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Posts tagged ‘Spiritual Encouragement’

Battling the Blues – Spiritual Encouragement

Spiritual EncouragementC.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, imagines correspondence between an old devil, Screwtape, and a young demon, Wormwood, whom Screwtape is mentoring.

In one letter, Screwtape writes, “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human … looks round upon a universe from which every trace of our Enemy seems to have vanished, asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

Interact with God’s Word:  Psalm 119:81-83

  1. The image of a shriveled-up wineskin (v. 83) is from a different era, but do you get the picture? Have you felt like this?
  2. How does the writer feel (v. 81) about the prospect of God rescuing him?
  3. How does he choose to deal with the God’s apparent absence?
  4. Does the fulfillment of God’s promises (v. 82) seem far off to you?
  5. What is the psalmist’s big question for God?
  6. How might God respond to a question like this: dramatically? In a still, small voice? Not at all?
  7. What conclusion would a person who trusts appearances draw?
  8. How is it possible to respond the way the psalmist did?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for strength to cling to His promises when you can’t feel His presence.

Psalm 119:81-83

81 I am worn out waiting for your rescue,
but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.
When will you comfort me?
83 I am shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke,
but I have not forgotten to obey your decrees.

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

 

Battling the Blues – Cure Cultivation

Spiritual EncouragementKey Bible Verse: You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11

Bonus Reading: Psalm 112:1-10

Psychiatrist Milton Erickson was a guest in the Milwaukee home of a man concerned about his very old, wealthy, and depressed aunt. At this friend’s request, the doctor visited her.

The blinds were closed throughout her Victorian mansion—except for one room full of gorgeous African violets. On entering, it Dr. Erickson abruptly exclaimed, “I see what your problem is.”

“Oh?” she warily replied.

“You’re not really a very good Christian.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have this great gift for growing African violets,” the doctor explained, “yet you keep it all to yourself. If I were you, I’d get your church bulletin, and whenever someone had a birthday, death, wedding, anniversary, or whatever, I’d take them one of your plants as a gift.” He soon left and never encountered the depressed woman again.

As he told this story to a group of students, Dr. Erickson pulled out an old newspaper clipping: “African Violet Queen of Milwaukee Dies, Mourned by Thousands.” A student raised his hand. “Why did you have her give out plants instead of treating her depression?” he asked.

“It would be easier, I decided, to grow the African violet part of her life than to weed out the depression.”

—Greg Smalley in HonorBound magazine

My Response: What gift have I kept to myself that I should share with others?

Thought to Apply: I’ve learned that the best way to lift one’s self up is to help someone. —Booker T. Washington

Adapted from HonorBound magazine (4-5/02)

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

 

Battling the Blues – Swallowed Pride

Spiritual EncouragementKey Bible Verse: Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is there no healing for … my people?  – Jeremiah 8:22

Bonus Reading: Psalm 142:5-7

Lewis Smedes, a teacher of mine in seminary, was one of the best writers and preachers I’ve known. Although he was brilliant, accomplished, and devoted to God, he suffered from a sense of inadequacy that at times grew into deep depression.

God came to him through two avenues. One was a three-week experience of utter solitude, where he so vividly heard God promise to hold him that he felt lifted from a black pit straight up into joy. The other avenue he describes this way: “I have not been neurotically depressed since that day, though I must tell you that God also comes to me each morning and offers me a 20 milligram capsule of Prozac. He clears the garbage that accumulates in the canals of my brain overnight and gives me a chance to a fresh morning start. I swallow every capsule with gratitude to God.”

I used to think that taking Prozac would be a sign of weak faith in God. But what if Prozac might be his gift? What if refusing might be spurning his hand because of pride? Maybe God is present in wise doctors and medication that makes synapses and neurotransmitters work right. Maybe weakness is really refusing—out of our own blindness and stubbornness—the help that God is offering.

—John Ortberg in God Is Closer than You Think

My Response: How might I benefit from the help of a counselor?

Thought to Apply: The Christian’s chief occupational hazards are depression and discouragement. —John Stott

Adapted from God Is Closer than You Think (Zondervan, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

 

Battling the Blues – Brilliant Plan Backfires

Spiritual EncouragementKey Bible Verse: Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise … promises a reward in both this life and the next. 1 Timothy 4:8

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 40:27-31

Kenneth Cooper, M.D., famous for popularizing aerobic fitness, tells about a fellow who was depressed.

