“Better Days are Coming!”

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9)

What do you do when you look around and all you see is a mess?  Nothing is as you’d hoped it would be.  Life all of sudden doesn’t seem to make sense.  You’re glad for where you are and what you have, but you also recognize in the midst of circumstances the discouraging realization that you still have so far to go.

Boy, if that doesn’t ring true for what many are experiencing today.  One day we went to bed and everything was normal.  Then, just as quickly, it seems we woke up to a new reality and everything was different.  Everything was harder than it was the day before.  Where there was once freedom, now a new reality of limitations and restrictions has taken over.

What does all this have to do with the above verse?  Simply this.  In the time of Zechariah’s prophecy, the children of Israel had returned home from Babylonian captivity some 15-20 years prior.  Even at this point in history, when they look around they still see nothing but the marks of destruction; they still see broken walls and broken dreams in the land, and discouragement was running rampant.

But in the midst of that discouragement, Zechariah brings a word of hope from the Lord regarding their future.

What seems to be their new reality is not all there is.  They might not understand their times of walking through the rubble and living in the ruins of their former life, but God has something – God has Someone coming on the horizon who is going to usher in the greatest story of rebuilding and restoration the world has ever seen or known.

Although God delivered His people from Babylonian captivity and brought them back to their homeland to start living and inhabiting it again, He is not as interested in their physical buildings that lay in rubble.  He is more concerned with their spiritual buildings, their hearts, that may have collected just as much dust in them as the ruins around them.

Therefore, through Zechariah’s prophecy, God focuses His people to not dwell on the mess of today, but rather, focus on the message for all the tomorrows to come.  For that’s where they and we will find hope for the future.

Zechariah lets them know better days are coming because there is a coming King like no other.  When He comes in, His appearance and riding may appear to the masses as lowly.  But this King’s reign will be a reason to rejoice in the midst of rubble and ruins.  The King’s coming would be a reason to shout because true salvation and deliverance have never been so close.  This King’s coming will be a reason to celebrate in full jubilation, and to shout, “Hosanna in the highest,” (Mark 11:8) because when He comes, victory comes with Him.  When He comes, restoration comes with Him.  When He comes, better days come with Him!

The triumphal entry of our Lord was prophesied hundreds of years before it occurred, and still brings a message of hope to us who hear it thousands of years later because it reminds us in the face of all the turmoil this world was bound up in, Jesus marched forth toward His destiny of the cross to bring more peace and victory than we could ever hope to receive on our own.   And, although things may not seem to be the way we planned or look how we envisioned, with Him as our hope and guide, we can be assured that if nothing stopped Him from moving forward into the hardest thing He would ever face just so that we all would have a better future, then nothing will stop Him now from being that source of faith that many so long for.

Even in the midst of adversity and hardship, Jesus is still riding in our lives with a message of hope and peace today.  Days and circumstances may seem discouraging, but you’re not riding through them alone.

When He came in on what we celebrate as Palm Sunday, “many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.  And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.  Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Mark 11:8-10).  But we know His story didn’t stop there.  In Zechariah’s prophecy, He is also seen as the One who subdues enemies and brings everlasting peace for His people.

When Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of riding in on the donkey He didn’t stop there for you either.  He came to usher so much more in your life and mine.  Where do you find yourself today?  For many that question may bring some very difficult answers.  Although the answers may appear difficult and we may not find an immediate solution to those answers, one thing we can do is still celebrate this day in victory, by faith,  as we would any other Palm Sunday.  We may not be in physical church buildings, gathering together and shouting the victory, but I believe where we are we can set aside some time to still proclaim, “Hosanna in the highest!” because that day was not the end of His story, neither is it the end of ours.

What we are facing today cannot diminish His promises for all our tomorrows to come.  If He already walked into the hardest thing for us, surely He will see us to a victorious ending.  It may not always feel like it, and what’s going on around us may make many sway, but rest assured, what’s going on does not have the last word.  Jesus rode in victory and through His resurrection power (which we celebrate next week for Easter Sunday), He remains victorious today and forevermore!  Therefore, even if we can’t see it right now we know that better days are coming!

