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The Word For Today

Responsibility and risks 1

'The vision is yet for an appointed time...wait for it; because it will surely come.' Habakkuk 2:3 NKJV

One missionary evangelist writes: 'There are times and seasons in God's will. And we can easily become frustrated if we don't understand that just as there are times and seasons in nature, there are also times and seasons in the process of fulfilling God's will for our lives. Years ago a group of senior missionaries came together to discuss life principles they'd discovered...their purpose was to share this wealth of experience with succeeding generations...They'd all encountered common stages of transition in their ministries, and collectively they identified a five-step cyclical process God had taken them through.'

Bottom line: timing is all-important! When executives at Decca Records told the Beatles, 'Groups with guitars are on the way out,' they signed up with EMI - and the rest is history! Don't miss the lesson here. Each of us has been placed on earth as a caretaker of God's business. And that's true whether you are a judge or a cleaner. You've been given an allotment of life and charged with the responsibility of taking care of it, investing it, increasing it and presenting it back to God. Simply saying, 'I was afraid of failing,' or 'I was worried about being criticised,' or 'I didn't think I was good enough,' won't work. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, 'Excuses always replace progress.' God will accept your trials and errors, but he won't accept your excuses for not having tried.

So pray, accept responsibility and step out in faith. You may fail many times on your way to success, but if you keep trying and trusting God, you'll eventually succeed.

Soulfood: Josh 8:30-35, Josh 9, Josh 10:1-43, John 14:26 - 15:4, Ps 146, Pro 28:9-12


Struggle necessary in the process

'I will instruct you.' Psalm 32:8 NKJV

Why are you still here? When Jesus saved you, why didn't he simply take you to Heaven to be with him? Because he's not only interested in your final destination; he wants to do a work in you and through you on the way to it. We get impatient when it comes to God's will for our lives. We just want to get there! But a great deal of time usually elapses between when God calls us and when we've fulfilled his will for our lives. And until we accept that, we're not ready to go anywhere! We need to understand that the journey is an important process.

It matters to God what you become on the way to where you're going. And following him in obedience through unknowns, trials and difficulties is an integral and indispensable part of your preparation. God uses the journey to teach you faith, refine your character and equip you for greater challenges that lie ahead. In fact, if you're in the process of seeking God's will right now, you're already fulfilling part of it in your life. God said, 'I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go' (Psalm 32:8 NKJV). Don't make the mistake of thinking that because you don't know all you'd like to, you're not making progress. Something is happening right now. Your faith is being stretched, your patience is being developed, your doubts are being confronted and conquered, and your relationship with God is growing deeper.

He always prepares us in advance for what he has planned ahead for us. Yes, the struggle is uncomfortable - but it's a necessary part of the process.

Soulfood: Josh 5, Josh 6, Josh 7, Josh 8:1-29, John 14:15-25, Ps 118:19-29, Pro 28:5-8


Feeling overwhelmed today

'I am worn out from sighing and can find no rest.' Jeremiah 45:3 NLT

Even the people we most admire in Scripture experienced times when they felt 'worn out' yet unable to rest.

Jeremiah said, 'I am overwhelmed with trouble! Haven't I had enough pain already? And now the Lord has added more! I am worn out from sighing and can find no rest' (Jeremiah 45:3 NLT). The psalmist put it this way: 'I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living' (Psalm 27:13 NKJV). Then he goes on to say: 'I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings' (Psalm 61:2-4 NLT)!

If you're feeling overwhelmed today, take a minute to pray this prayer: 'Lord, it feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and I know this isn't your will. Teach me to cast my worries and concerns on you, knowing that you have promised to take care of me (see 1 Peter 5:7). Give me courage to change the things I can, grace to accept the things I can't, and wisdom to know the difference. Never let me become so busy that I forsake my quiet time with you. Teach me to be still and know that you're my God (see Psalm 46:10). Thank you for being my refuge; a very present help in this time of trouble (see Psalm 46:1). In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.'

Soulfood: Josh 1-4, John 14:1-14, Ps 118:10-18, Pro 28:1-4


Understanding the stages

'In due season he will honour you.' Psalm 37:34 TLB

In farming, there's a time for sowing, a time for growing and a time for reaping. It's the same in God's Kingdom.

