Encouragement for the Discouraged

Tyndale House Publishers

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.” Isaiah 30:15

Devotional from the Beyond Suffering Bible

God’s people find strength only as they rest in the promises of God, relating to him as the center of all reality. Trusting in any other form of security leads to failure, because God knows what is best for us: to return to him from our foolish habits of rebellion and the lonely experience of exile. The book of Isaiah is filled with stark contrasts between angry prophetic threats of destruction because of disobedience and precious promises of quiet confidence experienced in the loving arms of God. If only Israel would have returned to their God-given destiny—existing in covenantal communion with the Father and testifying of his love to the nations—what peace they would have found!

Our situation may be different from Israel, but the truth that our salvation is found in God alone is just as applicable for us. God’s promise of rest is intended to encourage us in the midst of disheartening situations. We often pray for immediate change in our circumstances: relief from pain, satisfaction of our desires, restoration of physical comfort, or an influx of money. But the promise of God’s presence—resting in him—is at the heart of our need. We can, and often do, experience his faithful presence in the midst of suffering.

In John 17:15, Jesus prayed for his disciples and for us as his followers, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.” What does it mean to be kept safe? God graciously welcomes us as his precious children through our union with Jesus Christ. This does not guarantee preservation from harm, but it does mean the gift of eternal security and rest in communion with God, which is much more significant. Our attention is directed away from our circumstances and back toward God. Understanding that God’s good plan for us extends beyond our momentary circumstances is the deepest possible encouragement.

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How Do I Find Courage?

Tyndale House Publishers

Taken from the HelpFinder Bible Index

Courage is the ability to act on what we know is right and good, to dare to do what we should or must. Fear paralyzes; courage is what helps us move ahead. Courage does not conquer fear, it simply renders fear ineffective. It gives us a confident assurance that we can succeed. Christians recognize that they have an extra resource in God’s promised help in time of need. This should bring about a boldness to face any situation that comes our way. It should be noted that sometimes the courageous thing to do is run, if that is what will bring about the greatest good. The Bible speaks of courage to stand firm against evil, to remain strong in our faith, to resist temptation, to do the right thing. The more we learn to rely on God, the more courageous we will become.

Where do I get the courage to go on when life seems too hard or obstacles
seem too big?

DEUTERONOMY 20:1 | “The Lord your God . . . is with you!”

PSALM 27:1 | The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid?

ISAIAH 41:10 | “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your
God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

JOSHUA 1:9 | “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord
your God is with you wherever you go.”

1 CHRONICLES 19:13 | “Be courageous! Let us fight bravely for our people and the cities
of our God. May the Lord’s will be done.”

True courage comes from God. It is understanding that he is stronger than our mightiest foes and that he wants to use his strength to help us. Courage is not misplaced confidence

in your own strength but well-placed confidence in God’s strength.

DEUTERONOMY 20:8 | “Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else.”

Courage is contagious—you gain or lose courage by watching others, and others gain or
lose courage by watching you.

Learn more about the HelpFinder Bible

Redeeming the Past

Tyndale House Publishers

 “‘Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. For the Lord has called you back from your grief—as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,’ says your God. ‘For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will take you back. In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while. But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer.” Isaiah 54:4-8, NLT

Devotional from the Life Recovery Bible 

“We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God.” Step 3

Each one of us comes to God with a past. In turning our lives over to him, we give him our entire selves, including our past losses and shame. We hand over to him every moment of disgrace, every tear we have ever cried, every word we wish we could take back, all the broken promises, the loneliness, all the dreams that died, the dashed hopes, the broken relationships, our successes and failures—all of our

yesterdays and the scars they have left in our lives.

Under Old Testament law, if someone lost freedom, property, or spouse because of a disaster or a debt, the next of kin was looked to as a “redeemer.” If property had been lost because of inability to pay, the redeemer would pay for it and return it to the original owner. If a woman lost her husband, the redeemer would marry her, providing her with protection and love.

God tells us, “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer. . . . For the Lord has called you back from your grief” (Isaiah 54:4-6).

God is our Redeemer, the restorer of our losses. He is Lord of all, even of our days and our dreams in the past. When we give God the past, he can make up for all we have lost. He can rid us of the shame and fill the empty places in our hearts.

Learn more about the Life Recovery Bible

Forgiveness

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Article from the Life Recovery Bible

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. ” Luke 6:27-18, NLT

As we set out to mend relationships, there may be some things that are beyond our control. Some people may refuse to be reconciled, even when we do our best to make amends. This may leave us feeling like victims. Once again we are stuck with the pain of unresolved issues. We may be left with negative feelings that continue to surface. What can we do to gain control in these situations?

Jesus said, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. . . .Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked” (Luke 6:27-28, 35).

We no longer need to be controlled by other people’s dispositions and actions. Even when we have done our best to make amends for the wrongs we have done, the situation may not change. And even when we have come to terms with the wrongs that have been done against us, our feelings may not change. But we don’t have to be held captive by our feelings or the feelings of others. We can choose to forgive and act in loving ways. This will free us from being controlled by anyone other than God. As we choose to forgive others and do good, our feelings will change with time.

