The Daily Encouraging Word Devotional
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“Don’t be afraid…I am with you.” Isa 41:10 NLT
There are different kinds of fear. There’s the kind that warns you to stay away from fire. There’s the kind that cultivates respect for God (See Ps 2:11). Oswald Chambers said, “When you fear God, you don’t have to fear anything else.” There’s fear that makes you feel helpless; sometimes it’s rooted in parental criticism or a bully’s threats, and although it’s groundless, it still haunts you. There’s the fear of failing, which if left unchallenged becomes the father of failure. Job said, “What I feared has come upon me” (Job 3:25 NIV). There’s fear of the unknown where your imagination runs amok. What if you never meet the “right person,” or you lose your job, or the biopsy confirms the worst? Over and over in His Word God says, “Don’t be afraid…I am with you.” Paul Tournier notes: “Life and faith always insist on moving on—and I cannot move forward without leaving something behind. The trapeze artist must let go of one trapeze at precisely the right moment and hover in the void before grabbing the other. Faith calls us out of our comfort zone…to learn new skills and minister in different ways.” But we get uptight. We think, “What if God asks me to do something I can’t do? Or I don’t have the strength, wisdom, or faith?” If you were relying on your own resources, you’d be in trouble. But the fact is, “God…knew you and chose you” (1Pe 1:2 NLT). Every time you meet a new challenge He strengthens you by proving that He not only supplies the tools, but is responsible for the outcome.
“Ezra…stood on a platform…which they had made for the purpose.” Ne 8:4 NKJV
Standing on a specially built platform within Jerusalem’s newly built walls, Ezra the scribe read God’s Word to the people for six hours. As he read it they wept, worshipped, and went home rejoicing. Think: God’s Word is so powerful that all you have to do is expose people to it and their lives are changed. Notice the words, “Ezra…stood on a platform…they had made for the purpose.” When the printing press was invented, one of the first books produced was the Bible. It gave birth to the Reformation, influenced the Industrial Revolution, and changed the world. Now fast-forward to the age of the Internet. Today we have a “platform” capable of reaching every level of society, all the way to the most remote corners of the earth. Instead of complaining about the garbage on the Internet, become an Internet evangelist, teacher, counselor, or encourager. Don’t let the Enemy monopolize it! “Those who turn many to righteousness [will shine] like the stars forever and ever” (Da 12:3 NKJV). A geologist-turned-missionary was asked by a large oil company to go to work for them in the country where he ministered. His annual salary would be more than he’d make in his entire lifetime as a missionary. But he said no. When they asked, “Isn’t the salary big enough?” he replied, “The salary’s big enough; the job isn’t!” Jesus said, “When I have been lifted…I will draw all people toward me” (Jn 12:32 GWT). And we have been given a platform to reach the world—let’s use it!
“Pray without ceasing.” 1Th 5:17
When the Bible says, “Pray without ceasing,” that means pray every day, not just periodically or when you’re in trouble. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas 5:16 NKJV). The word “fervent” means passionate, persistent, and determined. It’s not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they may be; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they may be; nor the music of our prayers, how sweet our voice may be; nor the logic of our prayers, how argumentative they may be; nor the method of our prayers, how orderly they may be; or even the theology of our prayers, how good the doctrine is, that God responds to. Fervency of spirit is what “avails much.” The most powerful thing you can do is pray! And when you join with a prayer partner, your potential is awesome. “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that [you] ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (Mt 18:19 NKJV). It works like this: the less you pray, the less you want to pray; the more you pray, the more you want to pray. Nothing will motivate you to pray like answered prayer. But you can’t start with the answer; you’ve got to start with the prayer! Here’s a fact of life: we only keep doing what rewards us. So the key to building a great prayer life is to pray until you get answers. Think how deeply rooted doubt can become in our hearts when we’re actually surprised to find our prayers answered! So pray in faith and expect God to answer!
“Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get.” Eph 5:15-16 TM
Following a plan is like using a GPS device (Global Positioning System). If it knows where you are, you tell it where you want to go, and it creates a personalized road map. The difference between a GPS and you, is you have to create all your own turn-by-turn directions. Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting the first one.” To reach your destination you must ask yourself three questions: (1) What’s my present position? It’s impossible to ignore the reality of where you are right now and still be successful. The former CEO of General Electric observed, “Strategic management is trying to understand where you will sit in tomorrow’s world, not where you hope to sit; it’s assessing where you want to be, and where you can be.” (2) What’s my desired destination? Write down what your dream will look like when you’ve achieved it. Henry J. Kaiser, founder of Kaiser-Permanente health care system, said, “The evidence is overwhelming that you cannot begin to achieve your best unless you have some aim in life.” (3) What are the in-between steps? Don’t expect them to be quick or easy. Creativity is messy. It’s far from an exact science. But unless you know where you want to go and identify the steps that will get you there, ten years from now you’ll still be where you are today. So the word for you today is: “Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get.”
“He…gave some to be…pastors.” Eph 4:11 NIV
Pastors have a tough job. They get more kicks than kisses. If a pastor is young he lacks experience; if he’s gray-haired he’s too old. If he has five kids he has too many; if he has none he’s setting a bad example. If his wife sings in the choir she’s being forward; if not, she’s not dedicated enough. If he preaches from notes he’s dry; if he’s extemporaneous he’s too shallow. If he spends too much time in his study he’s neglecting his people; if he makes home visits he’s not a good time manager. If he’s attentive to the poor he’s grandstanding; if he attends to the wealthy he’s ingratiating. If he suggests improvements he’s a dictator; if he doesn’t he has no vision. If he uses too many illustrations he neglects the Bible; if he doesn’t use enough stories, he’s unclear. If he speaks against wrong he’s legalistic; if he doesn’t he’s a compromiser. If he preaches for an hour he’s windy; less than that, he has nothing to say. If he preaches the truth he’s offensive; if he doesn’t he’s wishy-washy. If he fails to please everybody he’s hurting the church; if he tries to please everybody he has no convictions. If he preaches tithing he’s a money-grabber; if not, he’s failing to develop his people. If he receives a large salary he’s mercenary; if he doesn’t it proves he’s not worth much. If he preaches on a regular basis, people get tired of hearing the same person; if he invites guest preachers he’s shirking his responsibility. Wow! And you thought your pastor had an easy life! How’d you like to changes places? Bottom line: love your pastor.