418. Doing Good: Wary Or Weary, Or Both?

“The apostle Paul,” Stan began, “in his second letter to the church in Thessalonica wrote something that opens up a good play on words.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“The difference between being wary and being weary,” Stan replied.

Continuing, he said, “Paul wrote to the church encouraging the people not to grow weary of doing good.  And, it seems to me, that there are at least two ways to follow his encouragement, one acceptable and one not.”

“Which two ways?  I asked.

“In the first place,” Stan replied, “I can avoid growing weary of doing good by not doing any good.  If I am wary of doing any good, in the sense of just sitting on the sideline rather than getting in the game, there is no chance that I will grow weary of doing good.  But that surely is not what God wants or what Paul was writing about.”

“On the other hand,” Stan continued, “I can do good and avoid growing weary of doing so by relying on the strength and encouragement of God.  If I find myself growing weary of doing good, it is likely that what I am doing is coming from me rather than from God. I am seeking to do good by my own power, rather than relying on God.”

“Thus,” Stan concluded, “I can avoid growing weary from doing good by not doing any good or by doing it by relying on the strength of God.”

“Two choices,” I responded.  “I think I will choose to rely on God.”

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But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.  2 Thessalonians 3:13.

Prayer:  Thank you, my Heavenly Father, that you want me to do good and that you want me to do it in your strength and under your direction.  I confess that too often I fail to do what good you have for me to do because I want to do what I want to do apart from you.  Please forgive me.  And please lead me, and help me to follow, in doing all you have for me to do.  Help me to rely only on your strength and encouragement, knowing that when I do so I will never grow weary of doing what you have for me to do.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

417. The Stranger In The Attic

“I read a news item on the internet yesterday,” Stan began, “that was almost more than I could believe.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“There was a family that discovered there was someone living in the attic of their house.  It was someone they didn’t know and they had no idea how long the person had been there.”

“That sounds really strange,” I replied.  “You think it’s true?”

“I trust the news source I was reading, so I think so,” Stan replied.

Continuing, he said, “As I thought more about that story, I realized I could relate it to my own relationship with God and with His Holy Spirit.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“For way too long,” Stan replied, “after I became a Christian and received the Holy Spirit to live within me, it was like He was a stranger living in my attic.  I didn’t know He was there, or, if I knew He was there, I totally ignored Him and His leading.”

“It was just like the news story,” Stan continued.  “It said the people discovered the stranger after investigating some noises they heard.”

“I began to investigate the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life after I began to hear His voice, His ‘noises’, if you will.”

“The big difference,” Stan continued, “is that the people got rid of the stranger in their attic.  They forced him to move.  After discovering or acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s presence in me, I welcomed Him and invited Him to live in every aspect of my being on this side of eternity.”

“I asked Him to come down from the attic into my life!”

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And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.  John 14:16.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for sending your Holy Spirit to live within me to guide, help, and counsel me in all of the ways you have for me. I confess that too often I do not listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He seeks to lead me into a deeper relationship with you. Please forgive me. And please lead me and help me to follow in being totally open all of the time to everything the Holy Spirit has for me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

416. Alone With God

“We’ve talked about this before,” I began, “but I’m still not sure about how and why you get up so early in the morning to spend time with God.”

“The why,” Stan responded, “is rooted in two things.  I think that is what God wants.  And I know that is what Jesus did when He was here.”

“The part of how that came about is a bit more complicated,” Stan said with a smile.  “As we have focused on before, it took me a long time after I became a Christian to develop the desire to want to spend time alone with God each day.  But once I was open to having God begin the process, when I responded to what He was showing me, God stepped in big time to help me in wanting to spend time alone with Him each morning.”

Continuing, he said, “God wakes me in the early dark of each new day with an excitement to go spend time with Him alone.  It is like He says, ‘Let’s go.  I have some things I want to show you this morning’.”

“But,” I responded, “don’t you find that you would really rather stay in the warm bed and get some more sleep?”

“Never,” Stan replied, and then added, “however, I do recognize and accept that what God has for me may not be what He has for everyone.”

Continuing, he said, “But I am equally certain that my time alone with God each morning has had such an impact on my relationship with Him that I would like it for everyone.  But that’s not up to me. It’s up to each person as they sense what God has for them.”

Concluding, Stan said, “I talk to a lot of people about developing a love for spending the early morning with the Lord God of the universe. As they are open, I try to encourage them to give it a try.  I think you would be surprised with the number of those who have come to love it as I do!”

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And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He (Jesus) arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.  Mark 1:35.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you want me to spend time alone with you so I can hear and listen to what you have to say to me.  Thank you that you want to share with me what is on your heart.  I confess there are times when I do not listen as I should, times when I choose to listen to the voice of self, rather that to you.  Please forgive me.  And please lead me exactly as you want, and help me to follow, in choosing to spend the time with you that you want.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

415. Looking For The One

“I was in Matthew’s gospel again this morning in my journaling time,” Stan began, “and some of what Jesus said brought back a vivid memory of my early days as a Christian.”

“What was it?” I asked.

“Matthew wrote about when Jesus was talking to His disciples and using the analogy of a shepherd who has one hundred sheep, but one of them goes astray.”

“I remember that story,” I responded.  “The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to go look for the one.”

“You are right, my friend,” Stan replied.  “And what came to my mind is that in my early days of being a Christian I was involved with a small church.  After attending the church services for a while, I was having trouble getting plugged in.  I eventually stopped attending.”

‘Shortly after that,” Stan continued, “the pastor came to my house to ask if everything was ok.”

