Word For You Today

Put your trust in God

'Lord, where do I put my hope?' Psalm 39:7 NLT

When we go through tough times, we can end up discouraged or want to give up. But, these times can be an opportunity for growth.

How? Firstly, by admitting how we feel. This means trusting God enough to acknowledge how we really feel. Throughout the Bible, we see people struggle with the same feelings. The psalmist asked God to help him cope with despondency (see Psalm 42 and 43). And at one point Paul was under so much pressure he 'despaired of life itself' (2 Corinthians 1:8 NIV). Secondly, we need to identify the source. Discouragement often comes after a setback or disappointment. Did something we set our hearts on fall apart? Did somebody let us down?

Thirdly, talk about it to someone we trust. That may be someone in our family or church, or a counsellor. Solomon said, 'Many advisers mean security' (Proverbs 11:14 GNT). Sometimes we can find it hard to open up to others, but talking to the right people can help us feel less alone. Finally, we need to put our hope in God. David said, 'Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you' (Psalm 39:7 NLT). When our hope is in God, he replaces discouragement with confidence so that what we're going through can help us grow spiritually.

So what now? If you're feeling discouraged, ask yourself which of the four steps in the reading you're at. Ask God to help you move to the next step and to help you to grow through the experience.

Soulfood: Gen 13-16, Matt 18:21-35, Ps 61, Pro 6:16-19


You are God's child

'In love he predestined us for adoption.' Ephesians 1:4-5 NIV

We all have a need to belong; to have a community of people around us to go to for support, encouragement and love. For many people, their immediate family is their main support. But our friendship, church and work circles provide 'community' for us as well.

Sometimes we can feel like we don't belong anywhere. When we're feeling like that it's important to remember that we belong to God's family. The Bible says: 'He chose us before the world was made so that we would be his holy people - people without blame before him. Because of his love, God had already decided to make us his own children through Jesus Christ. That was what he wanted and what pleased him' (Ephesians 1:4-5 NCV). We never have to worry about our standing or our relationship with God: regardless of race, age or background, when we repent and accept Christ as our Saviour, our adoption into his family becomes permanent. In Romans 8:16 it says, 'The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children' (NIV). And in 1 John 3:1 it says, 'See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are' (NIV)!

Once we realise that we're part of God's family, we find freedom from isolation and fear. We are children of God. We belong, and nothing can change that.

So what now? Listen to the song 'Good Good Father' by Chris Tomlin. Thank God that you're his child and that you belong to his family.

Soulfood: Gen 10-12, Matt 18:10-20, Ps 58, Pro 6:12-15


A clean heart

'Guard your heart...for it determines the course of your life.' Proverbs 4:23 NLT

Throughout the Bible, we're reminded that the state of our heart is important. That's why the Bible says, 'Guard your heart...for it determines the course of your life' (Proverbs 4:23 NLT). If we want to be overflowing with godly things, then we need to make sure that our hearts are pure, and focused on God. When we clean our houses, we go through and remove the rubbish and dirt which has built up. And we need to do that in our hearts too - to clean out the hurts, bad habits and lies that have accumulated.

Cleaning out our hearts may seem like an overwhelming task. But King David prayed, 'Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me' (Psalm 51:10 NIV). We can pray this too, and God will help us have a pure heart.

Sometimes we may be at a point where we've been so hurt, become so bitter, or have gone so far away from the things that God wants for us, that we have become hard-hearted. But even then there is hope. When the Israelites had gone away from God, he said: 'I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh' (Ezekiel 11:19 NIV). And he can do that for us too.

So what now? Draw a picture of a heart. Inside write down all the things that are filling your heart right now, good and bad. Then ask God to help you clean out the parts that need to be removed.

Soulfood: Gen 7-9, Matt 18:1-9, Ps 53, Pro 6:9-11


Get closer to God

'Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.' James 4:8 NKJV

To get to know someone well, we need to spend time with them, ask them questions, and listen carefully to what they say. We can't build great relationships if we're only talking to people when we want something, if we're distracted by our phones, or if we don't let them get a word in edgeways.

We will never know everything about God, but we can get closer to him. The Bible says: 'Draw near to God and he will draw near to you' (James 4:8 NKJV). We have to make space in our day to spend quality time with him. We need to ask him questions and then listen to what he wants to say to us. We need to be reading the Bible and allowing the Holy Spirit to show us new things in its verses. We need to cultivate an attitude like the psalmist, who wrote 'Lord, tell me your ways. Show me how to live. Guide me in your truth, and teach me, my God, my Saviour. I trust you all day long' (Psalm 25:4-5 NCV).

