Archive for April, 2013

Blessed Are Those Who Have Persevered

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. – James 5:10-11

There are some who look at the faith through rose colored glasses seeing only the benefits without seeing the cost associated with walking the path of faith. Yes, it is true that we receive favor from God as a free gift and that gift is appropriated by faith in Jesus Christ, but it is also true that continuing in faith requires a strong commitment.

James reminds us that many who have gone before have had to face difficulties which required a commitment to patiently await the deliverance of the Lord. He first speaks of the prophets who suffered at the hands of the people God sent them to serve. Then he reminds us of Job who suffered unfairly, yet he persevered.

What the prophets and Job had in common was an unwavering faith. The prophets believed the word of the Lord that they had been given and they accepted the responsibility of declaring it in an unfriendly environment and they endured patiently. Job, though not understanding why he was asked to endure such loss, held on to his faith and declared, “Though God slay me, yet will I trust him.”

As our faith deepens we can rest assured that it is going to be tested. When we are tested it is not to cause us grief and prove that we can bear it, it is to prove that our faith in God is well placed. The testing of our faith is to prove the faithfulness of God.

When James reminds us of Job’s suffering he concludes, “we have seen what the Lord finally brought about [for Job].” It was his faithfulness and patient suffering that prepared him to receive God’s blessing. It is not easy to endure, and our patience is often tested, but we know that those who patiently endure will receive the reward of righteousness.

Prayer: Lord, I don’t enjoy hardships, but I know they come to us all. Grant me the grace to endure with patience so that I will be proven faithful. In Jesus name, amen.

Principle: When we are tested it is not to cause us grief and prove that we can bear it, it is to prove that our faith in God is well placed. The testing of our faith is to prove the faithfulness of God.

Affirmation: When my faith is being tested I know that I can trust the faithfulness of God. My faithful and patient pursuit of God leads to his faithful deliverance.

Reflection: Job suffered many afflictions as his faith was tested, yet He could say, “Though God slay me I will trust him.” How does one have that level of faith? Could you say that about yourself?

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Patiently Waiting In Hope

Patiently Waiting In Hope

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

The big picture of the book of Isaiah is that a judgment from God was coming and the Jews would be taken to a foreign land as captives. They would remain there for a time then the favor the Lord would return and they would be allowed to go back to their homeland. He also looks far into the future and predicts a kingdom where the Lord himself will rule.

The context of our passage for today is that through the trials of life God’s people would grow weary, but he will give them strength. Isaiah writes, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (v29). When we have exhausted ourselves trying to do it on our own he says that he will give us renewed strength if we trust him.

The NIV translates this verse, “those who hope in the Lord…” That is an interesting translation of the Hebrew word kaw-vaw. The word literally means to “bind together” as in to twist together. It seems to mean, in this passage, “to be bound to the promise of restoration and while you wait patiently for the fulfillment the Lord will strengthen you.” The NIV translators interpreted this to simply mean “Hope in the Lord.”

The simple truth is that God has promised to be our deliverer, our help, our strength, and everything else we need. Our response to his promise is to place our hope in him; have faith in him. It is faith which gives us the courage, and patience, to wait upon him.

Oh, blessed is the peace that comes from trusting the Lord to do what he has promised. How great is the joy that comes from the faith which gives us patience to wait for his provision. Anxiety rolls away as we are strengthened in his grace.

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for your promise to be our strength in wearisome times. Grant me the grace to patiently wait on you. In Jesus name, amen.

Principle: Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They shall not grow weary in well doing.

Affirmation: My hope is in the Lord and I will trust him because I know he gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Reflection: Israel was facing the prospect of being taken from their land and exiled to a foreign country. They needed hope to sustain them through the trial. How can we have hope in the time of our greatest trial? How can we have the strength to patiently endure? Reflect on that.

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Patience Stands Firm In The Face Of Adversity

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s… You will not have to fight this battle… Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you… Do not be afraid… the Lord will be with you. – 2 Chronicles 20:15-17

It is difficult to stand firm and patiently wait when we are facing overwhelming odds. In this passage there were four kingdoms coming against Jerusalem. King Jehoshaphat realized that he was outnumbered and ill equipped to fight these armies. What could he do?

Jehoshaphat prayed and the Lord said, “Stand firm.” That was good news. They were facing immanent destruction and God says, “Just stand there.” But that wasn’t all he said. He also said, “Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.” The key is not to do nothing, but to hear the voice of the Lord and do what he says.

