Serve God Enthusiastically

Serve God Enthusiastically

Chapter Two

Serve God Enthusiastically
"Faith Or Feelings?" 26 "Hold On To Your Confidence" 34
"My Inadequacy – His Adequacy" 28 Overcoming Discouragement Through Positive Faith 36
For A While I Thought Lying Was A Privilege 30 Expectations 38
Anywhere But Here 32 Discussion Questions 40

Hebrews 10:35-11:6

"Faith Or Feelings?"

How many times have you allowed your feelings to dictate your life rather than allowing faith to do so? The tendency is always there to allow feelings to take over when faith should really reign.

While serving as a missionary in Alaska, I had the opportunity to fly to my destination in an airplane called a Pilatus-Porter which was designed for short takeoffs and landings to fit the Alaskan Bush. It was a cold and blustery day when we began our flight. After reaching our flying altitude, we suddenly ran into a fog that was so thick you could hardly see the end of the wings on the plane. It was a blinding effect. As we flew along, I suddenly felt the airplane tip to the right and begin a sweeping turn. I sensed that we made a total 180 degree turn and was going the opposite direction. However, I was also watching the instruments by which the pilot was flying that plane. The instruments told me we were flying perfectly straight, and perfectly level all the time. Had I been piloting that plane and trusting my feelings rather than the instruments, I would not be telling this story today. Our feelings will play tricks on us at such a time as this. Technically, it is called "vertigo" where you loose your sense of balance and direction because there is no horizon by which to judge where you are.

Faith, according to the Hebrew writer, is a product of being sure and certain of what we cannot and do not see. My faith must be properly placed in order to assure me of my safety and my destination. The fact that the pilot placed faith in those instruments literally saved my life.

Often when we are trying to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, there are times when we do not "feel" like we are making progress. We do not always "feel" elated and happy. We do not even "feel" joy at times. However, knowing that our faith is firmly fixed in Christ and his Word, we can be certain that what we hope for will be accomplished. On the other hand, if we fall victim to following the dictates of our feelings, we will experience continual discouragement, failures, and disappointments.

Thank God for the tremendous descriptions of faith that are recorded for us and for the saints who have demonstrated this faith and have accomplished great things for God.

Perhaps today you are feeling discouraged or distressed. Why not exercise your faith in the promises of God and begin to trust Him to use you and bring fulfillment in your

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Christian life in spite of your feelings. He is able to do so.

"Dear Lord, help me to be certain that my feelings do not interfere with my faith in you today. By faith, I give this day to you and believe all things will be under your control regardless of how I feel! Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Faith, not feelings, will bring me victory in every area of my life.

– Edward Rickman –

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John 17:6-17

"My Inadequacy – His Adequacy"

Most all of us have experiences where we feel very inadequate for the task that is before us.

One of the most traumatic experiences of my life occurred when I decided to volunteer as a missionary to Alaska. My response was an emotional response to a need that had been created by the death of another missionary who had started a number of construction projects which needed completing. Definitely my initial response was made without the benefit of many of the facts.

It was only after I was accepted that the facts began to surface. I started getting blueprints in the mail, material lists from suppliers, and letters from supervisors on the field I began to feel the overwhelming sense of inadequacy. There were so many details that were far beyond my experience and knowledge. I must admit that I struggled desperately with the temptation to totally withdraw from the appointment. Actually the only reason I didn't was the fact that alongside these feelings of inadequacy was the overwhelming support of those who believed in me and had the faith that I could perform the job. What a difference that encouragement made! In fact, it was that external support which helped me to overcome the internal sense of inadequacy.

That experience has been repeated many times in my life. The assignments of ministry have always seemed overwhelming and I have always sensed an inadequacy.

