“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” Psalm 23:1-2
David saw that in our relationship with God there is a peace that cannot be found in any other place. The phrases “lie down” and “still waters” show the sheep, in the very famous psalm exalting the LORD as our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1), being unafraid due to the wonderful care of the Shepherd.
Sheep, who are naturally fearful animals, are at peace in His presence, regardless of what the world may be experiencing.
The Bible gives us many references to the peace that we find in our relationship with God. Some of my favorites are:
Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Philippians 4:6-7 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
All of these solidify the type of relationship the sheep have with the shepherd; the type of relationship we experience in Jesus Christ our ultimate Shepherd (John 10:11). Many are grasping at various things and pursuits to fill their life with peace. This peace and serenity can only be found under the protection of the Shepherd.
If you cannot find peace today, simply look to Jesus, and there you will find peace in His presence.
“. . .And so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law:
and if I perish, I perish,” Esther 4:16, KJV
There are a lot of things that act like blockades in our lives, but fear by far has to be one of the hardest to overcome. Fear can render useless the one who entertains it because, unlike physical limitations, fear messes with the mind. It changes one’s perspective on how they view the world, the people around them, and their own lives.
Fear acts like a photographer. It snaps a picture and develops it in the dark recesses of your mind. When the picture is finished being developed it comes out for you to view a new reality, whether it’s true or not. Fear is not based on truth but it wants you to believe in the image it presents to you more than God. That’s why many of us will never tread the courts of the king as Esther did. We can become so focused on that false image (the things that we see that make us afraid) that we fail to step out with courage.
The Bible tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Heb. 11:1). Going against fear takes faith. Faith doesn’t concentrate on what is visible to the naked eye. Faith concentrates on the truth of God’s promises. And His promises declare, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness,” (Is. 41:10).
That’s what faith sees!
With Queen Esther’s physical eyes the picture she saw wasn’t pleasant. What she saw was her beloved uncle Mordecai’s life was in danger (Esther 5:14). What she saw was hatred and an evil desire for her people to be destroyed (Esther 3:8-9). What she saw was the anguish of her people, grieving her also (Esther 4:3-4). What she saw was a law that could take her life (Esther 4:11).
A decision had to be made. Esther could look at the circumstances and let the fear of those images stop her from doing what’s right. Or, she could take a stand against the fear that assailed her and go for it, debunking that old image to see something new.
With great resolve and commitment she said, “If I perish, I perish.” She took a stand against the fearful, stepping out into the unknown, not sure if she would find favor with the king. Her people needed her to be brave. Her uncle needed her to be unbending in her determination. She needed to step up to the plate “for such a time as this,” (Esther 4:14).
Being fearless doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid. It means in spite of it all, I have the courage to take a stand.
In what area of your life do you need more courage? Is there something you are dealing with that is extremely hard, yet you want to be determined to see it through? It takes a resolve such as Queen Esther possessed to stand against the fear of what you see so that you too can walk the King’s court in victory!
“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do,” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
The main goal of a cheerleading organization is to raise the spirits of the fans and team members of the sport they are supporting. As I look at this life, I realize there are others around you and me every day that could use some encouragement. People who need their spirits raised. Some whose lives need to be touched with a little something that will help see them through this day.
The old saying is true that you cannot judge a book by its cover. People are like that also. Day by day we walk through our normal routines. Sometimes we come across different people. Sometimes we see the same people each and every time. In meeting people there’s one thing I have come to realize, you don’t have a clue of what one may be facing on the other side of that facade.
The face that is smiling at you may be at the point of giving up. The one who is engaging you in polite conversation may have just suffered a hard blow financially. Or, any others we may see or come across on a daily basis. All we can do is look at what they show us. Sometimes, what they don’t show is there are deeper issues they are dealing with. While in the middle of those deep issues, what if they receive a word that renews, that makes them feel that everything is going to be okay in spite of what they are facing? What if one act of kindness done for them helps to ensure them they are important too, no matter what the situation is telling them, and raises their spirits?
How would we order our day, our regular routines, if we treated everyone as if they were a mission field to receive kindness? You could be the one that will help somebody else to make the decision that they will not throw in the towel. They will not give up. You and I can be that deciding factor! You can be that spiritual cheerleader that brightens the heart and lift the spirits of those who may be having a hard time in life right now.
Oh, what joy! We don’t have to know the total story of another. All we have to do is try to treat everyone who crosses our path with respect and a willingness to radiate the goodness of God onto them. Perhaps all we have to have is a kind word ready on the tongue to bless the life of another. After all, the Bible does tell us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue . . .” (Pro. 18:21). There is power in the words we speak to others and in any encouragement we can give.
1 Thessalonians commands us to “edify one another.” That word “edify” means to build up. Or, as I like to say, to cheer on! The things we do and say in life should make people feel encouraged. It should inspire them to go on and not give up. It should show them to Whom we belong. “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another,” (Rom. 14:19). It’s looking for ways to touch the life of another through encouragement.
Lift someone else today. Send out a ray of sunshine from you to them. Let them feel the warmth of the love of God in you. Let them know that there is something special in them. And, yes, make them feel that they matter. Be an encourager today! Be a spirit lifter!
