"Aren't the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn't I wash in them and be healed?" So Naaman turned and went away in a rage. But his officers tried to reason with him and said, "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn't you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, 'Go and wash and be cured!'" — 2 Kings 5:12-13
In 1962, the Mariner I space probe was scheduled to travel to Venus and provide information to NASA scientists. It never got there, as it plunged into the Atlantic Ocean four minutes after takeoff. An investigation was launched into the cause for the crash and was later traced to the computer program directing the spacecraft. It turned out that somewhere in the program a single minus sign had been left out.
For some people, living out the basics of the Christian faith isn't exciting enough. Too insignificant. Not brave enough. However, the way a follower of Jesus handles small things, both in attitude and execution, determines to a large extent how they will handle larger things.
Naaman learned a lesson about this in today's passage. He was a mighty warrior of Aram but had leprosy. After getting permission to visit Elisha the prophet, he planned out in his mind exactly what would happen: Elisha would meet him, wave his hand, and call on God to heal him.
Instead, the prophet sent a messenger to Naaman, who told him to wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was upset with this cure. He wanted something with a little more fanfare. But his officers called him on his attitude and encouraged him to take Elisha at his word. When Naaman decided to bathe in the Jordan, his small act of obedience cured him of his leprosy.
So take the time to get to know God through consistent prayer. Read about the characters in the Bible and their triumphs and failures. Make the most of the opportunities the Lord presents, no matter how insignificant they may seem. After all, little things do matter.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. — James 5:16
When New York's Citicorp tower was completed in 1977, many structural engineers hailed the tower for its technical elegance and singular grace. One year after the building opened, the structural engineer William J. LeMessurier came to a frightening realization. The Citicorp tower was flawed. Without his approval, joints that should have been welded were bolted. Under severe winds that come once every sixteen years to New York, the building would buckle.
LeMessurier weighed his options: Blow the whistle on himself. Suicide. Keep silent.
LeMessurier did what he had to do. He came clean. He confessed the mistake.
Plans were drawn up to correct the problem. Work began. And three months later, the building was strong enough to withstand a storm of the severity that hits New York once every seven hundred years.
The repairs cost millions of dollars. Nevertheless, LeMessurier's career and reputation were not destroyed but enhanced. One engineer commended LeMessurier for being a man who had the courage to say, "I've got a problem; I made the problem; let's fix the problem."
You may be at that point where you realize your life is like that flawed building. Although by all appearances you are strong and successful and together, you know you have points of weakness that make you vulnerable to collapse. Sin is corroding the very foundation of your life. What do you do?
You come clean, get help, and get fixed.
Confession is good for the soul. When we hide sin, we hide ourselves from others. Like William J. LeMessurier, when we come clean, we can, as James writes, live together whole and healed.
James is not suggesting merely to confess sin to a preacher or a priest. We confess our sin first to God, but we must confess our sin to those who have been affected by our sin as well. It is also beneficial to confess your sins to a trusted fellow believer who can offer a physical reminder of the grace of forgiveness and encourage you to live rightly.
So, confess your sin. Get it out of your heart. Make it right. And, move on.
They were completely amazed and said again and again, "Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak." — Mark 7:37
Leaders pursue excellence. They lead their organizations, their families, their businesses, and, in fact, their very lives striving for their best.
Jesus was committed to excellence. God gave his very best--his Son. And, as the New Testament writer Mark reminds us, God's Son gave his very best--his life. He made the best wine (see Matthew 14:13-21), and the limbs he restored were perfect (see Mark 3:1-5). His followers should do no less. Less than our best is inadequate, considering the fact that God has given us his very best.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry." Whatever our role, our position, our organization, or our lot in life, we should strive for the best. The measure of our success should not be attached to our particular career or what we earn but on our character and what we give.
Excellence does not mean being the best but being your best, understanding that variation makes all the difference in the world. Excellence is being better than you were yesterday. Excellence means matching your practice with your potential.
Some people have fame thrust upon them. Very few have excellence thrust upon them. Excellence is achieved. What will you do to have people say, like they said of Jesus, "Everything he does is wonderful"?
Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God's will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. — Hebrews 10:36
Effective leaders accomplish seemingly impossible tasks because they never give up. They never buckle under. Despite mounting criticism, intense opposition, and overwhelming obstacles, they persevere with determined resolve. They refuse to throw in the towel.
Often, the easiest thing would be to quit. Just give up. Forget about one's dream and return to the comfort and convenience of mediocrity. Give in to the words of the critics, give up to the opposition, and give way to the obstacles. Simply tuck tail and run away.
Great power is embodied in persistence. The race is not always won by the fastest, nor the game by the strongest, but rather by the one who keeps on keeping on, who refuses to give up. Consider the postage stamp. Its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there. Race car driver Rick Mears said, "To finish first you must first finish."
It is always too soon to quit. One of the most powerful and destructive tools that Satan has in his arsenal is discouragement, the subtle but dangerous compulsion to give up, to quit, saying, "What's the use?"
When you are tempted to quit: resist. We must endure in the battle until the evil day is over. We must press on in the face of the temptation to quit. Until the war is over, we must fight to the end. Until the race is finished, we must keep running. Until the wall is built, we must keep stacking bricks. Never give up. Never. The promises of God are always at the end.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. — 2 Peter 1:3
"Sorry, you just don't have the experience we're looking for."
