1. Why Settle For Half?
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Matthew 5:6
I have often heard the question, "Would you say the glass is half empty or half full?" Let's forget that question and ask, "Why settle for half?" We have just entered a new year and it is a great time to resolve to live life to the fullest! It reminds me of the letter to the church of the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:15-16. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." They were right in the middle. I don't want to become satisfied in living a mediocre life. I think the time is getting closer for the Lord's return and I want to life my life to the fullest in service for Him. Jesus promised that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness would be filled. Let's look into God's Word and see how we can be filled.
2. Be Fruitful
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23
When we look at the idea of living life to the fullest, it is most important to look at what we are full of. We begin with being fruitful. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be "filled with the Spirit." Paul gives us the fruit of the Spirit and we have discussed these attributes many times, so we will look at them all together today. Coming through the Christmas season we have been focused on love, joy, and peace. Let's strive to let the love of Christ radiate through us, His joy overflow our soul, and the peace of God fill us up to the brim. Then our longsuffering, gentleness and goodness will be evident to those around us. The Spirit can also increase our faith, meekness, and temperance so that we become stronger in our daily walk. This is only possible through the Lord Jesus Christ. "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)
3. Be Faithful
"Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." I Corinthians 4:2
For us to talk about being faithful, we need to look at the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, sometimes called the "Hall of Faith". "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report." (Hebrews 11:1-2) Here we see the common thread of faith among all the Bible men and women whom we uphold so highly. Let's examine the first three people in this chapter.
Abel Worshipped -- "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: ..." (Hebrews 11:4)
In order to live a life full of faith we must first worship the one and only, true living God. In reading through the Bible we see that mankind worshipped the gods of their choosing. Some worshipped the true God, and others worshipped false gods, but they all worshipped. We seem to be living in the most self-centered generation where people do not feel the need for God. With the abundance of selfies posted online it seems that many people are most interested in themselves. The requirement of being faithful can only be met after we have humbled ourselves to place Jesus as our Lord and Savior and make the Heavenly Father our God.
Enoch Walked With God -- "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." (Genesis 5:24) "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:5-6)
After we put God first in our lives through worship, we can then walk with Him. We must keep our sin confessed, as we see in the lives of Adam and Eve who hid in the garden after they sinned against God.
Noah Worked For God -- "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." (Hebrews 11:7)
Next in our ways to be faithful, we see working for God. But, we must understand that this work can only come after we know God in worship, and turn away from our sin and walk with God. We have this warning from our Savior. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23) We can not work to earn our salvation, Jesus gave His life on the cross to pay our sin debt. But, after we accept God's gift of salvation there is a job for us to do. "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15) We can be faithful this year, in our worship, our walk, and our work.
4. Be Truthful
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." Exodus 20:16
Today we are looking at the ninth of the Ten Commandments. Some may not put much importance in being truthful, but it is listed among the commandments with "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not steal." In fact, when we look at the seven things God hates, we see lying listed in more than one way. "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." (Proverbs 6:16-19) God's Word is very clear even on the origin of lying. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it." (John 8:44) Be truthful. God's Word demands it. Be truthful to God, to others, and even to yourself.
5. Be Thankful
"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." I Thessalonians 5:18
I have so much to be thankful for! As the temperatures dropped into the single digits last night I was able to keep warm with the added help from the fire in my woodstove. God has blessed me with a nice warm home, the clothes I wear, and the food I need. Each November we set aside time to give thanks to God, but He deserves our praise throughout the year. I began a new prayer journal the first of this year and each day I begin with something I am thankful for. If I can continue every day until next November I may be able to make a small dent in the list of things God has blessed me with. In chapter seventeen of Luke we find the account of the ten lepers calling to Jesus for cleansing. Only one returned to give Him thanks. "And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?" (Luke 17:17) I wonder if the ratio is even that high today. Do you think one out of every ten prays and gives thanks to God? The Apostle Paul warned young Timothy of the last days and as we read these verses, it seems as though we are there. In the midst of all these ungodly traits we see, "unthankful". No matter what a day brings, there is always something that we can thank the Lord for. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." (II Timothy 3:1-5)
6. Be Beautiful
"He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end." Ecclesiastes 3:11
I have often wished I could have seen God's creation in all its beauty. Can you imagine the beauty of striped tigers, regal horses, and the brightly colored birds before sin or harm ever touched them? Even more, I have wondered what Adam and Eve looked like, created in perfection, living in a perfect world. I think we might be surprised at God's definition of real beauty. The media and advertising companies of today have molded our minds to their idea of what is beautiful. They tell us how much to weigh, what to wear, how to fix our hair, and not only must our teeth be straight, but they must be whiter than white. My title today is "Be Beautiful". I believe that God would rather we spend more time focusing on our inner spiritual beauty, and be less concerned with our outward appearance. Let's look at what God's Word says about beauty. Let's strive to glow with an inner beauty.
"Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised." (Proverbs 31:30)
"Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." (I Peter 3:3-4)
"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works." (I Timothy 2:9-10)
"The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head." (Proverbs 20:29)
7. Be Helpful
"And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." I Corinthians 12:28
After each day of creation God saw that it was good. Then we come to Genesis 2:18 and read, "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." It was not good for man to be alone so God made a helper for him. No matter how much we feel like we can do it on our own, and make it on our own, sometimes we need help. Now let's move forward from creation to the time of the early church. We can tell by Paul's letters that the church at Corinth needed help. Paul tried to help them concerning gifts in the church. Notice the gifts that Paul listed in the verse above. Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healings... well those things don't apply to many of us, but look what comes next, helps. We can be helpful. Take a prayerful look at your church and ask God what you can do to be helpful. There may be a Sunday School class that needs a teacher, or a youth class that needs help in the classroom. Maybe there are some elderly people in your church that need help with simple tasks. If you can sing, the choir may be the place you can be helpful. Sometimes kind words can go a long way in being helpful, such as "I'm praying for you." Has the Lord blessed you more financially? Maybe you can be more help with tithes and offerings, or a special gift to someone in need. Many times those who are the most helpful are the ones who find life to be more fulfilling. Maybe you are getting on in years and feel like you are too old to accomplish much more in this life. Look around. There may be someone who needs help and you may be just the person to answer his or her need. We can all be a little more helpful.
8. Be Hopeful
"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." Romans 15:13
As we continue with our devotions on "Live Life To The Fullest" we come to a topic that is needed in our day and age. With all the problems in the world today, we are encouraged by God's Word to "Be Hopeful", or full of hope. Sometimes when people use the phrase, "I hope" we think of it in more of a negative way. If we are planning a day at the zoo we may say, "I hope it doesn't rain." This brings the unwanted possibility to mind, that it might rain and change our plans. Hope that we have in the Lord is more positive and there are many aspects of our hope in the Lord that are sure and steadfast. Just as the faithful are full of faith, the truthful are full of truth, and the thankful are full of thanks, let's be full of hope in the Lord. Our hope in the Lord is "an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast." (Hebrews 6:19) "The hope of the righteous shall be gladness..." (Proverbs 10:28) The hope that Jesus will return for His children and grant us eternal life is blessed and sure. "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;" (Titus 2:13) "That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:7) We can find comfort in these words.
"13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)
9. Be Thoughtful
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
As we look at being thoughtful, I am reminded of something I was taught as a child, "Think before you speak." Proverbs 17:14 compares it to letting out water, once you pour a cup of water into the ground, you can't take it back. It is important that we think before we act, and not just react. Now, to dig a little deeper in the subject of being thoughtful, we see in our verse above that God knows our thoughts and intentions. So we should not sit around and dwell on gossip, or revenge, or sinful and evil thoughts. The Apostle Paul gives us guidelines for our thoughts in Philippians 4:8. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
If we back up a little in Paul's letter to the Philippian believers, we find another meaning of being thoughtful, and that is thinking of others above yourself. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" (Philippians 2:3-5) Paul continued in saying that Jesus humbled Himself to take on the form of man, and give His life on the cross, to pay for our sin. He is the highest example of being thoughtful of others. As you enter this new year, try to be thoughtful of others. Strive to do something good for at least one person each day, and it will make you a better person!
