“I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13
You’ll never achieve your dream until you learn to give it up. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.
Surrendering your dream to Jesus is always the safest decision you’ll ever make in regards to your dream. God typically takes your dream through six different stages. I’ve seen him do it hundreds of times in my life and thousands of times throughout the lives of others.
The Bible says emphatically that you can do anything — along with God’s help. You’ll need much more than positive thinking as you pursue your God-given dreams. You’ll need the power of God.
Many people have read one motivational book after another and still haven’t made progress toward their dreams. We need the supernatural help of God.
Have you been trying to sail to your dreams on your own power? If so, I guarantee you’re getting nowhere — at least on the dreams that really matter in your life. The wind is dead.
Surrender your dream to God. Let him empower them.
“Be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good.” Ephesians 5:15-16 (LB)
Everyone has a dream. Maybe you’ve had it since you were a child. Maybe it came to you more recently. Desires, wishes, and ambitions should be a part of all of our lives. You may have hidden it deep inside of you, but you have a dream.
The question isn’t whether you have a dream. It’s “What are you doing with your dream?”
Most dreams never come true. It’s not that we’re not smart enough, not outgoing enough, or not spiritual enough. Usually, our dreams don’t come true because we’re unwilling to take the necessary risks to reach them.
The Bible shares a sad one-sentence commentary about a king who failed to achieve an important ambition in his life: “[King] Jehoshaphat built a fleet of trading ships to go to Ophir for gold, but they never set sail — they were wrecked at Ezion Geber” (1 Kings 22:48 NIV).
While it’s a tragedy for your ship to never come in in life, it’s a greater tragedy for you to build a ship and never set sail. Imagine the energy and expense expended by King Jehoshaphat. He built an entire fleet of ships to go after the gold, and not one of them set sail. They never got out of the harbor. Evidently a storm came up and, while these ships were in the harbor, they slammed against the rocks and were destroyed.
Some people spend their whole lives waiting for their ship to come. But God isn’t waiting for your ship to come in. He’s waiting for you to sail your ship out of the harbor.
I know a man who for 30 years had a dream of starting a ministry. He talked about it, dreamed about it, and planned it. He spent a great deal of time on this dream, but he never took the risk to do anything more about his dream. He never got his ship out of the harbor. Eventually, the man died — and so did his dream.
The Bible’s antidote to that kind of tragic procrastination is as simple as an overdone catchphrase but excruciatingly difficult to apply at times: Just do it. The Bible says, “Be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good” (Ephesians 5:15-16 LB).
The Bible urges us to seize the moment and act now. To live a life with unfulfilled dreams is a tragedy. Ships aren’t made for the harbor. They’re made to set sail.
So are you ready to set sail?
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12 NIV)
When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” he was defining himself. He was saying, “I know who I am.” More than 18 times in the Bible, Jesus says, “I am” and then gives a description. He described himself as the door, the bread of life, the way, the truth, the resurrection, and the life. Over and over, he defines himself. Jesus knew who he was and, as a result, he was not under pressure.
This is the principle of identity. As long as you are unsure of your identity, you're going to be pressured to fit into other people's molds. They will manipulate you. They will try to make you into what they think you ought to be rather than what God made you to be.
One of the major causes of stress comes from trying to be somebody that you're not. When you are fearful that someone's going to find out what you're really like, that you might not be able to keep up the façade, it causes stress.
The only way you can counterbalance outside external pressures is to have an internal sense of satisfaction about who you are and who God made you to be. You discover who you are by knowing whose you are.
The Bible says that you were created by God. You are deeply loved by him. You are accepted as you are. He has a plan for your life. Until you settle this issue of identity, you will be insecure and you will be pressured by stress. You cannot serve other people until you settle this issue.
Jesus constantly did things that surprised everybody else. He put himself below others and served them. None of the other disciples would have ever thought to wash each other’s feet in the Upper Room because of their insecurity. But Jesus always served from a position of strength. He knew who and whose he was, so it didn't matter that he lowered himself to serve them.
Service comes from self-esteem. Until you overcome your insecurity and feel good about yourself, you won't feel like helping anyone else. Be secure in who you are and whose you are so that you can effectively serve others.
The Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear.” 2 Timothy 2:17a
Some people let circumstances control them and they often feel like victims. But others experience life on a more even keel. Circumstances may become difficult, but they're constantly overcoming those difficult circumstances. They weather the storms with the confidence that circumstances have no power to defeat them.
Which are you? Victim or Overcomer?
People who have a strong personal relationship with Jesus Christ experience great strength and inner peace no matter what their circumstances. They don't see themselves as victims, but always as overcomers. It's a real key to successful living. When you’re lonely, you need to focus on others and not yourself.
The loneliest person in the world is the guy who's self-centered and wrapped up in himself. God wired us to give our lives away, to help others, to think of others and not just ourselves.
