Returning from yet another speaking engagement, I promised myself: "I'll do it tomorrow. I really mean it this time." Despite my exhaustion, I rested comfortably that night. As daylight broke, I rose to pray and then began my morning routine. My mind was racing as I rehearsed my to-do list. How can I get all of this done in one day? I thought. With so much to do and another trip scheduled, I've got to start these errands, or I'll run out of time.
At that moment the decision was made: "I'll run my errands now, and then I'll check on my ailing neighbor later today." read more
Some of the greatest challenges to our faith are those moments when we must endure the cold blight of a disappointment. The greater the anticipation, the greater the disappointment when we fail to receive what we have anticipated.
There is no shield that can keep away the days that come to teach our hearts submission to God's will and purpose for us. There are no roses so fragrant that they dismiss for us the tingling sensations of brokenness that come upon us when we see our expectations cave in.
It comes as if it will not leave, but you can be sure that is not so. It will go, and the sun will come again and rebuke the clouds that have hidden the light of God's purpose from shining through to you.
As much as it pleases God to bless you, there will be moments when everything you try goes up in smoke. There will be moments when the one you counted on most walks away and leaves you groping through blinding tears and wailing questions of why. Plans and goals can be circumvented by the most disappointing of times, leaving you learning the art of patience and the acceptance of a denied request.
Nevertheless, there is within the human capacity a tenacious instinct of survival that kicks in when we are at our lowest. It enables us to succeed through the storms of life. They will not overthrow you if you learn to trust God even when you can't trace Him.
You may not know why you have had to face the chilling winds of despair, but trust God to renew you. Just live on.
He is so wise. He knows the greater truths that can only be realized by beholding both today and tomorrow in one glance. He must, as a good father, deny requests that would insult the greater destiny He has prepared for those who are His.
"Submission" is a word many hearts resist even when they read it in the Word. But submission can be a friend to the struggling heart of a victim that has been chained to the will of God. Rather than burn your hands and hearts by wrestling to break free from the grip that holds you, just submit.
Why would you resist the One to whom you have entrusted your future? It is safe to trust Him. He will not fail you.
He watches out for you, and His eyes are keen! When He says no, you ought to say yes! He would never interrupt or embarrass you if He didn't see something ahead that necessitated the answer He gave.
The real issue is a matter of trust-trusting the Father to know what is best for any of us. He will not withhold any good thing from you. If it were good, He would have said yes.
That thing that is not coming to you may seem good. But either the timing is wrong, or from His position He can see that the future of it is bleak. I have always believed that people who thank God only for delivering them from what happened are just scraping the surface of praise. The real praise comes when you start thanking Him for what could have happened but didn't because of His swift grace!
Celebration should be leaping out of your heart. Trusting God transforms calamity into testimony. Knowing He cares too much for you to abuse you and is too wise to be wrong causes a wounded heart to serenade the heavens. When we begin to know Him rather than just serve Him, we can trust His vision, His wisdom and His insight, even when He does not explain what we thought we needed to know.
Many people rejoice about the opening of doors. I can understand why the heart sings when the hand of God moves the obstacle out of the way. The eye can see the way made, and the feet begin to dance toward a brighter future.
But I want to challenge you to go a step further into the deeper sovereign truth of a closed door. We can readily accept His authority when it is used to perform what we know to be a favor. The real challenge of submission is to submit when the human will would have chosen another way. This is the graduation exercise of faith and the commencement service of a trust for those whose dependency and reliance is upon the manifold wisdom of God.
It is significant to understand that the shut door is just as much a move of God as the open one (see Rev. 3:7). It is an action predetermined by the wisdom of a Father who knows what is best. He does emphatically shut doors. There is no purpose in any of us trying to pray open, work open or pry open what God has shut.
If the door is closed by the enemy, and he is trying to get you to give up on your dream, prayer and praise will unlock it. But if the door is closed by a sovereign decision of an all-wise God, and prayer and praise do not open it, then you must accept His decision.
That doesn't mean the door cannot be opened. It just means that "no man" can open it. If God doesn't open the door, it cannot be opened. If He doesn't do it, you don't want it to be done. There is a difference between a door Satan has jammed and a door God has locked from you.
