We Are In A Battle…

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2 Timothy 2:1-4 (KJV)

1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

Today’s passage is from Paul’s letter to Timothy.

The apostle encourages the young man–and, by extension, every believer–to face difficulty as a good soldier.

The military term “soldier” implies that we are in a battle.

And in fact, the combat started before Adam and Eve’s lifetime.

We see the first evidence when almighty God, who had created all the celestial beings, nevertheless allowed Satan and other angels (thereafter known as “demons”) to rebel against Him.

They established their own kingdom and waged war with the Lord.

Later we see this strife extend to all humankind.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve to violate God’s command by eating forbidden fruit. Her disobedience corrupted mankind’s innocence, and ever since, all human beings have been born with a nature bent away from the Lord–and with a profound need for a Savior.

Tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus modeled how to be victorious in spiritual conflict: by means of Scripture.

God’s Word gives us everything we need to win–from offensive and defensive weapons (Eph. 6:10-17) to the proper perspective on our adversaries’ real identity:

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the . . . spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v. 12).

When we see ungodliness in our society, the Enemy may at times seem to be winning. Yet we who are saved have assurance that we belong to Him who is greater–and who will have the final victory (1 John 4:4; John 16:33).

View daily battles biblically and look to God, who is mightier than all evil.

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Seeing Obstacles As Opportunities…

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Psalm 27:14 (KJV)

14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

Learning to see obstacles as opportunities takes time.

Recalling certain truths can help our perspective:

God is at work.

As barriers remain in place and our situation seems unchanged, God is orchestrating people and events to move His plan forward. He works silently, invisibly, and effectively.

God prepares the way.

He has already decided in His mind which hindrances to remove and which to leave unaltered. For the obstacles that remain, the Lord will arrange a way around them or fit them into His plan. What He has determined will be accomplished.

God requires our cooperation.

He wants us to be ready to face difficult situations. Through His Word, He communicates what we need to know and also equips us (Heb. 13:20-21).

God is personally involved.

He wants to develop in us a greater sensitivity to His presence. Through Scripture, prayer, and other believers, we can receive the assurance that the Lord is near.

God gives clear instruction.

He does not bring confusion. Whether we receive His direction in stages or all at once, He asks us to trust in Him rather than our own thinking (Prov. 3:5-6).

Facing challenges involves courage, patience, and faith.

It takes courage to accept the presence of barriers, to move in step with God, and to do what He asks. Patience is required as we wait for Him to equip us and reveal His plan.

Faith is necessary for us to trust God with the outcome and to focus on obeying Him.

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An “Opportunity” Mindset…

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Matthew 17:14-21 (KJV)

14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Nothing is impossible for the heavenly Father.

No obstacle confuses God or poses any kind of challenge for Him.

Though we know He is sovereign over every situation, we have trouble maintaining this perspective, just like the disciples in today’s passage.

Too often when difficulties arise, we …

Experience a shift in focus.

During trials, we tend to take our eyes off the Lord and instead see only our problems. The longer we look at our circumstance, the larger it seems. As we dwell on it in thought and conversation, our mindset can become very negative. Though God still has a direction for us to take, we are no longer concentrating on His purposes.

Develop an incorrect assessment of resources.

In our troubles, we start taking inventory of our own strength and abilities. When they prove insufficient, we become discouraged. The truth is that we don’t have what is needed for life’s trials—Jesus Himself told us that. (See John 15:5.) But God’s capabilities are unlimited, His power is never-ending, and His wisdom is complete. We need to take stock of His resources, not our own.

View obstacles as barriers.

For the obedient believer, impediments represent opportunities, not problems. The Lord can demonstrate His awesome power through our difficulties. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.) At such times, we grow in our faith and learn more about our Father. If we view hardships simply as troubles, then we can miss demonstrations of God’s love, power, and wisdom.

Start each day committed to a Christ-centered focus, a dependence on His resources, and an “opportunity” mindset.

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An Instant Sense of Uneasiness…

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John 13:1-17 ((KJV)

1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;
3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

Sometimes we need a wake-up call that opens our eyes so we can see who we truly are.

And watching someone else do what we should have done can be a most effective eye-opener.

When Jesus started washing the disciples’ feet, they must have felt an instant sense of uneasiness, especially after their recent discussions about which of them was the greatest (Mark 9:34-35).

As we noted earlier, foot washing was the task of the lowest slave in the household.

But since Jesus and His disciples were eating in a borrowed room, there was no slave posted at the door.

All the disciples considered this job beneath them, so everyone’s feet remained filthy until Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, humbled Himself to serve those who should have served Him.

After three years of teaching and modeling humility to His disciples, Jesus finally got their attention with a towel and a bowl.

I can imagine how the disciples felt, because I remember the time a friend came to my office, wanting to wash my feet.

I immediately protested, but he dropped to his knees and proceeded to take off my socks and shoes and wash my feet.

He did it as an act of humble service, but I felt humiliated because in the process, I saw something in me that I didn’t like—ugly pride.

If we want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps of humility, we must do an honest self-evaluation by asking the Lord to reveal any sinful attitudes hiding in our heart.

The purpose is not to make us feel worthless but to give us a yearning to become more like Christ.

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Saved to Serve…

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Philippians 2:5-7 (KJV)

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

The disciples gathered around a table to celebrate Passover with Jesus.

