Daniel

As Usual!

What is something you do as usual??  Something that is part of your normal day?  Something you never skip or forget?  Is it working out, eating breakfast, having a cup of coffee, watching a favorite show, checking your phone, or having a daily quiet time?  Today we read about Daniel and learn the most important thing he did as usual.

When I saw that my assigned post for this week was Daniel, I thought about what I already knew about him.  The first story I recalled is Daniel being thrown into the Lion’s Den.  I remembered that he interpreted the kings dream. I also remembered how he and his 3 friends got thrown into the fiery furnace (thank you to a church musical I participated in back in the day, the song of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will always be in my mind).  The last story that came to mind is that Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall.  

Daniel was a faithful man of God.  He faced these incredible situations and managed to live through them!  

Out of all these amazing stories about Daniel.  There is one verse that stands out to me the most.

Daniel 6:10

But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem.  He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.  (NLT, bold print mine)

AS USUAL!!  This is what Daniel did!  He prayed!  Just as he had always done!  Giving thanks to God.  That is it!  We don’t read about his worries or his complaints about the incredible situations he was put in.  Can you imagine standing in a fiery furnace or amongst hungry lions and not wavering in your faith?  Daniel looked to God to provide an escape, and He did.  Every.  Single.  Time.  We see that Daniel did what he usually did – PRAYED!  

It seems so simple.  Pray – as usual.  Do we trust God’s promises as Daniel did?  

Daniel’s habits of prayer were known to all the people around him.  He prayed as usual openly before all who saw him.  There was no question of Daniel’s faithfulness to God.  Daniel glorified God by the life he lived.  His faithful walk allowed God to give him power and wisdom.  Daniel took a stand for the Lord and the Lord used his faithfulness to magnify His own name.  

Pray – AS USUAL – and see how God will magnify His name through you.

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar

When you are suffering or enduring hardship, where do you turn?  Do you have friends that you immediately pick up your phone and call?  Where do you look for encouragement?  Do you have friends, neighbors or a small group that show up when you are suffering?

We all have heard the story of Job and all he suffered and endured.  Job had 3 friends that showed up for him in his time of need.  

When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him.  Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  

Job 2:11 (NLT)

At first, I can imagine Job being so relieved that these men, his friends, showed up for him.  He surely assumed they were there to support and encourage him.  But, it wasn’t long before he realized that they did not bring him any comfort, they only criticized and accused him.  

These three men were jealous of Job because he was a godly man, a rich man and everything was going well for him and his family.  The three knew about God, but they didn’t know God personally.  They could not truly understand why Job suffered as he did.  In Job chapters 4-7 we read the dialogue between Job and his three friends.  The friends point out various reasons of why Job is suffering.  Each time Job responds with a speech of his own.  

The first to speak was Eliphaz who was the oldest and considered the wisest of the three friends.  He starts out by complimenting Job, but soon begins to accuse Job of being impatient.  Then Eliphaz told Job that according to what he himself had experienced and seen in his own life, those who do wrong suffer (even though he had never experienced or saw the same suffering Job was experiencing).

Don’t we sometimes do this in our own life?  When a friend is suffering, we try and relate an experience we have similarly had?  We try to explain why this might be happening to them based on our experiences.  Eliphaz thought he had wisdom because of his personal experiences.  But, our personal experience does not give us sound wisdom.  Sound wisdom only comes from the Bible.  Bible doctrine gives us a divine viewpoint, personal experience gives us a human viewpoint.  

The next to speak is Bildad.  He was pretty harsh with Job.  He accused job of being a windbag and not having anything worthwhile to say.  He told Job to look at past generations to see what happened in their lives.  Bildad took the stand that if Job was upright or had not sinned, God would not be punishing him.  He wanted Job to repent so God would restore his blessings.

Then Zophar talked to Job.  He was the most critical.  He told Job he should be grateful that he wasn’t getting what he deserved.  He used sayings of that day to get his point across.  They didn’t even relate to Job’s sufferings.  Zophar did not use correct Bible doctrine for the situation.  He too thought Job sinned and was being disciplined.  He also wanted Job to repent so God would restore his blessings.