It seems this poor guy didn’t want to live anymore, but he knew that if he committed suicide, his wife and kids wouldn’t be able to collect his insurance. So he decided to “jog himself to death” so it would look as if his death was accidental.

The first evening, he put on his jogging clothes, kissed his wife and kids goodbye, and ran out the front door. But because he wasn’t in very good shape, his legs gave out before his heart did. Disappointed but not dissuaded, he limped home, showered, and went to bed.

The second evening it was the same story: his legs gave out, but his heart didn’t.

Every evening for the next month the fellow repeated his ritual of kissing his family goodbye and running out the front door. Then something began to happen that he hadn’t expected—his depression disappeared.

If you’ve been feeling a little ragged, see if you can make time before a meal to go for a brisk walk or jog. Or find some other activity you enjoy. The best thing to do when you’re feeling down in the mouth is get up on your feet.

Hope Heart Newsletter

My Response: What enjoyable activity takes your mind off your troubles?

Thought to Apply: When you’re depressed, the worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better.  —Charlie Brown

Adapted from Hope Heart Newsletter

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

 

Battling the Blues – Un-Slump Yourself

Spiritual EncouragementKey Bible Verse: I think of the good old days … I search my soul and think about the difference now. Psalm 77:5-6

Bonus Reading: 1 Kings 10:9b-18

[continued from yesterday]  I realized that I’d grown accustomed to sleeping on my arm. My soul had gone past the tingling stage; it felt numb and listless. Dr. Blakeslee had more to say: “Bill,” he told me, “sometimes you need to let go of an impure form of security in order to grab hold of a pure form of insecurity.”

It was like suddenly solving a mind-twisting riddle. In a flash I saw his meaning. I realized that I’d held on to work and ministry for security. My stubborn unwillingness to let go of one or both had corrupted my soul. I had believed the lie that a growing ministry and financial security would lead to contentment.

I was resolved to leave the dark, lifeless world of depression, but rolling over would mean taking the risk of grabbing something less secure. Frankly, I didn’t know if I had the courage to walk away from my job. It seemed almost like bungee jumping without a harness and cord. What if God didn’t stop my fall?

Eventually I took the leap and embraced a new direction that offered no financial security and uncertain success. I quit my writing job and later resigned from the church I pastored in order to launch a national men’s ministry. I knew I had grabbed a pure form of insecurity.

—Bill Perkins in Six Rules Every Man Must Break

My Response: I need to let go of ____ and then grab hold of ____.

Thought to Apply: When you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.  —Dr. Seuss (children’s book writer & illustrator)

Adapted from Six Rules Every Man Must Break (Tyndale, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

Battling the Blues – When Life Tingles

Spiritual EncouragementKey Bible Verse: You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray!  – Psalm 77:4

Bonus Reading: 1 Kings 19:1-9a

I am not by nature a depressed guy. But several years ago I suffered a bout of clinical depression—meaning I was depressed for more than two weeks. How did I get into such a dark place?

My therapist, Dr. David Blakeslee, helped me realize that I’d developed an unhealthy ability to persevere. That’s right, I didn’t know when to quit. Twenty years earlier I’d resolved that once I started something I’d never throw in the towel. After all, if I hung in there long enough I’d outlive most of my problems and a lot of the competition.

I was writing over 500 words a day for publication as well as preparing a sermon every week. I was also leading a church and caring for my family. These activities provided me with a growing ministry and a sense of financial security, and—oh, yes—burnout.

“Bill,” Dr. Blakeslee asked one day, “if you were sleeping on your arm and it began to tingle, what would you do?”

“I’d roll over.”

“That’s right,” he said. “Yet when you’re involved in something that’s causing you mental and emotional pain, you refuse to roll over. You believe God wants you to hang in there even when it’s destroying you.”

As he spoke I heard a mental gear fall into place, cla-clink!   [continued tomorrow]

—Bill Perkins in Six Rules Every Man Must Break

My Response: What area in my life is “tingling” right now?

Adapted from Six Rules Every Man Must Break (Tyndale, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

 

Battling the Blues – The Road Test

Spiritual EncouragementWho Said It … Wayde Goodall

Wayde Goodall pastors a thriving Assemblies of God congregation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In addition to theology, he has studied counseling and psychology.

Wayde and his wife Rosalyn were previously missionaries in Austria, where they founded the Vienna Christian Center, one of Europe’s largest evangelical churches.

Dr. Goodall is an author, has hosted the TCT television network, and coaches other pastors.

