Far More Confidence

As a newlywed I did not want to bother my husband by asking for help with chores we had agreed I would complete. One Saturday it became obvious that I couldn’t get everything done on my long list before company arrived. And I started to stress. Finally, I broke down and asked if he would be able to help with a few tasks. He was surprised to see my level of distress and gladly pitched in, doing what I asked and even offering to do more. Later he gently asked why I waited so long to ask for help. His response to my explanation has stuck with me over the years: “I am always going to be busy doing something. But helping you was more important than what I was doing. You are always free to ask for my help, even if I look busy.”

Asking for help can be hard and uncomfortable. Sometimes we are afraid of rejection. Other times we prefer to avoid the disappointment of hearing “no”. For me, it is often hardest to ask for help when I feel insecure. Will the person respond with annoyance? Ridicule? Or worse, ignore me? It feels dangerous to make myself vulnerable to someone who might minimize, judge, or criticize my request. So I hesitate, trying to decide whether, how, and when I should ask. I forfeit the peace and joy of far more life at those times.

Sometimes we are hesitant to ask God for help for many of the same. Fortunately, the Bible addresses our insecurity:

Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. (Hebrews 4:15-16, GNT)

The High Priest held a significant role in the Jewish community. When questions arose, He took them to God and communicated His will to the people. He also went before God once a year to make a sacrifice for the people’s sins, to attain God’s forgiveness and favor. Jesus serves as our High Priest. The passage encourages us to boldly ask God for help, being confident that we will receive mercy and find grace from Him. But the verses go a step further by explaining WHY we should have confidence, WHY it is safe to approach God: because Jesus can relate to us. He has been in our shoes. He has faced temptation and experienced the challenges we face. And while He never sinned, He knows we will sometimes fall short. Since He is never surprised by this, it is always safe to ask for His help.

We experience far more life when we know God well enough to approach Him confidently at any time. He is our Daddy who is always ready to listen. He will take all of our requests seriously, never laughing at our weakness or lack of understanding. And He always knows exactly what help we need, even when we are uncertain. Far more life feels safe in approaching Him and trusts Him to respond well.

God’s help is always what we need but He does not always give the answer we expect. In His wisdom, He can see what is best for us — and His kingdom — in the long run. Sometimes it is best for Him to change the situation we are facing, which is usually what we want. But often His answer is to give us the opportunity to change to be more like Him. His most merciful and gracious answer may be encouragement to persevere. Or a reminder to forgive. It could challenge us to adopt an eternal perspective. Or to point out where we have missed His way. His answer often grows us to better reflect His character in our difficulties: love; joy; peace; patience; and other qualities of His Spirit. His answer to our requests leads us to far more life in both the current and future difficulties. These verses reveal His long-term goals for us:

…We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4, NIV)

And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6, GNT)

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. (I John 4:18, NIV)

Once we have accepted Jesus’ offer to take the punishment for our sins, we know that God will never punish us. We have no reason to be afraid of Him. We have every reason to love Him and believe that He loves us perfectly. We can always approach Him with confidence, regardless of our circumstances. We can expect Him to respond to every request with mercy and grace. We can trust Him to give us only the best answer every time we ask for His help.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11, NIV)

Because of His goodness, we can confidently ask Him for help and expectantly look for the good — and far more life — in each of His answers.

Sisters,
What makes it hard for you to ask others for help?
What kind of reaction do you expect from God when you ask for help? (annoyed, critical, apathetic, kind, compassionate, etc.)
What prevents you from approaching God confidently?
What helps you accept His answer when it is not what you expected?
Ask Him to help you see the help He offers is best and grow your confidence — and far more life.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Untouched

The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble. (Proverbs 19:23, NIV)

What a fascinating verse! Concise, straight-forward, and yet hard to grasp. Can it be literally true? Is this the ultimate experience of far more life?

