The Daily Encouraging Word Devotional
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“Live generously and graciously toward others.” Mt 5:48 TM
Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over” (Lk 6:38). Notice, He didn’t say, “Only give to those who can give back to you.” John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, said, “You haven’t lived today successfully, unless you’ve done something for someone who can never repay you.” In the days of Jesus, a Roman soldier could legally force a Jewish civilian to carry his heavy backpack for up to a mile. That was his right, and you refused to do so at your peril. So to walk the first mile was to do only what was required. Then Jesus came along and said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Mt 5:41 NIV). Why? Because “extra-mile service” gives you an opportunity to impact the lives of others. A person with an extra-mile attitude is someone who cares more than others think is wise, risks more than others think is safe, dreams more than others think is practical, believes more than others think is possible, and gives more than others think is necessary. Here’s how Jesus bottom-lines it: “If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects…live like it. Live out your God-created identity…generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you” (vv. 46-48 TM). So always do more than is expected.
“Great peace have they who love your [word], and nothing can make them stumble.” Ps 119:165 NIV
One of the last things Jesus told His disciples before leaving this world was, “In this [life], you will have trouble!” (Jn 16:33 NIV). And He was right, wasn’t He? We all experience stress, occupational demands, deadlines, expectations, personal pressures ganging up on us and constantly trying to rob us of the peace we desperately desire. No one is immune to stress, frustration, and the feeling that we’re on the “autobahn of life.” What is all this but the absence of peace? And the answer can’t be found in a pill, a possession, or a pleasure. All those things wear off or wear out. The Bible talks about three different kinds of peace. Let’s look at them: (1) Peace with others. “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Ro 12:18 NIV). This is external peace, and it’s necessary for human relationships to flourish. (2) Peace with yourself. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Col 3:15 NIV). This is internal peace, a rest of mind and soul that escapes most of us. (3) Peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ro 5:1 NIV). This is eternal peace, and it comes from knowing you’ve a right relationship with God. So here’s how it works: When you’re at peace with God you’ll be at peace with yourself, and when you’re at peace with yourself you’ll be at peace with others. That, in a nutshell, is the peace process!
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Jas 1:19 NIV
The only way to avoid having to deal with difficult people—is to move to another planet. Human beings are a mixture of vices and virtues, and unless you understand that, you won’t be able to work or live with them successfully. The story’s told of a monk who joined a monastery and took a vow of silence. Once a year he was invited to appear before the abbot, and he was permitted to say one thing. After the first year when he was asked what he had to say, he replied, “The bed’s too hard!” At the end of the second year when he was asked, he responded, “The room’s too cold.” At the end of the third year he was asked the same question. He replied, “The food’s terrible. I quit.” At that point the abbot smiled with relief and said, “Thank goodness! Because you’ve done nothing but complain since you got here!” Think about it: Even if you joined a monastery you’d still have to deal with difficult people! So what can you do? Learn from the farmer. He plants, pulls weeds, and cultivates, knowing the harvest will eventually come if he patiently keeps doing these things. It’s one of the reasons James writes, “Dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires” (vv. 19-20 NIV). There are no shortcuts. The only way to have a good relationship is to work at it and be patient. When you do, God will bless that relationship.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Jas 1:17 NKJV
If your vision in life is to become as rich as possible, hoard every penny you make, and indulge your every whim—your vision is not from God. But if your vision is to succeed, use your success to bless others, and fulfill the purposes of God in the earth, your vision is from God. When God called Abraham, He promised him three things: “I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing [to others]” (Ge 12:2 NIV). Understand this: Every worthy vision comes from God whether or not it’s related to so-called “spiritual” matters, and whether or not the person with the vision realizes the source of their vision. The Bible says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” We tend to compartmentalize our lives, to view God as having influence and relevance when it comes to “spiritual” visions, missions, and goals, but little relationship to “secular” visions, missions, and goals. St. Augustine said, “Let every Christian understand that wherever truth is found, it belongs to his Master.” God is the fountain of all truth, and the source of all worthy visions. And since He gave you your vision you must pour yourself into it every day. The Psalmist said, “Let the Lord be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity [success] of His servant” (Ps 35:27 NKJV). With God as your partner you must expect to succeed—and you will!
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Ro 8:31 NIV
The question isn’t simply, “Who can be against us?” That’s an easy one to answer: disease, inflation, corruption, exhaustion, calamities, and fears. The real question is, “If God is for us…?” Let’s read these words slowly, placing emphasis on each of them: (1) God is for you. Your parents may have forgotten you, your teachers may have neglected you, your siblings may be ashamed of you, but within reach of your prayers is the Maker of the oceans: God! (2) God is for you. Not “maybe,” or “has been,” or “would be if,” but “is”! God is for you today, at this minute, as you read this sentence. No need to wait in line and come back tomorrow. He’s with you. He couldn’t be closer to you than He is at this second. His loyalty won’t increase if you’re better, nor lessen if you’re worse. He is for you. (3) God is for you. Are you too tired to continue? He’ll carry you. Are you too discouraged to fight? He’ll fight for you. Turn to the sidelines; that’s God cheering you on. Look past the finish line; that’s God applauding your steps. (4) God is for you. If God had a calendar, your birthday would be circled on it. If He had a car, your name would be on the bumper. If there’s a tree in heaven, He’s carved your name on the bark. We already know He has a tattoo, and we know what it says: “I have written your name on my hand” (Isa 49:16 NCV). So when you get up each morning look in the mirror and tell yourself, “God is for me!”