Learn more about the Life Recovery Bible.

All Nations

“Listen to me, all you in distant lands! Pay attention, you who are far away! The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name. He made my words of judgment as sharp as a sword. He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand. I am like a sharp arrow in his quiver.

He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.’ I replied, ‘But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.’ And now the Lord speaks—the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.

The Lord has honored me, and my God has given me strength. He says, ‘You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.’ The Lord, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel, says to the one who is despised and rejected by the nations, to the one who is the servant of rulers: ‘Kings will stand at attention when you pass by. Princes will also bow low because of the Lord, the faithful one, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.'” Isaiah 49:1-7, NLT

Note from the Africa Study Bible

This passage described the time when the Jewish exiles were in a hopeless situation in Babylon. Their future seemed very dark with no hope of returning to their homeland. Isaiah prophesied that God would intervene in much the same way he did when he brought them out of Egypt. Once again they would return to their own land. Isaiah described a Servant through whom God would fulfil his promises to Israel (Isaiah 49:5). What is most striking in Isaiah’s prophecy is this Servant—Jesus—would not only restore Israel, but also the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6). This was in fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham that “all the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3).

In Christ, we see the love of God for all peoples and his plan to save people from all nations. Christ tells his followers to fulfil his plan by making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18). All Christians—not only missionaries or pastors or deacons—are part of bringing salvation to the nations.

God’s Servant gives freedom to the prisoners, brings light to people in darkness, restores all of God’s people, and restores all of God’s creation. We are called to be part of that effort. The world may seem hopeless, but the fact that Christians are in this broken world means that God is still at work. Let us regularly join with other Christians to pray for people of other nations who need physical and spiritual salvation.

What God Wants

by Joni Eareckson Tada, from the Beyond Suffering Bible

This is what God wants—hearts burning with a passion for future things, on fire for Kingdom realities that are out of this world. God wants his people to be aflame with his hope and to have an outlook of pure joy that affects the way they live their lives. God wants each of us to be “like a city on a hilltop” (Matt 5:14) and “a lamp . . . placed on a stand” (Matt 5:15) so that everyone around us will be encouraged to look heavenward.

A perspective like this doesn’t happen without suffering. Affliction fuels the furnace of heaven-hearted hope. People whose lives are unscathed by affliction have a less energetic hope. Oh, they are glad to know they are going to heaven; for them, accepting Jesus was a buy-and-sell agreement. Once that’s taken care of, they feel they can get back to life as usual—dating and marrying, working and vacationing, spending and saving.

But suffering obliterates such preoccupation with earthly things. Suffering wakes us up from our spiritual slumber and turns our hearts toward the future, like a mother turning the face of her child, insisting, “Look this way!” Once heaven has our attention, earth’s pleasures begin to pale in comparison.

What has suffering taken away from you? Don’t allow your heart to dwell on such earthly disappointments. God permits suffering to draw our attention to heaven where that which was lost—and more—shall be restored. Suffering forces us to look forward to the day when God will close the curtain on all disease, death, sorrow, and pain (Rev 21:4). Until then, we have work to do!

Jesus says, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work” ( John 9:4).

Learn more about the Beyond Suffering Bible

The Tabernacle

“…he will fill an incense burner with burning coals from the altar that stands before the Lord. Then he will take two handfuls of fragrant powdered incense and will carry the burner and the incense behind the inner curtain.” Leviticus 16:12, NLT

Holy Land Tour article from the Swindoll Study Bible

The Tabernacle had barriers that stood between a sinful people and a holy God. Inside the courtyard, a brazen altar stood where the majority of sacrifices occurred on a daily basis. Just past the altar for burnt offerings was the bronze washbasin where the priests would scrub up in preparation for making offerings. Entering the Holy Place was something only priests could do. Inside on the right, the table for the Bread of the Presence, with its twelve loaves, represented Israel’s twelve tribes. The menorah on the left offered lighting to the space, and the incense altar stood in the back before the small room called the Most Holy Place, where only the high priest would enter once a year.

Leviticus 16 describes the events that occurred annually on the Day of Atonement. The high priest would offer a bull on the altar for burnt offerings for the sins of the priests. Then he would take a fire pan of coals from the altar and enter the Holy Place with incense and the blood of a goat. As the high priest entered behind the veil into the Most Holy Place—something only he could do once per year—he would sprinkle the blood of the bull and one of the goats on and in front of the atonement cover—the top of the Ark of the Covenant. These rituals made the impossible possible. By one man cleansing the sanctuary, the holy God continued to dwell among an unholy people.

The New Testament reveals what these rituals ultimately represented. There is one Mediator between God and humanity who offers the blood of a substitute who died on behalf of everyone. When Jesus died, the veil in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The veil that separated God from humanity was removed by Jesus’ death. Because of His sacrifice, anyone may enter God’s presence by faith in Jesus (Heb. 10:19-23).