The fear of the Lord. Other translations use respect, reverence, surrender, awe. They all indicate an awareness of God’s authority over us. We recognize Him as the alpha male, our leader. There is competition for this place of prominence in our hearts and minds: we can give our ultimate respect to people instead of God; we can revere power and prestige over Him; we can surrender to a lifestyle of pleasure or ease; we can be in awe of money and its privileges. It is good for us to examine our hearts and ask, “What is my primary object of fear, respect, reverence, surrender and awe? Is it God or something else?” Fear of something is the foundation on which we build our lives. This verse instructs us to place that fear in the Lord. Other verses outline more benefits of following that instruction:

But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. (I Samuel 12:24, NIV)

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. (Psalm 19:9a, NIV)

The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. (Psalm 25:14, NIV)

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (Psalm 34:7, NIV)

…The Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children. (Psalm 103:17, NIV)

The fear of the Lord adds length to life. (Proverbs 10:27a, NIV)

Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress. (Proverbs 14:26a, NIV)

He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. (Isaiah 33:6, NIV)

Leads to life. Whatever we fear (surrender to), it leads to something. Fear of people leads to a compromised life. Fear of power and prestige leads to a consumed life. Fear of pleasure and ease leads to a self-focused life. Fear of money leads to a greedy life. But fear of the Lord leads to far more life, a life marked by integrity, investment, eternal focus, and generosity. Consider these verses about such a life:

Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39b, NIV)

Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. (John 6:47, NIV)

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. (John 6:63, NIV)

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3, NIV)

You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence. (Acts 2:28, NIV)

…Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (Romans 6:13, NIV)

…The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (I Thessalonians 4:7, NIV)

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (I John 5:11, NIV)

Then one rests content. It is only after we have placed our fear in the Lord and found far more life that we rest contentedly. This means that we can relax in peace rather than being tied up with anxiety. It means we have joy rather than being afraid or angry about our circumstances It means we are not burdened by the past, present, or future; instead we are free to remember, enjoy, and dream. When God occupies His rightful place in our hearts, everything else falls into place.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him…Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:1, 5, NIV)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

…I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices, my body also will rest in hope. (Acts 2:25-26, NIV)

Untouched by trouble. At first glance, this appears to be untrue. Christ-followers are plagued by trouble: health trouble, job trouble, relationship trouble, financial trouble, and more. It certainly does not feel like we are “untouched”. But our eternal security IS untouched by trouble on this earth. And our ability to walk in the Spirit — to experience love, joy and peace and be patient, kind, good, and faithful — remains untouched by trouble. We have the power, through Christ, to view our troubles as He does: momentary light afflictions. When we stay focused on eternity, we can walk through them in far more life.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV)

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9, NIV)

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. (Psalm 34:19, NIV)

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him (Nahum 1:7, NIV)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, NIV)

 …I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. (2 Corinthians 7:4, NIV)

Sisters,
What is your primary object of fear, respect, reverence, surrender and awe?
Is that leading to temporary things or far more life?
Do you rest content? If not, what is preventing that?
What perspective helps you be untouched by your troubles?
Thank God for offering you far more life today…and every day for eternity!
-Shari

Wrapped in Prayer

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, NIV)

Heavenly Father,
I am so glad that I know where my help comes from — You! You made everything I know, so none of it is confusing to you. You understand what I cannot; you always have the right answer. You are the perfect helper in every situation. Knowing you is far more life.

Loving Father,
I am thankful that You are always willing to help me. Because You love me. Because You have made me part of your family. Because of Your character and who You are. I can look to You with confidence, knowing You are capable. I can look to You expectantly, knowing you are available and willing. And You will not let me down or leave me to suffer or struggle alone. Trusting you is far more life.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:3-4, NIV)

Faithful Father,
I am so thankful that I can never fall from Your grace. You have promised to never leave me or forsake me. You have promised that nothing can separate me from Your love. You have promised that nothing can destroy me. I am secure in You, regardless of what happens in my life. Neither circumstances or sin can break the covenant You made with me. Being held by You is far more life.

