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Word For You Today

All things for good

'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.' Romans 8:28 NIV

There are many things in life we don't know. We don't know if we'll get that job, marry that person, or fulfil that dream we have. Sometimes, we don't even 'know what we ought to pray for' (Romans 8:26 NIV).

But we can 'know' these four things: (1) 'God works.' Even though we can't see him, he's busy behind the scenes. He's tireless and he never stops working. (2) 'God works for the good.' Not for our comfort, pleasure or entertainment, but for our ultimate good. Sometimes we may not see how things are being worked out for good, especially when we're in the middle of horrendous circumstances. But even then, we need to trust that he will bring good out of what we're going through. (3) 'God works for the good of those who love him.' When we make his story our story, by loving him and surrendering to him, our story takes on a good ending. (4) God works 'in all things'. God works not just in a few things, or the good, best or easy things. he works in 'all things'.

And he doesn't make the plan up as he goes along. The Bible says, 'In him we were also chosen...according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will' (Ephesians 1:11 NIV). And the best part is - God's plan includes us. Once we understand that, all our unknowns will be less daunting.

So what now? Thank him that he makes all things work together for your good. And believe it!

Soulfood: Job 40-42, Matt 26:47-56, Ps 72:1-11, Pro 9:1-6


Learning from Hannah

'I was pouring out my soul to the Lord.' 1 Samuel 1:15 NIV

There are many examples of faithful, godly people in the Bible. Like Hannah, mother of Samuel who was a prophet in the Old Testament. There are things to learn from Hannah's story.

Firstly, it teaches us to show compassion towards others, even when we don't understand what they're going through. Hannah was unable to have children and grieved about it. Her husband Elkanah said: 'Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons' (1 Samuel 1:8 ESV)? And Elkanah's other wife Peninnah provoked and teased her. There are many people suffering pain and grief and, although we might not be able to fully identify with their particular grief, we can react with compassion and sensitivity. Secondly, it shows us where to take our sadness. Hannah went to God to tell him everything. When Eli the priest found her, she told him 'I was pouring out my soul to the Lord' (1 Samuel 1:15 NIV). Like for Hannah, when we face overwhelming emotions and desperate situations, God is there to listen and comfort us. Finally, it teaches us about keeping our promises to God. When praying for a child, Hannah made a promise to God: 'When the boy is old enough to eat solid food...I will give him to the Lord' (1 Samuel 1:22 NCV). When she gave birth to Samuel, she remembered her promise. She is a wonderful example of someone devoted to God.

So what now? Read Hannah's story in 1 Samuel 1 and 2. Ask God to teach you powerful lessons for your life from hers.

Soulfood: Job 38-39, Matt 26:36-46, Ps 31, Pro 8:34-36


Fight fear with God's help

'The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.' Psalm 118:6 NIV

Anxiety is a natural response to circumstances that take us out of our comfort zone. Things like exams, job interviews, meeting new people and health issues can all cause us to feel anxious or become fearful.

But, sometimes fear can control our lives and keep us from living to the full. Fear can stop us from branching out and doing new things which, in turn, cause us to fear those things even more, creating a cycle. There are many verses in the Bible to help us break this cycle: (1) 'You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you' (Isaiah 26:3 NIV). (2) 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid' (John 14:27 NIV). (3) 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation...present your requests to God' (Philippians 4:6 NIV). (4) 'In God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me' (Psalm 56:4 NIV)? (5) 'For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline' (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV).

Fear need not overcome us. God's presence is greater than any fear, giving us the peace and courage we need to live free of the power of fear.

So what now? Choose a verse from today's reading. Write it out, memorise it, say it out loud, and ask God to help you use it to deal with fear.

Soulfood: Job 35-37, Matt 26:26-35, Ps 6, Pro 8:32-33


Create a positive climate

'With thanksgiving, present your requests to God.' Philippians 4:6 NIV

When we're anxious, we can end up saying things that aren't helpful. Before we know it, we're criticising and complaining, and the atmosphere becomes negative. That's because our words create climates.

God's Word tell us: 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds' (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV). We rise above anxiety by giving thanks.

