James 1:2 (ESV)
2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds,
In the middle of trouble, the last thing on most people’s minds is being joyful. When you’re going through trouble, you’re not usually excited about it and most definitely not happy about it. So why does he says consider trouble a good opportunity for joy?
I believe it’s because even in the middle of chaos, you can find joy. Not that you’re excited that you’re going through the difficulty, but rather just at peace knowing that God will see you through.
Even if things are crazy around you, you can choose to have an attitude of joy. You can choose to have a positive outlook and look to God as your source of peace.
So today, evaluate yourself. When trouble comes, how do you respond? Are you able to have joy? Or does the trouble derail you? Remind yourself that God will never leave you alone and that He will see you through this difficult time.
Luke 9:23 (ESV)
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Have you noticed how easy it is to be selfish? You can do it without even trying. It’s so natural to want to look out for yourself and make sure you get what you need out of life. And while looking out for yourself isn’t always bad, when we allow it to consume our lives to the point where we don’t think of others, it isn’t godly.
Jesus tells us in Luke that if we are followers of Jesus we need to turn from our selfish ways and follow Him. That might look like stepping out of your comfort zone to tell someone about Jesus. It might require you to think of others more or serve someone you know that needs help.
Following Jesus isn’t always easy, but it does have rewards. When you choose to live your life to help others rather than always helping yourself, you’ll find that you’re happier and more rewarded. So challenge yourself to live your life to help others.
Psalm 94:19 (ESV)
19 When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.
Life can be really stressful sometimes. There are always deadlines for papers at school, upcoming tests, job interviews and tons of other things that have the potential to bring stress into your life. So how do you handle those situations where the stress of life sometimes feels overwhelming? One of the things to remember is that in the midst of trouble, you’re never alone. God is always there to walk through the situation with you. And while the trouble may not go away, God’s peace is there to comfort you. So even when things get really tough and really crazy, God’s comfort is there to see you through.
2 Timothy 3:5 (ESV)
5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
If you’ve ever played guitar, you know that the more you practice the more your hands get calloused. These callouses form on your fingertips and you begin to lose sensitivity in those areas. Callouses are a natural part of playing guitar, the more you play, the more calloused your hands get.
It’s often easy to develop callouses when it comes to the things of God. For example, it’s really easy to get used to hearing the gospel. You may have heard hundreds of times about God’s love toward you. You might have heard all the stories in the Bible tons and tons of times. If you hear it enough, sometimes you take it for granted or even become a bit calloused to the things of God.
This is an example of living a Godly life, but not really experiencing the power of that life. If you become calloused to the gospel, it means you’re no longer excited about the things of God. As you lose excitement, you begin to stop living in the light of God’s word. Doing this causes the gospel to lose it’s power in your life. So today, choose to not become calloused to the things of God. If you’ve lost some of your excitement for God, determine to spend more time in God’s presence. Choose to make time with Him a priority. Make knowing Jesus the most important thing in your life.
Proverbs 16:32 (ESV)
32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
We often put a lot of emphasis on what we do. If we get good grades or make the winning shot at basketball then we’re a success. And while getting good grades and doing well at sports is really great, they are not all there is to life. Success in life is more than just what you do. It’s also things like having self-control and being patient. Do you have the self-control to say no to peer pressure? Are you patient when things get tough in your life? Often, the difficult times in our lives help us develop character. When things are going good, it’s easy to thank God and be happy. When things are hard and you don’t know if you can go on, that’s when your character is shown. What do you do when you’ve got more homework than time to complete it? What do you do when you’re pressured by your friends to do ungodly things? Who you are and what you do in those situations show off the habits you’ve developed in your life up to this point.
So instead of getting upset by difficulty, try to look at it in a positive light. Difficult situations can be a time for you to grow and practice patience and self-control. Decide to let difficulty make you better. Choose to work on the habits and attitudes of your heart and grow closer to God during these times.