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Anger and Vengeance in the Psalms

Arise, O Lord! Punish the wicked, O God! Do not ignore the helpless! Why do the wicked get away with despising God? They think, ‘God will never call us to account.’ But you see the trouble and grief they cause. You take note of it and punish them. The helpless put their trust in you. You defend the orphans.” Psalm 10:12-14, NLT

Article from the Life Application Study Bible

Several psalms shock those familiar with New Testament teachings. The psalmists didn’t hesitate to demand God’s justice and make vivid suggestions on how he might carry it out. Apparently, no subject was unsuitable for discussion with God, but our tendency is to avoid the subjects of anger and vengeance in the book of Psalms.

To understand the psalm writers’ words of anger and vengeance, we need to understand several things:

(1) The judgments asked for were to be carried out by God and were written out of intense personal and national suffering. The people were unable or unwilling to take revenge themselves and were asking God to intervene. Because few of us have suffered intense cruelty on a personal or national level, we find it difficult to grasp these outbursts.

(2) These writers were intimately aware of God’s justice. Some of their words were efforts to vividly imagine what God might allow to happen to those who had harmed his people.

(3) If we dared to write down our thoughts while being unjustly attacked or suffering cruelty, we might be shocked at our own bold desire for vengeance. We would be surprised at how much we have in common with these writers of old. The psalmists did not have Jesus’ command to pray for one’s enemies, but they did point to the right place to start. We are challenged to pay back good for evil, but until we respond to this challenge, we will not know how much we need God’s help in order to forgive others.

(4) There is a helpful parallel between the psalms of anger and the psalms of vengeance. The “angry” psalms are intense and graphic, but they are directed at God. He is boldly told how disappointing it is when he turns his back on his people or acts too slowly. But while these thoughts and feelings were sincerely expressed, we know from the psalms themselves that these passing feelings were followed by renewed confidence in God’s faithfulness. It is reasonable to expect the same of the “vengeance” psalms. We read, for example, David’s angry outburst against Saul’s pursuit in Psalm 59, yet we know that David never took personal revenge on Saul. The psalmists freely spoke their minds to God, having confidence that he could sort out what was meant and what was felt. Pray with that same confidence—God can be trusted with your heart.

Selected psalms that emphasize these themes are 10, 28, 35, 59, 69, 109, 137, 139, and 140.

Learn more about the Life Application Study Bible

What Does the Bible Say About Friendship?

From the HelpFinder Bible

How many friends do you have? Who are they? If you are typical, your friends range from casual acquaintances to those you would die for. Sometimes we are closer to our friends than our own brothers or sisters. Friends share affection, companionship, confidences, consideration, devotion, esteem, faithfulness, fellowship, harmony, helpfulness, loyalty, partnership, support, sympathy, trust, and understanding. Friends are those you want to spend time with. God created us for relationships—with each other and with him. Our friendship with God should be the model for all our other friendships.

What is the mark of true friendship?
• PROVERBS 17:17 | A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
• 1 SAMUEL 18:3 | And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself.
Some friendships are fleeting and some are lasting. True friendships are glued together with bonds of loyalty and commitment. They remain intact despite changing external circumstances.

Can I truly be friends with God?
• JAMES 2:23 | “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.
• EXODUS 33:11 | The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
Both Abraham and Moses are referred to as friends of God. We are his friends, too, if we truly seek him and love him.
• PSALM 25:14 | The Lord is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant.
Sharing our secrets is a mark of great friendship. When God shares the secrets of his promises with us, we know that he considers us his friends.

Learn more about the HelpFinder Bible

Suffering in Christian Perspective

“So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. ” 1 Peter 4:19, NLT

Article from the NLT Study Bible

First Peter is focused almost exclusively on Christian suffering, especially unjust persecution at the hands of people hostile to the faith. The several themes about suffering that are woven throughout the letter find their climactic expression in 4:12-19. Peter makes the following points about suffering:

We should not be surprised when suffering comes (4:12). Christians who live a countercultural lifestyle in obedience to God should expect the culture to respond with hostility. We should expect mockery, discrimination, trumped-up charges, and even violence.

God has a purpose for us in suffering: It brings us into fellowship with Christ, who suffered before he was glorified (4:13; see also Rom 8:17).

By suffering in fellowship with Christ, we can be confident of enjoying the glory that he has already won (4:13; see Rom 8:17).

We need to commit ourselves to doing what is right when we face suffering (4:19). Our difficulties can always provide an excuse for sinning, but when difficulties come our way, we must live exemplary Christian lives, characterized by love for others.

Our loving response to enemies in the midst of trials can be a powerful opportunity to share our faith. By treating our persecutors with love and kindness, we can make our faith respectable and even attractive to them.

We need to remember in our trials that God is both sovereign and faithful (4:19). He controls all the circumstances of life, and we don’t need to fear that a trial will come our way apart from God’s oversight or will.

Look inside the NLT Study Bible