“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22 NIV
The Bible says in Mark 12:30, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (NLT). Another way to say this is, love God with all your talk, all your feelings, all your thinking, and all of your acting. God shaped you to be primarily either a talker, feeler, thinker, or a doer.
Talkers love God with their hearts. Feelers love God with their souls. Thinkers love God with their minds. Did you know that you can also love God with your intellect? Did you know that when you’re doing intellectual activities, it brings glory to God? When you’re developing and strengthening your mind, it is an act of worship.
People who are thinkers fall in love with the Bible when they become believers. They love to study that book. There is no other book in the world like it! It has the answers to life’s questions, like: “Why am I here? Where am I going? What is the purpose of life? Does my life matter? What’s the past? What’s the future? Where did I come from?” Thinkers love Bible study. Psalm 119:97 says, “How I love your law! I think about it all day long” (TEV).
We need thinkers, because the world needs consideration. Somebody has to be thinking through complex issues and the implications of what the rest of us are doing. We need people who think through tough problems and bring solutions to the table. That’s why we need scientists, writers, philosophers, and innovators.
But thinkers have to be careful to practice humility. The Bible says, “Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom” (Proverbs 3:7a NLT). Why? Because God is God, and you’re not.
Humility is a choice. Not once in the Bible are you ever told to pray for God to humble you. It says to “humble yourself before the Lord.” It’s a choice. Humility is something you do to yourself. Nobody else can do it to you. They can humiliate you, but they can’t make you humble. In essence, humility is total dependence on God. It’s not denying your strengths; it’s being honest about your weaknesses.
Thinkers also need to be careful to practice what they know. If you know it, then do it! James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (NIV).
Do you believe you ought to give to the poor? Do you do it? Do you believe that people need Christ to go to Heaven? Do you tell them about it? Do you believe in tithing? Do you do it? You only believe the parts of the Bible that you do.
The Bible teaches that God is the source of our finances. He is the one who provides for our needs.
What does this mean? It means that, instead of looking to my employer for financial security, I look to God. It means that, instead of looking at my savings account employer for financial security, I look to God. It means that I don’t look to anyone or anything other than God to provide for my needs.
Let me illustrate it this way: When I turn on the water, I know the water doesn’t actually come from the faucet. The water comes through the faucet. The water is actually from a reservoir, and the way I happen to receive it is through the faucet.
In the same way, the income that God wants to give you may come through a job or through something or someone else.
But the source is always God.
We don’t need to worry about which faucet God uses to supply our needs. In a sense he says, “If I turn off one faucet, I can just as easily turn on another. If you lose one job, I can give you another. I am your source, not your job. I am your source, not your bank account.”
Worry reveals the places where you are not trusting God. Ask God to help you understand what causes you to not trust him, and ask him to teach you to start trusting him. Look for how he does that. In addition, when you start to worry, talk to God about your concerns.
“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (Romans 12:2 NLT)
You cannot become all God created you to be until you understand the five factors that influence your identity. The first two are chemistry (how you are made) and connections (your relationships). You are a product of the way God created you and of the relationships in your life.
Your identity is also influenced by your circumstances and your consciousness. Circumstances are the things that happen to you and around you — none of which you control. You are a product of the trauma, troubles, suffering, shame, shock, pressures, and pain that have shaped your life. Perhaps even abuse has affected your identity. If you’ve ever had a series of failures or a catastrophe, it has left an indelible mark on who you are.
Consciousness is how you talk to yourself. But you know what? If you talked to your friends the way you talk to yourself, you probably wouldn’t be friends anymore, because our thoughts are filled with the lies we’ve heard from other people that we’ve let simmer and fester. When we repeat other people’s thoughts in our head, they go deeper and deeper in our consciousness, and they begin to shape our identity.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (LB). Your thoughts don’t have to be true to hurt you; you just have to believe them. If you tell yourself your marriage won’t last, then it won’t. If you’re afraid you can’t do something, then you won’t. Your thoughts run your life!
Your circumstances may be out of your control, but God is in control of everything. Your thoughts shape who you are, but you can change the way you think. Your circumstances and consciousness have shaped who you are, but the way you respond to your circumstances and the thoughts you choose to believe will shape the rest of your life.
The righteous choose their friends carefully.” Proverbs 12:26a NIV
The Bible says in Proverbs 12:26, “The righteous choose their friends carefully” (NIV).
If you’re supposed to choose your friends carefully, you should be even more careful about who’s going to be your life partner. Notice it is a choice. God doesn’t do this for you. God says you make the choice.