We're called to surrender to God, and this is much easier when we understand more about him. God chose us, he is for us and he is good - knowing this comes through spending quality time with him. Even if it's been a while since we sat silently and listened to God, he always welcomes us back.

So what now? Ask God to help you move closer and closer to him - it will change your perspective on everything.

Soulfood: Gen 4-6, Matt 17:14-27, Ps 40:9-17, Pro 6:6-8


The Holy Spirit with us

'The Holy Spirit... will teach you much... remind you of everything I myself have told you.' John 14:26 TLB

The Bible tells us many things about the Holy Spirit.

Here are a few: (1) The Holy Spirit determines our gifts and skills. The Bible says: 'The one and only [Holy] Spirit... decides which gift each person should have' (1 Corinthians 12:11 NLT). So, if we're feeling like we're not good at anything, we can ask the Holy Spirit to show us what our gifts are. (2) The Holy Spirit guides us. Where we are matters. During a famine, God sent Elijah to the brook Cherith, saying, 'I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there' (1 Kings 17:4 NIV). If Elijah had decided to rather stay where he was, he'd have missed his miracle. When we know God's voice and follow his direction, we experience his blessing. (3) The Holy Spirit can be grieved. 'Do not grieve the Holy Spirit' (Ephesians 4:30 NIV). The Greek word used for 'grieve' can also mean 'to afflict with sorrow' and 'to experience deep emotional pain'. Our sins cause the Holy Spirit sadness. But we don't have to live with guilt and shame; God promises to forgive us when we repent. (4) The Holy Spirit brings freedom. The Bible says: 'Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom' (2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV). In God's presence we find freedom from the things we struggle with or feel trapped by.

So what now? Ask the Holy Spirit to make you more aware of his presence, and to make your heart a place where he feels at home.

Soulfood: Gen 1-3, Matt 17:1-13, Ps 40:1-8, Pro 6:1-5


Compliment rather than compare

'We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.' Romans 12:6 NIV

When we're insecure in our identity, we can find ourselves looking at others as a measurement of our worth. But the Bible says: 'We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us' (Romans 12:6 NIV). God made us all uniquely. He has given us different gifts and skills. The Bible describes this as a body (see 1 Corinthians 12). The body has different parts - eyes, ears, arms, legs - and it's the same with the body of Christ. There are people who can teach, lead, prophecy, encourage - and they're all needed in God's Kingdom.

We can't all be skilled in the same area because that means that nothing would get done. So when someone else does something that we struggle to do, we can thank God that he gave them that gift, rather than comparing ourselves to them and feeling bad about ourselves. On the other hand, sometimes we compare to make ourselves feel better. We see someone not skilled in an area we are and become proud of our ability. The Bible says, 'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves' (Philippians 2:3 NIV).

Let's stop comparing and start accepting the unique identity that God has given us. Let's focus on becoming secure in who we are in Christ.

So what now? When you feel bad about yourself, remind yourself of something you're good at. And, when you're tempted to think you're better than someone else, compliment them instead. Always choose to compliment rather than compare.

Soulfood: Titus 2:1-14, Gen 39:6-12, Pro 25:28


Hand over resentment to Jesus

'Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.' Proverbs 10:12 NIV

When we hold on to resentment we remain 'at war' with people - but ironically that war is also inside ourselves. Resentment is all consuming: we're constantly trying to figure out who's right and who's wrong, and we can spend so much time trying to justify and prove our position as victim that we lose our peace and joy.

When we hold on to resentment, we not only keep the conflict going but we deny ourselves the opportunity to heal. We're the ones who remain unhappy. Resentment can take root in all of us, but it doesn't have to. We can end our conflicts and let go of resentment. It can be easier said than done; it's challenging to let go of hurt. We can't control what other people do, but we can decide how we respond.

God's heart is for us to choose to hand resentment over to him. The Bible says: 'Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs' (Proverbs 10:12 NIV). We need to let the love and peace of God fill us so that it overflows to others - including those who have upset us. What would Jesus do if he was wronged? He'd turn the other cheek (see Matthew 5:39). We need to ask Jesus to help us turn the other cheek and forgive those who have hurt us.

So what now? If you're holding on to resentment, pray this prayer: 'Lord, I'm angry. Help me to let it go. Help me to forgive the person who hurt me and be set free. Amen.'

Soulfood: Ecc 9-12, Matt 16:13-28, Ps 36, Pro 5:21-23

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