“Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).
Daily Encouragement Net is devoted to encouraging followers of Jesus Christ.
“When he arrived and saw evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:23). "He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son" (Revelation 21:7). "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness" (Colossians 2:7).
I challenge you to consider your spiritual fitness, which is of much greater value than physical fitness. There’s a tendency, due an emphasis on truths regarding our positional relationship with Christ, to assume our role in this fitness is merely passive. We’ve heard the phrase, “let go and let God”, and may assume any effort on our part is carnal. However, I urge you to carefully examine the Scriptures which speak of an active responsibility on the believer’s part in developing and maintaining spiritual fitness.
The apostle Paul addressed Timothy (and every believing reader through the Holy Scriptures, including you and me); “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). The verb is active. The NASV translates this phrase “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” The word for train and discipline is “gumnazo” from which we get the English words gym and gymnastics. The word is surely used in an athletic sense, but for the believer the training’s purpose is spiritual godliness, which has comparatively much greater value both in this life and the life to come.
The apostle Jude in his small one-chapter epistle charges his readers to, “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith” (Jude 20). What kind of spiritual shape are you in today? I've seen many people make earnest efforts in staying true to the Christian life. They come into the church for a while, attend for a season and then drop out, only to come back sometime down the road, … hopefully. Others hop from church to church looking for the "magic bullet" of stability. Others struggle with consistency. In this article I want to consider some spiritual and practical steps for maintaining spiritual fitness and experiencing stability in the Christian life.
MAKE A DAILY COMMITMENT TO GOD - Jesus said "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Each day make a decision to follow Christ. I'm not suggesting some aberrant theological view that we are saved all over every morning but merely expressing a theme I find in the Scriptures. I typically make a renewed commitment to Christ just as I awaken and before I get out of bed. It's generally a mumbled, but earnest "Jesus, I submit my life to you today as my Saviour and Lord.”
REPENT OF ALL SIN AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO GOD'S WORD - When God's Word specifically speaks regarding that which is forbidden we have no choice as believers but to obey. The same goes for that which is specifically commanded. I am particularly grieved that so many need to start at square one due to the dominant secularization of our culture. A battle has long raged. The Biblical worldview fundamentally asserts that: 1) The Almighty God is the Creator, Ruler, Redeemer and Judge. 2) He has revealed His will for man through His Word. 3) He has established non-arbitrary laws governing the conduct of His creation.
LIVE WITH AN ATTITUDE OF GRACE - By this I mean living with an outlook that we are getting what we don't deserve and not getting what we do deserve. The Bible says, "we were by nature objects of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3b). We can concur with declaration of the repentant thief, "we are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve" (Luke 23:41a). Apply this outlook in your life daily.
PRACTICE THE PERSONAL SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES - Peter's last words to us are, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen" (2 Peter 3:18). Consistent Bible study and prayer are essential for spiritual health, growth and stability. Many have found that a disciplined time early in the morning is important to having a strong, overcoming day. Memorize God's Word and hide it deep in your heart.
PARTICIPATE IN THE ORDINANCES ESTABLISHED BY OUR LORD - Submit to water baptism and the Communion Service.
BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT - "Be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18b). We need the active, continuing work of the Holy Spirit. We need not merely an experience, but also daily refillings. The Spirit gives power to witness and lead an overcoming life.
LIVE BY FAITH IN THE FACTS, NOT EMOTIONS - "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). I'm weary of hearing the phrase "I'm having a bad day" as an excuse for unsteadiness. The Bible says, "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it". Another excuse is "I'm just not with it today". Well, God will give us the strength to get with it!
FOCUS ON CHRIST, NOT OTHERS - "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2a). Don't worry about apparent inconsistencies in others, even supposedly "mature" believers. The fact is even older believers are still overcoming! Do not allow these inconsistencies to be an excuse to you for what you believe in your heart to be right. You will be disappointed at times by the behavior of other believers. Look to God, not man. However keep in mind you may not have all the facts.
DETERMINE TO ATTEND CHURCH REGULARLY - "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25). Be honest regarding excuses!
DON'T BE A CHURCH HOPPER - Thank God that there are many only local congregation that God is working through! In fact other Bible believing churches may very well be stronger in some areas than the one you are attending. However once you begin to hop from church to church the grass will always seem greener somewhere else. Be on guard against a view that sees the church service as entertainment.
GUARD AGAINST SPIRITUAL PRIDE - "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). I find it interesting that young believers can be so susceptible to pride. Often they grow by leaps and bounds in some areas of their life and have to guard against pride when they observe others who aren't growing the same way. They may have an insatiable thirst for the Word or perhaps have been delivered from a stubborn habit that others still struggle with. Remember salvation at all stages is a result of God's grace!
PRACTICE TITHING - "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it" (Malachi 3:10). In the past I would have been reluctant to bring this up to younger Christians for fear that some would think I had the wrong motives. But I am so convinced that this is a powerful foundation for stability that I will encourage people to enter this very tangible form of obedience post haste. A tithe is a tenth of our income and should be the basis for our financial contribution to God’s work.
BE PREPARED FOR OPPOSITION - "But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, he quickly falls away" (Matthew 13:21). This may come from unbelieving family, friends, fellow workers. Even a fellow believer in the church may question you or discourage you! Follow God, not man!!!
