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Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

-Luke 15:7

Muscle Building

This devotional was written by Kelly McFadden

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. —James 1:2-4

 

Did you know that in order for muscles to get stronger, they first have to be weakened? If you have ever experienced sore muscles after a day of exercising or work, you’ve experienced this process. The muscle fibers tear down and then build themselves back up in order to be stronger than they were before. The spiritual life so often works the same way.  To get stronger we must first get weaker.

 

In his letter, James encourages believers to not be discouraged by the setbacks of struggles and trouble. He admits that difficulties will come “whenever you face trials.” Notice he said whenever, not if. Although he does not tell us to smile our way through these struggles, he challenges us to look at them as an opportunity for joy and an opportunity for growth. In this instance, instead of building a physical muscle, James is showing how the Lord uses trials to help us build emotional and spiritual muscles in our lives. Experiences that bring distress and trial so often make us stronger in the long run.

 

James calls us to turn our struggles into times of reflection and learning, allowing them to teach us. It is through these struggles that we mature in our faith and are able to show our true colors. I had a friend once tell me to be careful of what you ask for when you pray. She said, “I prayed for patience, and suddenly I found myself in a lot of situations requiring me to be patient.” What we see as times of trial and challenge, God uses in our lives, providing opportunities to help us develop character and the fruit of the Spirit.

 

Building godly character is not often easy. The road will be marked with struggle. It is simply a part of the Christian journey. The great news is, you have the promise and hope that the Lord is walking with you the entire time. He will not leave you on your own to handle things by yourself. He is walking with you, guiding you, strengthening you, and helping you build character and perseverance so you can remain strong.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. Looking back over your life, where do you see hard times for which you are now thankful?

 

2. What were the lessons you learned through those challenges?

 

FURTHER READING:

2 Corinthians 6:3-7; 1 Peter 1:3-9; James 1:2-8

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

Mending The Broken Parts -   

 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. —James 1:17

 

He had only one eye and his arm was dangling by a thread. But four-year-old Hannah loved Bear. Bear always accompanied her to Sunday School. One day her teacher suggested the class pray for people who were sick and hurting. The children prayed for hungry children around the world, sick relatives, and broken relationships. Hannah put her arms around poor, tattered Bear. She prayed, "Dear Jesus, please make Bear better."

 

Then Hannah had such a good time at church, she forgot Bear and left without him. One of Hannah's teachers, who heard her prayer took Bear home to "heal" him. She replaced both eyes with pretty new buttons and sewed the arm back on. When she gave Bear back to Hannah on the next Sunday, Hannah was filled with joy. "God fixed Bear," she said.

 

What Hannah would later understand about God, is that sometimes He heals directly; other times he uses people like her Sunday School teacher to sew our bears together and help mend the broken parts of our lives.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. When has God used someone in your life to help you with a burden?

 

2. What characteristic of God do you see in James 1:17 and Matthew 7:11?

 

FURTHER READING:

Psalm 85:7-13; Matthew 7:11

Jim Burns is President of HomeWord and Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family @ Azusa Pacific University. Jim speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has over 1.5 million resources in print in over 25 languages. Jim’s radio broadcast is heard on over 800 stations a day and heard around the world via podcast at HomeWord.com. 

Some of his recent books include: Faith Conversations for Families; Teenology: The Art of Raising Great Teenagers, Closer: 52 Devotions to Draw Couples Together, Confident Parenting, The Purity Code and Creating an Intimate Marriage. Jim and his wife, Cathy and their three daughters Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi live in Southern California. 

More of Jim Burns: www.homeword.com

Moving from Willpower to Real Power -  

 

I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe in him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. —Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT)

 

If you’ve ever been to a funeral, I’m pretty sure you’ve informally gone through the following process: You sit quietly in the funeral service and grieve the loss of a life, and in that quietness you resolve to sharpen your goals. The reality of death awakens something in you, and in that moment you want to focus on what really matters most. Maybe you go home and change the way you treat your close friends or family. That happens often for a day or two. Then the resolve fades. Why?

 

Easy answer! It fades because you go back to relying on your own willpower rather than on God’s power. I know this because I’ve gone through this spiritual ping-pong match many times myself. And my willpower isn’t enough for what matters most.

 

To be successful at this, we must move from willpower to real power. This is where we depend on God to help us define and achieve what matters most.

 

Today’s Scripture passage gives us insight into how God’s power—real power—is available to us. It means that, as a Christian, since we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have access to His power. It’s the same power that defeated death on Easter morning! It’s the same power that created this incredible playground we call Earth! This same power is available to you, to help you live a life with meaning, to heal relationships, work in your family and on the job, rescue your life when you need it, and to focus on the things that matter most!

 

But there is a condition to obtaining this power. Did you notice it in the verses from Ephesians? It states, “the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe in him…” The power is available only to those who believe. If you’re not a believer, this might sound like some bad news. But it can easily be changed into good news if you believe in Jesus and put your faith in Him. All you have to do is say yes to Him today.

 

God’s power is available to everyone. This includes you! When you believe in Him and depend on Him to give you His power, He’ll help you live the life you were created to live. God will give you all the power you need to gain a fresh start. He will help you make up for lost time as you finally begin to pursue what matters most!

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. What do you value most?

 

2. What percentage of your time do you feel you spend on what you value most? Is it enough time? If not, why not?

 

FURTHER READING:

Romans 8:11; James 4:14; Psalm 90:12

DOUG FIELDS is the senior director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University and the co-founder of Downloadyouthministry.com. Doug has been a youth and teaching pastor at Mariners Church and Saddleback Church for 30 years and has authored more than fifty books. He is a passionate speaker reaching thousands of leaders, teenagers, and parents every year. Doug resides with his wife and three children in Southern California. 

More of Doug Fields: www.homeword.com

More Like You -  

This devotional was written by Leslie Snyder

 

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. —Psalm 37:4

 

In a delightful compilation of children’s letters to God*, a simple and very honest prayer reads, “Dear God, thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy.”

 

It’s fairly safe to assume that this little girl’s biggest desire was for a puppy. After all, puppies are cute, fun to play with, make great companions and are often at the top of every child’s wish list. I suspect that her heart must have felt a little betrayed when God answered her prayer differently than she had anticipated. Baby brothers are okay, but to many children, a puppy is a dream, come true.

 

In this psalm of David there is a promise – an if/then statement, if you will. It could as easily read, “If you delight yourself in the Lord, then he will give you the desires of your heart.” If that is the case, how does one explain the baby brother in the above story? Many people imagine God like a Santa in the sky with whom they hope to bargain, such as, “If I just go to church, pray the right prayer, say the right things, then God will reward me with a new job, a new wife, a shiny red convertible, or something else for my pleasure.”

 

However, I’m hesitant to approach Scripture as merely a recipe for my own happiness. A more accurate reading of this passage reveals that when a person delights himself or herself in the Lord, then the desires of our hearts become more in line with the desires of God’s heart. Does that mean you can never ask for a new job, a new car, or other things of personal pleasure? Absolutely not! It does, however, reveal God’s deeper desire for us: to become more like Him. A worship song expresses the prayer this way, “I want to be more like You. I want to be more like You. I want to be a vessel You work through. I want to be more like You.”

 

Today, may those words be the prayer of your own heart.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. Listen carefully the next time you pray.  Are your prayers centered on your own desires and wishes, or do they reflect the willingness to accept God’s desires as your own?

 

2. What specific actions are you taking to become more like Christ?

 

FURTHER READING:

Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 16:2, 9

 

*Children’s Letters to God, the New Collection. Compiled by Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall. Workman Publishing, 1991.

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

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