Watchful Father,
As I write this I am so tired. I long to lay down, close my eyes, and drift off to sleep. I face exhaustion every day — physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion, emotional exhaustion, spiritual exhaustion. But You do not. You never get tired. You never need a break. You always think clearly and act rightly. I can sleep in peace because You are awake and alert. I can rest in the knowledge that no evil will overcome me while You are distracted or unavailable. I am safe in Your care, even in my most vulnerable condition. Resting in You is far more life.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night. (Psalm 121:5-6, NIV)

Protective Father,
I am so glad that You shelter me. There are so many things in life that could burn me. I do not always recognize the dangers that surround me, but You do. I am often unable to see clearly, but You see everything perfectly. You do not miss anything. With You as my guard, no threat is cause for concern. Day or night, light or dark, sunny or stormy; You are there through it all. I am wise to stay under Your shelter, to accept your protection. Sometimes I ignore Your protection or reject it, thinking I am capable of keeping myself safe. I am so thankful that You never scold or criticize me when I call out to You from a dangerous or sinful place. You gently pick me up and tenderly care for me. And I realize You were protecting me the whole time — even when I tried to push You away. I find far more life wrapped in You.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:7-8, NIV)

Eternal Father,
It is comforting to know that You know everything about my life. My past. My present. My future. My sin as well as my righteousness. My best moments and my worst. Wherever I am, You are there. You will always be there with me and for me. Not just for this lifetime, but for eternity. Right now we have a long distance relationship. I see You with my heart. I see Your work; what You promised in Your love letter to me is coming true. I see evidence of Your provision and care. But I look forward to the day I will see You with my eyes. I look foward to being wrapped in Your arms. I look forward to hearing You say out loud, “Well done, my daughter, whom I love. Come share my happiness”. Living with You — on Earth today and all the days of eternity in Heaven — is far more life.

I offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, Your Son, My Savior,
Amen.

Sisters,
Offer up your own prayer. Use this psalm or another Scripture passage as a conversation starter. Bring God’s Word to life by telling how you have seen His truth in action. Remind yourself of His promises and character. Anticipate your future together. Wrapping yourself in Him is wrapping yourself in far more life.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Facing Forward

Do you identify as a “sinner saved by grace” or a “saint who sins”? It may sound like semantics, but there is a big difference between these mindsets. The one we choose impacts our self-perception, which is critical in our pursuit of far more life.

Biblically speaking, sinners are people who are separated from God and have no relationship with Him. The Bible clearly contrasts them with those who are in good standing with God.

Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things. (Proverbs 13:21, NIV)

All the sinners among my people will die by the sword… (Amos 9:10, NIV)

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32, NIV)

We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. (John 9:31, NIV)

Separation from God was not His plan for us; He created Adam and Eve to be in fellowship with Him. But when they chose sin, they became sinners and experienced spiritual death. All future humans, including us, were born spiritually dead and separated from God by a sinful nature. So God sent Jesus Christ to redeem sinners and restore the relationship between Himself and people.

…While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

Those who accept Christ — acknowledging they are incapable of meeting God’s standard of perfection and accepting Christ’s death as payment for their sins — are no longer separated from God. The relationship is reconciled. They become a member of His family, and He makes them into a new and different spiritual person, transforming them from sinner to saint. This is our first taste of far more life!

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. (Colossians 1:13, HCSB)

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household. (Ephesians 2:19, NASB)

But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come. (Daniel 7:18, NASB)

Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, GNT)

…Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:6-7, NASB)

Although God has changed us, we are still tempted to look at ourselves in the old way and forfeit far more life. This is tempting because we still sin. We still make wrong choices and have wrong thoughts, every day. We can still be deceived by Satan. And our understanding of God and the systems of this world remains imperfect. The changes God makes are not always obvious; our outward appearance and life circumstances stay the same. So we consider ourselves, our identity, to be the same as it was before accepting Christ.

But our identity was irrevocably changed; we are a new spiritual being that is alive and longing for far more life. We have a new desire: a yearning to grow in righteousness. We also have the ability to say “no” to sins that we felt powerless against in the past. But we also have a new enemy who wants us to continue living in sin and miss far more life. The battle between good and evil can trick us into forgetting that we are a new creation, a saint.

Psychologists tell us that how we view ourselves influences our choices. So if we view ourselves as sinners, we expect ourselves to sin. We also expect to feel empty, defeated, discouraged, fearful and more. But understanding that we have become saints enables us to expect ourselves to live righteously. We also have the power to feel and share love, joy, peace, patience, and other aspects of God’s character. We realize we will not be perfect in our actions, thoughts, or feelings, but we are willing to keep growing in understanding and righteousness. Each step that we take toward righteousness brings the experience of far more life, which increases our desire to keep growing.

