as you? Do you carry the attitude that you are better than others whether consciously or unconsciously? The Bible is clear that valuing, esteeming and honoring all people is a priority for us as believers who represent the God who knitted each person in their mother’s womb and made each person in His image.
Here are some Bible verses on honoring people.
1. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”
Ephesians 6:2-3 NLT
2. That is also why you pay taxes, because the authorities are working for God when they fulfill their duties. Pay, then, what you owe them; pay them your personal and property taxes, and show respect and honor for them all.
Romans 13:6-7 GNT
3. Honor and help those widows who are truly widowed [alone, and without support].
1 Timothy 5:3 AMP
4. Show respect to the aged; honor the presence of an elder; fear your God. I am GOD.
Leviticus 19:32 MSG
5. Be devoted to tenderly loving your fellow believers as members of one family. Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another.
Romans 12:10 TPT
Thanks to @perrygrone for making this photo available freely on @unsplash
Most of us know the story of Thomas after Jesus was resurrected. Other disciples had seen Jesus but he had not. They kept telling him that Jesus was alive, but he knew what he had seen. He watched as they beat Jesus with a whip that had 9 strands on it with chunks of glass. He saw them put the crown of thorns on His head and then nailed His hands and feet to that splintered wood. He was even there when the soldier took a sword and rammed it through the ribs of Jesus. He heard Jesus say, “It is finished.” You couldn’t tell him that Jesus was alive after that.
Can you blame him? It’s easy to sit here two millenniums away and call him “Doubting Thomas”. Would you or I have been any different? Are we any different now? Thomas allowed circumstances to dictate his faith. He had also walked with Jesus and watched as He healed people with leprosy, issues of blood, lameness, mutism, deafness and all kinds of incurable diseases. He even watched on a few occasions as Jesus raised people from the dead. Yet here he was listening to others as they said they had seen Jesus.
Many of us have walked with Jesus too. We have seen what He has done in our lives, can point to healings that we’ve witnessed and watched as The Lord touches the hearts of the worst among us yet we still don’t fully trust in Him. We allow circumstances and things going on in this world to rob us of our joy, hope and faith. Our faith rises and falls on what happens around us. It is far too easy to forget what God has done in the past when there is a mountain ahead.
It’s no wonder that Thomas uttered the famous words, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.” We do the same. We just say it different. “God if you’re really there and if you can really hear me, I need you to do…” It’s a good thing that God is patient with us. When Jesus saw Thomas, He didn’t mock him or ask why he didn’t believe. Instead, Jesus walked up to Thomas and gently said, “Thomas, put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (John 20:27 NLT)
I think that’s what Jesus would say to us today. Don’t be faithless any longer. Don’t allow what you’re going through cause you to forget what He’s done for you in the past. He is patient and kind. Slow to anger. He is talking to you this morning and is inviting you to trust Him. He is in control even when it doesn’t feel like. He sees you where you are and knows your fear. He is deeply concerned about you and wants to show Himself to you and to provide the opportunity for you to touch Him. Thomas had to reach out and touch Him to believe again. Will you reach out today to touch Him in order to believe again?
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
If you’re reading this, you’ve been overwhelmed by problems before. You’ve probably spent some time pouring your heart out to God asking for an immediate miracle. Every one of us has been there at some point. When we’re there, Psalm 102 is one we can relate to. It’s official title is, “A Prayer of One Overwhelmed with Trouble, Pouring Out Problems Before the Lord”. Can you relate? Verses 1 and 2 are words we have said. They say, “Lord, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you” (NLT). There’s desperation in those words and an urgency for God to answer. Know that God is not offended by your honesty in prayers. He’s not looking for flowery prayers from us. He longs for us to have real conversations with Him.
After pouring out his problems to God in the first several verses, the psalmist then writes in verse 12, “But then I remember that you, O Lord, still sit enthroned as King over all! The fame of your name will be revealed to every generation” (TPT). It’s a great reminder to any of us who are overwhelmed with things going on in our lives to stop and remember who it is that we’re praying to. When we put God in His place, it puts our problems in theirs. When we remember all He has done, it builds our faith and helps us to look at our problems through God rather than looking at God through our problems. That perspective is important in desperate times. God is greater than whatever you’re facing in that moment.
Finally, I love verses 17-18. They say, “He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas. Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord” (NLT). God hears your desperate prayers and your tone. When all you have is God, you have more than enough. Through faith, look ahead to God answering your prayers. Keep a prayer journal so you can share how God has been faithful over your lifetime. It’s great for you to look back on, and it’s great for your children and grandchildren to read. Over the course of time, as you look through that journal, you will see how God had His hand on you throughout all your times of desperation. You’ll see that He may not have answered the way you were asking Him to in that moment, but He did get you through it and work things out for your good. When you’re overwhelmed, it’s important to remember that and keep praying. God is listening and working on your answer even as you read this.
Thanks to Jude Beck for making this photo available freely on @unsplash