Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry #10

McAfee Knob, AT, Virginia

What occupies your mind each day?

Social media? Tasks? Worry? Fears? The News? Video games? Stuff? Woes? Church members’ needs? Conflicts?

How many thoughts do you think in a day?

The results of a 2020 study (Heathline.com) suggested people typically have more than 6,000 thoughts per day. In the study, which involved 184 participants with an average age of 29.4, study authors used brain imaging scans to track when new thoughts began while participants were either resting or watching a movie.

Here’s the math, based on their estimate: Say you get 8 hours of sleep each night. You’re awake for 16 hours each day and have exactly 6.5 thoughts per minute. (6.5 x 60 x 16 = 6,240 thoughts) Maybe you only sleep 7 hours each night, so you’re awake for 17 hours each day. (6.5 x 60 x 17 = 6,630 thoughts)

The article goes on to cover negative thinking, intrusive thoughts, and how to change your thinking. (Scripture gives us much to consider on these subjects.)

So, I’ll ask again, “What occupies your mind in a day?” Who or what controls your thinking, guides your thoughts, gives you peace and rest?

How grateful I am for my dad who often talked about being occupied with Christ. Grant Richison said, “Occupation with Christ is the cure for discouragement.”

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “occupy” as . . .

1: to engage the attention or energies of
2a: to take up (a place or extent in space)
b: to take or fill (an extent in time)
3a: to take or hold possession or control of
b: to fill or perform the functions of (an office or position)
4: to reside in as an owner or tenant

So, what does it mean, what does it look like to be occupied with Christ?

  1. To be occupied with Christ is to surrender moment-by-moment to Christ in me (John 14:20; Galatians 2:20), seeing life through the eyes of His Word (1 Corinthians 2:6-14; Colossians 3:16), living out practically each day our position in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:5-6), and appropriating all that we have in Christ for God’s glory (Ephesians 1:3-14; Colossians 3).
  2. Get out of bed each day, and as Ron Lynch says, “Report DOA” (Dead On Arrival). Each of us struggle with being too occupied with ourselves. Since we are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and dead to sin (Romans 5:6-11), then I “report DOA.” A dead man can’t do anything.
  3. Understand who you are in Christ. Check out Overcoming Discouragement #5
  4. Live in 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT), Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.
  5. Preach the Truth to yourself rather than listening to yourself. (Psalm 18:30; John 14:6; Proverbs 14:12)
  6. Make your life’s goal to hear Jesus say to you at the Bema (The Judgment Seat of Christ, Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). It is as Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).
  7. We, as ministers for Christ, are never the celebrity; only Jesus Christ is the true celebrity. He’s always the issue. Pastors should never be placed on a pedestal (Philippians 3:7-8, But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.)
  8. Preach motivated by and saturated with occupation with Christ. (Colossians 1:27-29, To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.) Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2), not a verse out of context or a thought we have backed up by a Bible verse.
  9. Being occupied with Christ takes precedence over being pre-occupied with people. Therefore, you see people as Christ does (Matthew 9:36; 11:28-30; John 10:10).
  10. Being occupied with Christ is steadfast, consistent encouragement as you abide in the Vine (John 15:1-11).

So, what occupied your mind yesterday? What will occupy your mind today?

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10).

1 Christ beside me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
King of my heart;
Christ within me,
Christ below me,
Christ above me
never to part.
2 Christ on my right hand,
Christ on my left hand,
Christ all around me
shield in the strife;
Christ in my sleeping,
Christ in my sitting,
Christ in my rising
light of my life.

(Attributed to St. Patrick)

My Top 3 Books in 2020

Confession #1: I love the smell of a new book! Every coffee shop should have the aroma of Barnes & Noble!

Confession #2: I wish we could read by osmosis because there are so many books I want to read!

So, having said that, here are my top 3 reads for 2020!

#1 The Bible

Now, don’t moan and groan on this one and say, “Well, I figured you’d say that!” Seriously, let me share with you a few reasons why it is number one.

  • The Author is transcendently holy (Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:3; 57:15), righteous, (Psalm 11:7), good (Psalm 34:8), eternal (Isaiah 40:28), immutable (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17), omniscient (Psalm 147:5; Proverbs 15:3; 1 John 3:20) and true (Revelation 19:11-16).
  • The Author is omnipresent with me and in me speaking directly to my heart and life. (Psalm 139:7-8; Acts 17:24-28;
  • The Author’s words are absolute truth and always relevant to all of my life al the time. (Psalm 19; Proverbs 30:5; John 8:32; 14:6; 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16)
  • The Author is reveals Himself to me for His glory and my good. (Psalm 46:1; John 16:13-15; Romans 16:25-26)
  • If these few are not sufficient, then read and reread Psalm 119. Meditate on it. Read it out loud. The Word changes lives!

