Keep Pressing On

‘Straining towards what is ahead, I press on’ Philippians 3:13-14

Developing your faith is like taking swimming lessons. Observe:

1 Fear is like water; if you let it, it will take your under.
2 You can only tread water for so long before you drown.
3 When you reach a certain point, there’s no turning back.
4 Faith is like the air in your lungs; it will sustain you and keep you afloat if you just relax.

Have you ever watched a seasoned swimmer? Stroke after stroke, he takes what’s in front of him and pushes it behind him, letting it propel him towards his goal. He literally takes what stands between him and his goal, and uses it to get there. Sometimes we despair and say, ‘I’m just keeping my head above water,’ and that’s okay as long as you keep ‘stroking’ and pressing on. It’s when you feel backed into a corner with nowhere to turn, that you’ve got to take hold of the faith God has placed within you and keep moving forward. Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force’ (Matthew 11:12 KJV). The word ‘violence’ suggests ferocity, passion and intensity. You must be relentless and fight your way through, confident that God is on your side – because He is (see Psalm 56:9). The waters you’re in don’t determine your destiny; they either carry you over or take you under. It takes faith to keep going. When you quit, God can do nothing more for you! So today whether you’re doing the breaststroke, the backstroke or some other kind of stroke that nobody’s ever heard of – keep pressing on.

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You Can Start Again

‘He comforts us in all our troubles.’ 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT

God can make you comfortable in some of life’s most uncomfortable places. He can bring you through situations you think you won’t survive, or feel like you’ll be stuck in forever. He can give you peace when you’re under pressure. Before your life is over, you’ll experience loss. Indeed, losing some things will actually help you appreciate the things you have. It’s the taste of failure that makes success so sweet. You’ll live not knowing what tomorrow holds, but knowing that God has all your tomorrows planned out. Your future isn’t in the hands of your boss, your banker, your spouse, or anybody else. Nor is it in your own hands to control. All your tomorrows are in God’s hands to control. And just because you don’t understand the path you’re on, doesn’t mean He isn’t leading you. He promises: ‘I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them’ (Isaiah 42:6 NKJV). So get to know God, because you’ll need Him. And He will be there when everybody else has failed you. He will be there for you in the dark places. The psalmist writes, ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning’ (Psalm 30:5 NKJV). However long the night, morning will come – and with it His joy. Looking back, you’ll reaslise that His grace has protected you, provided for you, calmed you, comforted you, and brought you through. Times and seasons change, but not the Lord. He’s ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV).

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Stop Striving

‘He decides who will rise and who will fall’ Psalm 75:7 NLT

If you don’t find your significance and self-worth in your relationship with God, you’ll be tempted to spend your life trying to promote yourself. And that will make you insecure – and dangerous. Why? Because when others get promoted ahead of you, you’ll become resentful; you may even try to tear them down. In God’s kingdom you don’t achieve success on your own, you receive it from God. ‘God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another’ (KJV). While David’s brothers were striving to be Israel’s next king and ‘get the nod’ from the prophet Samuel, David just kept tending his sheep and doing the job God gave him. Let others compete and compare! Just stay faithful in what God has given you to do – and when the time is right He’ll come and get you! Jesus said ‘My yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:30 KJV). Note the word ‘easy’. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to work hard or sacrifice in order to succeed. It just means you won’t have to strive to get it, or keep it. Why? Because when God sets ‘before you an open door’ (Revelation 3:8 NIV) He’s the only one who can shut it. And He won’t do that unless, like King Saul, you’re rebellious, resentful, or refuse to repent. Knowing God is in control takes the strain out of serving Him. When you think about it – it’s the only way to live.

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The Great Designer

‘The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvellous display of his craftmanship’ Psalm 19:1 TLB

Whether you look at the universe through a telescope or a microscope, you discover that God is the great designer. Let’s look at three of the things He designed:

1. The Temperature. The sun’s surface is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and we’re 93 million miles away from it – just the right distance. If the earth’s temperature was 50 degrees hotter or colder all life would cease. Think about it: why wasn’t the earth place twice as far away, or twice as close?

2. Rotation. We rotate 365 times a year as we pass around the sun. Suppose we only rotated 36 times? Well, our days and nights would be ten times as long. We’d be terribly hot on one side, unbearably cold on the other, and life as we know it would cease.

