Don’t Fret

“Do not fret–it leads only to evil”
(Psalm 37:8)

 

Reflection:
Fretwork is wood cut with a fretsaw into ornamental designs. Essentially it is cutting holes in a piece of wood. This is what fretting does to our faith – it cuts holes in it by wearing away and eroding it.

Three times in the first eight verses of the Psalm we are counselled not to fret. One of the reasons given is that ‘it leads only to evil.’  Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount also challenged us ‘Not to worry.’

Now to decide not to do something may be good, but not always helpful. It is rather like focussing on not thinking of the word hippopotamus for five minutes. Generally it cannot be done. A better way is to decide against something unhelpful in favour of something helpful. In other words, replace the bad with the good.

Jesus taught us to both learn of God from nature and to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness. The Psalmist has done much the same thing in these eight verses by teaching us rather to,

  • Trust in the Lord and do good
  • Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart
  • Commit your way to the Lord
  • Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him

 Paul also encourages us to,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:4-8)

When God tell us to avoid certain actions it is because they are unhelpful, unhealthy and often harmful to us or to others. They also take away our focus on, or involvement in, something better. Changing our actions and reactions takes intention, prayer and practice – helped enormously by the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is working within us to help us grow and develop. The initiative will have come from Him.

If we are to grow in our relationship and life with God then we need to develop the habit of believing in His love and trusting Him. It is a part of the journey towards wholeness. That does not mean that He will always do everything the way that we would like Him to – but it does mean that He will never abandon or forget us.

The opposite of fretting is a quiet trust in God – that whatever happens He will always be in control and will love us and carry us through to our eternal home with Him.

Response:
Turn your fretting into meditation! Take a positive scripture and ‘worry’ it to get more and more from it.

Prayer:

Father God, please forgive me when my feelings and expressions are negative. Help me to walk in the knowledge of Your presence and love for me. May that heal and influence my actions and feelings. Amen.

————————————-

 

Advertisement

Be Still

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
(Psalm 37:7)

 

Reflection:
The way things are today is not the way that they will be forever. There will be change. The closer that people are to God the better it will be. The further they move away from God the tougher it will be for everyone.

There may be times when evil seems to have a field day. However one thing is certain – God is active. His kingdom will come ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ His rule will be established. There will come a time when

“at the name of Jesus every knee (will) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11)

God is not suggesting that we be passive and inactive. Through the Psalmist He has been leading up to this fourth activity. He has said to us in this Psalm:

  • Trust in the Lord and do good (v3)
  • Delight yourself in the Lord (v4)
  • Commit your way to the Lord (v5)

All of these are positive and active steps that we are called to take in any situation. The final one, ‘Be Still ….do not fret’, is the stillness that comes from choosing to believe that God is in control, He will have His way and He will “work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

There is a shaking going on in the world today. Within the churches, and in the world at large, things are happening. All of these seem designed to make people pause, realise their vulnerability and take stock of where they are and what they are about. Many things are beyond our control – but not beyond God. It is important that we keep our trust in Him.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

Response:
In all things recognise God – ask for His help – do what He calls you to – and trust Him for the outcomes

Prayer:

Lord help me to walk through every day trusting in Your presence and love – knowing that You will always be in control. Amen.

—————————-

God’s Way

“Commit your way to the LORD;
 trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
(Psalm 37:5-6)

Reflection:
When we commit our way to the Lord we effectively do two things. The first is that we allow Him to set the way – in other words the direction we will take and the road we will travel. The second is that we allow Him to determine the way in which it will unfold and the way in which we will respond. No matter where and how we are when we take that decision, or take it again, we are looking for God to lead us forward.

This is exactly what Jesus did Himself. He taught that He only did what the Father showed Him and only spoke the words that the Father gave Him.

  • “whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:50)
  • “but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:31)

There are always two options open to us. There is the way of the world, or my way, and the way of the Lord which is God’s way. We choose the one that we will follow. In committing our ‘way to the Lord’ we are choosing Him and His way over ourselves and our way. We acknowledge Him as Lord and, therefore, commit ourselves to following Him and doing whatever He calls us to.

If we will commit ourselves to walking in the way of the Lord – in thought, word, deed and manner – then we can safely leave the outcome to Him. He will ensure that it falls in with His desires and plans and that we are blessed accordingly. Where we try and keep control and have Him walk with us and bless our ways, then we are heading for pain and disaster. In addition, and looking beyond the personal element, when we live His way we are joining with Jesus and His disciples in the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Where we do not we weaken and delay the process.

