What is “His Encouragement?”
Thursdays are always a really long day of the week for me. Since I’m a pastor, Sunday feels like the natural beginning to my week. By the time I get to Thursday, I am tired and drained. That’s why I’m excited to join with a group of blogging friends in order to offer you a weekly devotional which will be posted every Thursday. We are calling the series, “His Encouragement.”
It is my prayer that these words of encouragement inspired by scripture will help to carry you through the rest of your week My prayer is that this weekly series will be a much needed of reminder that God loves you.
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike,
O LORD. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
How Is It with Your Soul?
When one of my spiritual heroes in the faith, John Wesley, met with his friends and parishioners, he would ask them, “How is it with your soul?
Today, if someone were to ask my how is it with your soul, I would respond that I am both tired and hopeful. I am drawing particular strength today from these beautiful verses verses from Psalm 36.
Friends, I am tired for many reasons. I’m sure that you may be tired as well. I thought that there would be some calm and quiet in my life now that the Christmas season has passed; however, January has been just as busy as December.
Please don’t think that I am complaining. I love my job and I love the little life that my family (a spouse and two fur babies) and I have made for ourselves in our little corner of Pennsylvania; however, fighting the good fight can at times be overwhelming.
I look around and I see all the needs right here in my local community. I see families that are hungry. I hear stories of people struggling to pay their electric bills and keep heat in their homes. The Opiod and Drug Addiction crisis is a silent plague that is affecting our local community (and perhaps yours as well). I see young people with cancer and families struggling to cope with the loss of a child.
Issues like drug addiction, poverty, racism, sexism, and ableism are systematic and complex. These issues are more than one little church and one little preacher can tackle by themselves. All year long, I try my very best to do my part to help; but there are times when the feeling of helplessness gnaws at my soul.
You Don’t Have to Save the World
Earlier this week, I went to God during my time of personal devotion. I often write my prayers down in a journal or Writer’s Notebook because it helps me to focus my thoughts when I pray.
“Dear God,” I wrote, “I don’t know how I can do it all-”
Then, a thought came into my head. It was like a whisper in my brain or a light bulb turning on in a darkened room.
“You don’t have to.”
I shook my head, uncertain from whence that unbidden thought had come, and started to write again. “Dear God,” I wrote once more, “I can’t do it all-”
“You don’t have to.”
I looked up from my writing and laid down my pen. All of a sudden, I remembered something a colleague of mine had told me years ago. He said, “Sometimes, when I get downhearted, I remember that I don’t have to save the world. It’s not up to me to save the world. God already did that when He sent us Jesus.”
I repeated my colleague’s words quietly to myself, “God already did that when he sent us Jesus.”
After speaking those words aloud, I felt as if a sunflower had blossomed in my chest. Everything seemed brighter. I picked up my pen once more and drew a big X through what I had written. Then, I wrote in large capital letters at the bottom of the page, “I DON’T HAVE TO- BECAUSE GOD ALREADY DID.”
Every Little Bit Helps
This year, our church was able to make sure that a dozen local families in need had something to eat for Thanksgiving and the Holidays. It is always a joy for me when I can help to distribute the boxes of food and speak with the families that we are helping. I remember one father’s face in particular. He looked to be about my age. He had a young child with him.
“Thank you,” he said as he looked into my eyes. “Thank you very much.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling a little embarrassed as I thought of the warm comfortable parsonage and all the food in my pantry, “I’m just sorry we couldn’t do more.”
“No,” he replied earnestly, “Every little bit helps. And this is more than enough.”
I think of those words every Sunday during the time of the morning offering. Those words help to inspire me to give the best of myself sacrificially. I know that God will take whatever little bit I have to give, whether it is a monetary gift, prayers, or service, and multiply it the way Christ multiplied the loaves and the fishes.
Jesus did not praise the widow because she gave a BIG gift. Jesus praised her because she gave what little she had wholeheartedly.
*Note: My favorite resource for stewardship is UMSF. You can find them here.
One Small Step
I think of that young father often and pray for him every day. When I’m feeling helpless and overwhelmed, I remember that God’s steadfast love “extends to the heavens,” and that God’s faithfulness reaches higher than the clouds (Psalm 36:5).
God is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. God doesn’t expect us to save the world. God already took care of that when God sent us Jesus. Instead, all that is asked of us is that we give over our lives and our hearts to God.
We don’t have to save the world. We just each have to do our own small part. I remember this every time I sit down to plan a sermon series, write a book, or train for a marathon.
How do we write a sermon?
One word at a time.
How do we run a marathon?
One step at a time.
How do we change the world?
One small act of kindness at a time.
May we all be inspired this week to do God’s work– one small step at a time.
Peace Be With You,
Please be sure to check out the other great bloggers involved in the His Encouragement weekly series!