“Did that embarrass you?” I asked.

“Not in the least,” Stan replied.  “The pastor’s approach was out of genuine concern.  He and I had a long discussion of what I was feeling about the church.  He was able to give me some excellent counsel.  By the time he left, I felt very encouraged.”

Continuing, Stan said, “I not only returned to that church, I really began to grow in my relationship with God.  I can only guess where I would be now in my relationship with God if that pastor had not reached out to me in love to see what was going on.”

“A good perspective,” I added, “to be on the alert for others in the church who may be in need of encouragement in their walk so they do not go wander off in a direction God does not intend.”

“Amen,” Stan responded.

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What do you think?  If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?  Matthew 18:12.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for sending your people to look for those who may have gone away from you.  I want to be a part of what you want in reaching out to those who need encouragement in their faith walk with you.  I confess that too many times I have not been the encourager you intend.  Please forgive me.  And please, Lord, lead me in exact accord with your will in reaching out so that one who may have gone astray is encouraged to come back into your fold.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

414. Pray For Boldness

“The apostle Paul,” Stan began, “reminded and convicted me of something this morning when I was in his letter to the church in Ephesus.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“First,” Stan replied, “is the reminder of the importance for me to pray for my pastor.  Second, is the conviction that I do not do it often enough.”

“What kind of prayers do you think the pastor needs?”

“Prayers for strength, encouragement, wisdom, and, especially, for boldness to proclaim the gospel.”

“Boldness in proclaiming the gospel?” I asked.  “Isn’t that what pastors are supposed to do?  Do they really need prayer support for that?”

“The apostle Paul said he did,” Stan replied.

Continuing, he added, “If Paul, as bold as he was in working for and encouraging the church, felt that he needed prayer support in proclaiming the gospel, that convinces me that every pastor needs the same prayer support.”

“Then,” I said, “if pastors need prayer support to be bold in proclaiming the gospel, it seems that each one of us who is called to present the gospel certainly needs the same sort of prayer support.”

“Probably even more,” Stan replied.

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And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.  Ephesians 6:19.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for all of your reminders of who and what you want me to bring before you in prayer.  As to the boldness of my pastor to proclaim the gospel, I confess that I do not often enough remember to pray for him.  Please forgive me.  And please open me to see and to hear all about which you want me to pray.  Especially for all to be bold in proclaiming the truth of the gospel so that others may hear and have the opportunity to respond.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

413. Bitter Or Better?

“Before we moved here,” Stan began, “we were part of an excellent church where we lived. There were two people in that church who suffered individual heartbreak in a way I could only imagine, not truly understand.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Each one was involved in a separate accident, only a few days apart.  Both of them survived with their lives, but both were significantly paralyzed so they had to rely on others for just about everything.”

“Wow!” I responded.  “Talk about heartbreak!”

“Big time,” Stan replied.  “But it was real interesting to see how each person responded to the situation.  Totally different.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“After both of them had recovered as much as possible from their accidents, one seemed to draw closer to God in an ever-deepening relationship.  The other stopped coming to the church services altogether.  I visited and talked with him and was surprised at the depth of his anger towards God.  He was very bitter and, in essence, said he wanted nothing to do with God if this is what He was like.”

“I will pray for him,” I responded.  “What about the other person?”

“Amazing,” Stan said.  “Truly amazing.  As time went by, he became more heavily involved in the church and became a major teacher in several Bible study classes.”

Continuing, he said, “More than once I heard this fellow say that he was truly thankful for what had happened to him.  He related that he did not think he would be where he was in his relationship with God had he not had the injury.”

“So the one became bitter and the other better,” I replied.

“Yes,” Stan said, “it all depended on seeing, understanding, receiving, accepting, and embracing what God had in store to accomplish His purposes. It was and is a matter of choosing to be His regardless of the circumstances.”

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You are not your own for you have been bought with a price.  Therefore glorify God in your body.  1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that I am no longer my own, but that I am yours in everything and in every situation in which you place me for your purposes.  I confess that too often I engage in a pity party focusing on me rather than on you and what you want to do in and through me.  Please forgive me.  And please, Lord, open me to see, understand, receive, accept, and embrace all you have for me so that your purposes, not mine apart from you, will be accomplished.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

412. Discouraged? Encourage

“Stan,” I said, “you spend a lot of time trying to help other people on the road to spiritual maturity.  Do you ever get discouraged and think what you are doing is not accomplishing anything?”

“There was a time,” Stan replied, “when that was the case, but the Holy Spirit showed me that discouragement is from Satan who wants me to be so discouraged that I quit doing what God has for me to do in being what He has for me to be.”

“In addition,” he continued, “the Holy Spirit gave me a solution for when I start to be discouraged about anything that comes into my life.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Encourage someone else,” Stan replied.

“Discouragement is really being self-focused, as in ‘Poor me’.”  The best way for me to get rid of any feelings of discouragement is to deliberately find someone who needs encouragement and do my best to encourage that person.”

“And,” he added, “as we talked about before, to find someone who needs encouragement is simple.  Just find someone who is breathing!”  [Note to Reader, see Posting Number 137, “Encouragement”.]

“I have found,” Stan concluded, “that if I will focus on someone else who needs encouragement, rather than on myself, I receive as much or more than I give.”

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Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.  John 14:27.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for your peace and encouragement.  I confess that too often I allow myself to be discouraged by focusing on what Satan wants me to focus on, rather than what you have for me.  Please forgive me.  And please help me in knowing and exercising the truth that if I will spend the time encouraging the people you bring before me, rather than focusing on myself, you will and do provide all I need.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.