It may not be a permanent lock. God may be saying, Not at this time. If it is a timed no, it may be God's way of bringing you to a place of submission. Only a praying heart that turns to Him can determine the answer. Prayer does work. If you pray, He does have the key, and He can open the door (see 2 Chron. 7:13-15).
If in prayer the hinges do not move and the latch does not unclasp, then we must conclude that God has for our betterment shut the door. Do not pout like a child who has become accustomed to getting his or her way. That response says you have not accepted discipline.
Perhaps the need for discipline is what has shut the door in the first place. The spoiled child may be getting weaned from the tantrums and sulking that accompany the untrained. This is hard, but it is also right!
I want you to learn the art of rejoicing when He says no. Rejoice, because if Satan is at work, your attitude will make his efforts futile. The enemy will get discouraged if you don't encourage him with your depression!
But I also want you to learn the ability to thank God when the answer is irrevocably, unalterably and emphatically no. It may sound insane, but trust me on this. It is all good! You see, He is working on your behalf.
Some of my greatest moments with God have come when I said yes to His corrections and decisions. Satan was defeated, and God was worshiped by my trust in His sovereign will for my life.
Doesn't that hurt? At first, but when I remind myself of God's love for me and rest in the knowledge that He would never hurt me, disappointment dissipates and love emanates from the comfort of His embrace. I am His child. I relax and say thank you.
Our problem is that we have never been loved by anyone in the way that God loves us. We have nothing with which we can compare His love. If we could ever fathom it—His love alone would heal the aching of our broken hearts. He absolutely adores each one of us.
Recognize that He has been speaking to you through all your circumstances. He is the One you need when life has wounded you and you have fallen from your nesting place like a bird. It is His hand that catches the falling soul. Then He casts it to the wind and commands it to fly again.
You have been called out and separated by God. You were not created to be popular. You were not called to cliques or clubs. You were chosen to fit in the hands of God who has already accepted you.
How I want you to know the height and the depth of His unfathomable love for you!
You would not be so critical of yourself or so worried about public opinion if you were to know the opinion of God. His thoughts toward you are good and not evil.
Some of you have never been secure in the love of your natural father, and it affects how you view your heavenly Father. But He made the ultimate sacrifice just to prove to you the authenticity of His love.
You may not see it or understand it, but He absolutely loves you. Not just when you are right. He loves you even when you are wrong. That is what gives you the power to right the wrongs you've made.
You are special and vibrant, full of potential and possibilities. You are the daughter of a King, who spared no expense to pay the ransom that delivered you from the things that held you hostage.
A no from Him is as sweet as a yes. Your life is about to crescendo into a symphony of praise. When His plan unfolds, you will be glad you didn't settle for your own way.
Go quickly into His presence; climb upon His knee; lay your head on His breast. Cry if you must, but talk to Him. Let Him cleanse you of sin and purge you of pride. He loves you just as much when He says no as He does when He says yes.
T.D. Jakesis the author of several best-selling books, including Woman, Thou Art Loosed!, Help, I'm Raising My Children Alone and The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord. He is the founder and pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, one of the fastest-growing churches in the nation. read more
I had just spent three hours in the emergency room, yet could not sleep the entire night because I was so filled with God's joy. A few hours before, life had been as good as it could get. I was on stage speaking to about 13,000 people, and then just like that, I was being rushed to the hospital. I had just walked off the stage, sat on a stool and lost my balance. I fell backward, tried to catch myself, but it was too late. My shoulder had ripped away and my body went into shock. I couldn't move, and the pain was literally the worst I had ever known.
When your body goes into shock, you lose your sight and your heartbeat gets weak—or at least that was my experience. As we waited for the ambulance to arrive, a woman put her hand on my face and said, "Just rest right here." It was the most gentle touch I have known in the midst of physical pain. It was the only thing that brought me comfort.
The next few hours were filled with pain, until they got my arm back into place. But something happened that is so hard to explain. It was like the wind. I can't explain it, but I feel it and know it was there. I felt the joy of the Lord. I can't explain the situation and don't want to rationalize it, but God got my attention. I was humbled, but in the moment, I felt His amazing strength.
The other day, on Chicago Talk Radio, I was asked, "Sam, how does prayer play a role for someone who is going through all these hard times?"
My response was: "Here is what I know. God is not so much in the business of changing the circumstance as He is in the business of changing us for the circumstance. When my body wants me to pray, 'Lord, take this away,' I have learned to pray, 'God, make me bigger and stronger to overcome this.'"
