Full Of Gratitude And Prayer

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly. (Ephesians 1:16)

Paul didn’t pray just a one-and-done prayer, but every time he thought of his friends he was grateful and prayerful. 

The mark of a godly leader is one who is grateful and prayerful of those around him.

What a prayer Paul prayed! He didn’t want his friends just barely eking out an existence, but he desired for their lives to experience explosive growth and joy! 

He prayed for them to experience…

  • … the full weight of God’s glory
  • … the vast knowledge of God’s revelation wisdom 
  • … an ever-increasing understanding of just who God is
  • … an enlightened mind to grasp God’s nature
  • … an unshakable hope in God
  • … the immeasurable richness of an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ
  • … God’s power working both in them and through them 
  • … the rock-solid security they have in Jesus
  • … their inestimable value they were to God
  • … their indispensable place in the Body of Christ 

I like the way Eugene Peterson captures this prayer in The Message:

That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength!

Spiritual leaders should be working for and praying for the ever-growing maturity of those under their care. When they see that growth, they should burst out into grateful prayer. And if they don’t see the growth they anticipated, they should pray in faith believing that maturity will soon be visible. 

Let me say it again: The mark of a godly leader is one who is grateful and prayerful of those around him.

This is part 40 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

When Trials Come

Notice that the title of this post says “when” not “if.” Maybe this will be a newsflash for some of you (but I highly doubt it): Christians will face trials.

Even the apostle James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2). Wait, trials are “an opportunity for great joy”? How can that be?!

→ Trials teach us lessons that we can learn in no other way! ←

How much more mature, and wise, and empathetic would we become if instead of trying to get out of the trials that come our way, we would instead see what we could get out of that trial!

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. (Romans 5:3-5)

“When trials come we can try to get out of them, or we can learn to get something out of them.”

—Craig T. Owens

So the next time a trial comes your way, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what lessons you can learn by going through the trial.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Evidence Of Christian Maturity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Evidence Of Christian Maturity

     One of the first evidences that anyone is a child of God is that he hates with a perfect hatred and seeks to live a holy, Christlike life. … 

     I bless God that I have learned to have very little respect for the vision of the man with the measuring line. When I see an angel with it, I am glad enough; but when I see a man with it, I tell him that he must give me a warrant from God and show me how he is to know the elect by any other method than that laid down by our Lord Jesus Christ: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). … 

     He who truly grows in grace does not say, “Dear me! I can feel that I am growing; bless the Lord! Let’s sing a hymn. ‘I’m a-growing! I’m a-growing!’” I have often felt that I was growing smaller; I think that is very probable, and a good thing, too. If we are very great in our own estimation, it is because we have a number of cancers, or foul gatherings, that need to be lanced, so as to let out the bad matter that causes us to boast of our bigness. 

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon 

Some Dos and Don’ts for Christian growth:

Do—hate those things that keep you from God’s presence
Do—seek to be conformed to the image of Jesus

Don’t—look at other people as your measuring line
Do—make sure your life is fruitful according to God’s standards

Don’t—brag about your growth
Do—humbly thank God for your growth
Do—be quick to repent of un-Christlike things the Holy Spirit reveals to you

When Faith Fails (book review)

Have you ever had your legs knocked out from under you? Ever felt like what you used to believe in doesn’t seem real anymore? Ever been screaming out for real answers? Good! That means you are growing and maturing beyond the pat answers of the past. Dominic Done has given us a great guide book through these times of questions: When Faith Fails—Finding God in the Shadow of Doubt.

I grew up in a Christian home as a fourth-generation Christian. I was in church during my formative years almost more than I was anywhere else. But at some point I had to confront my Christian faith—I had to ask myself, “Do I believe this just because my parents and grandparents believed it? Or do I believe it because it’s really true?” 

Maybe your story is similar to mine. Or maybe you are a first-generation Christian and the storm you are navigating right now is making you wonder if you were sold on an idea that just doesn’t hold up in “the real world.” All of these things can be classified as a crisis of faith, a questioning of just what is true. 

What do you do at this time? Dominic identifies three possibilities— 

“One option is to demonize your doubt: in this narrative, doubt is labeled as the nemesis of faith, and those who doubt are judged and marginalized. … The second option is to idolize your doubt. … I can’t help but wonder if there is a third way, one that doesn’t demonize or idolize doubt but recognizes doubt for what it is: an opportunity for authentic and vibrant faith. That is why I wrote this book. I wrote this book because you need to know that your doubts aren’t a sign of spiritual collapse but of a faith that is screaming out for substance and truth.”

