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Archive for May, 2017

The Power of Gratitude

May 30th, 2017

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers… (Ephesians 1:16 ESV)

Gratitude is the purest expression of faith. And there is good reason for it.

If we may look past all of the failures of the flesh in others, past all of the weaknesses of human will, past all of the wounds that thoughtless words have caused, then we will see the hand of God at work in each Christian. We are not what we should be, but we are not what we once were, nor what we will yet become in Christ Jesus. Rather than looking at the thing in a brother or sister in the Lord that has hurt us, we should look at the progress that has already been made in that life by Christ’s Spirit.

And in our attitude toward the unsaved world, it is good for us to remember that the world passing away, and has no hold on us. Our sins are forgiven by God, not by the world, and the world has no hold over us in terms of our sins. David prayed to God, “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). If God forgives then who can accuse? (Rom. 8:33) God’s work is eternal and we can rest in that reality.

A Scottish pastor well known for his prayers of gratitude came to lead in worship one Sunday when the weather was miserable – sleet, cold, windy – plus there had been a death in the church family. So the people wondered what he would thank God for that day, if anything. He began his prayer thusly, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.”

Can’t we pray a similar prayer: “We thank You, Heavenly Father, that it will not always be like this.” The world will not always be around to persecute and reject us. Christians will not always remain in a state of immaturity – He who began a good work in each of us will complete it one day (Phil. 1:6). Cannot we pray in gratitude for the promised victory of Christ and for the evidences in each other’s lives of our spiritual progress?

And in sorrow and separation, or in loss and sickness, cannot we also take comfort in knowing that every earthly life has an end to it, that death was assured the moment a child is born? And that one day sorrows and sicknesses and separations and grievings will cease? Cannot we take comfort in these truths? There were hardships in Ephesus and persecutions. It was in reference to that place that Paul described the Christian’s life to a soldier in a spiritual conflict. But there was so much more to be grateful for, as there is for us.

If we lose a loved one, as painful as that is, we can take heart and be grateful knowing that we shall see them again. If failure seems to dog our steps and hound us all our life long, we can take heart knowing that in Him we are more than conquerors. If people disappoint us we can be assured that God will still win in the end. We can be grateful for every person and amid every situation in life. Faith feeds gratitude and gratitude builds up our faith.

Daily Devotions , ,

Patience: A Key Trait of Successful People

May 29th, 2017

A fool lets fly with all his temper, but a wise person keeps it back…Do you see someone who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:11,20 NET)

The Book of Proverbs teaches us godly principles of life. To read from it daily instructs us in the manners and key traits of successful people. God does want His children to succeed in life and we do this on at least three levels: inwardly with ourselves, outwardly with our careers and relationships with others, and upwardly in our thoughts and attitudes toward God.

The trait of patience is a key trait of successful people. They must learn to wait. They must learn the value of delayed gratification. They will express this value in any number of ways: the willingness to undergo years of schooling and training for their career; the willingness to do tedious and careful work under control when everyone is insisting that they hurry it up, the willingness to lay foundations in their heart and in their work even though it takes extra time; the willingness to bear with the failings of those around them, even their own failings, in order to teach and train and prepare someone (or themselves) for future success.

Patience is an expression of faith, especially faith in God. It is the faith that somethings are more important than immediately having something inferior or showing progress to others. So it values such matters as love, inner peace, Integrity, honesty, compassion, maturity, and righteousness. The key characteristic of Christians who are growing in this trait is regular time with the Lord in prayer and devotion. They make (1) the upward growth with God their first priority, (2) their inner growth in themselves the second, and (3) then and only then they place the outer growth of relationships and career as their priority. Mature people are honest people and they seek to be somebody inwardly before they are propelled into positions of leadership.

There are times and situations, of course, that demand immediate actions, that call us to respond quickly, and people of action get things done. Calm reflection in the face of a burning house is ludicrous. But successful people are able to distinguish between emergencies and normality. The fool always sees the house on fire, always lives in a panic, always gives into the demands, constantly lives in the fear of failure. Think of the fireman, or the emergency medical personnel, who are the most help in an emergency and have gone through years of training and constant preparation just for such events.

The one who lives in constant fear, in a constant state of impatience, has failed first within his own soul in the neglect of inner soul growth, and he has failed more significantly in the neglect of growth in his relationship with God. If on the other hand we can make these two the matters of first importance – specially our relationship with God – if we can succeed first upwardly, then inwardly, then we will be prepared to succeed outwardly with others and in our careers.

A close friend asked me to pray for him not long ago because he had received an invitation to serve as worship leader of a great church with a famous pastor. (I will omit their names.) At first he was honored and excited for this opportunity – who wouldn’t be? Then I asked him about his inner motivations and about what was God saying to his heart. The famous pastor, like all men, may die, or, even worse, may have a moral failing. Is the calling to the large church more than a mere desire to be in a position of fame and notoriety? He may go and see that his life, his family, and ministry have been thrown into a situation similar to Job. If God is calling him, he should go, but if it is impatience, a desire for personal glory, or any selfish or fearful motivation, he should decline.

All good things that are worth doing in life seem to be hard things to do, and they demand mature and patient people to accomplish them. The difficult circumstances and the hard jobs need people who do not panic in the midst of storms, who calmly keep their eyes on Jesus and trust in His acceptance of them, that lust not after fame or fortune or power, who stand secure in the love of God and are willing to obey Him even if all others oppose them.  No one ever truly succeeds in life until he has first succeeded with God through faith in Christ, and secondly has put his own heart before the Lord to grow and mature. Then and only then are we ready to tackle the difficult and challenging. Successful people do things not so that they will look good, but because they are important things and must get done.

Impatience is a sign of immaturity. Patience is a sign of maturity. As Rudyard Kipling wrote:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Authenticity in the Faith, discipleship, Spiritual Maturity , ,