I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” What does that mean? Find out in this video representation of giving thanks called “The Thanksgiving Chair.” How often do you sit in the thanksgiving chair? Who are you teaching to sit there with you?
I have a question for you. Who killed Goliath? (If you don’t know the story of Goliath click here: 1 Samuel 17:1-54.)
David walked on the battlefield. David chose the stone. David swung the sling. David aimed the sling. David slung the stone. David wielded the sword. But who killed Goliath? According to David, God did (cf. 1 Samuel 17:46-47). What a great lesson we gain from this. King Saul wanted David to rely on his armor. That is, he wanted David to rely on the strength of a man. But Saul, though he was head and shoulders above all the Jews, must have known how useless that was. After all, he hadn’t stepped out to face Goliath. David refused to rely on his own strength or his own armor. Instead, he relied on God’s strength.
If we want to face the giants in our lives, we have to learn to rely on God’s strength. But what does that look like? Notice that for David, relying on God’s strength didn’t look like sitting at the edge of the battlefield with legs folded in on themselves, eyes closed, and arms upraised with the thumbs touching the middle-fingers, just waiting on God to send fire from heaven. It meant that David chose a stone, slung a stone, and chopped off a head. To the casual observer it may not have looked like God doing anything. But David did all these things because he was actually relying on God’s strength.
With that in mind, here are 10 practical ways for you to rely on God’s strength every day as you face your giants. These are the ways for you to choose your stones, sling your rocks, and chop of your giant’s head by relying on God.
Way #1: Give Up
I know this sounds odd. But the first practical thing you have to do if you want to beat the giants is give up…surrender. But not to the giants, to God. Today and next Monday, I am going to share 9 other practical ways to rely on God’s strength, but if we don’t get this first point about our attitude and motive right, the others won’t help us. According to 2 Corinthians 12:10, we are only strong when we are weak. Only when we recognize we can’t win will we truly give ourselves over to God and let Him win the victories through us.
If you are like me, you may have tried numerous things to make yourself stronger. “Maybe if I read my Bible more, I’ll be strong enough. Maybe if I pray more, I’ll be strong enough. Maybe if I ‘go to church more,’ I’ll be strong enough.” Do you notice who I’m still focused on there? I’m focused on me being strong enough. I’m still relying on my strength. I’m essentially choosing to put on Saul’s armor and hoping that will help me defeat the giants. I need to recognize I’m not strong enough and, therefore, give up fighting. Instead of doing things to make me strong enough. I need to do things that will connect me to God because He is strong enough.
Way #2: Walk in God’s Presence
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we should “pray without ceasing.” But I don’t want to simply call this tool, “Prayer.” Maybe we can call it “Prayer 2.0.” We need to take prayer to the next level. Instead of praying because it is the daily Christian homework assignment, pray because you are convinced God is right there with you listening. Envision Him as a you would a friend sitting across the table from you or walking beside you. Talk to Him because He is there.
Start your day talking to Him in prayer. Could you imagine waking up next to your spouse, walking around the house with her/him, eating breakfast, getting ready, and never saying a word? I can imagine that. Sadly, it has happened at my house. When? When things were bad. When someone is in our presence and we aren’t talking to them, it means something is wrong with that relationship. So get up and tell God, “Good morning. Please stay with me today.” Tell Him anything else that is on your mind. When you go to bed at night, tell Him, “Good night. Thanks for being with me today.” Tell Him anything you need to unload before going to sleep.
Talk with Him while you go through your day. Share what you are about to do. Ask Him to help with the decisions you are about to make. Follow-up with thanks for blessings that occur. If you fall, talk to Him about why it happened. This helps because it’s hard to gossip about your co-worker if you begin by asking God if He thinks it’s okay. It’s hard to look down a woman’s flapping shirt if you first run it by God to see what He thinks about it.
Way #3: Give Thanks
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says we should give thanks in every circumstance. No doubt, this is part of walking in God’s presence, but it is so important that I want to give it its own special recognition.
Let’s face it. Bad things happen to us all the time. We live in a fallen world. People sin. Because of sin, bad things are going on and we suffer for it. When bad things happen and even good things don’t go my way, I begin to get a little bitter. How about you? I begin to get resentful. I resent my wife, my kids, my friends, my co-workers, my neighbors, my brethren. Worst of all, I begin to resent God. I start to think maybe He is picking on me. Why won’t He let things go my way? This bitterness and resentment leads me to turn away from God and start relying on me. After all, if I don’t take care of me, who will? But this always leads me into sin. When I’m taking care of me, I always get trampled by the giants.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received is about writing a gratitude list. Start your day with one. End your day with one. Maybe even in the middle of the day remind yourself with one. You can obviously just pray your list. But on tough days I urge you to write your list down. Something about writing it makes it real.
