WHY GOD MAKES ME DO THE HARD STUFF

By Chrystal Evans Hurst
“… for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8 (NASB)

Recently, I went to the gym to get in some cardio. Cardio makes me sweat, and sweat means my fat is crying.

Hallelujah!

Then I decided to go for some strength training. I don’t like strength training.

I found myself wandering around, trying to remember which machine did what and how much weight was the right amount. I looked like a lost puppy.

I just don’t like weights. They are unfamiliar. They are hard.

My visit to the gym was the first time in a long while that I’ve attempted resistance training on my own.

At various times last year, I’d been at the gym, hitting the weights … but not by myself.

Last year, my husband and I made a commitment to invest in our health and worked with a personal trainer.

It. Was. So. Hard. And it involved a lot of weights.

We were with someone who knew what they were doing, giving us direction.

Someone successful in getting both of us to try new machines, routines and levels of resistance.

Someone who worked us hard … very hard.

I didn’t like it.

Well, I didn’t like it until I started seeing a change in my body.

There is something about being pushed to lift a weight you think is too heavy that brings a new level of physical and mental strength — challenging you to attempt more reps than you would on your own.

There is something about a person knowing what you are capable of doing, even when you don’t know that for yourself.

There is something about a trainer.

In my spiritual life, I like to do what “works.” I go to church. I pray. I read my Bible.

But sometimes I’m challenged in the gym of life to hit the heavy stuff. But not by myself.

When I made the commitment to have Jesus be the Lord of my life, I also committed to allow Him to be my personal Trainer.

And I’m not gonna lie. Sometimes it’s been hard. And involved a lot of heavy lifting.

But I’ve learned that God is truly Someone who knows what He is doing.

Someone who gets me to try new experiences, routines or levels of resistance.

Someone who allows the hard … the very hard.

And many times I don’t like it.

That is, until I start seeing a change in my soul.

There is something about being pushed to lift a weight that we think is too heavy that brings us to a new level of spiritual maturity — challenging us to go for a few more days, weeks, months or years in a situation we wouldn’t even attempt on our own.

There is something about a Person knowing what you are capable of even when you don’t know that for yourself.

There is something about the Trainer.

Indeed, God the Master Trainer, has the health of our spirit and soul in mind.

And because He knows where I need to be tested, challenged and stretched, He will not allow me to stay in my comfort zone.

Although I could keep doing what “works” in my spiritual life, it’s the uncomfortable situations God allows that strengthen and make me more “fit” in the faith.

So hang in there. God is the Master Trainer. He knows what He’s doing.

Father God, I really don’t like when life is hard. I don’t like carrying heavy loads or pressing through difficult situations. Please help me see each and every uncomfortable circumstance You allow in my life as an opportunity for me to grow. Help me to trust that You are indeed the Master Trainer. Help me to believe and rest knowing that, even when life is tough, You know exactly what You are doing and have my spiritual strength and well-being at heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
James 1:3-4, “After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.” (CEB)

2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (NIV)

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

LIGHTING UP THE WORLD

By Christine Caine

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others,that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14–16

Our daughter Catherine is obsessed with flashlights. She is constantly taking our emergency flashlights from the drawer and carrying them around with her. When she first discovered them, she would walk around all day with a flashlight by her side, shining it everywhere. The only problem was that during the day, it really didn’t have much of an effect. I would try to explain to her that flashlights are really not of great use during the day. After all, how much can you illuminate a room that is already well lit? But you know how kids are—most of their fun is had in discovering new things.

I remember the first time Catie actually “got it” when it came to how a flashlight was really supposed to be used. Nick and I were putting her to bed, and we turned off all the lights so that it was pitch black. It was priceless to see the look on her face when Nick turned the flashlight on and she realized how bright the beam was in a dark room. We thought this realization would alleviate Catherine’s need to tote the light around with her throughout the day. However, it had the opposite effect! We had unwittingly made it even more of an adventure for her. Now, every day was a challenge for her to find the darkest places she could so that she could light a path for all her toys to find their way.

For the next two weeks, my afternoons were spent in the dark as Catherine took my hand and guided me through the maze of furniture. Just the thought of me hurting myself in the dark deeply concerned her, as was evidenced by her shining the flashlight meticulously in every possible corner. She was so proud that with her little light, she was able to bring me to a place of safety.

