As many of you know I have multiple chronic illnesses which leave me with very little energy and getting back into the swing of things after the Christmas break felt really daunting this year!
But God is so good and faithful because when I opened my Bible randomly first thing this morning I saw this…
‘Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;’ and it was so encouraging!
Friends, maybe like me you’ve started the week feeling very aware of how inadequate you are but as Paul said, no, we’re not sufficient in ourselves and we never will be BUT…’our sufficiency is of God’!!
The Corinthians example was not just a pen and paper letter of commendation but living, active proof of how God had worked in them through Paul’s ministry.
My first thought when I read that context was ‘so is this verse just for ministers?’ but friends, whatever we do, if we do it for the glory of God, through Jesus Christ, is ministry!
Yes, even putting the laundry away (the job I always put off 🙈) getting a wriggling toddler dressed, picking up dirty clothes from floor – again, or doing the same mundane tasks at work, all seemingly unnoticed and unappreciated.
So Friend as you start the first week of a new year remember that it’s only in our weakness that we get to prove the power of Christ!
‘And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…’
Can we continue with Paul?…
‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.’
I’ll leave you with this beautiful promise…
‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I WILL strengthen thee; yea, I WILL help thee; yea, I WILL uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.’
It’s so easy at the moment to get bogged down with the what ifs and the whys!
Many of us are wondering how restricted our holidays and celebrations will be this year and what we’re going to do about it, some may be wondering what the future holds, others think persecution isn’t far off, some that a new world order will be imposed on us. There are so many conspiracy theories and talk about the end of the world being near but Friends although being informed and knowing different view points isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is when it takes our eyes off Jesus and our focus off our God who is in ultimate control!
‘There are many devices [plans]in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel [purpose] of the LORD, that shall stand.’
Friends, whatever the future may hold, hard as it may be, it won’t be able to drag us down if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, trusting that whatever God may allow He works together for the good of His children!!
‘And we KNOW that ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.’
‘Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.’
When God promised Joshua this He said ‘only be thou strong and very courageous,’ to walk in God’s ways and to meditate on His word day and night so that God might prosper his way.
It’s the same for each of God’s children, if we live each day seeking to follow Jesus, walking in God’s will He WILL prosper our way.
BUT that won’t necessarily be earthly blessing, (although we are surrounded by them) but if we’re truly seeking God in everything He’ll give us the wisdom to walk in all His ways and spiritual prosperity because we’re trusting in His presence and promises!!
The world’s prosperity is stuff, ‘things that will fade in a moment away’ but the Believer’s prosperity is in walking Jesus and having a close walk with Him!
So Friend, keep seeking, keep leaning, keep abiding, keep feasting upon God’s word, keep communing with God in prayer, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and God will be with you whatever the future may hold!
‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious…’
Have you Friend? Have you tasted a little of His love to you?
Have you come to Jesus in all your weakness and need and found in Him a Saviour?
‘To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious…’
If so then…
‘Ye also, as lively [living] stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.’
The old system of sacrificing animals was finished when Jesus died on the cross becoming to one perfect sacrifice for sin and yet here we see that there are these spiritual sacrifices to be offered but what are they?
‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.’
First of all, if we’ve been born again we’ve been bought with a price and we no longer belong to ourselves…
‘What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.’
So we see that our lives are no longer ours for us to live to please ourselves but to glorify God and that will mean sacrifice, it may mean giving up things that we love if God shows us do not please Him.
It may not be something wrong in itself and may be very different for one person than another depending on what it is in our lives that pulls us away from God and distracts us from living our lives for Him and for His glory.
Maybe social media is a distraction to you or a love of shopping, maybe you have an unhealthy relationship with food, looking to that for comfort rather than turning to God?
Maybe you don’t think there is anything that pulls you away from God in your life, if so I’d just encourage you to ask God to open your eyes in case there is and you’re missing it.
Maybe this all sounds very depressing, why should we want to follow a God who makes us give up things we enjoy?
