A Half-Empty Glass – Philippians 4:11-13

glass half empty“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13, NKJV).

Is the glass half empty or half full?  This expression is commonly used as a litmus test to determine an individual’s worldview. Half full expresses optimism and half empty expresses pessimism.

The Apostle Paul seems like a “glass-half-full” type of guy. Unfortunately, I often fall into the “half-empty-glass” camp…

Sure, I try to look at problems as challenges, troubles as opportunities. But hard as I try, problems are just problems, trouble is just trouble. Although I don’t consider myself a pessimist, I try to avoid problems and trouble, not embrace them!

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Be Strong and Courageous – Joshua 1:1-9

strong_and_courageous“Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!” (Joshua 1:9, NASB).

After Moses died, God commissioned Joshua to take leadership and military command over Israel and lead Israel into the promised land. But there were many evil and unfriendly people inhabiting the land that God promised to Israel. So, God assured Joshua of success in conquering the land for Israel because He would be with Joshua wherever he went.

It’s almost like God was giving Joshua a pep talk before the battle started because three times in this passage God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous” (vs. 6, 7, 9). And then God’s admonition to Joshua is repeated by the officers of Israel’s army to reinforce God’s command (vs. 18).

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Spiritual Specialists – Ephesians 4:7-16

construction_crew“However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ….As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4: 7,16, NLT).

These verses are the opening and closing of a section in which the Apostle Paul describes the spiritual giftings or specialties God bestows “to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (vs. 12).

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Success Story – Deuteronomy 8:18

Success-Arrows-Up“You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18, ESV).

This verse is one of my favorites. Moses is preaching to Israel and preparing them to enter the promised land.

He reminds them of all God has miraculously done in bringing them out of Egyptian slavery and during their wilderness wanderings over the last forty years.

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The Unproductive Disciple – Mark 4:16-19

The Unproductive Disciple - Mark 4:16-19“The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced” (Mark 4:16-19, NLT).

This well-known parable of Jesus has been taught and preached many times over and most of us know its lessons well.

According to Jesus, when the message of the coming of the Kingdom of God is told, there are four categories of people who hear the message.

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Escaping Your Comfort Zone – Acts 8:4-8

“So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the message of good news. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds paid attention with one mind to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the signs he was performing. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed, and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city”  (Acts 8:4-8, HCSB).

Because of the persecution of the church in Jerusalem, the believers were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

Among those who were scattered was Philip, who went to a city in Samaria. Philip proclaimed to the people in that city that Jesus was the Messiah and performed many miracles among them and many people believed his message and were baptized.

The church in Jerusalem had become a megachurch and was adding new members faster than they could count. It seemed that just when things were going great and church growth was exploding, a great wave of persecution targeting these Jewish Christians caused them to scatter throughout the region.

What seemed to be a great success story had now become a tome of tragedy!

But, had this extensive persecution never been perpetrated against the Jerusalem Christians, who knows when they would have got around to fulfilling Jesus’s great commission to “be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (vs. 1:8).

God sends each of us on a mission for Him. But sometimes where God is sending us and what He wants us to do when we get there is, perhaps, beyond the boundaries of our respective comfort zones.

God’s plans and will for us may be located outside the box…of our own plans and wills.

Sometimes it becomes necessary for God to nudge, push, or even shove us out of our comfort zones through bad circumstances. Then, our discomfort helps us escape from our own zone of comfort!

In driving us from our comfort zone, it may be that God is sending us to do something quite different than what we planned to do, or even thought we were capable of doing.

That was certainly the case with Philip. Philip was appointed to help administer the daily food distribution in the church in Jerusalem. But in Samaria Philip was conducting a full-blown preaching-healing-deliverance ministry!

God advanced Philip from a behind-the-scenes administrative role to front-line ministry!

So, what is God sending you to do?

Accept His call, even if it requires you to escape from the comfort zone of your everyday existence.

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you'” (John 20:21, HCSB).