So hold on, my friends.  Don’t let what you see today make you question your tomorrows.  Nobody loves you like that same Jesus who rode in to save your life and mine.  The King has come once, and He’s coming back again.  Victory is His, and victory can be yours too.  One day this will all be over (both now, and in eternity), and every promise He rode in for will come to pass (2 Corinthians 1:20).  How can it get any better than that!

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“How Blessed Are You?” | Word For Life Says

 

There is no deep thought here or great spiritual revelation, just a question, “How blessed are you?”  One day I was sitting outside and just watching the trees blow lightly in the breeze.  I was listening to one of my favorite sounds of summer, the locusts in the trees.  I felt the warmth of the sun while watching the birds busy on the branch across from me.  My mind asked me, “How blessed are you?”  It’s kind of a rhetorical question because we are soooo blessed.  Not with great material possessions or new positions of honor, but with life.  Every day we are living is a blessing from the Lord.  Every day we breathe, no matter the outcome, is a wonderful gift from God.  Every moment with our families is to be treasured no matter how much they can pluck your nerves sometimes( 🙂 ).  Every day we get to experience is a day someone else didn’t get to enjoy.  Every book we get to read is a story that’s something special.  Every blog we get to meander over is a joy of fellowship bringing together people from around the world.  Every moment, every second of every day is God saying, “I’m still here.  I still love you.  I’m still in control of it all.”

“How blessed are you?”  I’m very blessed and I don’t take one day God has given me for granted.  Everything He pours into my life is a major blessing.  As I said, no deep revelation, just a question from a very grateful heart on today.  Enjoy your blessings today!!!

 

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“True safety from all of life’s storms can only be found in God!”

True safety from all of life’s storms can only be found in God.  “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” – Psalms 91:1-2

 

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“Be Anxious for Nothing!”

How many times have “anxious” thoughts robbed us of the enjoyment of today?  How many worried days have we spent trying to control the uncontrollable?  How many times do we expend all our energies and might to solve all the world issues only feel like a wrung-out washrag at the end of the day?

Worried thoughts have a way to compel us to look to ourselves for the answers that we can’t find.  Believing that in and of ourselves we are the all end authority to all of life’s issues, at least this is what the human intellect would have us to believe.  Rather, God exhorts us over and over to rely on Him.  To come to Him in prayer and relinquish all of our cares, worries, and frustrations on Him because He cares for us.

The Lord knows what a heavy load humanity can carry.  He has felt it in His own being.  As a matter of fact, He carried it all to the cross so that we wouldn’t have to carry these burdens alone.  Yet, when push comes to shove and trials and tribulations knock on our personal doors we feel a need to answer the call and find a remedy for our problems on our own.  As a result, we struggle to find the answer to the question of why we can’t find peace in the midst of it all.

In actuality, the reason peace seems so evasive to many of us is because of our personal insistence on trying to do it on our own.  We pick up the problems that we are going through with every intention of carrying them to the altar and leaving them with Jesus.  Walking away from the altar of prayer, we pick those same problems back up feeling a need to control the outcome on our own.  As if God can’t handle our specific needs. Our humanness gets in the way of His divineness.  The limits we see on humanity are then applied to God and it gets in the way of His wonder-working power in our lives.

The way to obtain peace during these anxious moments is to give whatever is bothering us; whatever is burdening us over to the Lord and trust Him to give us His best in the situation.  After all, when it came to the matter of saving us He already gave us His best, didn’t He?  How much more difficult would it be then for Him to work out our everyday worries for us?  I believe you would agree that the two can’t compare.  So, if He was willing to do that for you and me, should we not then trust Him to do right by our anxious thoughts?

Would you rather place all of your problems in your own hands or in the hands of God?  Maybe it’s time to try something new.  Give God a shot at wrangling in the worrisome so that you can experience true peace.  Let’s get rid of the anxious for something better.

Be blessed 🙂

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“Pray, and let God worry.” – Martin Luther

 

Relax, and rest in the Lord. Pray, and release everything to God for He knows how to handle it better than we do. Rest in His peace today. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

 

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Is Reasoning Getting in the Way of Faith?

