In this time of hoarding, panic buying and shortages, it’s good to hear stories of how people are helping others. I’ve got friends who give toilet paper to people who are saying they’re running out. I’ve seen someone over tip for their takeout dinner knowing that the server isn’t getting a lot right now. I also heard of someone who sent their hairdresser the money they were going to spend on haircuts this month even though they weren’t going to be able to go in. These people are not succumbing to the fear. Instead, they’re being generous in a time when hoarding and selfishness is the norm.
If you were to take a pen, hold it out in front of you and let go of it, what would happen? Of course it would drop. But what if you did it again? And again? And again a million times? It would drop every time. Why? Because the Law of Gravity is at work. God has laws too, that when enacted, will give you the same results over and over just like gravity. One of those is the Law of Generosity. In Luke 6:38, Jesus told us that if we give, it will be given back to us, full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. Our motives can’t be that we’re giving just so we get. They have to be from the heart of generosity. You must be giving so that you’re blessing those who have no ability to pay you back.
Proverbs 11:25 says, “Be generous, and you will be prosperous. Help others, and you will be helped” (GNT). The Law of Generosity was established in the Old Testament. God loves it when we put away our selfishness in order to help someone else. He blesses that. It’s not even about the amount you give either. Remember there was a widow who gave two pennies, and Jesus said she had given more than all the others who had brought in bags of money. God is always looking at our heart. He’s also always prompting us to give to others. Look around you today. Who is God asking you to be generous to? Look past the fear that is so rampant in today’s world and listen to the voice of God. We need to Law of Generosity in our world activated now more than ever.
I don’t know if you ever played sports or not, but if you did, you had a coach. Some coaches are there to help you have a good time, others are there to teach you the basics and others help you elevate your game. Those coaches demand a lot out of you, and sometimes get in your face and yell at you when you’re not giving it your all. They’re so hard on you at times that you feel like quitting, but at the same time you know that would disappoint them, and you definitely don’t want to do that. Their discipline and training cause you to respect them and make you want todo more. In the end, you’re a better player because they pushed you beyond what you saw in your abilities. Those coaches you remember for life.
Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the Lord’s training of your life is the evidence of his faithful love. And when he draws you to himself, it proves you are his delightful child” (TPT). God is always training us and preparing us for our future. You might go through an intense training at 35 to prepare you for an intense battle at 50. His training conditions our mind and spirit to be ready for those times in our life. At times it seems harsh and you feel like quitting, but God encourages us through these times because He loves us. He draws more out of us and gives us the strength to endure more than we ever thought we could because His grace is sufficient for whatever you go through.
The deeper your pain or the harder your struggle is will give you greater insight into who God is because you get to experience the depth of His grace and character more. You may hit rock bottom in life, but you will never hit rock bottom of His grace. Your times of training and difficulties only prove how strong His grip on you is and how deeply He loves you. His training grounds and discipline are designed to teach you how to dig deeper in your faith so that when the really hard times come, you have an anchor of hope in Him. Instead of being driven away by the struggles, you stay firm in your faith and your relationship grows. God understands what we need in our training in order to take us to places and victories we would otherwise never know. Keep trusting Him. You are His child whom He loves and He’s drawing you closer to Himself.
When you do something that’s been done before, we say, “You’re following in their footsteps.” I have friends who have followed in their dad’s footsteps to become police officers, others who followed their mom’s to become teachers, and others who have followed in a mentor’s to become entrepreneurs. Each of us are following in someone’s footsteps. Have you considered whose they are?
I believe we each should have someone ahead of us that we look to in order to challenge us to be better. I also think that we should have others behind us that we’re leading. I’ve heard it said that successful people do what successful people do. In fact, many books like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “From Good to Great” have been written so we can follow in the footsteps of people who have successful habits.
