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Friday, July 28, 2023

Do I Have a Safety Net?

In 1 Peter 3:8 it says, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” (NIV)

Nobody should ever have to go through alone. Nobody should ever have to wait in the hospital while a loved one is in life-or-death surgery. No woman should ever have to wait alone for the lab report on a high-risk pregnancy. Nobody should ever have to stand at the edge of an open grave alone. Nobody should ever have to spend the first night alone when their spouse has just walked out. 

Life’s tough times and tragedies are inevitable. Each of us will face thembut we don’t need to go through them alone. I need God’s safety net to help hold me up through difficult times.

What is God’s safety net? It is a group of other believers, a handful of people who are really committed to me. We call this kind of group a community. Here is God’s plan for the community: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NIV). Community is God’s answer to despair. 

Romans 12:15 expresses a similar idea: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (NIV).

The first part of that verse is easy. When something good happens to someone, it’s often easy to join in on the party. But when someone is having a tough time, it can seem more difficult. But, really, it’s simple. When going through a crisis, we don’t always want advice. We just want somebody to be there to sit with you, hold your hand, put an arm around your shoulder, or cry with you

As Paul tells us, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV). Encouraging someone doesn’t always mean giving a pep talk or words of wisdom. Sometimes the best kind of encouragement is just being present, sitting in silence, and weeping with a friend.

Do I have a safety net—a group of fellow Christians I know who I can count on in life’s toughest times? Honestly I have to say I don’t. What I need to do today is to begin being intentional about building those friendships. The hard times in life are inevitable, but I don’t have to go into them unprepared.

Group Bible study or a ministry team is one thing, but being part of a community requires what Peter lists as five key elements that should characterize any group of fellow believers: (1) one mind, pursuing the same goals; (2) sympathy, being responsive to others' needs; (3) love, seeing and treating each other as brothers and sisters; (4) tenderness, being affectionately sensitive and caring; and (5) humility, being willing to encourage one another and rejoice in each other's successes. These five qualities go a long way toward helping believers serve God effectively.

As I admitted above, I don’t really have someone who is part of my safety net. I need to begin being intentional about building those friendships. 

Monday, July 24, 2023

Working Together, We Can Accomplish More

In Ephesians 2:10 it says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV)

God put me on Earth to do a certain work that only I can do. Ephesians 2:10 says that I was “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for me to do” (NIV). But God didn’t plan for me to do that work alone. I need people to work with me.  

You know the feeling you get when you do too much work on your own. You get exhausted and burned out and discouraged. You might even think about giving up! Why? Because you’re trying to do your work alone, and God never meant for it to be that way

The Bible says, “Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 NCV). When I work with others as a team, I get so much more done. Plus, having good teammates work alongside me is a whole lot more fun and less tiring

Picture this: Each of us is like a snowflake. On our own, we can’t make a big difference. But when one snowflake sticks with a lot of other snowflakes, they can stop traffic! Like snowflakes, we can make a big difference if we work together, each one of us doing our small part. 

Did you know that when we work together here on Earth, we’re actually practicing for eternity? In heaven, we will all have to work, but each of us will have just a small piece of work, so we’ll never get overloaded or tired. No one will carry a heavy burden as each one of us does our small part. All the work will still get done.

We need to remember that as we walk through life that we’re not supposed to do everything on our own. We need other people to walk with us, but we also need people to work alongside us. As we share the burden of our work with fellow Christians, we’ll find that we actually accomplish more for the glory of God.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Why I Need to Walk With Others

In Genesis 2:18 it says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (NIV)

The Bible often compares life to a walkbecause life is a journey. We don’t sit still! Throughout the New Testament, we are told to walk in wisdom, love, light, and obedience. We’re told to walk as Jesus walked.

We’re also told to walk alongside other people through life. Here are three reasons I need to walk with others:

It’s safer. If I walk alone at night through a dark alley or down a lonely country road, It’s a little scary. But if I have another person with me, I feel safer

It’s supportive. Life is not a 50-yard dash. It’s a marathon. Walking with others gives me the energy and encouragement I need to keep going until the end.