 

The age of reason.  Whether it is defined in the historical sense as the age of enlightenment the 18th century brought forth or an actual numerical age when an individual determines between right and wrong, reasoning brings with it the idea of intellect and thoughts coming together to form conclusions on certain matters.

Reasoning is not all bad.  It gives us a premise for investigating facts about the things we are thinking about and it helps us to make conscientious decisions regarding the best course of action to take; to study and be informed with the knowledge to go forth into whatever endeavor one is contemplating.

While reasoning is certainly a useful tool (and one is expected to use it every day in their life), there are some things we just think about too much.  There are some things we just analyze too much.  And, there are some things we just want to know too much about, too much (yup, I went there).

Never once in the Bible did God instruct one in their calling to go, to research what He is offering and make an informed decision of whether you agree or not, to see if everything is up to par according to our terms, and then give Him your decision.

Nope.

Our intellect, our reasoning capabilities cannot even touch the scaffolding of God’s high and holy intellect.  He said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

When God calls someone to some extraordinary feat, all He usually says is, “Go, or do.”  He doesn’t give the ins and outs of details.  He doesn’t even give the ending away of how it will all turn out.  He just gives the command and it is up to the heart of the hearer to respond positively like Isaiah did, and say, “Here am I; send me,” (Isaiah 6:8).  With total abandon, he offered himself to God for His holy service.

Today, it is not so common for one to be as generous in their faith and obedient in their walk with Him; to let go and follow through without a certain amount of reasoning involved.  We want clarity on all the if’s, when’s, what’s, how’s, where’s, why’s, and who’s that are involved.

But, this quote really struck me as powerful.  It says, “The more you go with the flow of life and surrender the outcome to God, and the less you seek constant clarity, the more you will find that fabulous things start to show up in your life,” (Mandy Hale).  And, in a moment of personal confession, I realized when it came to certain things, that’s exactly what I was doing: seeking more clarity.  I wanted questions answered or I reasoned within myself with my personal “know-how” of why it wasn’t feasible for me to do such and such.  That outlook got in the way of just stepping out in faith and going or doing.

When Jesus called Peter to come on the water with Him, Peter didn’t question.  He just went (Matthew 14:28-29).  When God called Abraham to leave his homeland without even knowing where he was going, “Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him,” (Genesis 12:1-4).  There are oodles of examples in the Bible of people who just go or do with faith as their only method of reasoning (see Hebrews 11 for some examples).

Faith is most perfectly defined in God’s written Word where it says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1).  But, clarity and reasoning beckon for the “substance” to be uncovered and the “evidence” to be exposed.  And, that’s not what a true faith walk is all about.

Whatever side we are leaning on determines if we are letting our reasoning, and our desire to know, get in the way of our faith.

I don’t know about you, but I want to see the wonderful happen.  I know that God has so much more in store for His people.  But, we must not be our own greatest hindrance.  When human reasoning comes before Him, it must bow down, and we must walk forth in faith.  We will never see the fabulous until we stop reasoning ourselves out of faith.

“Who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.” (Hebrews 11:33-35)

Imagine what your faith can do if you unleash it today!

 

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“Plant Kindness”

“Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesian 4:32)

Is kindness a lost art?  The world, with its troubles and woes, has hardened so many.  Where is the tenderhearted?  Where are those who will show compassion to their brother and sister?  Where are those who forward their rights to let another pass freely?

Kindness is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) not grown on many trees these days.  A fruit forgotten in the “go get’m” mentality of many.

But kindness, if properly nourished, can transform lives and branch out beyond the individual.  Its seeds can blow in the wind and land on others, causing this precious fruit to plant, root, and grow farther than before, taking over the land of darkness to show His marvelous light.

Be kind.  Let tenderness grow where hardness tries to invade.  Give space for love to flourish.

Remember, you have been forgiven, dear friend.  The ultimate gift of kindness has been extended to your very soul.  Sow worthy fruit of that great gift.  Sow fruit that will last into eternity.  Sow fruit that will gain a heart to know Him through you.  Sow fruit that lets another know they are loved, they matter, and they, too, are important.

The flourishing of kindness makes a greater impact than the ugly fruit of hatefulness.

The sprouting of kindness pokes its head out of dismal soil, and says, “Friend, I see you as a person and I care about you.”