I believe we can identify with the feelings which must have been gripping the disciples as Jesus related His plans for the future. Jesus had chosen just twelve men as disciples and had spent three years with them in training them for the task that was ahead. Now the training was done. The end was near. They could begin to sense the weight of responsibility that was being left to them. The task was overwhelming. But in the midst of their feelings of inadequacy, here was Jesus praying a prayer for them in a manner that defied pessimism. It was almost as if He were saying, "I have absolute confidence in these ordinary men and through them I will change the world"

It is very important that we face squarely the fact that we are often inadequate. However, we dare not allow our feelings of inadequacy to cripple us either emotionally

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or spiritually. Inadequacy can also be an excuse for not performing any particular task. On the other hand, the positive side of inadequacy is the fact that we are driven to trust the adequacy of God's help in order to succeed.

It must have been a tremendous encouragement for the disciples to hear the prayer of Jesus which basically says, "I believe in you, you can do it." What should also be encouraging to you and me is to know that He prayed that same prayer for us. God has chosen us to do certain tasks, not because we are adequate in ourselves, but that we might exercise faith in Him to provide the power, the strength, and the encouragement where we are inadequate in ourselves.

One of the greatest encouragements we can receive is the understanding that we are not alone. Even our inadequacies never stand alone. We are in partnership with God through Jesus Christ. His adequacy can overcome any shortcoming in our own lives.

"Dear Lord, you know all of my inadequacies today, but I do want to succeed for your honor and glory. Make me a stronger person today because of the adequacy of your presence. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There are only two things I can do with my inadequacies in the light of Jesus' prayer: (1) I can struggle with them, or (2) I can struggle against them by placing my faith in Jesus Christ. He desires that I succeed!

– Edward Rickman –

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Romans 12:19-21

For A While I Thought Lying Was A Privilege

I met the man, who lived many miles from me, over the telephone while working out the purchase of a home. He gave the impression that Christian faith was an important part of his life and eventually told me about his church. I knew it to be an excellent Bible teaching church because I had attended there several times while visiting friends in the city.

Soon after, this man who had identified himself as a brother in God's family, lied to me. The consequences of his lie created no financial gain or advantage for him, but made very costly problems for me. From the circumstances it was clear that his lie was deliberate and told with full awareness that it would create substantial problems for me. Then he "disappeared" from our transaction and assigned other people to finish the project.

Was I angry? Of course! Especially because it appeared that the lie had no purpose other than petty meanness, and that the frustrations it created for me would continue, if not increase. But the disruptions that came directly from his lie were not nearly as damaging to me as the torment created inside myself by the way I reacted to what he had done.

Here is what I found myself thinking: He lied to me. And now, instead of being punished, or at least stopped, he gets to continue to have his way, manipulate my life, and damage me.

As if it is a privilege to lie!

Then God let me see the corruption in my heart. What a nasty attitude I had toward that man! My response to his behavior was a murky, rancid, mix of spiritual arrogance ("I'm better than that") vengeance ('Hanging's too good for him") and envy ("Hey, how come he gets to lie and I have to tell the truth?").

Who was messed up? Perhaps both of us, but certainly my sins were plentiful!

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I needed to learn where my frustration came from: Sure, some was from what he did or yet could do, but the real damage was from (1) my own sins of spitefulness and self-pity, and (2) my limited vision of God's care over me.

A few months later I got a letter from the man's former employer. He had been dismissed, the letter said, and they regretted that I had been hurt by his improper actions. "We are sorry that you were harmed and inconvenienced. Please accept our apologies and this check for $500."

It is integrity, not lying that is a privilege. The Lord hates lying (Proverbs 6:16-19) but loves righteousness (Psalms 11). The Ten Commandments are not obstacles that we must work to get over or around, they are fences to protect us from plunging into trouble when sinful impulses seek to control us. When, with patience and self-control, we let God guide us in paths of righteousness, we most surely come to that time and place at God's table and our cup will overflow (Psalms 23).

"Dear God, forgive my quickness to anger and vengeance, and my slowness to follow the patient and merciful ways in which you treat me when I am petty and dishonest in my relationship with you or with your people. Forgive my failure to be a doer of your word that I have been privileged to hear. Give me charity toward others as you have been charitable toward me in the many. times I have been dishonest with you. In the name of Jesus, Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When I seek to take God's job into my hands, I can only hurt myself.

