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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Where Do We Get the Power to Keep Going?

In 2 Corinthians 4:9 it says, “We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” (TLB)

If you’ve ever been at a race, then you’ve heard spectators shout, “Keep going!” to motivate the athletes. That’s also great advice for anyone who feels emotionally, mentally, or spiritually exhausted from running the marathon of life: Keep going!

Scripture includes many examples of people who had determination to keep going in the face of opposition, including Jesus and Paul.

Jesus faced constant opposition. Religious and political leaders intimidated him. They tried to stop his ministry by telling him that King Herod wanted to kill him.

But Jesus said to them, “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose. Yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must proceed on my way” (Luke 13:32-33 NLT).

Nothing was going to stop Jesus from accomplishing his purposesnot fear, opposition, or criticism. He was resilient and had the endurance to keep on keeping on.

Paul also faced obstacles that threatened to slow him down. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, he said, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going” (TLB).

Maybe that sounds familiar, because you feel like troubles are coming at you from many directions. You’re tired and worn out, and you don’t think you’ll make it to the finish line.

So how do I keep going?

I get the power to keep going from the same place Jesus and Paul got it: from God.

We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work” (2 Timothy 1:8-9 MSG).

God doesn’t expect me to fulfill my purpose and do his will in my own power. First, he saved me, and then he gives me the power for daily living. He will give me everything I need to keep going and finish what he has called me to do.

Paul reminds us that though we may think we are at the end of our rope, we are never at the end of our hope. Our perishable bodies are subject to sin and suffering, but God never abandons us. Because Christ has won the victory over death, we have eternal life. All of our risks, humiliations, and trials are opportunities for Christ to demonstrate his power and presence in and through us. Like Paul, we must carry out our ministries, looking to God for strength. When opposition, slander, or disappointment threaten to rob you of the victory, remember that no one can destroy what God has accomplished through you. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

How to Focus on What’s Important, Not Urgent

In Ephesians 5:16 it says, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (NLT)

It often feels like the 365 days I’m given each year aren’t enough time to do everything I want to do. In fact, I probably feel like there aren’t enough minutes in this day to accomplish what I think I need to do!

The good news is that God doesn’t expect me to do everything. He has given me just enough time to do everything he wants me to do—everything he planned and purposed for me to do.

That’s why it’s important for me to set goals. Goals help me focus my life. Paul models this when he says, “I do not run without a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something — not just the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26 NCV).

Paul knew his purpose, and all his plans and goals were focused on it. I need to have that same kind of focus.

Too many of us, including myself, focus our lives on unimportant causes. Trivial Pursuit isn’t just a game; it’s a description of our culture. Most of what’s going on in our world today won’t matter in a weekmuch less for eternity.

Many people can’t tell the difference between “urgent” and “important.” What seems urgent is almost never what is important. I put aside family time, time with God, and time with friends for the urgent matters that rarely matter for long.

Goals are how I can focus and create the kind of life that chases the important rather than what feels urgent. Goals will focus my energy and help bring health and balance to life.

For example, if I made it my goal to get healthy in some specific way this year, then that decision will focus my energy on that task. Anytime I’m tempted to eat junk food or skip a workout for extra sleep, my goal will help you stay on track. It will remind me of what’s important.

The Bible says, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:16 NLT).

Make the most of life by setting some goals. Don’t waste another year on the urgent rather than the important.

By referring to these days as evil, Paul was communicating his sense of urgency because of evil's pervasiveness. I need the same sense of urgency because my days are also difficult. I must keep my standards high, act wisely, and do good whenever I can.  

Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Kind of Goals God Blesses

In 1 Corinthians 9:26 it says, “I do not run without a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something—not just the air.” (NCV)

Without goals, I cannot expect to be any different this year than I was last year. The default in my life will always be more of the same.

Long-term goals keep me moving toward my purpose and keep me from being discouraged by short-term setbacks.

We all have setbacks. I deal with them every day, but those setbacks won’t slow me down if my focus is on something I’m trying to achieve down the road. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 9:26, “I do not run without a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something—not just the air” (NCV).

I don’t want to spend the next year hitting the air (shadow boxing). But just setting goals isn’t the answer. God doesn’t appreciate every goal I set!

These are the kinds of goals that God blesses

  • Goals that bring God honor: The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (NIV). If I’ve got the right motivation, anything can be done for God’s glory.

  • Goals that are motivated by love: God is far more interested in why I’m doing something than what I’m actually doing. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 16:14,“Do everything with love” (NLT).

  • Goals that fulfill one of God’s purposes for my life: God put me on Earth to do five things: worship him, be a part of his family, become like Christ, serve him, and share my life message. If my goals help me fulfill one of these purposes, then God will bless them.

  • Goals that are set in faith: My goals must be big enough that they’ll require God’s help to fulfill. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).

  • Goals that are achieved by God’s power: I will not stick to my goals without God’s power. I won’t get healthy on my own. I won’t improve my marriage on my own. The goals that really matter in life can only be achieved with God’s power, not my own.

So I need to take a look at the goals I’ve set for the future. And consider if they are the kind of goals that God blesses?

In summary, winning a race requires purpose and discipline. Paul uses this illustration to explain that the Christian life takes hard work, self-denial, and grueling preparation. As Christians, we are running toward our heavenly reward. The essential disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and worship equip me to run with vigor and stamina. So I shouldn’t just merely observe from the grandstand; and not just turn out to jog a couple of laps each morning. Train diligently, as my spiritual progress depends upon it. 

Friday, November 24, 2023

Godly Goals Stretch My Faith

In Matthew 9:29 it says, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” (NIV)

Godly goals are set through faith. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). If I want the goals I set to be pleasing to God, then I need to set goals that require faith.

In other words, I must set goals that are too big for me to reach on my own. Godly goals stretch and grow your faith.

When I set and trust God for a big goal, God will work in a big wayand I’ll see my faith grow in a big way. On the other hand, if I state a small goal, then I may not get to see God work in the big ways he wants to and has planned to in my life.

Godly goals stretch my faith. They affirm that I trust God, but they are also statements of how much I trust God. The Bible says, “According to your faith let it be done to you” (Matthew 9:29 NIV).

When I don’t set goals, then my goal is basically to stay the same. “Yikes!”. As a result, my faith will stay the same too.

See how this works: 

When asked, “What’s your goal for your health?” and I say, “I don’t have one,” then my goal is to stay the same.

When asked, “What’s your goal in your relationships?” and I say, “I don’t have one,” then my goal is for them not to get any better.

When asked, “What’s your goal for getting out of debt?” and you say, “I don’t have one,” then my goal is to stay in debt.

When asked, “What’s your goal for your career?” and I say, “I don’t have one,” then my goal is to just drift along.

Goals are a spiritual discipline. They challenge my faith. They develop my character. And they build my hope.

I haven’t believed God until I’ve attempted to do something that can’t be done without his power at work in my life. Godly goals require me to remain dependent on Jesus. And that makes my faith strong!

Today’s verse comes from the last part of a small passage in Matthew 9:27-30. “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.

Jesus didn't respond immediately to the blind men's pleas. He waited to see if they had faith. Not everyone who says he wants help really believes God can help him. Jesus may have waited and questioned these men to emphasize and increase their faith. When we think that God is too slow in answering our prayers, consider that he might be testing us as he did the blind men. Do we believe that God can help us? Do we really want his help?