What He Said … The Road Test

Living in the Wake Forest-Duke-North Carolina University “triad,” I can attend many ACC basketball games. When playing at home, the rush that comes to a team from the affirming crowd is amazing. A team at the bottom of the conference has been known to take down the top-rated leader.

But to be the best, I’ve discovered, a team has to know how to win on the road. The discouraging drain that comes from an away-game crowd can take a talented team down in front of the nation. Their skill, lineup, or experience didn’t change—just how they felt. To win on the road, players must learn to ignore negative emotions.

We all have moods—it’s just a matter of degree. For any of us, the pressures of life can add up. Too much pressure in too short a time can overwhelm anyone. Most of us don’t have a psychological disorder. But thinking you aren’t susceptible is a mistake. Learn to fight through your down times while paying attention to possible burnout or depression.

Adapted from Why Great Men Fall (New Leaf, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

Encouraging One Another Through the Holiday Season

Colossians 4:7-18

Final Greetings

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant[a] in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our[b] circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews[c] among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

During the Christmas holidays, people will send various greeting cards to many people. The purpose of the greeting card is to encourage other people during the holidays. Here, we see that Paul is writing in this section one large greeting card addressed to different people. How would you use your greeting card to encourage others during this holiday season? You know that you don’t have to stop with just greeting cards. You can encourage others who need to hear and read a word of encouragement during this holiday season.

This section is made with a set of greetings. Like a set of greeting cards, Paul shares words of encouragement with others. Since as Christians spread the good news, we should encourage one another.

This section deals with various people in the church. Paul lists groups of people who are associated with the church at Colossae. He shares important insights about each group listed. His purpose is to remind the church that they should encourage one another.

Why?  Because life is challenging.  We all go through various challenges and we need to encourage one another.

10 EXAMPLES OF ENCOURAGING OTHERS

1. Encourage others who serve – Tychicus

The first example of someone I need to encourage are those who serve around me.

“Tychicus, our dearly loved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and so that he may encourage your hearts.” (Colossians 4:7–8, CSB)

Tychicus is an example of a servant. Tychicus encouraged others by serving. He was very dependable. He served Paul and helped him in his work. He also served other people and the churches. Paul sent Tychicus on various missions to different churches:

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me in Nicopolis, because I have decided to spend the winter there.” (Titus 3:12, CSB)

I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus.” (2 Timothy 4:12, CSB)

There are people whom God sends in our lives to whom we become servants. He can encourage other people by the way we serve them.

2. Encourage others to grow in their faith – Onesimus

A second example of people I need to encourage as a Christian, who are new to the faith.

“He is coming with Onesimus, a faithful and dearly loved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.” (Colossians 4:9, CSB)

Onesimus is an example of someone who is younger in the faith. He was from Colossae and he was new to the faith.

Paul also mentioned Onesimus (“one of you”) who himself came from Colossae. He was the runaway slave who belonged to Philemon and who had been won to Christ through Paul’s ministry in Rome. Paul sent Onesimus back to his master with a letter asking Philemon to receive him and forgive him. It is interesting to note that Paul also called Onesimus faithful and beloved. Onesimus had been a believer only a short time, and yet he had already proved himself to Paul.

3. Encourage others through difficult times – Aristarchus

Aristarchus stayed with Paul during what seemed like very difficult times. He stayed with Paul during thick and thin. He was probably a prisoner of war, who understood what imprisonment was like. Aristarchus stayed with Paul no matter what the circumstances were—a riot in Ephesus, a voyage, a storm, or even a prison.

4. Encourage others through times of failure – Mark

Mark failed Paul earlier in ministry. Paul makes a special note here to encourage and welcome Mark when he comes. Mark is a reminder of people who have failed you in the past. People who have made mistakes need encouragement as well. They may feel sensitive about their failures and they need to be encouraged to continue in the faith and ministry.

Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, CSB)

5. Encourage others to build bridges and work together – Justus

Justus, Mark, and Aristarchus were all Jews. Luke, Epaphras and Demas were all Gentiles. So here in this letter, we have a reminder that we need to encourage other people, even if they are different than ourselves.

In other words, Paul may well be declaring that some are now cooperating with him as a result of an ecumenical agreement. I intuit from “co-workers for the kingdom of God” a closer than competitive kind of mission with “those who were of the circumcision.”

Paul makes the claim that these people were co-workers for the kingdom of God, even though they were Jewish. In today’s context, that shows that there will be people whom we work with who have different flavors of Christian belief, yet they want the same goal: to encourage others in the faith. We should be willing to encourage others even they see the Bible differently.