Because Friends when we sacrifice those distraction for Jesus sake we gain the joy of a closer walk with God which far exceeds any earthly pleasure!!
So what other sacrifices do we see mentioned?
‘Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.’
Initially praise and thanksgiving don’t sound like sacrifices but what if God asks you to praise Him in those hard times, to praise Him as you watch someone you love fade away, to thank Him as you sit by the bed of someone you love that is dying?
It’s a sacrifice then Friends but it’s a sacrifice that as God helps you to offer it, will bring that peace that passes all understanding. I’ve been there and I’ve proved the peace and joy it brings.
Friend, is there something in your life you need to be pausing and thanking God for?
Paul in his letter to the Hebrews also tells us to…
‘offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name…’
But he adds this…
‘But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.’
Here we see doing good and communicating or sharing what we have is added to praise and thanksgiving.
Friends, everything we have is not truly ours, it’s all been given to us by God and we have so much compared to so many, are we willing to sacrifice and share with open hands and hearts?
Then there’s this…
‘And to love him [God] with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’
Is love a sacrifice? Well firstly this Greek word ‘agapao’ translated here as love is a verb, this love isn’t a feeling it’s a doing!
Do all our actions show a whole hearted love, yes first to God but secondly to those around us, to everyone around us! To those that are unkind or who we would naturally avoid?
Are we willing to make this sacrifice of wholehearted love for everyone for the sake of Jesus who gave up everything for us?
Again friends, it’s the path of peace! Is there some way we can show a little of the love of Christ in us today to those around us that we wouldn’t naturally love?
Friends, do we love the One who sacrificed His life for us, enough to make sacrifices for Him?
1 Peter 2:3-5, Rom 12:1, 1 Cor 6:19-20, Ps 107:21-22, Heb 13:15-16, Mark 12:33,
Friends, for the true Believers there will many battles to fight.
There will be the temptations of the enemy, the distractions of the world, the trials, the storms of life, hear hard things in our lives, hard things in our country, hard things in the world and in it all the enemy has one aim and desire…
to get our eyes fixed on anything but Jesus!
Friends, these battles are for our souls and they are fierce and hard.
There will be times when everything seems to be going wrong and the enemy feels to be gaining so much ground ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’
But what do these trials do for us?
Do they make us pray more, read our Bible more, trust more, make us more dependent upon God?
Then Friends, if these trials bring us to our knees they’ll serve only to fix our eyes on Jesus and make us a stronger soldier of the cross.
If these enemy attacks make us pick up the sword of the Spirit, God’s word, and fight, then praise God!
If they make us walk a little firmer in the gospel of peace then praise God!
If they make us polish up our breastplate of Christ righteousness rather than trusting in our own then praise God!
If they make us hold a little tighter to that shield of faith then praise God!
Then Friends, what the enemy intended for evil, God, just as he did with Joseph, will work it all together for our good and His glory!
‘Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.’
It’s so easy to get into negative talking or thinking about others especially at the moment with so many different opinions flying around, I found myself spiralling into it yesterday but Friends this is all part of the battle!!
How quickly we forget that there’s constantly an unseen war being fought, battles far more fierce and way more important than any physical battle that’s ever been fought on this Earth: because Friends, this battle is for souls, it’s for your soul and mine!!
Paul tells us that ‘though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:’
No battle compares to the battle over your soul!
Paul then goes on to tell us about our weapons…
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)’
Friends if we’re true believers our weapons are mighty and not just mighty but mighty through God!!
And not just mighty through God but mighty to the pulling down of those strong holds, those fortresses of the enemy!!
In Christ we have everything we need to fight these battles and WIN!!
Because Jesus is, ‘unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.’
What are those weapons then?