– Richard Walters –

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Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:6

Anywhere But Here

He stood beside the 1-80 entrance near Green River, Wyoming, pack at side, with uplifted hand, and a sign that read ANYWHERE BUT HERE. He even smiled as we drove by in our heavy-laden vacation car. With the hundreds of travelers stopping at 'Little America' for food, fuel, and souvenirs, perhaps he soon found a ride to "anywhere."

As our car cruised westward and on into Utah and Nevada, I often thought of that sign – ANYWHERE BUT HERE.

Why "anywhere but here?" The desert-likeness, the strangeness even amidst many people, would indicate that "here" is not really my piece of apple pie. Of course, "here" was OK for the visitor like myself, or those employed in the vast complex of businesses in that area.

Paul had this "heres"! "I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be" (Philippians 4:11, Phillips). "There is great gain in godliness with contentment". (1 Timothy 6:6)

I remarked to my brother Don, now retired after 23 years in the USAF, about his choosing to live in northern California. Part of his answer included the thought that wherever he was in the world – Louisiana, Texas, England, Georgia, or Vietnam – he tried to content himself, and make good in the situation where he was.

Back to the sign – ANYWHERE BUT HERE. Yet, there is an inner restlessness in all of us, in spite of the contentedness of where we live and what we do. Often in the writings of Paul we note this restlessness even when contented. He tells of his future plans to the Romans: "I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be sped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem with aid for the saints" (Romans 15:22-25)

As Christians, we would not use the cardboard written sign – ANYWHERE BUT HERE – as our eternal destiny. Hell is certainly not the place, though many people choose this as their eternal abode. The follower of Christ is overbuilt for this world, and even for

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the City of God. Heaven will be the eternal headquarters for Christ's followers with opened doors into the vast regions of God's universe. My eternal "anywhere" will become my "here" by the grace of God!

Yet, as a Christian makes his/her way from "here" (earth) to "there" (Heaven), "anywhere" with Christ will be a blessing. The hymnist has said: "Anywhere with Jesus will be home sweet home." The "anywhere" can be a "here." Here is where God wants me. Here is where I will serve the Lord. Here is my place of influence. Here is where by God's grace I will serve, – contentedly.

"Dear Jesus, as I examine my life, I note the many villages you visited, the people you touched, the busyness of the days. Yet there always seemed to be a contentedness, for you came to do your Father's will. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If I believe that I am in the place where God has planned for me to be, then I can be content.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Hebrews 10:35-39

"Hold On To Your Confidence"

Confidence is one of the most important virtues of our lives. I recall when I was learning to fly an airplane that there was a long period of learning which served to build up my confidence. There was always the underlying confidence that the instructor was sitting beside me in case I failed, but the day finally came when he got out and I had to prove my own confidence. But the greatest test came when I had gained some degree of confidence after having done several hours of solo work, and then the instructor was with me again to start a new process. We started doing crosswind landings. After a couple of crosswind landings where I received some help from the instructor, he said "This one you can do all by yourself." Unfortunately I did everything wrong. After bouncing the plane on the runway, I held too much right rudder and applied the right brake resulting in my veering off to the right of the runway where I stopped. My confidence was absolutely shattered! Stupid mistakes I never should have made. I was ready to quit. I wanted to hang it up.

One of the best things that could have happened to me was the insistence of the instructor: "No, let's go around again." We did and I succeeded in making a near perfect landing. Now there are many of us who go through experiences just like that, quite often in our lives. Many of those experiences cause us to cast aside our spiritual confidence instead of holding on, to it. And the consequences of that can be a very frustrated Christian life. Sometimes it even leads to our giving up or being tempted to do so. There are many things that cause us to lose confidence. There are personal failures, temptation, and circumstances beyond our control. However, the primary cause of our losing confidence is the fact that we dwell on our failures rather than dwelling on our ability to overcome the circumstances of our lives. At those times, we remember that Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin. He never lost confidence in the fact that He could be victorious. The word translated here as confidence is translated "boldness" in several other verses in Hebrews. Note Hebrews 4:15: "For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin. Let us therefore come, boldly or (with confidence) unto the throne of grace." Jesus Christ sympathizes with us when we are going through these temptations to give up or to turn loose. Don't do it. Jesus can help you to hold on to your confidence!