Consider this analogy. We can only face one direction at a time, either backwards or forward. When we cling to our old “sinner” identity, we are facing backwards to our life before Christ. We are focused on the bad things we have done and continue to define ourselves by those thoughts and actions. But when we turn toward our new “saint” identity, we are facing our future with Christ. We can focus on the good things we want to do and can define ourselves by His qualities that are growing in our lives. Rather than striving to be less sinful than we used to be, we can strive to be the most righteous we have ever been. Would you rather be facing your future with anticipation or facing your past with regret? I choose the future and hope you do, too!

…This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, GW)

Will you join me in facing forward, saint? Far more life is waiting for us each step of the way!

Sisters,
Are you a sinner, a sinner saved by grace, or a saint who sins?
If you have never acknowledged your separation from God, would you like to do so now? If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask for help at farmorelife@gmail.com. I’m happy to talk with you about it.
Have you missed far more life by facing backward? How?
How have you grown in righteousness by facing forward?
Thank God for the prize — eternal life — waiting for saints in Heaven. And for far more life as we journey toward Him.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Small Matters

Do you desire bigger things in life? Is your mindset, “Bring on the challenge and I will grow into it?” Do you feel a lot of opportunities are too small to be worth your while?

It is good to grow and be stretched. It is good to set and pursue goals, even lofty goals. There are times we need to say no. There are times to make changes so your potential is being fully utilized and appreciated. But often we need to wait: wait for more experience; wait for an opening; wait for the right time; wait until our current commitment is fulfilled. And while we are waiting, we have a choice: will we wallow in dissatisfaction or embrace far more life?

I remember facing this choice when my student group was appointing new small group leaders. I desperately wanted the position; I knew it would be a challenge, but I was confident I could be faithful with the responsibilities if given the chance. I wanted to be stretched. I thought I would find far more life once I was a leader.

When I was not selected, I was tempted to become less committed to the group, thinking they were not willing to invest in me. But soon I realized my motivation was pride and the desire for recognition; the woman who was chosen to lead invested her life in loving God by loving others. She didn’t care if the need was large or small, she didn’t consider some tasks “beneath her”. And yet she was experiencing far more life, even in small, ignoble tasks. She was already acting as a leader by caring for others the group, so it was only natural that she be recognized and supported in that role. Her actions and mindset demonstrated this Biblical principle:

“Someone who is faithful in a small matter”, Jesus continued, “will also be faithful in a large one. Someone who is dishonest in a small matter will also be dishonest in a large one.” (Luke 16:10, NTE)

We are tempted to misread this verse to say, “Someone who is faithful in a small matter is paying their dues; after proving themselves they will be awarded larger matters and find far more life.” But that is not what it says!

Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit; as God’s daughters we always have access to it. Whether we are taking on a small or large matter, far more life is available — and God’s desire — for us. The situations we encounter give us opportunity to grow in consistently choosing to be faithful. That is far more life!

Far more life is faithfully persevering, despite the barriers and challenges we face:

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial… (James 1:12, NASB)

Far more life is making wise decisions about which matters we take on so we can faithfully complete them:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise. (Ephesians 5:15, NIV)

Far more life is giving of ourselves willingly:

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)

Far more life is doing what pleases God and trusting Him with the results:

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21, NIV)

God does not measure our faithfulness by the size of the task. Larger matters are often more complex and require more skills, but we can find far more life doing a small matter with a faithful heart.

Sometimes a seemingly small matter is really a large matter. When I was learning to play the flute, I was disappointed to start with just the mouthpiece. Then I was frustrated because I could not make it produce a sound. While I spent hours learning how to shape my lips and precisely where to position them on the mouthpiece, my friends were playing a variety of actual notes on their reed and brass instruments. It was discouraging to see them progress when I was stuck on what seemed like a simple task: blowing into the flute to generate a sound. But faithful practice allowed me to master that skill. I “graduated” to learning actual notes on the full instrument. Then I was able to take on the seemingly larger matter of learning notes and rhythms. Years of practice allowed me to play increasingly difficult pieces of music. But looking back, I realize that learning how to shape my lips and position them on the mouthpiece was actually the LARGEST matter; it laid the foundation for all that came later. If I had not been faithful to learn that, I would have not have been able to play even the simplest song.

