3 POINTS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
There are three different points I wish to share with you today. And in them, I hope you find encouragement.
If you have kept up with the 40 Days of Prayer (a daily email sent to church members) as I have tried to do leading up to this drama, you will know that today marks Day 40. And of them all, today's devotion hit close to home for me. I don't have the time to read it all right now, but in it we were reminded of the many prayer requests affecting a good number of our cast and crew, which were closely followed by the amazing praises of answered prayer. However, all too often we dwell more on the suffering and sorrows of this life than on the blessings. In doing so, we give the Enemy far more credit than he deserves. Yes, he may have had a hand in our trials and troubles, but we know how this battle ultimately ends, and more importantly SO DOES HE. God is in control. And I believe it's time our focus was kept solely on Him.
Scripture says to “Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet and all your ways will be established. Don't turn to the right or to the left; keep your feet away from evil.” (Pro. 4:25-27) If we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, those blessings come to the forefront and we find the strength and courage to press on amidst the suffering.
I love this Jewish proverb that says, “I ask not for a lighter burden, but broader shoulders.” Our prayers these days should be for strength to stand for our God in this fallen world.
In 1 Peter 4:16 we are encouraged in that “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (NIV) When you accept Christ as your Savior, you gain a new name. Maybe not one that goes on your legal documents, but a new name nonetheless: Christian, which essentially means “little Christ.” This is probably our ultimate calling. You may serve as the only image of Christ that your friends, family, or co-workers will ever see in this lifetime.
Here's something else to ponder: “What if you woke up tomorrow morning with only the things you thanked God for today?” That serves as a great reminder, at least for myself, to never take for granted the little things in this life that I have been given.
My second point is this: Spend your days in ceaseless prayer.
Now, this is not to say that we should be on our knees all day long, though there is absolutely no wrong in that. To me, ceaseless prayer is beginning the day with a brief word of thanks to my God, with perhaps a specific prayer request for how the day will go, and strength to live it for Him. But instead of closing with a typical “Amen,” I leave it open and add to that prayer as I go about my day.
In Ephesians chapter 6, we find the challenge to put on the full armor of God. But those verses continue in saying “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV) And Romans 12:12 puts it rather simply, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful (or persistent) in prayer.” (NIV) But I can't say it any better than Max Lucado, who writes “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”
And finally, as Christians, I believe we are called to live fearless.
Here's a little fact for you: The phrase “Do not be afraid,” is found in the Bible (respectively) 365 times. This is a daily reminder that God wishes us to live every day FEARLESS.
Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (ESV) And in chapter 56, verse 3, we find “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
If we can learn to count our blessings more than our sufferings, clothe ourselves in prayer and, like the Proverbs 31 woman, in strength and dignity, then we can “laugh without fear of the future” and rest in the knowledge that this battle, both physical and spiritual, is already won.