The Daily Encouraging Word Devotional
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“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Pr 17:17 NKJV
In life you’ll have many acquaintances, but few friends. And that’s okay, especially if you value quality over quantity. Just because you have good social skills doesn’t mean you’ll have good friends. Sometimes people who are “the life of the party” are the loneliest because they live with a core fear that says, “If you really knew me you wouldn’t want me.” Sadly, they’re often the ones who become workaholics and try to lose themselves in achievement. Or their unmet needs drive them into multiple affairs. Or they get into mood-altering substances that lead to addiction. In the parable of the prodigal son we read these words: “When he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want…and no one gave him anything” (Lk 15:14-16 NKJV). It’s time you reconsidered what true friendship is. It’s not what some of your business buddies spout when they vent their ego concerning their latest success. If you read between the lines, chances are what they’re really saying is, “See how wonderful I am. And as long as you’re in my league you can be my friend.” That’s fickle! “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” In Old Testament times friends entered into a covenant by exchanging a shoe and a sword. The shoe meant, “I’ll go to wherever you are and I’ll stand with you.” The sword meant, “I’ll fight for you and lay down my life for you.” The question is: Are you willing to become that kind of friend?
“A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Pr 18:24 NKJV
The level of friendship you get is determined by the level of friendship you give. Friendship requires sacrifice, commitment, time, and energy—things we’re reluctant to give. The truth is, many of us are uncomfortable letting people into our lives. We grew up in homes where intimacy was rarely expressed, communication was used as a form of control, and rules were more important than relationships. As a result we’re “relationally impaired.” That doesn’t mean we can’t make friends, it just means we may have a harder time doing it. When it comes to friendship, here are some truths you need to consider: (1) When two relationally impaired people get together they don’t solve each other’s problems, they double them. (2) Those in the fast lane to success may slow down long enough to speak to you in church or at the company picnic, but unless you’ve got something they need or want, don’t expect them to be available to you. (3) When you become less “needy,” you’ll become more attractive to others. As long as you’re looking for someone to solve all your problems and fill the hole in your soul, you’ll drive people away. People have their own struggles and dysfunctions; they’re not looking to take on yours. So what’s the answer? Spend time getting to know God through prayer and reading the Scriptures. Let Him tell you who you are and what you’re worth—something that can happen only when you spend time with Him. As you become spiritually and emotionally whole, you’ll begin to enjoy your own company—and you’ll have more to offer others.
“We do not wage war as the world does.” 2Co 10:3 NIV
During World War II, Allied bombers carried machine guns in the nose, under the belly, on top, and in the rear. B-17’s, better known as “flying fortresses,” carried thirteen .50 caliber machine guns. At one point scientists suggested the planes might actually be safer without them. Without the extra weight needed to operate the guns, they could fly faster and higher, increasing their odds of survival. The pilots, however, thought differently. They wouldn’t even consider embarking on a mission without guns to shoot back and defend themselves. With that thought in mind, Jon Walker says: “We make the same choice when it comes to fighting our own battles. God says we don’t need the guns…we can soar higher and faster with Him. ‘For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.’ The weapons he gives ‘have divine power to demolish strongholds’; we don’t need the ‘weapons of the world’ (2Co 10:3-4 NIV). But we say ‘No thanks’; we have to shoot back and defend ourselves with arsenals of angry words, demanding attitudes, manipulative maneuvers, excessive excuses, and bombs of blame. It takes courage to stop using weapons of the flesh, ‘take up the shield of faith,’ and arm ourselves with the weapons of God (Eph 6:16 NIV). It’s the kind of faith David showed when he [told] Goliath, ‘You come against me with sword and spear…but I come against you in the name of the Lord’ (1Sa 17:45 NIV). Stop fighting in your own strength and let God’s spiritual arsenal defend you; ‘He is a shield to those who take refuge in him’ (Pr 30:5 NIV).”
“God…will never give up on you.” 1Co 1:9 TM
Think being a Christian isn’t exciting? Check out these headlines. Man in desert discovers burning bush that can’t be extinguished. Sea opens and thousands walk through on dry land. Giant who threatened a nation killed by teen with slingshot. Jewish girl saves her people from destruction. Three young rebels survive blazing furnace. Man brought back from the dead after four days. City walls mysteriously fall. Preacher swallowed by giant fish and lives to tell about it. Prophet caught up to heaven in a fiery chariot. These aren’t from the tabloids; they’re from Scripture. Adventure means “exciting and dangerous undertakings.” When you embark on the spiritual adventure Paul mentions, you can expect God to test your faith in ways you never imagined. The Bible talks about those “who through faith conquered kingdoms…shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength” (Heb 11:33-34 NIV). John Eldredge says: “Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man…Moses doesn’t encounter the living God at the mall. He finds him in the deserts of Sinai…Deep in a man’s heart are fundamental questions that cannot be answered at the kitchen table…it’s fear that keeps [him] at home where things are neat and orderly and under his control.” When God wants to do something wonderful through you, He has to get you from where you are to where He is. How about it: Are you ready to embark on a spiritual adventure with God?
“Let us not love with words…but…actions.” 1Jn 3:18 NIV
We must care about people’s spiritual and practical needs. It’s hard for someone to grasp the concept of God’s love when they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or where they’ll sleep tonight. Food pantries worldwide are seeing a dramatic upsurge in emergency requests. Volunteer Cindy Crosby writes: “Each client is as different as the patterns in a kaleidoscope: retirees, the mentally ill, single mothers, young men fallen on hard times…And not everyone is grateful. Some are angry…some refuse eye contact…some leave without saying more than a few words…If you volunteer just to feel good about yourself, you’ll give up. Lofty ideals shatter like stained glass pelted by rocks…It’s the success stories that stick…The refugee mother whose son went on to Harvard on a scholarship…the woman who thanked me more times than I could count…the mother of six who showed palpable relief because that month she could feed her family…I remember Jesus’ words, ‘I was hungry…you gave me something to eat…I was a stranger…you invited me in’ (Mt 25:35 NIV). Now when I think of hunger, I see faces. And that has made all the difference.” It’s easier to love in theory than reality, especially when it comes to people who are difficult or different. But genuine love isn’t defined by what feels good or bad; God already set the standard. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?…Let us not love with words…but…actions” (1Jn 3:17-18 NIV).