Why miss out on the blessings of God by running our own lives? If we can trust His dying for us how much more can we trust His living for us?

Response:
There is no choice for the Christian – we just fight it or embrace it. Start where you are, and try to give your life to God an hour at a time. Tell Him and yourself. Then work, drive, socialise and relate with Him in mind. Don’t look at others – look to yourself.

Prayer:

Father, You are God – all-powerful, all-knowing and of unsurpassable love. Please help me to acknowledge this in the way that I live – and help me to mean it when I pray, ‘Your will be done on earth (and in my life) as it is in heaven.’ Amen.

————————–

 

Yay God!

“Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart”
(Psalm 37:4)

 

Reflection:
The Lord never intended to be a distant monarch who, if humankind paid Him an acceptable homage, would leave them alone to do as they wished. He created us for an intimate relationship with Him, within which we could grow and develop. He wished to bless and prosper us from the abundance of His love and to receive from us the joy of our love and trust.

It is from this background, and from his knowledge and experience of the Lord, that the Psalmist encourages us to make the Lord the primary focus of our thoughts and life – and to take delight, to get immense joy and satisfaction, in doing so. This is not merely to try and get what we want. It is because it is so worthwhile having God in that place in our lives. When He is we will learn just how special the relationship can be and how God does wish to bless us.

Habakkuk had this in mind. Although all else could be lost God would always remain as our greatest treasure.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.”  (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

God know all the longings of our hearts – the good desires, the unhealthy and unhelpful ones, and those that are just fun and normal. He will also be aware of which will fit in with His plans, which won’t and which will not influence them one way or another. Because He loves us we will find that He is even blessing us in ways that are purely personal – just as a father would look to delight his child by a special gift or opportunity.

We do not love God and honour Him for what we can get out of Him. We love and delight in Him for Who He is and for what He is. As we do so we discover that, whatever else He might give to us, His love and His presence are all that we could desire and more than we might imagine. He will reveal them to us out of His love for us as individuals. We can trust Him in this.

Response:
Seek more of Him through Scripture, prayer and looking at His creation.

Prayer:

Father, I need help if I am going to delight in You like this. Please help me to know you better and to involve you in more of my life. Amen.

———————-

 

 

I Trust God

 

“Trust in the Lord and do good”
(Psalm 37:3)

 

Reflection:
This theme is common to all of Scripture. It is implicit in the first instructions given to humankind – to which their disobedience was a sign of mistrust. It is picked up by the Psalmist here. In Proverbs we are told to

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)

This is a trust that goes beyond sight, mind and emotions. Jesus completes it when He tells His followers, in the amazing context of betrayal, denial and desertion to come, to

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

The trust that God is talking of is a total and absolute trust in Him. As we learn and understand from Scripture it is a trust at a depth and height that we would not have imagined.  It is only possible because of who He is, and because of His great and unchangeable love for us.

Having acknowledged and accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, there is absolutely nothing, and no one, that can separate us from God. No matter what happens in our lives, or to our lives, our relationship with God, and our future with Him, is totally secure. He will be with us for every moment of this life, and will be with us through our passage into the next.

It is a trust that, in all circumstances in which we find ourselves, God is in control. Whether or not He changes the situation He will be with us and will bring us through. When we fall He will be there to help us up. When we sin He will be there offering us a way out, and waiting to forgive us when we repent and ask Him. When we are hurt or sick He will be with us to comfort and strengthen us. When we feel rejected, lonely, humiliated and in despair He will be with us to love, comfort and re-assure us.

He is certainly able to change any of our circumstances, but He is just as able to change us in the circumstances.

Having been saved by grace we do not remain saved through our work of keeping the law. It is God’s grace from start to finish. Our response is faith and trust in Him. Yes this faith must lead us into obedience – which is also a sign of our faith.  But from start to finish we are ‘saved by grace through faith.’ This is not a licence to go on sinning -that is an insult. However there may be areas in our lives where we find it impossible to bring change through our own efforts. These should not drive us away from God, but instead send us back to Him again and again and again, until His love and power at work in our lives prevails and He sets us free!