This is a perfect illustration of how we as Christians are to be in this world. Just as Catherine was so excited to shine her light for me, we are called to shine our spiritual lights for others. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Those of us who are followers of Jesus have the privilege to walk in his light and to experience the life that is illuminated by his Word. But this light within us is not just for ourselves—it is meant to be shared with the whole world.

Point to Ponder

Do you see yourself as a light in this dark world? That is what God says you are. Every time you reach out to others, you are bringing light into their lives.

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

THE CALL TO SERVE

Dr. Charles Stanley

…but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name… – Philippians 2:7-9

When it comes to serving in the church, people rarely request positions where they will go unnoticed. They usually ask to be involved in a place of leadership.

Now, there is nothing wrong with heading a committee. But God calls us to have a servant’s heart: He desires that our motive be to glorify Him, not ourselves.

Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with young men studying at seminary. Countless times, they share the desire to lead a sizable church. And those who are called to a small congregation frequently struggle with feelings of insignificance.

My encouragement to them is this: In His great love, God places us where He wants us to serve, and every task we undertake should be given our all, whether there’s one person listening or a multitude. We ultimately serve Jesus, and He is not concerned with the recognition we receive. He desires our obedience and our best effort. This is true not just for pastors but for all believers.

There are many reasons the Lord calls us to serve. First, He rids us of pride and selfishness, allowing our focus to be on Him. Second, we proclaim our love for Christ through our care for one another. Third, God tests and purifies our hearts through service.

How do you define success? A common response is “achieving predetermined goals.” Scripture’s definition, however, is different. The Lord desires that we discover His plan, obey, and become all that He intended. In other words, for success in the biblical sense, God sets the goals.

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

THE LOST COIN

By Christine Caine

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Luke 15:8–10

In the story of the lost coin, the coin didn’t lose itself. A woman who had ten silver coins lost one. Was she so busy she forgot where she’d placed it? Did she take her eyes off her treasure for only a moment—and a thief snatched it? Did she trip, spilling all her coins onto the floor, where one rolled out of sight? Did an addiction cause her to gamble away a part of her money—and then even more, in a desperate attempt to win it back?

Some people are lost not because of something they willfully did, but because of a place they fell into or circumstances beyond their control. They are lost because of the words of an insensitive teacher, the neglect of an absent parent, the malice of an abuser. Maybe they’ve been abducted by a trafficker who sees them not as persons but as commodities to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. Maybe a corrupt ruler has mismanaged all of his country’s resources, leaving the innocent poor with no food, water, health care, education, or basic human services. In any case, the lost are people who have lost their purpose, their potential, perhaps even their destiny.

This might be a single mom whose income pays only some of the bills and is maxing out her credit cards to cover the rest of her family’s necessities. Or this might be the couple working so hard at their jobs and managing their home that they’re drifting apart, and the intimacy of their marriage is being lost. Or this could be the CEO who has worked his way to the top of the corporate ladder—but is experiencing dissatisfaction and malaise.

The one may be someone who has lived a life of crime that has landed him in jail. The one may be someone who has willfully hurt another. The one may be selfish, addicted, immoral, and arrogant. He or she may be a mocker, scoffer, murderer, or prostitute. If our example is Jesus, we should remember that he stood up for a woman caught in adultery, a greedy, dishonest tax collector, and the thief hanging on the cross next to him. Jesus didn’t distinguish between those lost because of circumstances beyond their control and whose who willfully and willingly put themselves there.

God’s heart beats for every lost person every single second of every single day. That’s what he wants us to remember. We, too, were once lost, but now we are found. And because we’ve been found, he has called us to be part of his search-and-rescue team.

Point to Ponder

Are you willing to take the light God brought to you to illuminate your own rescue, to others? Carrying the light is the only reason God would send you back into the dark.

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

BRANCHES

By Skip Heitzig

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

If you are truly a Christian, one distinguishing mark that will be in your life is that you are connected to Christ. That sounds very obvious, but take a look at John chapter 15. Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches” (John 15:5). Sometimes we get an inflated idea of our importance. We think, “I’m a special messenger of God.” But we’re just branches from the vine.

