Week 10: Day 4
Week 10: Day 3
Week 10: Day 2
Week 10: Day 1
Memorial Day Devotion
Week 9: Day 5
Correction Not Rejection
Proverbs 22:1 (NIV)
A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about wealth and riches. But Proverbs 22:1 tells us that a “good name” is even better.
Developing a good name is so important in life. Remember, much of Proverbs is presented as a loving father who wants to teach his children wisdom. So, teaching your kids the importance of a good name is vital.
That’s why Proverbs 22:6 says: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” You have to teach your children to develop character and to have a good name. They’re not born that way.
In fact, your children are born with a sinful nature. Their hearts are naturally foolish. That’s why the parents’ role to discipline and train their children is so important. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Discipline is a common theme throughout the book. Proverbs 19:18 tells us: “Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.” This verse tells us that when we discipline our children, we actually give them hope. When we fail to discipline, we actually end up playing a part in their destruction. (Let that verse sink in.)
PROVERBS PRINCIPLE: Discipline is loving and good.
This principle is counter-cultural today. Our culture wants to say your kids are good, they are precious, and they were created for a purpose. That is true to a degree, but it’s only one half of the truth. The other side is that they were born with a heart that needs correction and training.
If you are a parent, it’s your job to train your child and teach them that discipline is not bad. Correction is not rejection. But to receive discipline is to receive help and hope.
If you’re a parent, spend a moment asking God: Is there an area that I need to be more consistent in disciplining my child? What should I do?
Ask God to help you in this area. Ask for wisdom. Turn to others in your Small Group for advice and support. Remember, you are training up your child. Discipline paves the way for a future filled with hope.
Week 9: Day 4
Weighing the Heart
Proverbs 21:2-3 (NIV)
2 A person may think their own ways are right,
but the Lord weighs the heart.
3 To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
Have you ever done a Google search for “life hacks”? You can learn quick fixes for common problems and even watch YouTube videos to show you how. Life hacks are great. But the book of Proverbs is more than a life hack book.
Last week we talked about how you can apply the advice in Proverbs to your life and get positive results. It’s is an incredibly practical book that simply works. But true wisdom is built out of a relationship with God.
Today’s verses remind us that we can put the advice of Proverbs into practice, but God still weighs our hearts. He sees the motives behind what we do. God isn’t into outward obedience, He’s into a heart-change on the inside.
For all the parents out there, here’s a great parenting lesson: Principles without relationship lead to rebellion. Principles for the sake of principles are not sustainable. We can only live out obedience in the long run by having our hearts changed.
PROVERBS PRINCIPLE: Obedience flows from a relationship with God.
Proverbs 21:21 says: “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” We must pursue God’s righteousness. We pursue a real relationship with God—that is where we find wisdom and true blessing.
I’m so glad that Proverbs is not a self-help book. It doesn’t offer quick-fixes or life hacks. Rather, the book gets to the true heart of the matter.
We don’t live these Proverbs principles outside of a relationship with God. In fact, the only way to live them long term is by pursuing God.
Spend a few moments today asking God: What’s in my heart? Is there any place in my heart where You need to work?
Surrender those places to God. Ask Him to speak to you and reveal Himself to you. When God weighs your heart, it affects how you live forever.
Week 9: Day 3
Proverbs 20:10 (NIV)
Differing weights and differing measures—
the Lord detests them both.
Proverbs 20:23 (NIV)
The Lord detests differing weights,
and dishonest scales do not please him.
Proverbs 20 tells us two times that God detests differing weights and scales. The word “detests” is especially strong. Think of something that you detest—not just something you casually dislike or that annoys you.
I think if the Bible tells us that God detests something, we should listen.
What does God detest? God detests dishonest gain.
When Proverbs talks about weights, measures, and scales, it’s referring to economic transactions. When people would exchange money or weigh produce, they would use scales to weigh and measure the amounts. It was not uncommon for merchants to falsely “weight” their scales for an unfair advantage.
The Bible says this is not only wrong but foolish. Verse 17 says, “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.” In other words, dishonest gain may work in the short term, but it has devastating consequences in the long term.
PROVERBS PRINCIPLE: Character and integrity produce long-term blessings.
Your character matters. There are no short cuts in life. No one who cheats others gets ahead. You might get ahead temporarily, but eventually, it will catch up to you. What’s more, when you gain dishonestly, you set yourself up against God. That’s intense. But when we treat others with honesty and integrity, we gain trust and favor with God and man.
Take a moment today to ask God: Is there any area I have not operated with complete integrity and honesty? What do I need to do about it?
Here’s the good news: Building character is not a matter of your will—it’s something that Jesus works in you. Salvation is something from the inside out. Spend a few minutes to examine your heart. Ask God to reveal any areas of character you need to grow in, and—here’s the best part—ask God to help you grow in those areas. He is already there and willing to help.
Week 9: Day 2
Generosity Opens Doors
Proverbs 19:6 (NIV)
Many curry favor with a ruler,
and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about generosity. Today’s verse talks about the power of generosity to open doors and gain favor. It’s such a simple yet profound principle.
Now to be clear, this verse is not saying that we should give gifts with improper motives. We aren’t looking to bribe others or to buy friends. We don’t give to selfishly seek a return. That’s manipulation. But when we are generous, with sincere motives, then there is a reward.
I find a lot of the Bible lives with this positive tension. For example, we don’t serve God to have a good life. Yet, one of the benefits of serving God and living His way is that He blesses us. We don’t give in order to receive, yet generosity brings blessing. The tension is resolved in our motives.
I think verse 22 also provides some balance here: “What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.” Everyone desires unconditional love. When we give our love to others—whether it’s through giving gifts, time, or service—we touch people at their deepest level. The second part of the verse emphasizes that our character is more important than wealth. Being true in everything we do, is of the utmost importance.
PROVERBS PRINCIPLE: Generosity gains favor.
Give yourself to others, not out of selfish motives but from unfailing love. When you do, it will unlock doors and bring favor to your life.
What if you looked for opportunities every day to bless others? How can you be a blessing to someone else today? How can you help someone become everything God has called them to be? Ultimately this is about getting outside of yourself and becoming others-focused.
Take a moment to ask God this question: Who is someone I can bless today, and what can I do to help them?
I promise you, if you’ll do this every day, you will become a blessing to others, and it will open doors in your life.
Week 9: Day 1
Proverbs 18 – Speaking from the Heart
The book of Proverbs is often depicted as a wise father imparting wisdom to his children. The idea is that the father wants his children to succeed in life.
If you want to succeed in life, start by reading a chapter of Proverbs every day. The book includes 31 chapters, so it’s a great book to read through in a month. Since today is May 18, we’re going to look at Proverbs 18, and then cover one chapter each day. My desire is that you might continue reading through Proverbs every day, even after these Daily Word devotionals have concluded.
You’ll find that each chapter in Proverbs contains multiple nuggets of wisdom. There are different topics and themes that are covered. The theme of our speech is found throughout much of chapter 18. Take a look at this verse on how we speak.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
The Proverbs principle in this verse is this: How we speak affects our lives and our closest relationships. It’s no wonder that Proverbs 18:22 is also found in this chapter: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”
You see, our marriage relationship and our closest relationships are all affected by our words. Proverbs 18:21 says that “the power of life and death” is in the tongue.
What if you began speaking words of life to the people closest to you? What if you saw your relationships as a source of God’s favor? How would that change the dynamic of your life?
How to Speak Words of Life
The Bible teaches that your words flow out of the abundance of your heart (Luke 6:45). If you want to speak words of life, you have to have a heart change. The good news is that Jesus can help with that!
Let’s spend a few minutes today surrendering our speech to God. Ask Jesus to change your heart, so that the words that come out are uplifting to others. This has the power to change the entire dynamic of your life.
Week 8: Day 5
Wisdom: Get Some
Proverbs 4:1-8 (NIV)
1 Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
2 I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.
3 For I too was a son to my father,
still tender, and cherished by my mother.
4 Then he taught me, and he said to me,
“Take hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands, and you will live.
5 Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
8 Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
9 She will give you a garland to grace your head
and present you with a glorious crown.”
Proverbs 4 begins with a picture, again, of a father imparting wisdom to his children. The picture moves us because it evokes the love, care, and compassion a father has for his children. It also paints a picture of God the Father and His heart for us. God wants to teach us His wisdom.
The idea of the passage is that more than anything else in life, what you want most is wisdom. More than wealth, more than success, more than anything—get wisdom. It’s vital.