Now, on top of all Job’s sufferings, he was getting tested from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  He had great patience and unconditional love for his friends, but he knew their advice was not good advice based on God’s word.  They were doing just what the enemy wanted, giving advice that had no value and not based on Bible doctrine, they were using their own standards instead of God’s standards.  Satan wanted Job to keep debating with his friends so he would get off track and begin to agree with their false standards.

The three friends agreed that god’s ways are far above their ways.  However, their words to Job did not go along with the doctrine of the Bible.  They judged Job because they were fearful.  They knew Job was righteous and they also thought they were righteous.  (Much like we see in the Pharisees later in the Bible.)  They saw the suffering Job had and they were worried that maybe they would also suffer.  They saw that the righteous do suffer and they didn’t want to believe that.  They wanted Job to repent so his suffering would disappear.  They were fearful that they also might have to suffer at some point in their lives.

You, too, have given no help.  You have seen my calamity, and you are afraid.   

Job 6:21

Satan’s favorite way to control us is through fear.  Fear is an emotion and moves us away from the promises of Christ.  Satan loved that the three friends were in fear.  He hoped their fear would rub off on Job and Job would eventually turn away from God and lose hope.  But, this does not happen.  Even though he suffered, he was able to have courage and not fear.  He was able to concentrate under pressure from the friends.  

The main difference between Job and his friends is not that Job suffers and they do not.  And it is not that Job understand suffering in a way that they do not.  The main difference is that Job fears God and they do not.  

Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence?  Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?

Job 4:6 (NLT)

The main message of Job is not so much about how to deal with suffering as about learning how to fear God, even through suffering.  Because we all will suffer.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 (NLT)

This example of suffering and friends coming to the rescue is such a great example for us today.  We all suffer and have friends who may rally around us.  We need to take every word they say and apply Bible doctrine to their words.  Are they pointing us to Christ or causing us to doubt and turn from him?  The devil would like nothing more than for us to turn from Christ in times of hardship.  

We give great honor to those who endure under suffering.  For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance.  You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

James 5:11 (NLT)

Josiah

For the first time ever, I am attempting to read the Bible from beginning to end this year.  I might be a little behind, but my goal is to finish by the end of 2019.  I am reading the One Year Chronological Bible so at this point, I have read through much of the Old Testament.  Many times over the past months I have read about the people constructing and then praising “asherah poles”.  To this day I still can’t fully comprehend why people might stand around a carved pole of some material and worship it.  It seems kind of silly that they think an object could change their life.    Only when I put it into today’s context do I understand that what people put their time and energy into, becomes worship.  In my house and in my life I have an asherah pole.  No, you will not come to my house and see some crazy sculpture in my yard. But, you will see me sitting in a chair in my house with my phone in my hand.  I am not proud to put this out there, but my phone has become my asherah pole.  I spend too many minutes looking at it, living through what I see other people doing.  Thinking that it is motivating me and giving me ideas.  But guess what?  I never put those ideas into motion, because I run out of time from spending too much time worshipping my phone. We barely have our TV on anymore, and normally that would be a great thing, but it is only because we have replaced the TV with a phone.  How can we truly devote ourselves to serving God when we might be distracted by all that is going on with our phone in our hand?

2 Kings 23 is about King Josiah and his life.  Josiah was the King of Judah from approximately 640 to 609 B.C.  He is known as one of the world’s youngest kings, beginning his reign at age 8 after his father King Amon died.  Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 22:2).  When he was just 18 years old, Josiah raised money to repair the temple.  During the repairs the Book of the Law was found.  Josiah tore his clothes as a sign of mourning and repentance after reading all that the book contained.  

King Josiah then called for a time of national repentance.  Many reforms followed this time.  The temple was cleaned from all objects of pagan worship.  All idolatrous places and asherah poles were demolished. 

The king removed the Asherah pole from the Lord’s Temple and took it outside Jerusalem to the Kidron Valley, where he burned it.  Then he ground the ashes of the pole to dust and threw the dust over the graves of the people. 2 Kings 23:6

He got rid of priests who were leading people astray from the one true God.  Josiah moved further out of the city, ridding all areas and land of all pagan shrines and altars.

Josiah also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols, an every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah.  He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the Lord’s Temple.  Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses.  And there has bever been a king like him since.                                      2 Kings 23:24 &25

Josiah’s zeal pleased God.  God desires us all to have a desire to rid every trace of sin in our life.  We have replaced asherah poles with phones, altars with food, and we worship our time more than we worship God.  