IF has been around since the beginning of humanity. IF usually comes with choice, consequence, and question. But, what if the word IF can be a statement of faith? What if the word IF can be a declaration of what you believe God can do in your life.
One of my favorite IF questions in the Bible led to a miracle occurring and the constraints of what is normally not possible being removed. IF unlocks something amazing in one man’s life, never to be repeated by another human being except for Jesus Christ. Tossed about in the waves of contrary winds, Jesus’ disciples are struggling in a boat in the middle of the sea when Jesus came to them walking on the water (see Matthew 14:22-33). After Jesus greeted the men in the boat and calmed them, Peter asked, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water,” (Matthew 14:28; italics added mine).
I believe Peter knew wholeheartedly it was Jesus since some Bible studies use the word IF as SINCE. Thus, I believe Peter’s IF is a statement of faith, even if it appeared to be an immature faith at the onset. He believed in Jesus. He believed if Jesus allowed him to, he would be able to do what is naturally impossible. He, under the direction of the Lord, could do the amazing, and walk on water.
Now, many of us are very familiar with how Peter’s story here ends. Seeing the waves his faith falters and Jesus is there to pull him up from his sinking condition and bring him back to the boat. Yet, that isn’t the part I want to focus on here. I want to focus on the power of the IF that drew him out of the boat in the first place. Where other men stayed hidden, he literally threw it all to the wind, and with the chance of a lifetime, stepped out to experience the amazing.
We can laugh at Peter and put him down, but how many of us can honestly answer that we would have gotten out of the boat also? You see, IF can be a hindrance that causes over questioning and actually act as a stumbling block for not moving forward into something wonderful. But, IF can also be the catalyst to open a door of opportunity if it is approached with the idea that something amazing can come out of taking a chance with Jesus; to move on to the waters of the unknown with my eyes on Him.
The phrase “What if?” has birthed a lot of good quotes and with good reason. In that two-worded question, we are daring to ask ourselves the question: “Do I stay in the boat or do I choose to walk on water?” We are daring to see potential in ourselves to do more than the ordinary, to do something amazing with my IF.
Where is your “IF” calling you today or even this week? What extraordinary thing may unlock for you if you take a chance with your amazing IF? I believe God gives us dreams to pursue, but it’s our faith in active pursuit of that IF that will allow the amazing to happen for us, just like it did for Peter. Jesus most certainly could have gotten to the boat without walking on water, but then Peter or any one of the other disciples would have never had the opportunity to ask and pursue something more.
Is Jesus calling you to walk on water? Is He calling you to take steps of faith in pursuit of a particular IF? If He is, keep your eyes on Him and allow Him to lead you to your amazing IF.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Oh, that thorn in the flesh syndrome. That persistent thing that seems like it will never be gone from your life. I would venture to say that most people have dealt with or are currently dealing with that one nagging thing that keeps – well, nagging you! That one thing that causes us to say, “Lord, if You would just move this one thing from my life, I would be alright.” Thorns are hurtful. They are irritating. And yes, they can get in the way of the one who wants to enjoy the blossom. There may be a beautiful rose on the end of the stem, but the thorns can hinder the full enjoyment of holding on to it.
There are times when one may be trying to enjoy the beauty of God’s promises that hurtful things may arise. As one tries to draw nearer and nearer to Him, particular thorns may make it hard to hold on. Thorns can “spring up and choke them,” Matthew 13:7. Nevertheless, despite what our outside circumstances may be telling us, we are taught that we can still live an empowered life. Though we have “infirmities” (and we all do), “grace” is still at work. Grace – that unmerited favor makes room when obstacles get in the way. And God says His grace is “sufficient.” It is enough.
There is only one man who lived in this world perfectly, and that’s our Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of us are surviving off God’s grace. We depend on it every single day though we are undeserving of it. He has empowered us through our Lord Jesus Christ to progress on this journey despite all our shortcomings. Every obstacle that we face in life is not going to go away. Oh, how I wish it would. But, what the apostle Paul is teaching us is that we can still succeed in Christ. We can still have a blessed Christian life through His power that “rest upon” us.
Have you ever played tag as a kid? Somebody tried to tag you and get you out, but you gave them the slip and got away. Have you ever, in a victorious romp, stuck your thumbs in your ears as a kid while waving your fingers and chanting, “Nana nana, boo, boo?” Paul had a victorious romp of his own. After he prayed, he realized despite all he was going through, the grace of God was still at work in his life and that it was God’s strength that was being made perfect in Paul’s weakness. Therefore, Paul confidently declared, “Most gladly… will I rather glory in my infirmities.”
Don’t you love that? Despite it all, God is still at work in us and through us. He is perfecting some stuff in us and for us, and we can rejoice with Paul. We are not rejoicing because of the trouble or hurt we experience or encounter. We are rejoicing because we believe in God’s grace, and that allows the power of Christ to rest upon us because we have yielded to Him.
The empowered life is one that yields to Him and recognizes it is His strength being perfected in us. The empowered person can still push forth knowing that God is still at work: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. The hurt may not be over or gone but it’s as if God is reminding us: “I have all you need to make through.”
Please note: Talking about empowerment can easily cause one to divert and take a humanistic view. But, I have strived to keep this God-centered. Everything we need is in Him, and when we can grab hold of that, we become truly empowered.