"Dear Lord, help me today to keep my confidence in you and not in my own abilities. Amen!"

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There is always an escape from every temptation, and a way to overcome every obstacle that would tempt me to lose my confidence.

– Edward Rickman –

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Deuteronomy 31:1-8

Overcoming Discouragement Through Positive Faith

I'm a suburban farmer. I enjoy slaving in the hot sun as I plow and plant and weed the field. It's just that my field or "back forty" is a plot of ground six feet wide by twenty some feet long. I had a lousy crop this summer. The peas never grew because something kept eating the leaves. We harvested three carrots, no cucumbers or beets, and the attempt at growing popcorn may have succeeded had we not had the early snow which broke the stalks. We did enjoy a few beans, onions, and tomatoes. There were at least one hundred tomatoes left on the vine when the freeze killed them. It was a discouraging year but thankful that my livelihood does not depend on my gardening skills.

Last weekend, as the sun showered its warm rays on my head, I pulled out the remaining weeds and dead plants and put some peat moss over the ground to prepare it for the next growing season. Even though I was discouraged with this year's crop, I have high expectations for next year. I guess I am an optimist.

It seems so easy to get discouraged. Discouragement produces despair and despair results in our failure to hold on to any hope. Discouragement and despair even creep into the garden of life. When that happens, we need to stand guard over our thoughts.

I finished a wonderful book this week: The Positive Power of Jesus Christ, by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Of this matter he said, "The mind, when in a downward spiral into negativism, tends to fight back against any attempt to reverse the process into a positive attitude. But always faith, if persevered in, proves stronger than doubt, greater than weakness."

Faith always is victorious. This is why I get excited about a garden for next year. I have faith that it will produce an abundance of vegetables. Why? Because God put the potential of growth into every single seed that is planted. Each individual seed has the power within itself to grow a plant that will produce to its maximum potential.

I also hold that faith for my life and for yours. God has placed within each of us the potential to live life to our fullest, despite setbacks and discouragements. With God, there is always another chance. Through Jesus, there is always hope for our future. The reason for our hope: faith! "With God, an things are possible." (Matthew 18:26)

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"Sometimes I get discouraged, Lord. Lift my head and show me that I can overcome all things by faith. Since nothing is impossible for You, Lord, I place my trust in You. Together we can get through anything. Jesus, I thank You for restoring my hope. In Your name, I pray. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is the God of second chances. We can always begin again!

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Mark 10:46-52

Expectations

White with red lettering, the bumper sticker had been placed waist high on the door that led out of the Fellowship Hall. It had been bright and shiny when first placed there by some dreamer in the church. Over the years it had become worn and faded. For ten months I wondered about it. Who put it there? When was it put there? Why was it put there? Does anyone see it anymore? in the beginning it must have brought a spark of hope to the hearts of those who saw it. It seemed no one ever noticed it anymore as they brushed through the door, coming and going, forgetting or ignoring the vision that once captivated that church family. (Time has a way of doing that… dulling the luster of a vision.)

The bumper sticker in question had three red-letter words on it EXPECT A MIRACLE! It was an inspiration to the life of faith, a challenge to the walk of faith. It was a reminder to raise the level of expectations, a testimony to the possibilities that exist whenever the believer's expectation and God's resources come together.

God welcomes the expectations of miracles. He does not consider such expectations foolish or presumptuous. He rewards them. It was a miracle the woman expected when she touched Jesus's robe (Mark 5). It was a miracle Bartimaeus expected when he cried out to Jesus in Jericho (Mark 10). It was a miracle the Centurion expected when his servant was ill (Matthew 8). It was a miracle the lepers expected when they appealed to Jesus for mercy (Luke 17). It was a miracle Peter expected when he stepped out of his boat and onto the water (John 6). On and on we could go and add the regarded expectations of ourselves and others.