Josiah was the first and only King to please God and keep continuous devotion to Him.  What is it in your life that you may be worshipping a little too much?  I challenge you to rid that time consuming thing from your life.  See what God can replace it with.  

Samuel

 

Be careful what you ask for.  Sometimes God will give it to you even if He knows He has better plans for you!!

This is exactly what we see happen to the Israelites in our reading for today,  1 Samuel 8.  

Samuel was raised in the house of God, where he grew in stature and in favor with both God and man ( 1 Samuel 2:26).  As a young man, the Lord spoke to Him and through Him.  Samuel served the Lord as a prophet, priest, judge and leader of Israel, yet somehow his own children rejected God.  

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his wayward sons as the next leaders of Israel (1 Samuel 8:1).  The people knew that the two sons were not walking with the Lord and they were understandably upset.  The people did not look to God and ask what is best, instead they looked all around and decided they wanted what every other nation had…a king.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him,

“You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways;  now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.      1 Samuel 8:4 &5

Israel, the nation chosen by God to be set apart, to be His nation, to follow His commands, wanted a king.

The people went to Samuel and pleaded with him. 

“But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord.”  1 Samuel 8:6

Samuel went to god with the issue.  The people of Israel did not look to God, but instead to one another.  Then they refused to listen to the counsel of Samuel.  They wanted what they wanted and they wanted it now. God gave them a warning through Samuel that their desires were not His.  Samuel warned them of all the consequences that would happen with a king in place. 

“But the people refused to listen to Samuel.  “No!” they said.  “We want a king over us.  Then we will be like all the other nations…”        1 Samuel 8:19&20  

God wasn’t pleased with this request because demanding a king meant the nation was rejecting God as their leader.  But guess what God tells Samuel to do?  He says to go ahead and anoint Saul as Israel’s first king.

Many of us consult God about important decisions in our lives, but how many of us are ready to accept His counsel and abide by it?  Especially when His counsel appears to go against our own desires?  Samuel was a great man of prayer and consulted God in all situations.  The Lord answered, “listen to them and give them a king.” (1Samuel 8:22)  The people knew this of Samuel and respected him for it.  The Israelites even asked him to pray for them in 1 Samuel 12:19.  

Like the nation of Israel, we sometimes think we know what is best and what would work best for us.  Israel saw the other nations being led by a king and they thought that a king might make their lives easier and solve their problems.  Samuel goes into great detail telling them what would happen if they appointed a king, but they did not hear him.  They stood their ground and asked for a king anyway.  

Is there anything you are asking God for that you think would make your life better?  Has God ever answered that prayer and given you exactly what you asked for?  Only to later realize that maybe your idea was not the best idea?

We look at other people’s jobs, houses, social media posts, talents, marriages, clothing, accomplishments, children, bank accounts, and even other people’s prayer life and think, “I want what they have!”

We think that someone else is doing it better and if we did it that way our life would also be better.  

When all the while, what we really need is more of Jesus.  Our biggest need is a deep, soul-level relationship with God.  Where we seek Him, know Him, trust Him, savor Him, walk in His ways, and serve in His name.  

We need to stop looking to what others have and instead look up to Jesus just as Samuel shows us in the book of 1 Samuel.

Miriam

Who was Miriam?  When I think of the book of Exodus, I definitely think of Moses. I had heard of Miriam, but I  had to do a little investigating to figure out who Miriam wass and why she is our focus in our reading today.  

Exodus 2:3 describes Miriam standing far off as she witnesses her mother putting her baby brother Moses in a basket and setting him in the river to save him from being killed by Pharoh.  Miriam was able to orchestrate her mother then being able to nurse Moses after Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses in the basket.  

The next time we meet Miriam is in our passage today, Exodus 15:1-21.  The Hebrew people have crossed the Red Sea and the waters have crashed down upon the Egyptian soldiers that were pursuing them.  The first 19 verses are a song from Moses praising God for saving them.

In verse 20 and 21 Miriam appears and leads the women in a dance while singing.

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced.  And Miriam sang this song:  “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;  he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.”       Exodus 15:20 and 21

In this text, Miriam is called a prophet.  She is called this because she led the women in worship of God during the celebration of Israel’s victory over the Egyptians.  

