Confidence Builders

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

2 Chronicles 32:6 – 8 6He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words:  7“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him.  8With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.

Feelings of insecurity can be debilitating. Someone has defined insecurity this way: showing up for your first day at your new job and finding that your name is written on the door in chalk—and there’s a wet sponge hanging next to it.

Maxwell Maltz, who wrote Psycho-Cybernetics, estimates that 95 percent of people in our society have a strong sense of inadequacy. The deepest need for acceptance has never been satisfied. Personal worth and an understanding of purpose are almost non-existent. Circumstances and people have become the enemies of our value. To enhance our own opinion of self we seek to control events and compete against people. Sometimes we compete against events and seek to control people. Our lives spiral downward into self-absorption, all to prove that we are worth something and have something to offer. We need someone to give us confidence.

The nation of Israel was in a similar condition following 150 years of rule by ungodly kings. Hezekiah, a descendant of David, did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He cleansed the temple and restored the priesthood so that the people could worship God. He reinstituted the Passover and brought back a sense of spiritual security to the people. He showed the people through His own faithfulness to God that spiritual health was to be their priority. As a result, the nation prospered.

This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God.  In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:20 – 21)

But just when the spiritual seems to be in control, the physical attacks and demands equal time. The king of Assyria sees the prosperity of Israel and decides he wants it for himself. The people immediately start to notice how little protection they have against the invasion because the walls of Jerusalem need repair. They also realize that the prosperity of their land will now be used against them. When the enemy lays siege to their city they believe it will be an easy victory for him because the enemy will have all the resources they need to supply their army and the wall will not be able to stop their advance. Their insecurities have been magnified because they have taken their eyes off of God and have begun looking at what man can do to them because of their perceived inferiority.

Hezekiah is faced with a huge encouragement challenge. Words alone may not be enough to return confidence to the people. He goes to work immediately. First, he takes some men and plugs up all the springs of fresh water in the territory surrounding Jerusalem. The enemy would no longer have a source of water for an extended siege of the city, while the people in the city would still have plenty.

The lesson here is that sometimes we need to sacrifice a material benefit for the sake of spiritual security. When the things of the world become the provision of the enemy, get rid of the things of the world. Our earthly prosperity can quickly be turned against us and become the weapon of Satan to defeat us. Be willing to sacrifice any of this earth’s prosperity for the sake of your spiritual prosperity.

Second, Hezekiah begins repairing the walls of Jerusalem. He adds towers to the wall for better visibility and protection. He builds another wall outside the first wall. He also builds weapons and shields in abundance and reinforces the organization of army commanders over the people.

The lesson here is also important. When the world attacks with insecurity, do everything you can to build your spiritual security first. The battle for security is not a physical one, but a spiritual one. Don’t seek to find security out in the world, but rather find it in the city of God and do everything you can to fortify that city. Repair the places where your spiritual wall has fallen down. Get back to church. Get involved in a small group Bible Study. Start praying again. Be thankful and praise God. Then, add at least one more wall of defense to your life by getting involved in a new area of ministry. Time must not be an excuse. It seems we always have enough time to add another earthly item to our already saturated calendars, but we find lots of excuses for not adding another spiritual ministry. What has happened to our priority system? Is it any wonder that we feel insecure? God, the provider of eternal security, has been pushed aside by earthly pursuits of prosperity. Come back into the city and start rebuilding the spiritual center of your life.

Finally, Hezekiah speaks to the people and reminds them that for life to be secure it must be viewed from the heavenly perspective and not the earthly. He encourages the people to be strong and courageous and to conquer their fears and insecurities. Then he tells them how to do it. Stop looking at the strength of the enemy and start looking at the strength of the Lord our God. The enemy does not outnumber us because we have the hosts of God’s army with us. The enemy cannot overpower us because we have the power of Almighty God to fight for us. The people listened to his words, believed them, and then acted upon them by becoming confident again.

Maybe you are the person feeling insecure today. Put your hope in God and be confident. Do what Israel did – get rid of the earthly things that are becoming the enemy’s weapons against you. Rebuild your spiritual center and then expand it. Then trust in the power of God to protect you and win your battles. You will conquer your fears and insecurities and be confident again.

Pastor John

Listen Up!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Judges 7:9 – 11 9During that night the LORD said to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands.  10If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah  11and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.”

Sometimes the circumstances of life are overwhelming. The odds seem to be stacked against us. Every piece of human logic and reason gives us no incentive to proceed. Everything points to defeat and loss. Giving up seems to be the best option.