LEARN WHO REALLY LOVES YOU AND IS INTERESTED IN YOUR WELLBEING - Of course that's God, but it's also people in your family and church who are headed in the same direction. Someone at work or an unbelieving family member may say, "You don't need to take that religious stuff so seriously. Be careful, don't become a fanatic.” When I examine the lives of the Biblical giants and those through out the history of the church who have made such an impact for the Kingdom I believe their contemporaries would have called them "fanatics.” The giants were men and women serious about their call. Sir Winston Churchill says, "a fanatic is one who cannot change his mind and refuses to change the subject.”
PURSUE FREEDOM FROM DESTRUCTIVE HABITS - We are saved by grace, but grace that saves will transform. It may be instant and remarkable; it may be slow and painful. We should love and accept those overcoming life-controlling habits and should pray for them but they should not use that as an excuse to hang on to them. I frankly hesitate to list these destructive habits, although some are well known and more obvious than others are. There's a tendency to stop when we overcome the more obvious forms of destructive behavior while others may actually be more spiritually harmful. What's more, a certain type of pride can develop for those not dealing with the more obvious forms and God has made it very clear that He hates pride!
BE ACCOUNTABLE - Have a circle of others that you can be honest with and will practice tough love with you. You will mutually agree to hold one another accountable in staying faithful to Christ and overcoming in this world. It's really not a lot different than old time candid friendships. It's just that many don't have these kinds of friendships today! Let the Lord lead you as to whom to develop these relationships with. You may already have relationships in place that can deepen to this level. It may be those in the church. It might be a Christian from another association like work.
FIND A PLACE OF SERVICE - Being active in the work of God is a great source of stability. Serving God is an act of obedience and keeps us sharp. Normally leadership will want to see an individual faithful for several months depending on the type of service before placing them in a place of ministry.
LIVE SIMPLY - The Bible amply warns of the dangers of materialism. Just take one phrase from Paul's epistle to Timothy to the rich: not "put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17b). Materialism can be great stumbling block to faithfulness.
BEWARE OF DESTRUCTIVE ENTERTAINMENT AND WORLDY PLEASURES - So much of what the increasingly lowering standards of the world labels suitable "family" entertainment is spiritually destructive! Visual scenes that stimulate the flesh, violence that cheapens life, use of foul language that poisons the mind (consider what you would be comfortable using in prayer), and use of the holy Name of God in vain (3rd Commandment). Perhaps most importantly we should be on our guard against the subtle teaching of a worldview or philosophies in conflict to that of the Bible.
I'm very reluctant to be specific where the Bible is not specific. This is puzzling to some since there are some ministers and churches that have specific lists of forbidden practices. These lists vary from generation to generation, church to church, minister to minister and region to region! There are practices earnest believers in one part of the country feel quite comfortable with that believers in another region would consider highly inappropriate and vice versa!
In this regard there are personal convictions, family convictions and church convictions. All convictions should be based on Scripture, but some are on Biblical principles that we may very well view differently, while others are based on explicit Biblical commands or prohibitions.
Personal convictions - These are areas of practice or behavior where we personally as individuals draw the line. This may even differ between Brooksyne and me. And as Ester gets older she will make more and more of these kinds of decisions on her own. I fundamentally want her to know the Word to obey it, rather than a long list of specific rules I have made.
Family convictions - These are the lines we have established as a family. Our family's convictions may very well differ from yours.
Church convictions - These are the lines drawn by our church leadership and our affiliation. They are largely expressed in such documents as Bylaws and Church Covenant. By their very nature they are not specific but based more on principles, except where the Bible is specific.
Let me be specific by way of illustration. Brooksyne and I personally choose not to carry cable in our home. Many, probably most, homes of believers do indeed choose to subscribe. That to me is a family conviction. You can get filth on cable, but than again you can without it! I am also aware that there are certain wholesome type programming we miss by not having cable. Other earnest Christians choose not to have a TV at all or perhaps not have a VCR. Others choose to have a TV and VCR and limit their viewing to videos, since they have control of all content that way (commercials can be very wicked whether advertising a product or upcoming program). These are personal decisions.
You see, there are things I do that you will choose not to do and vice versa. The danger is when a prideful or judgmental spirit accompanies our convictions. This often is marked by a blind spot. We may be quick to see the faults in others while being blind to our own. We are all "under construction.”
FILL YOUR HOME WITH REMINDERS TO GODLINESS - The Israelites were commanded to take some very practical steps to keep God's law before them. "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). In our home we often have godly music playing, our walls have Scripture verses. Even my mousepad has a Scripture verse on it!
FIND STRENGTH WITH YOUR FAMILY - One of the greatest sources of strength and stability is a godly home. See that your home is a haven of rest. However I am aware that some of you live in homes where you are the only one taking a stand for Christ. This is a special challenge. Determine that you will stand faithful.
MAKE USE OF "ALTAR TIMES" AT CHURCH - When opportunities are available to "come to the altar" do so! There's just something so enriching with a group of believers gathering in prayer and preparing for another week as God's people.
I'm sure there are many other practical building blocks to living a life of stability in Christ. I find it very assuring to know the steadfastness of our Lord expressed in a great phrase found in the Epistle of James that states "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (1:17). "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 Peter 5:10).
Be strong and steadfast,
Stephen C. Weber