In 1 Corinthians chapter 2, Paul proclaims he did not use tactics to gain the attention of his hearers. He came with no persuasive words, no brilliant speech, no pizazz of any kind. It wasn’t because he couldn’t, rather it was because his message was so powerful he dared not hinder it by getting in the way:
“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Paul was known for his oratory skills. He was powerfully persuasive. But he didn’t want people to be drawn to him because of his ability to wow them with his words. Paul wanted to make men followers of Jesus by the power of the Spirit rather than the giftedness of Paul.
With the gospel, the power is in the message not the deliverer or delivery.
The secret is in simplicity. Simple leaves room for the message to marinate in the hearts of the hearers. The simple message and truth allows space to think and respond.
Each of us carries the message of the gospel everywhere we go. We are all ambassadors for Christ, sent to tell the world of His good news (2 Cor. 5:20).
Do you feel ill-equipped to share the good news of Jesus? Maybe you see the endless creativity online when others share their messages. You have a message to share too, but it can feel daunting when we feel we have to resort to creative tactics to draw people in. Remember Paul’s example; he carried the simple gospel so as not to distract. We can rest in the simple gospel knowing it’s all we need to share the good news of Jesus. A simple message faithfully shared is better than an eloquent speech never delivered.
Remember the acronym KISS: Keep it simple, sweetie.
Christ, in and through us, will spread a pleasing aroma (2 Cor. 2:14-15) and draw people toward us. They will be ready to hear the good news we have to share because they will want to know the secret for the joy inside. Remember Christ is working in and through you; all you have to do is spread His sweet aroma and share the simple, powerful message of the cross.
Memory Verse: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20
Within moments of praying, she stretched her body across the row of blue vinyl hospital chairs. Closing her eyes, she drifted into what she describes as the deepest sleep she ever remembered experiencing, the Lord’s peace her blanket. When she awakened, the doctor shared the miraculous news that her son was alive and well.
She surrendered the greatest blessing of her life to the Lord and trusted Him whether she faced a loss or a miracle.
In Samuel chapter 1, Hannah longed for a baby, yet as time passed she remained childless. Hannah took her deep wounds and poured out her bitter tears to the Lord promising Him that if He gave her a son, she vowed to give him back to the Lord all the days of his life (1 Sam. 1:11).
The Lord remembered Hannah and blessed her with the son she desperately longed for. And Hannah remembered her vow, “and she said to him, ‘Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord”’ (1 Sam. 1: 26-28).
Hannah waited for the blessing of a son, and when she received it, she opened her hand and released him back to the Lord. Our children are God’s children first. He’s entrusted them to our care, but He loves them more than we do. It’s human nature for us to parent with clenched fists, fretting, and desiring to control what often is uncontrollable. We long for the very best for our children. So does God.
We can surrender our children to the Lord and trust Him no matter what happens out of our control. Children are a blessing and a reward, and we often desire to hold tight to these blessed rewards.
Surrender requires deep trust, but the reward is unshakeable peace.
What deep desires or longings are you holding with clenched fists? Open your hands and surrender them to the Lord. As you open your hands, reach toward God and grasp His hand as you give those deepest cares and concerns back to Him. You can trust Him with anything you place in His loving hands.
Memory Verse: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.” Psalm 28:7
Those battery-powered candles provide a soothing glow to our home each evening. When the batteries are strong, the flames faithfully “ignite” each evening. When the batteries begin to weaken, it warns us by turning on and off sooner than the normal timer is set. When the batteries finally expire, the flames stop providing illumination to our home. Like the batteries in my candle, my faith can weaken over time. Just as a flame needs to be fanned, so does our faith. Faith is not a one-time transaction, but rather a muscle that must be exercised regularly or a flame that must be fanned.
In 2 Timothy 1:6 Paul advises Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
The instruction to fan the flame reminds us that flames need to be tended. They don’t burn on their own for long. Over time they may flicker and wane. Rather than allow apathy to enter our spiritual lives or the harshness of life to impede us, we must carefully nurture our faith.
Paul didn’t leave Timothy wondering how to fan the faith flames God imparted to him. The reminder is the same for us today. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:8, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.,”
It starts with remembering what we already know. Remember Christ!
Remembering Christ resets our hearts on what we know to be true. With each declaration of truth, we fan the flames of our faith.
