I went to a high school that gave out demerits. If you got a certain amount, you went to the office. The next level was that your parents would be brought in. Finally, if you got a certain level, you would be expelled from school. I had one teacher that loved giving out demerits. In fact, when I would walk into class, he would hand me a blank one and say, “Go ahead and fill out the top. We can keep a running total throughout class and you can write down the final number at the bell.”
It always felt like a threat, but more than that, I couldn’t concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing. In my head, I was just thinking about how not to get a demerit. I would tell myself not to talk to anyone so I wouldn’t get one. But then again, he was demerit happy. I could just have the wrong look on my face and get one. It was the same every day in his class. While I can remember the teacher and location of the room, I have no idea what class it was.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that God is like that teacher. We think He’s up there waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us. It can cause you to live in constant fear of God, and to worry that you’re going to mess up and ruin everything. It can even distract you from fulfilling your calling and cause you to be a fruitless Christian. In the words of a friend of mine, “Relax! God’s in a good mood.” He’s not angry all the time looking to smack you for doing wrong.
Psalm 130:3-4 says, “If you, GOD, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped” (MSG). Don’t fall for the lies of the enemy that God has handed you a demerit and is waiting for you to fail. God wants nothing more for you than for you to succeed and to fulfill your purpose. Forgiveness is His habit, not punishment. Put down the demerit you’re holding on to. Walk in the forgiveness that has been bought for you by a His son.
Do you know any workaholics? You know, people who constantly work. Their hours are 9-5, but they stay up late working constantly. It’s a badge of honor to them to be the first person to the office each day, and the last one to leave. Many of them live very stressful lives. They worry that they won’t complete their job on time. They stress about income. They’re so busy making a living that they forget to make a life. Many end up sacrificing family for work.
Psalm 127:2 says, “It is useless to work so hard for a living, getting up early and going to bed late. For the Lord provides for those he loves, while they are asleep” (GNT). In our fast paced world, where technology has allowed us to work 24/7 from anywhere on the globe, becoming a workaholic is easier than ever. But God says that being a workaholic is useless. In fact, it becomes a question of the heart.
The biggest question is: do you trust God to be your provider? So many times when we make a habit out of working non-stop, we do it because we forget who our source is. Because we go to work and work rewards us with a paycheck, we begin to think we are our own source or our job is. If we believe God is our source, it relieves the pressure of having to become a workaholic so we can provide for ourselves.
I believe in hard work, and I believe that if a man doesn’t work, he shouldn’t eat. But I also believe that God is my provider. If I trust Him with my finances, and I give Him His part of my income as recognition of being my provider, then I don’t have to stress about where the next job comes from and I don’t have to stress and work constantly. I’ve learned that God is not a well that can run dry. He is a never ending river who supplies all of my needs according to His riches (Phil 4:19). Become a member of workaholics anonymous and trust God to be your provider.
One of the greatest disparities between people today and every other generation in history is the amount of knowledge that is so readily available. In the past, knowledge was handed down from books and elders. Today, the internet has everything you need to know. I’ve used YouTube to learn how to do mechanical work on my car, cook dinner, learn about history and so much more. Living in the age of the internet has definitely increased people’s knowledge.
What it hasn’t done is increase wisdom. I believe because we have forgotten the difference between the two. Knowledge puffs up, but wisdom builds up. Since time began, wisdom has been passed down from elders. With all the knowledge available, we have forgotten to walk with the wise to gain wisdom. God’s desire is that you and I grow in wisdom. Remember, it was the Tree of Knowledge that brought sin into the world. God isn’t against us being knowledgeable, but He understands that knowledge without wisdom is dangerous.
Here are some Bible verses on wisdom.
1. Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.
Proverbs 28:26 NLT
2. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5 HCSB
3. Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do. Whatever else you get, get insight.
Proverbs 4:7 GNT
4. Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.
Job 12:12 NLT
5. He who walks [as a companion] with wise men will be wise, But the companions of [conceited, dull-witted] fools [are fools themselves and] will experience harm.
PROVERBS 13:20 AMP
A habit that I’ve noticed in some of the most effective Christians is the habit of service. Most people who have this habit are not noticeable until they are gone. They give of their time and energy, but prefer to stay behind the scenes. They are rarely recognized because they don’t require public praise. They do what they do because it’s what God has called them to. They recognize that for big things to happen, there’s a lot of little things that need to be done behind the scenes.
Jesus told us that the ones who do these little things with an humble spirit are the greatest in His kingdom. In Matthew 23:11-12 Jesus said, “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty” (MSG). Jesus modeled what it was like to be a servant to others. He spent His life giving instead of taking. He did things to recognize God, not to be recognized. When you live a life of service in a selfish world, you stand out.
Look at the life of Mother Theresa. She spent it serving people who had no ability to pay her back or offer her any recognition. She once said, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” I believe that’s the key to the habit of service. Understanding it’s not about doing big things. It’s about the little things that few see. It’s about doing something for someone without posting it on social media. It’s done out of a heart of love for someone in need.
I believe if all Christians would take the time to develop this one habit, we could change the world. If we did things for His recognition instead of our own, we’d have a lot more converts. A life of service yields great results in the kingdom. It’s marked by looking out for the needs of others more than our own. Take time today to look for someone you can serve in some small capacity. Make a difference in their life today and you’ll understand why it’s more blessed to give than to receive.
A friend of mine was in a wreck recently. As he went through an intersection, an On coming car didn’t stop. They broadsided his truck, pushed it about 15 feet into the median and caused him to roll over. As he got his bearings, he checked on his girls in the back seat. They were dangling in their car seat because the truck same to a stop on the passenger side. He got out of his seatbelt, dropped to the bottom, got his girls out of their seats and out of the truck through the back window.