The branches of a grape vine are utterly useless once they are dead. The only thing they are used for is kindling to start a fire. A branch has no value unless it is connected to the vine. That’s when life flows through it, and if it’s planted in good soil, it will bring life to others. Your life takes on real, lasting significance only as long as you’re connected to Christ. Otherwise, you and I are worthless.

And what I mean is, it has to be a personal connection. Only your own personal connection to Christ results in new life. Jesus says, “If you abide in Me, I’ll abide in you.” And He repeats the word “fruit” six times in this passage. So the connection must be personal and it has to fruitful; that is, it has to have the evidence of new life.

Some people think all they need is a ceremonial connection. When you ask them about their connection with Christ, they talk about being baptized as a baby, or their christening, or their confirmation. They will name the rituals they’ve been through, not a personal connection.

It also can’t just be a genetic connection. The Jews traced their heritage back to Moses and Abraham, and they boasted of their genetic connection to their forefathers. A person today might say, “I was raised in a Christian home. My grandpa was a preacher, my mother prayed for two hours every day,” etc.

And just as John the Baptist told the Jews, “Do not think to say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father,” our connection to God must be more than heritage or religious rituals.

In Luke 20, Jesus’ parable of the vineyard was a warning to the Jews against trusting in their ceremonies and heritage. It wasn’t enough. Today, many people still try to do this. They really don’t want to surrender their lives to God, but they’ll allow a little bit of God to come in: “I’ll put God here on this shelf so I can manage Him.” It’s never a total commitment. It’s just, “I’ll attend church every now and then, especially Christmas and Easter, and I’ll sing the songs to You. But I don’t want to get too close.”

Wilbur Rees wrote about it this way: “I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.” That’s not “abiding in Him,” and it certainly won’t produce any fruit!

So abide in Him—really abide—and receive the nourishment, intimacy and fruitfulness that only He can provide!

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

GODLY LIVING IN AN UNGODLY AGE

By Dr. Charles Stanley

Read: Titus 1

Our Founding Fathers created a governing framework based upon biblical principles. Slowly, we have changed from “one nation under God” to a group of people who no longer want Him to be involved.

Tragically, we’ve become, in numerous ways, an ungodly nation: many are driven by materialism and power; immorality and rebellion are prevalent; empty philosophy and false doctrine are widely acceptable. Underlying it all is a vocal decision to take God out of the nation’s “official business.”

Yet even in an unbelieving society, people can, as individuals, follow Jesus. But the world will continually disseminate faulty teachings, so believers must be discerning. Otherwise, erroneous messages can lead Christians to compromise their convictions. Then affections and priorities may change. Don’t let the world’s clamor make the Spirit’s voice less audible. Without His guidance, our minds become vulnerable to lies.

The Word of God is a compass that keeps us headed in the right direction—even in the midst of confusing messages all around. We need to be consistently filled with truth by reading, believing, meditating upon, and applying Scripture. God also tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). If our minds are focused upon Him, unholy beliefs will not be able to take root.

The Word is our guidebook. We will still face difficulty as we live in this imperfect world—it is a confusing, dark place that entices us but never fulfills our true longings. Yet God’s truth will bring confidence and boldness, and His Spirit will direct and strengthen, enabling us to live victoriously.

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

A REMINDER OF WHO IS IN CHARGE

By Max Lucado
Prayer reminds us of who is in charge. You don’t take your requests to someone with less authority. You take them to someone who outranks you in the solutions department.

The same is true in prayer. You don’t pray just to let God know what’s going on. He’s way ahead of you on that one. You pray to transfer “my will be done” to “God’s will be done.”  And, since he’s in charge, he knows the best solution. Prayer transfers the burden to God and He lightens your load. Prayer pushes us through life’s slumps, propels us over the humps, and pulls us out of the dumps. Prayer is the oomph we need to get the answers we seek. So, pray…today!

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

p.s.: I humbly ask everyone to pray for Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, who is scheduled to be executed anytime now. She is an Overseas Filipino Worker who was accused of being a drug mule. We still cling to the littlest hope that her life will be spared by the Indonesian government, especially now that her recruiter surrendered to the Philippine police.  Also, please pray for her two young sons and her family.