One missionary tells of hearing a group of seasoned leaders discussing their shared experiences, from which a fascinating five-stage process emerged. Stage 1: The birth of the vision. Initially each of them was given a vision by the Holy Spirit, accompanied by an excitement and abiding awareness that it was from God. Stage 2: The preparation. This is the stage where dreams are often aborted because we don't want to do the necessary preparation. When God gives you a vision, there must be some action on your part or it will never amount to anything more than a passing daydream. Stage 3: The wilderness and the struggle. One of our biggest misconceptions is that if something is really from God, there'll be no struggle involved. That's a myth! You can almost guarantee a significant amount of struggle will be required. This stage is the proving ground of our faithfulness, and there's no substitute. Stage 4: The realisation of the vision. This is where we finally get to enjoy the fruits of our diligent preparation and God's faithfulness. Stage 5: New beginnings and vision. These leaders all found themselves challenged again with fresh vision from the Holy Spirit. As a result, they concluded that their lives had been a continual cycle of ever-expanding vision, and as God entrusted them with more, it would take even greater amounts of preparation and times of battle would still occur.

Now you understand the stages of your vision!

Soulfood: 3 John 1, Jude 1, John 13:31-38, Ps 118:1-9, Pro 27:23-27


Seek his help today

'The Spirit also helps our weakness.' Romans 8:26 NAS

Paul writes: 'The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God' (Romans 8:26-27 NAS).

So what is this 'weakness' in prayer that we are subject to? It's that sometimes we don't know how to express the depth of our desires and feelings, nor do we even realise what we need. Sometimes we're so exhausted in spirit, mind and body that we can hardly muster the energy to open our mouths. There are instances when discouragement has taken such a strong hold of your heart that you can't imagine a way out of your circumstances. That's when you need to ask for the Holy Spirit's help!

When you are a believer, the Holy Spirit supplies you with the two things you can't live without: (1) The ability to know what God is saying to you. Sometimes you can't trust your own wisdom or the advice of those closest to you. (2) How to have an intimate relationship with God. One of the most wonderful things Jesus said was, 'I have called you friends' (John 15:15 NKJV). But friendships aren't built on a hit-and-run basis; they take time and communication. Jesus described his relationship with the Father like this: 'The Father loves the Son and shows him everything' (John 5:20 NLT). And not only does the Holy Spirit show you what to do, he empowers you to do it. So seek his help today.

Soulfood: Ecc 11:7-10, Ecc 12:1, Ps 39:4-13, 2 Tim 4:6-8


The Holy Spirit is your 'helper'

'The Helper...will teach you all things.' John 14:26 NKJV

Jesus said, 'The Helper, the Holy Spirit...will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you' (John 14:26 NKJV).

So the Holy Spirit has these two functions: (1) He teaches you how to walk with God. (2) He reminds you to do it each day. As redeemed children of God, we constantly need to be taught how to walk with him, and to be reminded of the blessings that await us when we do and the trouble we get into when we don't. If you've raised kids, you know the routine. They have to be taught their ABCs so they can read and write; then they have to be reminded until they master it. They have to be taught to walk, and falling down hundreds of times is just part of growing up. The Bible says, 'A righteous man may fall seven times and rise again' (Proverbs 24:16 NKJV). Just as you don't tell your child, 'Forget it, you're never going to learn to walk,' your heavenly Father doesn't give up on you either. Your child had to be taught personal hygiene and cleanliness. Likewise, the Holy Spirit will remind you of the importance of reading God's Word each day. Jesus said, 'You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you' (John 15:3 NKJV). And the psalmist wrote, 'How can a young man [and an older one too] cleanse his way? By taking heed...to your word' (Psalm 119:9 NKJV).

If you're wise, you'll start each day by praying, 'Holy Spirit, teach me what I need to know, and remind me of it throughout this day.'

Soulfood: 2 Chr 35-36, John 13:18-30, Ps 114, Pro 27:20-22


Know who's guiding you

'Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.' Galatians 5:16 NLT

Dr Charles Stanley says: 'During a photographic trip my group had been travelling up a trail for almost three hours, and I began to have a funny feeling that we were going in the wrong direction. I asked the guide about it and he assured me everything was fine. Not wanting to be presumptuous, I kept walking. After a few minutes, I noticed that my sense of uneasiness persisted; in fact, it was growing stronger. I pulled out my compass and looked at the map. Sure enough, we were headed away from our intended destination. It took us close to an hour and a half to return to where we'd taken the incorrect turn. Sadly, this meant by the time we got to the site, our window for taking photographs was cut short. The event helped me realise two valuable lessons. First, when we sense an internal witness encouraging us to take a certain course of action, we should listen. Second, when you and I choose people to guide us, we must be certain they know the path ahead better than we do. Have you ever felt something alerting you to pay attention or pulling you in a particular direction? Perhaps you were listening to a sermon and you sensed God telling you to follow him in obedience. Or maybe you walked into a restaurant and were filled with dread, as if you should leave quickly. If you're a believer, most likely these feelings were the promptings of the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart, warning you about danger, and encouraging you to submit to God's purposes.'