Language, national animosities, and differences in religion and culture had divided the world of that day into hostile camps which could only be held together by the sword. Here under Paul’s aegis both camps were meeting together willingly and lovingly—an amazing unity!

We need to be reminded that as Christians, we are in the business of building bridges with others, not dividing into different camps. When it comes to encouraging others, race, differences in opinion, and differences in religion and culture should not destroy the unity in the church. We should not use these forms of separation to discourage one another.

6. Encourage others through prayer – Epaphras

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. He is always wrestling for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills. For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.” (Colossians 4:12–13, CSB)

Epaphras was a prayer warrior. You and I can pray for other people. Epaphras gives us a model prayer warrior. What were the characteristics of his prayer life?

CHARACTERISTICS OF A PRAYER WARRIOR

A. Pray constantly (“always”)

Epaphras is an example of someone who prayers with devotion. He prayed not only when he felt like it. He did not pray when he was told to pray. He consistently prayed.

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2, CSB)

B. Pray fervently (“laboring fervently”)

Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44, CSB)

Like Jesus, Epaphras was in agony as he prayed. This is the same word used to describe athletes as they give themselves to sports. If church members today put as much concern and enthusiasm into their praying as they did into sports, we would have revival!

C. Pray personally (“for you”)

Epaphras interceded for the Christians in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. He prayed for people by name.

D. Pray definitely

Epaphras had a desire that these three churches may mature in their Christian faith.

7. Encourage others through faithfulness – Luke

Luke is faithful to the end of Paul’s ministry. He continued to encourage and helped Paul through Paul’s final imprisonment.

“Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas send you greetings.” (Colossians 4:14, CSB)

“Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my coworkers.” (Philemon 24, CSB)

Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, CSB)

8. Encourage others now no matter what the future may hold – Demas

In contrast to the faithfulness of Luke, Paul reminds us to encourage others, even when you don’t know how faithful they may be. Demas was a fellow laborer who later was caught up and loved the world, so he abandoned the faith.

because Demas has deserted me, since he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” (2 Timothy 4:10, CSB)

Demas thought that he could serve two masters, but eventually he had to make a decision; unfortunately, he made the wrong decision.

Demas is an example of someone who we can encourage, but whom we will never understand why things happen in their lives.

9. Encourage those who work with other churches – Nympha

I need to encourage as a Christian are those who serve alongside me in other churches. As a church, we need to encourage the work of the Gospel in other churches. Churches need to encourage the work of other churches. Paul did that by asking this church to pass along the word to other churches.

“For I testify about him that he works hard for you, for those in Laodicea, and for those in Hierapolis.” (Colossians 4:13, CSB)

“Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her home. After this letter has been read at your gathering, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.” (Colossians 4:15–16, CSB)

Churches should not be in competition. Instead, we are called to be in cooperation to share the Gospel.

10. Encourage others to stay on mission – Archippus

Archippus has some work that God has commissioned him for the church. Whether it is financial, pastoral, or a form of evangelism, there are people whom we can encourage to continue in the ministry God has called them.

“And tell Archippus, “Pay attention to the ministry you have received in the Lord, so that you can accomplish it.”” (Colossians 4:17, CSB)

“to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your home.” (Philemon 2, CSB)

I saw them tearing a building down,

A gang of men in a dusty town.

With a “yo heave ho” and a lusty yell,

They swung a beam and the sidewall fell.

I asked the foreman if these men were as skilled

As the men he’d hire, if he were to build.

He laughed and said, “Oh, no indeed.

Common labor is all I need.”

For those men can wreck in a day or two,

What builders had taken years to do.

I asked myself as I went my way,

Which kind of role am I to play?

Am I the builder who builds with care,

Measuring life by the rule and square?

Or am I the wrecker who walks the town,

Content with the role of tearing down?

  • What kind of encourager are you?

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Spiritual Encouragement

encouragement-2The 23rd Psalm is quite possibly the best loved and most quoted psalm in the Bible.

Penned by King David, this psalm provides comfort for the grieving, hope for the hopeless, and encouragement to persevere through dark and desperate times.

As you read, study, and mediate on these familiar words, look for fresh insights that will deepen your trust in your good and loving shepherd.

