1. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3:23 NLT)
2. For the word of the Lord is right; and all His work is done in faithfulness. (Psalm 33:4 AMP)
3. Praise GOD, everybody! Applaud GOD, all people! His love has taken over our lives; GOD ’s faithful ways are eternal. Hallelujah! (Psalm 117:1-2 MSG)
4. If we are faithless [do not believe and are untrue to Him], He remains true (faithful to His Word and His righteous character), for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:13 AMP)
5. With faithfulness and love he leads all who keep his covenant and obey his commands. (Psalms 25:10 GNB)
6. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. (Psalms 119:90 NLT)
7. May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it! (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 MSG)
8. Yet the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen [you] and set you on a firm foundation and guard you from the evil [one]. (2 Thessalonians 3:3 AMP)
9. Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. (Deuteronomy 7:9 NLT)
10. The Lord says, “I love justice and I hate oppression and crime. I will faithfully reward my people And make an eternal covenant with them. (Isaiah 61:8 GNB)
When my first wife left me, I went into a deep depression. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to lay down and not have to worry about getting up. I was ready to quit everything: my business, my friendships, my obligations and my life. I couldn’t find the strength I needed to face each new day. I couldn’t stand to see the sun come up and remind me that another day had begun in this new life. I bought thick curtains so I could block the light from coming in.
Those curtains were very symbolic of what I was trying to do to everything else in my life. I wanted to block out everything good around me. Other’s happiness just made me more miserable. In fact, it made me bitter and angry. I didn’t want to see others who were happily married or in a fulfilling relationship. If I knew someone in my life like that, I closed the curtains on them. If someone was happy and bubbly, I shut the curtains on them. If someone tried to reach out to me to cheer me up, I slammed them shut on them.
Slowly I began to isolate myself from the positive things in my life. My world grew darker and darker. My brother took me to a doctor who put me on anti-depressants. The thought that I had to take a pill to cope with things made me upset. All they did to me were to numb the pain I was feeling. I felt like a zombie as I went through the motions of life. I still wanted the curtains shut and worked at pushing others away. Thank God I had friends and family who wouldn’t let me keep the curtains closed.
Every time I shut the curtains, they would open them. Every time I pushed away, they came closer. One friend would come to my house each morning at 9:30, knock on my door and tell me to get up because people needed me. Day after day she would knock on my door and throw the curtains of my life open. If I didn’t show up to work soon after that, she’d call and throw them open again. Soon I began to get up on my own. I began to find purpose in my life.
Just because the person who was supposed to love me through thick and thin, through sickness and health, through riches and poverty until death had rejected me it didn’t mean that others had. Because she didn’t need me in her life, it didn’t mean that others didn’t. As I began to slowly open the curtains and to allow light back into my life, I quit taking the medicine with my doctor’s approval. Each day, I opened the curtains a little more, even when I didn’t want to. I had to force myself to get back to the person I knew I could be. I had to quit pushing everyone away. It was a long, hard road, but one that was worth struggling down.
I wonder what part of this story speaks to you. Where are you today? Are you the one holed up in your world with the curtains closed trying to keep the light out? Are you the one who just wants to quit at everything and let the world pass you by? Have you found yourself letting the light in a little at a time? Are you a friend who has been pushed away by someone you love or care about? Or are you the friend who keeps knocking and opening the curtains for those who close them? I think we find ourselves in one of these places at some point.
If you are in a deep depression, seek help from your doctor, church, family and friends. It’s not weak to admit you need help. In fact, it’s one of the strongest things you can do. If you know someone struggling, don’t let them push you away. Keep knocking on their door. Don’t have thin skin. They need you more than you know. You can’t quit on them even if they’ve quit on you and everything else. Pray for them. Pray that you will have wisdom and favor when trying to reach them. Pray that God will show you how to open their curtains and let His light in.
Growing up, I was a huge Michael Jordan fan. I used to watch the Slam Dunk contest and then try to duplicate him on our neighbor’s adjustable goal. My room was covered in posters and my feet were covered by his shoes. I watched “Come Fly With Me” almost every day. It highlighted the early part of his career. There was a scene in there that I remember well. Early in his second season with the Bulls, he broke a bone in his foot. It put him out most of the season. The video talked about his dedication to getting better and showed videos of him working out. One image still sticks with me. He was walking through a pool with his shoes on.
In order for him to go on in his career, he had to strengthen his foot. They put him in a pool and had him walk through it as fast as he could while slaloming. The water in the pool provided resistance and that resistance is what gave him strength to go on. I didn’t understand it at the time, but now I get it. I’ve seen God use the same “therapy” in my life and in other’s too. He provides resistance to make us stronger than we are, but we typically just want out of the pool.