May I challenge you to choose a Bible reading plan for 2021? May I also challenge you to read it to know God, to listen to Him speak through His words, and to see your daily life affected by the Author of Life! The best moments of your life for all time on this earth will be spent in His Word and in prayer. If you do not have a personal relationship with God the Father through Christ alone, then lovingly I ask, would you read the Gospel of John (4th book of the New Testament) and then the Epistle of 1 John located near the book of Revelation. How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103).

#2 The Saving Life of Christ, Major Ian Thomas

To be in Christ–that is redemption; but for Christ to be in you–that is sanctification! To be in Christ—that makes you fit for heaven; but for Christ to be in you—that makes you fit for earth! To be in Christ—that changes your destination; but for Christ to be in you—that changes your destiny! The one makes heaven your home—the other makes this world His workshop. (Thomas, p. 20)

The very essence of this book and the reason for reading it is wrapped up in the words of Evangelist Ron Lynch: In order for you to live the Christian life, you must understand that it is the Savior’s life. Christ gave Himself for you in order to give Himself to you that He by the Spirit of God might live His life through you. To live the Christian life is not for you to live but for you to die so Christ can live through you. You die to live. It’s Christ who manifests Himself through you that makes the difference. He does not do away with your individuality nor your personality, but when people meet you they need to meet Him. (Romans 6-8; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27).

How often believers are tempted to think in these terms . . .”I just can’t live the Christian life.” Friend, we are not called to life the Christian life. The truth is, Jesus Christ did not live the Christian life. He is the Christian life. Understanding your position in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14), coming to know Christ (Philippians 3:10) and abiding in Christ (John 15:1-11), is the life to live.

#3 Rejoicing in the Christ, Michael Reeves

With so much of our attention in 2020 upon COVID, these two reads have reminded me of the Greater Subject, the Theme of themes, the Person of Christ. Also, in the midst of such sorrow, grieve, pain, loss, misunderstanding, cynicism, and human viewpoint, this book is about much-needed joy in the Christian life, about rejoicing in the Person of Jesus Christ as we share in the life of Christ!

What a far cry this is from the exhausting idea that Christ has done his bit and now it’s time to do ours! We are not chained to the task of trying to pay back the huge debt we owe him. We are united to the Son so we can enter into his life. Our joy, our prayers, our mission, our holiness, our suffering, our hope: all are a participation in the life of the Son. We are not simply given some thing called “eternal life” and then sent out to get on with it. We are not forerunners with final responsibility. He is the firstborn; we live in His slipstream. (p. 93)

What a truth!! We all participate in the life of Christ!! It’s not my life, but His life (Galatians 2:20).

Most of my reading this year was spurred on by attending the Men’s Prayer Advance and hearing Ron Lynch preach about the Christ Life. I would highly recommend you attending this year! Three days of meeting with God in prayer, worship, singing, preaching, praise, and fellowship!!! You will be changed for His glory!! Check it out by visiting christlifemin.org.

What books will you visit in 2021? Will you live in the Bible?

May I Introduce You To . . . . .

introduction.jpg

What is your purpose in life? Please answer before you read on.

Yesterday morning while waiting on my coffee to brew, I scrolled through Instagram and came across these words from Dr. Charles Stanley:

When He (God) saved you, He saved you to do what? To walk in relationship with Jesus Christ so that everybody who meets you meets Him.  Therefore, you have a definite purpose in your life for being saved besides going to heaven.

That middle sentence arrested my attention and churned in my mental mill all day long.

When I was a young boy on into my teen years, I traveled with my dad to many preacher’s meetings and Bible Conferences.  He always introduced me to as many preachers as was around him.  What a privilege to shake their hands, both men of renown and lesser known men, and to hear many of them preach.  Some of them even stayed in our home.  My life was and continues to be enriched by being around such men.

Just as my father would introduce me to those men, those of us who know Christ as our personal Lord and Savior have the greatest privilege and purpose, to introduce Jesus to those who meet us!  In all of life, it does not matter if others know us or remember us.  What matters is if they are introduced to Christ through us!  If when they meet us, they meet Jesus!

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20).

People will meet Jesus in us when . . .

  • When daily spend time reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on the Word (Joshua 1:8). You are what you think, so the Word must be in our mind (Proverbs 23:7)
  • When we have met with our God in prayer in the morning and live in the atmosphere of prayer throughout the day (Matthew 6:6-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • When we love Him with all of our heart (Matthew 22:37-40). You talk about the ones you love such as your spouse, kids, or grandchildren.  What about the Lord?
  • When we walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Spirit’s number one responsibility is to point to Christ, so when we surrendered to the Spirit in us, Christ is magnified (Philippians 1:20).
  • When you choose to personally live for Christ alone (Philippians 1:21).
  • When we love others as Christ does (1 John 4:12).
  • When we verbally tell others about Christ in fulfilling our purpose of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • When you talk of Him in conversation, not to show off, but because He is your life (Colossians 1:27).

So, as you go about your day today, who will others meet . . . you or Christ?  Who is the most important?