Notice verse 7. It’s one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible. It’s so simplistic in its truth:
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
The starting place for wisdom is this: get some! If you don’t have wisdom, you need some. Even if it costs you everything, it’s worth it.
How about you?
We all start somewhere. It doesn’t matter how much of the Bible you know already, there’s always more to learn. There’s more of God to discover. Whether you are brand new in your faith, or you’ve been saved for years, we all have the same responsibility to seek God, to learn wisdom, and to grow. It begins with reading His Word every day.
What we’ve learned so far this week in the book of Proverbs is to avoid pride, and don’t be foolish. Don’t let pride keep you from learning what is right. And don’t be foolish. Don’t think wisdom is unimportant. Seek wisdom. Posture yourself to learn from God. When you do, you will discover so much blessing and reward.
Week 8: Day 4
Trust and Submission
Proverbs 3:1-10 contains such rich teachings. The entire passage is governed by the idea that we need to trust God and submit to Him. Let’s look at each verse together.
The passage begins in verses 1-2, saying, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.” Here we see the heart of a wise father wanting to impart wisdom to his son. There are promises for those who learn God’s ways: long life, peace, and prosperity.
Verses 3-4 continue, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” It’s interesting how these verses tie “love and faithfulness” together. I’ve found that many people are good at being loving, or they’re naturally good at being faithful. But combining both takes effort. When you can love, serve, and care about others, and be faithful and diligent in everything you do, then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
Verses 5-6 are some of the most recognized verses in the Bible: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” The difficult part here is trusting and submitting. Notice the verses say to trust God with “all your heart” and submit to God in “all your ways.” There are no half-measures here. You have to go all-in with God. It’s saying, “God I want to do things your way, not mine,” even when it doesn’t make sense.
What’s the greatest hindrance to trusting God like that? Pride. That’s why verse 7 instructs us, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” We have to fight the tendency to do things our own way. Instead, we humbly come to God and seek His wisdom.
When we do, there are benefits to walking in God’s wisdom. Verse 8 says, “This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” When you obey God, it even helps you to live physically healthy. Verses 9-10 tell us about the financial benefits of stewarding your resources the right way: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
So, what’s the point of all these verses? The overall theme in these verses is trusting God and submitting to His ways. When we do, we receive His blessing.
Let me ask you, in what areas of your life do you need to trust God today? Is there an area you need to submit to Him? Let me encourage you when you do, you will find so much blessing and peace on the other side. Trust and submit, and let the Lord lead you today.
Week 8: Day 3
Wisdom: Gift, Guide, and Guard
Proverbs 2:6-12a (NIV)
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
9 Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men…
Proverbs 2:6 gives us a remarkable truth: “The Lord gives wisdom.” You see, wisdom is something we receive from God. It flows out of a relationship with Him.
The Gift of Wisdom
You could read the book of Proverbs without having any relationship with God, and you could still learn. You could still apply the wisdom of Proverbs to your life and reap benefits from it. But to truly receive wisdom and to live life according to God’s ways, you have to know God. Wisdom is a gift that He gives.
The Benefits of Wisdom
When you read the rest of this passage, you realize that wisdom is not only a gift from God, but there are benefits from receiving God’s wisdom. His wisdom is a guide and a guard for your life.
Wisdom as a Guide – Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know what to do? You needed wisdom to help make the right decision. Much of Proverbs has to do with direction. When you have a relationship with God, He helps direct your paths.
Wisdom as a Guard – Another benefit of wisdom is that it protects you from danger and the pitfalls in life. When you know God’s ways, when you understand His truth and what He values, it protects you from going down the wrong path. It guards you against making destructive decisions.
Let me ask you a question: In what areas of your life do you need guidance or protection today? Come to God, and ask Him for wisdom. He wants to meet you right where you are. It flows out of a relationship with Him.
Week 8: Day 2
Proverbs: Four Types of People
Proverbs 1:1-6 (NIV)
1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2 for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
4 for giving prudence to those who are simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young—
5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—
6 for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.
Proverbs 1:1-6 tells us that the book is a collection of “proverbs,” or wise sayings, from King Solomon and other wise people in Israel. If you remember, God came to King Solomon in a dream one night and told him to ask for anything. Solomon asked for wisdom, and his request greatly pleased God. So, God gave Solomon wisdom and blessed him in many other ways (See 1 Kings 3:4-15 and 2 Chronicles 1:7-12).
Verse 2 says the purpose of the book is to teach “wisdom and instruction.” The entire book has the feel of a wise father or mother, imparting wisdom to a younger son or daughter.
The most important thing you can give someone is wisdom, but you can’t make them value wisdom. So, the start of the book repeatedly emphasizes the value of wisdom.
Four Types of People
Proverbs continually talks about four types of people.
- The Wise are not perfect but have a humble posture, ready to learn. They continue to grow in God’s understanding.
- The Foolish are prideful and don’t value God’s instruction, often choosing their own way.
- The Uninformed simply have not been exposed to God’s truth. They don’t know what’s right or wrong. (As a side note, there is good news: The uninformed can be cured by learning wisdom.)
- The Wicked are actively antagonistic to God and His ways. They have become enemies of God. They are not just headed in the wrong direction, but they intentionally try to take others with them.
This may seem obvious, but we want to be wise. We want to be people who know God’s ways and follow His instructions. As we embark on our study through Proverbs, set your heart to receive God’s truth. Embrace a posture of humility, and ask God to teach you His truth.
Week 8: Day 1
The Beginning of Wisdom
Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
This week, we’re starting a study through the book of Proverbs in the Daily Word. Proverbs is an incredibly practical book. Any time you read through it, you’re struck with how real and full of wisdom it is, even for today.
Understanding the genre of Proverbs is important. It is part of the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. The Old Testament was originally divided into three sections: The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings, which included Wisdom Literature.
The Torah (or Law) is the first five books of the Bible. It gives laws to govern God’s people and teach them how to live and worship.
The Prophets continually call the people of Israel back to the Torah.
The Writings help people apply the Torah to their everyday lives. The point of Wisdom Literature is to help us understand how to live.
Proverbs 1:7 could be seen as the thesis statement for the book. In it, the writer lays out two key themes: wisdom and foolishness.
Proverb’s Themes: Wisdom & Foolishness
The verse starts by saying, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” This tells us that if we want knowledge, if we desire to be wise, then the starting place is fearing God.
What is the fear of the Lord? The Bible teaches us that God is our loving Father, and perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). So, the fear of the Lord cannot mean being scared of God. It certainly doesn’t mean we should be afraid to come to God.
Yet, we need to have a healthy, reverential fear of God. This means recognizing that He is God, not us, and submitting to His authority. Doing that is the beginning of wisdom.
If the first theme of Proverbs has to do with gaining wisdom, the second theme is it’s antithesis—how to avoid foolishness. Verse 7 warns that the fool despises wisdom and instruction. We will look at both of these themes over the coming days.
Let’s begin our study today by doing what verse 7 says. Take a moment to say a prayer to God and submit yourself to His authority. Posture your heart to learn from Him so you may be filled with His wisdom.
Week 7: Day 5
Where Contentment Comes From
Philippians 4:12-13, 19 (NIV)
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength…. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
We’re closing out our study of Philippians today with some of the most recognized verses in the entire Bible. We’ve been talking about how to stay encouraged in the face of life’s challenges. And today’s passage deals with the area of contentment.
There’s a lot of overlap between joy and contentment. It’s hard to have one without the other. What I like about these verses is what Paul links His contentment to. It’s not based on external circumstances. In fact, Paul says he’s learned the “secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” So, it’s not Paul’s outward condition that makes Him content. It’s something deeper; it’s something on the inside.
In many ways, this passage sums up everything we’ve been talking about in our study. Joy isn’t something you find when everything in life aligns perfectly. Joy is something you have on the inside, because of a relationship with Jesus.
The secret to Paul’s contentment is found here, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” This is one of the most recognized verses in all of Scripture. Of course, this verse could apply to many situations, but I find it interesting that Paul applies it to the area of contentment.
How can you find contentment and joy, even when life isn’t going the way you want? Jesus gives you the strength to be content.
Finally, verse 19 sums up everything with a powerful promise, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”
Where Does Your Contentment Come From?
I want to make this practical today. God’s Word tells you that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. His Word says that He will meet every need that you have. So, let me ask you a couple of questions:
- Do you believe these verses?
- Do you believe you can experience contentment and joy outside of your circumstances?
When you know that your God will supply all your needs, it brings a contentment and a joy that you can’t find anywhere else. When you tap into Jesus’ strength, you can live a life of encouragement, contentment, and peace. Turn to God today. Find His strength. He is what you’re looking for.
