Building Each Other Up

“… build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit ….” Jude 1:20 (NLT)

Throughout my journey of discovering what it means to be the message, one of the biggest changes I’ve experienced has been a new understanding of the church. When you begin to understand that you are the message, you will come to see the church in a whole new way. For many, the church is a building or a religious organization. The truth is that the church is not about religion, at least not as what people think of religion. It’s not about empty rituals or routine practices and observances. It’s not even about teaching, preaching, or communicating messages with words about the gospel. The church is much more than words; the church is the gospel lived out in community. As we each have our own life message that’s intertwined with the life message of Jesus Christ, the church becomes a community of people who live out the gospel – not just in the church buildings where they meet but in the larger community and around the world. To effectively live out the gospel in our world, we are told to build each other up in the faith. That’s the point of biblical fellowship, and that’s why I love small groups so much. Living the message of the gospel in a fallen and broken world isn’t easy. We need one another. Faith is not just a matter of believing, but it’s a matter of belonging as well. How do we build each other up in the faith? One way is through prayer. In Jude 1:20, we are told to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we pray for one another, the Holy Spirit emboldens us to be the message in our world. Are you actively building up others in the faith? Who are you praying for in your community of faith? If we are going to take our faith beyond words to a life of action, it must begin in the church. Don’t wait on someone else to do it. Look for those in your community of faith that you can begin encouraging. In John 13:35, Jesus said, Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.”

A Faith that Holds You Together When Life Tries to Tear You Apart: Part 3

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And, when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him because he had trusted in his God.” Daniel 6:23 (NIV)

The faith that gets the world’s attention isn’t the one we speak of so much as it is the life we live. God is writing the story of His grace and power on the pages of our lives. That’s why the story of Daniel is such a favorite and is known by both believers and unbelievers alike. Daniel’s life message communicates more powerfully than any spoken word. In fact, it was his response in faith through his actions that gave him a platform to share his faith to a pagan and skeptical King. Daniel demonstrated a faith that can hold you together when life tries to tear you apart. He shows us how to do the same. How are you handling the lions’ den you’re facing? You may be in a situation that seems humanly impossible. Daniel offers three powerful insights about the lions’ den he faced that will deepen your faith:

1. The lions’ den is a divine opportunity.

We are learning in our faith-building challenge, Be The Message, that our extremities are really God’s opportunities! Here’s how Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10: We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since He’s the God who raises the dead! And He did it, rescued us from certain doom. And He’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.” 

2. The lions’ den determines my destiny.

Your destiny is determined by where you stand in the defining moments of your life. Daniel stood on the solid ground of faith in his God. He was able to tell the King, “My God sent His angel, and He shut the mouths of the lions….” (Daniel 6:22a NIV)

3. The lions’ den displays God’s power.

What a powerful demonstration of faith! What undeniable evidence for the existence and power of God! Daniel’s life was the message! God displayed His power and glory through Daniel because Daniel trusted Him! I love the passage today from Daniel 6:23. It says, The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And, when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him because he had trusted in his God.” Wow! Daniel was lifted out of the lions’ den so God could be lifted up! That’s the adventure of faith when your life becomes the message you believe. Look at the result. In verses 25-27, the Bible adds, Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language throughout the land: ‘May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.’” God was with Daniel in that lion’s den, and He is with you in yours as well. He will never abandon you! God is for you and will enable you to be the message so a watching world can see His power on display!

A Faith that Holds You Together When Life Tries to Tear You Apart: Part 2

Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.”

Daniel 6:18 (NIV)

Daniel shows us how to feed our faith so that we can overcome the obstacles in life that threaten to tear us apart. His life message offers us powerful and practical insights that will deepen our faith so we can be the message. The first insight from Daniel’s experience in the lions’ den was one of perspective. The lions’ den is a divine opportunity. We often only see the obstacle before us, but the obstacle is often God’s opportunity to show Himself mighty on our behalf! This gives us a new perspective on our problems. Our problems are really possibilities in disguise! We just need to see them from God’s point of view. That’s faith! It’s a faith that will hold you together when life tries to tear you apart.

Here’s another insight from Daniel’s experience.

  • The Lions’ Den Determines My Destiny

When you look at the verse today, you can’t help but notice something odd. The Bible says that the king was the one who couldn’t sleep when Daniel was the one in the lions’ den! You think it would be Daniel! But Daniel was at peace while the King was going to pieces! He was the only one who couldn’t sleep. Daniel woke up refreshed the next morning and, when the King came to check on him, Daniel said something remarkable, “O King, live forever! My God sent His angel, and He shut the mouths of the lions ….” (Daniel 6:21,22a NIV) The lions’ den was Daniel’s destiny! Daniel was able to rest because he had come to the place of total surrender to God. Daniel prayed and obeyed, and he left the results to God. No matter what happened, for Daniel, it would be a win – win! If the lions killed him, he would be with the God he loved and served and apart from this sinful, fallen world. If God delivered him, he would have undeniable evidence for His existence, power, and love to share with the King! It’s not only remarkable to me that God delivered Daniel from the mouths of the lions but that Daniel would say to the King who sentenced him there, “O King, live forever!” Wow! That’s not only faith but grace as well! Would you be as gracious to those whose actions would bring you harm? Daniel knew that it was God who delivered him, and God used the lions’ den to determine his destiny! It wasn’t his faith that delivered him. It was God. He just put the little faith he had in an awesome and powerful God who was able to do what he could not do. I don’t know what obstacles you’re facing that threaten to tear you apart, but I know the God of Daniel is available to you and me just as He was to Daniel. Do what Daniel did. Even though he didn’t know what the outcome would be, he prayed, obeyed, and left the results to God.