If you want to break out of loneliness, stop saying, "I don't have any friends," and start being a friend. Stop focusing on yourself and instead give yourself away. Instead of focusing on yourself, you need to emphasize others' needs.
Loneliness is often a fear of love. We're afraid to be open. We’re afraid to be vulnerable. We're afraid to share how we really feel. We're afraid to step out and risk a relationship because we might be rejected, and we know what that pain feels like.
When we fear love, we don't give ourselves away, and we're guaranteeing ourselves loneliness. We set ourselves up in a self-imposed prison of solitary confinement that is absolutely unnecessary. Give your life away!
When Paul was in prison and about to be executed, he said all his friends had left him, but God was with him. That gave him the strength to reach out to others and complete the work God had given him: “The Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear” (2 Timothy 2:17a NLT).
The key to overcoming loneliness is to stop building walls and start building bridges. Stop building walls between you and other people. Start building bridges. Take a risk. Begin to help other people.
Years ago, Corrie Ten Boom was engaged to be married to a guy who suddenly broke off the engagement and married her best friend. She was devastated. She came home crushed and lonely and isolated. She asked her father, "What do I do with a blocked love?” He said, "Whenever you have a blocked love, re-channel it.”
There are thousands of people in the world who need your love. Re-channel it. If you hold it in, it's going to dry up and wither away. You need to find a ministry, a place you can use your talents and gifts to help other people.
Give yourself away. When you do that, the loneliness will dissipate.
"It is better to be poor and honest than to be foolish and tell lies.” Proverbs 19:1
God does not bless dishonesty. Proverbs 16:11 says, "The Lord demands fairness in every business deal” (LB). That includes wages, salaries, and taxes. If you want God's blessing on your finances, you must be honest about them. Proverbs also says, "It is better to be poor and honest than to be foolish and tell lies” (19:1 NCV).
Why is this an important principle? When you're going through a season of financial stress, the temptation is enormous to toss out your integrity and to cheat in order to make ends meet. It may mean you shade the truth on a sale, exaggerate or deflate the value of something. It may mean you claim a false deduction on your taxes. You always lose in the long run when you lose your integrity. That's what you are taking to Heaven — your character, not your money. You always lose when you give up your integrity.
The Bible says in Proverbs 10:22, "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it” (NIV). Profit that is made dishonestly brings trouble with it. Why? Because whatever you reap, you're eventually going to sow. If you rip off people, other people are going to rip you off. If you cheat, even the government, you're going to get cheated in life. What you sow, you will reap.
This decision to be honest in your finances is not something you make once for all. It's going to be a daily decision. You're going to be tempted to lie. Sometimes honesty costs you. Have you learned that? Sometimes it costs to tell the truth on a form. But God says that if you’re faithful to him in this, you'll never worry about your financial needs.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 4:9
Most of us spend our entire lives trying to earn acceptance. We want to earn it from our parents, peers, partners in life, people we respect ourselves, and even people we envy. The desire to be accepted drives us to do all kinds of things. It can influence the kind of clothes you wear, the kind of car you drive, the kind of house you buy, even the career you choose.
Would you agree that people do the craziest things to be accepted? Remember as a kid you wanted so badly to be in the in-crowd that someone would say to you, “I dare you to do this,” and you did something stupid. You did it because your desire to be accepted overruled the desire for personal safety in your life. When you played baseball as a kid and teams were chosen, remember how great it felt to be picked by the better player? Remember how bad you felt when they got down to the last two or three and you still weren't chosen?
We love the feeling of being accepted.
Being chosen does tremendous things for your self-esteem. 1 Peter 4:9 says, “You are a chosen people” (NIV). That ought to raise your self-esteem! Christ has accepted you — not based on your performance, something that you earned, or something that you deserve. God simply says, “I chose you.”
You may have accepted Jesus into your life, but have you ever realized that Christ has accepted you? You don't have to earn it; you don't have to prove yourself.
“Even if my mother and father abandon me, the LORD will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10 GW). The fact is, some of you had parents whom you could never please. No matter what you did, it wasn't good enough. If you got C’s, they wanted B's. If you got B's, they wanted A's. If you got A's, they wanted straight A's.
The tragedy is that some of you today are still trying to prove yourself to your parents. You're still trying to earn their acceptance, but, in all likelihood, you're not going to get their approval if they haven't given it to you by now, because that's their problem. The good news is this: You don't need it to be happy! There are 6 billion people in the world. If two people don't like you, who cares? As a part of God’s family, you have been accepted by God!
“God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
The seasons of life include both good and bad times. Life is full of contrasts. We go through mountains, and we go through valleys. We go through successes, and we go through failures. We have wins, and we have losses.
In weather, there are four seasons. But in your life, there are dozens of different seasons.
Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 gives us a representation of different life experiences: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace” (NLT).
Life is a combination of contrasting seasons. All sunshine and no rain make a desert. If you are following God's will, if you're really trying to live your life according to the way God wants you to live, then all of these experiences have meaning and purpose and value in your life.
