What Faith Does To Your Dreams

Glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Faith turns God-given dreams into reality. Nothing happens until somebody starts dreaming! 

The Bible is full of people who had God-given dreams. Abraham dreamed of being the father of a great nation. Moses dreamed of setting God’s people free. Joseph dreamed of saving a nation and his own family. Throughout Scripture, there are all kinds of people who were inspiring dreamers, like Daniel and Paul and David. 

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes”.

Now, if there were ever a “blank check” verse in the Bible, that’s it. God is able to do far more than we would dare to ask. What are you afraid to ask God for? He is able to do far more than we could even dream of.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty big dreamer. I can think of some pretty big dreams I’ve had in my lifetime. God says, “Shane, think of the greatest thing you could ever dream of, the greatest thing you think I could do in your life. Guess what? I can top that.”

If there were tears in Heaven, it would simply be because we would get there and realize all the things that we could have done if we had just believed God a little bit more. To me that would be Hell! Hell for me would be being shown everything I could have accomplished and if I had just believed God a little bit more.

But there aren’t any tears in Heaven, and God gives you everything you need right now to accomplish what he has planned for you. I want to challenge you to dream big about your relationships, your marriage, your family, and your career. Your faith can turn those dreams into reality, because God is able to do far more than we would dare to ask or even dream of.

Record What God Teaches You

It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off.”Hebrews 2:1

As you grow to spiritual maturity, you’ll have to cooperate with God in the process. One way to do that is to believe God is working in your life, even when you don’t feel it.

Spiritual growth is sometimes tedious work one small step at a time. Expect gradual improvement, not giant leaps.

The Bible says, “Everything on earth has its own time and its own season” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Your spiritual life has seasons too. Sometimes you will have a short, intense burst of growth (spring) followed by a period of stabilizing and testing (fall and winter).

What about those problems, habits, and hurts you would like miraculously removed? It’s fine to pray for a miracle, but don’t be disappointed if the answer comes gradually. Over time, a slow, steady stream of water will erode the hardest rock and turn giant boulders into pebbles. Even a little sprout, given enough time, can turn into a giant redwood tree towering 350 tall.

To help you recognize your own spiritual growth, keep a notebook or journal of lessons learned. This is not a diary of events, but a record of what you are learning. Write down the insights and life lessons God teaches you about him, yourself, life, relationships, and everything else. These recorded lessons will become a sort of a spiritual growth chart. Record these lessons so you can review and remember them and pass them on to the next generation (see Psalm 102:18 and 2 Timothy 3:14).

When you forget lessons, you have to relearn them. Reviewing your spiritual journal regularly can help you remember what you’ve learned, sparing you a lot of unnecessary pain and heartache. The Bible says, “It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off” (Hebrews 2:1).

Getting Back On Course

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

No matter how far away from God you have drifted, you’re always welcome back. That’s the lesson from Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son–the foolish boy who followed a pleasure-filled path to ruin before returning to his father and finding redemption (Luke 15:11-32). Perhaps ruin has not yet come to you, but you know that your heart has grown cool to the things of God. Whatever your drifting story, make this the day that you point yourself back to the Lord.

As with any sin, the first motion toward getting back on course is to acknowledge that you have slipped away from the Lord. Then you confess and repent, which is like turning your boat in the opposite direction and paddling toward God with all your strength. If you’re wondering exactly how to do that, I suggest a strategy I use every morning. Before I step out of bed, I give myself to God by acknowledging, I surrender my entire life to You for this day. When something comes up that runs counter to His plan and I consider pursuing it, the Holy Spirit reminds me that I am not my own. Only God’s way will do for me.

Every day we choose whether to row or drift. As for me, I choose to vigorously pursue God.

Peter gives a warning to be on guard against attitudes and ideologies that would carry you away from truth (2 Peter 3:17). Instead, choose to paddle your lifeboat toward the Lord by meditating on Scripture, praying, and living obediently. Practicing the spiritual disciplines keeps a heart warm toward God.

Forgive Because God Forgave You

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

We will all be hurt in this life. Many times we’ll be hurt intentionally by what people say about us or what people do to us. In fact, any time we read the word “forgiveness” we instantly call to mind certain heartaches, hurts, and problems from our past. The memories are still fresh because we’ve been hurt very deeply. 

Because of how deeply we’ve been hurt, it’s hard to consider forgiving the perpetrators. But the Bible gives us one very important reason we need to forgive.

We forgive others because God forgave us. 

The Bible says in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”. Ponder how much God has forgiven you, and it’ll cause you to be more forgiving of those who have hurt you.

The converse is also true. If you don’t feel forgiven, you’ll have a hard time forgiving others. If you typically have a tough time forgiving others, you may not truly feel forgiven yourself.

Think of it like this: God has completely wiped your sin slate clean because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. All of the things you deserve to be paid back for have been cleared away because God has forgiven you. Own that statement for yourself, and you’ll find it increasingly tough to hold a grudge against someone else.

Remember this: No matter what anyone does to you, you’ll never have to forgive any other person more than God has already forgiven you.

How Do You Treat People Who Serve You

Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

One of the greatest tests of your character is how you treat people who are trying to serve you. Whether it’s a waitress, a waiter, a clerk, an employee, a secretary, your children, or your spouse, how you treat those who serve you tells me a great deal about you. 

Jesus tells us, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). That may be the simplest yet most important character test in the Bible.

The best place to practice this important character trait of respect is at home. More marriages are ruined by rudeness than anything else. When I used to do marriage counseling, I was amazed at how many marriages are buried by one little dig after another. 

Often we’re the most disrespectful to the people we care about the most. I know people who treat their families in ways they would never treat a stranger.

Courtesy is just love in the little things. It’s showing respect for people by being kind even in the smallest areas of our lives.

Four Secrets To Answered Prayer

Then [Nehemiah] said, ‘O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! … I confess that we have sinned against you .… Please remember what you told your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored” …. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.’” (Nehemiah 1:5-11)

Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah:

  1. Base your request on God’s character. Pray like you know God will answer you: “I’m expecting you to answer this prayer because of who you are. You are a faithful God. You are a great God. You are a loving God. You are a wonderful God. You can handle this problem, God!” 
  2. Confess the sins you’re aware of. After Nehemiah based his prayer on who God is, he confessed his sins. He says, “We have sinned.” It wasn’t Nehemiah’s fault that Israel went into captivity. He wasn’t even born when it happened, and he was most likely born in captivity. Yet he’s including himself in the national sins. He says, “I’ve been a part of the problem.” 
  3. Claim the promises of God. Nehemiah prays to the Lord, saying, “I want you to remember what you told your servant Moses.” Can you imagine telling God to “remember”? Nehemiah reminds God of a promise he made to the nation of Israel. In effect, he prays, “God, you warned through Moses that if we were unfaithful, we would lose the land of Israel. But you also promised that if we repent, you’d give it back to us.” Does God have to be reminded? No. Does he forget what he’s promised? No. Then why do we do this? Because it helps us remember what God has promised.
  4. Be specific in what you ask for. If you want specific answers to prayer, then make specific requests. If your prayers consist of general requests, how will you know if they’re answered? Nehemiah was not hesitant to pray for success. He’s very bold in his praying. Have you ever prayed, “Lord, make me successful?” If you haven’t, why haven’t you? What is the alternative? A failure? 

Is it OK to ask God to make you successful? It all depends on your definition of success! I believe a good definition of success is “fulfilling God’s purpose for my life in faith, love, and the power of the Holy Spirit and expecting the results from God.” That is a worthy life objective that you should be able to pray for with confidence.

Consider this: If you can’t ask God to make you a success at what you’re doing, you should be doing something else. God doesn’t want you to waste your life.

Four Steps In Fighting Spiritual Warfare

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

There are four things we need to do when we are battling spiritual warfare in our lives:

  1. Acknowledge the adversary. Satan is real (1 Peter 5:8-9). Why would God send his Son to fight what does not exist? The Bible says in 1 John 3:8, “The Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil”. When you’re being attacked, it’s proof that you’re a believer. The more you make an impact for God, the more the Devil is going to fight you. You never outgrow it; it just gets more intense.
  2. Accept God-given authority. Most believers are ignorant about the authority they have to use against the Devil. Matthew 28:18-19 says we have all authority in heaven and earth. Then Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples”. He transfers the authority to you and me. He does that because he’s given us a specific mission (2 Corinthians 5:20).
  3. Put on God’s armor. When Paul wrote about the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), he was in prison chained to a Roman guard. Paul used the Roman centurion as a model for spiritual armor. Paul says, just as the Roman soldier is properly dressed to do battle, we also need to be dressed for battle. For instance, I will often pray, “Lord, I put on the helmet of salvation that will protect me from the thoughts the Devil will try to give me. I don’t want to think the Devil’s thoughts. I don’t want to think my thoughts. I want to think your thoughts, so that that I may be a voice for you. I put on the belt of truth. Lord, I want to share the truth, not falsehood. I want to lead people into righteousness.”
  4. Aim the artillery. The battlefield for spiritual warfare is primarily in your thought life (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The weapons God gives us to use demolish arguments are humility, faith, truth, and praise. Take every thought captive!

How To Help Someone Find Hope And Healing: (Part 2)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Have you ever felt that someone was a hopeless case? That they never were going to come to Christ? Maybe it was an alcoholic relative, a drug-addicted parent, or a codependent neighbor—someone with a hurt, hang-up, or habit that kept them from knowing God.

The truth is, no one is outside of Jesus’ reach!