What are you thankful for today? Breathing, walking, eating, clothing, cars, home, friends, wife, kids, job, church, ability to read, ability to speak, ability to move, opportunity to read “God’s Way Works”… This list can go on and on. As I unload all the blessings I have received, I begin to realize God isn’t picking on me. I really don’t have it that bad. Actually, lots of things are going my way. Maybe I don’t need to turn to my sins after all. Maybe I can ignore them for another day.
Way #4: Conscious Contact with God through His Word
In Acts 20:32, Paul commended the Ephesian elders to God and the word of His grace. Why? Because it would sanctify them and prepare them for the inheritance God wanted to pass on to them. Like prayer, this was not a daily homework assignment to trudge through and prove they were good enough. It was a source of life. If only God can beat the giants, then connect to Him in His word.
Don’t read the Bible like a newspaper, just trying to get through the day’s news. Listen to God’s word for the help it is offering. Find passages that help you in certain situations and return to them again and again as needed. I return to Psalm 119:145-152 over and over again to remind me that I don’t observe God’s testimonies so He will save me, but I need Him to save me so I will observe His testimonies. I go to Psalm 141:1-5 repeatedly in the face of temptation to remind me to ask for God to take over, setting a guard over me and providing me with others who will provoke me to righteousness. I go to Isaiah 40:28-31 to remind me that God is with me and will get me through whatever I’m facing. I go to Psalm 18:1-3 to remind me how great God is. God’s word really does give life when we use it as a life-giving connection to God instead of a dead homework assignment.
Way #5: Pack the Right Bags
Romans 13:14 says, “…make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Providing for the flesh is not the same as pursuing the flesh. “Making provision” is a picture of getting ready for a trip. When you are going on a trip you to have to make your provisions. That is, you have to pack your bags, plan your lodging, prepare your food, get your money together. You can’t possibly take your trip to Disney World if you haven’t made provisions for that trip. But making the provisions is not exactly the same as the trip itself. So, quit asking yourself if what you are about to do is actually a fleshly, sinful trip. Maybe it isn’t. But maybe it is packing your bags for one. Don’t do that either.
Sometimes the giants beat us because we rely on our own strength. That is, we pack our bags and make provisions to travel in the flesh. We think we can do that for a while but keep from actually taking the trip. The fact is if we pack our bags to travel into the flesh, we are going to submit to the flesh. We just aren’t that strong. Relying on God’s strength means packing our bags to travel with the Spirit. We make preparations to walk in the Spirit and by the Spirit.
Consider an example. Going to a buffet is not the same as committing gluttony (I choose this as an example because I still haven’t met anyone who ever commits, or should I say confesses to, gluttony). Is it a sin to eat at a buffet? No. Can some people eat at a buffet and not commit gluttony? Absolutely. But what if your giant was gluttony. What if it was whooping your backside every time you came onto the battlefield? Then eating at your local Chinese buffet is going to be packing your bags to walk in the flesh. Don’t spend all your time defending how eating there isn’t a sin. That’s not the issue. If you keep walking into a place where gluttony beats you every time, you are packing your bags to get beat by the giants. Rely on God’s strength instead by packing your bags to walk with Him.
Alright, this has gotten long enough as it is. Thanks for sticking with me this far. Come back next Monday and I’ll provide 5 More Ways to Rely on God’s Strength to Beat Your Giants.
I’m reading Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas (Yes, that is an affiliate link. I’m liking it so much, I hope you’ll buy it too). Last week, I read something so profound I knew it had to be this week’s Springboard for Your Spiritual Life.
Consider the Corinthian church. It was seriously messed up. There was all kinds of division. There was immaturity. They were messing up the Lord’s Supper. They were botching up their assemblies. They were even arrogantly having fellowship with a man who was having sexual relations with his father’s wife. (Ugh!)
But notice how Paul began his letter. “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 1:4). WOW!!!
Despite all the junk going on in Corinth, Paul said, “I give thanks for you.” Paul found something to give thanks for even with the Corinthians and he did it always. I’m not sure we can fully mine all the amazing things from this one principle.
If we really want to lead great spiritual lives, gratitude is going to have to be a common practice. We even need to learn to be grateful with people and during times that just don’t seem to deserve it. We can either find all the bad things and talk about how much we hate them. Or we can find some things and thank God for them. I bet you can guess which one will make you a more spiritually minded person.
Here are some potential exercises to help you increase your gratitude. You don’t have to do them all at the same time. But making these a repeated part of your life will definitely improve your spirit and your attitude.
- List 20 things in general for which you are thankful today.
- Pick every member of your immediate family. Now list five things about each one for which you are thankful. I don’t mean, “I’m thankful for their health.” I mean thinks that make you thankful they are in your life.
