I took an assessment at work last year that reveals things about your nature and how you do things when it comes to sales. A question came up a few times that listed about ten vocabulary words. In each instance, i knew all the words except one. The answers were: a) I know none of these words, b) I only know a couple of these words, c) I only know some of these words, and d) I know all of these words. I didn’t like those choices since I knew all but one. I reasoned that I would write the word down and look it up later, then chose “d”.
When I looked up the words that I didn’t know, they didn’t exist. I then got my results back that called me a Hyper-Pro. It revealed that I care about Impressions and that I will embellish things to make me look good. It affects the way I dress, act, sell, and speak. As I challenged the result, I had to look inside to see if it was true. I then had to find out why it was true, where it came from, and then correct it. The assessment revealed what was going on inside versus what I was showing outside.
Proverbs 27:19 says, “It is your own face that you see reflected in the water and it is your own self that you see in your heart” (GNT). We spend a lot of time and effort trying to hide our heart because it reveals who we really are. We are afraid no one will love us if they really knew our heart. So we put our best face forward. The real problem is that we try the same thing when we approach God. We may be able to fool people, but we aren’t fooling God.
When Samuel went to choose a king for Israel, he looked at all of Jesse’s sons. He saw their outward appear and thought they were kingly, but God said, “Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Your heart reveals who you really are. That’s why God looks at it. Even if you have flaws like me, and you try to cover them up, God sees you for who you really are. You don’t have to put your best face forward because that’s not what He’s looking at. He knows who you really are, and He loves and accepts you as His child.
This year, I’ve had both a family member and a coworker get diagnosed with breast cancer. Their stories of sitting in the doctor’s office and hearing the news were very similar. They described getting tunnel vision. Sound seemed to go away. Fear immediately brought tears as it showed them a world where their child would grow up motherless. Then both immediately asked for prayer from those who know God.
One shared with me how after prayer they had clarity of how to fight, and they were no longer reeling from the news. The other shared with me about the peace that came over her. She said, “After people started praying, I haven’t been able to shed a tear. This peace won’t let me.” Both received news that no one ever wants to get, but both knew where to turn when they got it. While they still have treatments to go through, knowing God is in control has made the difference.
In Psalm 112, the writer discusses the blessings of the man (or woman) who fears the Lord with reverence and worships Him with obedience. Each verse pronounces blessings or discusses the outcome for such people. In verses 7-8, it says, “They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly” (NLT). This verse perfectly describes what both of these women shared with me.
This verse doesn’t just apply to cancer though. It applies to any bad news that may come your way. You don’t have to fear the outcome when you get it. Just like these ladies, you can give the news to God through prayer, and His peace, which passes all understanding, will guard your thoughts. Fear does not come from God, but peace does. Whatever you’re facing today, you can face it with confidence because you are a child of the King of Kings. He is in control, and will work out His plan for you.
If you’ve never heard of an Iron Man race or been to one, the people who do it are incredible. The race starts off with a 2.4 mile open water swim. Then they ride a bike for over 112 miles. Once they’re done with that, they have to run a marathon. Did I mention that it all has to be done on the same day and within a certain timeframe? These men and women push their body’s to the limit like nothing I’ve ever seen. To me, they are the very picture of endurance.
In high school, i ran the mile. Yes, it was just one, and they called that endurance running! I still had to train and condition my body to be able to run four laps around the track at the fastest speed possible. I had to get my muscles to the level where they could maintain that speed for close to five minutes. I also had to condition my lungs to not get winded so I wouldn’t run out of breath in the race. It’s a far cry from an Iron Man, but I still had to train.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (NLT). We each have our own race to run in life. Some of us will run a short distance, some will run a 5k, others a half marathon or a marathon, while others an Iron Man. Whatever race God has set before you, run with endurance and don’t compare your race to someone else’s.
There’s an old saying that goes, “It’s not the mountains ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” To run with endurance, and to run to win, we need to get rid of sin in our lives, even small ones. They keep us from running our race the way God wants us to. We must discipline our flesh and our spirit through prayer, reading God’s Word, and running alongside other believers to be able to endure the race we’ve been given. We each have a certain time frame within which we must run our race, so we need to run to win.
I like to ask people to give me one word to describe what makes them successful. I get a lot of the same words from people like: personable, knowledgeable, honest, trustworthy, determined, and selfless. A word that I’ve yet to hear is diligent. It’s not a word we use that often anymore in our daily vocabulary, but it’s still a great word. It means to be constant in effort or to be persistent in trying to accomplish something. It’s about not giving up.
It’s a great word to describe how to be more successful at following God. Imagine if we became more persistent in chasing after Him or if we were more constant in our effort to know Him. How much stronger would our faith be? As I read Hebrews 11 (the Hall of Faith), I can’t help but see these men and women as diligent people. The greatest people of faith in the Bible had a common thing: they were diligent in their faith to follow God. If we want to live greater lives of faith, we should become more diligent in following God.
Here are some Bible verses about being diligent.
1. The soul (appetite) of the lazy person craves and gets nothing [for lethargy overcomes ambition], But the soul (appetite) of the diligent [who works willingly] is rich and abundantly supplied.