We have the sword of the spirit, God’s word and we have prayer!! And for our defence we have that heavenly armour (Eph 6:10-18)
And what are we to be doing with these? We’re to be ‘Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;’
Friends, let’s be those that take those arrows of temptation that the enemy fired at us, those judgemental thoughts, those irritations etc: take them captive hold them up to the light of truth in God’s word and fire them up to Him in prayer because that’s where they lose their power to harm us!
Friends, we’re not just accountable for our actions or words but for our thoughts too…
‘So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way….
….Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.’
A simple commands, just two words but there are times in our lives when rejoicing feels impossible so why would God tell us to rejoice for evermore?
Because my Friend, although this is impossible in our own strength it is possible through Christ.
So does this mean we have to pretend to be happy when things are hard or to try rejoice when we lose someone we love? No!!
This rejoicing is a rejoicing that can happen alongside grief, it’s a joy that we can feel even as tears run like rivers down our cheeks!
Paul phrased it slightly differently here…
‘Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.’
Friends, our joy isn’t dependent on our circumstances, it’s in God. Circumstances change, but God never changes!!
Rejoice in that God knows, that God sees, that God hears, that God understands, that God has all your hard in His capable loving hands.
Some of you already know this but the Lord taught me this beautiful lesson through a little blackbird during one of the hardest years of my life.
I got up early one morning, while it was still dark, feeling exhausted both mentally and physically and with a very heavy heart due to circumstances but out in the garden a little blackbird sang beautifully!
Friends, that little bird sang because he knew morning was coming!
Then a few weeks later, still in the middle of this hard time, one evening as it was geting dark and raining hard and that little bird sang again!
Time after time through those long hard weeks I would hear or see a blackbird just when I most needed that reminder to rejoice.
Friends, that blackbird sang when it was dark, it sang in the rain and God taught me a beautiful lesson, He showed me that the joy of the Lord is indeed my strength, He showed me that even when you fear losing someone you love dearly there is joy to be found in Him. He showed me that praise brings perspective and joy brings peace!!
There is always joy to be found in the Lord, seek it until you find it!!!
Praise Him in the hard for He is worthy!
‘Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I WILL rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.’
‘This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.’
When I woke up this morning these well known words came into my mind…
‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.’
Here believers are told not to fear and why, what precious promises to hold onto when those doubts and fears come!!
Friends, fear fights against God’s love!
Fear opposes faith!!
Fear tells us that God’s love, mercy and power are not big enough!!!
We’re to fight fear with all our might, fighting it with faith and truth, picking up ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;’
This instruction to ‘fear not’ is followed by five reasons we shouldn’t fear.
1: Because God IS with us…
“lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
2: Because He is OUR God…
“For this God is our God for ever and EVER: he will be our guide even unto death.”
3: Because He WILL strengthen us…
“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, That the everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth,Fainteth not, neither is weary?
There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; And to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall:
But 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; And they SHALL walk, and not faint.”
4: Because He WILL help us…
“God is our refuge and strength, a VERY present help in trouble.”
“My grace IS sufficient for thee: for my strength IS made perfect in weakness.”
5: And because He WILL uphold us with the right hand of His righteousness.’
“The LORD upholdeth ALL that fall, and raiseth up ALL those that be bowed down.”
Believer, THIS 👆🏻 is who our God if and these are His promise to you!!
Fear not, “the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he WILL be with thee, he will NOT fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
Is 41:10, Eph 6:17,18, Matt 28:20, Ps 48:14, Is 40:29-31, Ps 46:1, 2 Cor 12:9, Ps 145:14, Deut 31:8.
What is God’s purpose for my life? What is His will for me?
Have you ever asked those questions Friends?
There are three passages of scripture that come into my mind when my thoughts go down this road.
1 – ‘Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for THIS is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.’
2 – ‘Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.’
3 – ‘Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.’
Friends, there’s the will of God in Christ Jesus for us, that we continually rejoice, pray and give thanks.
God longs for that constant moment by moment joyful communion with us and for our dependence upon Him.
He loves His children and longs to help us live out our purpose!