Do you find yourself feeling worn down by your particular circumstance or season? Remember Christ! He promises when we come to Him with our burdens, He will give us rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Do current events and news reports hang a weight of worry on your soul? Remember Christ! He reminds us to take heart because He overcame the world (John 16:33).
Are you walking through heartbreak and sorrow and feel your faith is a flicker you can barely see? Remember Christ! A day is coming when "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev 21:24).
Remember who He is, that He overcame death and reigns victoriously. Remember He loves you with an everlasting love.
Remember Christ and fan your flames!
Memory Verse: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:11 NIV
The warning didn’t stop there. She told us that a teddy bear cactus could actually leap toward us if we moved too close to it. My mind was spinning trying to envision this man-eating cactus that might attempt to chase me up the path. Apparently, this type of cactus has stems that disconnect quite easily. The spines have barbs that burrow into the muscle fiber and make it painfully difficult to remove. Needless to say, we spent our hike looking more closely for a loose teddy bear cactus stem than we did watching for rattlesnakes.
I’m grateful for the warning about the cactus and even more grateful for the warnings we find in scripture: “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs’” (Luke 12:1-3).
The danger of hypocrisy is how it can lead people astray. It can fool and blind those who are unable to discern. The teddy bear cactus appears to be soft and cuddly, but in reality, it is harmful to us. The Pharisees Jesus warned about were guilty of hypocrisy, and in His kindness, Jesus warned His followers.
Warnings found throughout scripture are there to guide and protect us. They are filled with God’s love, mercy, kindness, compassion, and blessing. Sometimes we hear warnings and choose to ignore them. Sometimes we disbelieve there’s true danger. But when we believe we are hearing a warning from God, we can focus on His nature and character. He loves and cares for us. He desires us to follow truth and not find ourselves at the hands of deception or a prickly, barbed cactus.
In order to strengthen our discernment muscles we can do two things: pray and read the Bible regularly. God delights in answering our requests to become greater discerners in a culture filled with competing ideas to Biblical truth. The more time we spend soaking in God’s Word, the more equipped we are to spot hypocrisy when it presents itself to us. We must be on our guard as Jesus warned us.
As I reflected back to our hike among the prickly teddy bear cacti, I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s faithful warning and protection. He kept me safe from a plant that appeared soft and cuddly but in reality would pierce my skin and cause severe pain. His heart is to keep us on the safe path. His “word is a lamp for our feet, a light on our path” (Psalm 119:105). On His safe path, we can trust that little by little we will see growth.
Memory Verse: “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.” 2 Peter 3:17 NIV
But his mind was made up. God prompted his young heart with generosity, and I knew he was ready to give fully and freely with no holding back.
In 1 Kings 17, God instructed Elijah to go to a widow whom He had commanded to provide for him during the time of famine. The widow was very poor and had nothing to give. She was preparing her last meal for herself and her son, and then she was prepared to die. When she explained her situation to Elijah, he responded to her, “Do not fear” (1 King 17:13). Her situation was scary. Fear was the natural response. If she gave what she had, which was nearly nothing, she would surely die.
When Elijah asked her for water and bread, we understand from her response that God had already prepared her heart for this interaction. We see from her obedience that God had worked in her heart as “She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family” (1 Kings 17:15). God prepared her to be generous, just like he did with my son.
The poor widow on the brink of death gave generously out of her faithfulness to God and His prompting of her heart, and the Lord multiplied her flour and oil.
Do you ever feel a nudge to give generously but wonder if what you have to offer is not enough to make a difference or it would deplete your supply? Maybe it’s your time, or money, a gift, or talent. Sometimes we can look at the little we have and feel we must hold onto it in case we need it. What if we volunteer our time and run out of time for our family? What if we offer to sponsor a child in need and lose our job?
Fear-based questions are natural. However, we don’t need to fear because God is the generosity generator. If God inspires our heart to give, we can trust Him to provide just like he did with the widow.
The year after God nudged my son to give generously to the children in Haiti, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti. It was the direct result of my son’s moved heart that took us so far from home. We were able to see first-hand how small offerings, such as the one my son gave, impacted the lives in the community we visited in enormous ways. We offer what we have, and God does the rest.
When our hearts are prompted, we can give fully and freely without holding back in fear. Friend, we can trust God will provide when He prompts our hearts because He is a generous Provider. Next time God prompts your heart, and you hear His still, small voice, listen and obey. Your faith will grow as you see God in action through your obedient generosity.
Memory Verse: “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25 NIV
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