Miriam’s life as a prophet and leader in Israel provided encouragement to the women of Israel.  Miriam’s ministry as a prophet also challenges us today to understand that women have much to contribute to God’s work and that they have much to teach those who are willing to listen.

Miriam set an example for God’s people and was a woman of prominence.

Just as all the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, the Bible teaches us that we are all slaves to sin.  

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 

Yet today we have a reason to sing!  Jesus Christ has delivered us from sin by his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

We too should praise God for his deliverance.  If we confess Jesus as our Savior, then one day we will sing just as Miriam did in Exodus 15:21, 

“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously!”

This is a reminder to praise God gloriously! 

When is the last time you grabbed a tambourine and the people around you and started praising God for all He has done for you??

 

Abel

 

Have you ever been intrigued about your family tree?  There are so many ways these days to discover our family heritage and where so many of our traits come from.  Today while reading our passage, Genesis 4:1-16, I was struck with the fact that the Family Tree is only 4 people long!  That is it!  There is no need for the internet or any amount of searching for finding the background of this family.  They are all right there in front of each other.  

  • Father – Adam
  • Mother – Eve
  • Brother – Cain
  • Brother – Abel

Abel is our focus today.

Abel was the second son born to Adam and Eve.  He was the first martyr in the Bible as well as the first shepherd.  Very little is known about Abel, except that he found favor in God’s eyes by offering him a pleasing sacrifice.  As a result, Abel was murdered by his older brother Cain, whose sacrifice did not please God.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground.  When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.  Able also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock.  The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift.  This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

Genesis 4:2-5

Why did God look with favor on Abel and why did Cain feel dejected?  Genesis 4:6-7 explains why…

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain.  “Why do you look so dejected?  You will be accepted if you do what is right.  But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out!  Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.  But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Cain should not have been angry, both he and Abel knew what God expected as the “right” offering.  Both Cain and God knew that he had given an unacceptable offering.  God knew that Cain had given his offering with a wrong attitude of the heart.  But, God offered Cain a chance to make it right and warned him that the sin of anger would destroy him if he did not master it.

The story ends with Cain killing his brother Able because of jealousy.  Able became the first man to be martyred for his obedience to God.  

Even though Abel died a martyr, his life speaks today of his faith.  He is the first name mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11.

It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did.  Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts.  Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.

Hebrews 11:4

Abel teaches us what it takes to have a right relationship with God.  Abel was not considered to be righteous because he was good.  He was considered to be righteous because he believed that if he offered God a proper sacrifice, God would forgive him of his sins.  

Abel and Cain grew up in the same family.  They were brothers and taught by the same parents.  But, it is apparent from Genesis 4 how different they were.  These two brothers show us that obeying god is a choice.  We all face these choices everyday.  Most often we know the right thing that God would have us do.  But, sometimes we (just as Cain did) choose to go against the will of God.  Cain already knew the way to life because his parents taught him.  Nevertheless, he chose to rebel against God and kill his brother.

Abel made a choice to become a righteous man.  He committed his life to the way of God no matter what happened.  

Both of these brothers made a different choice.  Abel chose life.  Cain chose death.  We all have a choice to make.  May we all be like Abel and have the faith to endure and choose to please Jesus.

What Drags You Down?

                   

                                                                                                        

What drags you down in life?  In different seasons there are all kinds of events, troubles,  and scenarios that can stop you in your tracks and slow you down.  Growing up, I was a swimmer.  Everyday you would find me in the pool for a few hours.  Back in the day we would train wearing multiple suits to create “drag”.  I remember sometimes layering up to 5 suits, the outer ones being old, deteriorated and disintegrated.  It seemed that the more suits you wore, the cooler you were:)  Jump 25+ years down the road and wearing multiple suits at practice is not the cool thing anymore.  Now, you get to buy a drag suit.  The above picture is a drag suit and even the girls wear these in practice.  

Funny how the extra drag of a suit prepares a swimmer for a race.  On race day of course you wear the one fastest suit you own that is as tight as possible.  You shave any extra bodily hair  and when you enter the water you feel like you are slipping through the water with ease.  After all the training and now stripping the extra weight from the drag suit, you feel 100% sure that you will swim faster than you ever have before.  