Key Study Passage:  Psalm 23

  1. In verse 1, David claims, “I have all I need.” How is that possible? How do you think David defines “need”?
  2. Consider the image created in verse 2: “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” When was the last time you experienced the kind of peace and tranquility pictured in this verse?
  3. What is your role in having your strength renewed (v. 3)? (See Job 17:9; Ps. 138:3; Isa. 40:31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10.)
  4. List ways that a shepherd might “protect and comfort” his sheep (v. 4). When have you recently felt protected and comforted by God? What did God’s protection and comfort look like in this situation?
  5. Look for ways you experience God’s “goodness and unfailing love” (v. 6).

Spend Time in Prayer: Read Psalm 23 slowly, letting God use each verse to speak life-giving truth into your heart. Read the psalm a second time, turning each verse into a prayer of thanksgiving, confession, or supplication.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Ultimate Life Coach

encouragement-2Key Bible Verse: The Eternal One will never leave you; he will lead you in the way that you should go. When you feel dried up and worthless, God will nourish you and give you strength.  – Isaiah 58:11, The Voice

Dig Deeper: Isaiah 58:7-14

Believe in God’s ability to mentor you, to teach you, to groom you, and to be your life coach. You have heard of the coach-of-the-year award. Well, God is the coach of all generations, and he is offering to teach you to live life as he intends.

God’s inspiring Word contains compelling evidence of his desire to be your companion for life. He is there when you need to grow. When you call on him for a lift, he will hear. He is always with you.

Let these additional words of encouragement inspire you to turn to your heavenly Father:

  • “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deut. 31:8).
  • “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope'” (Jer. 29:11).
  • “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast” (1 Pet. 5:10, NIV).

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: What verses from this week’s readings have encouraged or helped me the most? I will try to commit at least one of those verses to memory.

Thought to Apply: Without the message of the Scriptures we would have nothing with which to encourage one another.—Gene Getz (pastor, writer)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Best Guide Ever

encouragement-2Key Bible Verse: The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.  – Psalm 69:32

Dig Deeper: Psalm 69

God encourages us. We may not be able to meet with a mentoring friend each time we need encouragement, but at any time we can chat with our heavenly Father. He listens to us and promises to meet us in our time of need. As David declared in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (NIV, et al.).

Your Lord genuinely desires to hear from you and develop an intimate, hope-filled relationship with you. Talk to him through heartfelt prayer, and let his Spirit affirm you.

God is a holy mentor. Are you skeptical that God wants to play the role of mentor in your life? Consider what he intends when he says in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Jesus promised his support, too, when he stated this in John 14:26: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

These Scriptures confirm the truth that God desires to guide us throughout our lives. Trust him; you could have no better guide.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: In what areas of my life do I need God’s guidance right now?

Thought to Apply: I think God is nearer to suffering than to happiness, and to find God in this way gives peace and rest and a strong and courageous heart.—Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German theologian, pastor)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Encourage Yourself

encouragement-2Key Bible Verse: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. – Philippians 4:8

Dig Deeper: Philippians 4:4-9

As beneficial as the support of positive companions is, we still need to encourage ourselves.

For my own self-encouragement, I have an expandable folder labeled “When I Need a Lift.” I keep my folder in a drawer next to the desk in my home study.

This folder contains numerous letters and cards from loved ones and friends that I have accumulated over the years. It serves as tangible evidence of lives I have touched or lives that have reached out to touch me. It is a reminder of joyous moments when I let the Lord work in me and through my life. Flipping through this folder brings joy to my heart when I need it most.

Perhaps the best part about this encouraging tool is that it takes no effort at all to start and maintain. Just grab a folder and start filling it with Scriptures highlighting God’s promises to you, notes from family members sharing their love for you, special cards from birthdays and other occasions, e-mails of special significance to your life, photos that remind you of your blessings and value, and whatever else tends to lift your spirit when you’re down and not thinking clearly.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: What do I usually do when I’m down or having a bad day? How might I benefit from creating and maintaining a “When I Need a Lift” folder? What would help me get the most out of this “encouraging tool”?

Thought to Apply: Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.—George M. Adams (politician)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Spiritual Nourishment

encouragement-2Key Bible Verse: So encourage each other and give each other strength, just as you are doing now.  – 1 Thessalonians 5:11, NCV

Dig Deeper: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Companionship with those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is a tool God often uses to nourish us with encouragement. Fellowship with believers is a divine resource that we should not miss.

The Lord also uses fellow Christians who have suffered a hardship or endured a painful experience to encourage others who are going through similar situations. Let them love on you and restore you.