Faithfulness often has practical rewards as well, as we read in Proverbs:

Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men. (Proverbs 22:29, NASB)

This verse shares a principle, not a promise; not every skilled person will literally stand before a king in their lifetime. But faithfulness yields opportunities and blessings we would otherwise miss. One of those blessings is far more life in Him every step of the journey!

Sisters,
Is it easy or challenging for you to be faithful with the matters in your life? Does the size impact your faithfulness?
Which is easiest for you: persevering, making wise decisions, giving willingly, or trusting God? Which is hardest?
When have you discovered a “small matter” that was actually large?
What opportunities and blessings has been generated by your faithfulness?
Thank Him that far more life is always available through every matter you face!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo from wwe.songflute.com

Every Morning

At the start of a new year most people evaluate where they are in life and where they want to be. Many set new goals, make new plans, and use the new year to make a new start. But we never have to wait: God offers His daughters a new start every morning!

It is because of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, Because His [tender] compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; Great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, AMP)

These verses proclaim that a new, unlimited supply of His compassion is available to us each day. This is a gift as well as a demonstration of His character. Understanding and embracing this is a key to far more life, so let’s explore it.

Compassion literally means “to suffer together”. It involves noticing another’s suffering, desiring relief for them, and acting to alleviate it. Compassion is both emotionally connecting with others and actively caring for them. God is emotionally connected to you and actively cares about your struggles every day.

This point is so important that the writer of Lamentations states it multiple ways to make sure we catch it:

  • God’s lovingkindness keeps us alive.
  • His tender compassions toward us never fail.
  • His compassions are new every morning.
  • God’s faithfulness (guarantee He will do what He promises) is great and beyond measure.

This sparks peace and joy in my heart. God loves me. His love keeps me alive. He is with me. He is for me. He sees my struggles, my hurts, my burdens. They hurt Him as much as they hurt me. Every day He acts to help alleviate them. He never gets tired of helping me. He never gives up on me. He reaches out day after day to connect with me and ease my burdens. He is my God, my Daddy, my Best Friend, my Today, my Tomorrow, my Eternity! Accepting His connection and care is where I find far more life.

I can understand why the writer continues:

“The Lord is my portion and my inheritance,” says my soul;
“Therefore I have hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.”
(Lamentations 3:24, AMP)

We grow impatient in our struggles. We want them to be resolved now. And we are tempted to think that God is not acting if we do not find immediate relief. We want Him to rescue us, but He has a better plan: to join us in our struggle, to strengthen us, and to rescue our hearts from despair and discouragement even when our situation remains unchanged. We find far more life by expectantly looking for His compassion in action.

This reminds me of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath in I Kings 17. There was a severe drought that lasted 3 years, yet every morning she had enough oil and flour to make that day’s bread for her household. God literally showed His compassion every morning. He did not dole it out a week at a time and ask her to ration it carefully. He provided exactly what she needed for each day. He proved Himself faithful — and reminded her of His connection and care — day after day after day. Although the drought was long, her confidence in God must have grown each day. She had opportunity to stop worrying about running out of food and instead enjoy peace of mind. She had reason to place her hope in God and waited expectantly for Him to meet her need each morning. What a wonderful picture of far more life in action!

The Lord is good to those who wait [confidently] for Him,
To those who seek Him [on the authority of God’s word]. (Lamentations 3:25, AMP)

Goodness is one of God’s character qualities, so He is always good. But I think this verse is saying that we notice His goodness when we seek Him and expectantly wait for Him. I wonder how often I have missed an opportunity to thank and praise God because I failed to realize it was HIM who met my need. In the midst of a struggle when I am praying for His help, I am on the lookout for it and quickly acknowledge His actions. But too often, I am focused on getting myself through the day and forget about His connection and care. Or I fail to realize the depth of His actions on my behalf.

A friend was driving down the interstate when a tire and axle broke off a semi heading the other direction, rolled across the median, bounced onto the hood of her car, hit her windshield, and flew to the shoulder. She pulled off the road and stopped the car, thankful that God protected her being hurt or crashing. But her understanding of God’s goodness and active care was heightened when a police officer who witnessed the whole thing (and told her what had actually happened) said he had never seen anyone walk away from that kind of accident alive, let alone uninjured!