10. Be Joyful
"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." John 15:11-12
Yesterday we looked at being thoughtful and putting others first. Today we are looking at being joyful. Jesus told the disciples "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." He wanted them to be full of joy. He followed by telling them to "love one another." I have often heard that real joy is Jesus, Others, and You, in that order. It has also been said that happiness comes from happenings, while joy comes from Jesus. The angels proclaimed joy at the birth of Jesus. "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11) The wise men also rejoiced with great joy at the birth of the King. "When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." (Matthew 2:10) Just before Jesus gave His life He tried to prepare the disciples. "And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." (John 16:22) When Jesus rose from the dead, He did bring renewed joy to His followers and all who believed on Him. We were not there at the manger in Bethlehem. We did not see Christ in His resurrected body. But we can be included in this everlasting joy, as shown in I Peter 1:8. "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:" Let's offer up a joyful Psalm of praise!
"1 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." (Psalms 100)
11. What Is Needful?
"But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Luke 10:42
In the opening prayer last Sunday, our Pastor confessed to God that we are a needy people. After going over the prayer list, it is clear that we are a needful people. Many have physical needs, some have financial needs, some spiritual needs, and some have the greatest need of all, the need of salvation. People everywhere are searching for something to fill the void and emptiness they feel deep inside. They don't understand that Jesus can fill their need. In our verse above Jesus told Martha that "one thing is needful..." so let's look at that scripture and see what is needful.
"38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42)
Martha had invited Jesus into her home. On many occasions when Jesus went to a house, multitudes followed and Martha may have been going throughout the house trying to serve a housefull of guests. While she was busy serving, she noticed that Mary was sitting, listening to Jesus. Sometimes we need to be like Martha and serve others, but more importantly we need to be like Mary and listen to God's Word. Amos 8:11 warns that there will be "a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:" People don't want to hear God's Word. There are places in our country where The Ten Commandments have hung for many generations and now a few individuals are demanding that they be taken down. During Christmas I heard many stories where people were removing Nativity scenes because some were offended. Our country needs the Word of God and many don't even realize it. Many feel they don't need God. There is even a danger that our churches become self-sufficient, going right along, with the Lord on the outside.
"14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:14-20)
12. Be Mindful
"Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations;" I Chronicles 16:15
The definition of "mindful" on Yahoo's dictionary search is "Attentive; heedful." That definition fits perfectly with our verse above. "Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations;" I think of being mindful as remembering and keeping in mind, but this goes way beyond just thinking about something. We are to be attentive and obedient to God's Word and give heed to it. Peter tells us to be mindful not only of the Word of God in the Old Testament, but also the New Testament. "That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:" (II Peter 3:2) Paul gives us another example of being mindful in II Timothy 1:4. "Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;" Paul thought of young Timothy with the love a father has towards his son, as we see in the opening of his first letter, "Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith:..." (I Timothy 1:2) So we see our part in these few verses, to be mindful and attentive to God's Word and remember our brothers and sisters with Christian love. An even higher example is found in Philippians 2:5. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" This brings some great expectations, but when I read Psalms 8, I am always amazed by God being mindful of us. It is humbling to think that our great, almighty God is mindful of us, as a loving Father over His children.
"1 "O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!"
13. When To Be Forgetful...
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14
Yesterday we talked about being mindful and there are some things that we should not forget.
Don't forget all that God has done. He loved us so much He gave His Son to die in our place so that we can have forgiveness of sin, and a home for eternity in heaven. If He did nothing else, that would be more than enough. "That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:" (Psalms 78:7)
He continually supplies our needs and blesses us with so much more. The roof over my head, the food on my table, and the clothes on my back, I owe it all to Him. We could go on and on listing the things that God has provided. "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:" (Psalms 103:2)
God has given us His Word so that we can learn more and grow in wisdom and knowledge. "I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word." (Psalms 119:16) "Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth." (Proverbs 4:5)
And last, but not least, don't forget to do good. "But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." (Hebrews 13:16)
Now let's go back to our verses above and see what we should forget. "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Forget those things which are behind. Forget your confessed sin. The Lord does, "...for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:34) Forget the anger you have towards others. Forget the jealousy, envy, hurt, and bitterness taking up valuable space in your heart. Mike has a saying that I like, "It wasn't a blessing the first time, why bring it up again?" Forget the pride that lifts you up high, because the Bible tells us there will come a fall. Paul tells us to forget those things which are behind us, and reach towards those things which are ahead. A runner that continually looks behind him can't win the race, so stop looking back and "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