If one of them had been more thoughtful of the others—or possessed a spirit of servanthood—he would have done the very thing Christ did: take water and a cloth, kneel before the 12 other men, one at a time, and wash their feet.

Jesus came into this world as a servant (Matt. 20:28).

He was willing to do whatever was necessary to move men and women’s hearts and bring them to a saving knowledge of God.

A bondslave was the lowest of household servants, and he had the distasteful job of washing the feet of anyone who entered the home.

This is the very task Christ voluntarily performed that evening, right before His trial and sufferings would begin.

His act was a foreshadowing of the service He was about to render on behalf of the whole world—by dying on the cross for humanity’s sin.

We who believe in Jesus Christ do not call Him “slave”; we identify Him as our Master.

So when He says that a servant is not greater than His master, He is speaking of our relationship with Him (John 13:16).

Believers bend their knees to God’s most humble servant, His Son. How are you serving the almighty Lord?

Christians are God’s workmanship, created for the purpose of good works (Eph. 2:10).

In other words, we were saved to serve.

Therefore, there is no valid excuse for refusal.

When you surrender to the Lord, you step onto the pathway of Jesus Christ, which is the best possible way to live.

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Our Self-Centered Nature…

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Matthew 20:20-28 (KJV)

20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.
25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

What do you want Christ to do for you?

That’s essentially the same question Jesus asked the mother of James and John. Before we look down on her for asking Him to give her sons a place of prominence and authority, we must consider what we would ask of Jesus.

Would there be any selfishness in our request?

We are born with a self-centered nature, which remains present even after salvation and comes out in a variety of ways. Furthermore, we live in a culture that clamors for greatness and constantly tells us to assert ourselves so we can move up the ladder of success or get what’s rightfully ours.

But what Jesus taught about greatness is the exact opposite: Become a servant to others (Mark 9:35).

True greatness is measured not on earth but in eternity.

When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, He’ll be looking for humility rather than impressive earthly accomplishments. This doesn’t mean Christians should turn down positions of prominence; rather, we should accept such roles as opportunities to be a steward for Christ and a servant of all.

Humble people understand who they are—and who the Lord is.

They recognize Him as the source of their life and every possession and ability they have.

Their assignment while on earth is to use whatever He has entrusted to them, whether great or small, in a way that glorifies Him and benefits others.

Though it’s doubtful anyone will praise us for our humility in this life, we must remember that the reward of a true servant comes only in eternity.

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He is the Deliverer…

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Philippians 3:8-11 (KJV)

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

The apostle Paul understood how to handle tough circumstances.

Even while he was confined in a prison cell, he kept his eyes on Christ and trusted firmly in the Savior.

Therefore, despite being in chains, he was able to celebrate the Lord’s work in his life.

In fact, the epistle he wrote from jail to the Philippians was filled with rejoicing (1:182:18; 3:1).

Focusing on Christ is neither a natural reaction nor an easy one.

Our instinct is to dwell on the situation at hand, searching for solutions or stewing over the pain and difficulty.

As a result, troubles look scary and overwhelm us with a sense of defeat.

However, fear and defeat cannot live long in a heart that trusts the Lord.

I’m not saying you’ll forget what you’re going through, but you can choose to dwell on His provision and care instead.

He is the Deliverer (2 Cor. 1:10). He is the Healer (Deut. 32:39). He is the Guide (Prov. 3:6).

The believer who lays claim to divine promises discovers that God pushes back negative emotions.

In their place, hope, confidence, and contentment take up residence (Phil. 4:11).

You aren’t going to be happy about a difficult situation, but you can be satisfied that God is in control and up to something good in the midst of trouble.

The Lord’s principles and promises don’t change, no matter how severe or painful the situation is.

Focus on Christ instead of the circumstances–God will comfort your heart and bring you safely through the trial.

Then you can answer Paul’s call to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4).

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Waiting Can Be Difficult…

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Joshua 6:1-5 (KJV)

1 Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.was…: Heb. did shut up, and was shut up
2 And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.
3 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.
4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.
5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.

The Lord has a beautiful plan for each believer’s life. But to thwart God’s purposes, Satan sprinkles obstacles in our path.

There are many types of hindrances, such as a difficult boss, contrary family members, and financial trouble.

Anything that blocks a desired goal can cause anxiety and great frustration.

But remember that no obstacle can touch you without God’s consent.

Consider Joshua’s army, which was no match for Jericho’s military.

And the great wall protecting that city was an impossible barrier to cross.

Yet God had promised the Israelites the land, and Joshua believed. He wasn’t fazed by what seemed unconquerable. Instead, he acknowledged the Lord’s power and sought His guidance.

Before Joshua even realized that God was at work, the Lord was preparing the city for destruction by instilling fear into kings throughout the region.

Heaven’s directions included an unlikely battle plan, but because Joshua obeyed, God’s people triumphed.

Waiting can be difficult.

And after a while, we might even begin to wonder if God will do anything at all–then it is easy to quit. But, as was true with Joshua, God has gone before us and is preparing the way.

No matter how He chooses to handle the problem, His solution is always in our best interest.

Whenever you face an obstacle, you may experience great heartache.

But even in the midst of pain, you can have full confidence in God. The most important part of each day is the time you spend alone with the Lord.

He will encourage you with His love and give direction.

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