Monday, January 5, 2009

Words of Encouragement

So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.' "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." - Joshua 24:13-15

Faithfulness. Entering the promise land.

We often hear of people making new years resolutions and determining they will do things better than they did the year before. You also often hear of individuals becoming discouraged when they hit the first bump in the road. This sometimes causes people to give up their quest to do things differently and soon they are back to old habits.

Let's look this week at faith in this way. We sometimes look at the previous year and determine in our hearts that we will do better. So we pray, make our resolutions to do things differently because we want different results. However, we often come across our first bump in the road and we become discouraged and soon are back to old habits. What will help us to make a difference this year that we couldn't last year? It will only be in our faithfulness to God's word.

The first step is we have to make an evaluation of where we are. The people of God were provided for by God. He had given them places to live and food to eat. He had made the provisions for them and not because of their own work or efforts. If we are to make any changes in our lives we must first start with God. We have to look to see how faithful he has been to us. If you look over 2008 you will see one instant after another of how God has taken care of you. Surely if God can be faithful to us, he can help us to be faithful to him.

Prayer: Lord I do not want to make another resolution that soon fades away because it becomes difficult for me to keep my promises. Help me to be faithful as you are faithful. Help me to keep my promises to you as I seek to live out this year completely for you. Amen.

The second step in being faithful to God is simply to do it. After you have evaluated God's goodness unto you, it then requires you to put into action your thankfulness and your obedience. When you have examined your life and seen how God has blessed you, provided for you and kept you, you should want to honor him with your obedience. We cannot be faithful to God without first seeking a closer relationship with him. We must seek his direction and his wisdom in order to follow through with the specific purpose he has for our lives. There are somethings that are required for all believers but there are also some specific things that God may be calling you to do. Do you know what that is? Have you talked to God to see what he is requiring from you for this year?

Prayer: Lord, today I seek your guidance. Help me to follow you in all areas of my life. Help me to hear your clear direction on what I must do to live a holy and acceptable life before you. Help me to live a faithful life. Amen.

The third step is to get rid of all "gods" from before. What things were a priority for you in 2008 that took the place of the real God? There is no way you can go into 2009 and possess this "land" without first getting rid of those idols from before. Many today have a problem with idea of idolatry or idol worship. They feel this is something that happened in biblical times but not today. The best way to think about idols is an idol is anything that takes a place of priority in your life and removes God from the first position of importance. If your job and career becomes more important than God, it is your "god". If having a relationship is more important than obeying God, it has become your "god". If you want to continue to experience the faithfulness of God, you must be faithful to God's commandments. We have to ask ourselves, are they anythings that I have held onto in 2008 as important that God is telling me to let go of now? Are there any relationships that I have placed as important but God has said they are keeping me from worshipping him fully? Have you gotten rid of all the "god's" in your life?

Prayer: Lord I do not want to hold onto anything from 2008 that would hinder me from receiving the blessings you have for me now in 2009. I do not want to miss the divine revelations you have for me this year. Help me to see those things that I need to get rid of and help me to walk in your way. Amen.

The fourth steps is make a choice. You have evaluated God's goodness and his faithfulness. You have sought him regarding the things of priority in your life now you are faced with the simply truth, what will you do? You have to make a choice on whether you will follow God fully or if you will continue to do things in the same way as before. My pastor preached this last Sunday about focus. He said we must focus on God. The only way you and I can make the choice to follow God fully is to focus on him. Focus our attention, our heart, our actions and our lives on what is pleasing to him. When we focus on him, he will help us to live faithfully for him. We can start the year off right and end it well also. We can determine in our hearts what we will do and we can be successful at carrying out the plan. Whom do you choose?

Prayer: Lord, today help me to choose to live your way. If I have moved timidly when you have called me to move more aggressively, help me to move at your pace and in your way. Help me to choose daily to obey you and walk in your way. I can possess all the blessings you have for me, if I am willing to follow you faithfully. Help me to do so. Amen.

The fifth step is to determine to go all the way, even if you go alone. Have you ever decided to lose weight at the beginning of the year after all the holiday food has taken its toll? You grab a close friend and ask them to go along with you to walk or to workout. It starts off good, but sometimes you find that friend doesn't have the time or does not want to go. You are then faced with do I go alone or do I quit? Some often quit because they do not want to go alone. Well today we must not do like that when it comes to our walk with God. If those that you are walking with for some reason or another decide not to continue on the journey, you must determine and declare as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. If you want to receive the blessing God has for you, you must start this journey and determine to finish it. Do not allow anyone to deter you from follow wholeheartedly after the Lord. Are you determined to possess the land God has for you?

Prayer: Lord I am determined to seek after righteousness. I am determined to follow you. You said that those that seek you, will find you. Help me to find you as I journey after your way. Help me to stay encouraged along the way. If no one else goes with me, I know I am not alone because you are with me. You promise never to leave me nor forsake me. I seek you completely with my heart. I will serve the Lord. Amen.