Romans 12:12 (ESV)
12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Have you noticed that people don’t change as quickly as you’d like? Maybe your parents are far from God and they’ve seen great fruit in your life from knowing God, but yet they haven’t made a decision for Him yet. Maybe you have a brother who keeps saying he’s going to change his bad habits but it seems like he never does. How do you stay patient with people who don’t change and do the things you want them to do? It’s difficult loving people who don’t make good choices. Sometimes you just want to yell at them to stop, give them the silent treatment or do something drastic to get them to want to change. The reality is, getting other people to change is almost impossible. So how do you keep a good attitude when others are driving you nuts? One way is by choosing daily to walk in patience toward them. You may not ever get the person to change, but you can choose to change your attitude toward that person. You can choose to be patient when they mess up, when they don’t treat you right, and when they don’t make the choices you’d like them to. Even if they’ve broken promise after promise to you, you’re ultimately in charge of your attitudes. You get to choose if you let them make you bitter. You choose if they cause you to lose your peace. And you get to choose if you stay patient toward them.
So today, if you’ve got a difficult person in your life, don’t give up. Choose to be patient to them. Even when they’re doing those things that make you mad, remember that God loves them. You may never be able to get them to change, but you can choose to have a good attitude in the process. Choose to practice patience and peace today.
12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
A lot of the time we focus on the importance of faith and forget how much patience plays a role in obtaining the promises of God. We need faith because that’s what calls the promises of God into being. However, patience is what will keep you going when you haven’t seen the promise yet. The importance of patience is often overlooked. Patience is what kept Sarah going after she had a promise from God that said she would be a mother. And then year after year, she hadn’t conceived a child. Sarah had to be patient until she received the promise God gave her. God has given us all promises. And yet we often want to give up on the promises of God when trials come. We think it would be easier to give up than to endure. However, you only learn from the trials you endure. Patience is what keeps us going in the middle, between the promise of God and seeing that promise come to pass in our lives.
So today, remember to practice patience. It isn’t easy waiting on the promises God gave you, but remember that God is faithful. If He’s given you a promise He will bring it to pass in your life. You’ve got to just be patient until you see the promise come to pass in your life.
James 1:4 (ESV)
4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Have you noticed how many things in life take time? If you want to get your driver’s license, you’ve got to take driver’s ed classes, study, practice driving and take a test. There are steps to follow and a process for being able to drive legally.
The issue for most of us is that we don’t want to be patient in the process. We want the license but don’t want to put in the time, energy and patience to get the license. We just want that license now.
Today’s Bible verse talks about patience. The choices and attitudes we display while we are waiting show the character of our heart. Patience isn’t easy. It would be easier if the problems we had in your life would just go away and we were immediately successful. However, it’s often when we’re waiting that we have opportunities to develop godly character.
So today, if you’re not where you want to be, stay encouraged. Trust God and trust the process. Learn to be patient and content knowing that in this time of waiting, you’re building character that will set you up for success later in life.
James 1:3 (ESV)
3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
If we’re honest, we all hate being patient. Have you ever prayed and asked God for something and then you had to be patient and wait until you got the results you prayed for?
A lot of times, we are impatient because we haven’t seen the results we wanted to see in our lives yet. We often move too early or stop too soon because we weren’t patient. Being patient is tough and it requires a lot of trust in God. It doesn’t come to us naturally, it’s something we have to work on. However, it’s often in difficulty that we get to develop patience. When things are tough, we often want to move God or help God out to get quicker results. However, it’s when we truly trust God and are patient that we see good results. So today, if there’s something that you’ve prayed for but haven’t seen yet, don’t be discouraged. Look at it as an opportunity to develop patience in your life. Realize that God hasn’t forgotten you or let you down, it just takes some time to see the results you prayed for. Don’t give up or quit too soon, but patiently trust God knowing that He will come through for you.
I borrowed this from Charles Box. He sent it to me this morning and I want to share his thoughts.
