If you’ve ever had a performance review at work, you know how awkward and even hurtful it can be to get negative feedback about yourself. So, to voluntarily ask for constructive critisim is seen by some as something worst than public humiliation – totally unnecessary. Yet, in today’a reading, David asks the Lord to search his heart to see if there is anything wicked in him.
None of us like to hear our faults, but if we want to grow spiritually, we need to know which areas we need to strengthen and build up. This is especially important in the good times – the times when life is going well and you feel spiritually comfortable with no great worries or needs. Those are often the most perfect times to turn to the Lord and ask for a lesson plan: for something within yourself to improve. Whether it’s a lesson on self-denial, patience, loving your neighbor, idols or whatever else is your weak spot.
God is always teaching and molding us, but sometimes, we have to be proactive and ask for his feedback on what we may need to improve or rid our life of. We may not always like the answer, but when we follow through and make the change in our life, we will flourish and grow exponentially.
Have you ever asked the Lord for constructive criticism? What happened?
Apostle Paul often used the metaphor of an athlete in training to represent the life of a Christian. In today’s reading, Apostle Paul’s instructions to believers on how to the run the race well are two-fold. First, we need to run towards the goal in order to get the prize. Thus, you must know the goal, which is eternity. The prize? An imperishable crown. This then implies that not all of us will reach the goal nor will all get the prize. Only those who run with intention will win, which leads us to the second part: self-denial and discipline.
A few days ago, we talked about how although everything is allowed for us, not everything is beneficial. Athletes excel at choosing what is beneficial to their training over what is not. Like eating healthy and exercising daily to prepare for a meet or game. They often push themselves beyond even their personal best, just to keep getting better and better. They discipline their body daily, because they know their goal is worth the sacrifice.
A guy who spends most of his time sitting on the couch eating junk food and only occasionally exercising and eating well won’t be wining the Olympics any time soon. Similarly, saying you believe in Jesus as your Savior and occasionally visiting church and reading your Bible won’t be enough when your life is spent loosely obeying the word of God as you gorge in the pleasures of this word without any self-discipline. A Christian’s life is one of self-denial, humility and obedience. Because we are running to get an imperishable crown and an eternity with our Savior. So, run with intention, friend. It’s worth it.
No one likes a know-it-all. But at one point or another, we’ve all played the role – some more than others. As I’ve continued to further my education, the struggle with this has been real. I don’t know everything, but I know more about a lot of subjects than some people. That’s where pride likes to sneak in, and pride can be condescending and mean.
Yet, in today’s reading, Apostle Paul instructs us that knowledge is only good at breeding pride, while love edifies. According to Ellicott’s Commentary, the idea of edification in this passage “is not so much the improvement of the individual as the building-up of the whole Christian edifice. We have come to speak of an ‘edifying discourse’ if it helps the individual. St. Paul would have spoken of an ‘edifying work’ if it built up the Church.”
Jesus’s teachings about being last and putting others first create the foundation for Paul’s message here. Because it’s not about knowing more than someone or proving yourself right every single time. It’s about remembering that we are part of a united church. If having that “debate” with another believer just to prove you’re smart or spiritually strong may stunt another believer’s growth, then don’t do it. Choose love over constant reprimanding and a know-it-all attitude. Be the one who encourages rather than the one who constantly condemns. Choose humility over pride; love over knowledge; simplicity over complexity.
Apostle Paul is really good about emphasizing that both singleness and marriage are seasons of life that are different, yet equally important. Yet, singleness always precedes marriage and that’s probably for a reason: when we are single, we have more opportunities to focus on our spiritual growth in order to build a solid foundation of faith before we bind our life to another’s.
This devotional is for the single girls though. You might think that you’ll become spiritually strong or go into ministry once you’re married. Or maybe you’re holding off to marry until you’re spiritually “ready.” Being single all my life, I know how society can make you feel less than because there is no wedding ring on your finger (let’s be real, its usually family that does this best!) . There are dozens of other ways singleness is labeled as the lesser of relationship statuses.
But in my humble opinion – and Apostle Paul’s (see v. 8) – singleness is the best season of them all, especially at the ages we grow up and mature into the women God created us to be. Being single means you alone are responsible for keeping yourself spiritually fed. It means you have the time in your schedule to spend hours a day in prayer and Bible study – just you and the Lord (there are no kiddos vying for your attention or another human being influencing your meditations, even as good as both of those things are). Most importantly, it is a season of preparation, because it determines the kind of wife you’ll be someday.
Spend this season wisely. Focus on becoming holy in body and spirit. Care about the things of the Lord – including orphans, widows and those in need. Your season of marriage will come if you desire it to. And that season will be good too. For now though, single is the best status to have, because it means you are wholly, completely and fully His.
Although the Bible tells us not to be yoked with unbelievers, there are nonetheless many marriages where one spouse is either not a believer or just has a weak faith. Sometimes, it’s because one spouse comes to God after marriage. Other times, one spouse falls away even if he or she was once a strong Christian. Or, sometimes, we just make bad decisions based on lust, need, or other circumstances and choose to marry someone who doesn’t share our faith.
I have met wives in all of these situations. Their despair is deep and their prayers are without ceasing for the salvation of their husbands. But for us women, to be the spiritually stronger spouse is difficult. After all, a man is called to be the head of the household and the spiritual leader of the family.
But if you ever find yourself in a situation like this, stay strong in your faith. May your faith be evident to your husband. Because I have also heard the testimonies of the wives who prayed – some their entire lives – for the salvation of their husbands and God provided. As wives, we are in a unique position to intimately know our husbands. We know how to build them up and how to tear them down. Use that position of influence wisely to shine the Light into your home and into your husband’s heart.
And if you’re single, pray for your husband’s salvation and spiritual growth even in this season. This man God has chosen for you, is out there somewhere and he desperately needs your prayer support.
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” -1 Corinthians 6:12
I memorized this verse a long time ago and it has been my beacon of strength in even the most of ordinary moments – like when I crave something unhealthy or have the desire to splurge on something I don’t truly need or maybe can’t afford.
God gave us free will and it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s also a big responsibility. Because the choice is left up to us. Spending hours watching television? Fun, but is it helpful or edifying? Not so much. Consuming more junk food than real food? Tasty in the moment but it will destroy your body inside out. Participating in gossip? It might make you feel “in the know,” but it is hurtful and not how a set apart woman should live.
Apostle Paul sets the standard of “is it helpful?” to determine whether he should participate in something. Not whether it’s allowed for a believer, but whether it’s beneficial, profitable and good.
So, the next time you’re unsure of whether you should do something or participate in an activity the rest of your friends are doing, ask yourself: “is it beneficial to me? to God?” If the answer is no, then don’t do it. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
“Do you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.” -1 Corinthians 5:6-7
In today’s reading, Apostle Paul warns the church at Corinth about the danger of allowing sexual immorality to go on within the church. But the same message applies to us today in every area of our lives.
Are there habits or sins that you’ve held on to even after you came to Jesus? Maybe you’ve learned to justify your actions – like it’s not that bad, or other Christians do it and they’re fine, or that you’ll never be able to change anyways.
When you came to the throne of God for the first time and gave your life to Him, He made you new. Sin no longer has a hold on you. Your past is not your future. But keeping pieces of your old self and your old life impacts your present. Whether its a toxic frienemy or an ex-boyfriend, an addiction or bad habit, or a pile of lies the enemy has been telling you for years about your appearance, abilities or worth- let them go and embrace the new. Don’t let one bad thing from your past taint your future.