When kindness grows to be the biggest tree in all the forest, it overshadows and outshines everything else and shows others this is how we stand, live, and love.

What you plant today will grow tomorrow.  Why not plant something beautiful?  Plant kindness.

 

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Sunday School Lesson – “Count it All Joy!” James 1:1-12

VERSE DISCOVERY: James 1:1-12 (KJV, Public Domain)

What do you do when life doesn’t seem to want to play fair?  When all the boxes don’t check off in all the right places and everything seems out of whack – what do you do?

For some, remaining optimistic during trials is harder than others.  Firstly, every trial that every individual person deals with is not the same.  Some things that may be troubling to one, but in reality, is only a minor inconvenience and annoyance, to others, they may be battling tooth and nail to keep their head above the water of the adversity they are facing.

Then, we have each person’s natural dispositions on how they specifically handle tumultuous events.  Where one sees the dark clouds others can readily point out the silver lining.

For those whom James was addressing in his letter, he knew they were being hounded by real troubles and not just a matter of inconvenience.  He knew of the hardships and oppression they were experiencing.  Yet, through it all, he wanted these believers to focus on the positive fruit all the things they were experiencing in their life could produce.

Let Patience Have Her Perfect Work

James 1:1-4 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.  My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

This “James”, who addresses himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” is supposed by many to be the actual brother of our Lord Jesus Christ.  While Jesus was going about fulfilling His earthly ministry, his brothers were not part of those who supported that ministry (see John 7:3-5).  As a matter of fact, it is supposed that it wasn’t until after he had seen the risen Lord for himself, that James, the natural, half-brother of Jesus Christ, believed and became a follower and a leader in the early church (1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:14).

Which is why he is writing this letter “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”  As a leader in the early church (Galatians 2:9; Acts 15:13-22), his care for members of the body of Christ is evident in the time and care he takes to write to them about their personal growth in the Lord, the discipline of the faith, conducting personal behaviors pleasing to the Lord, and yes, remaining hopeful in the midst of it all.

In this section of Scripture, James didn’t downplay the suffering some were experiencing.  Rather, he encouraged them to remain focused on what truly matters.  Therefore, he begins this letter by admonishing then to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”

“Count it all joy” – when you really think about that statement, it’s naturally a very difficult thing to do.  It’s very similar to the Apostle Paul’s teaching to which he says, “In every thing give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Those words “all” and “every thing” can encompass a great many circumstances.  Circumstances that wouldn’t need encouragement to remain joyful and thankful if they weren’t adverse.  Nobody needs to be encouraged to be happy when they are already happy.  It’s when things become hard and unbearable that leaders such as James try to cheer them on to see that silver lining in a dark cloud.

James goes on to say, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” or, various trials.  You know what, I have given birth to four different children and each labor experience was different.  Some were scary, some were painful, some were eventful, while others were uneventful.  No two were alike.  Each one was different.  During one, I thought I was going to lose that baby, and during one, my own health was compromised.

But life is like that.  The degrees and variables surrounding each hardship are unique to that particular time, place, situation, and person.  They all don’t come packed in the same neat packaging, for if they did, we could really prepare our actions and reactions to each case.  Trials come looking and feeling many ways and sometimes it’s hard getting a grip on it all and adjusting one’s mindset to see the positive.

But James didn’t focus on the many things people see, feel, and experience now.  He focused on the many things it would produce.

First, he said, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”  If you have ever exercised with resistance bands, you know how difficult it can be.  You are using your own body’s strength, be it little or big, to purposely add pressure and pull to an already hard work out.

The “trying of our faith” is working for us, for our good, even though it seems to be opposing us.  That which is hard to deal with is actually teaching us in a way that an easy path, with no resistance, ever could.  It is producing in us virtues and spiritual fruit (Romans 5:3-6) that really will have no way of growing in us if it were not for the adverse circumstances we become occasionally planted in.

Here, in James’ teaching, he is showing them the flip side of what they are feeling.  He’s showing them that what they are going through, those things that feel like they are wearing their faith down, is actually producing “patience” in them.  This patience is all about endurance.  One will never know how to go through hardships and stand if they have never been given the opportunity to exercise that faith and endure.