We are programmed to take action when we are facing adversity. It is just natural to resist difficulty and develop a plan. However, our actions are based on a limited knowledge of the situation. That’s why our plans are so inadequate; we can only act on what we know and what we know is limited. In those times God is telling us to wait on him; hear his voice, then act on his instruction.

You can imagine the anxiety among the residents of Jerusalem as they waited for the opposing army to come against them, knowing that their own king was just going to wait on the Lord. It’s like hearing someone outside your house, rattling your door to see if it will open, and someone saying, “Don’t worry. The Lord said to just stand here and see him destroy the enemy.” We might stand there, but we’ll have a baseball bat in our hand.

Trust and patience go hand in hand. As we are on this journey of faith we must learn to trust the Lord to do as he has promised, and we must patiently wait for him speak, then we must patiently wait for him to do what he has promised.

Prayer: It is difficult to wait when danger seems imminent. Grant me the grace to stand firm in the face of the adversary and to tarry in prayer until your answer comes. In Jesus name, amen.

Principle: God Said, “Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.” The key to victory is not to do nothing, but to hear the voice of the Lord and do what he says.

Affirmation: I am committed to not taking action in situations with major consequences until I have heard God speak and then I will do what he says.

Reflection: Trust and patience go hand in hand. How did trusting God give king Jehoshaphat patience? Have you had occasions in your own life when God seemed to say, “Stand still,” but your feet said, “Run for your life”?

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Be Patient With Everyone

Be Patient With Everyone

We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14

The paragraph that contains the verse we are using here begins with, “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you” (v12). Then in verse 14 he gives the ways that we are to respect others among us; warning, encouraging, helping and being patient. This is some powerful instruction.
One of the primary factors to being patient with others is respecting who they are. If I see others as being placed on the earth for my convenience and to make life simpler for me, then I am going to run into relationship problems and I will be impatient with them. However, when I see others as an opportunity to bless and serve I am going to suffer long with their shortcomings and work hard to help them become more effective in their life.
Being patient with everyone is not an easy task. It seems that there is always at least one person in my life who tries my patience. In fact, I have found that the more I serve others the more people there are in my life who try my patience. It is those people that this passage is addressing.
Having respect for others has many facets. Paul is addressing some them in this passage. He tells us to warn the idle. Warn them of what? They need to be reminded of the consequences of being irresponsible with their time. That doesn’t mean we are to cut them off until they learn, but it does mean that we are not to enable them to be irresponsible.
There are also those among us who are timid, and some are weak. It can be a bit wearisome trying to help them see their potential and help them see God’s plan for their life, but we are called to be patient with everyone, warning them, encouraging them, helping them.

Prayer: Father, there are times that I find it difficult to be patient with others. Help me to keep in mind that I am called to serve others. In Jesus name, amen.

Principle: The ways we are to respect others among us; warning, encouraging, helping and being patient.

Affirmation: I show my respect for others by warning them when they are in grievous error; encouraging them when they are weak; helping them when they fall and being patient with them in all things.

Reflection: This devotion speaks of many facets, or many ways of respecting others. Reflect on some of those and look inside yourself to see how your respond to people who try your patience. Give it some thought.

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Patience Is Better Than Pride

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:8-9

That sounds pretty radical. “Anger resides in the lap of fools.” What about when I have just cause to be angry – is that foolish? There are about three occasions that arouse anger in us. One is when someone we care about is being abused in some way. Another is when our belief system is being threatened. A third is when we feel that our person/pride is being threatened.

Most of our anger comes from the third category. Our pride, or ego, sees many opportunities to be angry: When we feel that we are being taken advantage of; when we feel that we are being neglected; when we feel others are disrespecting us in some way. Our pride, or ego, gives us many opportunities to be angry.

According to this passage in the Proverbs, “patience is better than pride.” What does that mean to us in everyday life? Simply that most of what makes us angry is foolishness and if we will just be patient most of these things will work themselves out. And besides that, if the issues don’t just work themselves out we are still better for not allowing them to cause an angry response.

Those who have gained wisdom through the process of trial and error tell us that thinking in terms of the big picture puts our own situation in perspective. What I mean by that is we often see circumstances through a short-sighted lens. We can only see how the situation immediately affects us and we don’t like what we see. When we can look at the big picture we can see that most of what concerns us fades in view of what is taking place on a larger scale.