Have the courage to be different. Christians have put on the new man. “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) These behavior changes are rooted in a changed heart, but the process is often slow. Here are three simple, spiritual steps that can bring about a big change in our life and in our service to God. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.” Do not be afraid and do not be ashamed to be God’s unique child. Let’s go to heaven together. I love you.
James 1:2-4 (ESV)
2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds
One of the hardest things to do is to have joy during times of trouble. Maybe you feel like things are against you, you’ve got finals coming up and the pressures of keeping your grades up just feels like too much. When things are tough and life is pressing against you harder and harder it becomes difficult to keep your joy.
Often we think that if we can just get the pressure to go away, we’ll have joy. Maybe once finals are over and life is easier we will be happy. Or once school is out and there’s nothing to do but hang out with your friends all summer, then you’ll be happy. However, if we keep waiting for events, circumstances or people to change for us to have joy, we might be waiting a long time.
Instead, we are challenged in the Bible to do what this verse says. When trouble comes your way, consider it an opportunity for joy. It’s not that you’re happy that the trouble is in your life, but rather you realize that regardless of what is going on around you, you can choose to be at peace within.
Things might be difficult, the pressures of life might be coming at you hard, but if you find your joy in knowing who Jesus is and that He is the source of your peace and contentment, it will allow you to find joy in the midst of trouble.
Ephesians 1:6 (ESV)
6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Have you ever struggled with not feeling like you’re accepted? Maybe you feel like you don’t always fit in at school, or you don’t like how you look. There are tons of reasons why you might feel like you’re not accepted.
This verse, however, tells us something different. It tells us that God accepted us. It tells us that God indeed loves us enough to accept us into his family and call us His children. All we have to do is obey the Bible and its teachings.
What we have to do next is to respond to this verse. So when those feelings and thoughts come that tell you there’s something wrong with you, that you’re not accepted or that you don’t fit in, you’ve got to tell them no. You’ve got to tell those thoughts and feelings the truth from the Word of God. The truth is, you’re accepted by God. So choose to think about that and be happy because you’re accepted!
Proverbs 14:14 (ESV)
The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
If you want to be a person full of godly character, you’ve got to pay attention to your habits. The little things you say and do each day make a huge impact on how far you get in life. For example, if you’re out for basketball, but you don’t do any extra running or put in any extra effort at practice, you might squeak by for a while. However, a time will come during a game when you won’t have the energy and endurance like those who put in the work at practice. It’s the little things that you choose to do and the little habits you allow to develop in your life that make a big difference. If you want to achieve great things in life, you’ve got to begin now by putting those good habits into place. So today, choose to put aside habits that are ungodly. Choose to put in the extra effort in the things that you do. As you do a little bit extra every day, you’ll find that you’re able to accomplish great things.
Romans 15:13 (ESV)
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Trusting God can be really hard. Especially when things are not going the way you’d like them to be. Maybe you wanted to go on vacation this summer and you found out you couldn’t go. Perhaps your friend let you down and you don’t know where to turn or who to trust.
Life isn’t easy. However, in the midst of what we’re going through we can still have hope. Even in difficult circumstances, we can believe God for joy and peace.
When we put our trust in God, we can go through the toughest of situations with joy, knowing that we will come out on the other side. So today, take comfort knowing that God is good and that you can make it. Regardless of the difficulty, you can go through it with joy and peace with God on your side.
1 Timothy 4:12 (ESV)
12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
I remember the summer after youth camp that I found this Bible verse. It was life-changing for me. I began to see that as a young person, God wanted to use me. I got the revelation that I didn’t have to wait until I was an adult, I could start making a difference in the world right now.
Perhaps you feel like you are too young or don’t know enough to make a difference for God. However, that is not the case. What you know is enough. You are not too young to be used in a big way by God.
Challenge yourself to be a leader this new year. Decide that you’re not going to just sit back and let life happen to you, but that you’re going to stand up and make a difference in the lives of those around you. Choose to be an example of God’s love to the people around you.
