Read Proverbs 3:5-6
How often do you find yourself worrying about the future? If you’re anything like me, you at least like to have a little bit of a plan for what is to come. You may find doors of opportunity shutting and you find yourself wondering why and what is to come as a result of this? Your future is quickly becoming different than you had planned. In times like these, you can find yourself beginning to worry.
How easy is it for you to give up control of your future? How do you deal with the unknown? Part of becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ is by FULLY trusting Him with EVERY aspect of your life including your future.
This iconic passage in Proverbs tells us that we should, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding…” How often, when praying about your future, do you give God MOST of your questions and concerns but still rely on yourself to make it work as well?
The next part of our verse says that, “In all your ways, acknowledge Him…” Do you trust that God hasn’t lost the interest or the ability to deal with your problems? It’s easy for us to say “God’s got a plan” and “Trust in God’s plan”. Do you believe it?
These verses end with a promise. If we trust in the Lord and not rely on our own understanding all the while acknowledging Him, He will make our paths straight. Our future is secure.
The challenge we all are facing is trusting God with the unknown in our lives. While it is easier said than done, it is completely necessary. When you enter into the storms of life, don’t think to yourself that this is a result of God messing up or forgetting something. He knew full well what awaited you and allowed it to happen. Why? Because He knows that you WILL get through it with his accompaniment. Part of following Him is trusting in His plan for your life.
What storms are you facing? Do you ever get the sense that you are in the middle of a stormy ocean with nothing but a paddle boat? I can assure you that while it may appear that way, you are not alone. God is with you, He loves you and He wants to see you succeed and you WILL if you trust in His plan for your life.
Read Philippians 2:1-11
When I was little there was many an afternoon that I would spend out in our front yard with a baseball bat swinging at air. In my mind I was my favorite baseball player hitting a walk off home run. It was almost like I could hear the roar of the crowd as I connected on the towering shot. I would even practice how I would run the bases after the clutch home run. If my brother joined in on the fun, we would toss these squishy baseballs to each other and take turns crushing them across our street and well over our neighbor’s house. No later after we made contact, we would run back in the house in case our neighbor discovered the balls that were dropping in their back yard.
Much of my childhood was spent imitating baseball players. I wanted to be them. When I discovered that the baseball gene of the family skipped over me and went to my brother, I would live out my baseball dreams vicariously through my imagination and video games.
We have been talking about following Christ over the past several days. Do you want to follow God or are you expecting Him to follow you? The Bible describes many different ways that we can and should follow Him. One of those is through imitation. Philippians 2 describes our need to imitate Christ in one specific way, humility.
Paul encourages the believers in Philippi to have a humble attitude which they saw in Jesus. He, being God, chose to set aside the right to exercise the full rights of His deity, take on the form of His creation, and live a human life knowing full well what awaited Him. He knew that He would be fiercely opposed the entire journey and handed over to the very people to whom He had preached, to be crucified.
Try to wrap your mind around this kind of humility. Jesus literally became nothing for us. We didn’t and still don’t deserve the grace that he showed us. However, He did it so that we could spend eternity with Him.
As you think of your life, who are you imitating? Are you exemplifying imitating Christ to people? In what ways can you show people how much Jesus means to you and how tremendous a walk with Him is?
Read Hebrews 12:1-13
Today, our focus is less about what is expected of you as a Christ-follower and more about what you should expect as a Christ-follower. And, as you have likely seen both in the text as well as in your life, one of those expectations is discipline.
Your relationship with God is here compared to that of a child and his/her father. While I don’t know what your relationship with your father was like, we all probably know what it should be like.
- We understand that it should be characterized by love (v. 6).
- We realize that such love will, at times, result in discipline for the child (v. 6).
- We come to not only expect but also to respect that (v. 9).
- We understand that an earthly father’s discipline is at times imperfect. Still, it is exercised as seems best to them (v. 10).
- We know that the discipline of an earthly father is at times painful and unpleasant (v. 11).
The author’s point is that we should expect no less from our perfect heavenly Father. In fact, His discipline is better yet. God’s discipline includes, but is not solely expressed in a rod of correction. Yes, like a father who takes phone privileges from a child for abuse of the privilege, He will, at times, give us painful reminders for wrong actions taken. But His discipline can also be directive. Like a father who tells his child with a new driver’s license where to park downtown, He instructs us towards his will. His discipline can also be preventative. Like a father who abruptly grabs his child who is about to step out into the street with oncoming traffic, He uses influences in our lives to prevent us from making poor choices.
Keep in mind…
- His discipline in our lives is rooted in loving. If our lives are void of it, there is reason for us to question whether we are truly one of His children (v. 8).
- His discipline is perfect. Though it may be tempting to question His work in our lives, resist that temptation. He is a perfect Father.
- His discipline is purposeful. It isn’t some kind of arbitrary response. It is part of how God helps us in our struggle against sin. It is strategically designed “for our good…that we may share in His holiness” (v. 10).
Bottom line…as a Christ-follower, expect divine discipline and embrace it as the loving, perfect, and purposeful work of your Father in your life.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 and Ephesians 4:11-16
Church is more than a building. Church is more than a worship service that takes place at a specific time on a Sunday morning. These two passages describe the church as a body. And these verses also help us to get a better grasp of Christ’s intentions for those who follow Him.
Think of Grace Church for a moment as a single body made up of one head and nearly 2000 other body parts. According to Ephesians 4:16, Christ is the head of this body. He is the one who gives impulses to the body parts so that He is honored and the body grows.
Meanwhile, individual believers are the 2000 parts. The Spirit of God has given to each one of them at least one spiritual gift – a special ability. He gives diverse gifts to every one of His kids. There is no room for pride or for jealousy when it comes to the type of gift(s) a person has. After all, the Holy Spirit is the one who distributes them according to His own purposes. Some of these gifts are more prominent and visible than others, but each person and each corresponding gift is essential.