PROVERBS 13:4 AMP
2. Our people have to learn to be diligent in their work so that all necessities are met (especially among the needy) and they don’t end up with nothing to show for their lives.
Titus 3:14 MSG
3. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward.
2 John 1:8 NLT
4. So be very diligent to love the Lord your God for your own well-being.
Joshua 23:11 HCSB
5. But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.
HEBREWS 11:6 AMP
Throwback Thursday is a new 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.
In my job, I work with both management and their employees. Something I see more and more often is employees who take very little responsibility in situations and shift the blame to leadership. If something goes wrong, it’s management’s fault. They don’t take the initiative to repair the situation themselves. They offer malicious obedience so that when they fail, they have a scapegoat. Maybe you’ve seen this too. This is a problem in our churches too, and all of us are guilty of doing it. When things aren’t being done the way we think they should be done, we blame the pastor or leadership instead of doing things ourselves.
One of the most memorable stories in the Bible that captures this attitude comes from Exodus 17. The children of Israel had left Egypt and were wandering in the desert. They were hot and thirsty. Instead of looking to resolve the problem, they complained and blamed Moses. They said, “Why did YOU bring us out of Egypt? To kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (GNB) They took no responsibility themselves. Ultimately, God spoke to Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water would come out of it. God did it as a favor to Moses rather than as a reward to the people.
In the following verses of that chapter, we see the characteristics we should display instead. While there in the desert, they were attacked by the Amalekites. Moses commanded Joshua to get some men to go fight. He then went with Aaron and Hur to the top of a hill to watch the battle while holding his staff in the air. While his arms were up, the Israelites prevailed; when his arms were down, they began to lose. The problem was that holding up the staff for a long period became tiring, and soon he could no longer hold up his arms.
Instead of complaining about leadership’s responsibility in the battle, Aaron and Hur found a rock for Moses to sit on. They then held his arms up for him as long as was needed until the Israelites had won. They recognized it wasn’t Moses’ job alone to lead the battle. They saw what needed to be done, without being asked, and they did it for their nation. In doing so, they provide for us a great example of how our lives should be. We can choose to be complainers, or we can choose to be uplifters. We can either blame, or we can be the solution. It’s up to each one of us to do our part in the church so that the body as a whole is successful. Will you be a complainer or will you be an uplifter?
In light of all the recent events and tragedies, I’ve been asked numerous times for my thoughts on them. I refer them to 2 Timothy 3 and Matthew 24. It’s no surprise to God, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to us that all of this is going on. Some of the things those two chapters tell us are that in the last days, people will be greedy, they will consider nothing sacred they will be unloving and unforgiving, they will easily be offended, there will be earthquakes, sin will be rampant, and the love of many will grow cold.
Those two chapters paint a perfect picture of where we are right now. I highly encourage you to go back and read them. I prefer reading them in the New Living Translation. The point is this: we, as Christians, can be shocked and offended that all of this is going on or we can get an urgency to be about the Father’s business. We can choose to fight what God said would happen (which is what I see many doing) or we can understand what’s going on and do something about it.
In Matthew 24, right after it describes today’s world, it then tells us that the Gospel will be preached throughout the world so that all nations would hear it. That’s what I think we need to be doing instead of getting into arguments. Our mission has not changed since the Great Commission was given. It’s just become more critical and more urgent. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer” (GNT).
Now, more than ever, the world needs to see us showing what love is. They need to see us doing good and meeting together. Let’s not be afraid and upset over where the world has gone, but rather let it be an encouraging sign to us that we are almost home. Let’s show love to those whom we disagree with by doing good to them and for them. In doing so, we open up doors to communicate the Gospel so that the whole world will hear and have the opportunity to be saved. That is what our final mission is.
To demonstrate how difficult it is to accomplish even the easiest tasks while you are bound up, I once tried to preach a sermon with my hands tied behind my back. I wasn’t sure how it would play out, but it proved to be more difficult than I could imagine. My first problem was holding the microphone. Then I needed help turning the pages in my bible. After that, I needed to turn the page in my notes. Finally, I couldn’t use my hands then I spoke, which apparently I do.
So many of us try to do more than speak while we are bound up. We actually try to go through life while we are bound up in depression, addiction, grief, sin, etc. If you’ve been there, you know that even the smallest tasks can prove to be difficult. Go designed you to live a life of freedom. As Paul wrote, “It was for freedom that He set you free.” Jesus also said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
There’s a song called “Chain Breaker” that says, “If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker. If you feel lost, He’s a way maker. If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior. If you’ve got chains, He’s a chain breaker.” The words to this song remind me that I don’t have to live bound up in my chains. There is no chain so strong that God cannot break it in your life. There is no depression so dark that He can’t bring you out of it. I’ve been in the deep, dark prison of depression and He set me free.
I love reading Psalm 107 because it’s a reminder of what God can do for us. In verse 14 it says, “He brought them out of their gloom and darkness and broke their chains in pieces” (GNT). If you’re bound up by chains today or are in a dark place, call out to God. Ask Him to lead you out of that place and to set you free. I know if He did it in my life, He can do it in yours. It’s time we all got back to living the life of freedom that God created us to live.