We read about Bible characters and their stories, and we think, oh, put me in the lion’s den, or let me at Goliath, or some other situation alike, and I know what to do because the Bible tells us what they did.  When reading the lives in these stories, we must not become desensitized to the power and faith it took for an individual to keep remaining true to their faith despite a death threat or to face a monster of a man on the battlefield.  Until we have our own Nebuchadnezzar to stand before with the resolve to refuse to bow and worship a false image, no matter how hot the situation was getting, we will never know what it’s like to endure trials such as these that build our faith unless we go through it for ourselves.

“But let patience have her perfect work.”  If you want to grow and produce things conducive to strong faith, then let that same patience work it out in you.  Every Christian should strive for mature, tested, and tried fruit of these spiritual disciplines to be produced in their life.

Every day we should want to do better and to be better, but a lot of that will never come to be unless we work at letting “patience have her perfect work.”  Then, will we grow, being “perfect and entire, wanting nothing” in the development of our Christian character, now being ripe fruit, fit for the Master’s use.

Ask in Faith and Don’t Waver

James 1:5-8 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

“Faith” is a key factor in this opening of James’ letter.  In the trying and in the producing, faith comes to the forefront of a must-have list.

“Wisdom” is needed in so many areas of life.  Proper wisdom is needed all the more when facing opposition.  Wisdom is one of the best tools one should have in their arsenal when navigating or combatting trying times.

Previously I wrote,

“Strength and weapons are carnal devices that depend on fleshly know-how and might.  Often these are the first resources that man runs to in times of difficulty and adversity.  Wisdom is dependent upon God.  ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction,’ Proverbs 1:7.

Would it not be more prudent in the days of trials to follow the path of wisdom whose Author is God?” (Wisdom is Better/Word for Life Says).

James said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.”  It is very possible to be in the midst of contentions and not know what to do or how to respond.  God has opened Himself up to us to receive what we need to succeed in this Christian journey.  The Apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ original disciples, wrote, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3; emphasis mine) and that includes wisdom.  God gives it to the one who asks, but when he or she asks, it must be done in “faith.”

Faith supports faith.  The one here, who is in a trial and dealing with contentions because of their faith, are to ask in faith, of the Father, for the proper wisdom of how to continue forward in their faith while going through.

Steadfast, believing faith is necessary for every aspect of our Christian walk.  To “waver” in that is to sway in that belief and in the one who is the Author of that belief.

James gives the picture of this one being “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”  I love the ocean.  I love the beach.  When vacationing, it’s one of my favorite places to visit.  One of the things I most enjoy while there is standing on the shoreline and watching the waves come in and go out.  The ebb and flow of the waters are always moving, never still, and never steady.

While beautiful to look at in nature, in our Christian character that’s not what we’re looking for.  We want to be rooted and grounded in what we believe and whom we believe – that He is able to answer our prayers and give us the wisdom we need.  To shun that, through not asking in faith, is to shun the benefits one would have received otherwise.

James warns, “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”  Too many are living the faith they profess to have without living in complete faith and assurance in the “Lord.”  It may be possible for people to live in compliance with regulations of the faith and have the spirit of faith missing.

This one has a divided mindset.  James considers them to be a “double minded man” who is “unstable in all his ways.”  If he or she can’t get off the fence here, before the very foundation of their faith, when praying and asking of God, other areas of life are guaranteed to be constantly shifting and fluctuating as well, being blown about in uncertainty.

But for the one, who in complete faith, is asking God for wisdom, God will give it “liberally” and “it shall be given him.”  Wow!  What a promise!

Endure, There is an Eternal Reward

James 1:9-12 “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.  For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.  Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter.  Everyone will experience trials.  And, everyone can be taught valuable lessons through those trials.  All social classes and backgrounds can find joy during times of adversity.

How is that?

James explains it like this.  For the poor, or him of “low degree,” such a one can “rejoice in that he is exalted.”  This one’s “right now status” does not determine their joy in life.

It is easy to see the ones without… without as much as others, without as many financial resources, without proper education, and anything else this world stores up as markers for success and happiness.

