Category Archives: Encouragement

God, Your Plan Seems Not To Be Working

Have you ever felt God lead you to reach out to someone to encourage them or to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them, only to be disappointed in their response as they dismiss or reject what you have to share? Perhaps you felt led to a particular activity or ministry to serve God, but the results do not immediately seem to encourage you… perhaps they are even downright discouraging.

We may often face disappointing responses to even our best efforts to obey God and do the things we feel He is calling us to do. That, however, does not mean we were not obedient. It may just be that we have not yet seen the fruit of our obedience to God. In some cases, we may never see the results of our obedience, but we are to continue in obedience none the less.

Exodus 6:1-13

God Promises Action

      1Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.”

      2God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; 3and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them. 4“I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. 5“Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. 6“Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7‘Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8‘I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the LORD.’” 9So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage.

      10Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 11“Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the sons of Israel go out of his land.” 12But Moses spoke before the LORD, saying, “Behold, the sons of Israel have not listened to me; how then will Pharaoh listen to me, for I am unskilled in speech?” 13Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and gave them a charge to the sons of Israel and to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt.

Moses was clearly discouraged in the response of the sons of Israel to the message he brought to them from God. They were the very people God was promising to set free and they could not bring themselves to believe due to the difficult circumstances they were experiencing around them.

I am greatly encouraged to see the relationship God has with Moses. He allows His servant to share openly and honestly what he is feeling and ask real questions about the situation.

“Behold, the sons of Israel have not listened to me; how then will Pharaoh listen to me, for I am unskilled in speech?”

God did not get angry at Moses but rather hears his concern and then reaffirms the message and the mission that Moses and Aaron are to carry out in the name of God. Though Moses and Aaron can not yet see victory, and in fact are experiencing some apparent defeat, they continue in obedience to God to carry out the direction they received from God. Most of us know how the story of Moses ends… (spoiler alert)… God holds true to His word and through many miracles and using Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and out of bondage.

What situations are you facing in your life which may appear discouraging right now, but you feel God was leading you to address?  Be encouraged by knowing that we please God in our obedience and that He is more than able to guide us to victory… but it will be according to His plans and timing rather than our own.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

The Lord Is Good To Those Who Wait For Him

It is easy to get discouraged at times when we feel as though we are doing what God has commanded, but we do not see the results coming as quickly as we expect. We trust Him, but then we also expect to see results and quickly. We may find encouragement in reminding ourselves to be patient and trust in God while we continue to do what He has commanded. His ways are not our ways… they are better.

Isaiah 55:8-9

      8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

      9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

As we continue to submit to and follow God in our lives, we come to realize that not only does God do things differently than we expect in terms of “how”… but often He does things differently in terms of “when”. We tend to be impatient and look for quick results. It can be discouraging at times, but be encouraged and place your trust in God and in His timing.

Lamentations 3:25-26

25The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.

26It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the LORD.

Isaiah 40:31

31Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Even Moses was discouraged  when things did not turn out well at first (Exodus 5)… and God actually told Him ahead of time that Pharaoh would not let the people go until God compelled him to do so (Exodus 3:19-20).

Exodus 3:19-20

19“But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. 20“So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go.

Exodus 5

Israel’s Labor Increased

      1And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.’” 2But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” 3Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” 4But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get back to your labors!” 5Again Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!” 6So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying, 7“You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8“But the quota of bricks which they were making previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it. Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9“Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work at it so that they will pay no attention to false words.”

      10So the taskmasters of the people and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I am not going to give you any straw. 11‘You go and get straw for yourselves wherever you can find it, but none of your labor will be reduced.’” 12So the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13The taskmasters pressed them, saying, “Complete your work quota, your daily amount, just as when you had straw.” 14Moreover, the foremen of the sons of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not completed your required amount either yesterday or today in making brick as previously?”

      15Then the foremen of the sons of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why do you deal this way with your servants? 16“There is no straw given to your servants, yet they keep saying to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are being beaten; but it is the fault of your own people.” 17But he said, “You are lazy, very lazy; therefore you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18“So go now and work; for you will be given no straw, yet you must deliver the quota of bricks.” 19The foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in trouble because they were told, “You must not reduce your daily amount of bricks.” 20When they left Pharaoh’s presence, they met Moses and Aaron as they were waiting for them. 21They said to them, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

      22Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? 23“Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”

Often the immediate results we face when we begin a mission for God do not appear to be successful or turn out the way we expect. We do well to remember to be patient and continue to obey God’s instruction, put our faith in Him, and wait upon His timing.