Gideon found himself in exactly that situation. The nation of Israel had been overrun by the Midianites and their allies for the last seven years. God had allowed this because of the sin of His people. Then God called Gideon to lead an army against the Midianites and restore Israel to its rightful place as rulers of the land. The task seemed overwhelming to him. He made lots of excuses to God as to why he would not be able to accomplish the task. He even doubted that God really cared. Listen to what he says when God asks him to take on this task.

When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6)

Gideon is totally convinced he cannot do what God is asking him to do. His outlook changes when the angel of the Lord says this: “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.” The English Standard translation of the Bible says, “You will strike down the Midianites as one man.” The Lord is saying to Gideon, “No matter what the odds look like from your perspective, for me it will be as if you are fighting only one man.”

Gideon is convinced enough that he brings an offering to the Lord. God demonstrates His power to him. After Gideon is sure that God is with him, he gathers the armies of Israel – 32,000 men all together. He is feeling pretty good at this point until God says that there are too many. God makes it clear to Gideon that He wants the nation of Israel to take no credit for what is about to happen. God wants the people to be totally dependent upon Him and to give Him all of the glory for the success. He instructs Gideon to send home all the soldiers who are afraid that they will lose the battle, and 22,000 go home. Then he tells Gideon to take the remaining 10,000 men to the river and tests them by watching how they drink water. Only 300 men pass the test by not dropping their guard and putting their face down into the water. These 300 men who knelt and brought the water up to their mouths with their hands would be the army that defeats the Midianites.

Now Gideon is afraid again. God understands his fear and provides an answer to it. He sends him down to the Midianite camp and says, “Listen and you will hear words that encourage you to carry out the mission.” When Gideon overheard the dream of one of the soldiers and how the other soldier interpreted it, He worshipped God and carried out the plan. These soldiers were not followers of Jehovah, but they were convinced that Jehovah God was so powerful that nothing could stop Him from conquering them. The enemy soldiers had no knowledge of the size of Gideon’s army, but they knew the size of Gideon’s God, and they were afraid. Gideon realized that his fears were foolish. He totally trusted God to accomplish His purpose. He woke up the army and implemented God’s plan, and God used the 300 soldiers to totally wipe out the enemy.

What can we learn about encouragement from all of this? First, God understands our fears and our tendency to listen to human reason and logic. He knows we are bent on walking by sight and not by faith. But He does not leave us to the consequences of such living. Instead, He speaks to us words of encouragement to give us faith to fearlessly face the foe. He is constantly assuring us that He is with us and that we can live life from His perspective. Listen! You can hear Him right now giving you the assurance that everything will be fine if you trust Him.

Second, God knows we need visible evidence to substantiate what He is saying to us. Look around and you will see it. You will see God’s presence in other people who are going through more difficult circumstances than you are. You will hear it in people’s conversations as they discuss the power of God and what they have seen Him accomplish. You will be strengthened and encouraged by the stories of God’s victories in other people’s lives. You may even hear non-Christians telling of their respect for God because of what they saw happen in people’s lives. Listen! God is using other people to assure you that everything is in His control.

Third, God knows other people need to be encouraged, and He has called us to speak the words of encouragement to them. We need to hear more stories of God’s victories in people’s lives. We need to be willing to recognize what God is doing in us and then be bold enough to tell others what He has done.

Someone is being told by God right now to “listen, and afterward you will be encouraged to proceed.” Maybe you are the one to whom they are to listen. Speak up! Tell your God stories! Praise Him publicly. There’s a Gideon out there who needs to hear and be encouraged.

Pastor John

Encouragement

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, October 29, 2018

Deuteronomy 1:37 – 38 Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it.”

Moses was having a tough day. He knew what God’s purpose was for the people he was assigned to lead. Yet they chose to live in fear rather than step out in faith. They chose to listen to 10 men who had only the perspective of human experience, rather than listen to the 2 men who had God’s perspective.