Whether you have a great attitude or one that is idle and can't get above the bar of average, we all need something to add fuel to our outlook. At the end of the day, I have to recharge my cell phone for it to be effective and do what it was meant to do. The same goes for us. As a Christ follower, our attitude needs to be fueled to get through the adversity that we face daily. Every day our attitude will be tested. That is a given, so here are some points to remember to keep your attitude fueled by faith:
1. "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). Renewing your mind involves resting. It requires feeding on God's Word. God's Word is living and active, and it can empower your attitude to be joyful no matter what you are going through.
2. You are not a victim; you are just on a journey called "life." Nobody wants adversity, but God is greater than whatever you go through. "For Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth'" (Rom. 9:17).
3. "Do not dwell on the past" (Is. 40:18). You cannot change the picture behind you, but you can determine the picture you walk toward in front of you.
4. Change what you think about, and you change what comes about. Create a positive anchor for your attitude. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Phil. 4:8).
Attitude drives our actions and creates results. The question is, what is fueling your attitude?
Sam Glenn, "The Authority on Attitude," is a sought-after motivational speaker, author and workplace consultant. He is also the founder of Attitude Digest magazine, a quarterly print publication and online community aimed at inspiring those in the workplace and beyond (see www.attitudedigest.com and www.samglenn.com). Sam got his start speaking for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association more than a decade ago.
Wisdom is the predominant theme of the book of Proverbs. That's why it has been referred to as the "wisdom manual" for daily living. It's designed to provide common sense and skill in dealing with everyday problems.
Wisdom brings balance to our lives as we endeavor to live in this high-tech "information age." Acquiring it is top priority, our text says—"the most important thing you can do!"
Solomon begins the book by saying, "The purpose of these proverbs is to teach people wisdom" (1:2). In essence, he is saying: "I am writing so you can have a personal encounter with wisdom." He emphasizes the importance of wisdom by mentioning it more than 123 times in this one book.
The Hebrew word for "wisdom" is hokmah. It's a multifaceted noun that means "to have skill, intelligence, and sensibility, judicious prow, to be endued with reason." Wisdom is simply the ability to live skillfully in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.
King Solomon uses the feminine gender and first person to characterize wisdom. Why does he present wisdom as a woman? Some scholars lay the blame on his heightened preoccupation with women. However, since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (see 2 Tim. 3:16), there must be a deeper purpose.
I believe the Holy Spirit is giving us a physical picture of spiritual truth. Think about it: From the natural standpoint woman is appealing. So is wisdom. She is desirable and unique among the species. Wisdom also holds these qualities. In the creation account, woman is represented as the crowning of all God's creation—the completion of humankind. Wisdom too brings fullness and completion. It is principal, first and necessary.
Solomon refers to wisdom in first person to set forth the truth that wisdom is speaking directly to each of us. For example, in Proverbs 8:6-7, he writes: "Listen to me! For I have excellent things to tell you. Everything I say is right, for I speak the truth and hate every kind of deception."
By using first person, the Holy Spirit is making wisdom personal rather than presenting it as mere information or knowledge. Therefore, wisdom becomes intimate, real and animate. Wisdom takes on the nature of a close, personal friend.
Do you need wisdom? The book of Proverbs focuses on this topic more than any other book in your Bible. Why not avail yourself of it? Grab your Bible—and wise up!
During the Easter season, it’s important to remember how many people actually saw the resurrected Christ.
Every Easter most Christians attend a sunrise or other church service and then conclude their spiritual celebration is over. But Easter is a 40-day season, not just one day. It commemorates the 40 days the resurrected Jesus walked the earth before His ascension into heaven. Luke wrote, "He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3, NKJV). read more
We grieve the Spirit by saying what comes to mind that is not honoring to God.
Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. —Proverbs 26:20
Gossip. What an ugly word. I hate the word. It is what sells millions of cheap and tawdry magazines at the checkout line in a supermarket. I so despise them that I like to think I am above this stuff.
I may not read these magazines, but I am just as guilty as those who do read them when I myself hear with glee that a person I don't like has been found out—and I pass it on; or I repeat news of something unflattering about an enemy or a person who has wanted to hurt me in some way; or I make a person feel good that I know would relish news of their enemy's difficulty. James says the tongue is a fire (James 3:6), and when I enter into conversations like this, I grieve the Holy Spirit.