We have all faced situations where we were blind to God’s compassion. Sometimes we are even angry with Him and question why He allowed something bad to happen. While we cannot see what would have happened — how much worse it would have been — without God’s compassion, we can be confident that He is emotionally connected and actively caring for us every single day. This confidence in His love and involvement brings far more life.

Whatever comes your way today, God’s compassion is active and sufficient to give you far more life.

Sisters,
Are there any barriers that make it hard for you to believe that God’s compassion is new every morning? If so, share those with Him and seek out His truth so you are free to embrace His compassion.
What challenges you in waiting expectantly for Him?
How have you experienced His emotional connection and active caring? Has He ever used people as His messengers?
Pray that you will see God’s goodness today and find far more life.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: Jennifer Davis

Great joy!

Joyful. Happy. Blessed. Content. Satisfied. Glad. Delighted. Pleased. Cheerful. All of these words occur on the joy spectrum. We think of some as outward expresssions and others as internal responses, but all are aspects of joy. All forms of joy are indicators that we are walking in far more life.

When our children were little, my husband and I taught them to obey the instructions they were given quickly, completely, and cheerfully. Their attitude was as important as their actions. Sometimes cheerfulness came easy for them; preschoolers LOVE helping with “big people” tasks. Other times were challenging; in some situation neither they or us were naturally cheerful! It was important to us that they learned to work and follow their leaders in life joyfully.

Joy, in all its various forms, is important to God, too. It is a recurring theme in His word:

…This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV)

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. (Ecclesiastes 3:12, NIV)

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8, NIV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (I Timothy 6:6, NIV)

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied…(Isaiah 53:11, NIV)

But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. (Psalm 68:3, NIV)

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (2 Samuel 22:20, NIV)

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16, NIV)

…God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. (Luke 2:10, NIV)

The last verse caught my attention this week. The angel could have prefaced the news of Jesus’ birth in many ways: it will give you hope; it will bring you peace; it will show you God’s love. But he focused on the GREAT JOY it would cause. The birth of most babies is a cause of great joy for family and friends. The birth of Jesus, however, was a cause of great joy for ALL the people because it offers far more life. The angel continues:

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  (Luke 2:11, NIV)

There are several reasons the birth of Jesus brings us great joy:

We have great joy — and far more life — because Jesus is our Savior. He rescued us from the penalty of our sin, which is separation from God now and forever.

…Our Savior, Christ Jesus…has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:10, NIV)

We have great joy — and far more life — because Jesus is the Messiah. He is a descendant of King David who will establish an eternal kingdom:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, NIV)

…The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15, NIV)

We have great joy — and far more life — because Jesus is Lord. He is our ultimate master and ruler…forever.

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11, NIV)

But why do these names — Savior, Messiah, and Lord — bring us great joy and far more life? Because they reset our perspective. They remind us to lift our eyes from the everyday struggles of this life and remember the bigger picture. Because of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we have the opportunity for far more life now and for all eternity. We have a Savior willing to rescue us from the consequences of our sin. We have a Messiah who will bring justice to the world. We have a Lord who will rule over His followers with goodness and righteousness for all eternity. Letting Jesus fill these roles in our life is indeed cause for great joy!

Great joy is not ignoring our problems, rather it is putting them in perspective. Whatever circumstances we face in this life, we can have far more life by choosing joy. We can choose joy because, through Jesus, our sins are forgiven, even when our circumstances tempt us to sin. We can choose joy because, through Jesus, justice and peace are coming, even though our circumstances are unjust. We can choose joy because, through Jesus, we will live in a perfect paradise forever, even though our current circumstances are far from perfect. Even Jesus chose to focus on His future joy when He faced the difficulty of crucifixion:

Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1-2, GNT)

Whatever you face today, face it with great joy — and far more life — in Jesus!

Sisters,
What word on the “spectrum” best describes your joy?
How does reflecting on Jesus’ life and purpose bring you great joy?
What circumstances challenge your joy?
Thankfulness helps us maintain and restore our joy. Choose far more life — and experience great joy — by taking a few moments to thank God for His work in and around you.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso