Uphill Or Downhill?

…And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice (Philippians 1:18).

Paul is in prison, yet he tells his friends that he is choosing to rejoice. Wow! 

Not only that, but this same imprisoned man also reminds his friends to…

  • … let their joy in Jesus overflow 
  • … conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ
  • … continue to have a servant’s attitude like Jesus
  • … don’t give in to complaining or arguing 
  • … look out for the interests of other people 
  • … rejoice in the Lord
  • … don’t rest on their laurels
  • … forget the past and press on toward the future 

John Maxwell has noted that most people have uphill dreams but downhill habits. That is definitely not a winning combination! 

Paul is making his friends aware of the possible downhill habits that may hold them back from their uphill dreams, and using himself as an example. This first step—awareness—is vital if we are going to break free of the things that are pulling us away from our God-given dreams. 

Solomon wrote, “The path of life leads UPWARD for the prudent to keep them from GOING DOWN to the realm of the dead” (Proverbs 15:24). 

Being prudent is saying, “I’m always on the lookout for what’s best.” 

None of us can go UP by ignoring our downhill habits, or even trying to coast through life. The only way to achieve our uphill dreams is to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our downhill habits so that we can make a plan to turn those around. 

Check out these characteristics that Paul shares—

Downhill Habit              Uphill Habit
Complaining                    Rejoicing (4:4)
Selfishness                      Gentleness (4:5)
Worrying                         Praying (4:6a)
Grumbling                       Giving thanks (4:6b)
Fixing it myself                Giving it to God (4:6c)
Idle thoughts                   Thinking about my thinking (4:8)
Making my own way         Getting a mentor / partner (4:9)
Being discontent              Being content (4:11-12)
Trying to be self-made     Striving to be Christ-reliant (4:13)

A good prayer for all of us who have uphill dreams that we want to achieve—Holy Spirit, reveal to me my downhill habits. I acknowledge that I need Your help to see and break these habits. Then help me to replace them with Christ-honoring uphill habits that will allow me to achieve the purpose God has for my life.

Serving By Praying

Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (Philippians 1:1). 

In just his opening line, Paul lists three types of servant-leaders: bondservants, bishops, deacons. 

The servant-leaders are all called to put the needs of the saints ahead of their own needs. They all serve so the saints can shine! And as the saints shine, they attract others to Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is our example of the Ultimate Servant (Philippians 2:5-8), and we are called to follow His example (John 13:12-17). 

One thing that clearly kept Paul, Timothy, and the other servant-leaders in Philippi in this servant’s posture was prayer. Even the physical posture of kneeling in prayer is a posture of a servant who is actively serving. 

  • Paul prayed for the Philippians frequently—In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (1:4). 
  • He prayed for them to grow in love and knowledge—I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding (1:9). 
  • Paul was grateful for the prayers of the saints—I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance (1:19). 
  • And he closed his letter with a call for them to continue to pray about everything—Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done (4:6). 

Here are four powerful lessons for all Christians to live out…

(1) Leaders need to pray for the saints, and leaders need the saints to pray for them. 

(2) Leaders need to be prayerful to keep their posture right as servants. 

(3) Saints need to be prayerful for their leaders so that their leaders can continue to serve them in God-honoring ways. 

(4) We all serve best when we are diligent to keep our prayer life vibrant and healthy. 

Awesome God, Awesome Praise

Last I week I told you how Hebrew poetry often puts the climax in the middle. In Psalm 47 that middle climax is in verse 5—God has ascended. This is one of seven “psalms of enthronement” in the Psalter. Since all of the Scripture points to Jesus, let’s look at the definition of this word ascend and see how it fits with Jesus: 

When a king is coronated—when he is heading toward his throne—we can expect the people to be happy. So the psalmist tells us that in God’s case the people are clapping and shouting (v. 1), telling God how awesome He is (v. 2), thanking Him for subduing their enemies (v. 3), and expressing their gratitude that He has established them as His people (v. 4). 

Then comes the Selah / Pause—what is happening during this pause? The King is being crowned. He has ascended to His rightful throne. So this is selah/pause is really a deep breath that’s about to explode in a crescendo of praise! 

Now there are shouts of joy (v. 5a). In our earthly understanding, it would be something like: “LONG LIVE THE KING!!” There is also a sounding of trumpets (v. 5b) which literally means a thundering of trumpets. And then there’s the singing—lots and lots of singing. In fact, the word sing appears five times in the next two verses. 

From The Infographic Bible (click the image for more)

There are so many ways to say LONG LIVE THE KING—singing, dancing, raising our hands, falling down on our knees. shouting.  

Our God is praise-worthy. He is clap-worthy! He is sing-worthy! He is dance-worthy! He is shout-worthy! He is bowing-worthy! 

Our awesome God deserves awesome praise! 

Why does it seem that we are prone to worship so quietly? Perhaps we need to take it up a notch or two (or three or four). Perhaps we haven’t gazed into His awesome beauty enough to realize just how incredible He is! 

Do you think shouting praises to the King of kings is too undignified? Did you know that when the King of kings returns, He is going to shout and there is also going to be a thundering trumpet? For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16)! 

Here are 4 important lessons from this Psalm of Enthronement—

  1. God is the King of all kings, enthroned on the Throne above all thrones. He is worthy of your “undignified” praise and acclamation. 
  2. God should always get your best praise. In verse 7 the phrase sing praises with understanding really means to sing with insight and skill. 
  3. God deserves a holy vocabulary. We see the word awesome in verse 2. Every time this word is used in the Scripture, it’s speaking of God. So why would we use a word like this for something a hamburger!?!
  4. All nations and kings and peoples and tribes will bow before God at the end. They will bow in either acclamation for their King, or in abject terror of the All-Righteous Judge. Let’s remain missional so more people in the end are crowning Him as their All-Merciful King. 

I hope you can join me this next Sunday as we continue our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God’s Faithful Provision

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.

God’s Faithful Provision

     My witness is, and I speak it for the honor of God, that He is a good provider. … My first income as a Christian minister was small enough in all conscience, never exceeding forty-five pounds a year, yet I was as rich then as I am now, for I have enough; and I had no more cares, nay, not half as many then as I have now; and when I breathed my prayer to God then, as I do now, for all things temporal and spiritual, I found Him ready to answer me at every pinch, and for many pinches I have had. … My faith has been often tried, but God has always been faithful and sent supplies in hours of need. If any should tell me that prayer to God is a mere piece of excitement, and that the idea of God answering human cries is absurd, I should laugh the statement to scorn, for my experience is not that of one or two singular instances, but that of hundreds of cases in which the Lord’s interposition, for the necessities of His work, has been as manifest as if He had rent the clouds and thrust fourth His own naked arm and bounteous hand to supply the needs of His servant. 

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon 

I, too, can declare with Spurgeon how many times God has faithfully provided for us just in time. Every instance of true need has been met by miraculous provision as we have prayed to Him. 

It’s a lie to think that God doesn’t care about your need, or that He is too busy with bigger matters, or that He only helps those who help themselves. 

God loves to help those who cannot help themselves, so that He receives all of the glory. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6). 

Does Self-Help Get God’s Help?

This is part 1 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible? 

Statement #1—God helps those who help themselves. Is that in the Bible? No, it is not! 

The reason why I think people have accepted this as biblical is an incorrect view of God. 

  1. Humanism says God is us, which makes us believe, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” 
  2. Fatalism says there is no God and therefore no meaning to life, which makes us believe, “The outcome is what it is and no one has any say in the matter.” 
  3. Deism says there is a God, but it’s hard to get His attention, which makes us believe “He is either disinterested in me or unapproachable. He’s only available for the ‘big’ things.” 

The Bible flat-out rejects all three of these isms. 

Instead, we see a loving, approachable God. One who is both all-powerful and all-loving. He says things like…

  • I made you and know everything about you, and I remain infinitely interested and intimately involved in your life 
  • Come to Me and I will give you rest
  • I want you to cast all your anxieties on Me
  • Don’t be anxious about anything, but tell Me about everything that troubles you (Psalm 139:1-18; Matthew 11:28-29; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6)

Not only is “God helps those who help themselves” untrue, but the exact opposite is also true—God helps those who cannot help themselves! 

In Isaiah 40:28-29, we read that God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 

“Yes, it is our strength, not our weakness, that is our hindrance and stumbling block.” —Horatius Bonar 

God gives power to the weak. He gives strength to those with no might of their own. God does NOT help those who think they can help themselves! God helps those who cannot help themselves! This is what Jesus came to do, and why we should rejoice in the fact that He does indeed help those who could never rescue themselves (Isaiah 53:4-5; 2 Corinthians 12:9)!

It is our can’ts that God uses as His opportunities to show how limitless He is. Our limitations magnify His love and His power. 

One of the best prayers you could ever pray is simply, “God, help!” This simple prayer acknowledges in just two words that you can’t but He most assuredly can! 

But those who wait for the Lord—who expect, look for, and hope in Him—shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up close to God as eagles mount up to the sun; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. (Isaiah 40:31 AMP) 

Join me next week as we continue to explore various statements and ask, “Is that in the Bible? 

God + Nothing

You cannot serve God and _____________.

What goes in the blank? Not wealth, health, position, prestige, popularity, success. We turn all those good and legitimate things into God’s rival when our focus is on any one of them. 

Bottom line—NOTHING can go in that blank. All we need is God. 

“Your Father knows what you need” (Matthew 6:8). If you need wealth to complete His purpose for your life, He will give it to you. If you don’t, He will withhold it. But He will always give you your daily bread. 

If you need a prominent position, He will place you there; if you don’t, He will withhold that position. In either place, we still submit as faithful servants to holy God. 

If success will allow me to bring glory to God, He will give me success; if falling flat on my face will allow me to bring glory to God, He will knock me down.

If physical health will allow me to share the Gospel with others, God will keep me healthy; if I can serve Him best from a place of physical limitation, I can still do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

“My God is able to supply all my needs” (Philippians 4:19). He gives me all that I need to fulfill His plans for me. “So do not worry” about your bank balance, your standing in the community, your health, your family, or anything else. His grace is sufficient for you.

What goes in the blank? Nothing. 

God + Nothing = Everything you need!

Be The 1-In-10

“…ten men who were lepers…” (Luke 17:12). 

Lepers were outcasts in society. Unable to participate in normal daily activities, unable to go to the temple to worship God, even unable to be with their family. These ten lepers encountered Jesus and did two positive things. But 9-of-10 lepers also did two sad things. 

(+) They knew to call on Jesus for help—“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 

(+) They took Jesus at His word. Their healing happened as they obeyed Christ’s words—“‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” 

(-) Only one cleansed leper came back to praise God for his healing. 

(-) Only one was pronounced “well” by Jesus. All ten lepers were “cleansed,” which simply meant they were ceremonially clean and could once again participate in daily life and temple worship. But only one was made completely “well.” The Greek word is sozo, which means saved from eternal destruction. The same word is used to describe what Jesus came to do for us: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save [sozo] His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). 

“What a rare thing is thankfulness.… ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?’ The lesson before us is humbling, heart-searching, and deeply instructive. The best of us are far too like the nine lepers. We are more ready to pray than to praise, and more disposed to ask God for what we have not, than to thank Him for what we have. … If we would be anxious for nothing, we must make our requests known to God not only with prayer and supplication, but with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).” —J.C. Ryle (emphasis mine) 

Probably all of us experience daily blessings from our good God, yet many of us never acknowledge Him as the Source of those blessings. We just accept the blessing and then keep on walking. 

Let’s be the 1-in-10! 

Let’s be quick to recognize God’s blessings. Let’s always remember that He does more than give us strength for today, but He saves [sozo] us entirely from eternal destruction. Let’s be the ones who always return—day after day after day—to give glory to God! 

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