Devotions: May 29th – June 3rd

29 May

A Godly Response to Criticism

Proverbs 15:31-33

No one likes criticism, but encountering some is inevitable, so we need to learn how to respond in a godly way. Although you might be tempted to become defensive or angry, remain calm and listen. The words may hurt, but great benefits come to those who carefully consider what is said.

If we refuse to accept reproof, we’ll limit our potential for Christlike character development and spiritual growth. Some of life’s best lessons come through difficult experiences. If God allowed the situation, you can be sure that He wants to use it in transforming you into His Son’s image. Whether the criticism is valid or not, whether it’s delivered with kindness or harshness, your goal should always be to respond in a way that glorifies the Lord. Remember that you are responsible only for how you handle yourself, not for how the other person is acting.

When a criticism comes your way, be quiet and listen until the other person has finished. Make direct eye contact to show attentiveness and respect. When your critic finishes, thank him for bringing his concerns to your attention, and tell him that you will consider what he’s said. Ask the Lord if the accusation is valid. Let Him search your heart and either affirm your innocence or convict you.

Every rebuke is an opportunity from God. It’s a chance to let your Christian character shine by showing love to your critic. If he is angrily attacking you, your respect and kindness become a powerful testimony. Criticism is also an occasion to humble yourself and accept the Lord’s correction.

30 May

How to Handle Praise

Proverbs 27:21

How do you respond when someone compliments you? Some people absolutely love receiving praise because it lifts their spirits and makes them feel valuable. Others are uncomfortable with it. They look down at their feet or offer reasons why they really don’t deserve such praise.

For Christians, there’s another dilemma. We’re called to be humble, so what are we to do when others say good things about us? Because pride is always waiting to raise its ugly head, we need to be careful not to let praise puff us up. Some believers think that accepting a compliment is a sign of pride, so they make a big show of giving all the glory to God. That’s fine, if it’s really what’s in their hearts, but too often it becomes a rote “Christian” response that’s geared to impressing others.

My advice is simply to say, “Thank you very much.” Then whisper a prayer in your heart to the Lord, thanking Him for the blessing, recognizing that anything worthy of praise ultimately comes from Him. If you felt encouraged, let the person know how the comment blessed you. If you receive praise for an achievement that was really a group effort, be sure to redirect the compliment to all those who were involved. A blessing is always more enjoyable when it’s shared.

Our character is tested by the praise that comes to us. Every compliment that bounces into our ears should quickly rebound up to the Father. If we hold onto it, the poison of pride will begin to infect our hearts. But if we pass the praise to God, humility takes up residence in our souls.

31 May

God’s Compass for the Heart and Mind

Proverbs 3:7-12

Yesterday we discussed the importance of depending on the Word of God as our compass throughout life. Following the Lord’s directions will change behavior and challenge our thinking, attitudes, and desires. He leads us to think differently about ourselves, our values, and and even the difficulties facing us.

We naturally want to determine our own course in life.It seems like the only logical way to get where we want to go. But being wise in our own eyes is pride. To combat this tendency, the Lord instructs us to fear Him and turn away from evil (v. 7). This “fear” is not a horrified dread of the Father, but an attitude of respect that motivates us to obey Him for both our good and His glory.

We naturally want to keep our money for ourselves. A desire for a better lifestyle or fear of not having enough leads us to hang onto everything we get. But our compass directs us to honor God by giving Him the first part of all we have, trusting Him to provide for our needs (vv. 9-10).

We naturally hate God’s discipline. His painful reproofs seem to prove that He doesn’t care about us. But our heavenly Father says His discipline is the evidence that confirms His love and delight in us as His children (vv. 11-12).

Sometimes in our desire to follow the Lord, we focus on obedient actions—doing what He says—but miss His directions concerning our attitudes and thought patterns. To stay on God’s path for our lives, we must make course corrections not only in our behavior but also in our hearts and minds.