"Sorry, but we're looking for someone with a little more education."
"What were some major accomplishments (if any), while being a stay-at-home parent?"
"While working at your previous company, did you do any volunteer work at all?"
It can really be tough in the job market. After a few interviews and even more rejection letters, a person can feel completely inadequate. Fortunately, in God's economy, every believer is immediately qualified for Kingdom work. Peter reminds us that the Holy Spirit equips each believer with everything necessary to please our Father. That's great news.
But, even within the earthly church, it's easy to feel inadequate when surrounded by believers with long histories of ministry or the ability to memorize long passages of Scripture. We need to remember that nothing more special than the Holy Spirit is required to serve God effectively. We all have everything necessary to do our jobs within the Kingdom.
Still, Peter doesn't stop with this reassurance. He challenges every believer to add personal disciplines that will build character, mature us, and be used to encourage the church as a whole. He goes on to write, "Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone" (2 Peter 1:5-7).
The pursuit of these virtues is just one way of expressing our thanks and love to the God who rescued us from our complete inadequacy. Having the Holy Spirit with us at all times, we can depend on him to guide us through the stresses that are used to hone these virtues. All that is asked of us is that we continue on and not give up.
Being fully equipped by the Holy Spirit, let's heed his guidance and pursue spiritual maturity. May we ever strive to become all that God has called us to be, and may he ever grant us the ability to serve him faithfully.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. — Genesis 50:20
Everyone faces adversity from time to time. A person is fired from his or her job. Bills are due, but there's no money to pay them with. A beloved family member dies. How we handle these situations can say a lot about our faith in the Lord.
In the case of Joseph, his problems began the moment he fell for his brothers' "we've got a really neat pit to show you" trick. They sold him as a slave to Ishmaelites passing through the area in an attempt to rid themselves of "the dreamer" (see Genesis 37:19). Eventually, Joseph was able to gain a good standing with Potiphar and was placed in charge of his house. But later, Potiphar's wife attempted to seduce Joseph and falsely accused him of adultery. Joseph ended up in prison as a result.
Joseph had plenty of opportunities to cry out about the injustice he was facing. He had chances to complain about the treatment he had received from his brothers. He could have become bitter when the king's cupbearer was released from prison and forgot about him. These actions and attitudes would have reduced Joseph to hopelessness.
Instead, Joseph allowed himself to be used by God to interpret Pharaoh's dream. Pharaoh removed him from prison and placed him in charge of Egypt, where he organized a plan to store grain before the famine occurred. Finally, Joseph was reunited with his brothers. What was intended for bad was used by God for good.
Obstacles have the ability to take us out of contention, but we also have the opportunity to rise above them. We can cry, complain, and live in misery because of our struggles. Or we can react like Joseph--allowing God, in his timing, to bring something good out of our circumstances. Are you allowing God to help you land on your feet?
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. — Philippians 4:8
The human brain is an amazing component of our bodies. With it, we are able to sense, to recognize, to understand, and to remember countless things. Our brains keep track of countless important details (like heartbeats) that keep us alive. All without conscious decisions on our part. Even with the most advanced products of scientific research, we have not been able to rival what has been given to us by God with the gift of life.
One thing we must be careful about is the type of material we give our brains access to. Since the brain is like a sponge, it retains all the information it receives. A few years ago, Denny Gunderson, former president of Youth With A Mission, asked an interesting question: Would you feel comfortable if your thoughts were to be shown on a movie screen for all to see?
What we think about can have a very strong impact on the way we handle a situation or view a series of events. Thoughts lead to actions. And, if left unchecked, these can turn into negative character traits rather quickly.
The Lord wants our minds to be pure and useful for the tasks he has planned for us. It is difficult to serve effectively when a person is considering thoughts of revenge, envy, or other wickedness. Paul understood this and challenged the Philippian church to think about things that were honorable, true, lovely, admirable, and worthy of praise. This way, their actions would match their thoughts.
Would you feel comfortable if your thoughts were shown on a movie screen for all to see? It's not too late to allow God to perform some "editing" so our thinking is in line with his. The question is whether you are willing to let him do it. Can you take the list from Philippians 4 and note three or four items for each of those traits?
But despite Jesus' instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. — Luke 5:15-16
Our society wants us to spend every waking second of our lives doing something. As a result, the pace of life can become quite daunting. There are clients to meet, deadlines to make, calls to return. We run at 10,000 RPM for the entire day, then make our way home and have to deal with cooking dinner, washing laundry, and getting the kids to bed.
We must learn to slow down in life. Racecars cannot be repaired while on the track, so why do we think we can "be still, and know" God (Psa. 46:10) when we cannot find the time to take a lunch break?
But there is a way to slow down when we're running full throttle all day and night. It's called margin. Put another way, it could be considered a reserve or simply breathing room. Jesus thought it was important enough that he made it a routine part of his life on earth--he recognized his earthly limits and took time to get recharged.
Consider this: When you don't have any margin in your life, you cannot fully accomplish the things God reveals for you to do.
There are numerous ways we can introduce breathing room into our lives. We can learn to say no when we're already overloaded with tasks. We can anticipate the unexpected and add some time to the front end of meetings. We can take opportunities to laugh, cry, and rest. We can also take time to help others in ways that allow them to experience breathing room in their lives.
Don't move so fast that God's voice is lost in the everyday. Take time to slow down and breathe so you can grow and get to know the Savior as a friend.