Week 7: Day 4
Thinking About Your Thoughts
Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Yesterday, we talked about how to experience God’s peace in every situation. Paul tells us to rejoice always, thank God, and bring our problems to Him. Today, we’re going to look at some of Paul’s most practical advice on how to experience God’s peace in your life.
Notice the key phrase in verses 8-9, “think about such things.” That’s it. If you’re going to experience God’s peace and joy, it starts with your thoughts.
Let me ask you some questions to help you here: What are you thinking about most often? What are the thoughts that dominate your mind? Are your thoughts negative or positive? Are your thoughts filled with worries and fears, or do you think about what God’s Word says?
What you think about affects your entire life. It affects how you feel, what you say, and how you act. So, your thoughts are important.
How to Discipline Your Thought Life
How can we grow in this area? You have to begin to discipline your thought life. You have to gain a “thinking maturity.” Here’s how. Every thought you have, run it through this filter:
- Is it true?
- Does it align with God’s Word?
- Is it right?
- Is it pure?
- Is it lovely?
- Is it profitable?
- Does it honor God?
If your thoughts don’t fit these categories, then you have to take those thoughts captive. You don’t allow those thoughts to continue filling your mind.
Now, you might say, “I don’t know if I can do that.” Here’s the good news: That’s why God gave us the Holy Spirit. One of the Holy Spirit’s main jobs is to teach you truth. He can help you discern when your thoughts are right or not. And one of His other main jobs is to empower you to make good decisions. So, you can rely on the Holy Spirit’s help to discipline your thought life.
God wants to give you His peace. But His peace is conditional. It takes discipline. You have to think about what you’re thinking about and rely on the Holy Spirit for help. When you learn how to think right, you’ll experience God’s peace.
Week 7: Day 3
The Peace of God
Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The book of Philippians is about encouragement, and in chapter 4, Paul begins to bring his letter to a close. In verse 4, he sums up the message of the entire letter by saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
What a powerful and challenging verse. Notice that the word “always” does not have any qualifications. Paul doesn’t say, “Rejoice in the Lord when everything is great,” or, “Rejoice in the Lord when you feel like it.” No, in every situation, Paul exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord. And just in case we miss it, he doubles down and repeats himself.
You might say, “I don’t think I can rejoice always.” And you’re right. We don’t have the ability in and of ourselves to rejoice in every situation. That’s why Paul says we must rejoice “in the Lord.” It’s something that has to flow out of a real and vibrant relationship with God.
What About Our Problems?
Next, Paul goes on to tell us how to approach God with our problems. He says in verse 6 to bring “every situation” to God. Notice how we’re supposed to bring our situations to God—“by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.” So no matter what we’re facing, we pray and thank God.
That’s counterintuitive. I don’t know about you, but when I’m facing a challenge, I want to analyze it. I want to complain about it. I want to call someone to help to fix it. But Paul says our starting place should be God. Bring your problems to Him.
What’s the result? When we rejoice, thank God, and bring our problems to Him, we experience His peace. Paul describes it as a peace that “transcends all understanding.” In other words, it’s a peace you experience that doesn’t even make sense in the natural.
You Can Experience God’s Peace
Let me ask you a couple of questions. First, have you ever experienced God’s peace like this? Have you ever experienced His peace when it didn’t even make sense? Maybe you received a medical diagnosis, or you lost a job, or you went through a major transition in life—but you felt God’s peace.
Second, have you experienced God’s peace today? With everything going on in the world and in your life, God wants to give you His peace.
Why don’t you take a moment, right where you are, to thank God for all the good things in your life? Spend some time rejoicing in the Lord. And then, whatever challenges you're facing, bring them to God. Talk to Him about those problems, and watch how His peace flows into your life.
Week 7: Day 2
Moving Forward and Letting Go
Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
We’re studying the book of Philippians, and we’re talking about how to stay encouraged. We’re looking at how to have joy even when facing challenging circumstances. Verses 12-14 give us two powerful things we can do to stay encouraged no matter what.
First, start moving forward into everything God has for you.
Yesterday, we talked about Paul’s pre-Christ resume. We talked about all of Paul’s past accomplishments. But Paul had a radical encounter with Jesus. And from that point on, his life became about God’s plan and purpose for him. It’s not about all the things he wanted, it’s about what God had for him. Paul is clear in saying he hasn’t arrived yet. But he’s moving forward and pressing on.
Do you want to know the secret of people who stay encouraged no matter what? It’s not because they have problem-free lives. People who stay encouraged have learned to grow. They want to continually move forward in life. They are pressing in to what God has for them.
Let me encourage you with this thought: God isn’t into perfection, but He is into progress. The next time you’re faced with a challenge, ask yourself: How can I grow through this challenge? How can I keep moving forward? How can I become more like Christ through this situation? That will bring you encouragement.
Second, let go of what’s behind.
It’s not enough to simply move forward. You also have to let go of the things that are holding you back. In fact, many times you won’t be able to move forward until you let go.
What are some of the things we need to let go of? Maybe you need to let go of:
- Your Past
- Your Mistakes
- Your Attitudes
- Your Offenses
If you want to live encouraged, you have to let go of what’s in the rear-view mirror of your life.
Jesus is perfect. Move forward into all He has for you. Seek to grow, and let go of everything holding you back.
Week 7: Day 1
Philippians 3:10a (NIV)
10 I want to know Christ…
We’ve been studying the book of Philippians, and last week we covered chapters 1-2. This week we will look at chapters 3-4. As a review, the book of Philippians is the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippian Church. It’s a church he planted, and he is writing to them from prison. The theme of the book is joy, even in spite of the challenges Paul and his readers are facing.
Chapter 3 begins with a command to “rejoice in the Lord!” Paul feels so strongly about the command, he repeats it twice in the first verse. Then he goes on to tell his readers the secret to his own joy. It begins with understanding Paul’s past.
In verses 4-6, Paul gives his resume of sorts. It’s a list of his past accomplishments. These were all the ways Paul used to try to earn God’s approval.
To be fair, it’s an impressive list. Paul was well educated; he would have memorized the entire Torah (the first five books of the Bible). He called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews”—it’s like saying he was the best of the best. He even persecuted the Church in his religious zeal.
After encountering Jesus, Paul’s definition of success changed. Paul says in verses 7-9,
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Paul is saying that he considers his past resume as nothing more than a “loss” and even “garbage.” Now Paul’s righteousness isn’t based on what he’s done but on what Jesus has done, through faith.
Then he concludes in verses 10-11 with these powerful words:
10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
The key words here are “to know Christ.”
Notice, Paul doesn’t say he wants to know about Christ. He doesn’t want to do enough things to feel like he knows Christ. It’s not trying to earn a relationship with Christ. No, Paul is talking about a real relationship with God.
How about You?
I want to make this practical for us today. With everything going on in your life right now, let me ask you a simple question. How well do you know God? Think about that for a moment.
If you’ll seek Jesus on a continual basis, here’s what you’ll find: Knowing Christ is the greatest gift you’ll ever receive. And your connection with Him will become the greatest source of joy and encouragement in your life.
Week 6: Day 5
How to Shine
Philippians 2:14-16a (NIV)
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.
We’ve been looking at the book of Philippians and how to have joy in the midst of challenges. Yesterday we looked at the role obedience plays in living out God’s purpose. Today brings us to one of the most challenging verses so far. Verse 14 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” Let’s look at both of those actions and why they are so dangerous.
Grumbling – How much do you grumble or complain? This is tough. Sometimes we may not grumble on the outside, but we might be doing it on the inside.
Arguing – How argumentative are you? I’ve found that we’re more likely to argue when we’re stressed or when life has been turned upside down. During the current pandemic, it’s easy to start arguing with your spouse, your kids, your roommate, or those who are close to you.
Grumbling and arguing are dangerous because they are joy robbers. They tend to suck the life out of life. If you’ve ever been around someone who grumbles and argues, they’re not fun to be around. So how do we avoid grumbling and arguing?
Verse 16 tells us to “hold firmly to the word of life.” If we let what’s naturally in us come out, we’re going to grumble and argue. But if we let God deposit joy in us, and we hold fast to his Word, then the opposite comes out. We become people who speak encouragement and life.
Look at the result in verse 15. “Then you will shine… like stars in the sky.”
Let me ask you, do you want to shine for Jesus? I know you do. The way we shine is by being people of joy, encouragement, and hope—not by grumbling and arguing. So how do we do that? Here are a couple of ways.