This is God’s desire for me and for you Believer, the very purpose for which we were created, that our lives might bring Him, our God and Creator, pleasure and glory because Friends, He is worthy!!
If we were to ask these two questions more often – will it please God and will it glorify God? – then we’d more often be found communing with God in prayer, rejoicing and giving thanks whatever our circumstances.
Friends, may we each be given the grace we need to live our lives for God and may our prayer be ‘no more me, just all Christ in me!’
Some say that God never gives us more than we can bear but I disagree, I think He does BUT He never gives us more than we can bear through Him, with His grace and help.
‘Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee:
Here we have the picture of a farmer working his fields.
When a farmer has two oxen that work together the yoke is shaped to fit those ox and the older more experienced ox takes the lead and as long as the younger ox follows there’s no problem.
But if the wrong yoke was to be laid on those oxen it would soon chafe and cause pain or if one ox was to be constantly trying to pull in a different direction things would rapidly get really difficult and the yoke would be hard to bear.
Jesus yoke is easy if we walk right by His side and let Him lead and it’s easy if we don’t rebel against it and try to go off in our own way.
Jesus burden is light but we can so quickly pick up burdens that God never meant us to carry then our load becomes too heavy to bear.
Friends, we’re not told that by following Jesus we’ll have everything we want and no troubles along the way, in fact we’re told the opposite, there’s to be that daily taking up of our cross, that there’s to be that crucifying of self BUT what we are promised is that when we walk with Jesus He will help us to bear even the heaviest burden and the most crushing weight, making it light and easy.
The most bitter trial becomes sweet when Jesus is walking close by our side carrying the burden with us.
Easy – chrestos – here means better, good, gracious, kind, fit for us, pleasant. As opposed to hard, harsh or bitter.
Light – elaphros – means light or easy.
The only other place this Greek word elaphros is used in the Bible is in this verse where Paul said…
‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;’
God’s way is always good, it’s better, it’s pleasant and it’s fit for us!! This is the way of wisdom and ‘Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.’
Friends, there’s a purpose in these afflictions, in our hard things, God allows them to send us running to Jesus so that through them we might find the beauty and blessing of complete dependence upon Christ Jesus!
‘For I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’
What a beautiful description of Jesus!
‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’
This little word ‘for’ joins the invitation and command with the reason for obedience.
If we’re weary and heavy laden and we come just as we are in all our felt sinfulness and weakness and if we take His yoke upon us and follow Him, seeking Him, learning from Him, we will receive this precious gift of rest in Christ and we’ll find rest for our weary, burdened souls.
This meek and lowly, humble Jesus who did so many wonderful works still calls those that are weary and burdened with the weight of this sinful world and their own sins to come to Him find rest for their weary souls.
These coming, seeking, weary, burdened souls are the souls that Jesus reveals the Father to ‘no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.’
But let’s look a little more at these two words describing Jesus; ‘meek and lowly in heart.’
Meek – praos – humble, meek, gentle.
Interestingly the only time this Greek word is used in the whole Bible is here to describe Jesus.
What a reminder to us each that Jesus is the only perfectly humble person that has ever walked this earth, for that sin of pride is always in our hearts waiting for an opportunity when we’re not walking so close to Jesus to rear it’s ugly heard and make us stumble.
Lowly – tapeinos – humiliated (in circumstances or disposition): base, cast down, humble, of low estate, lowly.
‘And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.’
Friends, Jesus was made ‘a little lower than the angels’ this Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords left His home in heaven, took on human form, was a baby in his mother’s womb, was born by a natural birth in a stable! He was despised and rejected but so many, even by those close to Him, He knew grief and sorrow buy through it all He was meek and lowly in HEART!
This wasn’t just an outward meekness, He IS meek and lowly, it’s the very essence of who Jesus is. No pride in this One, though the Son of God, though the Creator of all, He humbly reached out to those despised and rejected ones of society, the beggars, the leper’s and the immoral and He reaches out to sinners still with this invitation to come and find rest for Your souls.