The purpose of this drag suit is to weigh you down and make it harder to swim.  In todays reading of Hebrews 12 we hear the writer telling us about living with extra weight and things that drag us down.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (bold, mine)

We trained hard for many hours a day in the drag suit, but ultimately we had to strip off the extra weight and drag to swim the ultimate race.  God asks us this in life everyday! We are training to get to our ultimate joy awaiting us in heaven.  Everyday we have to strip off the weight that drags us down.

What does it look like for you?  What is it that weighs you down?  Stress?  Pressures to keep up with the neighbors?  Work?  Family relationships?  Friends?  The list is endless, whatever takes our eyes off of Jesus has the potential to weigh us down.

Everyday we are living out the race of life.  Are you living well or weighed down with lots of baggage and sin?  To get rid of the extra weight, the answer is pretty clear, we have to focus on Jesus.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus…”  

This is the beginning of Hebrews 12 verse 2.  We have to look at the example of Jesus.  The verse goes on to tell us what that example was.  The example is Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Jesus focused on the finish line.  The joy of being at the right hand of his Father, having accomplished all that the Father sent him to do.  

To win the swimming race, I had to take off all the extra suits that weighed me down.  We can only live our best life when we strip off every weight that slows us down.  If these things that weight us down are never addressed, we may never finish the race.  Our sins may be like the drag suit and prevent us from living with freedom and endurance.  

Thank you Jesus that we don’t have to run this race alone.  As we run the race set before us and hold strong to our faith, may we find encouragement that we are not alone.  In fact, we are surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses who have been there before us.  We have people cheering us on, reminding us that the prize is worth it.  Maybe you are being called to be the cheerleader for somebody else?  To help encourage a neighbor or friend, to help lighten their load?  

Judgement

 

Have you ever been to court and stood before a judge?  Have you been the one who is under investigation and waiting for judgement?  About a year ago I had my first call for jury duty.  I was selected for a certain case and got to watch first hand how the day unfolded.  The two people that were in front of the judge were fighting for their rights.  They wanted to persuade him that their words were the truth.  I was nervous for both of them as I sat and listened to the details of their testimony all day.  

In today’s reading, Acts 26, Paul stands before King Agrippa and gives his testimony.  Instead of recounting all the reasons why he is innocent, Paul tells the King of his miraculous conversion to Christianity.  He was more concerned with the King knowing Jesus than he was of his freedom. 

Paul’s main focus was Jesus.  His life focused on the message of the cross.  He focused on Jesus and the eternity He offers rather than the temporary consequences of this life.

“I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”                                                       Acts 26:29

In this moment Paul shared the Gospel instead of begging for his life.

If you were standing before a judge, what would be your focus?  Yourself and convincing the judge of your innocence or sharing Jesus?  I have to say that I would probably be overwhelmed with the immediate circumstances and the personal beliefs of the judge would be far from my concerns.

But, Paul understood that momentary trials achieve an eternal glory that far outweigh any hardship we face.

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!                                    2 Corinthians 4:17

When you are in such situations, maybe not even in front of a judge, but maybe a family member or friend,  who do you defend?  Are you all about making a case for yourself and why you are innocent and right?  Or do you make much of Jesus?  

Paul was in chains and had the chance to plead his case in front of the judge, but he instead took this opportunity to tell the person in front of him about the love and freedom found in Jesus.  Today, I challenge you to tell the person in front of you about what Jesus has done in your life, just as Paul did this day.  

Serving with Joy

Let me be the first to admit that when I have a cold or any annoying ailment, I am not so fun to be around.  I get caught up in the sickness and it becomes my focus.  And that is just with the common virus that we all fight throughout the year.  Now, step it up a notch and give me a sickness that requires me to see a Doctor and I get all wrapped up in myself!  This is a battle that I have always fought.  A small illness afflicted me just this week and I was amazed when I began reading this chapter and heard about a man name Ephaphroditus and how he served the Lord with joy even through his sickness.  My daughter can attest, I was not serving the Lord with joy when I was feeling ill.

Today we are reading Philippians chapter 2.  The main theme of this chapter is finding joy in serving Christ.  The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to express his gratitude and affection for the Philippian church, his strongest supporters in his ministry.  Paul drafted this letter during his two years of house arrest in Rome.  