Habakkuk 3:19 says, “The Lord God is my strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make spiritual progress upon my high places of trouble, suffering or responsibility! (AMP)” We get weak and break down when we forget that God is our strength. We are defeated when we fight our own battles instead of allowing Him to use His invincible army. We hunker down and stay still instead of moving when we are controlled by fear or pain. But God wants us to move forward in those times.
He knows that resistance makes us stronger. He understands that we need to make spiritual progress no matter what is in front of us. The Scripture didn’t say that we make our own feet like hinds’ feet. It says He does that. We are the ones who have to be willing to let Him. We have to take those steps of spiritual progress in the tough times. We have to push through the waters in order to grow our strength. God is for you and is using the difficult times to give you the strength to endure.
Here’s another one of God’s promises to you. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you go through the deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. (NLT)” The rivers of difficulty aren’t fun, but they are necessary to give us strength. We can push forward and rely on God’s promise that He is with us during those times and that He will not let us drown. Your spiritual progress is important to God. Keep walking through that river and hold your head up. God is working in you.
As I wait for my oil to get changed in my car, I can’t help but think of all the correlations between the routine maintenance work on my car and the need for routine maintenance of our walk with Christ. Someone was recently telling me a story about a guy who was never taught that his oil needed to be changed. He got a new car when he started college, but by the time he graduated, the engine broke down. His car wasn’t designed to go on forever with the original oil. It, like us, needed fresh oil.
So many Christians try to live the life we are called to live without ever getting fresh oil. We try to survive our whole lives on our initial salvation experience. When we try to do that, we break down, get tired and run out of energy. It gets hard to move when God says move because we haven’t don’t anything to grow the relationship. It becomes difficult to walk by faith because we haven’t done anything to improve our sight. We couldn’t stay in a romantic relationship based off of our initial feeling so why would we try to do that with God?
Imagine your first date with someone you love. There were butterflies in your stomach. Your palms were sweaty. Your voice might have even cracked. You were so enamored with the person across from you that you could just stare into their eyes forever. Now, many years later, life has happened. That initial feeling is gone. You’ve learned that to make that relationship work, you’ve got to do routine maintenance to the relationship. You can’t count on those initial feelings to keep the relationship going when times get tough. You’ve had to put fresh oil in the relationship if it’s going to survive.
For a Christian, we get fresh oil by spending time in prayer with God. I’m not talking about a one way prayer. I’m talking about dialogue where you sit and wait to hear back from God. You have to spend time reading and pouring through the Bible. Fresh oil doesn’t come from reading a chapter a day. It comes from digging through it, listening to the tone and finding how it applies to your life. You also get fresh oil from being around other believers. You can’t get that kind of oil just sitting in a pew next to someone for a few hours on Sunday. You have to break bread with them, hang out with them and have a relationship that stirs up each other’s gifts.
Fresh oil doesn’t come on its own. It’s something you have to take time out of your schedule for and will cost you something. If you’ve been trying to keep your relationship with God going on that initial feeling, you probably aren’t far from a break down. Spend time today getting back into your prayer closet. Take time to look deeper into His word than just the normal cursory look. I will also encourage you to connect with other believers who will challenge your faith and will push you beyond your comfort zone. When you do that, you’ll find a renewed love for God and an excitement that is deeper than your initial salvation experience.
I always love “Throwback Thursday” on social media. Lots of people post pictures of themselves in the past. People laugh and comment about the clothes, hair or where they were. It brings back good memories of a time gone by, but it also is a reminder that we aren’t who we used to be. Times change and so do we. It’s so gradual and slow that we hardly notice it until we do something like a “Throwback Thursday”. When we do that, it becomes very clear how much we have changed and how far we’ve come.
I believe it’s also a good practice to do a Spiritual Throwback Thursday. It’s important to look back and see all the great things God has done for us and to see what He’s brought us through. Times of reflection help us to remember where we once were. They help us to relive the pain and hopelessness of the moment just before God came through. They build our faith so that we can face even harder times in the future. God is faithful. What He’s done in the past, He will do today and in the future.
In Lamentations 3:19-32, Jeremiah reflects on where he had been. He wrote, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lost mess, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all – oh how well I remember – the feeling of hitting bottom. (MSG)” In his time of sorrow, he took time to think back to how he felt in those times of despair he had already faced. He didn’t do it to make himself feel worse in his current condition. He did it so he could have hope.
In verses 21 and 22, he said, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: the faithful love of the Lord never ends! (NLT)” No matter how bad life gets, you can still dare to have hope because God is faithful. Things may look worse than you’ve ever seen them. The sky may be darker than it has ever been. You may be facing the most hopeless situation, but one thing remains: the faithful love of the Lord never ends. You can hold on to His faithfulness no matter how bleak things might seem.