This one may think he is justified in being sullen, withdrawn, and living a pity-party lifestyle that no one wants to attend.  Contrarily, James points out the opposite.  Regardless of what he has or didn’t have; no matter how others view his lowliness, or even how he views himself, James declares that joy and rejoicing should still be found in his heart because of the God whom he has placed his trust in, and not his haves and have nots.

In this, too, he can “rejoice.”  When it’s all said and done, when he parts from this world, it is God who will “exalt” him to the things he has never seen with human eyes or even imagined (compare 1 Corinthians 2:9).  He may not have as much as another, but in his trials and temptations, he can still count it all joy!

When Jesus was teaching the Beatitudes, at the end of all those “blessed are” statements that would point out circumstances in which one wouldn’t normally find joy in, Jesus speaks these words: “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven,” (Matthew 5:12).  His comments were spoken in relation to being persecuted, something James’ readers are all too familiar with, yet, what He points out is that even in that hardship, Jesus Himself said, “Rejoice!”

And, He wasn’t teaching anything contrary to what He Himself was not willing to do.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”

As those who are linked to Him in faith, James said every believer can count it all joy no matter their privileged or underprivileged status and life.

And the “rich” are to remember, in humility, that though they may have a lot right now, their days are moving just as fast as anyone else’s in this lifespan each of us has been allotted.  Life is a vapor, here today, gone tomorrow (James 4:14).

“As the flower of the grass he shall pass away.”  Riches cannot increase his time or secure him a better end.  He, too, must depend on the same salvation, the same saving grace, as one who may be without and lacking.  The businesses, the homes, the money – nothing he has accumulated in this life will account for anything in eternity.  Outside of Christ, low or high, rich or poor, we are all nothing.

So, when this one faces trials and temptations, he too can count it all joy for he is made keenly aware that his days and life here are very brief.  That awareness brings him “low”; it centers and focuses him on what matters the most.

Both types of trials and temptations are a gift for they both, whether for the rich or poor, should keep us before the Lord in humility and dependence.  Not a one has a reason to glory in his own flesh or circumstances.  Before God, it’s the heart of the man that matters the most.  Not what he has or doesn’t have.

James adds, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.”  Counting it all joy is not because we have avoided temptations and trials from ever happening to us.  Counting it all joy for the blessedness that is ours for enduring the times of testing they brought.

Even Jesus was tried, tested, and tempted.  Hebrews reminds us again, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” (Hebrews 4:15).

Endure!

Let patience have her perfect work!  Because in the end, when the trials and trying times are all over with, that one that was “tried” and endured with faith intact through it – that one “shall receive the crown of life.”

Now, that’s real success.  That’s the real goal.  That’s the real reason to be happy when troubles just won’t seem to let up.

At one point or another, and many times in between, we are all going to be touched by the finger of adversity.  But, as the Word of God declares, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,” (Matthew 24:13).

Don’t lose your joy!  There is a “crown of life” waiting for you with your name on it.  We are going through and enduring because there is a prize laid up for us at the end of this race (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Your running is not in vain.  Your joy is not in vain.  The “Lord” has “promised” this wonderful gift “to them that love him.”

it is spoken.  It is written.  It is ours if we remain in our holy joy and keep pushing for it and not giving up.

The opposite of the joy we are called to have is words like misery, sadness, and the like.  When one keeps swimming in the pools of these waters, they will soon feel overcome by the displeasure found there, let go of their grip, and drown.

Life may not be perfect but maintaining your spiritual joy will keep you buoyant in the murkiest of waters.

So, count it all joy!

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Count it All Joy

Suggested Activities:

Lesson Lead In/Happy or Sad Activity: Print out one happy face and one sad face (you can just do one set for the teacher or multiple sets so that each student can have their own). Attach the faces to craft sticks. Prepare a list of things that might make one happy or sad (finding money, losing a tooth, receiving an unexpected gift, losing a puppy, etc.). Ask the class, using the faces, to show how each thing listed would make them feel, and why? Then ask, Is it possible to feel joy even in sad times? (Give them space to answer.)