14. Do You Make Healthful Choices?
"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." III John 1:2
We are over two weeks into the new year and I am just now getting to what is probably the most common New Year's Resolution. As I looked over different internet lists of the top ten resolutions, many had healthful choices filling up most of the ten spots. Lose weight, eat healthy, exercise, stop smoking, drink less, and have less stress were on most of the lists I viewed. Other entries included spending more time with family and giving back to the community, which might also contribute to a healthier lifestyle. How important is it to make healthful choices? (I ask, as I sit eating chocolate chip cookies that I made for my grandson.) Is God concerned with the way we live? Let's look at some Bible verses that relate to the things mentioned above. First of all, we belong to God, and not only does the way we live affect our bodies, but it also has an effect of our Christian testimony. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (I Corinthians 6:19-20) We are going to combine losing weight and eating healthy. The Children of Israel were given strict dietary laws, such as not eating the fat on the meat. We also find verses about eating too much, such as Proverbs 23:2. "And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite." There were Olympic Games during Bible times so there was bodily exercise, but I don't think there has ever been a time such as this when so many people spend so much time "working out". During Bible days most people had to do physical labor to survive so this took care of their exercise, but the Bible does speak out against those who would not work. "The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing." (Proverbs 20:4) God fed the Israelites with manna in the wilderness, but they were required to get up early and gather it each day, except the Sabbath. Next on our list we come to not smoking and drinking less. There is nothing in the Bible specifically about smoking because there was no such thing back then, but I think someone once said that the only people ever not affected by smoke were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The Bible does warn in several places not to be a drunkard. "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;" (Ephesians 5:18) I believe Philippians 4:6 takes care of our last entry, have less stress, pretty well. "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Do you want to live life to the fullest? You can make progress by making healthful choices.
15. Be Prayerful
"Pray without ceasing." I Thessalonians 5:17
There are so many verses on prayer I could fill a page or more exhorting us to pray, yet I believe that a lack of prayer is what is missing most from our churches, our families, and our lives. The Bible is filled with people who prayed and God worked miracles in their lives. Elijah is one example. "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit." (James 5:16-18) Daniel prayed, even though it meant being thrown into a den of lions. Daniel's prayers were consistent, he bowed on his knees three times a day and prayed toward Jerusalem and God delivered him out of the lions' den! Some prayers were very short. Peter stepped out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water, but when he took his eyes off the Lord and onto the storm he bagan to sink. His prayer was only three words, "Lord, save me", and the Lord heard him and answered his prayer. (Matthew 14:30) That is the prayer to begin all prayers. Once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior He hears our every prayer. And when we don't know what to pray, or don't have the strength or words to pray the Lord makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:26-34)
Our greatest example of prayer is found in the Lord Himself. The first chapter of Mark tells that Jesus healed the multitudes, "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." (Mark 1:35) And in Luke 6:12 we read, "And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." There have been a few times that I was talking on the phone and as I hung up I saw how many minutes had passed and I thought, "Wow, I can't believe that I talked that long." But I have never got up from praying and said, "I really prayed a long time." We say we believe that God answers prayer, so why don't we spend more time talking to God?
16. The Danger Of Being Doubtful
"And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted." Matthew 28:17
Thomas is often referred to as "the doubting disciple" but when we look at the context of our text above we find that he was not the only disciple who doubted. Back up just one verse. "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted." These are Jesus' closest friends, the eleven disciples, who walked with Jesus, ate of the loaves and fish, saw the miracles, and even performed miracles themselves, "but some doubted." Earlier in His ministry, we find Peter, who had enough faith to step out of the boat during the storm. "But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God." (Matthew 14:30-33) The disciples that were with Jesus in the boat and came through the storm with Him setted it in their hearts, "Of a truth thou art the Son of God." When Paul testified to King Agrippa of Jesus, we see the true danger in doubting. "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." (Acts 26:27-28) How many people will stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat and know they "almost" believed. But, it will be too late. Almost is not enough. So what is the remedy for being a doubtful person? Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Romans 10:9) I close with this incident that shows a sincere prayer, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
"17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;
18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.
19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.
20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.
21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.
