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Keep Working

Positive reinforcement is a great tool to encourage people to continue doing what they’re doing. It rewards them for a job well done. Many companies are like mine where they give bonuses if you meet the goals the company sets for you or if you help the company meet their goals. For me, that last one comes once a year. After several months it’s easy to forget several months that I will be rewarded next year if I help the company achieve its goals long term. Sometimes it feels like a chore having to do the things I have to do because I forget about the reward at the end.

In II Chronicles 15, King Asa must have been feeling the same. He was the first king in a while to remember God. He got rid of most of the idols and shrines. He even removed his grandmother from the role of queen mother because of her love for idols. He also defeated armies with over three times as many men. God was blessing him, but he was starting to lose sight of the positive reinforcement that God was using to bless him for doing what he was supposed to do.

The spirit of God came on Azariah and he went to the king to deliver a message from God. In verse 7, he said, “But you must be strong and not be discouraged. The work that you do will be rewarded” (GNT). I believe God is saying that to you and I today. He wants to encourage us to continue doing the work He called us to. I know that we can feel like God has forgotten us as we focus on completing and doing the work He’s given us, but He hasn’t forgotten us. We will be rewarded.

Galatians 6:9 reminds us, “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” God believes in positive reinforcement. He has given us many promises in His Word to keep doing the work even though it gets tiring and mundane. If we will continue to do what He’s called us to, we will reap a harvest and a reward. Don’t quit doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Don’t give up. God sees what you’re doing even if others don’t. He won’t fail in delivering on His promise to you.

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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.

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Just Do It…Again

Have you ever had to start over at square one? It’s one of the most frustrating things there are. After you’ve done the work and made progress, something happens and you have to start over. I’ve had to do that in life, with dreams God has given me, with work and in relationships. I don’t have many pet peeves, but doing work I’ve already done is one of mine. It’s redundant, but I’ve learned to not look at what I’m having to do over. Instead I focus on the outcome. The work is worth the payoff in the end.

After Isaac inherited all of Abraham’s wealth and land, people became jealous and didn’t like him. They poured dirt into the wells that Abraham had dug and forced him to leave that area. Genesis 26:17-18 says, “So Isaac left. He camped in the valley of Gerar and settled down there. Isaac dug again the wells which were dug in the days of his father Abraham but had been clogged up by the Philistines after Abraham’s death. And he renamed them, using the original names his father had given them” (MSG).

I’m sure Isaac was frustrated, but he did the work anyway. I believe that’s what you and I need to think about today. You may be frustrated at how clogged up life is at the moment. You may feel like you’re at square one with the dreams God planted in you. Don’t quit or give up. Do the work with gladness and push forward. There is a reward and times of refreshing coming, but you’re going to have to do the work. It may require sacrificing other things, spending more time in prayer, reading the Bible or fasting, but God’s rewards for you are on the other side of your obedience. Pick up a shovel and start digging.

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Stay The Course

The phrase, “Stay the course,” has been used by military commanders to muster their army in the face of obstacles. It is meant to give them courage to keep going and to keep pursuing victory no matter how the battle appears at that moment. Rarely is any victory won without several twists and turns with ups and downs. If warriors quit at the first sign of struggle, they could never win a battle. They must learn to persevere and push forward with their eye on the prize while listening to their commander’s orders. Staying the course is often difficult, but a necessary step in achieving victory.

When you accept Jesus, you are put on course for Heaven. There will be many ups and downs, as well as battles. The road to victory is not easy, but we must persevere. There have been times when I’ve felt like giving up and accepting defeat. There have been times where I’ve been pushed backwards as well, but I’ve had to remind myself to stay the course, fight the battles and keep moving. There’s a reason that Paul told us to take up the full armor of God. We need it because we are pressed on every side in the midst of a lifelong battle to pursue all that God has for us.

Hebrews 6:12 encourages us, “Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them” (MSG). If you and I will keep persevering, keep fighting and keep moving towards victory, we will get all that God has for us. Remember that greater is He that is in you than he that is against you. Now is not the time to stop and rest. Now is not the time to accept defeat. Now is the time to pick up your feet, to stay the course you were given and to fight until victory is won.

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Useful Service

When I first started working for my boss, he asked me, “What do I need to know about you to be an effective leader for you?” I replied, “I hate busy work. I don’t like doing things for the sake of doing them. I’m happy to do anything productive if there’s a reason for it. I don’t want to put my effort and energy into something only to be told later, ‘Thanks for doing that. We don’t really need this right now, but one day we might.’” I tend to think that all of want to do something that has purpose and meaning.

When you think about the work you do for the Lord, do you see it as meaningful or busy work? As a person who leads volunteers at a church, I sometimes get people who want the spotlight jobs. Holding a sign for people walking by, or opening a door or picking up trash around the parking lot can seem insignificant to them. To me, nothing you do for the Lord is insignificant. All of us have a role to fill. All of us joined together doing our part, no matter how small it feels, is what makes the Body of Christ work. Preaching can only be effective if there are people in the seats listening. The rest of the teams who serve are the ones that make sure people are parked, feel welcomed and find the sanctuary effortlessly.