First, protect your heart from toxic inputs. Some inputs in our life can become toxic. Social media, news feeds, or even some of the people around you can all work negativity into your soul. So be careful to guard your heart.
Second, start speaking in a positive light. That’s right. Speak something positive out loud. Offer an encouraging word to someone you know. Speak life to your spouse, your kids, a coworker, or a friend. The more you do, the more you’ll shine.
You may say, “I’m not sure I can do that.” Guess what? You’re right. You can’t.
But Jesus in you can.
Let Him fill you with what you need, hold fast to His Word, and you’ll shine to everyone around you.
Week 6: Day 4
Work It Out
Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Chapter 2 begins with Paul’s appeal to the church for unity. In fact, he says the way to make your joy complete is by being unified together. Then he goes on in verses 5-11 to give us one of the most rich and powerful depictions of Jesus in the New Testament. The passage is all about Jesus’ humility—even though Jesus was God, He humbled himself and submitted himself to death on our behalf. Paul says that we should imitate Christ’s humility in our lives.
Then Paul begins verse 12 with the word, “Therefore,” again. In light of Paul’s appeal for unity and Christ’s example of humility, we are to do something. Verse 12 tells us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” What a powerful concept.
Paul says this in the context of obedience. Not only did the Philippian believers obey God while Paul was present with them, but even more so in his absence. In light of their obedience, Paul encourages them to continue in obedience even more.
Work Out Your Salvation
To be clear, when Paul tells us to “work out” our salvation, he isn’t saying we have to work in order to earn our salvation. Rather, Paul is telling us to “work out” the salvation God has already given us. In other words, we’re supposed to take the salvation He’s given us on the inside, and reveal it on the outside. We work it out, so it becomes clear for everyone to see.
How do we work out our salvation? We work out our salvation through obedience.
I love how verse 12 is tied to verse 13, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” You see, you can only “work out” what God “works in” you. It’s still him. But we have a part to play.
Obedience and Purpose
Most people want to have purpose. They want to walk in the fulfillment of God’s purpose for their lives. But here’s the thing: We can’t walk in His purpose without obedience. And just to show the seriousness of what he’s saying, Paul, adds, “with fear and trembling.”
I don’t think that means we have to be afraid of God. The Bible tells us repeatedly that God loves us. He is for us. He is a good Father. But if we’re not careful, we can become desensitized to a healthy fear of God. Make no mistake, God is the one in control, and He wants our obedience.
So, spend a few minutes today asking God if there’s anything He wants you to do. Are there any areas of disobedience that you need to address? Is there anything God wants to speak to you today?
Here’s what you’ll find, the more you walk in obedience and work it out in your life, the more you will fulfill God’s purpose and experience His joy.
Week 6: Day 3
How to Complete Your Joy
Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV)
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
Chapter 2 begins with the word, “Therefore.” Paul is drawing a conclusion to everything he said previously. Since Jesus is doing a work in us, and God has a purpose through our challenges, we can have joy. Therefore, we can experience joy and make our joy complete. But first, notice verse 1 talks about experiencing:
We can experience all of these things even while going through trials. We receive them from Christ. But Paul goes on in verse 2 to tell us how to complete our joy. It says:
“by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
So how do we complete our joy? Our joy is completed through unity.
Have you ever thought about that before? Every parent knows this truth already. When there’s fighting and tension in the home, it’s not a joyful place. But when people have one mind, one spirit, and love one another, there’s joy.
You see, joy flows to us from Christ. It’s not something we manufacture. It comes from God. But for our joy to be complete, it must also flow through us to others in unity.
Joy flows to us from Christ, then through us to others, in unity.
So, where do we need unity right now? I think there are a couple of places:
1. Unity in the Church – There are so many things we’ve done as a church to unite together for Christ’s mission during this time. We’ve conducted blood drives, supply drives, and Easter box giveaways. We’ve rallied together to meet needs in our community, and that couldn’t happen without you. Thank you for helping us reach people! We’ve also continued to meet in online Small Groups during this time. There’s a tendency during times like this to isolate. But don’t. Press into spiritual family instead.
2. Unity in Your Home – God wants you to have unity in your home, with your spouse and kids, or with your roommates. Spend some time today asking God how you can have greater unity in your home. Philippians 2:3-4 offers some practical advice: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
The more you walk in unity, the greater your joy will be.
Week 6: Day 2
What God is Doing
Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV)
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
The book of Philippians is all about joy. It’s also an incredibly practical book for life. It’s filled with everyday instructions on how to live out our faith. Through this study, we’re learning how to deepen our joy.
Verses 12-14 give us incredible insight. Paul tells us that his challenges have resulted in the spreading of the gospel. What’s more, Christians everywhere were emboldened to proclaim Jesus without fear.
Now, why did the gospel message advance so powerfully? Notice these key words in verse 14:
“because of my chains…”
What an incredible statement. Paul’s chains could have been something that discouraged him or made him give up hope. But instead, he saw what God was doing because of his chains. God was at work, not in spite of his chains, but because of them. God used Paul’s chains for His greater purpose.
The challenge Paul faced was prison and death. But he was able to find joy knowing that God was using his chains to advance the gospel. There was a purpose in his pain.
What does this mean for us?
What challenges are you facing today? This recent global pandemic has affected us all. The question is, will you focus on your challenges, or will you focus on what God is doing through your challenges?
Take some time today to reflect on the questions below. Talk to God about them, and wrestle with them.
- What is God doing in me right now?
- What is God doing through my challenges?
- What is God teaching me during this time?
When you do this—when your soul becomes settled in what God is doing—it produces an amazing result. You find joy because of your “chains.” And you find a joy that you can share with others, to help them move forward, too.
Week 6: Day 1
The Source of Divine Joy
Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Do you need encouragement? The book of Philippians is one of the greatest places to find encouragement. It is the New Testament book about joy.
The apostle Paul wrote the book of Philippians as a letter to the church in Philippi. This was a church he planted and was close to his heart. The city of Philippi was economically wealthy and prosperous, much like the area we live in today. Yet Paul wrote his letter to a persecuted church that faced many challenges.
What’s more, Paul wrote this letter from a Roman prison, where he had been falsely accused and in “lockdown” for two years. Paul’s circumstances were a stark contrast to the theme of “joy” found throughout the letter. How could Paul “pray with joy” (verse 4) over the Philippian church considering his circumstances? The answer is found in verse 6.
“… he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Paul emphasizes three points in this verse:
- God has a plan for you.
- He began a good work in you.
- He will bring it to completion.
Where does joy come from? Joy comes from knowing that God has a plan, and His plan will prevail in your life.
But there are two key words in verse 6 that stand out: in you. Paul says, “He who began a good work in you...” You have to understand that God is doing something in you that’s greater than your outward circumstances.
What’s in you is greater than what’s going on outside of you.
That doesn’t mean you won’t face trials, pressures, or loss in life. What it means is that God can deposit something in you that’s greater than what’s happening to you. It’s His divine joy.
Paul was in prison. But his joy was not in prison. And it’s the same for us today. You can experience joy from God that goes beyond your circumstances.
So, spend some time today reflecting on what God is doing in you during this time. Maybe ask, “God, what is your plan for me right now?” Know that He is faithful and will complete it. This is how we overcome discouragement and find divine joy.
Week 5: Day 5
Pray In The Spirit
Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
After going through all six pieces of armor God has given us to stand against the enemy, Paul continues to give us one more weapon at our disposal—prayer.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever considered prayer as a weapon you can use when you’re being attacked, but that’s how Paul viewed prayer. According to verse 18, prayer should be an all-encompassing part of the Christian’s life.
But what about the phrase “pray in the Spirit”? What does that mean?
To begin, we must understand this verse is referring to the Holy Spirit. The Bible describes the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). And just as the Word of God in Ephesians 6:17 is described as the sword of the Spirit, we need the Holy Spirit to guide us into the truth of God’s Word.
Praying in the Spirit
There are differing opinions on what it means to “pray in the Spirit.” Some people think it means praying and sensing a closeness with God as we pray. Some say it refers to the Holy Spirit interceding on our behalf as we pray (Romans 8:26-27). Some tie this verse to 1 Corinthians 14:14 where Paul talks about using his prayer language.
I think all of these views are accurate. They all provide a picture of what it means to pray in the Spirit.
As we close, consider the power of this verse:
Jude 20 (NIV)
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit…
This verse tells us that we can build ourselves up by praying in the Spirit. Praying through the power of the Holy Spirit is a part of spiritual warfare and is an incredible tool God has given us to fight the enemy.