1 June

Feasting on the Word

1 Peter 2:2-3

Did you ever watch an infant take a feeding? Hungry little ones clutch the bottle, smack their lips, and make soft contented noises. They thoroughly enjoy their nourishment. But there comes a time when milk isn’t enough to satiate baby’s appetite anymore. That’s when a whole worldof culinary possibilities opens up.

Comparing new believers to babies, Peter said that they “long for the pure milk of the word” (v. 2). You wouldn’t feed a newborn steak and spinach, would you? Well, baby Christians must sip scriptural truths that they understand. Then, like a growing child, they shoot up as they feast on Bible passages, gradually taking in more and meatier principles and topics.

Believers are not left alone to make sense of Scripture any more than babies and young children are expected to get their own meals. The Holy Spirit, who indwells God’s followers, illuminates the Word. That is, He makes the meaning clear to those who seek to understand. Moreover, according to Ephesians 4:11-16, God has given gifted Christians to the church to act as pastors and teachers. They are charged with equipping the saints for service (v. 12). These leaders instruct, clarify, and motivate people to grow in their personal faith and to fulfill the church’s purpose of reaching the lost.

God’s Word is a feast for our heart, mind, and spirit. This is one banquet table where there is no such thing as taking too much. In fact, the advice many parents give their children at the dinner table applies to the Christian life as well: “Eat up! Scriptural food makes you grow strong.”

2 June

Goal Setting The Key to Success

Philippians 3:7-14

What three goals would you set for your life if you knew that you could achieve them? Would any of them be spiritual in nature? The apostle Paul was one of the most goal-oriented people in the Bible, yet he understood which pursuits were the most important. His chief ambition was to know Christ, His resurrection power, and the fellowship of His suffering (v. 10).

We’d all do well to adopt these goals, but they sound so broad. How do we put them into practice? First, it’s important to comprehend that a goal is a purpose or direction toward which we work. This concept is fairly easy to understand when we’re talking about specific objectives like going to bed earlier or losing ten pounds, but what steps would you need to take in order to achieve spiritual goals like Paul’s?

Success requires choosing steps that are specific, reasonable, and measurable. For example, if you want to know Christ more intimately, you might commit to spending 30 minutes each day praying and reading His Word. After developing your plan and the steps to accomplish it, put your desire into action. If you don’t take the necessary steps, it will simply remain a wish. No one develops intimacy with Christ through good intentions; it takes commitment, diligence, and perseverance.

If you feel as if your faith is lacking vitality, it may be that you’ve become spiritually lazy. No one intends to slip into complacency. But unless you set some specific goals and work to achieve them, you’ll drift through life and miss the greatest accomplishment of all–learning to know Christ intimately.

3 June

Live Intentionally

2 Timothy 4:6-8

Paul was a man who lived life to the full. His goals were to know Christ, abide in His power, fellowship in His suffering, and preach the gospel (Phil. 3:10; 1 Cor. 1:17). In doing so, he aligned his aspirations with the Lord’s, diligently worked to fulfill his calling, and persevered through opposition, persecution, and suffering. He could face the end of his life with confidence since he’d “fought the good fight,” “finished the course,” and “kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

We’d all like to be able to say the same at the end of our lives, but that means we have to follow Paul’s example. How are you doing at setting goals for your life? Have you thought beyond the immediate and set some long-term objectives? Our culture is so fast-paced that few of us take the time to actually consider where we’re going. But you don’t want to finish your life and find out you were on a course other than God’s, fighting the wrong fight, and struggling to keep the faith.

Why not set aside some time this week to get alone with the Lord. Then ask His help in setting goals that will take you where He wants you to go. Consider every area of your life–personal, relational, financial, and vocational–but make spiritual goals your primary emphasis. Then write them down.

If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Maybe it’s time to get out of your rut and find a new path. God will help you change direction and accomplish new goals that align with His will. Don’t settle for the mediocrity of an unplanned life. Start living intentionally.

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