By Jennifer McAlister
Find this devotional on YouVersion at: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/11493/
I’M GIVING UP
Beginnings are a gift from God. Every morning when the sun comes up we have the opportunity to start fresh and put into practice the lessons learned from our yesterdays. The clean slate of a brand-new day should inspire us to live life better.
New Year’s Resolutions are a perfect example of our desire to take advantage of beginnings as we imagine the best version of ourselves. We sit down and contemplate what we want to do, who we want to become, where we would like to go, and what we would like to change. It’s exciting to think of how things could be, but in order to have a life well lived, contemplation must be followed by action. God has put each of His children into service and requires us to be participants and not just spectators.
As Christians the greatest commendation we can hope to receive from Jesus is, “well done, my good and faithful servant.” Not “well said” or “well thought”, but “well done.” Faith is active and demands us to be doers of the word and not just observers. Yes, we are called to be steadfast and persistent and never give up, but there are some exceptions to this rule. One of the best New Year’s resolutions I’ve ever made was to give up. Before you quit reading this, I think you will agree that giving up on these happiness killers will help you live the abundant life that Jesus desires for each of us.
“Well done” is a far greater compliment than “well said.”
THE RIGHT TO BE OFFENDED
Have you noticed how easily offended our society has become? It’s embarrassing really. Seemingly overnight we’ve become an over-sensitive, finger pointing society who whines about everything. We’ve lost the ability to turn the other cheek and instead feel the need to personally right every perceived wrong committed against us. I can’t throw many stones since I’m offended by how easily everyone else is offended. Oh, the irony! But what would happen if I gave up my right to be offended? What would happen if everyone gave up their right to be offended?
It didn’t take long before I was able to put this newfound idea into practice when someone, you guessed it, offended me. Everything within me wanted to lash out and vindicate myself, but then I remembered… “give up your right to be offended.” This was hard! But I took my complaint to God and said, “I’m going to give up my right to be offended and I ask You to be my defender.” Then I went on with my day. I even forgot why I was upset because I wasn’t rehearsing the event over and over in my mind and adding fuel to the fire. When I gave up my right to be offended, in return, God gave me His peace as I trusted Him to be the defense of my life.
The Bible clearly states that if you are a child of God, then He is your defender. We honor Him when we trust Him. I’m so thankful that Jesus modeled this for us. What if He hadn’t given up this “right” as He hung on the cross for our behalf? If anyone had the right to be offended it was Him. He was completely innocent but was treated as if He were the worst criminal in the world. He had the power to unleash His fury at any moment and vindicate Himself but in complete submission, He humbled Himself and trusted God the Father’s plan. He was obedient, even to death on a cross. The wages of sin are death so staying on the cross was necessary for Jesus to be able to die on our behalf so that we may live. Because of His sacrifice and His unwavering trust in God the Father, He conquered death and offers eternal life to all who look to Him to be saved. What a wonderful (and successful) choice to give up His right to be offended and trust the Father’s plan.
Being offended doesn’t make you right.
How can we be thankful for what we’ve been given if we are constantly comparing our lot with others? The Bible say to rejoice when others rejoice but if we choose to compare instead of to congratulate, we open a door for jealously and envy to enter. The Bible tells us in John 10:10 that we have an enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. When we compare, our happiness is stolen as we minimize our blessings, our joy that comes from being genuinely happy for others is killed, and our relationships are slowly destroyed as praise and affection are withheld.
God has specific plans for each of us and we need to remember that everyone’s story is different. We are all made differently with unique skills, personalities, and traits that God can use for our good and His glory. He doesn’t compare us to anyone else and loves us so much that He died for us. If we insist on comparing, then let’s compare how our life, both now and for eternity, would be without Jesus. Then with sincere gratitude, thank Him for all He has done for us and ask for His help to not compare anymore.
Comparison only leads to one of two things: Pride in believing that you are better than others OR low self-esteem falsely believing that others are better than you. Neither belief is beneficial or accurate. Remember, no one in the whole world can do a better job at being you than you.
One of the hardest, yet most rewarding, decisions we can make is to give up assumptions. Human nature tends to automatically assume the worst in others until evidence indicates we can assume the best. The problem is, people tend to live up to our assumptions of them. If we choose to assume the best in others, we will be for them, treat them well, and encourage them. If we assume the worst, our hearts will become bitter and as the Bible says, a stranger will not share its joy. As face reflects face, they will most likely return whatever sentiments we choose to share.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”
The Bible gives us many examples of God assuming the best in us before we did anything to deserve it. For example, in the Judges 6:12 we read;
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
The Angel of the Lord addressed Gideon as a mighty warrior before he was a mighty warrior. God believed in Gideon before Gideon believed in himself. Words of life were spoken over him and he lived up to those expectations.
We can rest knowing that God assumes the best in us because we are told in His word that, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus sees us as we could be and not how we are. When we belong to Him, we want to live up to His expectations because we love Him so much. In His strength, we can become the person He created us to be.
Since our thoughts will become words and our words have power, may we always think the best, assume the best, and believe the best in others. We are our own worst critiques, so when someone speaks words of life over us, it’s medicine for the soul.
Assuming the best is not easy, but the good news is that we have plenty of opportunities to practice every single day.
The worst distance between two people is misunderstanding.
The victims of this joy stealer, titled unmet expectations, are many. We make a huge mistake believing that other people or circumstances have the power to make us whole or happy. We forget that although we are imperfect people who live in an imperfect world, we expect perfection. We expect that promotion at work, we expect our kids to always make good choices and we expect others to always be there when we need them. Problems arise when we look to anyone or anything other than God to fulfill our needs. Many a marriage has been destroyed when the husband or wife feels their spouse is responsible for their happiness.
Years ago, I read a story about a missionary couple who had faithfully served others their entire lives in a remote, third world country. The time had come for them to pass the baton and return home to the United States. After the plane landed, they looked out the window and saw a group of smiling people gathered around. The husband was overjoyed to see so many there to welcome them back. His joy was short lived when they got off the plane and realized the group wasn’t waiting for them but for a celebrity who was onboard their flight. With tears in his eyes and his expectations shattered, the husband whispered to his wife, “Not one person showed up for us, not a single one. Why? We’ve given our whole life for others and this is our reward?” The wife lovingly took her husband’s arm and gently reminded him of a glorious truth. “Honey, we aren’t home yet.”
The Bible tells us no eye has seen or no ear has heard all the wonderful things God has in store for His children, but we need to remember that we aren’t home yet. Someday, our expectations will be exceedingly, abundantly met. In the meantime, we are being trained for eternity and trained to trust Him in every situation. Our story is still being written so let’s refuse to allow unmet expectations to rob us of our joy because the best is yet to come.
“Expectation is the root of all heartache” – William Shakespeare