If this is an area you want to grow in, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and to help you. He wants to meet you right where you are.
Week 5: Day 4
The Sword of the Spirit
Ephesians 6:17b (NIV)
…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Today we’re going to look at the final piece of armor God has given us. So far, we’ve looked at the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. Today we are going to look at a powerful offensive weapon—the sword of the Spirit.
Paul tells us what our sword is. It’s the Word of God. This is not the only place the Bible describes God’s Word as a sword. Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Here’s what that means. God’s Word gets down to the deepest part of us. It gets to the heart of the matter. That’s why so many people dismiss the Bible, because they don’t want it judging them. But when we dismiss God’s Word, we dismiss our weapon to fight the enemy.
The Truth of God’s Word
The Word of God teaches us who He is. It teaches us about God’s character and nature. When we read God’s Word, we get to know Him. We know how He thinks. We know the truth.
What’s the alternative? Without God’s Word, we’re only left with popular opinion. Or we’re left with our own thoughts and personality. But when you get around someone who has God’s Word in them, you can tell. It changes everything about them.
Confessing God’s Word
One of the most powerful things you can do is to speak God’s Word. The Bible continually ties what we believe to what we confess. The more you speak God’s Word, the more you will believe it. The more you speak His Word, the more it becomes a part of you.
Here’s what I want to challenge you to do today: Begin speaking the Word of God over your life. Confess God’s Word over your situation, over your kids, over your health crisis, and over your fears.
Let God’s Word become the governing factor of your life. Speak His Word and stand armed in His truth.
Week 5: Day 3
The Helmet of Salvation
Ephesians 6:17 (NIV)
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The next piece of armor God has given us to stand against the enemy is the helmet of salvation. It is perhaps the most important piece of armor we have.
There are only two places the New Testament mentions a soldier’s helmet: here and in 1 Thessalonians 5:8. In both places the helmet refers to our salvation. Why would Paul compare salvation to a helmet?
How Salvation is a Helmet
The soldier’s helmet covers the head. It is a critical piece of armor. A blow to the head can cause incredible damage and even be life threatening. So, the helmet is important.
Like a helmet, salvation also covers and protects us. When we are facing a spiritual battle, Jesus is our salvation. He is our protection against the enemy. It’s important to know that the enemy can’t steal your salvation because your salvation wasn’t dependent on you to begin with. You are covered. You are secure because of Jesus.
Salvation also protects our minds. If you remember, one of the greatest ways the enemy attacks us is through our thoughts. He lies to us, and he accuses us. But when you are saved, you receive the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). You have the ability to refute the enemy’s lies and accusations because of what Jesus did on the cross. That’s great news.
Take the Helmet of Salvation
Notice in verse 17 that Paul instructs us to “take” the helmet of salvation. Salvation is something that God offers, and we have to take it.
Let’s take a look at another verse:
Romans 6:23 (NIV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A wage is something that you earn. We earn the consequences of sin. But salvation is a gift that we receive. We must “take” God’s gift and receive it into our life.
When we do, we are forever covered and protected by God. And no matter what we face in life, we know the outcome: We win. When we step into eternity, we know our salvation is secure. This truth guards our minds and moves us forward.
No matter what, we win—because we have received God’s salvation.
Week 5: Day 2
The Shield of Faith
Ephesians 6:16 (NIV)
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
So far, we’ve looked at the first three pieces of armor God has given us to stand against the enemy’s attacks during the day of evil. Today, let’s look at the fourth piece of armor, the shield of faith.
When most people think about faith, they think of believing in God. Of course, we need “faith” in God to be saved, but faith is so much more than that. Faith is also a supernatural confidence that God will see you through any situation.
Jesus Taught His Disciples about Faith
Think of all the times Jesus taught His disciples about the importance of faith. He taught them to step out on the water by faith. He said to speak to the mountain, and it would be removed. He taught them that faith the size of a mustard seed would grow into something powerful. He said if they asked for anything in faith, they would receive it.
Why did Jesus train His disciples in faith? He wanted to prepare them for the storms of life that would come.
So many people right now are paralyzed with fear. You may be facing a challenge in your life that’s paralyzed you. But God wants you to have faith to protect you and to propel you forward.
The Roman shield was not a small round disc like in superhero movies. It was large and thick, almost the size of a door. It’s something the soldier could hide behind for protection from fiery arrows. But it wasn’t only protective—it was offensive. Paul was probably thinking about the Roman phalanx, where rows of soldiers would create a barricade using their shields. Soldiers could stand behind the shields and use it to advance against the enemy.
The shield of faith is an offensive weapon.
As Christians, we don’t have to stand passively when the enemy attacks. With faith, we can actually go on the offense and advance against the enemy.
Put your faith in an almighty God who can heal the sick, calm the storms, and raise the dead! When you have faith in God like that, it gives you supernatural confidence. Your God is faithful and eternal. He never fails. With faith, you have confidence that your God will see you through any situation, and you can move forward in battle.
Week 5: Day 1
Stand Against the Day of Evil
Ephesians 6:13 (NIV)
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
We’ve been talking about our spiritual battles and how to stand and fight. So far, we’ve looked at the first three pieces of armor in Ephesians 6—the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the gospel of peace. We’ll cover the last three pieces of armor this week, but first I want to go back and look at the reason why we need spiritual armor to begin with. What’s all this armor for?
Why We Need Spiritual Armor
Verse 13 tells us we need spiritual armor so that we can stand our ground when the “day of evil” comes. Spiritual battles require spiritual solutions. They require spiritual armor.
The day of evil, here, most likely refers to any spiritual battle you find yourself in— the challenging circumstances and unexpected events that come our way.
Paul is writing this letter from prison, where he saw Roman soldiers every day. Their armor would have made an impression on him. Paul must have been struck by the thought that the Roman soldier was ready to fight at any moment. He was dressed in armor, not only for planned battles, but also in case of an ambush or attack.
So, what is Paul telling us here?
We can’t always pre-plan our battles. Sometimes the devil hits us out of nowhere. It’s a “day of evil” when we are attacked and never saw it coming. That’s why putting on the full armor of God is so important every day. We can’t wait for the battle to get ready. We have to be ready at all times.
This entire COVID-19 pandemic caught us all by surprise. It’s a great example of why we need to be prepared at all times.
We need to put on the armor of God every day.
We are all facing an evil day right now. Some of you have been hit especially hard. You’re struggling with finances, job loss, health issues, or other fears. But God’s message to us is that while we go through this time, we can grow through it also. We can be ready to stand and fight the enemy, knowing that God has given us victory.
Week 4: Day 5
The Gospel of Peace
Ephesians 6:15 (NIV)
…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
So far, we’ve talked about the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Today we’re going to focus on the third piece of armor God has given you to stand against the enemy: the gospel of peace.
Verse 15 mentions the soldier’s feet that are “fitted” with protection. We don’t typically think of shoes as something vital, but they are, especially to the soldier.
- The soldier’s shoes provided protection on rocky terrain.
- The shoes guarded the soldier’s feet against hidden traps on the ground.
- The shoes provided stability to stand.
God has given us shoes for our spiritual battles today. Our shoes are “the gospel of peace.” Without the gospel of peace, we lose our ability to move forward in the battle.
Here are two thoughts about the gospel of peace I want to give you today.
- The gospel message saves you.
We are all broken because of sin. The gospel message is that a perfect God came down from heaven to reach us in our brokenness. He lived a perfect life and died on the cross so we can be saved. When we make Jesus our Lord, it changes everything. The gospel is our foundation—it’s the sure footing we stand on. The word “gospel” means good news, and this is God’s good news for your life. But the gospel doesn’t just save you.
- The gospel message propels you.
The good news of Jesus changes you personally, but His message doesn’t stop with you. You now live to carry His message and His mission to the world. When you start seeing your life as an extension of God’s mission, it changes how you live. It changes how you see the battles you’re facing.
The enemy wants to stop you from advancing God’s Kingdom, so he attacks your marriage, your kids, your job, your finances, etc. But you have to realize that there is a Kingdom agenda to your battle.
When you stop looking at the attacks you’re facing as something personal, and you start seeing them as the devil’s attempt to stop God’s Kingdom from advancing, it changes how you respond to the fight. When you put on the gospel of peace, it gives you the ability to cooperate with God and advance His Kingdom. Now you are in a battle that belongs to the Lord.
Week 4: Day 4
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Ephesians 6:14 (NIV)
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…
We’re talking about how to stand against the enemy and win. Yesterday, we looked at the belt of truth. Today, we’re going to look at the breastplate of righteousness.
