Crawling comes before walking. Planting comes before harvesting. Starting comes before completing. There is an order to things, and for followers of Jesus… Praying comes before doing. You and I often handle things backwards from how we should handle them by acting and then seeking God when we should seek God and then act. The best thing we can do to handle what we face in life is to seek our Heavenly Father before we do a thing more. We ask. He answers. We act. He assists. This is the only way to live happy, holy lives. Turning to Him shouldn’t be our last resort; it should be our first line of defense.
It is right to enjoy the good gifts of God in the way that He designed them to be enjoyed because that’s why He gives them to us. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of the created world are supposed to be enjoyed because God made them to send and made us to receive … pleasure. But rather than enjoying them too little (ingratitude) or too much (idolatry), let us enjoy them as they were intended, as a catalyst for treasuring the Gift-Giver far beyond what He might give to us. The gifts that God sends us are wonderful; but they are nowhere near as wonderful as Him. He is the real gift!
Since trusting in Jesus is the basis for our hope of eternal life, how can we know that we really trust Him? The short answer is: we look for evidences that the trust we have in Him is changing us. Genuine saving belief never leaves you the same. We gradually become less like the world and more like Jesus as we follow Him in faith. Trusting Him leads to ongoing and loving… Repentance, because we believe what He offers is better than sin. Obedience, because we believe His ways are always good and right. Confidence, because we believe what He has promised us will happen. We believe. We change. That’s how we know.
Do you know what your failure is for? It has a purpose, and that purpose is to help you succeed. Not just so you’ll try harder next time. Not just so you’ll be wiser next time. Not just so you’ll do better next time. But rather so you will rely more fully on Jesus next time. His strength. His guidance. His way. His plan. His timing. His help. The right response to failure is faith, for every person who turns to and trusts in Jesus will win in the end. Remember this when you find yourself coming up short: Futility and frustration are intended to move you away from self-reliance to Savior-reliance. And that move is always for the better.
Remember this as you follow Jesus in faith: it’s not what happens to us that is of greatest importance, but rather the end result of what happens. Things often won’t go as we plan, things often won’t work out like we hope, and things often won’t be as simple or easy or comfy as we would like. But in the hands and plans of God, our struggles are not setbacks. They are stepping stones to the good result He has in mind. So… Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop proceeding. Something good is coming even if you don’t yet see it. Take heart! Things would look much better if we could see them not as they are, but as they will be.
God has divinely positioned you so that your life intersects with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and teammates so you can help them take the next step in their spiritual journey. These people that He will bring into your path today desperately need to know what you know about Jesus. God has sent you to tell them about the riches of His grace, and the only message about Jesus that He can’t use is the one you don’t share. One of the greatest aims of your life should be that the people in your life grow in their relationship with Jesus because of their relationship with you.
Defeat doubt by preparing for battle in advance by filling your heart with the truth of God’s Word. In advance, because doubt appears without warning. With the truth of God’s Word, because doubt arrives with lies. The enemy will attack you in times of darkness because it’s hard to see him coming, and it’s hard to see the situation for what it really is. So, start your day in the light by saturating your heart with a good and accurate picture of God’s graciousness and faithfulness so you can remember those truths and promises when darkness falls. Never forget in the dark what God has shown you in the light.
Our thoughts have the power to shape us, for better or for worse, so we must let our minds land most often on Jesus. His Good News message is full of life-changing truths and promises that will guide us into a right perspective on every life issue. It changes how we see our past so we can know real freedom from guilt and shame. It changes how we see our present so we can know real purpose and peace in the midst of busyness. It changes how we see our future so we can know real hope as we joyfully anticipate what lies ahead. The more we think about Jesus, the more it will rewire how we think about everything else.
There is a three-word description that summarizes what happens from the moment we put our faith in Jesus until the moment we come face-to-face with Him: grow in grace. We are not meant to stay the same or stand still, but to progress in our experience of grace for the rest of our lives. There are countless observations, implications and applications that flow from God’s grace to us, and we have the delightful duty of discovery. Day by day, we are to prize, prioritize and pursue intimacy with Jesus. Progress does not come from fixing ourselves, but fixing our eyes on Him. This is how we grow: we set out to know.
We were made in God’s image to bring glory to Him, but we all sin and fall short of God’s glory which distorts His image in us. Jesus came to display the perfect image of God and glorify Him in ways we did not, and then die in our place to atone for our sin. Then He begins restoring the image of God in us so we can bring Him glory. This is what grace does for us: It takes people who don’t look and act much like God and transforms us into people who do. Undeserving sinners are remade into joy-filled, purpose-driven, difference-making, love-giving image-bearers of our glorious God. We are who we are because of grace.
There are three questions we should regularly ask in an honest-as-we-can-be evaluation of our spiritual journey with Jesus. First, how am I relating to God through my daily prayer and Bible time? Second, how regular and authentic is my corporate worship with others? Third, how am I stewarding my time and resources for the kingdom of God? These are essential parts of us knowing Jesus and making Him known so that God is honored in us and we are happy in Him. When we have been less-than-faithful in these areas, let us ask God for grace to begin again, rejoicing that He will never stop being fully faithful to us.