As a result of the people’s choice, God sentenced all of the them, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, to death in the wilderness without ever experiencing the fulfillment of His promise. As their leader, Moses would spend the next 40 years with the people on a wandering journey in the wilderness that would end in death. It was a bleak future, but not one without eternal significance. God gave Moses three responsibilities:

  1. Moses was to bring the people who had rejected God’s promise back to a position of trust in God where they would honor Him with their lives even though they would still suffer the earthly consequences of their sin. As their model, Moses needed to teach the people that eternity is the goal and the fulfillment of life, not what this world offers.
  2. Moses was to train the innocent children to trust God completely so that when the time came for them to enter the Promised Land they would do it. This would be difficult, because their parents had believed the report that the land was unconquerable, and they would be asked to conquer it 40 years later when the population and strength of the land would be even greater.
  3. Moses was also to personally encourage Joshua, whom God had chosen to be the leader of the nation following Moses. I think this would have been Moses’ most difficult assignment. Moses must spend the next 40 years training and encouraging a young man to take his place and accomplish what he thought he would get to do. I’m sure Moses battled with resentment and discouragement as he followed God’s command to be an encourager.

The Bible has a lot to say about encouragement and being an encourager. The Old Testament alone has 309 references to encouragement, while the New Testament has some 45 references to the subject. Today we begin a study of some important truths about encouragement. The first is this – encouraging others is not a product of our own circumstances but is a response to what God is doing in someone else’s life.

If Moses would have only been an encourager when things were good with himself, Joshua would have never been trained to lead the nation of Israel. For 40 years Moses invested in the life of someone who would do what he wanted to do. Day after day Moses was reminded by the very presence of Joshua that he had failed and that he would not realize the full promise of God on this earth. But Moses was faithful to God’s command because he saw the bigger picture. His faith was not in what God can provide in this world but in what God will fulfill in eternity for those who are faithful to Him. Moses set aside his disappointment and discouragement and began the incredible work of encouraging the next generation of God’s people who would conquer the enemy’s territory.

Pride keeps us from doing what Moses did. We have convinced ourselves that we can do it better than anyone else, and if we can’t get it done, no one will. For some reason we tend to think that we are God’s best chance to build the kingdom. Get over yourself! God may only need you to prepare the way for someone greater. Look at the examples of that in Scripture. John the Baptist, who knew that he must decrease so that Jesus could increase. Barnabas, who introduced Paul to the Apostles and encouraged them to step out of the way and let him do the work God had called him to. Phoebe, who served and encouraged Paul while he was in prison in Ephesus and is forever commended in Scripture as a woman of God. (Romans 16:1-2) And then there was Jonathon, the son of Israel’s king Saul, who stepped aside and encouraged his best friend David to become the famous one of God’s choosing.

Encouraging others is not a product of our own circumstances, nor is it dependent upon the benefits we will receive. Encouragement is a response to what we see God planning to do in the life of another person.  I know our lives are busy and we are overwhelmed with our own circumstances. We are most concerned about our own outcomes. It’s time for that to change. Let’s begin looking around at what God wants to do with other people, and let’s invest some time and resources in them.

Be an encourager, not because you have the time or the energy or because you feel like it, but because you see God at work and you care most about His purpose and plan in people’s lives. Do something today to encourage someone to be all that God wants them to be.

Pastor John

Zeal

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, October 26, 2018

Romans 12:11-13  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

 Today’s word is ZEAL.

Many years ago, Eugene Ormandy was directing the Philadelphia Orchestra. Suddenly something terrible happened. In his enthusiasm over the music, and his burning desire to bring out the best in the musicians, he dislocated his shoulder. I don’t know what they were playing. Certainly not Mozart. Perhaps Stravinsky. But at any rate, he was giving all of himself to it!

In the Bible, such burning desire is called zeal. The very word zeal means “to be hot.” It is translated in a variety of ways in the New Testament, but always has to do with strong desire and passion for something or Someone. As I read the story of Mr. Ormandy, I asked myself, “Have I ever been so passionate about something that I’ve dislocated anything, even a necktie, while preaching?” 

I looked for some examples of zeal this morning, and I think I’m getting a good idea of what it is. My understanding started to grow when I read this prayer from a country preacher in Red Rock, Mississippi. “O Lord, give Thy servant this mornin’ the eyes of the eagle and the wisdom of the owl; connect his soul with the gospel telephone in the central skies; ‘luminate his brow with the Sun of Heaven; possess his mind with love for the people; turpentine his imagination; grease his lips with ’possum oil; loosen his tongue with the sledge hammer of Thy power; ’lectrify his brain with the lightnin’ of the word; put ’petual motion on his arms, fill him plum full of the dynamite of Thy glory; ’noint him all over with the kerosene oil of Thy salvation and set him on fire. Amen!”

That’s zeal! To be set on fire. To burn hot with passion for a purpose or cause. And who has a better cause for which to be zealous than we who understand the cause of Christ? What other mission can ‘lectrify the brain like sharing the Good News of Jesus? What other outcome can compare to the miracle of rebirth in the life of a sinner as we watch God transform their life before our eyes?