And one of the ways God works all things for good (Rom. 8:28) is by comforting us in our times of trouble and so equipping us to comfort others: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4, NIV).

Whether you start with an encouraging friend, an uplifting mentor, or the companionship of other believers, make sure to regularly feed your mind, heart, and soul with encouragement. Take the necessary measures to guard against becoming mentally and spiritually malnourished.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: When have I been comforted or encouraged by someone who has faced past difficulties or struggles? When has God used my own struggles to comfort and encourage someone else?

Thought to Apply: Often the most loving thing we can do when a friend is in pain is to share the pain—to be there even when we have nothing to offer except our presence and even when being there is painful for ourselves.—M. Scott Peck (psychiatrist, writer)

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Listen to Your Heart

encouragement-2Key Bible Verse: The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain. – Proverbs 10:11

Dig Deeper: Proverbs 10:10-14

When we need the nourishment of food, our stomachs get our attention, either with hunger pains or the sounds of gurgling. We tend to respond to these signs of hunger like responding to the call of a dinner bell. We seek snacks and sit down for meals like clockwork. However, we often ignore the longing of our hearts for a serving of life-sustaining encouragement.

When we deprive ourselves of encouragement, our attitudes and self-esteem dwindle. A shortage of inspiration negatively affects our performance and severely stunts our growth. A lack of affirmation shrivels our confidence and hope.

Are your mind and soul starving for encouragement? Listen to your heart. Is it signaling that it is feeding time? If so, take the initiative, and tend to this need.

This is my challenge: find a dependable, encouraging friend or mentor to build you up with affirming words and needed encouragement. Strive to meet with this person at least once a month. Let your mentor’s uplifting spirit feed you with right thinking and positive motivation. Consume that fruitful energy as if you were drinking a high-impact smoothie. Let your friend’s encouraging words satisfy your inner hunger and thirst.

—Steve Kubicek in Up and In

My Response: A friend who speaks words of encouragement into my soul is … Who needs to hear words of encouragement from me?

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Fuel Your Soul with Encouragement – Like a Cool, Refreshing Drink

encouragement-2Key Study Passage: Psalm 23

Who Said It … Steve Kubicek

Steve Kubicek has more than 30 years of corporate experience, including 18 years as an executive with Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Company—the world’s largest publicly traded copper company.

Retired since 2005, Steve leads a men’s group at his church and is involved in various other ministries. He is the author of Up and In.

What he Said … Like a Cool, Refreshing Drink

Encouragement spurs on the downtrodden and heavy-burdened like a cool, refreshing drink can restore a weary traveler on a sunny day. Imagine packaging liquid encouragement in bottles and offering it to the masses. Just think of the spirit that would prevail throughout the world if we could all reach into our cabinets or refrigerators and pull out a bottle of refreshing encouragement, the lemonade for the soul, which truly would be an uplifting drink.

Medical science has observed that our bodies require a balanced supply of nutrients for good health and long-term sustainability. When the body lacks an essential nutrient, physical symptoms appear that highlight the deficiency. These symptoms serve as warning signals so that we can recognize the issue and take remedial measures. Does the same principle hold true for the essential life ingredient of encouragement? I contend it does. Our bodies signal us when we need to correct our encouragement deficiency. We receive warning messages when we are about to go down like a sinking ship.

Key Study Passage: Psalm 23

Adapted from Up and In (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, thank you for comforting the hurting and encouraging the discouraged; thank you for caring friends who speak words of encouragement into my life; this week help me to look for ways to be an encouragement to my family, friends, and coworkers.

 

 

Battling the Blues – Spiritual Encouragement

Spiritual EncouragementC.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, imagines correspondence between an old devil, Screwtape, and a young demon, Wormwood, whom Screwtape is mentoring.

In one letter, Screwtape writes, “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human … looks round upon a universe from which every trace of our Enemy seems to have vanished, asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

Interact with God’s Word:  Psalm 119:81-83

  1. The image of a shriveled-up wineskin (v. 83) is from a different era, but do you get the picture? Have you felt like this?
  2. How does the writer feel (v. 81) about the prospect of God rescuing him?
  3. How does he choose to deal with the God’s apparent absence?
  4. Does the fulfillment of God’s promises (v. 82) seem far off to you?
  5. What is the psalmist’s big question for God?
  6. How might God respond to a question like this: dramatically? In a still, small voice? Not at all?
  7. What conclusion would a person who trusts appearances draw?
  8. How is it possible to respond the way the psalmist did?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for strength to cling to His promises when you can’t feel His presence.

