Nehemiah 8:10c “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
One of the most joyous times in life is youth. Although it has its own drama, there is no other time in life that is as carefree and filled with excitement and endless possibilities. That joy is multiplied when it is found, not in the many new discoveries that life reveals, but in the truth of Jesus and the life that “can be”. When people are feeling down or stressed, they often have parties as a way of forgetting their troubles. But when we have the joy of the Lord, every day can be a celebration and, unlike parties, celebrations are to remember – not forget. What joy is ours in knowing that we are loved beyond measure and that we have a God who is worthy of our praise and service. The very joy we find in him gives us strength to turn from worldly temptations (and trouble) and walk in newness of life. And what can bring the mature in faith greater joy than to see the next generation rise up and take their place among us! Even the strength of youth will fail in time, but in the strength of the Lord we can accomplish mighty things – regardless of our age.
Pray: “Dear Heavenly Father, let me never look at the youth as being incapable or too immature to do what we have done. Some of your greatest works were done by the young. If they are in your strength, nothing will be able to stand against them. In Jesus’ matchless name, give them joy in their service we humbly pray – Amen.”
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
As children grow, we find that in teaching them the essential things of life and faith we ourselves are learning as we go. Sometimes the child teaches the adult. When Solomon wrote in his proverbs that we are to “train up” our children, parents see his command as ‘to teach’. Most people think of teaching as telling. But little of what we learn comes from what we hear. In truth, most of what we learn comes from what we see. The greatest training any parent does is the way in which they live before their children. They will copy us before they will hear us. If we want them to love the Lord – we must love the Lord. If we only love him in word, they will never believe it. But when they join us in service, the experience becomes a part of them. Nobody’s life was ever truly changed by knowledge alone. Love can surely be faked or superficial. But when we live our faith, loving others in a way that involves sacrifice, it can easily be distinguished from the imitation the world offers. Living a life of sacrifice for others is the greatest training we can give our children.
Pray: “Father…thank you for the lessons I have learned from the young. I pray that my example was better than my words and that those I have had the privilege to influence are closer to you because of it. In your Son’s powerful name, keep me on my guard, knowing the example I set will be seen and mirrored by the generation coming behind me – Amen.”
Matthew 6:10 “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
When Jesus taught his followers to pray, he told them to pray that God’s kingdom would “come”. Before his kingdom can come to earth, though, it must come in our life. What does that mean? Well, we have a King. And like most kings, our king makes the rules for the kingdom. This is not something most of us today are used to (let alone understand). The king’s commands are not subject to discussion or interpretation and they certainly are not optional. When Jesus had returned to the Father, his disciples were known as followers of ‘the Way’. Jesus, our king, is “the Way” therefore the things that he taught can rightly be called the ‘king’s way’. And that is how we are to live – according to the king’s way. But our king is no tyrant who places the burdens of the kingdom on the shoulders of his subjects. Rather he has, through adoption, made us heirs to the kingdom we are citizens of. We are children of the king. It should be our desire to make our home here on earth as much like our heavenly home as we can. For that reason, we learn the ways of the king…and we make them our ways.
Pray: “Lord God, forgive me living my life in my own way. You paid a heavy price to bring me into your family. Now that I am a child of the king, let his way become my way…my only way. In your Son’s holy name, lead me in your way so that others might follow me to you – Amen.”
Matthew 13:31-32 “Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree,”
Matthew 17:20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”
Jesus often used things that were common in his day so that his lessons would have easy application and be easy to remember. Jesus used seeds in his parables more than once; first teaching about the importance of the word finding good soil and here, teaching about ‘mustard-seed faith’. Jesus knows that we are limited in our mortal nature. Our strength can accomplish little apart from him. But when we have faith, though small as a mustard seed, it is not the size of our faith that accomplishes great things but what our God can do with that tiny faith in his strength. You see, small acts of faith can move mountains. Mustard-seed faith is the small acts of faith in our life that help us to overcome our large, ‘insurmountable’ obstacles. It is the first baby-step into trusting the Lord that he parlays into mountain-moving (obstacle-destroying) power. But it is more than just faith. It is small acts of obedience. The kingdom comes down when the king’s will becomes a reality here. God never asks us to move the mountains – he asks us to push the first small domino of faith and obedience and trust him for the rest!
Pray: “Heavenly Father, thank you for not asking me to move mountains. I can believe, though, that if I place my faith and trust in you, and take even small steps in obedience, you can do great things through me. In the name of my blessed Lord and Savior, I will not fear the giants in my life for the Lord will guide my stone if I have just enough faith to sling it – Amen.”
Matthew 13:32b “and birds come and make nests in its branches.”
Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Whenever we take an action, we do so expecting a certain result. Everything we choose to do has an intention and purpose behind it. But with God, faith and obedience can lead to wonderfully unexpected (to us, anyway) consequences. In God’s master plan, everything is connected. That is how he is able to make ‘all things’ work to the good – even though everything that happens is far from good. We might call this the “power of unintended results”. When we act on the will of the Father, he is able to do “far more abundantly” than the simple intent of our actions. For example, in our act of sowing a mustard seed, we get the tree we were expecting. But what we never considered was that because of what we planted, birds would one day have a place to “make nests in its branches”. God took a small good and made it a greater good. The investments we make in the kingdom today whether it is expanding youth ministry, building a new church home, or sacrificing a personal good to meet a need in a far-away place, will have ripples “throughout all generations”. His power, through us, will help shape the stories yet to be told.
Pray: Lord God, I know that you are ready to do great things from the small things I can do if only I will trust and act. We do not just look to today for we serve a king whose throne is from eternity to eternity. In Jesus’ mighty name, help us to realize our simple acts of faith can affect someone’s eternity – Amen.”