Dying For Encouragement
Do you feel like giving up on life? Before I met Jesus, I went through six months contemplating suicide every day. I once read about a businessman who took his life. He left a note that said: “In 30 years I have never had one word of encouragement. I’m fed up!” He was literally, “dying for encouragement.” The Bible promises us, if we will just look to Jesus, “…our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NLT)
Please don’t compare yourself to other people. Too many of us are living, wishing we were someone else. In Genesis 29, we see that Jacob favored his wife Rachel over Leah. It created an incredible mess, and inspires all of us, that having one wife is better than two. But after having four children, Leah finally began to look to God for approval instead of her husband. It wasn’t Jacob’s love that Leah needed. And so God loved Leah enough to not allow her to be satisfied with anyone less than Him. Leah thought she needed to take Rachel’s place, but she didn’t. The truth is: we don’t need to take anyone’s place! God didn’t make a mistake when He made us. God’s approval is all we really need! As the psalmist wrote, “This I know that God is for me”. (Psalms 56:9)
Do you know what each of us need? We need a really good habit! Good habits are very hard to establish, but very easy to break. Bad habits, on the other hand, are very easy to form, but very hard to break. So, here are some good habits you should consider. Set up a certain time when you can experience the following spirit-building disciplines. Regularly spend time reading or listening to the Bible. Find a translation of the Bible that really speaks to you. Let worship music wash over your soul. There’s a lot of great worship music out there, and it’s so easily accessible. Get connected with healthy Christ-followers, developing friendships and fellowship with other believers. Yes, good habits are very hard to establish, but once they are in place they become the lifelines of hope we all need.
Loving Like Jesus
My heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys may be hidden, but I can’t live without them. I may never have given them a hug, or paid any attention to them, whatsoever, but if one of my life-giving organs conks out, I’ll know about it in a heartbeat. In that 9-1-1 moment, every other member of my stricken body will do whatever it can to get the failed organ up and running again. The same should be true of the Body of Christ. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, NKJV) Why should anyone believe we actually have a relationship with the God who is love if we refuse to genuinely love one another? The answer is they won’t! “Jesus, help us to love like you love!”
Prosperity vs. Persecution
PROSPERITY didn’t thrust the early church out to, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19, NET) PERSECUTION did! They were stuck in Jerusalem until Stephen, the first martyr, was stoned to death. (Acts 7:58) Then, God sent them out into “all the world”! Don’t pray for abundance. Pray for obedience. We don’t need abundance to fulfill us. We need God, and the fulfillment that comes from doing His will. Paul said, “…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11b-12) Like Jesus, who “…learned obedience through what he suffered”, we learn the same way.
Have you noticed that much of our sadness is really quite silly? It’s vital you do! I’ve found that on many occasions, I am sad about something I hoped would happen, but didn’t. Then, in time, I realize my preference was absolutely not the best option for my life. In retrospect, my sadness was silly. I should have trusted God knew best, and that He would indeed guide my steps. Instead, I allowed my emotions to go to a darker, more hopeless place, fully embracing the lie that an opportunity had been missed. Actually, the only opportunity I lost sight of was a divinely orchestrated moment of resting and trusting in the God. For, He alone knows all things, and as a loving Father uses His wisdom and power to guide my precious life.
Seeing With New Eyes
Every one of us is created to become someone others will not initially recognize. Jesus experienced this as well. When he stood up in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22, NLT) They saw Him with old eyes, not new ones. He was just the carpenter’s son, not the Son of God. But, before others can see us differently, we have to see ourselves differently. How do you see yourself, from God’s perspective or other’s? Paul the Apostle described this when he wrote “Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11, NLT)
What Do You See?
How we see ourselves will often be how we see other people. If we are not encouraged by who we are, it will be difficult for us to encourage others. How God sees us is how we should view ourselves. Likewise, how God sees others is how we should see them too. We must not focus on what people are not. In Mark 8, Jesus asked a blind man what he saw. He said, “I see men looking like trees.” (Mark 8:24) That was certainly not good enough for Jesus. So, Jesus laid hands on him again until he saw people clearly. God sees each of us as those He loves and cares about. Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them because they had no one to shepherd their lives. (Matthew 9:36) “Lord, open my eyes to see myself and others as You see us.”
An old man was asked what had robbed him of his joy the most in his lifetime. He said, “things that never happened!” How true! It’s been rightly said, 90% of the things we worry about never happen, and many of the things we wish happened, we’ll never miss. I don’t want to allow my life to become an “almost” or a “could have been”. It is completely within my court to keep an “attitude of gratitude” and focus on God’s “priceless perspective”. Regrets will happen, but festering regrets are unnecessary. They are a plague to our soul. God never intended our lives to end in sadness, but in joy. My life may not seem like, “nothing but net,” but I must never allow it to be “filled with regret.”
Raining Down Blessings
A father of three teenagers, who suddenly lost his 38-year old wife a few weeks earlier, shared a statement that encouraged the both of us. “If blessings were like raindrops, how wet would you be?” What a beautiful perspective! Let me start by saying, “wetter than we think!” We are each more blessed than we know, and if we allow God to take the reigns of our life, our future will be brighter than we can imagine. In the Message Bible, God says, “Open up, heavens, and rain. Clouds, pour out buckets of my goodness! Loosen up, earth, and bloom salvation…” (Isaiah 45:8, The Message) If you can believe Him, God will pour out a blessing on you right now. What do you really need that is consistent with His will for your life? Go ahead! Ask Him for it!
Just because we can use the Internet, doesn’t mean there are not mine fields within it. The myth in social media is that we are not successful as individuals unless someone’s watching. It is a subtle trap. The greatest moments in life are actually hidden. Hidden with God, with family, and most often hidden from the world. True success must be measured by who authored it: God, others, or ourselves. Too often, we measure the value of what we have done, by the approval of others. It is a bottomless pit, because the long-term reality is that, many of us will live long enough to impact less and less people. It’s the nature of life. Obscurity is ahead for most of us. On the other hand, if we are living for an audience of One, our significance is both eternal and limitless.
There’s always a reason to be jealous of someone else. But there’s a better reason to appreciate what we have. In the Book of Genesis, when Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children, she became jealous of her sister Leah. She told her husband Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Genesis 30:1) Though Rachel was more beautiful than Leah, it wasn’t enough. Leah wanted Rachel’s beauty. Yet, Rachel wanted Leah’s ability to have children. Too many people are looking for that thing, that person, that experience that will satisfy them. The key to happiness is being content with who God made you to be. When we stop comparing ourselves with others spiritually, physically, materially, or as it relates to our gifting, we begin to see what we’ve already been given that is perfectly suited for us.