- Think of 5 people that are causing you a great deal of irritation, stress, sorrow, or angst. Now list something about each one that you are thankful for.
- List 5 things about your job for which you are thankful.
- List 5 things about the congregation of which you are a part for which you are thankful.
- List 10 things about yourself for which you are thankful.
Be thankful today.
P.S. If you’d like to get some more great insights, check out Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.
I’m a little leery to share today’s springboard with you. To do so, I’ll be sharing some of my weaknesses and flaws. However, it is probably good to pass on that really I post these springboards for me; you just get to listen in for free. If you weren’t reading this, I would still post because I put these springboards out to remind me so I can overcome the weaknesses I’ve worked so hard to develop over the past 35 years.
In just the past two weeks, I’ve reached an understanding that has revolutionized my prayer life and deepened my relationship with God.
The background is that for most of my life I’ve handled money abysmally. Even after learning better, old habits died hard. This has left me in the sad position that what others who have planned better might consider small emergencies are DEFCON level 5 crises for me. For instance, we recently had some work done on the Suburban and my friend who did the work basically said, “This might last two weeks, it might last two years, but its time to start looking for something new.” This poses a problem. We don’t have a car savings. Additionally, we are now working our way through the Dave Ramsey approach of getting out of debt. Therefore, we don’t want to borrow money to buy a vehicle.
Add to that, my wife went to the dentist and we learned she has some work that is imminent and extremely costly. And I really do mean extremely. As long as a tooth doesn’t break, we can hold off. But once that happens, then it will be an emergency. Like the car, we don’t have a dental savings. We’re still doing that Dave Ramsey stuff, which means we don’t want to borrow money for this either.
Here’s a separate springboard for you…SAVE MONEY! As Dave Ramsey says, the rain is coming, you need a rainy day fund.
But back to my main thought. In my mind’s eye, because of my own financial folly, I have these two anvils hanging over my head held by fraying strings. At any moment, they’ll come crashing down. Every day, I beg God not to let it happen. However, I’ve been holding out on my thanksgiving. I’ve had the idea that when I have the money to get a new vehicle before the Suburban breaks down, then I’ll give thanks. Or when I have the money to pay for dental work before the emergency hits, then I’ll give thanks.
Here is the problem with that. Each day is spent in amazing fear that today might be the day. When that is my mindset, a wedge is being pushed between me and God. The relationship dwindles. However, just recently, I was thinking about living one day at a time as Matthew 6:34 teaches. It hit me. I haven’t been giving God His due thanksgiving.
Today, the Suburban is still running. Today, Marita’s teeth are still working. Who knows what might happen tomorrow, but today, God has delivered me from these crises. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, I need to acknowledge Him. As I’ve learned to give God thanks for daily victories, I no longer see Him as the adversary. I realize He’s not obligated to stave off the crises coming because of my own folly. Yet, today, He has done so. Therefore, today, instead of being filled with fear about tomorrow, I’m filled with gratitude about today.
The more I see God’s daily victories, the closer I draw to Him. As I offer this thanksgiving and think about the daily blessings God has given me, my faith in Him increases. Who knows, maybe tomorrow will be the day it all comes crashing down. However, I’m learning each day that God will see me through today. When that “today” gets here, He’ll see me through that day as well.
So, today I thank God. He is providing my victory today.
Last week, I shared the Hebrew Dayenu prayer for the Passover with you. What a great prayer form it is. Each line intensifies the previous, demonstrating what an amazing God we serve who blesses us and blesses us again. In last week’s post, I promised I would post my own Dayenu this week. So here it is.
Keep in mind, this is my first attempt at anything like this. So be kind to me. It’s not going to win any poetic awards. I doubt it will go down in history as a famous prayer or ever be in anyone’s devotional prayer book. However, it was a great exercise for me. I encourage you to write your own Dayenu. It is a very practical way to count your blessings.
Unlike the Passover version I shared last week, I wrote mine speaking directly to God instead of about Him. Anyway, I hope this exercise will help me abound with thanksgiving (Colossians 2:7).
My Dayenu: A Prayer of Thanksgiving
If You had given me life and not created a world for me—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If You had created a world and not given me sustenance—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had sustained me and not given me clothing—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given me clothing and not given me a home—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given me a home and not given me parents—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given me parents and not given me a wife—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given me a wife and not given us children—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given us children and not given us health—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given us health and not given us wisdom—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given us wisdom and not given us Your Son—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given us Your Son and not given us forgiveness—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given us forgiveness and not adopted us—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had adopted us and not given us Your Spirit—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given us Your Spirit and not revealed Your Word through Him—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!
If you had given us Your Word and not given us time to grow in it—Dayenu; it would have sufficed!