A Faith that Holds You Together When Life Tries to Tear You Apart

“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38 (NLT)

Life is full of obstacles! At times, it feels like one obstacle after another, and they’re overwhelming. What are the obstacles you’re facing right now? It could be in a relationship, your marriage, family, finances or at work. One of my favorite Bible characters is Daniel. His story encourages me with a faith that holds you together when life tries to tear you apart. Maybe you’ve stepped up and accepted the Be the Message faith building challenge and, as soon as you did, it seemed like one obstacle after another has been pushed in front of you! You may even begin to worry that you got out of God’s will somewhere along the way. That’s why the story of Daniel is such an encouragement to me. Talk about being the message! Daniel was a man of integrity. Even when his critics tried to dig up some dirt on Daniel, they came up with nothing! He was squeaky clean. He was also a man of genuine faith. The Bible says he prayed three times a day. He didn’t stop, despite the King’s edict not to pray with the threat of being thrown into a lions’ den! I think I may have been tempted to at least shut the window when I prayed to remove any evidence. Not Daniel. He had a faith that held him together when life tried to literally tear him apart! How did he conquer his fears? Max Lucado said, “Feed your faith, and your fears will starve. Feed your fears, and your faith will starve.” Daniel shows us how to feed our faith so that we can overcome the obstacles in life that threaten to tear us apart. In the next couple of days, we’ll examine some insights we learn from Daniel that will deepen our faith. Here’s the first one:

  • The Lions’ Den is a Divine Opportunity! Daniel was in the center of God’s will for his life, and yet he’s thrown into a den of lions! There’s a mistaken notion among many Christ followers today that the center of God’s will is the most comfortable place to be. The truth is, the comfort zone is the death zone! God didn’t design us to live in the comfort zone. He wants us to live with passion in the adventure of the faith zone. The faith zone is where you have to take risks and learn to lean on Him for everything! I love the passage in Daniel 6:17 that describes his predicament. It says, A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.” The lions’ den was Daniel’s greatest obstacle! It was his biggest problem! But that obstacle was God’s opportunity to show Himself mighty on Daniel’s behalf. His biggest problem was God’s greatest possibility! When the stone was placed over the den it must have been hard to see. That’s one of the big problems with life’s obstacles. They can often blind you. You can’t see a way out, and you begin to doubt in the darkness. You can’t see what God is up to, and you wonder if He really cares. Will He come through for you? It looks like a dead end! Look at that phrase describing Daniel again – “… so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.” It was humanly impossible! But God loves to turn dead ends into deliverance!

Maybe you’re feeling a lot like Daniel. The lions you’re facing threaten to tear you apart, and you’re tempted to compromise your faith! Don’t do it! God wants you to experience a faith that will hold you together! He will make a way where there seems to be no way! Trust Him. Nothing can ever separate you from His love!

The Great Disconnect

“Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” 1 John 3:19 (NLT)

Is it just me or do you feel the disparity between what you say you believe and how you live your life? This disconnect between message and life is something I’ve been keenly, and more painfully, aware of in just the past few years. Pastor and author, Rick Warren, has said the great disconnect between what we say we believe and how we really live causes most of the stress and discouragement in our lives. I say that my health is important, but I don’t always eat right or exercise. I say family is a top priority but, many times, they take second place to my schedule or work. I say God has first place in my life, but then I rush into my day without spending time alone in His presence with His Word. John tells us in this passage that if we want to have confidence when we stand before God, our actions should show that we belong to the truth. In verse 18, he says Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” How can we align our actions with what we believe? Our soul cries out for an authentic life, a life that is consistent with the things we believe in our hearts and know to be true. Even the great Apostle Paul struggled with this dilemma in his soul. In Romans 7, he discloses “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to–what I hate.” (Romans 7:15 TLB) If you’ve felt like this, you’re in good company! I believe God designed us to struggle with this great disconnect in our souls so that we would fall on our knees before Him and say, “I can’t do it, Lord! But You can! I need Your Spirit in me to live the message.” It’s a personal relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ; a relationship that plays out in our daily lives. We are called to be the message, not merely in word but in life by living the gospel through our lives, making it real in our actions. I want to invite you to join us in our pursuit to reduce the great disconnect by connecting with Jesus and learning what it means to live the message. We’re calling it the Be the Message Challenge. To get started, read a chapter a day in our book Be the Message and do the assignments at the end of the chapter. For more accountability, invite a friend to experience it with you. Before long, you will begin to feel the confidence that comes from seeing God at work in you, producing in you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.