After telling me all of this, he said, “The body of the truck did what it was supposed to do. It protected my family.” Before the first truck in that line was ever rolled out of Detroit, Ford tested the body style over and over in crash tests. They made adjustments to the design so that it could withstand a heavy impact like that. They thoroughly tested it so that the public could buy it with confidence that if they ever were in a wreck, it would hold up and protect like it did.
Psalm 119:140 says, “Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that is why I love them so much” (NLT). God’s Word is filled with His promises to you and I. Those promises have been put to the test for generations all over the world. They have withstood the test of time and every situation, and that have proven to be true and reliable. When God says something, you can rely on it more than anything else in this world.
I did a Google search of “God’s promises,” and page after page listed thousands of promises found in God’s Word. Every one of them is something you can rely on. If you’re willing to step out in faith and put them to the test, you will find what billions of others have found out – they are true. Most of what God promises require you to step out in faith and activate it. You have to believe that they work before you see the result. That’s what faith is. Whatever you’re facing today, trust in God’s promise to you and not what your eyes and mind are telling you.
One of the activities I love doing is camping. When I was younger I was taught how to do a survival camping trip. They dropped us off in unfamiliar territory, only let us carry what we could fit into a bandaid box, soaked the bandaid box in water, then left us. We had to find shelter, build a fire, hunt for food and sleep on the ground. We had no help or provisions. It was a rough weekend that I’ll never forget.
Compare that to how I like to camp. I enjoy taking my tent, a queen size air mattress, a cooler full of food, lanterns, chairs, pots and pans, cooking utensils, plates and lots of comforts. It’s still outside and in the woods, but I have everything I need for a great weekend. I even have transportation and a phone if something were to happen. This form of camping is a lot more enjoyable because of what’s available to me.
Many of us live our faith as if we were on a survival camping trip. We feel like we’ve been abandoned, we don’t have anything, we are in unfamiliar territory and we’re left to fend for ourselves. I’ve spoken to so many Christians who feel this way, and think it’s normal. Let me tell you it’s not. God has not abandoned you and left you alone on this journey. He doesn’t leave us to survive on our own. Instead, He has given you everything to have the other style camping trip.
2 Peter 1:3 says, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (NLT) God has already packed the car for you. It’s a matter of us unpacking it and utilizing what He’s given us. You have special giftings, the Bible, the Holy Spirit living in you, direct communication with God and so much more. We as believers need to start utilizing the things God has made available to us, and get out of survival mode. That’s the life God has called you to
If you are like me, worry has a tendency to creep in from time to time. I look at the future, and my mind begins to play scenario after scenario of what might happen. Usually, it’s always the worst case scenarios. I begin to stress and then get worried to the point that it keeps me up and dominates my thoughts. My worry comes from not knowing what the future holds. I like to plan and prepare, and when I can’t do that, stress takes over.
Worry also comes from a lack of trust in God. When I get overly anxious, it means that I don’t trust God with my future. Sometimes we are good at giving Him our past and our present, but struggle to give Him our future. God knows what your future holds, and He’s even planned it out. He is not going to be surprised by what happens in your life or how each situation will unfold. That’s why we’ve got to learn to trust Him when it comes to our future.
1 Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (NLT). It’s not God’s responsibility to relieve you of your worry. It’s your responsibility to trust Him with your future, and to give it to Him. It’s quite a release to hand the burden of the unknown off to Him. I can tell you that I’d rather give up my stress than my sleep. I found a way to do that by learning to trust God with the unknown.
Releasing the burden of the unknown takes you praying, “God, i don’t know what the future holds, but you do. I’m going to trust that your plan for my life is better than my plan. I give you my future. I release it to you. I don’t want to carry this burden anymore. Please take it and help me to trust you more.” When I prayed that prayer and meant it, my worry left. When it tried to come back, I told it to talk to God because my future was in His hands. Doing that repeatedly, until it was ingrained in my mind, is how I was released from the worry and stress of the burden of the unknown.
I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). It’s one of those verses we can quickly read over. Paul was wrapping up his letter and was writing several commands for these new believers. He was wanting them to take these instructions and ingrain them in their new lives early on so that they would become a habit long term. Each of the things he said were important, but this one always jumps out at me.
He said, “Be thankful in ALL circumstances.” He didn’t say we had to thank God for our circumstances, but that we need to find something to give thanks for. In my most difficult time. I was living minute to minute. I would watch the clock and tell myself, “If I can survive this minute, I can get through this problem.” When the minute would pass, I would thank God for helping me to survive that minute, then the process would start over. I didn’t thank God for the mess I was in. I thanked Him for keeping me alive in it.
Paul, the writer of Thessalonians, had gone through some pretty dark days himself. He learned that if you focus on your problem, despair sets in. If you focus on finding something to be thankful for, praise fills your heart. That’s how he and Silas could praise in prison. I’m sure it started out as a conversation on things to be thankful for that turned into singing praises to God. It was in those praises that God moved the earth and set them free from their chains.
Don’t miss that powerful truth. When you praise, God frees you from your chains. Praise comes from a heart that is thankful. A thankful heart comes from a person who looks for the good in every situation. If you’re breathing, you’ve got something to be thankful for. If you have a bed to sleep in, you’ve got something to be thankful for. Your world may be falling apart, but God has not abandoned you. Give thanks for that. When you learn to give thanks in all circumstances, you’ll learn to praise in all circumstances.