God leads us, God guides us, and God gives us guidelines. But ultimately, it’s your choice.
However, many people believe the myth that there is only one right person for them.
That’s very romantic, but it’s just not true. It’s also not biblical. And it’s not even logical! If there were only one right person for everybody in the world, it would only take one person to make a wrong decision and break the chain for everybody else.
Let’s say I was supposed to marry a woman named Susan. Instead, I marry Kay. Then all of a sudden, it upsets the apple cart for everybody else on the entire planet! It is a total myth. It’s romantic, but it’s a myth.
In your life there are multiple people God would say it’s OK for you to marry. There are millions that he would absolutely rule out, but there are multiple opportunities that God would say “OK” to. It’s your choice. It’s your preference.
There’s another myth that many people believe: Love alone is enough reason to marry.
I talk to people all the time who are getting married. I look at them and think, “There’s no way.” The family background isn’t right. The spiritual background isn’t right. The personalities aren’t right. They don’t have the same amount of energy or ambition. They don’t even have the same values and goals. But, they “love each other …”
Just because you love someone does not mean you should marry that person.
God doesn’t tell you who to marry. But he does give you a description of the kind of person that he desires for you to marry. If you want God’s blessing and protection on your marriage and you want success in your marriage, then you need to listen to what God has to say about the kind of person you should marry.
“I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10 NLT
In life, you only have to please one person. And that is your Creator. You only have to please the Lord, the one who made you and has a purpose for your life.
That simplifies life enormously! You only need one person’s approval: God’s.
Jesus said it like this in John 5:30: “I don’t try to please myself, but I try to please the One who sent me” (NCV). He said, “I’m living for an audience of one.”
You may have never realized this, but people-pleasing is a form of idolatry. The first commandment in the Ten Commandments is, “Don’t have any gods before me.” Anything you put before God becomes a god. So a boat could be a god. A career could be a god. A girlfriend could be a god. Golf could be a god. Anything that becomes number one in your life that isn’t God becomes your god.
The second commandment is, “Don’t make any idols.” Anything that replaces God in your life is an idol. Success can be an idol. Money can be an idol. Sex can be an idol. A relationship can become an idol. If that relationship to your girlfriend, your wife, your boss, or your friend is more important than God, it’s an idol.
When you are a people-pleaser, you have allowed something other than God to take first place. All of a sudden it becomes god in your life, because you are allowing the opinion of others to matters more than God’s opinion. What they think of you matters more than what God thinks of you. You don’t want to tell them you’re a Christian because they might think less of you. For example, you don’t want them to know you go to church because they may not like you. At that point, you have another god in your life. You have an idol.
You only have to please one person. Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT).
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Everybody has had their heart broken in some way — maybe by disappointment, fear, shame, rejection, or ridicule. I would say to you, as your friend, I’m sorry. I really am. I care about the hurt that you have gone through, because God cares about it. He’s hurt with you. What was God doing when you were weeping? He was weeping, too.
In fact, it is in your pain that God is closest to you, whether you realize it or not.
The Bible says in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NIV). How does he do that? He saves us by giving us a heart transplant. It’s his specialty, in fact.
God says, “For the heart that’s guilty, I’ll give you a heart that’s forgiven. For the heart that’s resentful, I’ll give you a heart that’s full of peace. For the heart that’s anxious, I’ll give you heart that’s confident. For the heart that’s lonely, I’ll give you a heart full of love. That heart that has been bitter and angry? I’ll give you a heart that is forgiving and loving and generous instead. Let me do a heart transplant in you. I will set you free.”
Why do we need freedom? Because we’re all enslaved. We’re a slave to the expectations of other people. We’re slaves to past memories. We’re slaves to future fears. We’re slaves to current pressure. We’re slaves to the opinions of society, and on and on and on.
But all you have to do is open your heart to Jesus Christ and give him 100 percent of your heart. Say, like David in Psalm 119:32, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”
You have no idea what God wants to do with your life. Stop limiting God! Open your heart to him, and let him transplant it for his own.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
You may be facing a dead end right now — financial, emotional, or relational — but if you will trust God and keep on moving in faith, even when you don’t see a way, he will make a way.
It will become more understandable as you head down the path he sets before you, but understanding is not a requirement for you to start down the path. Proverbs 4:18 says, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” (NIV). One day you will stand in the full light of eternity and view the big picture. You’ll see God’s purpose behind the path he specifically chose for you.