What was a soldier’s breastplate?
- The breastplate covered all the vital organs in the chest.
- It was the heaviest piece of armor.
- It stopped the enemy’s weapons from penetrating you.
Just like the soldier’s breastplate, God’s righteousness protects us when we are attacked. You’ll notice I didn’t say our righteousness protects us. I said God’s righteousness.
Here’s why: The Bible tells us that our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We can’t stand on our own righteousness because we’ve all blown it. We’ve messed up.
One of the biggest reasons people don’t win spiritual battles is because they don’t feel like they deserve to win. They feel like they’ve messed up too bad and they can’t win.
But that’s looking at the battle wrong. The Bible teaches us that when we are saved, we put on the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
When we’re saved, we take off our unrighteousness, and we are clothed in God’s righteousness.
Here’s what that means for you today: You don’t stand against the enemy based on what you’ve done. You stand against the enemy based on what God has done for you. That’s good news!
Jesus loves you so much that he was willing to fight for you. His righteousness covers your life. You can stand against the enemy and win because Jesus already gave you the victory.
Week 4: Day 3
The Belt of Truth
Ephesians 6:13-14a (NIV)
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…
We’ve been talking about the spiritual battles we face in life and how those battles require spiritual weapons. Today, we want to begin looking at the six pieces of armor God gives us to fight the enemy.
But first, notice in verses 13-14 how many times Paul mentions the word “stand.” He says it three times. What’s more, Paul also tells us to “stand” back in verse 11. So, Paul tells us to “stand” four times in the course of just a few verses. What’s Paul saying? He’s telling you that you can stand against the enemy and fight!
The question is, “How?” How can we stand?
Fasten the belt of truth around your waist.
It’s important to understand that the Roman soldier’s belt was not like a modern belt, designed to hold up your pants.
- It was large and wide, designed to protect the soldier’s organs.
- It attached to the scabbard, which held the soldier’s sword.
- Most importantly, it surrounded the soldier.
In the same way, the belt of truth must be all-encompassing in your life. Too often, we want to accept only a part of God’s truth. We say, “I’ll believe what the Bible says about Jesus, but I won’t accept what it says about my finances…or about my dating life…or about my sexuality.” But we can’t do that. We have to accept God’s Word as the ultimate source of truth around every area of our lives.
You have to determine in your heart that when it comes to your family, your job, your finances, your relationships, and your habits:
- I will trust what the Word of God says.
- I will accept His Word as authoritative.
- I will obey His Word.
When you make those determinations, what you’ll find is that His truth is protective. It protects you from the enemy’s attack. Abandon yourself to God’s Word today, and fasten the belt of truth around your life.
Week 4: Day 2
You're in a Spiritual Fight
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Yesterday we talked about how the devil has a scheme for your life, but you can receive strength from God to overcome. To fight the devil, Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God. We’ll look at the various pieces of armor and what they represent later. But Paul’s point is that you need spiritual armor for a spiritual fight.
In the ESV version of verse 12, Paul says “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” The word “wrestle” is an interesting choice. It brings up an image of two opponents in close, hand to hand combat. That is what wrestling with the enemy is like. He wants to get personal and to attack you where it hurts.
Why does Paul say “flesh and blood” in this verse? “Flesh and blood” refers to people and situations in the natural realm. You may be locked in a struggle that seems completely natural. Maybe you’re in a fight with your spouse, have an impossible deadline at work, or you’re facing a tough financial crisis. The temptation is to see these struggles only in the natural, when there may be a supernatural component at work.
Paul describes your real enemy in these battles in four ways: rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil. These are all terms the New Testament uses to describe demonic powers. Your enemy is spiritual, not flesh and blood.
How do you fight a spiritual battle?
You fight a spiritual battle with spiritual weapons. We want to solve the natural problem, but God may be working on you at a deeper, spiritual level. God may want to use the battle you’re in to change you, to teach you, or to cause you to rely on Him more. Spiritual battles are incredible opportunities for God to work out more of His fruit into your life.
One of the best things you can do when you find yourself in a battle is to ask God some simple questions:
- God, what are you trying to teach me through this situation?
- Where am I trying to control what can’t be controlled?
- What do you want to do spiritually in me right now?
Spend some time today meditating on those questions. Ask God to show you what He’s doing. He wants to show you, and He wants to strengthen you for the fight.
Week 4: Day 1
Be Strong in the Lord
Ephesians 6:10-11 (NIV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
The book of Ephesians is Paul’s letter written to the churches around the metropolitan area of Ephesus during the first century. Ephesus was a high commerce area and a center for pagan worship. The people of Ephesus worshiped hundreds of false gods, and the city of Ephesus housed the temple of Artemis, the goddess of fertility. The massive and beautiful temple was one of the ancient wonders of the world. Every week the city would throw a parade in the honor of Artemis and offer sacrifices to her. Also, the practice of witchcraft and dark magic was widespread, and people lived in constant fear of spiritual powers who could curse or harm them.
It was in this context that the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Paul isn’t being redundant here. God has so much strength, Paul uses two words to describe it.
Next, Paul instructs us to “put on the whole armor of God.” Why do you need armor? You need armor for a fight. And in this fight, you have a spiritual enemy.
Paul tells us the reason God has given you armor is to stand against the “schemes of the devil.” The Greek word for “schemes” here is the word methodeias. It’s where we get our English word “method” from, and it simply means “to plan” or “to strategize.” Paul is telling us that the devil has a plan for your life. That’s right, he has a strategy to keep you from God, to destroy you and your family, and to keep you from being effective for God’s kingdom. You must be aware of his strategy. So, what is the devil’s strategy?
The devil attacks us in two primary ways:
- The devil lies to you. Jesus described the devil in John 8:44 as “the father of lies.” If the devil is talking, he’s lying. He wants to lie to you about who God is, who you are, and what other people think about you.
- The devil accuses you. Really, this is another form of lying. If you’ve blown it, he wants to exploit it. He wants to tell you that you’re no good and that the thing you’ve done defines you.
The good news is that God has given you spiritual armor to stand against the enemy’s lies. You don’t have to let him accuse you because God has a plan for you. His plan is better, and He is stronger!
So, what can we take away from these two verses today?
- You are in a fight. The challenging situations you’re facing are not an accident.
- You have a spiritual enemy. The devil has a plan to destroy your life, but…
- You can win. You can receive strength from the Lord to stand against the enemy.
Week 3: Day 4
Do This in Remembrance of Me
Matthew 26:26-28 (ESV)
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
The first several chapters of Exodus describe how God delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. In the final of ten plagues, an angel of death would pass through the land of Egypt. Every firstborn son would die. But God instructed the nation of Israel to sacrifice a spotless lamb and paint the blood of the lamb over the doorframes of their homes. When the angel of death saw the blood of the lamb, he would pass over their house, sparing their family from death.
God also instructed the people to bake unleavened bread that night. Leavened bread (that is, bread with yeast in it) takes time to rise. The idea was that God’s deliverance would come so quickly that they would not have time for the bread to rise.
When Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples, He took an ancient tradition and imbued it with new meaning. During the meal, Jesus broke the unleavened bread. His actions recall the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied about Jesus: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV). The bread now represents His body, broken for us.
Likewise, Jesus took the cup of wine. The traditional Passover meal contains four cups of wine. The third cup is shared after dinner, and is known as “the cup of redemption.” Jesus took this cup after the meal and said it now symbolizes His blood that was shed for our redemption. Jesus tells His disciples to eat and drink the Passover elements “in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). From this point on, they should not only remember the Exodus, but they should also remember His sacrifice on the cross.
Jesus did this for you. We take communion in remembrance of Him.
Jesus called Himself the bread of life. His body was broken on the cross for you. He was the perfect, sacrificial lamb, who was slain for your sins. And when His blood covers your life, death passes over you, so that you can receive His eternal life. You can now drink from the cup of redemption, knowing that Jesus is your Redeemer. You are no longer a slave to sin (Romans 6:17). You are now a child of God (Romans 8:15).
Week 3: Day 3
Jesus Shared His Life
John 13:15 (ESV)
“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
The Bible does not specifically say what Jesus did on Wednesday of the Holy Week. This is because the Bible isn’t concerned with giving us a play-by-play of every event leading to His crucifixion. Rather, it simply highlights some of Jesus’ most significant moments. But many scholars believe that Jesus spent Wednesday resting in Bethany with those closest to Him.
Mark 14 tells us that He was in Bethany shortly before He returns to Jerusalem for the Passover meal. But what was significant about Bethany, and why would Jesus go there?
Bethany is where Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. It was the place where Mary had anointed Jesus’ feet with oil a few nights before. It was also where His close friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived. The point is that in the most significant week of Jesus’ life, He spent it with others.
In fact, the next day, Jesus would send His disciples back to Jerusalem to locate the upper room. There, He would wash His disciples’ feet and celebrate the Passover with them. Then He would take them to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before being betrayed. Again, Jesus did all these things to invest in His closest relationships.
To experience the life God wants you to live, you must share it with others.
The events of the Holy Week did not happen to Jesus in isolation. He brought His disciples with Him. He rested with friends. He ministered to them. He washed His disciples’ feet, and He took them to Gethsemane. They did all of this together.
It’s easy to think of Jesus as taking on the whole world all by Himself. Although it’s true that He alone took our sins to the cross, He brought others with Him every step of the way. The point is that the Holy Week wasn’t a spectator event. We don’t simply watch what Jesus does. He invites us to go on the journey with Him. And what’s more, He sets us in a spiritual family so that we can go through the journey of life together with others.
Don’t let your faith stop with just you and God. You’ll find a richer and more rewarding faith when you share your life with others.
Week 3: Day 2
Matthew 21:21-22 (ESV)
21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
Matthew tells us that Jesus was returning to the city the next morning. He was hungry and saw a fig tree in the distance. But after approaching the tree, He found that it had no fruit. In response, Jesus cursed the tree, and it withered right there. His disciples were amazed at His power. Then Jesus told them that with faith, they could ask for anything, and it would be done.
Immediately following this event, Jesus entered the temple and began to teach. Some of the religious leaders were there and began questioning Jesus’ authority and the source of His power.
Religion can’t move mountains, but faith in Jesus can.
The juxtaposition of these two scenes is striking. In one scene, Jesus curses a tree, and it immediately withers under the weight of His power. In the next scene, religious leaders question Jesus’ power.
Religion is like that. It’s empty. Religious activity promises to give you the power to change, but it fails every time. Only through faith in Jesus, do we find the power we need.
Jesus promises that through faith, even a mountain can be removed. What are some of the mountains you’re facing in your life today? Maybe you’re facing:
- a mountain of sickness
- a mountain of fear
- a mountain of job loss
- a mountain of struggling relationships
No matter what you’re facing, faith in Jesus is the answer. But all of us, no matter what we’re facing, have one mountain in common: we are all separated from God. Religious activity can’t move that mountain, but Jesus can! Because of His love and His sacrifice on the cross, we can have a relationship with God.
Week 3: Day 1
Jesus Removes Every Barrier
Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV)
12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Fresh on the heels of Jesus’ triumphal entry, His next act was to cleanse the temple. It’s an eye-opening scene, to picture Jesus overturning tables and driving out merchants. Why would He do this?
The temple was the only place Jewish people could go to worship God and make sacrifices. It was the place where God’s presence dwelt. If you wanted to approach God, you had to go to the temple. During the Passover week, Jews from around the world would travel to the temple. Yet there were barriers to God’s presence there.
First, you had to make a sacrifice if you wanted to come to God. If you traveled a long distance, carrying livestock with you was difficult. To solve this problem, merchants sold animals in the outer courts of the temple, and money-changers converted the currency. But the merchants and money-changers offered their services at an exorbitant price.
The original intent of selling animals in the temple may have been helpful, but it turned into greedy profiteering. The high prices were another barrier that kept people from approaching God, especially those who were economically challenged. To make matters worse, all the commotion and noise in the outer courts of the temple made the scene circus-like—not a reverential place to pray and seek God.
Jesus wants to be close to you.
When Jesus cleansed the temple, He removed every barrier the people had in approaching God. The temple was not a place for the greedy to reap profits; it was a place for every person to encounter God. By cleansing the temple, Jesus powerfully demonstrated that God wants to remove every barrier of religion. He simply wants you to come to Him.
Just a few days later, Jesus would pay the ultimate price for our sins in order to remove every barrier that separated us from God.
Week 2: Day 5
The Power of Perseverance
James 1:2-4 (NIV)
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything
This verse speaks to a common human experience—pain. Whether your pain is losing a loved one, losing a job, being betrayed, struggling with an addiction, wondering how to pay the bills, or something else—we all face pain. Even though the types of pain we face may not be the same, the impact is.
Yet, there is a positive side to pain. The old cliché says, “No pain, no gain.” There’s some truth to that saying. But I like James’ perspective even better. “Consider it pure joy”—not just joy but pure joy.
To be clear, James doesn’t say that trials themselves are joyful. He says to “consider” your trials as pure joy. It’s a choice to perceive your trials differently.
Why would you want to see pain as joyful? Because of what it produces in your life. When you respond to trials the right way, it produces perseverance and spiritual maturity. The power of perseverance is the ability to overcome the pain and trials we face.
So how do you respond to pain the right way?
First, bring your pain to God. Don’t run from God because you’re hurting. Come to Him. If you’re mad at God, tell Him. He can take it, and He can take your pain.
Second, surrender to God. Even when life doesn’t turn out the way we expect, we can find hope in knowing God is in control, and He is good. When Jesus was in the garden, facing excruciating pain, he said these words: “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Surrender to God and ask what He’s teaching you.
Third, determine to do what’s right, and grow. Pain can cause us to make some really bad decisions in life. Don’t let it. Determine to keep treating people right and doing the right things. Honestly, that’s how we grow.
If there is something you’re struggling with today, ask God to give you His perspective on it. In painful moments, we can anchor our souls to the unshakable promises of our God. When we choose to run toward God in our trials, we allow our pain to be shaped into a testimony for His glory.
Week 2: Day 4
You Were Given a Shield of Faith - Use it!
Ephesians 6:16 (ESV)
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.
According to this verse, you have a spiritual enemy shooting flaming arrows at you. Arrows are dangerous enough, but arrows that catch fire and burn are even worse. The good news is that God has given us an incredible weapon to fight against the flaming arrows of the enemy—faith.
Our verse today says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith.” In other words, every time the enemy attacks, you can raise up faith as your shield. So, let me ask, What’s your greatest challenge today? Is there an area where you are being attacked? Maybe it’s:
- Your finances
- Your health
- Your thoughts
- Your future
- Your family
Now, in all these circumstances, how can you take up faith as your shield? At its most basic level, faith is what you believe about God, based on His Word. For example:
- You believe God is good. (1 Chronicles 16:34)
- You believe God is for you and with you. (Joshua 1:9)
- You believe God is working all things out for your good. (Romans 8:28)
- You believe God is your protector. (Psalm 18:2)
- You believe God is your provider. (Philippians 4:19)
- You believe God is your Father. (Romans 8:15)
When the enemy attacks, confess the truth of who God is.
Take a moment right now to identify the greatest challenge or fear you’re facing today. What is a truth from God’s Word to combat that challenge or fear? Let me encourage you to write that truth down and begin speaking it out loud every day. The more you take up the shield of faith, the more you will walk in victory.
Week 2: Day 3
How to Hear from God
Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
What if you could find the answer to that problem you are trying to solve?
What if there was a simple truth to help clarify an area of confusion in your life?
What if there was a way to feel encouraged in that situation that feels hopeless?
We’ve spent the last several days together learning how to read God’s Word and talk to God, but did you know the ultimate goal of these practices is that God can speak to you?
I think many of us struggle to find answers to what concerns us most because we’ve never been taught how to hear from God. God wants to speak to you every day. He’ll provide wisdom and insight on the very things that weigh on your mind and keep you up at night.
How do you get started in hearing from God?
- Believe God wants to talk to you. The Bible is clear: God is a communicator. From the very first pages of Scripture to the very last, we see that God speaks to His people. No matter where you come from, what you’ve done, or where you find yourself today, you can be certain that God wants to speak to you.
- Pre-determine that you are willing to do what He says. You might ask yourself if you have given God ultimate authority in your life. God will never ask us to do something that is not in our best interest—you can trust Him!
- Become familiar with the ways God speaks to us. The primary way God speaks to us is through His Word. If we want to know how to recognize His voice, then we start with His Word. God also speaks to us through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, preaching of the Word, and wise counsel from others.
- Ask God to speak to you. His promise in Jeremiah 33:3 is that if you call to Him, He will answer you.
You might say, “God, here is what I’m struggling with right now…what do you want to say to me?” Spend some time right now asking Him to speak to you, and see how He responds!
Week 2: Day 2
Four Different Ways to Pray
Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Prayer is multifaceted. The term “multifaceted” means having many sides. For example, a diamond is multifaceted. There is no “correct” side to a diamond. It’s the same with prayer. There is no single, correct way to pray.