Psalm 119:81-83

81 I am worn out waiting for your rescue,
but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.
When will you comfort me?
83 I am shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke,
but I have not forgotten to obey your decrees.

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

 

Battling the Blues – Cure Cultivation

Spiritual EncouragementKey Bible Verse: You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11

Bonus Reading: Psalm 112:1-10

Psychiatrist Milton Erickson was a guest in the Milwaukee home of a man concerned about his very old, wealthy, and depressed aunt. At this friend’s request, the doctor visited her.

The blinds were closed throughout her Victorian mansion—except for one room full of gorgeous African violets. On entering, it Dr. Erickson abruptly exclaimed, “I see what your problem is.”

“Oh?” she warily replied.

“You’re not really a very good Christian.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have this great gift for growing African violets,” the doctor explained, “yet you keep it all to yourself. If I were you, I’d get your church bulletin, and whenever someone had a birthday, death, wedding, anniversary, or whatever, I’d take them one of your plants as a gift.” He soon left and never encountered the depressed woman again.

As he told this story to a group of students, Dr. Erickson pulled out an old newspaper clipping: “African Violet Queen of Milwaukee Dies, Mourned by Thousands.” A student raised his hand. “Why did you have her give out plants instead of treating her depression?” he asked.

“It would be easier, I decided, to grow the African violet part of her life than to weed out the depression.”

—Greg Smalley in HonorBound magazine

My Response: What gift have I kept to myself that I should share with others?

Thought to Apply: I’ve learned that the best way to lift one’s self up is to help someone. —Booker T. Washington

Adapted from HonorBound magazine (4-5/02)

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

 

Battling the Blues – Swallowed Pride

Spiritual EncouragementKey Bible Verse: Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is there no healing for … my people?  – Jeremiah 8:22

Bonus Reading: Psalm 142:5-7

Lewis Smedes, a teacher of mine in seminary, was one of the best writers and preachers I’ve known. Although he was brilliant, accomplished, and devoted to God, he suffered from a sense of inadequacy that at times grew into deep depression.

God came to him through two avenues. One was a three-week experience of utter solitude, where he so vividly heard God promise to hold him that he felt lifted from a black pit straight up into joy. The other avenue he describes this way: “I have not been neurotically depressed since that day, though I must tell you that God also comes to me each morning and offers me a 20 milligram capsule of Prozac. He clears the garbage that accumulates in the canals of my brain overnight and gives me a chance to a fresh morning start. I swallow every capsule with gratitude to God.”

I used to think that taking Prozac would be a sign of weak faith in God. But what if Prozac might be his gift? What if refusing might be spurning his hand because of pride? Maybe God is present in wise doctors and medication that makes synapses and neurotransmitters work right. Maybe weakness is really refusing—out of our own blindness and stubbornness—the help that God is offering.

—John Ortberg in God Is Closer than You Think

My Response: How might I benefit from the help of a counselor?

Thought to Apply: The Christian’s chief occupational hazards are depression and discouragement. —John Stott

Adapted from God Is Closer than You Think (Zondervan, 2005)

Prayer for the Week:When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

 

Battling the Blues – Brilliant Plan Backfires

Spiritual EncouragementKey Bible Verse: Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise … promises a reward in both this life and the next. 1 Timothy 4:8

Bonus Reading: Isaiah 40:27-31

Kenneth Cooper, M.D., famous for popularizing aerobic fitness, tells about a fellow who was depressed.

It seems this poor guy didn’t want to live anymore, but he knew that if he committed suicide, his wife and kids wouldn’t be able to collect his insurance. So he decided to “jog himself to death” so it would look as if his death was accidental.

The first evening, he put on his jogging clothes, kissed his wife and kids goodbye, and ran out the front door. But because he wasn’t in very good shape, his legs gave out before his heart did. Disappointed but not dissuaded, he limped home, showered, and went to bed.

The second evening it was the same story: his legs gave out, but his heart didn’t.

Every evening for the next month the fellow repeated his ritual of kissing his family goodbye and running out the front door. Then something began to happen that he hadn’t expected—his depression disappeared.

If you’ve been feeling a little ragged, see if you can make time before a meal to go for a brisk walk or jog. Or find some other activity you enjoy. The best thing to do when you’re feeling down in the mouth is get up on your feet.

Hope Heart Newsletter

My Response: What enjoyable activity takes your mind off your troubles?