Are there any areas of your life where you are discouraged? Always good to humbly and prayerfully consider if you are obeying what God instructed you to do. If so, continue to come before Him for help and continue to obey His instruction… and wait upon His timing for the results. God is never late… He is never early… He always completes something precisely when He intends to.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

God Will Encourage And Support Those Who Do His Will

When we choose to submit to Jesus and listen and obey Him in our life, He will not leave us. Jesus knows exactly where we are and what we are thinking and doing at all times. He knows our motives as well as our actions. So when we commit ourselves to share the gospel with others, we must rely on Him to open their eyes and hearts. We can also rely on Jesus to encourage and support us as His followers as we do our best to share the good news with others.

In Acts 17, Paul has been chased out of Thessalonica and Berea by Jewish people hostile toward the message of Christ. He then traveled to Athens and Corinth. Paul was giving his best effort to obey Jesus’ command to share the gospel with all the nations. He met much rejection and even violent persecution along the way. He would move along, but never give up. Surely he must have been fearful at times and getting tired of constantly facing the wickedness of those who reject Christ. God understood where Paul was emotionally and met Him in  Corinth to provide support and encouragement… and rest.

Acts 18:5-11

  5But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. 6But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7Then he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 8Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized. 9And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” 11And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

Perhaps many of us are not facing physical persecution like Paul, but clearly we will all find ourselves facing times of stress and conflict if we choose to share the gospel faithfully and boldly. At times it may seem like there is much stress and little rest. Be encouraged, continue serving God boldly, and bring your concerns before the Lord. He knows where you are and may already know how and when He will bring you rest to help you prepare for the next part of your journey with Him. He can also help you to endure through the difficult times while you continue in His service.

Isaiah 40:28-31

   28Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.

      29He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.

      30Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,

      31Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Support Those Who Proclaim The Gospel

Missionaries around the world and throughout time surely know well that sharing the gospel is not for the faint of heart. It is a glorious task we conduct for our Lord Jesus, who commanded us to share the gospel with all the nations, but it is at times quite challenging. Take time as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to appreciate, thank, support and pray for those around, or missionaries you know of that are far away, that are boldly sharing the truth of salvation through Jesus alone with others. The encouragement and sometimes direct supporting actions from fellow believers can be a great help to those sharing the gospel.

Acts 17:1-15

Paul at Thessalonica

      1Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” 4And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. 5But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. 6When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; 7and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. 9And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.

Paul at Berea

      10The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. 13But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. 15Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left.

Those that share God’s word and those that support them are all part of the harvest of the lost for the kingdom of God. So, too, both face trials for their work. Evil people who reject Jesus Christ will go to great lengths to attack and persecute those who are boldly proclaiming truth of Jesus Christ. It is not enough for them to reject God, they must justify their position by stopping others from believing. We see these people still today, threatening Christians with anything from physical violence and death to lawsuits for standing up for Jesus Christ. We must never let this stop us from fulfilling the command of our Lord Jesus to proclaim the gospel to all the nations.

Take a few minutes and identify a few people that you see boldly proclaiming the gospel that you can commit to take time to pray for consistently. It can even be someone in the workplace. It does not have to be a formal pastor or missionary. Are there other ways you can help them through acts of service or support or even just consistent encouraging words? Has God brought missionaries across your path that may need funding to continue His work? Prayerfully consider how you can help. You do not have to go far away to help share the gospel far away. Sometimes you can simply help those who do.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

How Can I Serve God After The Mess I Made?

Have you ever tried to help someone or stand up for Christ, but you did so in the wrong way? You meant well, but you fumbled the execution. Most of us who have tried to do so have made some level of mistakes in our attempts. Do not give up standing up for others or serving God. Learn from your mistakes and change your approach to be more effective. Ask forgiveness from God for your failure and turn from wrong behavior. He can still use you to glorify His kingdom if you invite Him in and obey His instructions.

Even Moses, who is looked upon as a hero in faith and great prophet of God made some big mistakes when he was getting started. But God was able to use Moses in a mighty way to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt and through the difficult times in the desert that were to follow.

Exodus 2:11-15

      11Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?” 14But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.”

     15When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.

Moses felt a strong desire to help his people, but reacted quickly in a moment of strong anger and killed an Egyptian. To say the least, this was not an effective approach in having a positive influence in the situation. In fact, it worked out badly and had significant negative consequences. Even the Hebrews, whom he was trying to defend turned on him and rejected him. He left himself vulnerable for prosecution for murder by the Egyptians. He did not honor God in how he handled the situation. There were negative consequences for him as a result of his poor choice of actions, but God did not give up on Moses. God still had plans to prepare Moses to be a great leader of the Hebrew people and to glorify the kingdom of God.