Gossip is a defense mechanism to preserve our self-esteem. It arises out of an inferiority complex; we build ourselves up by tearing others down—or enjoying hearing that they are in trouble of some kind. It is a poisonous habit that betrays our insecurity and lack of spirituality. If gossip makes us feel better, we are self-deceived.
We may claim to be Spirit-filled, sound in our theology, faithful in our commitment to the church, zealous in worship, and have devotional lives that are highly admirable. But when we grieve the Spirit by saying what comes to mind that is not honoring to God, we become the very examples James laments: we praise the Lord and curse men.
James asks, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”(James 3:11). If the well in us—the Holy Spirit (John 7:38–39)—overflows, one expects the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). But when the Spirit begins to speak through us, and instead of love, joy, and peace, suddenly there emerges anger, vengeance, and envy, something has gone terribly wrong.
The Holy Spirit will not produce gossip, anger, revenge, or any other fleshly reaction any more than a fig tree can bear an olive or a grapevine bear a fig (James 3:12–16). It is impossible for the Holy Spirit to produce other than the fruit such as love, joy, peace, and self-control. If we say we are Spirit-filled, then let us display the fruit of the Spirit.
Excerpted from Controlling the Tongue (Charisma House, 2007). read more
All of us face difficulties in our lives. But we can have victory over them if we keep our eyes on God.
Not many of us have experienced as bad a day as David did when he returned to his home in Ziklag after a journey and discovered that his enemies, the Amalekites, had destroyed or stolen everything that was important to him--and his own men turned against him (see 1 Sam. 30). However, we can imitate his response when we do face difficulties.
As David sat among the ruins of Ziklag and mutinous men spoke of stoning him, he had a choice. David could allow grief and bitterness to conquer him; he could sink into the black hole of depression and give up and quit. Or he could fight back.
But before David could fight, he would have to get his strength and courage back. As David looked around him, he saw nothing but discouraged and downcast men. David had no one to encourage him, so he had only one recourse: He “encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (v. 6, KJV).
From what we know of David, it is very easy to surmise how David went about encouraging himself. He took his harp, retreated to a solitary place, and began to sing songs of praise to God. No doubt David didn’t feel like singing, but he did, anyway.
And he didn’t sing a sad lament bemoaning his situation. Instead, he sang of the majesty and power of God. He sang of the Creator who had spoken the worlds into existence. He sang of the deliverer who had already given him improbable victories—victory over the lion, victory over the bear, and victory over the Philistine giant Goliath.
Through praise and worship, David changed his focus. On the wings of a song his spirit was lifted above his present circumstances into the presence of the One who is high and lifted up. The melodies of David’s harp filled the air as the sweet psalmist of Israel sang praises to the God of heaven, who transcends human limitation and is forever seated upon the throne of the universe.
The Bible states it very matter-of-factly: “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” There was nothing about the circumstance that was encouraging, and if David had limited his focus to the present circumstance, he would surely have gone into a deep depression. But David encouraged himself in God.
In times of uncertainty and upheaval, God was David’s constant. Why? Because God doesn’t change. No matter what the circumstance, God is above it, seated upon the throne of sovereignty and holding the scepter of dominion. Through praise and worship, David changed his focus so that by the eye of faith he beheld El Shaddai—the almighty God.
How did David praise God? Maybe he sang Psalm 34. I would find it hard to believe that this particular song did not come to David’s mind as he sought to encourage himself. David had written it just two years earlier when God had delivered him from the Philistine king Abimelech.
I can easily imagine David sitting in the ashes of what was once his home with harp in hand singing these words: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:1-4, NKJV).
David sang, “I will bless the Lord at all times.” All times—good times, bad times, great times and terrible times. Even on the worst day of your life, God is worthy of praise. David sang praises to God from the ashes of Ziklag.
He sang the amazing lyric, “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Praising God is part of the path to encouragement. When praise is in your mouth, there can be no grumbling, no complaining and no negative speaking. Praise is the language of faith. If you want to strengthen your faith, begin to praise God.
Then David sang another lyric: “Oh, magnify the Lord with me.” “Magnify” means “to enlarge or make bigger in perspective.” When we magnify a small object with a magnifying glass, a microscope or a telescope, we don’t change its reality. We don’t make the object we are observing any bigger; we change our perception of it.