Galatians 6:9 (ESV)
9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
How many times have you been mistreated or felt like life was treating you unfairly? Maybe you’ve been working hard at school and it feels like no one notices. Perhaps you’ve been going the extra mile and it just feels like it’s all been for nothing.
It’s so easy in those times to want to give up. You’ve been working hard and pushing forward as hard as you can, and yet it feels like you haven’t reaped the results of your hard work.
Today’s Bible verse is an encouragement for you if you feel this way. It’s saying that we will reap in time, but the key is not to give up. If you can stay with it and not give up, you’ll be coming out ahead of most people. Many people give up when it gets hard and don’t see things through. However, if you can stick it out and finish well, that’s when you’ll see good results.
So today be encouraged to keep going. Know that if you stick it out, you’ll see good results in your life.
Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV)
My Help Comes from the Lord
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Where do you go when you need help? Do you type in some keywords in Google to find what you’re looking for? Or do you ask some friends for help? Googling or asking other people can be really helpful in situations. However, what happens when Google and your friends don’t have the answers that you’re looking for? Where do you turn?
A few months ago, I ran into a situation at my job where I had no idea what to do. I tried Googling the answer and found nothing helpful. After a few minutes, I kicked myself. It slipped my mind that I had something even better than Google. I could go to God when I needed help.
I asked God for His help and wisdom to know what to do. And guess what? God came through. He gave me an idea of what to do and shortly after that my problem was solved. God wants to help you with your day to day life. He’s not just a God to know on Sunday at church. He wants to be involved and help you out in every situation you encounter. Choose today to go to God for help. Don’t try to live your life in your own strength and ability, but rather lean on God’s help.
Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
One of the keys to having a good attitude when things get tough is adjusting your focus. In life, where you choose to put your focus determines your attitude. If you focus on all the bad things going on around you, you’ll be upset and sad.
Paul is talking in this Bible verse about forgetting the past and looking forward to what is ahead. That is the key to being happy regardless of your circumstances. If you can look forward to the future, you’ll be much happier.
So instead of being upset about how this year at school is much harder than last year, or focusing on how your algebra teacher is always treating you unfairly, choose to adjust your focus. In the middle of difficult circumstances, you can find happiness by looking forward to what lies ahead. Maybe you get to switch classes next semester. Perhaps you get to go out for track in the spring. Whatever it is, find something in the future to look forward to. Having a goal and something to look forward to will help you find happiness in your current situation.
2 Corinthians 5:16 (ESV)16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
Once we have Jesus as our savior, everything changes! We are made new in Christ Jesus and our whole outlook on life is different. We don’t only see things from a human point of view. Also, we don’t view other people based on their social status, family, or what they do for a living.
The death and ascension of Jesus broke down every barrier that separated us from God. We view ourselves and others now in the light of what Jesus did for us. We realize that Jesus died for the whole world. This means that each person has value. Each person is important to God.
This should change how we view others. We shouldn’t look only at outward things when viewing other people. Instead, we should see them as Jesus sees them. He sees them as someone who has extreme value and worth.
Choose to look at others with a different point of view. See them from God’s perspective and choose to love them regardless of who they are or what they do.
Ephesians 1:4 (ESV)
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
Have you ever been chosen last when your friends picked teams in a game? I wasn’t that great at sports and so when I got picked last for a team at recess I hated it! I always wanted to be better at the game and wished that I could avoid getting picked last.
No matter how good or bad you are at a sport or a team, it doesn’t really matter. It’s being chosen that makes you important. And the good news is, God not only did God choose you, but He chose you first. This verse says that God chose you before he made the world. He chose you first. He loved you and wanted you to be a part of His family. So regardless if you feel unloved, chosen last, or ignored, that’s not the truth. God loves you and He chose you first!