It is this trust that enables us, in any situation in which we might find ourselves, to avoid becoming totally self-absorbed, and to remember others. It is Jesus on the Cross – forgiving His persecutors, giving salvation to the thief next to Him, remembering the needs of His mother. Total and unshakeable Trust in God.

Response:
Decide to trust God. Pray for the grace and strength to do so. Remind yourself regularly. Pray for His special grace and help where you need it. Keep reminding yourself – “I believe and trust in God.”

Prayer:

 Father God, Thank You so much for Your wonderful love and commitment. Please help me to believe and trust in You more and more every day – and in all situations. In Jesus name. Amen.

——————-

 

New Identity

“To all who received him,
to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God”
(John 1:12)

 

Reflection:
We celebrate our human birthdays, acknowledge our human parents and seek our fulfilment in our human situations.

As understandable as these may be there are however other significant celebrations that are applicable to true believers in Jesus Christ. There is the time of our new birth into the eternal family of God, the moment from which we can in all truth acknowledge and rejoice in God as our Father, and the fulfilment that is ours in our new identity and place in the eternal purposes of God.

If these things are true for believers then they are worth having at the forefront of our thoughts and lives, guiding us in our daily living and in the ways in which we respond to situations. If we persist in thinking of ourselves as everyday humans then we will find that we live like them. When we begin to see ourselves as a son or daughter of God it must begin to colour the way we live.

Christianity is not a cloak of respectability that we put on over our old ways of life – it is a new birth into new relationships and a new way of thinking and living. When God calls us to be holy He is drawing our attention to the fact that we are expected to be different to the world around us. In fact we are to be as different as a light shining in the darkness. This is because He is different, and we are now His children and no longer children of the world.

Response:
What does my life say about me?

Prayer:

Lord help me to reflect You into the world – and not to mirror the world to You. Amen.

———————-

New Strength

“I can do everything
through Him who gives me strength”
(Philippians 4:13)

Reflection:
Towards the end of a journey that incorporated many trials and much temptation, suffering and rejection, Paul could say with confidence that, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11) This had come about because of his faith and trust in Christ, and the knowledge of the God who was with him at all times. He was certain that God would never abandon him or lose control of his situations. This was the peace that passes understanding. He was in God’s hands and nothing could snatch him away from God’s great hold on him – whatever the world might do.

Now in prison he could affirm that he had been, and was still, able to do everything that God wanted of him – whatever that might be and whatever challenges that might lead him into. God was with him and would give him whatever was needed in a particular situation – wisdom, words, faith, courage, perseverance.

As you and I look ahead these words come to us, both to inspire us and to build our faith. Whatever the trials and challenges are that we might face this year we can meet them, live through them and come through them in the strength and with the help that God will give us. In anything and everything, from the traffic, to health and work, family and relationship issues, to failures and financial difficulties, to insecurities, rejection and abuse, national and international turmoil, God is with us. Whatever else He might do, He will strengthen and guide us as we look to and trust in Him. He is not merely an observer but a participant in our life.

Response:
Give God your situation and the road ahead. Pray particularly for the difficulties that you foresee and the people involved. Ask God for guidance, strength and an awareness of His presence. Keep praying and listening. Memorise and keep saying today’s scripture.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, please help me to face every day in the confidence that, with Your help, I can face and do all the things that You want me to. Please help me to commit everything to You and to seek Your guidance and strength. Thank You for always being with me. Amen.

 ————————-——-

Let your fruit grow

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
 patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
(Galatians 5:22-23)

 

Reflection:
God created us originally in His image. Now in our re-birth as His daughters and sons His purpose is for us to be Christ-like.

 “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The qualities that we find in Christ are the same fruit that the Holy Spirit seeks to produce in us.

  • Love – “God is love” (1 John 4:16)
  • Joy – Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”(John 15:11)
  • Peace – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” John 14:27)
  • Patience – “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience.”(1 Timothy 1:16)
  • Kindness – “in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”(Ephesians 2:7)
  • Goodness – “How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.” (Psalm 31:19)
  • Faithfulness – “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” (Psalm 57:10)
  • Gentleness – “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”(Matthew 11:29)
  • Self-Control – “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!”(Philippians 2:6-8)

Notice how they all flow from Love and feed into each other. It is as love begins to grow in our lives that it feeds the other areas as well. God wishes this fruit to be visible in our lives because this is what He is like. It is the fruit of God and not of man. As with a fruit tree it comes only from within. It is the fruit of the Spirit who lives within us and comes from Him as we submit to His ministry and guidance. The closer our walk with God the more abundant and lasting the fruit will be (John 15:5 & 16).