1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless” (GNT). No matter how big or small you feel your work for the Lord is, it is never useless. Don’t do it for the spotlight or so that others will praise you. Do it as work for the Lord because that’s what it is. God has called each of us to play a role in building His Kingdom. The approval of others is not what makes your work significant. The fact that you keep doing it for the Lord, even when no one seems to notice, is what matters. Don’t give up. Your Father in Heaven sees and will reward you when the time is right.

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Fighting Discouragement

Discouragement is something that each of us face. Whether we got bad news, things aren’t going the way we planned or we’re facing an uphill battle, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. In those times we may wonder why we should even try. Discouragement really takes away our will to move forward or even to put up a fight. It causes us to see defeat before the end is even near. What it doesn’t take into account is the favor of God who is willing and able to do abundantly more than we could ever ask or think. With Him all things are possible.

In those moments, I remind myself to do whatever I can do, then let God do what He can do. If I want God to show up, I need to show up too. The Bible is full of hope in hopeless situations. All that God required of them was to not be discouraged or give up. When the Israelites walked around Jericho, the walls fell. When David walked onto the field of Battle and put a stone in a sling, the giant fell. When Peter stepped out of the boat, he didn’t fall. Whatever you’re facing today, meet it with faith and determination instead of discouragement. Let God show up and do what only He can do.

Here are some Bible verses about not getting discouraged.

1. So I say to my soul, “Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be disturbed. For I know my God will break through for me.” Then I’ll have plenty of reasons to praise him all over again. Yes, living before his face is my saving grace!

Psalms 42:11 TPT

2. Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day.

2 CORINTHIANS 4:16 AMP

3. David continued to address Solomon: “Take charge! Take heart! Don’t be anxious or get discouraged. GOD, my God, is with you in this; he won’t walk off and leave you in the lurch.”

1 Chronicles 28:20-21 MSG

4. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9 NLT

5. But now don’t be discouraged, any of you. Do the work, for I am with you.

Haggai 2:4 GNT

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Don’t Give Up

Life is full of opportunities where it seems easier to just give up. Despite what you see on social media, everyone had challenges and things they face that push them to their limit. We all have a white flag of surrender that’s just itching to come out in certain situations, but there are no rewards in giving up. There is no growth in quitting. Proverbs reminds us that no matter how many times you and I get knocked down, we are to get back up. We must purpose in our hearts that we won’t be defeated and that we won’t give up or we’ll take the easy way out when it shows up.

Most of the time, our breakthrough is just beyond the point where we want to give up. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. It requires us to hang in there and stay engaged. As Ephesians 6 put it, after we’ve done everything, we should at least still be standing. When we continue to stand despite the set backs, despite the sucker punches, despite the news we receive, God honors that. Giving up is admitting defeat, but you and I fight from a place of victory that’s already been won.

Here are some verses on not giving up.

1. Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect GOD to get here soon.

Psalm 31:24 MSG

2. Think of what he went through; how he put up with so much hatred from sinners! So do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up.

Hebrews 12:3 GNT

3. Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart.

LUKE 18:1 AMP

4. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Galatians 6:9 NLT

5. They were trying to intimidate us into quitting. They thought, “They’ll give up; they’ll never finish it.” I prayed, “Give me strength.”

Nehemiah 6:9 MSG

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Hard Knocks University

When people ask where I went to school, I often say, “Hard Knocks University.” For the longest time, it seemed that life kept knocking me down. No matter what I did, I couldn’t gain ground. In fact, it felt like the bottom kept falling out from underneath me. I learned that the only way to fail Hard Knocks University is to quit. I also learned that the only way to graduate was to get closer to God. The troubles we face in life can either make us bitter or better. We get to choose by how we respond when we keep getting knocked down.

For me, I let it push me closer to God. I found myself praying more asking God for the wisdom to make better decisions. I also started reading the Bible more. I knew there were principles in it that could help with the things I was facing, so I began to consume the Bible looking for answers. What I got was a deeper relationship with God and the promise that He wouldn’t abandon me in my troubles. I began to put my focus on Him instead of my problems, and then I began telling my problems about Him instead of the other way around.

The Psalmist must have graduated Hard Knocks University too. Psalm 119:71 says, “My troubles turned out for the best – they forced me to learn your textbook” (MSG). If you’re in the toughest school around, let it draw you closer to God and His textbook. He probably won’t take the troubles away as quick as you like, but you are guaranteed that He will walk through them with you. Failure can’t be an option, and you don’t want to keep taking the same course. If you want to graduate, you’re going to have to read the textbook. I recommend you start with a chapter in Proverbs each day to get the wisdom you need.

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