It’s very human to want to put up our own protective barriers when someone attacks us. We deflect an insult with humor or try to use logic and reasoning when someone launches an unjustified offense on us. But God promises that we are covered by the “helmet of salvation,” which is nothing less than the blood of Jesus. That means safety requires no more from us than saying “yes” to grace.
1. When faced with an attack of any kind, whether physical or emotional, what is your first instinct?
2. What keeps you from reaching for Jesus first and instead relying on your own feeble barriers?
Challenge: It can be so hard for humans to form a new habit to rely first on Jesus. Fortunately, we don’t even have to do all the work on that! Pray every day this week for the Holy Spirit to make new connections in your brain and heart to make it easier to automatically reach toward Jesus when troubles loom.
God gives us instructions in this verse to guard our hearts and minds. We do not understand these instructions in a human sense, but we must be obedient to carry them out in faith. While writing this Soul Provider, I realized I have fallen short in understanding these instructions and even asked myself, “really?” Our human nature fights against these things, but God keeps encouraging us to be faithful in following these instructions. He knows what brings us peace, after all he designed us.
1. Why do we fight these instructions from God?
2. How can we guard our hearts and minds?
Challenge: Be faithful, go against your human nature, and follow Christ’s instructions.
I remember when I was a kid, my elders would say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Jesus tells us we must do good to others that do wrong to us - turn the other cheek and love our enemies type stuff. This is one of the hardest things in our human existence to follow through with. It’s about forgiveness and then doing something nice, as if forgiveness wasn’t enough. Jesus commands us to forgive and then do something nice to our enemies.
1. Are you able to forgive someone that has hurt you and then do something nice for them?
2. Why is this so hard for us to do? Jesus perfected it, so why can’t we?
Challenge: Do something nice for someone that has recently mistreated you and then begin to build a relationship with them.
“Hakuna matata. It’s a wonderful phrase; It means no worries for the rest of your days.” Jesus is the first to bring us this idea and it certainly did not originate from some wild hog in a Disney film. The phrase itself comes from a Swahili language in East Africa. Jesus says to cast all your worries on him because he loves you.
1. How can we put Hakuna matata into action every day?
2. How at peace would you be if you could actually cast all your worries on Him? Do you believe this is possible to do?
Challenge: You already know what your challenge is. Cast your worry on him and live the Hakuna matata way.
Wait a minute, we must try to live in peace with everyone? What about the atheists, the homosexuals, the drunkards, the adulteress, the murders, or the child abusers and abortionists? To be holy we must love, and yes, that means loving everyone. There is a good chance all of us are guilty of one of those sins above. So, love and live in peace.
1. Have you avoided, gossiped about, or treated someone poorly due to a perceived sin?
2. How holy are you? Are you so holy that you have a right to judges others?
Challenge: Reach out to someone that you recently judged based off of their perceived sin.
Just when we think that life is good and nothing can go wrong, trouble finds us. It doesn’t matter who you are. Whether you have money or power, if you are a Christian or Atheist, tribulations in this life is a promise. The question is, how do we respond to troubling times? The Bible tells us to take heart, for Jesus has overcome the world.
1. “Take heart” is a simple instruction to understand but much harder to follow. How can you grow stronger in faith during times of tribulations?
2. What does it mean to have peace during tribulations? Does peace mean that there is a guaranteed safe outcome?
Challenge: Make a change. Be conscious of your worry and fight it. When you can’t get away from the worry, still yourself and go to Him who gives you peace.
When we are in the middle of a troubling situation, it’s especially important to remember God’s goodness. While there are natural consequences to sin and we will struggle in this life, nothing can separate Christians from the love of our Lord. Job went through terrible tragedies simply so God could show Satan that Job had integrity, even when his blessings were taken away. This test resulted in maturing Job’s faith and even greater blessings for him afterward. Even though we might not understand His reasons for allowing suffering, God’s plans are always motivated by His love.
1. When have you seen or experienced suffering and struggled with the question of why?
2. How can you reframe your mind to seek God’s love within difficult circumstances?
Challenge: Pray – ask God to grant you a glimpse of His greatness and an inkling of how much higher His ways are than our own. Then request a deep reassurance of how much He loves you. When you root your mind firmly in these two truths, you will feel overwhelming awe and peace wash over you.
God can use anything for his purposes, even terrible situations that seem to be a roadblock to ministry. The authorities in Paul’s day figured the best way to stop his preaching was to throw him in prison. The result was exactly the opposite! The guards were exposed to the truth about Jesus. The other believers gained confidence and spread the Good News more boldly. There were even people trying to make more trouble for Paul by preaching about Christ! Either way, God’s message was proclaimed exponentially!
1. Have you ever considered that God may use your current hardships as a way to reach more people for Christ?
2. How might your conscious decision to praise God as you persevere affect others?
Challenge: Memorize 1 Peter 4:19 so your mind will be ready to respond in a God-honoring way when challenges arise.
Our difficult circumstances not only teach us to rely on God and comfort others; they also refine our faith. As we notice how the world knocks us down, but is not allowed to destroy us, a deeper understanding of God’s goodness emerges in our minds. Jesus was allowed to suffer to the point of death, yet he overcame evil through obedience to the Father and was resurrected in glory. Our faith is purified when we completely trust God’s plan and patiently endure whatever trials lay before us.
1. Do you expect to become physically stronger without exercise or hard work? Why, then, do we assume our faith can grow stronger without resistance?
2. How do you feel about inevitable future trials?
Challenge: The next time you must face extreme hardship, think of yourself as gold being refined by fire. Focus on responding and enduring like Christ. Then imagine being in God’s presence someday and hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
When you encounter a new difficulty, what kind of person do you seek – someone who has already experienced that situation themselves, right? Empathy is a powerful connector! We yearn for the comfort that someone who has “been there” and survived can provide. Our life experiences, especially the tough ones, set us up perfectly to assist others going through similar circumstances.
1. How has God used someone’s previous hardship to comfort and guide you through your own struggle?
2. What insights have you gained from your trials in life that would benefit others?
Challenge: Using your answers from question 2, brainstorm ways you can serve God by comforting His people. Think of your past troubles as God equipping you with natural empathy and something valuable to offer. Where would your experience impact people who need to know what you have already learned?
This devotional is written every week by Hillcrest members.
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