It’s smarter. I learn more by walking with others than by walking alone. If I’m walking alone in the wrong direction, I may never realize it. But if I have a friend beside me, one of us is likely to recognize that I’ve veered off the path and need to find the right direction

There are some other important lessons I learn when I walk with others. I learn how to get along and cooperate. I can also learn how to love. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (NIV). God hates when I’m lonely, and community is God’s answer to loneliness. When I walk with others, I’ll find a community where I learn how to love more like Jesus

Walking alongside others also teaches hospitality. The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:9, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (NIV). So what’s my grumble? What’s my excuse for not opening my home to friends? 

Maybe I’ve thought, “My home is dirty!” The truth is that my friends are more interested in spending time with me than they are my housekeeping skills—and they show grace. 

Or perhaps your excuse is, “My home isn’t big enough.” Can I put three people in it? Jesus says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20 NIV).

Everybody has a longing for belonging because God made us for relationships. When I walk alongside other Christians, in community, I’ll find that longing satisfied. 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

How to Turn Suffering Into Service

In 2 Corinthians 1:6 it says, “Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.” (NLT)

Everyone is going to face problems and difficulties in life. I find that God will give me all the grace I need to endure those hard times. But he also wants me to be willing to use my experiences to help others. God doesn’t want me to waste my hurt!

The Bible says, “Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:6 NLT). 

Did you know that God sometimes allows us to go through problems for the benefit of others? He may let us go through a period of darkness, depression, or discouragement so that we can comfort others with the same comfort he gives us.  

In fact, our greatest life messages always come out of our weaknesses, not our strengths

Who can better help somebody who’s in recovery for alcoholism than somebody who’s also walked through recovery? Who can better help somebody who is going through the pain of a divorce than someone who has healed from divorce? And who can better help the parent of a seriously ill child than another parent who’s experienced the same heartache? 

The things in life I wish I could change are often the very things God wants to use to help me grow in spiritual maturity and as a ministry. While God is at work in me, he also wants to work through me to help others.

The Bible says that love never gives up. It is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. Love considers others. Love turns other people’s problems and needs into our problems and needs. Love looks at other people like God sees them and gives them what they need, not what they deserve.

That’s what Jesus did. He suffered all kinds of problems and shame and went to the cross—not for his benefit but for our salvation. I can follow his example, and use my hurt to help others. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

What to Do When It Doesn’t Make Sense

In Job 42:2-3, 6 it says, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me . . . I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (NLT)

Instead of asking God, “Why?” I need to learn to trust God in things I don’t understand

For 37 chapters in the book of Job, Job asks the “why” questions: “Why is this happening to me? Why are you allowing this? Why so much pain? Why so much discomfort? Why haven’t you answered my prayers?” 

In chapter 38, Job stops asking, “Why?” And God says, “I have some questions for you” (Job 38:3 NLT). And for the next two chapters, God barrages Job with questions that only God can answer

He asks things like, “Where were you when I made the universe? Can you explain the law of gravity?” And, after two chapters, Job realizes that he is just a man, and his knowledge is limited. Who is he to question God

Job stops questioning, and he starts trusting. He replies to the Lord, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me . . . I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance” (Job 42:2-3, 6 NLT).  

So what should I do in a situation where I can’t see the whole picture, things aren’t clear, and what’s happening makes no sense?

I remind myself of the things I know about God. Even in the middle of his doubts, Job affirmed what he knew to be true about God: God is loving (Job 10:12), God is all-powerful (Job 36:22), God is in control (Job 34:13), God had a plan for Job’s life (Job 23:14), and God would protect Job (Job 5:11). 

God is passionately and intimately aware of every detail that I’m going through right now. He’s paying attention to my every breath. God doesn’t miss anything.

I may not understand why I’m going through what I’m going through, but I need to say this to God: “I know you’re good. I know you’re powerful. I know you see the details of my life. I know you’re in control and you have a plan.” Then, I need to just trust Godno matter what

Whatever I’m going through, tell God exactly how I feel. He can handle it! Then stop asking, “Why?” and start trusting God for the things I don’t understand.