And they're all God's will! Some of you think that the only time you're in God's will is when you're at church or having a quiet time. You can be in God's will as you’re cleaning out a closet. You can be in God's will mowing your lawn. You can be in God's will moving to a new location or not moving to a new location. There's a time and season for everything.
Ray Stevens sang a song called "Everything Is Beautiful in Its Own Way." He lied. It's not true. Everything is not beautiful. Cancer is not beautiful. Child abuse is not beautiful. War is not beautiful.
Everything is not beautiful in its own way. He misquoted Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says,"God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” That's very different. God can take even the bad things and, in the proper season, turn them around and use them for good in the way he intends.
Some of you are going through a season right now that is not beautiful. It's ugly. Your finances look ugly. Your health looks ugly. Your marriage or a friendship looks ugly. Your future looks ugly.
But God can make something good out of it if you'll give him the pieces.
“Live in me and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me." John 15:4 GW
Right before Jesus goes to the cross, he gives his last minute instructions to his followers: “Live in me and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me" (John 15:4 GW).
Jesus says that being spiritually connected is like being attached to a vine. You’re not going to have any fruitfulness or productivity in your life if you’re out there on your own. You’ve got to stay connected.
In plants, a disconnected branch can’t bear fruit. You not only don’t have the support, you not only start to wither and die, but you don’t have any productivity in your life if you’re not spiritually connected.
I grow a lot of vegetables and fruit every spring. If I cut off a branch, those branches aren’t going to produce any tomatoes or anything else. They’ve got to be connected in order to produce fruit.
What kind of fruit should you produce when you are connected to the Body of Christ? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a NIV).
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be more loving. I’d like to be more joyful. I’d like to be more at peace, no matter what happens to the economy. I’d like to be more kind to people who are mean to me. I’d like to be a good person. I want to be faithful, not unfaithful. I want to keep my promises. I’d like to be gentle with people who are not very gentle. And I’d like to have more self-control.
That’s called the fruit of the Spirit, and it's the evidence that you are spiritually connected. If you are not seeing yourself grow in all these things, guess what? It means you’re not spiritually connected.
He’s saying this is so important, not only do you need the support like in a building, and not only do you need the life blood like being in a body, he’s saying you’re not going to have any fruitfulness or any productivity in your life if you’re out there on your own. You’ve got to stay connected.
You don’t realize how unique and valuable you are — none of us do. The reason you are so vulnerable to the fear of rejection is because you’re full of self-doubt. That’s why when criticized by another person, deep down inside, you have the doubt and fear that they’re right. So it hurts even more.
The effect of sin is always insecurity. The more we sin, the more insecure we become. When someone ignores you at a party, you might say, “They must not like me!” Maybe they just didn’t even see you there. But because you were seeing through the eyes of fear, you were vulnerable.
What’s the antidote to the fear of rejection? The antidote is to put God in first place. Second, you put people in their place by putting their opinions in the right perspective. Then, you must accept what God says about you.
Psalm 8:5 says, “Yet you made them inferior only to yourself; you crowned them with glory and honor” (GNT). You were created by God, and God does not make junk.
Not only were we created by God, but Christ made us acceptable — not because of what we’ve done, because we could never be good enough to be acceptable to a perfect God. Ephesians 1:4 says, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (NIV). Jesus Christ died on the cross, paid for all our sins, and covered us with his love. God looks down at you and says, “What Jesus did was acceptable. You are acceptable.” All you have to do is accept what he’s done for you.
You were created by God. Christ has made you acceptable. It doesn’t matter what you say about yourself; it doesn’t matter what other people say about you. If God says you’re OK, then you’re OK.
No matter who rejects you, God never will.
“Fools will believe anything, but the wise think about what they do.” Proverbs 14:15
For 40-plus years I’ve been following this map called the Bible. I have found it to be true. It always takes me where it says it’s going to take me. I don’t always feel comfortable there. I don’t always like it there. But it always takes me where it says it’s going to take me.
We know what’s true through consideration.
Truth is knowable. You can observe it. You can test it. You can consider the evidence.
But most people never slow down long enough for consideration. Most people just drift through life. They never think about where they’re headed or what they’re going to do once they get there. The Bible tells us over and over to “ponder the path of your feet.” In other words, think through your life. Don’t just drift through life. Spend some time in consideration and observation.
Are you on a true path? If you don’t know, check it out. Make time to do it today.
The Bible says in Proverbs 14:15, “Fools will believe anything, but the wise think about what they do” (NCV). That means consideration! Wise people think about what they do.
John 3:33 says, “Anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth” (MSG). If you have serious questions about the Bible and God, it’s OK to check things out. It’s OK to be skeptical. There’s nothing wrong with that! In fact, that’s kind of smart, in my opinion. The dumb thing is to sit on the fence and do nothing about it when you have questions as important as “Does God exist?” and “Is Jesus who he said he was or not?”
Check it out. Examine the evidence. You’ll find that you can stake your life on God’s truth.