Paul had established the church in Philippi approximately 10 years prior, during his second missionary journey recorded in Acts 16.  His tender love for the believers in Philippi is apparent in this writing.

Today, as we focus on Chapter 2, I want to look at a man named Epaphroditus.  He is only mentioned 2x in the Bible, first in chapter 2 verse 25 and then again in chapter 4 verse 18.  The church at Philippi had sent gifts to Paul while he was in chains.  These gifts were faithfully delivered by Epaphroditus.  He was a leader in the Philippian church who ended up assisting Paul with his ministry in Rome.  At some point while serving with Paul, he became dangerously sick and nearly died.  After his recovery, Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi carrying with him his letter he wrote to the Philippian church.  

This is part of what Paul wrote:                                                   

“Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you.  He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier.  And he was your messenger to help me in my need.  I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill.  And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died.  But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.  So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you.  Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve.  For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.”  (Philippians 2:25–30 NLT).

To the Philippians, Epaphroditus was a messenger who delivered a package.  To Paul, however, he was so much more.  

He was a “brother” belonging to the same family.

He was a “co-worker” laboring toward the same goal.

He was a “fellow soldier” sharing the same trials.

Epaphroditus was a man of obvious devotion, faithfulness, and self-sacrifice.  He put the interest of others before himself and in doing this he modeled the mind of Christ.

“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (2:4-5)

Epaphroditus took no thought of himself.  Rather, he was distressed because his church had heard of his illness, and he did not want them to worry.  

There is such a lesson for me in the life of Epaphroditus.  We all will face sickness, some of us to varying degrees.  But the demonstration that he showed even when experiencing such a severe illness is a model for us all.  He gave himself for the sake of God’s kingdom and many people benefited.  Even when we are facing hardship with our health (to any degree) we need to keep our focus on serving the Lord with joy and remeber this man as our example.

Your Will Be Done

He went a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father!  If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.  Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”               Matthew 26:39

How many times have you asked God to “take this cup from me”?  I can’t even count how many times over the past few months when I felt like I could not handle one more stress in my life.  I have asked, even pleaded with God to lighten my burden.  My stress and trouble usually revolves around a relationship, work situation, a health issue or anything thing that is not going the way I had planned or thought it would go. In my time of stress I think it would be really nice if I didn’t have to face a certain situation and would feel so relieved if God would just change the situation for my benefit.  I think I know best how a situation should turn out.

Then I pause and read the above verse from Matthew chapter 26.  I am brought to my knees with humility and shame when I realize how petty my so called trials and tribulations of life are.  Jesus must have felt that the world was closing in.  He knew what lay ahead and in the fullness of godhood and the fullness of manhood, Jesus understood what death on a cross involved.  The physical humiliation and agony of crucifixion would only be compounded by the horror of experiencing God’s wrath for the sins of the world.  There was only one solution for dealing with the feelings welling up inside Him — prayer!  So Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pour out His heart to the Father in private prayer.

In the garden we find Jesus asking God the Father to take away the immense physical pain and death he knows he will be suffering.  However, it is what Jesus says next that provides the most important lesson.  He says, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine”.  In other words, “God please don’t let me suffer a horrible death, find another way for me to save all of mankind, BUT if that is what YOU want, I want to carry out your will.”

Have you thought about what God wants for your life?  He has the best plan, even if it is a hard path.  These 10 words can shift your thinking and direction when facing any hardship.  “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine”.  It is easy to get wrapped up in what we want or what we think would be the best outcome in a hard situation.  We try to assert our will over God’s will.  We want Him to remove all life’s trouble and pain (that is our will).  It is inherent in our fallen nature as human beings to think this way.  However, meditating on this verse helps us truly understand that God has a plan for us and in the end it is His WILL that we should pray comes to pass.

Where do you go when life seems unbearable, when stress is stretching every fiber of your being?  Jesus identifies with your pain and trial.  He knows how it feels to be overwhelmed with conflicting emotions.  But think about this:  the worst problem you will ever face is nothing compared to what Jesus went through on the cross.  And Jesus, who is God Himself handled His ordeal on earth by going to the Father in private prayer.

We need time alone with your heavenly Father.  We need solitude to read His Word, to communicate our deepest thoughts, and to discover His answers.