Remaining Strong Amid Conflict…

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Romans 14:20-23 (KJV)

20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

A person of conviction has become convinced, by either evidence or argument, that his beliefs are true.

Today, most men and women would rather live by preference than conviction.

They choose to believe something based on certain conditions and circumstances.

When the situation changes, so does their loyalty. In other words, a lot of people vacillate on issues that require a firm resolve.

Contrast this wishy-washy approach with the mindset of the great men and women of Scripture.

Despite many years of unfair treatment, Joseph never wavered in his commitment to godly principles . As a result, he was in the right place at the right time to ensure Israel’s survival (Gen. 50:20).

Daniel, another righteous man in an idolatrous land, earned the trust of foreign kings by standing firm in his beliefs (Dan. 1:20). When his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also refused to compromise their beliefs, they influenced a king to recognize Jehovah as the one true God (3:29).

As these biblical heroes show, godly convictions can withstand the changing winds of opinion and the persuasive arguments of opponents.

If we are grounded in the Word and trust what God has said, we can stand firm in our beliefs.

Confidence breeds the courage to remain strong amid conflict.

Instead of following your own preferences, choose to live by godly conviction.

The Bible has much to say about the most important aspects of your life.

See if God’s principles and promises hold true.

Through prayer and study, allow Him to firmly root you in solid biblical convictions.

When We Go Through a Time of Testing…

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James 1:5-8 (KJV)

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

One of the most important tools in overcoming trials is wisdom.

Ironically, this quality, which seems so rare in our world today, is actually readily and easily available to believers.

Scripture says we simply have to ask, and God will give it generously.

Though wisdom certainly has rewards, it does come with a price.

If we ask God to make us wise, He will allow tests in our life.

Their purpose is not to point out what’s wrong with our faith but, rather, to help us discover whether or not we’re wise.

Temptations and difficulty also allow us to discern our level of devotion to the Lord.

When we go through a time of testing, we learn whether we’re willing to say, “I don’t like this, God, and I don’t understand it, but I’m going to obey You no matter what.”

There’s no way to know whether we would respond that way unless we go through trials that examine our faith.

We grow in our devotion to the heavenly Father by making wise decisions despite opposition and by obeying when it is inconvenient to do so or when temptations are the hardest to resist. Such challenges are similar to a refiner’s fire: They sanctify and purify us, raising to the surface attitudes that we may not realize are in our life.

These situations not only reveal what God is doing in us but also can turn up the heat if we try to muffle the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

When we, through wisdom, allow God to do His work in our life, we will begin to experience blessings, see His power, and feel His love in new ways.

 And this new growth brings great joy!

Our Attitude During the Struggle…

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James 1:2-4 (KJV)

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

“Why would a loving heavenly Father allow His children to go through terrible trials and experience sorrow?”

We can understand the reason that this is a common question—it can be baffling when the all-powerful God of love seems to stand by silently while painful things happen to His followers.

Where is He during personal tragedies, natural disasters, financial crises, and other times of heartache?

The Word of God is the only place we can find the real answer. Even so, today’s reading can be hard to understand or accept. One might read James’s exhortation to be joyful in the face of trials and think, Count me out!

Difficulties and joy just don’t seem to go together—that is, unless we understand God’s perspective of what life is about.

When James spoke of joy, he wasn’t referring to a cheery, frivolous feeling. Rather, he was talking about an inner sense of calmness, peace, and confidence in the Lord.

He wasn’t telling us to feel happy about our trials but to know, as we go through them, that God is up to something good in our life.

Our attitude during the struggle will determine what shape we’re in when we come out on the other side.

When our faith gets tested, the end result is endurance; being aware of this gives us hope and strength.

What’s more, the Bible promises God will use trials for our good, so we don’t need to be afraid or anxious.

God’s desire is to bless you, not destroy you.

Adversity can make someone feel like a victim, but as followers of Christ, we can choose to be victors!

The World’s Longing for Peace…

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Romans 15:4-13 (KJV)

4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Despite man’s best efforts, the world’s longing for peace remains unfulfilled.

Each new generation has high hopes for reconciliation among people and nations but in the end faces disappointment.

One day Christ will return and make everything right.

Until then, believers are called to be His ambassadors of peace. However, becoming a Christian does not automatically change us into people who pursue kindness and unity.

At times we’re quick-tempered and impatient and find it hard to live in harmony with others.

We may have trouble letting go of attitudes or habits that hurt those around us–and occasionally we don’t even want to. God knows our true character and has provided the Holy Spirit to transform us into Jesus’ likeness.

The Spirit opens our minds to understand and apply Scripture.

He gives us the power to say no to ungodliness and to replace me-centered thinking with a Christ-centered viewpoint. He patiently produces His fruit in us, which includes love, joy, and peace (Gal. 5:22-23).

With His help, we can become peacemakers who work to bring about reconciliation between God and others (Matt. 5:9).

While our world keeps hoping for peace through man’s solutions, we know the only source of lasting unity is Jesus Christ.

The Lord wants our hearts to be ruled by His peace (Col. 3:15) and our relationships to be marked by a spirit of oneness.

How encouraged other people will be when they realize it’s the transforming power of God in our lives that brings about reconciliation in our marriages, families, and churches.

Awareness of Our Inadequacy…

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Matthew 9:11-13 (KJV)

11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

There is a common misconception that believers should be perfect.