Dominic leads us on a journey of discovery by sharing his own personal struggles with doubt, and by helping us see doubt in a whole new light. Doubts are normal. Doubts can be healthy. Healthy?! Yes, because, as Dominic points out, “Doubts aren’t just an obstacle; they’re an opportunity. Uncertainty can lead us into the beautiful mystery we call God.” 

Whether for yourself or for your friend who may be struggling with doubt, please pick up a copy of When Faith Fails. I promise you that you will understand more clearly what doubt really is. You’ll also understand that your doubts are a normal part of your maturation process. You’ll also see that God is waiting to reveal Himself to you through your times of doubting. This is a great book!

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

Poetry Saturday—If

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son! —Rudyard Kipling

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Keep The Focus On The Savior

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Keep The Focus On The Savior

     I have heard men tell the story of their conversion, and of their spiritual life, in such a way that my heart has loathed them and their story, too, for they have told of their sins as if they did boast in the greatness of their crime, and they have mentioned the love of God, not with a tear of gratitude, not with the simple thanksgiving of the really humble heart, but as if they as much exalted themselves as they exalted God. Oh! When we tell the story of our own conversion, I would have it done with great sorrow, and with great joy and gratitude, remembering how little we deserve these things. … 

     My Master, I cannot understand how You stoop Your awful head to such a death as the death of the Cross, how You could take from Your brow the coronet of stars that from old eternity had shone resplendent there. But how You should permit the thorn-crown to gird Your temples astonishes me far more. That You should cast away the mantle of Your glory, the azure of Your everlasting empire, I cannot comprehend. But how You should have become veiled in the ignominious purple for a while and then be mocked by impious men who bowed to You as a pretended king; and how You should be stripped naked to Your shame, without a single covering, and die a felon’s death. This is still more incomprehensible. But the marvel is that You should have suffered all this for me! … 

     I, a lad, found the Lord of glory. I, a slave to sin, found the great Deliverer. I, the child of darkness, found the Light of Life. I, the uttermost of the lost, found my Savior and my God. I, widowed and desolate, found my Friend, my Beloved, my Husband. Oh, how I wondered that I should be pardoned! It was not the pardon that I wondered at so much; the wonder was that it should come to me. 

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon

How sad that many times the story of our salvation focuses more on how bad we were, and gives so little glory to how amazing our Savior’s rescue was. 

Just as the Apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners, and stood in amazement that Christ’s love would reconcile him to God, so Spurgeon stood amazed that Jesus would stoop to die for “the uttermost of the lost.” 

It’s fine to tell people what used to be, but please make sure your story focuses more on how amazing it is that God’s love saved you from those sins. Amazing love! How can it be that You, my King, would die for me? 

Let’s keep the focus on the Savior! 

Thursdays With Oswald—Hear And Do

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Hear And Do

     The emphasis in these verses [Matthew 7:24-29] is laid by our Lord on hearing and doing. … We hear only what we listen for. Have we listened to what Jesus has to say? Have we paid any attention to finding out what He did say? Most of us do not know what He said. If we have only a smattering of religion, we talk a lot about the devil; but what hinders us spiritually is not the devil nearly so much as inattention. We may hear the sayings of Jesus Christ, but our wills are left untouched, we never do them. … 

     Pay attention to His words, and give time to doing it. Try five minutes a day with your Bible. The thing that influences us most is not the thing that we give most time to, but the thing that springs from our own personal relationship, that is the prime motive that dominates us. … 

     “Build up your character bit by bit by attention to My words,” says Jesus, then when the supreme crisis comes, you will stand like a rock. … If a man has built himself up in private by listening to the words of Jesus and obeying them, when the crisis comes it is not his strength of will that keeps him, but the tremendous power of God. … All you build will end in disaster unless it is built on the sayings of Jesus Christ; but if you are doing what Jesus told you to do, nourishing your soul on His word, you need not fear the crisis whatever it is. … 

     There is a tendency in all of us to appreciate the sayings of Jesus Christ with our intellects while we refuse to do them. … 

     The Holy Spirit’s voice is as gentle as a zephyr, the merest check; when you hear it do you say, “But that is only a tiny detail, the Holy Spirit cannot mean that, it is much too trivial a thing”? The Holy Spirit does mean that, and at the risk of being thought fanatical you must obey. … What does it matter what anyone thinks of us as long as Jesus Christ thinks we are doing the right thing, as long as we can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?” 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Hear/read God’s Word → Listen to how the Holy Spirit tells me to apply it to my life → Then apply it to my life → Repeat this process again tomorrow… 

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