Yesterday you learned about the importance of small groups in helping “hopeless” people find healing. We looked at the story in Luke 5 of a group of men bringing their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed. That story showed three characteristics (compassion, faith, and intervention) of a small group that God uses to heal. Today we’re going to look at four more characteristics:

Persistence. You may get discouraged as you try to reach your family, friends, and acquaintances with the Gospel. But you can’t give up! The friends in Luke 5 didn’t let difficulties discourage them. It didn’t matter that crowds were between them and Jesus. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”.

Innovation. These friends dared to do something different. It’s pretty innovative to get up on a roof and tear it apart to get a guy to Jesus. Imagine the mess they made! Ministry is messy because it involves people. Small groups that won’t step out of the box won’t be willing to be messy enough to be instruments of healing.

Cooperation. Obviously, these men worked together to bring their friend to Jesus. It was too big of a job for one guy. It’s the same way with small groups. People come to Christ faster when they do it in the context of a supportive small group. A supportive community is a powerful witness for God.

Sacrifice. Have you ever wondered who paid for the roof after this story? I think the group of friends did. They wouldn’t just tear it up and leave it for someone else to fix. Whether it’s time, money, effort, or something else, there is always a cost to bringing someone to Christ. Luke 16:9 says, “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home”. Small groups must be willing to make sacrifices if they’re going to be agents of healing in the world.

God wants to use you to bring healing to those without hope. But he doesn’t expect you to do it alone. Form a good small group of Christians. Then ask God for the persistence, innovation, cooperation, and sacrifice it will take to reach the hopeless with the hope of the Gospel.

How To Help Someone Find Hope And Healing

“Therefore Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”Hebrews 7:25

Do you know someone who seems like a hopeless case someone who seems like they’ll never come to Christ? Maybe you once thought you were a hopeless case yourself.

I’ve found that a small group is the best place for a hopeless person to find healing. One of the parts I like best about being in a small group is that you can pray together for hopeless cases. And you can lean on the faith of each other when you start to doubt.

Luke 5 tells a great story of a small group of men who took a friend who was paralyzed and in need of healing to the feet of Jesus. Those men did what small groups of Christian friends still do today they take you to Jesus when it feels too hard to get there by yourself.

In this story, you find seven characteristics of a small group that God uses to heal. Today we’re going to look at three of those characteristics, and tomorrow we’ll look at the rest. Here are the first three:

Compassion. This man was healed because his friends cared. It all starts with you caring about people who are hurting. Romans 15:2 says, “We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord”. God used these guys because they were sensitive to a friend’s need. And he’ll use you when you aren’t preoccupied with your own needs and when you start caring more about others than you do yourself.

Faith. The men believed God would heal their friend. Take a look at Luke 5:20: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’” . It wasn’t the paralytic’s faith that made him well; it was the faith of his friends. How many people do you know who are so paralyzed they can’t believe in God? That’s when you have to believe for them.

Intervention. These friends didn’t just pray for their friend; they took action as well. They intervened! It’s not enough just to pray for someone who is hurting and caught in sin. You also have to do something. Jesus says in Luke 14:23, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full”. The Bible is full of examples of people taking others to Jesus.

So remember when you’re with a friend in need of hope and healing, show compassion, have faith, and intervene on your friend’s behalf. No one was made to do life alone. God made us to need each other.

Nothing Worthwhile Is Ever Easy

“Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

Many different things can keep you from completing your life mission. Over the years, I’ve debated whether the worst enemy is procrastination or discouragement. If Satan can’t get you to put off your life mission, then he’ll try to get you to quit altogether.

The apostle Paul teaches that you need to resist discouragement: “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Do you ever get tired of doing what’s right? I think we all do. Sometimes it seems easier to do the wrong thing than the right thing.

When you’re discouraged, you become ineffective. When you’re discouraged, you work against your own faith.

When you’re discouraged, it’s as if you’re saying, “It can’t be done.” That’s the exact opposite of saying, “I know God can do it because of what he said.”

As you consider how well you resist discouragement, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I handle failure?
  • When things don’t go my way, do I get grumpy?
  • When things don’t go my way, do I get frustrated?
  • When things don’t go my way, do I start complaining?
  • Do I finish what I start?
  • How persistent am I?

If you’re discouraged, it’s time to resist. Don’t give up without a fight. Nothing worthwhile ever happens without endurance and energy.

When an artist creates a sculpture, he has to keep chipping away. He doesn’t hit the chisel with the hammer once, and suddenly all the excess stone falls away, revealing a beautiful masterpiece. He keeps hitting and hitting, chipping away at the stone.

That’s true of life too. Nothing really worthwhile ever comes easy. You keep hitting it and going after it, and little by little your life becomes a masterpiece of God’s grace.

The fact is that great people are really just ordinary people with an extraordinary amount of determination. Great people don’t know how to quit. The next time you feel discouraged, remember God is with you and God is for you.

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