Pretending to have our lives in order, many of us wear happy faces and speak words that sound acceptable.

At times we’re ashamed to admit our shortcomings, as if they should not exist.

Salvation through Jesus, however, doesn’t change the fact that sin is present in our life.

When we’re born again, God forgives us and sees us as righteous.

Yet our battle with sin continues till we arrive in heaven.

In fact, striving for perfection actually can be a trap that pulls us away from living a godly life.

Functioning in this way is a form of relying on our own capability.

Jesus said that He came to heal the spiritually sick because they recognized their weakness.

With an awareness of our inadequacy comes the realization of our need for Him.

The world sees successful individuals as powerful and self-sufficient, but Jesus didn’t care about these qualities.

Instead, He wants people to be aware of their own brokenness.

This is the foundation for godliness.

We should accept our neediness and seek God passionately.

Doing so allows the following attributes to develop: a hunger for God’s Word, faithful service, deepening trust, and decision-making based upon principle rather than preference.

Patiently and mercifully, God matures us.

Be careful not to cover up your sins in order to look like a “good Christian.”

Without recognition and confession of our sinfulness, we are unable to rely fully on God.

It is only with this awareness that we can passionately seek Him, obey in His strength, and confess with repentance when we miss the mark.

Our Areas of Weakness…

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Judges 14

The book of Judges tells of Samson, a man so strong he could kill a lion with his bare hands (Judg. 14:5-6).

He possessed physical strength unequaled by any human being.

But this could not compensate for his inner weakness.

All of us have areas of weakness.

God wants these character flaws to teach us how totally dependent we are upon Him.

When we handle them properly, they drive us into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Lord.

But uncontrolled weakness wreaks havoc in a person’s life.

Samson’s Achilles’ heel was uncontrolled lust.

Although he was raised in a godly home and had a clear calling in life, he gave in to his desires and deliberately violated the truth he knew so well.

Despite Nazirite laws forbidding involvement with foreigners, Samson pursued a Philistine woman (Judg. 14:2).

Later, he met the enticing Delilah, and even though her motives were blatantly treacherous, he gave himself over—heart, mind, and spirit—to sexual indulgence.

He was in such bondage to the sin that he ultimately allowed it to dictate his actions, even at the cost of his life.

Before he died, Samson lost everything: his strength, eyesight, and honor.

The man who once led his country mightily became a slave to his enemies (Judg. 16:18-25).

What are your weaknesses?

Personality flaws can be a powerful motivation for good or ill, depending on your response. A proclivity for sin can ruin your life—as it did Samson’s—or drive you to utter dependence on God.

The outcome is up to you.

What We Deserve…

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Luke 15:11-24 (KJV)

11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Humanity tends to project its own faulty habits onto God.

This is especially true regarding the nature of His love. We think we must barter, plead, or try hard to earn the Lord’s favor.

But as the prodigal son learned, the Father’s love is unconditional.  

The wayward son expected his father’s love to be diminished. Therefore, he went home hoping for a place among the family servants.

Imagine the boy’s delight when Dad greeted him with a hug and a celebration.

His actions certainly didn’t merit an outpouring of affection, but Jesus’ parable is all about a Father who doesn’t give people what they deserve.

A love based on conduct would keep people guessing, Have I done enough?

 Instead, God cares for you simply because you’re you, and He expects nothing in return. Consider the prodigal’s life after his homecoming party.

He didn’t move into the servants’ quarters and get to work.

He was reinstated to his place as the second son of a wealthy man, with all of the privilege that entails.

In the same way, believers are the Lord’s cherished children (2 Cor. 6:18).

When God looks at His loved ones, He doesn’t focus upon past failures, faults, or sin.

He sees the heirs to His kingdom–men and women who love Him and desire to spend eternity in His presence.

No matter how far we may wander from the Lord’s perfect will for our lives, we are always welcome back.

The Bible teaches that God’s love cannot be lost, regardless of sin or poor decisions (though we may have to live with the consequences).

Our Father’s arms are always open. 

Our First Reaction to Obstacles…

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Mark 11:20-26 (KJV)

20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

Mountain-size obstacles are part of living in a fallen world.

They come in all forms—financial struggles, relational frustrations, health issues, and any number of other situations.

Jesus said we would have trouble in this life; it’s unavoidable.

However, there is hope because He has overcome the world (John16:33).

When our problems seem overwhelming, Jesus tells us to have faith in God and pray.

Today’s passage is well loved because it seems like a blanket promise for whatever we want: Verse 24 sounds as if all we have to do is believe we’ll receive what we request, and it will be granted.

However, this scripture cannot stand alone, apart from the rest of the Bible. So, let’s consider two qualifications for this promise.

God is committed to removing only those obstacles that are hindrances to His will.

Jesus is our primary example for this truth.

When He faced the prospect of dying on a cross as the sin-bearer for mankind, it could have seemed like a mountain that needed to be removed, but His prayers were governed by these words: “Yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

We must also make sure that we are not the obstacle standing in God’s way.

Jesus points out in Mark 11:25-26 that an unforgiving spirit breaks our fellowship with God, thereby hindering our prayers.

In fact, any sin we tolerate becomes a barrier between us and the Lord.

Our first reaction to obstacles should be self-examination. Ask God, “Is there sin in my life?

Do my requests align with Your will?” Only then can we confidently ask Him to move our mountains.

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