Thought to Apply: When you’re depressed, the worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better.  —Charlie Brown

Adapted from Hope Heart Newsletter

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

 

Battling the Blues – Un-Slump Yourself

Spiritual EncouragementKey Bible Verse: I think of the good old days … I search my soul and think about the difference now. Psalm 77:5-6

Bonus Reading: 1 Kings 10:9b-18

[continued from yesterday]  I realized that I’d grown accustomed to sleeping on my arm. My soul had gone past the tingling stage; it felt numb and listless. Dr. Blakeslee had more to say: “Bill,” he told me, “sometimes you need to let go of an impure form of security in order to grab hold of a pure form of insecurity.”

It was like suddenly solving a mind-twisting riddle. In a flash I saw his meaning. I realized that I’d held on to work and ministry for security. My stubborn unwillingness to let go of one or both had corrupted my soul. I had believed the lie that a growing ministry and financial security would lead to contentment.

I was resolved to leave the dark, lifeless world of depression, but rolling over would mean taking the risk of grabbing something less secure. Frankly, I didn’t know if I had the courage to walk away from my job. It seemed almost like bungee jumping without a harness and cord. What if God didn’t stop my fall?

Eventually I took the leap and embraced a new direction that offered no financial security and uncertain success. I quit my writing job and later resigned from the church I pastored in order to launch a national men’s ministry. I knew I had grabbed a pure form of insecurity.

—Bill Perkins in Six Rules Every Man Must Break

My Response: I need to let go of ____ and then grab hold of ____.

Thought to Apply: When you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.  —Dr. Seuss (children’s book writer & illustrator)

Adapted from Six Rules Every Man Must Break (Tyndale, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

Battling the Blues – When Life Tingles

Spiritual EncouragementKey Bible Verse: You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray!  – Psalm 77:4

Bonus Reading: 1 Kings 19:1-9a

I am not by nature a depressed guy. But several years ago I suffered a bout of clinical depression—meaning I was depressed for more than two weeks. How did I get into such a dark place?

My therapist, Dr. David Blakeslee, helped me realize that I’d developed an unhealthy ability to persevere. That’s right, I didn’t know when to quit. Twenty years earlier I’d resolved that once I started something I’d never throw in the towel. After all, if I hung in there long enough I’d outlive most of my problems and a lot of the competition.

I was writing over 500 words a day for publication as well as preparing a sermon every week. I was also leading a church and caring for my family. These activities provided me with a growing ministry and a sense of financial security, and—oh, yes—burnout.

“Bill,” Dr. Blakeslee asked one day, “if you were sleeping on your arm and it began to tingle, what would you do?”

“I’d roll over.”

“That’s right,” he said. “Yet when you’re involved in something that’s causing you mental and emotional pain, you refuse to roll over. You believe God wants you to hang in there even when it’s destroying you.”

As he spoke I heard a mental gear fall into place, cla-clink!   [continued tomorrow]

—Bill Perkins in Six Rules Every Man Must Break

My Response: What area in my life is “tingling” right now?

Adapted from Six Rules Every Man Must Break (Tyndale, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.

 

 

Battling the Blues – The Road Test

Spiritual EncouragementWho Said It … Wayde Goodall

Wayde Goodall pastors a thriving Assemblies of God congregation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In addition to theology, he has studied counseling and psychology.

Wayde and his wife Rosalyn were previously missionaries in Austria, where they founded the Vienna Christian Center, one of Europe’s largest evangelical churches.

Dr. Goodall is an author, has hosted the TCT television network, and coaches other pastors.

What He Said … The Road Test

Living in the Wake Forest-Duke-North Carolina University “triad,” I can attend many ACC basketball games. When playing at home, the rush that comes to a team from the affirming crowd is amazing. A team at the bottom of the conference has been known to take down the top-rated leader.

But to be the best, I’ve discovered, a team has to know how to win on the road. The discouraging drain that comes from an away-game crowd can take a talented team down in front of the nation. Their skill, lineup, or experience didn’t change—just how they felt. To win on the road, players must learn to ignore negative emotions.

We all have moods—it’s just a matter of degree. For any of us, the pressures of life can add up. Too much pressure in too short a time can overwhelm anyone. Most of us don’t have a psychological disorder. But thinking you aren’t susceptible is a mistake. Learn to fight through your down times while paying attention to possible burnout or depression.

Adapted from Why Great Men Fall (New Leaf, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: When I feel discouraged, Lord, help me make positive adjustments and pour myself into others.