James 1:3 (ESV)
3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
If we’re honest, most of us would like to avoid tests and trials in life. No one likes going through hard times. However, this Bible verse shows us something really great about the tests of life. It tells us that those tests produce endurance in our lives.
Many times, athletes will undergo endurance training to help them become better in the sport they play. They train their bodies and their minds to withstand for long periods of time. This produces results like overall feeling better and having more energy.
In the same way, we can grow in endurance training spiritually too. Each difficulty in our life gives us another chance to trust in God and each test can help make us better. If we let them, the tests and trials in life can be a way for us to learn to trust God in new ways, and to learn and grow in endurance. So the next time you’re faced with a test in life, you can be encouraged by what this Bible verse says. Realize that even though the trials can be hard, that they’re producing character in your life and if you let them, these trials can bring you to rely more fully on God.
1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Sometimes it can be really hard to do your best. Maybe you have a teacher at school who never gives out grades that you feel are fair, so you want to stop even trying. Or perhaps you’ve got a boss at work who never seems to notice how hard of a worker you are and you’re frustrated.
It can be really easy in life to let what others think and say discourage us from doing our best at school or a job. However, we shouldn’t be letting other people have the final say in how hard we work.
We should be doing all things for God. So regardless of whether your boss or teachers notice, you should always be doing your best. God notices and he will reward you in time. So challenge yourself to do your best in everything you tackle each day. Take pride in working hard and you’ll be excited to see how far that attitude takes you.
Philippians 3:14 (ESV)
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
If you’re like most people, you’ve set some goals for the new year. Maybe you want to lose some weight, read your Bible more, or some other thing. You’ve probably written those things down, but it’s easy after a few weeks to forget about your goals and stop moving toward them. The key to accomplishing any goal is to take small steps toward the goal and not quit. If you keep moving in the direction of your goal, even when it gets hard and you’d rather do something else, you’ll have good results.
If you want to read your Bible more, don’t wait for a huge chunk of time and then read your Bible for 3 hours straight. Instead, press a little each day toward your goal. For example, choose to read your Bible for five minutes before you go to bed each night. Use little moments and make them count. Doing that will make you more likely to succeed and accomplish your goals.
Choose today to pursue godly goals and keep pressing toward them until you’ve seen them come to pass in your life. Don’t stop. Keep taking steps every day to your goals.
Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)
Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.
In yesterday’s devotion, we talked about the importance of writing your goals and dreams down. You should be setting goals and dreaming big for your future. However, there’s one thing you should remember in all your dreaming and goal setting, and that’s to keep God involved. Your goals will never succeed if God isn’t in them. The right goal plus the right timing is what you need to get from God. Only God knows if the timing is right for your goal. There may be some goals that He tells you to wait on. Others He may tell you to move forward on. The main thing is to get God’s timing on your goals. Getting God involved with your plans and goals this new year is important. God wants your goals and plans to succeed. So get Him involved. Pray over the goals you set for the new year. Ask Him for wisdom to help you make good decisions.
Habakkuk 2:2 (ESV)
2 And the Lord answered me:
“Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
Today’s Bible verse talks about writing things down. God tells us to do that because there’s power in writing down your goals, thoughts, and vision. By writing things down, you are being proactive. You’re choosing to not let life happen to you, but rather to do something to make your dreams come to pass.
Also, writing things down is a great way to celebrate what God is doing in your life. You might write down a goal or dream for this year and then you can look back next year and see that God helped you accomplish that goal. If you hadn’t written the goal down, you’d never be able to see what God did. Sometimes the things you write down might be for the future. Others might be practical or just fun. Whatever they are, write them down. Find a good notebook or piece of paper and put them in your locker at school or your bedroom at home. Seeing them daily will help remind you of the things you want to accomplish and challenge you each day to make small steps toward seeing them come to pass. This year if you haven’t, choose to write down some goals and dreams for your life. And then ask God for His wisdom on how to accomplish them. You’ll be excited to look back and see what God does through you this coming year!