In the meantime, do what Proverbs 3 says: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Be patient. God knows what he’s doing. God knows what is best for you. He can see the end result. You can’t. All those problems, heartaches, difficulties and delays — all the things that make you ask “why” — will one day be clear in the light of God’s love.
But for now, we’re learning to trust God.
The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Encourage one another and help one another” (TEV). You are to build up, motivate, and inspire other people. How do you do that? You can do it three ways: You can give people hope, you can help people overcome their fears, and you can help people break down barriers.
First, you need to give people hope. You show that you’ve been through the same thing, and you reassure them that they’ll be able to get through it, too. You show through your story that it can be done.
When you share your experiences with other people, you help take away their fears. It’s kind of like riding a roller coaster. When you go to Six Flags and you’ve never been on one of those huge roller coasters, you’re kind of thinking, “Is this a smart decision?” Then, the person in front of you turns around and says, “This is a great ride. I’ve been on it five times.” So you’re thinking, “OK, I’m going to live. They’ve done it five times. It’s got to be OK.” Having someone share with you who’s already gone through it is an inspiration. It’s motivational.
How many first-time mothers feel scared to death, unprepared, and inadequate? All of them! How grateful they are for somebody who comes along and says, “Babies cry. It’s OK. It’s OK to let them cry. This is normal.” The fears that they’re experiencing don’t seem so daunting when others share with them their experiences and how they came through them. It gives them hope!
You also help people break through barriers when you motivate them with your own experience. Roger Bannister was the first guy to run a four-minute mile. At the time, everybody said it was an impossible barrier. Yet within about a year after Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, a dozen other guys had done it. All of a sudden, people realized it wasn’t impossible, and it gave them hope that they could do it, too.
You have experiences in your life that could be barrier busting, inspirational, and motivational to other people — if you’re willing to share them. The most powerful way to say anything is the most personal way to say it.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:6, “For your sake, my friends, I have applied all this to Apollos and me, using the two of us as an example, so that you may learn.”
Whenever I teach a series on marriage, I always go back and talk about the marriage problems Kay and I have had. Why? Because it has the credibility of reality and people can go, “They don’t have a perfect marriage, and we don’t, either. But they’ve lasted nearly 40 years. Maybe we can, too.” Perfection never helps anybody — except when it’s Jesus.
"Immediately they left their nets and they followed Him." Matthew 4:20
The Bible tells the story of Andrew and Peter going from fishermen to becoming fishers of men. We are introduced to them with this verse: “Immediately they left their nets, and they followed Him” Frankly, this verse disturbs many. Imagine a stranger walking up to you while you are working. You don’t know this man, but He says, “Follow Me.” And it means giving up all that’s familiar in your life, to follow Him. Yes, He’s dynamic and charismatic. But dropping everything and blindly following him?
Fortunately, it didn’t happen that way. Look at Scripture in light of Scripture. The fact is that Andrew and Peter were introduced to Jesus and spent a day listening and talking to Him. (John 1:35-42) Then they heard Him preach. They even saw how Jesus knew a whole lot more about fishing than they did. (Luke 5:1-11) And they began to be convicted of their sins. Soon after that, Jesus approached them and said, “Follow Me and I’ll make you fishers of men” At that point, they were ready to drop everything and follow Jesus. (Matthew 4:18-20)
No, they didn’t blindly follow Jesus. They had seen and heard enough to believe He was the man. If you take the time to get to know Jesus through His Word, you may want to follow Him, too. If you do, your life will never be the same!
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13
A divorce or any other major crisis in your life will shake your faith. But it is your faith and your trust in Christ that’s going to get you through it. David, after suffering great loss, including the loss of a child, wrote in Psalm 27:13, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (NASB). He would have given up if he hadn't believed in the goodness of God.
Even in those situations where life stinks and it seems dark, believe that God is a good God. Even when everything is going wrong in your life, believe in the goodness of God that can pull you through. Believe that God’s plan for your life is greater than the problem you’re going through. Then, you can also share your faith in God’s goodness with your friends when they are going through a crisis. Friends strengthen their friends’ faith.
How do you get that kind of faith?
The Bible tells us there’s only one place to strengthen your faith. Faith comes from knowing the Word of God.
If you know the Bible well, you’re going to have great faith. If you know this book a little, you’re going to have a little faith. If you don’t know this book at all, you’re not going to have any faith.
Did you know that in the Bible there are more than 7,000 promises made to you? But you can’t claim them if you don’t know them. If you want to increase your faith so you’re able to handle the rogue winds of life, you’ve got to know the Bible through study, meditation, and memorization.