While that’s important, I believe having spiritual mentors is more important. There should be Christian people in your life, whom you look up to, that you can emulate. Their prayer life should challenge you to pray better. Their Christian walk should encourage you to keep going. Their acts of love towards others should ignite a desire in you to do the same. Their understanding of Scriptures should cause you to study more. You may already have someone like that in your life. If you do, let them know. If not, find someone who can be that person.
Proverbs 2:20 gives us this advice, “Follow the steps of good men instead, and stay on the paths of the righteous” (NLT). If we want to stay on the paths of the righteous, we need to be following in the steps of those who are on them. Look around your life for the people that God has placed in it for you to follow. He doesn’t leave us alone in our pursuit of Him. He’s given us people to follow. Reach out to them, find out their habits, and follow in their footsteps as they follow Christ.
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.
Back in 2005, I started a job as a sales rep for a Fortune 15 company. I was new to the industry and to using a POS system. My boss paired me with one of the reps to shadow. One morning, we both were on the opening shift. While customers lined up outside waiting to get in, he grabbed the intercom and started speaking in a slow, one word at a time, drawn out pace. He said, “Folkssss, each day is a gift. Today, you’ve been given another opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life. You can choose to make a difference in your life or in someone else’s life. You get to choose. Make today count.” I later figured out that each time he opened, he would do something like this as a means to motivate himself and others.
Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “So be very careful how you live, not being like those with no understanding, but live honorably with true wisdom, for we are living in evil times. Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes” (TPT). None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, or even the rest of today. Most of us interact with different people throughout the day whether in person, on the phone or through social media. Are we thinking about what our lives say to others? Are we a positive in their day or a negative? Are we a blessing when we show up or a blessing to them when the interaction is done? Are we seeking to make our life better or the lives of others?
Paul is very clear here that you and I are to take advantage of each and every day whether we feel like it or not. If we are living our lives for His purposes, which by the way is your life’s purpose, then we do it no matter what our feelings tell us. His Kingdom is more important than our feelings. Jesus told us to seek His Kingdom first, and when we did, all the other things we seek will be added to us. If we’re going to make today count and take advantage of each and every day, we’re going to have to seek to do His will before we seek to do our own. His will is that none would be lost, and He choose you and I to be the ones to make sure that happens. Our lives should be lived so that others see our good works and lives and glorify our Father in Heaven. Live your life on purpose today taking advantage of each opportunity He gives you to be a blessing to others.
I went to a pretty small high school where if you were athletic, you pretty much played every sport. If you ran track, you didn’t just run one race, you ran several which meant several heats for each race. We had to be in great shape. I remember my running coach teaching me to breathe a certain way so that I wouldn’t get that pain in my side. She also taught me aerodynamics so that my body would channel the wind. Then there was the conditioning to get my body in shape to survive so many races. I put a lot of miles on my shoes so that I could win the races I ran. After high school, I decided had ran enough miles for a lifetime, but in the course of it, I had won many races.
Running takes discipline and mental strength to push through when your body wants to quit. It’s a lot like living out your faith. It takes being dedicated, being mentally focused and being disciplined. Your flesh is always fighting against you and is trying to slow you down so you have to be prepared mentally to push back. It tries to play against your sympathies to get you to stumble and fall. You have to be disciplined enough to catch it early so you can stop that line of thinking. You also have to keep your eyes on what’s at stake in your life and in the lives of others. It’s not a 5k Fun Run. This is more like a marathon or an Iron Man. Every part of you must be disciplined so that you’re making determined progress and are be becoming more like Christ every day.
1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours!” (AMP) Each of us are running the race God has called us to. No one can run your race for you. It’s up to you to run your race in a manner that you’re not just providing traffic for the other runners, but that you’re running in order to win. When you’re running to win, you push yourself to stay in the front of the race. You lean on lessons you’ve learned from the past and ensure that you’re spiritually fit. You use the discipline of reading and applying God’s Word to keep you on track. You continually seek God and His presence so you can endure. You invite the Holy Spirit into your life to encourage you daily to keep going. If you’re going to live a life of faith, be 100% committed and give it your all.