Use this as a lead in to the lesson. Say, James wrote to people during a very hard time in life and one of the things he did was encouraged them to count it all joy. This concept is difficult for some adults to grasp, let alone children. Let them know a Christian’s joy is never based on the goodness of their circumstances. Rather, their joy is based on the goodness of God, who will give us the wisdom we need to make it through hard times.

Frown Upside Down Craft: Make your own frowning face that can be turned upside down to make a smiling face. If you don’t know how to do this, search the internet for great examples. Use this as a supplement to the lesson Count it All Joy.

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Count it All Joy

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Count it All Joy

Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages (These pages are great to use with the other journaling exercise provided in the PEARL lesson packet or to use to bring out any other area of the lesson you choose to focus on.  Enjoy!)

Draw the Scene: Count it All Joy Draw the Scene

Word Search: Count it All Joy Word Search  Answers: Count it All Joy Word Search Answers

Crossword: Count it All Joy Crossword  Answers: Count it All Joy Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Count it All Joy Word Scramble  Answers: Count it All Joy Word Scramble Answers 

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God Gets Personal!

 

Omnipresent and personal, those words are kind of an oxymoron, don’t you think?  Yet, that’s what God is known as.  He is never kept within the walls of the status quo erected by the human mindset anyways.

Yes, omnipresent (everywhere at the same time) and personal (individually based)  are contradictory in the finite statement of the human mind, but not in the loving nature of God.  When we think of omnipresent we think of God’s work as being far-reaching.  He can extend His love, power, and authority through an infinite number of channels to touch an infinite number of lives all at the same time.  Yet, the heart and life of each individual soul are precious to Him.  You and I are a special creation to Him.  Fashioned uniquely.  Designed particularly to be you.  And, loved personally.

This is a role only God can fill.  He can govern the universe while at the same time lean in close to hear from you; paying special attention to just you.

So, if you feel lost in the vastness of all that is going on in your world today, be encouraged.  The same God that is running everything also has His eyes focused on you personally.  The same God that is everywhere all at once is reaching specifically to your heart.  And, there He gets personal with you.

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“Dear God, You are wonderful!”

Have you ever had those moments in life when you couldn’t really articulate the heart, but just the simplest of phrases seem to come to the forefront of your mind.

One of those moments just hit me, and all I could think was, “Dear God, You are wonderful!”

You see, many thoughts come through our heads, and it’s literally when we start thinking of all that He has done for us, for this new day that He brought us through to see, and all the beautiful stuff in between, all my mind and my heart could say was, “Dear God, You are wonderful!”

Moments like that hit every Christian during their days and journeys on this earth.  Moments of reflection that cause us to spout in adoration the appreciation we feel for Him. The psalms are written because the hearts of individuals have been touched in a way that only God can touch them and their soul couldn’t help but tell of the goodness they found in Him, and inspire others through their words, songs, prayers, and recountings of His moving in their lives.

My soul takes joy when I read that the Lord will hear when I call (Psalm 4:3) and that He has set the godly apart for Himself.  When I read simple words that tell me He is my shield (Psalm 3:3), I feel so loved and protected under the safety of His refuge (see also Psalm 17:8).  When Your Word tells me, “Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies…” (Psalm 23:5), a tear of joyfulness comes in the midst of the concerns of my heart.  My times are truly in Your hands (Psalm 31:15) and over and over again in Your Word, Your goodness, love, and mercy show me just how valued I am in Your sight.

I really could go through His Word in the psalms and throughout this Holy Book and find reason after reason to say, “Dear God, You are wonderful!”

Nonetheless, today I will not allow my praise to be restricted.  Even if I have nothing magnanimous or grandiose to say according to others, I know that God loves to hear from His children, and I want to tell my beautiful Heavenly Father, “Dear God, You are wonderful!”

Copyright © Word For Life Says.com (Sharing any posts or lessons can only be done through the share buttons provided on this site from the original posts, lessons, and articles only. You can reblog from the original posts only using the reblog button provided, or share using the share buttons provided from these social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, etc., and they must be shared from the original posts only. All other repostings are prohibited. Posts and other items of interest found on this site may not be copied and pasted, downloaded, uploaded, etc to another website or entity not listed (physical or electronic). See COPYRIGHT PAGE for more details.