Two are better than one . . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10
In the 2016 Rio Olympics, two athletes in the 5,000-meter race caught the world’s attention. About 3,200 meters into the race, New Zealander Nikki Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino collided and fell. Abbey was quickly up on her feet, but stopped to help Nikki. Moments after the two athletes had started running again, Abbey began faltering, her right leg injured as a result of the fall. It was now Nikki’s turn to stop and encourage her fellow athlete to finish the race. When Abbey eventually stumbled across the finish line, Nikki was waiting to embrace her. What a beautiful picture of mutual encouragement!
It reminds me of a passage in the Bible: “Two are better than one . . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Eccl. 4:9–10). As runners in a spiritual race, we need one another—perhaps even more so, for we are not racing in competition with each other but as members of the same team. There’ll be moments where we falter and need someone to pick us up; at other times, someone may need our encouragement through our prayers or presence.
The spiritual race is not to be run alone. Is God leading you to be a Nikki or Abbey in someone’s life? Respond to His prompting today, and let’s finish the race!
Dear Lord, thank You for the encouragement of fellow believers to help me on my journey. Help me to look for ways to encourage others.
We need each other to get where God wants us to go.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Philippians 4:12
“His piece is bigger than mine!”
When I was a boy my brothers and I would sometimes bicker about the size of the piece of homemade pie mom served us. One day Dad observed our antics with a lifted eyebrow, and smiled at Mom as he lifted his plate: “Please just give me a piece as big as your heart.” My brothers and I watched in stunned silence as Mom laughed and offered him the largest portion of all.
If we focus on others’ possessions, jealousy too often results. Yet God’s Word lifts our eyes to something of far greater worth than earthly possessions. The psalmist writes, “You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart” (Ps. 119:57–58). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the writer conveyed the truth that nothing matters more than closeness to God.
What better portion could we have than our loving and limitless Creator? Nothing on earth can compare with Him, and nothing can take Him away from us. Human longing is an expansive void; one may have “everything” in the world and still be miserable. But when God is our source of happiness, we are truly content. There’s a space within us only God can fill. He alone can give us the peace that matches our hearts.
Loving Lord, thank You that nothing and no one can meet my every need like You can.
When we are His, He is ours, forever.
You have made us for yourself, Lord. Our hearts are restless until they can find rest in You. Augustine of Hippo
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1–2
World-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, has an unusual way of leading the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, a forty-four-member chamber orchestra. Instead of waving a baton he directs while playing his Stradivarius with the other violinists. Bell told Colorado Public Radio, “Even while I’m playing I can give them all kinds of direction and signals that I think only they would understand at this point. They know by every little dip in my violin, or raise in my eyebrow, or the way I draw the bow. They know the sound I’m looking for from the entire orchestra.”
Just as the orchestra members watch Joshua Bell, the Bible instructs us to keep our eyes on Jesus our Lord. After listing many heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, the writer says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:1–2).
Jesus promised, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Because He is, we have the amazing privilege of keeping our eyes on Him while He conducts the music of our lives.
Lord, our eyes look to You this day so we may follow Your direction and live in harmony with You.
Taken from www.odb.org
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Hebrews 11:13
During a discussion of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, a teenager said he prefers his stories in books rather than movies. When asked why, the young man replied, “With a book, I can stay there as long as I want.” There is something to be said for the power of lingering in a book, especially the Bible, and “inhabiting” the stories there.
Hebrews 11, often called “the faith chapter” of the Bible, mentions nineteen people by name. Each one traveled a road of difficulty and doubt, yet chose to obey God. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (v. 13).
How easy it is to rush through our Bible reading without pondering the people and events in the text. Our self-imposed time schedule robs us of going deeper into God’s truth and His plan for our lives. Yet, when we are willing to stay awhile, we find ourselves caught up in the real-life dramas of people like us who chose to stake their lives on God’s faithfulness.
When we open God’s Word, it’s good to recall that we can stay as long as we want.
Father in heaven, thank You for Your written Word and the examples of people who lived by faith. Help us to follow You as they did.
Taken from www.odb.org
Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
I recently stumbled across some of my journals from college and couldn’t resist taking time to reread them. Reading the entries, I realized I didn’t feel about myself then the same as I do today. My struggles with loneliness and doubts about my faith felt overwhelming at the time, but looking back now I can clearly see how God has carried me to a better place. Seeing how God gently brought me through those days reminded me that what feels overwhelming today will one day be part of a greater story of His healing love.
Psalm 30 is a celebration psalm that similarly looks back with amazement and gratitude on God’s powerful restoration: from sickness to healing, from threat of death to life, from feeling God’s judgment to enjoying His favor, from mourning to joy (vv. 2–3,11).
The psalm is attributed to David, to whom we owe some of the most pain-filled laments in Scripture. But David also experienced restoration so incredible he was able to confess, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (v. 5). Despite all the pain he had endured, David discovered something even greater—God’s powerful hand of healing.
If you are hurting today and need encouragement, recall those times in your past when God carried you through to a place of healing. Pray for trust that He will do so again.