Unfortunately, many have never experienced zeal. The nuggets of knowledge they collect about God never become a blazing fire of activity for God. Instead of the unsaved being warmed by the love of God burning in the Christian’s life, they are driven away shivering with the coldness of condemnation. So many Christians live life like the way Luigi Tarisio collected violins.

Luigi Tarisio was found dead one morning with not a comfort in his home. As they looked through his house, they found 246 exquisite violins which he had been collecting all his life. They were crammed into an attic, and the best one was in the bottom drawer of an old rickety bureau. In his very devotion to the violin, he had robbed the world of all that music because he treasured the instrument rather than burning with zeal for the music they make.  His greatest treasure was a Stradivarius that had not been played for 147 years.

Many of Christ’s people are like old Tarisio. In our very love of the church and with a displaced zeal we seek to protect ourselves from the world rather than sing out the Good News to the world. In our zeal for the truth we forget to publish it. When will we learn that the Good News needs not just to be cherished, but needs to be told? All people need to hear it.

I challenge you to read carefully again these words from the Apostle Paul:  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Take these words to heart. Let them be the embers that start a raging fire in you to bring the love of God to a lost world. Be zealous for Christ!

Pastor John

Yield

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ezekiel 34:26-27 I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD…

Today’s word is YIELD.

When I learned to drive a car, I was not living in Wisconsin. I remember distinctly the first time I was told to use an entrance ramp to get on to a freeway. The instructor reminded me of the merge rules we had studied in class. He said, “Use the ramp to accelerate to freeway speed while checking your mirrors for freeway traffic. Signal your intentions, and then merge into the flow of traffic.” There was even a sign at the end of the ramp that said “Merge”. Years later, after moving to Wisconsin in 1987, I noticed the signs on all the freeway entrance ramps at that time said “Yield”. I still haven’t figured out the logic of that. I still get frustrated with the people who do it. I know – it’s my problem.

The word yield carries a negative connotation for me. It seems like most of the time, when we talk about yielding, it has to do with giving in to someone else. None of us really enjoys doing that.

That attitude even carries over into our spiritual lives. Over the years of my ministry I developed an acrostic of the word pray. In one of my leadership classes I was teaching we talked about each element of a powerful prayer life – Praise; Repent; Ask; Yield.

As we got to the last point, the emphasis was on surrendering to the will of God. I pointed out what Jesus said in His prayer to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane:  “Father, if it is possible, don’t make me go through this.” But do you also remember how He finished His prayer? “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.” That’s yielding. That’s hard.

The next morning I thought about yielding from a different perspective. I guess I’ve been a city boy too long, because I had almost forgotten the other meaning of the word yield – to produce. In fact, of the 23 times the word yield is used in the Bible, 19 times refer to the production of crops rather than the surrender of self. It seems to me I need to expand my understanding.

Yielding to God in surrender is essential, but imagine how our prayer lives would change if we used both definitions of yield at the end of our prayers. How much blessing are we missing when we simply focus on what has become the negative attitude of surrender and forget to embrace the positive attitude of harvest? I am just a little bit excited about this. Every prayer we pray should end with the expectation that God is going to produce a bountiful harvest of glory as He accomplishes His will, and we get to share in the harvest.

Look at what God said to us in Proverbs 8 – I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.

Using those truths of God, maybe it’s time we start ending our prays with faith by saying, Lord, as I yield to your will, let the fruit of your life and your glory be yielded to me in abundance.

Let’s yield to God’s will with the expectation of God’s yield.

Pastor John

Xerox Copies

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Romans 12:1-2  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

Today’s word is XEROGRAPHIC.

Some of you have been following this latest study for a while, and you know that today was the day for a word that starts with the letter “x”. Tough assignment. There’s not a lot of selection. But there is a word that connects with our Scripture passage today from Romans 12:2 –  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world. It’s a word from which a major copy machine company chose their name, and in my early days of business and church ministry it was synonymous with copiers. The word is “xerographic”, and the company was Xerox.

The definition of xerographic is this – a process for copying printed material in which the image of the original material is transferred by the action of light to an electrically charged surface to which the image attracts oppositely charged dry ink particles, which are then fused in place on paper, reproducing the original image. Sounds complicated, but I see it as a spiritual analogy.

Jesus is the original. God is the Light. My life is the electrically charged surface. The Holy Spirit is the ink. Here’s how I see it working in human life and in spiritual life.