As we look at the world around us we can see clearly that the fruit of the Spirit is not generally evident – which is all the more reason for us to pray that God will bless us with it all. We might also pray particularly for those areas where He shows us that we are lacking in a particular way.

Response:
Don’t stay like you were! Pray that these aspects of God’s fruit will grow visibly in your life this year

Prayer:

Father, these are some of Your qualities that You wish to be reproduced in me. Please grow them in me through the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and help me to embrace them more and more. Amen.

——————-

My Gifts

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”
(1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

 

Reflection:
The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was a reality. This was being ‘clothed with power,’ for which Jesus had told His disciples to wait before embarking on the Great Commission. This empowerment was not just of the spirit, mind and body – they were empowered with specific gifts. These were to be used in the course of their ministry, and to make them effective in the building of the Kingdom.

Paul’s teaching, now, is very specific.

  • The appearance of the Holy Spirit is to be real for each Christian.
  • The Spirit gives a variety of gifts – some of which are mentioned here.
  • The Spirit gives one or more of these gifts to each Christian.

No believer is excluded. The Holy Spirit, with a specific gift, comes to each one. And each includes you, just as it includes me. Whatever else we may have to offer God, the ministry in which He wishes us to be involved will be based upon the gift that the Holy Spirit gives to us. This is God knowing what has to be done, choosing His team, and equipping them with what they will need. And the gift that the Spirit gives to us is the one that He will empower and bless. It may, or may not, be an extension of a talent that we have.

If we are going to be effective in our place in the ‘Body of Christ’ – where all should be working in harmony with each other and towards the same end – then we need to identify and become experienced in the use of our particular gift/s. We will, in all probability, find it in the area for which we have, or are developing, a God-given ability or passion as opposed to a self-centred desire. It is important to ask God to help you to identify it, and also to seek the prayer and discernment of mature Christians whom you trust. Its focus will be to bring glory to God and achieve His purposes.

It is our very great privilege and honour to have been chosen, and called, into the salvation of Jesus Christ and into the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as the daughters and sons of the Eternal and Almighty God.

Response:
As a Christian I have received the Holy Spirit who has brought to me specific gifts to enable me to be an effective member of the Body of Christ.

Prayer:

Lord God, please help me to recognise my spiritual gifts and to use them in love for Your glory and the blessing of others. Amen.

——————–

My Purpose

“For we are God’s workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do”
 (Ephesians 2:10)

Reflection:
God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us. He has equipped, and will empower, us for that purpose. It is in that purpose that we will begin to find our satisfaction – not because of any material rewards that it might bring, but because it is so worthwhile doing.

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew He said to them, “I will make you fishers of men.” In other words, in the new identity that He would give to them this would be their purpose. Paul, in the passage above, affirms that in our ‘new creation’ as God’s sons and daughters, we are the workmanship (again) of Christ. A focus of that workmanship is that we will have been (re-) formed to do the ‘good works that God prepared in advance for us to do.’ He has a plan and a purpose for us.

Through the Holy Spirit, living within us, He equips, empowers and calls us into that purpose. Our peace will lie in recognising our calling, accepting it, and living it out. Some may be called to high and public office, others to quieter and less visible ministry. Each one is important in the plans and purposes of God. Where we are called is where we will be most effective. I cannot fulfil your purpose nor can you fulfil mine – each one has their own.

Chesterton famously wrote, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” That was not an excuse for sloppy work – its truth is in the fact that, if we are only able to do a worthwhile thing badly, it is still worthwhile doing! If we are only able to love Christ poorly, it is far better than not loving Him at all. And of course, in all of this, God is the One who will decide.

Everyone is called to be a person who receives and passes on the love of God in the situation in which He has placed them, and to which He will call them. We can begin and continue right where we are – living as the light and love of Christ in our particular world.

Every person has a God given purpose in this life. We are not to envy others but to recognise our own.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you”
(Psalm 32:8)

Response:
God knows where I am. He can use me here. He will lead me on to wherever He wants me to be.

Prayer:

Father God, please help me to trust you with my life. Help me to be more open to You, so that I will not waste the opportunities open to me now, but use them to Your glory. Amen.

————————