Paul instructs us in Ephesians 6:18 to pray “with all kinds of prayers and requests.” As a Christian, we are instructed to use every type of prayer available to us. Many years ago, I learned a way to pray based on the acrostic “ACTS”—and I still use this method today.
The ACTS Method of Prayer includes:
A – Adoration – praising and worshiping God
The Bible says we enter His courts with praise (Psalms 100:4). When we start praying by giving honor and adoration to God it reminds us of who God is and shifts our attention from our problems and worries to Him.
C – Confession – confessing our sins to God
Ask God if there’s anything in you that may be holding you back from Him that you need to bring to Him. This may be a sin you’ve been struggling with or even an attitude or a perspective He wants to change in you.
T – Thanksgiving – thanking God for what He has done
Try writing down some things you are thankful for in this season. As humans, our minds tend to focus on all the negative things we hear. When we thank God, it draws our attention back to Him and changes our hearts.
S – Supplication – bringing our prayer requests to God
After we’ve spent time praising, confessing, and thanking God, now we can come and bring our requests to Him. Yesterday I mentioned that keep a prayer card is a great way to keep track of your prayer needs for yourself and others.
God loves you, wants to spend time with you, and wants to hear from you. Worship, pray, confess, ask—simply talk to God about whatever is on your heart. There’s no better time than right now.
Week 2: Day 1
How to Talk to God
Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
In these uncertain and challenging times, we all have a tendency to worry and become anxious. The apostle Paul reminds us that instead of dwelling on the negative things around us, we can pray and bring our worries to God.
Here are a few practical things you can implement to grow in prayer:
- Find a quiet place.
Having a set time and place can help make prayer a meaningful part of your daily routine. If possible, find a place to pray where you won’t be interrupted. This could be a place in your home before the kids wake up, or in your office during a work break.
- Turn off distractions.
The enemy wants to distract you when you’re trying to talk to God. Don’t let him. Turn off your email and social media. Put your phone down. Even better, try turning on worship music to help you focus on God.
- Read a passage of Scripture.
When we start with reading the Word of God, it helps turn our focus on Him. If you are unsure of what to say to God, try praying His Word—the book of Psalms is a great place to start!
- Spend time talking with God.
If you have trouble staying focused when praying, consider writing your prayers. I also have a prayer card I use to remember the top things I’m praying for. I find this discipline helps me stay focused and it is a great way to keep track of answered prayers and thank God for them!
- Be led by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible says, as believers, we each have the Holy Spirit living inside us who leads and guides us into truth (John 16:13). You may want to go for a walk and ask the Holy Spirit what He wants to say to you. If something is weighing on your heart, talk to God about it more. This is how you let the Holy Spirit direct your prayers.
You want prayer to become part of your daily routine, but that doesn’t mean your prayer life has to become routine. No matter where you are today, you can be sure that God wants to spend time with you. As you fix your eyes on Him, tell Him what you need, and thank Him for what’s He’s done, you’ll begin to see your prayer life grow.
Week 1: Day 5
TIPS FOR READING GOD'S WORD
Romans 10:17 (ESV)
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Yesterday, I talked about how important God’s Word is to your life, and I asked you to commit to reading a little bit of God’s Word every day. Today I want to give you some practical tips on how to get more out of your Bible when you read it.
- Reflect on what you read. Spend a moment to ask yourself, “What’s God saying to me? What did I learn? How can I apply this?” Maybe keep a notebook of things to write down that stand out to you.
- Pray what you read. Spend a few minutes each day praying about what God showed you in His Word. I’ve found writing out a short prayer helps me stay focused in my thoughts.
- Think about what you read. Don’t read the Bible and then walk away and forget it. Think about it while you drive to work, when you’re on your lunch break, or when you’re standing in line at the grocery store. (By the way, this is how you meditate on God’s Word.)
- Share what you read. The Bible isn’t supposed to be studied alone. You get the most from God’s Word when you discuss what He’s showing you with others. Talk to a friend; share what God’s showing you with your spouse; teach it to your kids; post it on your social media.
Here’s a practical application for today: Pick one verse from what you read and text it to a friend or a loved one. Encourage them to send a text with their favorite verse to you. The more you think about it and hear God’s Word, the more you’ll be encouraged.
Week 1: Day 4
A LITTLE BIT EVERY DAY
Psalm 119:105 (NLT)
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
If you want to grow in your relationship with God and thrive in life, you have to know God’s Word. The Bible shows us who God is, it provides a grid to make sense of the world, and it teaches us how to live. Simply put, we need God’s Word.
But one of the most common problems I hear from people is: “I just don’t have time to read the Bible, and if I do, I don’t get anything out of it.”
If you’ve ever had those thoughts, you’re not alone. Today I want to give you some practical advice for prioritizing the Bible in your life.
First, commit to reading God’s Word. I suspect there’s not any subject in life you know a lot about that you didn’t invest significant time into learning about. If you’ve never read the Bible, take 5 minutes after you read this devotional and read half a chapter of the Gospel of John each day. It follows the life of Jesus. Everything in Scripture makes sense and finds its meaning through the person of Jesus.
Second, read a little bit every day. This isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. I’d prefer that you read one chapter a day—or even one verse a day—consistently, than for you try to read the whole Bible in a year and peter out in a few weeks! Read a little bit every day, and focus on understanding what you read.
Ask yourself: Will you commit to reading God’s Word every day? There is a compounding return on your investment. Put in a little bit every day, and over time you will reap the reward.
Week 1: Day 3
WORSHIP THE LORD
Psalm 95:1-3 (NIV)
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.
God is worthy to be praised no matter what situation you find yourself in today. Psalm 95 reminds us to sing and even shout to God because He is “the Rock of our salvation.” He is the firm foundation we can build our lives on. These verses remind us to worship God because:
God is great.
God is above everything.
God made everything.
Everything belongs to Him.
Above all, He is “our God,” and we are His people. This means that He is a personal God. He is not a religious concept or an ideology. He wants you to know Him, and He wants to take care of you, like a shepherd cares for His sheep.
Spend a few minutes today reflecting on how great God is, how He saved you, and how much He loves you. Spend time worshiping Him in a way that works for you. Here are some ideas:
- Get outdoors and go for a walk; put on headphones and listen to worship music.
- Get alone with God and bow down in humble reverence before Him.
- Close your eyes right where you’re at, and silently worship God for who He is.
No matter what you do today, the more you worship God, the closer you’ll feel to Him. His presence is the game-changer.
Week 1: Day 2
I AM WITH YOU
Joshua 1:9 (NLT)
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
God knows exactly what to say when we need to hear it the most. In the chapter above, Joshua is facing incredible challenges. His mentor, Moses, has passed away, and the entire nation of Israel is now looking to him for leadership.
Not only is Joshua dealing with the loss of a close friend, but he’s now filling Moses’ shoes and leading the people into their destiny. The territory Joshua is taking the people into is filled with enemies and battles. The point is, Joshua has real challenges and real fears.
It’s at this precise moment God commands Joshua to “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged.” Can you imagine? How could Joshua be strong in the face of such great challenges? The rest of the verse gives the answer: “For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” What a promise from God.
Now, here’s the good news. God’s promise in this verse is not just for Joshua, His promise is for you.
I’m not sure of the exact challenges or fears you may be facing today
- Maybe you have lost your job, or you’ve lost someone close to you.
- Maybe you’re afraid that your marriage will fail or your kids won’t come back to God.
- Maybe you’re facing a financial crisis or a sickness.
No matter what challenges or fears you face today—God is with you. Don’t be afraid or discouraged. Put your trust in God. He won’t let you down.
WEek 1: Day 1
The Lord Reigns
Psalm 93:1-4 (ESV)
The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!
We all face situations in life that feel out of control. Sometimes life feels like you’re lost at sea, caught in a huge storm. The waves are crashing down, and you don’t know what to do. In times like that, it’s good to remember, “mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!”
We each have different fears, but the power of fear is the same. No matter what situation you’re facing in life today, take a moment to step back and see things from God’s perspective. For that vantage point, you’ll see that God is in control. He hasn’t fallen off His throne, and He won’t. In fact, His throne has been established from eternity, and your world is fully secure.
We all have a tendency to let circumstances crowd out our view of God.
- When things go bad, what do you focus on?
- Do you focus on the problems, or do you focus on the God who’s mightier than the problems?
The next time you face the roaring waves, begin to worship God instead. You might find your circumstances begin to fade in light of the greatness of your God!