Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Courage to Witness

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

One thing that stands out in my mind as I read the Gospels and Acts is the boldness of Christ followers to speak out (witness) about their faith in Christ. It is what made people say of them, “They who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” (Acts 17:6) Image the courage it took to be that kind of witness!

Of course that gets me to thinking about my witness, and yours too. Interestingly, the early Christ followers did their witnessing in the face of violence. Many of them faced hardships the likes of which we know nothing about. A quick read of Hebrews 11 reveals that fact. I have to say in all honesty that I have never faced a single moment when I was in danger because of my faith. 

For better or worse, things are pretty easy for us in America. When we witness for Christ, the biggest threat to us is ridicule or indifference, not violence. We may be ignored and we may be laughed at, but the only real risk is to our pride. And for many, that is where the witnessing stops. The biggest threat to the spread of the Gospel, then, is not the radical left, the radical right, or radical Muslims. It’s the radical silence of so-called Christ followers.

Here’s one lesson I take away from the reading of the Gospels and Acts: If the early Christ followers were bold enough to witness for Christ in the threat of violence, surely we can be bold enough to witness in the threat to our pride. The same Holy Spirit that lived in them lives in us. He empowered them, He will empower us. Jesus, Himself, said so, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you: and you will be My witnesses…” (Acts 1:8)

When the next opportunity to witness comes my way, I will ask God to give me just a fraction of the incredible courage possessed by those early Christ followers. That's my resolve. And you?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Godly Ambition

Encouragement for your daily walk with God

Ambition is a hot-button issue today. All you need to do is watch a few talk shows and listen to parents complain about their teenagers with no ambition, or watch a dating show and hear from women who can’t find a man with ambition. No doubt about it, ambition is in high demand these days.

Ambition, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. It can be a positive or negative thing in your life. For example take someone with an ambition to move up the corporate ladder. That is not a bad thing. However, we all know of someone whose unrestrained, workaholic ambition to get to the top has led to a graveyard of devastated adversaries and shattered relationships. Without a doubt, ambition needs to be tempered by love, justice, mercy and tenderness. This is true whether you're a Christian or not.

I find no greater demonstration of unrestrained ambition than the archangel Lucifer. His ambition was to be like God, not for God’s glory, but for his own. He was expelled from heaven and the result of that ambitious act still haunts the world today!

Should Christians abandon all ambition? Not at all! We just need to be clear about whose glory we are seeking. If the reward/goal of our ambition is for ourselves, then we must learn to temper it, allowing God to place us where we can bring Him the most glory.

Do you remember the story of Joseph in the Old Testament? As a teenager, he had visions of grandeur about a lofty position in life—a position that even his brothers would bow down before him. Through a series of events, God humbled Joseph. In the end, God elevated him to a position of authority. But by that time, Joseph was able to tell those who had meant him harm, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

He now recognized that his position was given to him for the benefit of others—it was about God, not Joseph.

Today would be a good time to reflect on the ambitions in your life. If you were to achieve everything you wanted in life, who would get the glory? Maybe it’s “adjustment day.” If needed, ask God to help you realign your personal ambitions, then be encouraged to desire nothing but His will in your life.