All of us make mistakes, even as our heart may be motivated to honor and serve God. Sometimes our mistakes seem small and sometimes they can be quite severe.  There are consequences, but do not give up on serving God because of a mistake or series of mistakes you make. Learn from your bad choices, seek forgiveness and growth and deal with the consequences of what you did. Then continue to seek opportunity to serve God in your life. You will quite likely be amazed at how He can use each of us, even in our weakness, to demonstrate His glory and strength.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

New Believers Must Begin With Basics… ABCs and 123s

How would you teach a young child math? Would you start with multiplication and division or would you start with counting and learning the numbers? How about writing? Do we start with paragraphs and writing books? No. We start with learning ABCs. We learn our letters. These seem like silly examples and obvious to us… but the same principle applies toward helping new believers obey God. We must not burden them with all the commands of God as it may overwhelm them. This does not mean that the more complex items are not all important or that we do not want to learn and practice them… at the right time. We start with some basics depending on their particular skills and problems and then we grow from there over time as they are ready to learn and obey more and more. Transforming one’ life is a gradual process, not at all like a light switch where you just flip it and all of a sudden you are living a life of consistent obedience to Jesus.  We need to provide a place for them to start with a manageable set of principles to focus on.

Acts 15:13-34

James’s Judgment

      13After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me. 14“Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. 15“With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,

      16‘AFTER THESE THINGS I will return,
AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN,
AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS,
AND I WILL RESTORE IT,

      17SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD,
AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,’

      18SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO.
19“Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. 21“For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

      22Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23and they sent this letter by them,

“The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.

24“Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls,
25it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
27“Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth.
28“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:
29that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

30So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. 33After they had spent time there, they were sent away from the brethren in peace to those who had sent them out. 34[But it seemed good to Silas to remain there.] 35But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with many others also, the word of the Lord.

To say that the Gentile believers should  “abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood” is not to say that they should not also obey God in other commands. It was a starting point that held particular significance for the Gentiles considering their culture and practices at the time. These were some fundamental building blocks that serve as an important starting point for the Gentiles to break away from their past pagan practices and begin to serve God. These points were also important starting place for creating unity between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.

The leaders of the church never intended to say that these three things are all the Gentiles need to do to show they submit to and love and follow Christ. In effect that would be to say that rules are not important, except for these three. That seems absurd. It was a specific starting place to help these Gentiles get started on their journey to submit to Christ and live for Him. It highlighted items that may tempt them to be drawn away back into their pagan practices and away from Christ.

Helping someone to learn something new always follows this pattern. Start with some basics based on particulars of the students, allow them to focus on and get those right rather and then introduce more information and then more and so on. Train them gradually, but always with the intent that they continue to learn more than just the basics where they started. It is not effective to burden them with an encyclopedia full of knowledge of a subject all at once.

How can you apply this principle in your own life as a new believer or as someone who is helping new believers? Start with the basics.

Ephesians 2:8-10  8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

1 Corinthians 3:1-3     1And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

We are all encouraged, however, not to remain living as infants in Christ, but rather to grow up spiritually and be able to care for ourselves and teach God’s word to others. We should not encourage any to remain as infants in Christ, clinging only to a few basics, but rather encourage them to grow continually in the faith such that their faith is demonstrated through their life.

Those who love Jesus Christ want to obey His commands, not come up with excuses to disregard them saying “I am free in Christ to do whatever I want. I do not have to follow His law or commands because they are from the Old Testament.”

Romans 6:1-2   1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Quite the opposite… if we love Him, we willingly obey His commands. We do not seek to do the minimum we can get by with and still scrape into heaven… that is not love of Christ… that is love of self and just trying to avoid hell.

John 14:15  15“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Be intentional so that you and those you influence do not become complacent accepting a relationship with Christ that stagnates as if still a baby or young child. Focus on continually growing closer to Him through Bible study, prayer, and application in your life of what He commands… even when it makes you different from the world… especially when it shows you to be different from the world. That is what it means to be a light and shines to others. Whether a new believer, or someone who committed to Jesus many years ago, you should never become complacent that you have done all you should do.

Love for our Lord drives us to continue seeking to know Him and show love for Him just as love for a spouse does the same. Do those in a successful marriage ever say… “I have loved my spouse enough. I can stop now.” Of course not!

Changing our lives to be more like Christ is a journey that lasts a lifetime… we continue on the journey one step at a time, we never reach the destination, but we transform our life in the process to be less like our sinful desires and more like Christ.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.