Lord, when our struggles feel bigger than what we can handle, help us to find comfort and strength in how You’ve carried us before.
Taken from www.odb.org
HE hope which is laid up for you in heaven.–If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. –“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.– Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple– No man may be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.–The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.–Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead .–Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory–Through Whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
Taken from Daily Light on the Daily Path Devotion found on www.preceptaustin.org
Then [Hezekiah] went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 2 Kings 19:14
As a teenager, when I became overwhelmed by enormous challenges or high-stakes decisions, my mother taught me the merits of putting pen to paper to gain perspective. When I was uncertain whether to take specific classes or which job to pursue, or how to cope with the frightening realities of adulthood, I learned her habit of writing out the basic facts and the possible courses of action with their likely outcomes. After pouring my heart onto the page, I was able to step back from the problem and view it more objectively than my emotions allowed.
Just as recording my thoughts on paper offered me fresh perspective, pouring our hearts out to God in prayer helps us gain His perspective and remind us of His power. King Hezekiah did just that after receiving a daunting letter from an ominous adversary. The Assyrians threatened to destroy Jerusalem as they had many other nations. Hezekiah spread out the letter before the Lord, prayerfully calling on Him to deliver the people so that the world would recognize He “alone . . . [is] God” (2 Kings 19:19).
When we’re faced with a situation that brings anxiety, fear, or a deep awareness that getting through it will require more than what we have, let’s follow in Hezekiah’s footsteps and run straight to the Lord. Like him, we too can lay our problem before God and trust Him to guide our steps and calm our uneasy hearts.
God is our greatest help in times of distress.
Taken from www.odb.org
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
“Will we see any snakes?”
Allan, a young boy in our neighborhood, asked that question as we started on a hike by the river near our home.
“We never have before,” I answered, “but we might! So let’s ask God to keep us safe.” We paused, prayed together, and kept walking.
Several minutes later my wife, Cari, suddenly took a quick step backward, narrowly avoiding a poisonous copperhead partially coiled on the path ahead. We waited as the snake left the trail, giving it a wide berth. Then we paused and thanked God nothing had happened. I believe that through Allan’s question, God had prepared us for the encounter, and our prayer was part of His providential care.
Our brush with danger that evening brings to mind the importance of David’s words: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chron. 16:11). This advice was part of a psalm celebrating the return of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. It recounts God’s faithfulness to His people in their struggles throughout history, reminding them to always praise Him and “cry out” to Him (v. 35).
What does it mean to “seek [God’s] face”? It means we turn our hearts toward Him in even the most mundane moments. Sometimes our prayers are answered differently than our asking, but God is faithful come what may. Our Good Shepherd will direct our paths and keeps us in His mercy, strength, and love. May we declare our dependence on Him.
by James Banks
Taken from www.odb.org
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Ezekiel 36:25
When I opened our dishwasher, I wondered what went wrong. Instead of seeing sparkling clean dishes, I removed plates and glasses that were covered in a chalky dust. I wondered if the hard water in our area was wreaking havoc, or if the machine was broken.
God’s cleansing, unlike that faulty dishwasher, washes away all of our impurities. We see in the book of Ezekiel that God is calling His people back to Himself as Ezekiel shared God’s message of love and forgiveness. The Israelites had sinned as they proclaimed their allegiance to other gods and other nations. The Lord, however, was merciful in welcoming them back to Himself. He promised to cleanse them “from all [their] impurities and all [their] idols” (36:25). As He put His Spirit in them (v. 27), He would bring them to a place of fruitfulness, not famine (v. 30).
As in the days of the prophet Ezekiel, today the Lord welcomes us back to Him if we go astray. When we submit ourselves to His will and His ways, He transforms us as He washes us clean from our sins. With His Holy Spirit dwelling within us, He helps us to follow Him day by day.
Lord God, the feeling of being cleansed and forgiven is like no other. Thank You for transforming me into a new person. Teach me to submit to You daily that I might grow more and more closely into the likeness of Jesus.
The Lord makes us clean.
My baby is learning to walk. I have to hold her, and she clings to my fingers because she is unsteady on her feet. She is afraid of slipping, but I am three to steady her and watch over her. As she walks with my help, her eyes sparkle with gratitude, happiness, and security. But sometimes she cries when I don’t let her take dangerous paths, not realizing that I am protecting her.
Like my baby girl, we often need someone to watch over us, to guide and steady us in our spiritual walk. And we have that someone – God our Father who helps His children learn to walk, guide our steps, holds our hand, and keeps us on the right path.
King David knew all about the need for God’s watchful care in his life. In Psalm 18 he describes how God gives us strength and guidance when we are lost or confused (v.32). He keeps our feet steady, like the feet of the deer that can climb high places without slipping (v.33). And if we do slip, His hand is there for us (v.35).
Whether we are new believers just learning to walk in the faith or we are further along in our walk with God, all of us need His guiding, steadying hand.
Dear Father, hold my hand and lead me in the paths of right living.
God watches over me every step of the way.
Taken from Our Daily Bread Devotional 2017
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