The writer then spends the next several verses reminding himself of the lessons he’s learned in trusting God. He gives himself a pep talk and says in verses 31 and 32, “For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He also shows great compassion because of the greatness of His unfailing love.” Sometimes we have to give ourselves a pep talk too. David did it when he asked himself, “Why so downcast, o my soul? Put your hope in God.” If doing a Spiritual Throwback Thursday was good enough for Jeremiah and David, it’s good enough for us. It’ll help you to remember the faithful love of the Lord.
As I was reading through the story of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17, I was tempted to pass over it. After all, I’ve heard the story since I was a kid and have heard numerous sermons about it. I decided to read it anyway and to not just scroll through it. As I read through it, I stopped often and looked at the words that were used. I tried to imagine myself on the hillside with the army of Israel so I could see what I had never seen before. With that different perspective, I saw three things that I had never seen before in the story. Here are three of them.
For 40 days, Goliath came out every morning and evening to taunt the army Israel. The Philistine army would stand on one hill and the Israelite army would stand on the other ready for battle. No one fought though they were set up to because fear is a paralyzer. Too many times we go to do something and stop before accomplishing it because we allow fear to hold us back. We stand armed and ready to accomplish what God has put before us, but then we allow fear to keep us from action. II Timothy 1:7 says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power love and a sound mind. Take the power God has given you and conquer your fear.
The next thing I saw came from verse 26. David asks, “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” The word that stuck out to me was “allowed”. When I think of times when I haven’t done what God asked of me, it’s because I’ve allowed other voices to be louder than His. We accomplish so little in life because of the things we allow. When we quit allowing the voice of the opposition to dictate our every move, we’ll begin to live a more victorious life and others will follow.
The third thing I saw was in verse 40. It says that David picked up five smooth stones from the stream. I know I’ve heard sermons about Goliath’s four brothers and how David got a stone for each one of them. To me, I think David was being prepared. We fail in life and in doing things because we don’t count the cost ahead of time. David counted the cost and prepared for the worst possible scenario. He grabbed extra stones just in case the first one missed. He knew that God doesn’t always deliver us the first time we ask or open the door the first time we knock. What if He didn’t deliver the giant with the first stone? David had faith, but he also counted the cost.
If you’ve been paralyzed by fear, take a step of faith in the power that God has given you. If you’ve allowed other voices to be louder than God’s, quit listening to them and find that still, small voice that God speaks with. If you’ve gone into things without counting the cost and have tried to get by with the bare minimum, it’s time to get better prepared. God is ready to take care of the Giants that stand in your way, but you’ve got to move past your fear, listen to His voice and step out in faith prepared for whatever God may do.
We are raised hearing stories about great men and women of history. We have movies that encapsulate their lives in just a few hours. There are thousands of books that tell of their struggles. We also create Superheroes to further train our brains that we must be super or great in order to accomplish anything in history. While that may be mostly true according to this world’s standards, it’s not by God’s standard. He’s ok with you being ordinary. He doesn’t need you to be Super or great in order to change the world.
In Acts 4, Peter and John spent the night in jail for healing a crippled man and preaching that Jesus was the way to Heaven. The next morning, they were brought before the High Priest and the religious council. Knowing the answer, they asked the question, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood up and boldly spoke to them about Jesus. Verse 13 says, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures.”
Peter and John were fishermen before they followed Jesus. That was the low wage, manual labor of their time. Their job required long, hard hours, not an education. People were always surprised when they spoke because no one expects greatness from ordinary. It was the same in Acts 2 when they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues. Acts 2:7-8 says, “And they were all beside themselves in amazement, saying, “Are not all these who are talking Galileans? Then how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own particular dialect to which we were born? (AMP)” No one expected these Galilean fisherman to know anything about the Scriptures, much less to be able to speak another language correctly.
When our lives are controlled by the Holy Spirit, our lives become great. We get a boldness to do things we’ve never been able to do. We speak like we’ve never spoken before. The Holy Spirit can make an ordinary life an extraordinary life. Don’t hold yourself back from ministering to others because you don’t have the education. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your faith because you don’t think you know enough about the Bible. Peter and John were in your shoes yet they spoke with boldness through the Holy Spirit.
God chose these uneducated men and women to turn the world upside down. If He can do that, He can use you. It’s ok to be ordinary because God uses ordinary people everyday. Don’t preclude yourself from God’s plan because you don’t think He can do anything with you. He can use your brokenness to heal someone else. He can use your simplicity to confound the wise. He can take what little you think you have to offer and do great things. It just takes you being willing to get past your excuses and to allow God to do His work through you. Let Him take your ordinary and do extraordinary things.