So how can we overcome our negativity, and instead develop a positive, faith-filled outlook? Firstly, we need to decide to. We can't move on from negative thinking until we decide we don't want to think like that anymore. Let's refuse to spend another moment criticising and complaining. Then, we need to start now. Unless we make a start to change it won't come at all. When we start speaking negatively, we need to recognise it and steer our thoughts and words towards positive things. Thirdly, we need to look for what's good. The Bible says: 'Whatever is true...noble...right...pure...lovely... admirable...think about such things' (Philippians 4:8 NIV). If we're always focusing on the negative, we'll find it hard to be positive. Instead, we need to look for the good things and speak positively about our situations.

So what now? Every time you catch yourself speaking negatively to yourself, or to others, stop and say something positive instead. Be a creator of a positive climate.

Soulfood: Matt 5:6, Isa 55:1-7, Ps 63:1-5, John 4:1-34


Show God's love 2

'If you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people.' Matthew 5:47 NCV

It's easy to love people who we like, who are most like us, who are nice to us, or who are easy to love. But our heavenly Father asks us to love in a different way (see 2 Corinthians 5:16).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, 'Your Father in Heaven...causes the sun to rise on good people and...evil people...he sends rain to those who do right and...those who do wrong. If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don't know God [do that] must be perfect [mature] just as your Father in Heaven is' (Matthew 5:45-48 NCV). God's love towards us is 'perfect' because it is unconditional and non-judgmental. The Bible says when we were his enemies, '[he] showed his great sending Christ to die for us' (Romans 5:8 NLT). The Bible again reminds us: 'Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another' (1 John 4:11 NIV).

It couldn't be clearer - we're called to love others as God loves us.

So what now? Is there someone who you struggle to love - they may be different to you, or they may have treated you badly? If so, pray: 'God, I'm struggling to love [fill in the name]. Help me to let go of [fill in... prejudice, hurt, blame], and begin to love them in the way you love me.'

Soulfood: Job 32-34, Matt 26:14-25, Ps 69:19-36, Pro 8:30-31


Show God's love 1

'God showed his great sending Christ to die.' Romans 5:8 NLT

Human love and God's love are different. Human love often says, 'I'll love you as long as you meet my expectations, behave properly or fit into my social circle.' God's love says, 'I love you just as you are'. God didn't wait for us to become worthy before loving us. 'God showed his great sending Christ to die...while we were still sinners' (Romans 5:8 NLT).

Jesus set a new standard for love. He said, 'Now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you' (John 13:34 NLT); 'Love your neighbour as yourself' (Matthew 22:39 NIV); 'Love...without hoping to get anything back' (Luke 6:35 NCV). Loving others God's way often goes against what we naturally want to do. Pastor Bill Hybels said: 'When I set about the task of loving, I usually end up giving instead of receiving. Love inevitably costs me the three commodities most precious to me - my time, my energy, and my money...When you're concerned about the well-being of others, you usually have to sacrifice.'

The Bible tells us that nothing can separate us from God's love (see Romans 8:37-39), and also, 'We love because he first loved us' (1 John 4:19 NIV). When we accept God's unconditional love for us, then loving others becomes a natural response that flows from his love for us.

So what now? Write down some Bible verses about God's love for you. Read these out loud regularly as a reminder that you are loved, just as you are, right now.

Soulfood: Job 29-31, Matt 26:1-13, Ps 69:1-18, Pro 8:27-29


Being vulnerable

'Two people are better than one...If one falls down, the other can help him up.' Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NCV

It can be hard to talk about our fears, loneliness, guilt, or need to be loved. Maybe we struggle to trust others, or we don't think our problems are important enough, or we're ashamed of what we're struggling with and want to avoid the judgment of others.

God created us to feel and express our emotions in community with others. The Bible says: 'Two people are better than one...If one falls down, the other can help him up' (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NCV). The Bible says we should be carrying each other's burdens (see Galatians 6:2), but we need to be willing to be vulnerable and share those burdens. It's right to be cautious about who we share with. When we do trust someone, it can be healing for us to take off the masks we're wearing and tell them how we're really feeling. By sharing with others, we gain support, whether practically or physically. It also helps build our relationships and encourages people to open up to us too.

David wasn't afraid to share his emotions. He said to God, 'I will cry to you, when my heart is overwhelmed' (Psalm 61:2 NKJV). If we're struggling to open up to others, we can start by opening up to God. He's always prepared to listen and help us deal with things. And, whatever we tell him doesn't affect how much he loves us.

So what now? Next time someone you trust asks you how you are, be vulnerable with them and ask them to pray for you.

Soulfood: Job 24-28, Matt 25:31-46, Ps 38:13-22, Pro 8:24-26

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