22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:17-24)
17. The Harm In Being Hateful
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32
I know some people who are the sweetest Christians you would ever meet. They would do anything for me and when I have a problem they let me know they are praying for me. It is a joy to know people like this who are always smiling and glad to see me. But then there are some people who call themselves friends, but they aren't very kind. Some people in authority make you feel ashamed just to ask a question. During Job's trials his friends came to comfort him, but he said, "I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all." (Job 16:2) As they tried to tell him what was wrong in his life that had caused his misery he was hurt by their words and pious attitude. "No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you." (Job 12:2) When I was young and someone said something mean to us we would say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." But we were only kidding ourselves. Words do hurt. We are told in God's Word to edify one another. Don't gossip and tear others down. "The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." (Proverbs 18:8) And be careful how you judge others. Jesus said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." (Matthew 7:1) God wants us to love one another. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13:34) It would do us good to humble ourselves and think about where we would be if it were not for the grace of God. Just as the Apostle Paul reminded Titus.
"1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" (Titus 3:1-5)
18. The Triumph Through Being Tearful
"He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Psalms 126:6
When I read this verse I think of my Grandpa Beasley. I was told that he was a drunkard, but I never knew that side of him. He was saved and called to preach before I was born. I knew him as a tender man who loved the Lord. I heard him preach his last sermon before he died of cancer and he told a story I will never forget. He said that he often cried while he preached and he asked the Lord to take away his tears, and let him preach without crying, and He did. His heart grew cold, and he asked the Lord to give him back his tears and warm heart, and the tears flowed down his cheeks as he shared this during his sermon. He wept as he sowed the seed, and I don't know how many were saved under his ministry, but I know I was. Psalms 126:5 tells us "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." Psalms 30:5 also gives hope, "... weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." David knew that tears are very precious in the sight of God. "Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?" (Psalms 56:8) God gave me a tender heart and I have often been embarrased by my tears, but even "Jesus wept." (John 11:35) The Pharisees tried to make a sinful woman ashamed of her tears, but Jesus told her, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." (Luke 7:50)
"38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven." (Luke 7:38, 39, and 44-48)
As Christians we can look forward to the day when the Lord will wipe all the tears from our eyes and we shall live forever with our God. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:4)
19. The Warning To Be Watchful
"Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." Matthew 24:42
"Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." Matthew 25:13
My son, Matthew, and his family live about four hours away, more or less depending on traffic, but we enjoy riding down south to visit with them from time to time. Deanne, his wife, has told me how the children stand at the door and look out the window when they know we are coming. They begin watching for us early in the morning and don't let up until we get there. In our scriptures above we see that on these two different occasions Jesus warned us to be watchful for His coming. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had the same zeal and watchfulness for the Lord's coming as we have for our loved ones who are coming to visit?
There are more examples in the Bible that tell us to be watchful. The Apostle Paul warned the church at Corinth to be on guard and watch. "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." (I Corinthians 16:13) To the church at Colosse he reminded them to "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;" (Colossians 4:2) So we see that there is a prayerful watching. Jesus also told us to "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41) In the letter to the church in Sardis we again find this message to watch, this time unto repentance. "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." (Revelation 3:2-3)
These are all ways in which we are to be watchful, but before ending I must ask as the prophet Isaiah
"...Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" (Isaiah 21:11) The Lord has sent us as watchmen to the lost and dying world. These words come with the strongest warning of all.
"17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul." (Ezekiel 3:17-19)
20. The Price Of Being Prideful
"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18
"A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit." Proverbs 29:23
Several years ago when I worked in an office we had visitors one day and my boss was bragging on the good job I was doing. I started to feel proud that he was talking so highly of me when all of a sudden something hit me in the head. There was a heavy plaque on the shelf above my desk and it fell, hit me on the head, then fell to the floor and a corner broke off. I never forgot it because the verse on the plaque is James 4:10 "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." Pride is a serious offence with God. "A proud look" is listed first in the list of things that God hates in Proverbs 6:16-19. It is listed before "hands that shed innocent blood." As our last entry on "Live Life To The Fullest" I want us to look at "The Price Of Being Prideful." After thinking about all the sins that people commit, I believe that pride is the sin that keeps the most people out of heaven. "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26) Many people will not call on Jesus to be their Lord because pride makes them think they are good enough on their own. Pride tells a person that he does not need God. Pride keeps them from bowing their hearts and accepting Jesus as their Savior. One day the pride of mankind will be broken. "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." (Romans 14:11) What is the price of pride? Jesus asked it this way, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36)