It’s not long after our birth before we begin to attempt to copy the actions of people around us. It starts with a smile. Soon the baby is making noises that imitate what the parent is doing to imitate the baby. After a while there will be hand-waving. It’s not long before emotions are able to be expressed in tantrums and thoughts are able to be expressed in words. Suddenly, before our very eyes, stands a mirror image of ourselves. We don’t always like what we see.

Babies are born with both a genetic nature that will dictate some behavior, like crying when hungry, and a blank slate of learned behaviors that will become the expression of their thought process.

The same is true of newborn Christians. When we come to Christ, we are born into the family of God and are given the genetic nature of Jesus. His nature will dictate some of our behavior, like hunger for the Word of God. But other behaviors remain our choice, and we learn how to choose to express our thoughts in our words and actions. When we choose to expose our thoughts to the nature of Jesus under the light of God, the Holy Spirit duplicates His nature in us. We become a copy of the original.  We’ve been spiritually Xeroxed.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t expose ourselves to the light of God. We choose the nature of the world over the nature of Jesus. We become copies of culture rather than Christ. From my own experience that doesn’t work out very well. Copying the behaviors and customs of the world will lead to the end result of the world – destruction and death. But transforming our minds so that our lives become the copy of Christ brings abundant life based on the good and pleasing will of God.

Each one of us must decide who or what we will copy. We have all become the behavioral product of our choice to copy someone. If that choice has led you to become the copy of anyone but Christ, then it’s time for you to expose yourself to the transforming light of God and His truth. You can become the copy of Christ. Let the xerography begin today. Let’s copy Christ.

Pastor John

Winners

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Acts 14:19 – 22  Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.  But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

Today’s word is WINNERS.

It’s all about winning. Everything in life is about the experience of victory. From sports to business deals, everyone pursues triumph. Even when we diet, losing is really winning. We were created with an undeniable urge to experience the “thrill of victory” and avoid the “agony of defeat.”

Now before you react negatively to this, think about it carefully. It is not wrong that we focus on winning. The Bible speaks of winning, overcoming, and victory almost 100 times. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies. (Psalm 60:12)

Sports are one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite metaphors of the Christian experience. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:5) The passion to win is not a sin. It is only wrong if we think winning defines our worth and if we believe winning in this life is the ultimate victory. An exaggerated emphasis on worldly accomplishments results in ultimate loss, not gain. If a person’s worth is measured by their win/loss percentage, then ultimately at the point of death everything is loss. Even after all our personal victories in life are counted, death still wins and none of our wins matter: UNLESS death itself can be conquered.

The good news of Jesus Christ is that death has been conquered, and everyone who comes to repentance and faith in Him will ultimately win. Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 15 when he said, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The only victory worth training for is that one. The only win worth fighting for is eternity with Jesus Christ. The only true motivation to get up after a defeat and continue fighting for the faith is the knowledge that ultimate victory is ours in Christ. Look at these incredible promises from God:

1 John 5:4 – 5 For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Life will be filled with lots of losses. We will suffer rejection from our families and friends because of our faith in Jesus Christ. We will be criticized and even persecuted by our culture because of our stand for moral righteousness and God’s justice. We will suffer financial loss. We will experience emotional loss. There will be deaths in our families. Living life faithfully for Jesus is not easy, and we may experience very few personal victories. But Paul was a great example of how to keep our faith and live it consistently even in the face of death. He was considered dead after the stoning he suffered at Lystra, but he got back up and went right back into the city that had rejected him, putting himself in harm’s way again. Then, after visiting Derbe and winning people to Jesus Christ, he went back to Lystra again to strengthen and encourage the people to remain true to the faith. He modeled to the people how to look beyond the hardships of today to the victory that was coming when Jesus returns.

Death was but the doorway to victory for Paul, and it must be that for us as well. When we see it that way, the fear of worldly loss is consumed in the fire of faith that Jesus Christ has conquered the world. So be encouraged. Do not fear what the world can do to you. Do not fear the loss of worldly gain and worth. Do not fear the people who stand against you because you stand for God.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

And when you do fall down in defeat, even to the point of death, know this: God’s people, the disciples, will gather around you and encourage you so that you will get back up and go back to doing God’s work. And when one of the faithful disciples you know falls under the weight of persecution and loss, go to them and take your stand around them so they are encouraged to get back up also. We are not in this alone. God is with us, and God’s people stand beside each other. Remain true to the faith, and let’s fight until Jesus comes. We are winners!

Pastor John