When we see life through the big picture we respond in a way that affects a larger set of circumstanchtt rather than in a way that justifies us for the moment.

Prayer: Lord, I don’t want to be seen as an angry fool. Grant me the wisdom to look beyond myself to a greater purpose. Give me the grace of patience that I will bring honor to you. In Jesus name, amen.

Principle: Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools

Affirmation: I know that the end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride, therefore I will not allow myself to be quickly provoked.

Reflection: Three causes of anger are listed in this devotion. Reflect on them and how you have responded in those situation. Of the three, do you agree that ego is the one which gives us the most trouble?

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Wisdom Produces Patience

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. – Proverbs 19:17

I know many very good people who are constantly getting themselves into uncomfortable situations because they do not have the patience to wait before taking action. It seems they are ever learning but never gaining wisdom.

There are a lot of reasons why a person would be quick to act when prudence would call for patience. One reason is that we tend think we are the answer. We think, “This is an easy one, I can do this,” and we wind up acting on incomplete information which leads to having to back up and start again.

Another cause for impatience is feeling the urgency of a situation, believing that if we don’t act now a catastrophe will result. That is true if a child is in the road and a car is approaching, but most of the crisis situations we face are not that drastic and we are driven by urgency rather than wisdom.

Some people have a keen sense of justice and are quick to make decisions based upon an injustice they perceive being committed. All too often these folks create more of a problem with their quick action to right a perceived wrong than the wrong itself created.

What are we to do? Should we ignore injustice? Should we pretend a crisis does not exist? Absolutely not – but wisdom demands patience. If we find ourselves acting out of urgency rather than from wisdom we must seek God for wisdom and the wisdom he gives us will produce patience.

Patience is easy when we have the wisdom to weigh a situation before we take action. And, there are many times when wisdom demands that we are patient with someone who has committed an offense allowing God to bring them to repentance. The Apostle Peter wrote, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Prayer: Lord, all too often I have found myself taking action when I should be standing still listening for your wisdom. Grant me the patience to wait for your answer before I act. In Jesus name, amen.

Principle: A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

Affirmation: I am instructed to seek God for wisdom. I do that. I ask God for wisdom so that I might have patience and be seek God for the ability to overlook offense.

Reflection: Reflect upon the reasons given in the devotion which deal with why we too often don’t respond to a given situation the way God would have us respond. Think about how wisdom and patience go hand in hand.

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Return To God and Wait Patiently For Him

You must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always. – Hosea 12:6

We do a lot of work with people who have life controlling behaviors. One characteristic that seems to be common among them is the need for instant gratification. Whether the controlling behavior is drugs, alcohol, anger, or sexual habits, the tendency to need instant gratification affects their ability to have a consistent walk.

We look at those whose “shortcomings” that are obvious for all to see and think that they just need to make up their mind to live right. But when we stand before the mirror of God’s law we can see our own need to make up our mind on the issues that affect our faith walk.

In this passage God is calling Israel back to himself and today he is making the same call to all who will listen. The most common sin that Israel committed was that they did not wait patiently for God to reveal his will. They were constantly faced with difficult situations that demanded action and instead of waiting to hear what the Lord would say they resorted to their own resources.
People have not changed that much and we tend to do the same thing today. When we are faced with the immediacy of the need coupled with our own tendency to need instant satisfaction, it becomes very easy to trust our own instincts instead of waiting upon the Lord. When we have done that all is not lost, but we, like Israel, must return to the Lord and wait upon him.

This passage is calling us to transcend human tendencies and learn God’s way. We are called to do three things; maintain love, maintain justice, and wait for God.

It doesn’t seem that hard to maintain justice, but justice tends to get skewed when viewed through the eyes of those who have been mistreated by others.
Love and justice can only be maintained as we patiently wait upon the Lord.

Prayer: Lord, grant me the grace to patiently wait on you to reveal your love and justice through me. In Jesus name, amen.

Principle: You must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.

Affirmation: I know that love and justice can only be maintained so I have purposed to turn my heart toward God and wait patiently upon him.

Reflection: Israel often wandered away from God because they did not see his hand in their daily life. The result was that they lost favor with God. What happens when we do not see the hand of the Lord in our daily life? Reflect on how to maintain that daily contact with him.

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Paul ”Hope Preacher” Smith

Messages of inspiration for the journey of faith

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March