When these 2000 people are collectively serving one another according to their gifting, the body functions best. Paul makes it clear that something is missing when a body part is not operating according to its purpose. It is only when these diversely gifted people leverage their gifting in the body of Christ that the church can become all that Christ intended it to be.
As followers of Jesus, then, we are to serve each other in the body of Christ. He never intended for His children to have an amputated relationship separate from the body of Christ. He never intended for His children to have a spectator relationship with the body of Christ watching it from a distance. He never intended for His children to have a parasitic relationship with the body of Christ, only receiving from the body of Christ. No, He intended for His children to both benefit from and contribute to body life.
Read Luke 12:13-21
Following Jesus…What is it really? This “bigger barns” story certainly gives us some good insights about what it is not. In short, it is not equivalent to many of the values that are ingrained in our minds from a young age. Now, let’s look at the more detailed version of that conclusion.
- Following Jesus is not equated with individual justice. Did the man have a legal right to a larger chunk of the inheritance than he had received? It is very possible, but Jesus was more concerned about the man’s underlying greed than his just legal rights.
- Following Jesus is not compatible with personal pride. On the one hand, the text is clear that the rich man’s land had been very productive (v. 16). Of course, we know that God is the source of a fruitful harvest (Acts 14:17). Unfortunately, the man in the parable seems to be quick to claim the credit (Lk. 14:17).
- Following Jesus is not defined by selfish hoarding of resources. The man in the parable builds bigger barns to house his abundance. There seems to be no understanding of the principle of generous stewardship for a greater purpose.
- Following Jesus is not characterized by a “me mentality.” The man in the parable seems to have clocked out and made life all about his own enjoyment. Enjoyment isn’t bad, but those who follow Jesus are more concerned about investment.
The tragedy at the end of the story was two-fold. First, the man left things behind (v. 20)…perhaps only to continue the same complaint that began the discussion – someone worried about their share of the inheritance. Is leaving something behind for loved ones wrong? Not necessarily. What if, however, we are more strategic in using the resources while we are alive?
The second tragedy was that the man was so focused on a temporal, selfish treasure (v. 21). He did not seek to honor God with his time, energy, and resources and thus accumulate any kind of heavenly treasure. Following Jesus neither focuses on self nor does it clock out into “ministry retirement.” We must heed the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58:
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Read 1 John 1:1-10
What are some of the characteristics of genuine followers of Jesus? Have we invited Jesus to follow us as a first responder for life’s emergencies or as a resort concierge for life’s amenities? Or are we willing to follow Him no matter the cost? Those are the kinds of questions we are posing in this current devotional series.
The apostle John offers us some good insights to the implications of following Jesus. He helps us to understand how true followers relate to sin. First of all, notice that genuine followers are identified by the path they choose (vv. 6, 7). They are intentional in selecting a lit path rather than a darkened one. In other words, the pattern of their life demonstrates that they strive to please God and to avoid sinful lifestyles. They do not knowingly and intentionally excuse or ignore aspects of their life that displease God.
Which path are you on?
Secondly, genuine followers of Christ are quick to own the reality of their own sinfulness (vv. 8, 10). They are not self-deceived into somehow thinking that they no longer sin. A humble awareness of their own imperfections and vulnerability is essential. They live knowingly in the tension of understanding that they are forgiven from past sin but they have not yet been set free from the presence of sin.
Do you humbly own your sinfulness?
Finally, John points us the fact that genuine Jesus followers are marked by more than their awareness of sin. They go beyond acknowledging to truly engaging in confessing sin (v. 9). This moves us past the public admission “Well, nobody’s perfect.” to the prayerful confession “God, that thought was sin. It was against your will for my life. Cleanse me and forgive me.” Aren’t you glad for the assurance that John gives when we confess. He does faithfully forgive and cleanse. The slate is wiped clean. The sin is not held against us. All of that is due to the fact that the just punishment for our sin was satisfied in Christ.
Is confession a regular practice in your life?
Let me add one final thought. Confession should never be done as a convenient way of dealing with something that we have no intention of forsaking. Paul made that clear in Romans 5 and 6. Don’t use God’s generous grace as a reason to keep sinning.
Read Philippians 3:1-21
In these post-Easter days, we are considering what it looks like to follow Christ. Certainly, the apostle Paul provides for us a great model of following. In this passage, not only does he tell his own story, but he also invites us as readers to “join together in following my example.”
So what were some of the essentials for following that Paul wanted to pass along?
- Boast in Christ…not in the flesh. Never lose sight of the fact that the greatest thing about you is not what you have done. Instead it is that which has been done for you. Your resume of accomplishments is of no significance in giving you eternal standing with God. I am sure you noted that Paul had quite an impressive list of things that must have been impressive to others in his day. But did you see what he concluded? Gains were losses in comparison with the surpassing value of knowing Christ. He even went so far as to say that gains were like garbage in comparison with gaining Christ. The great hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” expresses this truth well:
“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.”
- Yearn to know Christ…both resurrection power and crucifixion suffering. The resurrection power sounds pretty inviting. We have that power and have been raised up with Him (Eph. 2:4-6). That power is at our disposal in life and ministry (Eph. 1:19-21). Are you growing to know that more and more?
But Paul also yearned to become a participant in the sufferings of Christ. That idea is less inviting.The average one of us doesn’t long for pain and suffering. Why yearn for that? Is it possible that we get to know Christ in a different way when we are in the depth of the valley? Is it possible that our appreciation for His suffering grows in adversity? Are you growing to know Christ through suffering?
As you, then, seek to grow in following Christ, you will want to make Him your greatest boast and knowing Him your greatest aspiration.