One of the things I’m studying right now is the different stages in our walk with Jesus that we all go through. In the beginning stages, we explore Christianity and Christ to see if we want to be a person of faith. In the next stage, you make a decision to follow Jesus and want to grow your faith. However, you’re not sure that you’re ready to let that faith permeate your whole life, nor are you ready to be public with it. After that stage, you grow into a deeper faith where you begin to depend on Jesus daily. Your relationship with Jesus moves from a Sunday experience to a daily one. While you are moving close to Christ, you remain in the driver’s seat of their life. That leads us to the final stage where your life is centered around Jesus and what He wants. When you’re here, your love for Jesus is your driving force. You give tithes, serve in the church and evangelize more than in the other stages. You’re on the brink of spiritual greatness, but often there’s a gap between your love of God and your love for people.
Whatever stage you’re in, one of your greatest needs is to be encouraged and to be challenged to go deeper in your faith. You need people in your life who will, as Proverbs 27:17 puts it, sharpen you as iron sharpens iron. You need people who will encourage you to make a deeper commitment to Jesus, to love others the way you love God and to dig deeper into the Bible. It’s not enough at any stage to simply read the Bible. Each of us must meditate on what we’ve read. We need to think about what’s being said, why it was said and how does it apply to us. Our prayers can’t be just a once or twice a day thing. They need to be a running dialogue with God throughout our day where we seek Him for guidance, tell Him about things that are happening and express our love for Him.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (NLT). If you recognized what stage you are in, let me encourage you to grow into the next stage. There’s always more in Christianity. None of us ever have it totally made. We’re all growing. We’re all learning. We’re all being called into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Jesus. We each need to find someone who has a greater relationship with Jesus and to ask them to help us grow. We each need to be finding someone who is in the same stage with us so we can encourage each other as we navigate this life of faith. Finally, we need to find someone less mature in the faith so we can encourage and guide them through the places we’ve already been. We all need encouragement, so let’s start with giving it to others instead of waiting for someone to give it to us.
At a young age I felt like I was called into ministry. I began preparing and practicing, but honestly I was afraid of it. It was a dream that was in front of me, but the older I got, the further into the future this dream seemed to go. Then in a single day, the dream died. I went through a divorce that couldn’t be avoided. The denomination I was a part of at the time had a rule back then that you couldn’t be a minister if you were divorced. I was devastated by both the divorce and the fact that I could never be in ministry. All my life had been pointing to the dream of ministry and it was gone. Not only was I having to start life over, I was lost without a dream to guide me. That is until a friend told me,”Do you really think that man can negate God’s calling?”
In Ezekiel 37, God showed Ezekiel a valley of very dry bones. I imagine it was quite a sight to see. Dead people’s bones were scattered everywhere and there were none connected together I’m sure. As God showed him all these bones, He asked him a question in verse 3. “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” (NLT) You and i both know that humanly it impossible for them to be brought back to life, but that’s not how Ezekiel answered. Instead of stating the obvious, he replied, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know the answer to that.” At that answer, God told him to speak to those bones and prophesy to them to come alive and live again. Just like that the bones all came together and were covered with flesh. Then he was told to speak and prophesy the breath of life back into them and they became a living army.
You may be where I was once in feeling like your calling or the dream God gave you is dead and in the past. It doesn’t matter whether it’s anything you’ve done, someone has done to you or if it’s from not going after it in time. Man, including yourself, cannot take away God’s promises, nor His plan for your life. You may be looking at a valley of the dead bones of your dreams today, but God can make them live again. Speak to your dream. Speak life into it. If God has placed it in you, it will happen no matter what things look like today. Be like Ezekiel when you’re looking at what seems dead. Don’t pronounce that it can’t live again. Let God answer that question and watch Him begin to bring the pieces back together again.