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Are you resisting a rest? - FRIDAY MARCH 17

‘Come away…and rest a while.’ Mark 6:31 NRSV

Following Jesus should energise you, not leave you feeling burned out. Jesus preached to farmers who used oxen to plough their fields. They also lived by religious rules that didn’t permit you to relax and experience God’s love and grace. So Jesus told them: ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT). Jesus had more to do than any of us, yet He never seemed to do it in a way that severed the life-giving connection with His Father, or interfered with His ability to show love when it was called for. He regularly withdrew from the rat race in order to pray.

Even when His disciples returned, flushed with success from a busy time of ministry, He told them, ‘Come away…and rest a while,’ because as Mark records, ‘Many people were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.’ Constant hurry is the mark of an un-prioritised life - a sure sign that second and third things have become first things. Not only did God command us to rest every seventh day, He told Jewish farmers to let their fields rest every seventh year so they’d produce better harvests. The problem is we want microwave maturity…to exchange wisdom for information and depth for breadth - but it doesn’t work. Depth comes slowly. Following Jesus can’t be done at a sprint; you can’t go faster than the One who’s leading.

Value your friends - THURSDAY MARCH 16

‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls…in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ Ruth 2:22 NIV (1984 edition)

One author writes: ‘If you have godly girlfriends, love and nurture those relationships as though your life depends on them - because it does. Everything is better when you “go with His girls”…Life is safer, more authentic, longer lasting, and just plain more fun. God created women to rely on other women. I’m blessed by girlfriends who lift me when I’m low, level me when I’m high, and show me the face of God on a daily basis through compassion, humour, strength, and unconditional love. May you cultivate and enjoy the same.’ And not only do women need friends, men do too. One of the first things God said in the Bible was, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone’ (Genesis 2:18 KJV).

Solomon writes, ‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity’ (Proverbs 17:17 NKJV). Poet William Carlos Williams wrote: ‘When trouble comes your soul to try, you love the friend who just “stands by”. Perhaps there’s nothing he can do - the thing is strictly up to you. For there are troubles all your own, and paths the soul must tread alone. Times love cannot smooth the road, nor friendship lift the heavy load. But just to know you have a friend who will “stand by” until the end, whose sympathy through all endures, whose warm handclasp is always yours - it helps someway to pull you through, although there’s nothing he can do. And so with fervent heart you cry, God bless the friend who just “stands by”.’

Beware of pride! - WEDNESDAY MARCH 15

‘Pride goes before destruction.’ Proverbs 16:18 NKJV

Think about the things we become proud over: the home we live in, the car we drive, the diploma hanging on our wall, the people we mingle with, and the position we hold. When you’ve worked hard to get to where you are, look out for pride! Paul asks, ‘Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV). So what should you do?

1) Examine your belief system about who you are, what you have, and what you can do. Jesus said, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5 NKJV). Remind yourself: ‘I’m just the glove; God’s the hand that fills it.’ That’ll help you to keep your perspective right!

2) Focus more on others than on yourself. The saying - ‘When a person is all wrapped up in themselves, they make a pretty small package’ - is true. ‘Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others’ (Philippians 2:4 NKJV).

3) Respect and value everyone you meet regardless of their social status, race, gender, or other distinguishing factors. When you walk in humility, people respect you and receive your input, and they don’t suspect you of having selfish motives.

The Bible says: ‘These…things the Lord hates…a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren’ (Proverbs 6:16-19 NKJV). Today, beware of pride.

Misconceptions about success (2) - TUESDAY MARCH 14

‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning.’ Proverbs 1:5 NIV (2011 Edition)

Here are three more misconceptions about success:

1) We think success comes from having the right connections, so we strive to make them. People who endorse this philosophy believe they’d ‘have it made’ if only they’d been born into the right family, or met the right person. Knowing good people has its rewards, but connections alone won’t improve your life if you’re off track. ‘Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.’

2) We think success comes from having leverage, so we work for it. This notion is reinforced by people like industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who said, ‘Success is the power with which to acquire whatever one demands of life.’ Then we take it a step further by assuming all successful people have taken advantage of others in order to get where they are, and we look for ways to manipulate people too. We think we can ‘muscle’ our way to success, but it doesn’t work - usually it backfires on us.

3) We think success is the result of opportunity, so we wait for it. People who work hard and don’t seem to get anywhere sometimes believe the only thing they need is ‘a break’. Their motto is ‘If only’. If only my boss would cut me some slack; if only our church was in a better area of town; if only I had start-up capital; if only I’d married someone different. The door of opportunity is marked, ‘Push!’ The truth is, people who do nothing more than wait for success are neither able to see it - nor seize it - when it comes.

Misconceptions about success (1) - MONDAY MARCH 13

‘Give yourself wholly…so that everyone may see your progress.’ 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV (2011 Edition)

Here are some common misconceptions about success:

1) We think success is impossible, so we criticise it. We want to believe life should be easy, so we assume anything difficult must be impossible. Then when success eludes us we throw in the towel and say, ‘Who needs it anyway?’ And if someone we consider less deserving than ourselves is successful, we get really upset.

2) We think success is mystical, so we search for it. Author/ entrepreneur Seth Godin says: ‘We need to stop shopping for lightning bolts. You don’t win an Olympic medal with a few weeks of intensive training. There’s no such thing as an overnight opera sensation. Great companies [and great churches] don’t spring up overnight…every great thing has been built in exactly the same way: bit by bit, step by step, little by little.’ There are no shortcuts; you must be willing to pay the price.

3) We think success comes by chance, so we hope for it. We say, ‘Oh, he or she just happened to be in the right place at the right time.’ The chances of that happening are about as good as the chances of winning the lottery - 45 million to one. If you’re serious about succeeding, you’ll concur with the small-business owner who posted this sign in his store: ‘The 57 Rules of Success: Rule one: Deliver the goods. Rule two: The other 56 don’t matter!’ Paul shared his formula for success with Timothy, and it’s one that works in all areas of life: ‘Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.’