Today, let the Holy Spirit guide you.

Soulfood: 2 Chr 32-34, John 13:1-17, Ps 95, Pro 27:17-19


Finishing strong 4

'Appoint elders [church leaders] in every city.' Titus 1:5 NKJV

The fourth issue you find among church leaders who leave the ministry is this: they teach others how to build strong families without necessarily knowing how to build one themselves. Or they're not willing to pay the price to do it and eventually it becomes a problem.

The greatest sermon you'll ever preach is at home! Church leaders' wives can slip into despair and depression because they feel like the ministry robs them of all their husband's time and attention. Their neglected children get tired of hearing, 'I'm doing this for the Lord,' so they rebel against God and the church, and act out in ways that embarrass the parent who has no time for them. Your wife and children should always be able to reach you. If the church takes up seven days out of your week, it's not the church's fault - it's yours! You need to start making changes! And if you think this is a phenomenon of living in the 21st Century, think again. Read the stories of leaders like David and Samuel, and you discover it's possible to succeed on the job, yet fail miserably on the home front.

Too many preachers value the approval of their peers more than the love and respect of their families. Bear in mind that you won't always be the church leader, but you will always be the husband of your wife and the father of your children. So be there when they need you - and they'll be there when you need them.

Soulfood: 2 Chr 29-31, John 12:37-50, Ps 102:18-28, Pro 27:13-16


Finishing strong 3

'Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock.' Acts 20:28 NKJV

Here's another issue church leaders often grapple with: they know how to feed others spiritually, but not themselves. Before leaving the church at Ephesus for the last time, Paul gathered its leaders together and said, 'Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers' (Acts 20:28 NKJV). Before you attempt to take care of others, learn to take care of yourself. Before God builds the ministry, he builds the minister; otherwise, you become an easy target for the enemy. When the administrative side of church threatened to rob the apostles of their daily prayer and Bible study time, they called 'time out', saying, 'We will give ourselves continually to prayer and...the word' (Acts 6:4 NKJV).

Church leader, don't just focus on preparing your sermon, keep your soul prepared! And don't just set boundaries for your people, set them for yourself. Believing you can cut corners spiritually opens you to wrong relationships and destructive habits. As a result, you end up living on two levels - public service and private struggle. When that happens, you live with the fear of exposure, feel like a hypocrite and forfeit the confidence necessary for God to use you (see 1 John 3:21-22). Consequently the church gets robbed spiritually and suffers.

So...what do struggling servants of God need? Spiritual fathers! Paul writes, 'You might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers' (1 Corinthians 4:15 NKJV). Find a mature, seasoned friend in ministry and reach for help before your problem gets out of control. This isn't just a good idea - your survival in ministry may depend on it!

Soulfood: 2 Chr 25-28, John 12:20-36, Ps 102:12-17, Pro 27:10-12


Finishing strong 2

'Each day I am burdened... about churches.' 2 Corinthians 11:28 CEV

Let's take another look at why over 50 per cent of church leaders leave the ministry. They love the crowd, but can't handle the pressure. We like to talk about the power of the New Testament church, but what about its problems? The church is made up of human beings, and human beings have unresolved issues.

The New Testament church had: (1) Moral problems. One man was sleeping with his stepmother, and nobody in the church seemed particularly upset about it (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-2). (2) Doctrinal problems. Some Jewish converts thought the Gentile converts needed to be circumcised. The dispute became so heated that it almost split the church down the middle (see Acts 15). (3) Immaturity and 'personality-itis' problems. Paul writes: 'I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly - mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it...For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly?...when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere human beings' (1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NIV)? He goes on to say, 'Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world' (2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV). Then he adds, 'Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm' (2 Timothy 4:14 NKJV).

If you're a church leader here's the bottom line: if you can't feel the pain, you can't heal the pain! Hidden in your everyday problems and people pressures, you'll find the wisdom to minister effectively. So don't get discouraged - keep going!

Soulfood: 2 Chr 22-24, John 12:12-19, Ps 102:1-11, Pro 27:7-9

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