3. Air. Oxygen constitutes 21 per cent of our atmosphere: the precise balance of air we need to breathe. Why not 50 per cent? Because the first time somebody lit a match we’d be toast! So ask yourself, is the 21 per cent b accident or design? And if there’s a design then it follows that there must be a designer. And there is.

Would you like to know Him? You can. At creation he revealed His great power, but at the cross He revealed His great love (John 3:16). Through Jesus His Son you can know the great designer personally and receive the gift of eternal life. If you don’t, you’ll enter a lost eternity. Any chance you’ll be an exception? None! The people in heaven will be those who got there by choice, not chance.

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Turn it Over to God

‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you’ Psalm 55:22 NIV

Sometimes the best thing to do is – turn the situation over to God. ‘Yes, but what about all those go-getters who rise with the sun, skip breakfast, and break records while I’m just ‘giving it to God’? you ask. Good question. Look at Jesus; He didn’t get started until He was thirty. What about all those ‘wasted’ years? He left them to God. And how did He react to those who heard His message, shrugged, and walked away? He left them to God. And what about those nitpicking Pharisees who gave Him so much grief? He left them to God as well. In The Finishing Touch, Charles Swindoll describes a time in his ministry when he felt driven and drained by never-ending demands. He writes: ‘If folks weren’t changing, I felt responsible. If some drifted, somehow I was at fault. If there wasn’t continual growth, I acted as I needed to make it happen. If a sermon failed to ring with clarity and power, I struggled all of Monday and half of Tuesday. Talk about wasted energy! Time has helped; so has age. Virtually all of the things that once stole my joy and assaulted my motivation I just leave to God. Don’t I care? Of course I care. But those cares are now place in the hands of One who can handle them. What once bothered me, I’ve learned to give over to Him who doesn’t mind being bothered. Whereas criticism used to cripple me for days, I now do my best to sift, shift and sail. I learn what I can – and turn the rest over to God.

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The Cure for Worry

‘Offer up your Prayers and Requests to God’ Philippians 4:6 CEV

The Bible says, ‘With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then…God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel’ (vv6-7 CEV). When you pray more, you worry less. That means you have a choice: either pray about it or worry about it. In prayer you give the problem to God, therefore you experience more peace of mind. Does that mean you won’t worry about the problem at all? No. It means you’ll worry about it less. While your goal is to give it completely to God and not worry about it at all, you’ll only get there step by step. God’s not asking you to exist in a state of denial. ‘Don’t worry – be happy!’ fails to appreciate the seriousness of the concerns you have. God doesn’t expect you to suddenly stop caring. Instead He offers an alternative to the pointless and exhausting habit of worry: ‘Pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17KJV). Does that mean a thirty-second prayer will rid you of all anxiety? No. It means start your day with prayer, and continue praying off and on throughout the day. Pray as your drive. Pray at work. Pray before your lunch break. Pray when you’re disappointed by something. Pray when you surprises come. Pray when you triumph. Pray in the midst of painful news. Pray without ceasing – literally. Your heavenly Father, being deeply touched by your struggles, loves it when you come to Him asking for help. He’s right there, reading to step in. Just invite Him to do it.

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Get up and Try Again

‘Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen…and help you; I will uphold you with my…right hand’ Isaiah 41:10 NIV

To succeed in life you need two things:

1. The right people. Sometimes the first step towards getting out of discouragement is finding somebody who can lift you. When you spend time with someone who is continually negative and full of despair about their life, you can come out of that conversation feeling negative and full of despair at your life too. The company you keep will either lift you up or pull you down. Paul wrote, ‘God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titas’ (2 Corinthians 7:6 NIV). You need a Titus in your life, and you need to become a Titus to others. The Bible says ‘Bear…one another’s burdens’ (Galations 6:2 KJV)
2. The right perspective. Over half of all salespeople fail because they don’t go back a second or third time. About 58 per cent make one call and stop. Twenty five per cent make two calls and stop. Fifteen per cent make three calls and stop. The 12 per cent who go back again and again and again make 80 per cent of all sales. That’s the group you belong in. Don’t settle for failure; get up and try again! God will work with you (see Philippians 1:6).
Missionary and theologian E Stanley Jones said, ‘When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.’ Refuse to accept defeat. Remember, you’ll be rewarded for what you finished, not for what you started. Sometimes the last key on the ring is the one that opens the door, so ask God for the strength to keep persevering until you win!

This is reproduced with kind permission from United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Word for Today. Copies can be obtained from them at UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke on Trent, ST6 4JF
They can be reached on 0845 6040401 or at http://www.ucb.co.uk