Life is lived at the level of our expectations. We make investments of time, energy, and resources with certain expectations in mind. To live without expectations is to live without purpose; to live without expectations is to live without hope. For the most part our expectations are tepid, as though we are afraid to push the boundary of ordinary expectations. In Through A Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll has this brief exchange between Alice and the queen:

"There's no use trying", said Alice. "One can't believe impossible things." 
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the queen. 
"When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've 
believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

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How many impossible things have you believed lately? God specializes in things thought impossible. There is no "OUT OF BUSINESS" sign over His miracle work shop. He is open for business and ready to take your order.

"Dear God, assist me to see the things believed impossible through the lens of persistent faith."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "A man's reach should exceed his grasp or-what's a heaven for." (Robert Browning)

– William Jenkins –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever experienced a time when your allowed your "feelings" to dictate your life rather than allowing "faith" to do so? What are the consequences which one incurs when he falls victim to following the dictates of his "feelings"? If living by faith rather than by feelings is the "key" to a victorious Christian life, share what you have done to "develop faith" rather than to "surrender to your strong feelings" which challenge your life of faith. Share your personal response and interpretation of the following 'verse':

    "Three men were walking on a wall, 
    FEELING, FAITH and FACT. 
    Feeling got an awful fall, 
    And Faith was taken back. 
    Faith was so close to feeling, 
    He fell too, 
    BUT FACT REMAINED and pulled Faith up, 
    And that brought Feeling too. 
    I feel just as good when I don't feel good, 
    as I do when I do feel good, 
    for I don't run on Feeling after all!"

  2. When accepting an "assignment" (appointment) to a "ministry responsibility", have you ever felt very inadequate (unprepared and untrained and inexperienced)? What did you do to deal with your feelings of inadequacy?

  3. What "compliment" did Jesus give to His disciples when He gave them "The Great Commission" (Matthew 28:19-20), just before Jesus returned to Heaven? How did Jesus plan to prepare His disciples (who felt so inadequate) for their overwhelming responsibility? (Note Acts 1:4-8; Acts 2:1-4)

  4. Share a time (occasion) in your experience (as a follower of Christ) when you felt that you were empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit to accomplish a task (i.e., a ministry "assignment") which you realized that, through your own strength and "natural abilities", you would not be able to accomplish.

  5. When a "fellow human being" (or even a "professing Christian") has greatly disappointed you by "betraying your trust" how have you reacted or responded? What steps have you taken to restore confidence and trust in your "fellow human beings" and particularly in a "Christian Brother" who has hurt or betrayed you?

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  6. Tell with what degree of conviction you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "The Ten Commandments are not obstacles that we must work to get over or around; they are fences to protect us from plunging into trouble when sinful impulses seek to control us."

  7. Practically speaking, what do you think it means for a Christian to be "content", whatever his circumstances may be? (Note Philippians 4:11) Give your "interpretation" and "illustration" of the following Scriptural statement: "There is great gain in godliness with contentment" (1 Timothy 6:6).

  8. What is the Christian's "secret" to finding "contentment", regardless of where he lives and where he works, and regardless of conditions which surround him? Have you personally learned to "bloom where you are planted"? Is it ever "right" for a Christian to feel inwardly "restless"? If so, when and for what "holy purpose"? (Note Romans 15:22-26)

  9. Do you believe that "confidence" is one of the most important virtues that a Christian can possess? Why or why not? How can you distinguish between "wholesome confidence" and "sinful pride"? When you repeatedly "fail" in your attempts to perform a worthy task or a spiritual ministry, what can you do to "hold on to your confidence" rather than to yield to your discouragement and quit? (Note Hebrews 4: 15; 10: 35-39)

  10. While "living life" and "confronting life's challenges", why is it so easy for Christians to become discouraged and to be tempted to "throw in the towel" (quit)? What are some of the destructive consequences of succumbing to discouragement?

  11. Tell what you have personally done to reverse your downward spiral into negative thinking, during your times of great discouragement.

  12. Tell to what extent you believe (or disbelieve) the following statements: "God has placed within each of us the potential to live life to our fullest, despite setbacks and discouragement. With God, there is always another chance. Through Jesus, there is always hope for our future."

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