We cannot make God any bigger than He already is—you can’t increase omnipotence—but you can magnify (or diminish) your perspective of God. Perspective has everything to do with whether you are encouraged or discouraged.
Refuse to magnify the devil. Refuse to magnify the present negative circumstance. Don’t analyze your trouble with a magnifying glass—this exercise will lead to deeper discouragement.
Instead, magnify the Lord! Speak of His greatness, His power, His might. Talk about how big and powerful God is. My Nigerian preacher friend, Bishop Goddowell Avwomakpa, is in the habit of saying, “When you make God bigger, you make your trouble smaller.” It’s simple but true.
A thousand years before David’s disaster, the young but wise Elihu reminded Job (who was facing his own worst day) that God gives songs in the night (see Job 35:10). That is an encouraging word.
In the dark night of the soul, God will give you a song that will bring a dawn of faith and encouragement. So, in the dark night of his personal anguish, David sang a song of praise to the God who can make a way where there is no way.
Paul and Silas did the same thing a thousand years later. They had been arrested for the good deed of casting a spirit of divination out of a young slave girl. After a sham of a trial, they were beaten with rods and imprisoned in the innermost dungeon with their feet in stocks.
How did they respond? In a most remarkable way. At midnight, instead of despairing and crying themselves to sleep, they sang hymns of praise to God. Paul and Silas made the exceptional choice to encourage themselves by praising God.
Luke tells us that while Paul and Silas sang, the other prisoners were listening to them. No doubt they were! I’m sure the prisoners were amazed at such surprising behavior.
Truly these men were different—they had something the other prisoners didn’t have. They possessed a remarkable faith in their God, and God responded to their remarkable faith by delivering them from the dungeon of despair through a miraculously timed earthquake. The Bible tells us “the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed” (Acts 16:26).
Paul and Silas were simply following in the tradition pioneered by David when he encouraged himself with songs of praise. Indeed, as David sang his songs of praise, a change came over him. A spark of faith brought a glimmer of hope, and David could feel himself becoming encouraged.
Encouraging yourself in the Lord is part of how you go about recovering your joy—not the shallow, mercurial feeling of happiness, but deep, abiding joy, which can be present even in the midst of sorrow.
I know the idea of having joy in the midst of sorrow may seem paradoxical, but truth is in the paradox. If you are going to recover from the worst day of your life, among the first things you have to recover is your joy.
The devil knows he must steal your joy to defeat you. Satan is quite aware of the spiritual truth concerning joy revealed in Nehemiah: “ ‘Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’ ” (Neh. 8:10).
What the devil is after through excessive grief and lingering depression is your strength—the strength that is found in the joy of the Lord. Peter talks about the devil utilizing a stalking strategy analogous to a lion stalking its prey. The devil “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
The devil may be like a lion—not as a metaphor for majesty but as an opportunist seeking to prey upon the weak and feeble. Satan does not want a confrontation with strength; he seeks to exploit weakness.
Understanding that the joy of the Lord is the strength of the believer, the devil seeks to steal your joy, thereby reducing you to weakness. The believer who can retain his joy is destined to triumph in the end.
This is a powerful principle. If the devil cannot steal your joy, he cannot ultimately defeat you. The moment David began to encourage himself in the Lord and recover his joy, he placed himself on a trajectory to turn his whole situation around. Joy is not just a preferred emotional state; it is a necessary element in attaining full recovery.
In the first chapter of his epistle, the apostle James gives some vital information about how we are to respond in the midst of a trial. He says we are to “count it all joy when [we] fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of [our] faith produces patience.” If we allow patience to have its perfect work, we will “be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).
James teaches us that the redeemed should respond to the trials of life completely differently from those who do not have a Christian perspective on life. He says that when we encounter them, we should “count it all joy.”
The word translated “count” is hegeomai. It is an accounting term that means we are to place trials in the joy column of our emotional ledger.
Hegeomai also means “to rule or exercise authority.” So when you are thrust into a trial, you must take authority, rule over your feelings and choose joy as your dominant emotion.
If you can remember to encourage yourself in the Lord during hard times, learning to govern your emotions and maintain your joy, then in the end you will have victory. This is the promise of God!
Want to read more about overcoming in the face of trials? Then download a free copy of Pastor Brian Zahnd’s new book, What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life, here. read more