Read: Psalm 18
We don’t have the right to claim that we have done anything on our own. God gives us what it takes to do all that we do. II Corinthians 3:5
I work with an organization that helps men to learn to live more responsibly. What we have observed with many of the men is enthusiasm and a focus on God in our initial involvement with them, but as time passes and they experience some positive changes and success, they start to develop a self-suﬃcient attitude that if not addressed eventually leads to their undoing. Even though they continue to go through the motions of praying, going to church, reading their Bibles, etc., they replace dependence on God with dependence on themselves. I have concluded that our goal with these men is that they learn to live with dependence on God rather than with self-reliance or self-suﬃciency. In fact, self-suﬃciency is a tendency for each of us. We prefer to be in control and to think that we can make it on our own. One of the problems with this way of thinking is that it limits what we can accomplish, because God is so much bigger and more able than we are. Another is that we receive the credit instead of God. David recognized early in his life his need for the divine assistance of God in facing numerous enemies. As we read in Psalm 18, he looked to and called out to God for help. God listened and answered, and as a result David gave credit to, and praised God. So, what is the focus of trust in your life right now — your material possessions, your position, or even your spiritual knowledge? Is your security rooted in God or in substitutes for God? One of the best things that can happen to us is for us to recognize that we cannot do it on our own, which can lead to surrender instead of self-suﬃciency. Surrendered people are those, through whom God can do his greatest work and receive the glory that He deserves. Are you surrendered or self-suﬃcient?
Read: II Samuel 3
You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. Ezekiel 3:7
My wife and I had the blessing of having three children within four years. Everything that we did as a family, such as going to the mall, was a major undertaking. I’m thankful that we were young! While we enjoyed our children as they grew up, sometimes there were tough issues to deal with. These tough issues usually came at inconvenient times and required my undivided attention. For example, there were situations when I was ready to minister to others, when I had to alter my plans to handle an issue on the home front. I learned from this that one of the diﬀerences between an eﬀective and ineﬀective father is the willingness to deal with the tough stuﬀ with one’s children. Overall David was a very successful king, who demonstrated tremendous skill and courage in standing up to Israel’s enemies, and was loved and respected by his people. However, one exception to this was his inability or unwillingness to deal ﬁrmly with Joab, his nephew and commander of his army. He took no action when Joab killed two other leaders out of revenge. Whatever David’s reasons, he was unwilling to deal with this tough issue, which eventually had to be addressed by his son Solomon. I have concluded that a primary role of leadership is to address diﬃcult people and situations that only the leader can address. Oftentimes the unwillingness to do so is rooted in selfcenteredness. This leads to doing nothing in the hopes that it will go away or in dumping it on someone else. However, this usually escalates the problem instead of it going away. It is through dealing with the tough stuﬀ that we grow. How are you handling the diﬃcult realities in your involvement with others?
Read-II Samuel 1
For where you have envy and selﬁsh ambition, there will you ﬁnd disorder and every evil practice. James 3:16
David’s opportunity had ﬁnally arrived! He learned that Saul, who had hunted him down and wanted to kill him, was dead. However, instead of presenting the one, who claimed to be Saul’s assassin with his expected reward and leading his men in public celebration, David had the man killed for his deed, and he led his people in mourning for the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. Though David knew that he had been chosen by God to be the new king of Israel, he laid aside personal ambition to demonstrate honor and respect for Saul. In the course of time, as the next chapter begins, David was oﬃcially recognized by the people as their new king. By contrast, the political arena in our society today, shows that some candidates have no limits to the harm they will inﬂict on others in order to satisfy their ambitions. Such was the case in the Watergate scandal in the 1970’s. Webster deﬁnes ambition as aspiration, longing, or passion. The main issue, as the two illustrations above emphasize, is the focus of one’s ambition. Selﬁsh ambition, as described in James 3:14-16, leads to disorder and every kind of evil. Such ambition is hurtful and can even be destructive to self and to others. I know a person, whose ambition to be successful in his profession has done great harm to him and his family. His preoccupation with ﬁnancial success led him into some unethical practices that he is dearly paying for today. On the other hand, if one’s ambition is to please God and to build up others, that person will experience peace, joy, and fulﬁllment equaling godly success. What is the focus of your ambition?
Read I Samuel 23:17-18
Anxious hearts are very heavy but a word of encouragement does wonders! Proverbs 12:25 (LB)
Recently our ministry received a gift from a friend and with the gift was a note to me, which said, “I appreciate what you are doing. Keep up the good work!” His gift made it possible for us to ﬁnish the month in line with our projections, but more importantly his gift provided our team with some needed encouragement. While David was running from King Saul, who was trying to kill him, he, too, received encouragement from an unexpected source — his friend Jonathan, the son of Saul and the rightful heir to the throne. These two situations are reminders to me that all of us are in need of encouragement, and sometimes the people with the greatest responsibilities need encouragement the most. Those with positions over others are sometimes more vulnerable to fear, anxiety, and discouragement — even though they may seem to be unﬂappable. Each of us needs to develop the habit of reaching out to others with an uplifting word, note, gift, touch, or investment of time. This beneﬁts us, because it helps us to get out of ourselves, but it also beneﬁts others in ways that we do not expect. Remember this: We all need encouragement. Take time today to encourage your boss, your pastor, or, even harder, a diﬃcult person in your life!
Read: I Samuel 27
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. – II Corinthians 4:16
In a movie that I recently watched about a well-known golfer from the past, there was one scene where he walked oﬀ and quit a tournament because he was playing terribly. He had had enough, which led him to make an emotional decision, which he later regretted. When David was running from Saul, even though God had protected him from getting caught, he came to a point when he was tired of running, and decided to join up with the Philistine enemy to insure the safety of he and his men. It worked for a period of time because Saul stopped chasing him. However, in making this decision, David had relied on his own understanding, and had taken matters into his own hands. Later on, God worked through the Philistine commanders to get him away from them. While there are unhealthy situations when leaving may be the wisest course to follow, often when things get tough, we tend to rely on our feelings, and to quit or leave rather than trusting in God. When we do so, we miss out on opportunities to see God work, and usually have regrets. Perhaps you ﬁnd yourself in a diﬃcult situation right now that you are considering leaving because you have had enough. However, before following through on this feeling, it may be wise to give it more time, and in the interim to commit it to the Lord in prayer, and to even seek the counsel of a more objective person. When we have had enough, we are in a great position to allow God to take over and to demonstrate His power. Don’t miss out on the opportunity!
Read I Samuel 30
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5
In the ministry that I lead, we guide men through the recovery process from drug and/or alcohol addiction. This is a painful process for these men because of the grip that substances have taken on their lives. Chances of recovery are greatly enhanced if we can help them to gain a legitimate source of hope. If not, the recovery process does not last. In the sense that we are all in need of hope, as we face failure and discouragement at diﬀerent times, we all go through a recovery process. When David and his men returned to their camp in Ziklag, their discouragement slipped to a new low. They discovered that their families had been kidnapped by the enemy, and taken away. In fact, things got so bad that they wept until they could not weep anymore (keep in mind that these were ﬁghting men). To make matters worse, they blamed their leader David, and threatened to stone him. Their only ﬂicker of hope was in knowing that their families were still alive. However, instead of giving up, David looked to the Lord, and found encouragement (hope) in Him, and he led his men to recover all that they had lost So, what can we learn from this? In times of discouragement and hopelessness look to God for hope and strength. Though people can be a great source of encouragement, there are times when the only place to gain hope is from God by listening to Him from His Word and communicating with Him in prayer. How have you learned to handle your recovery?
Read I Samuel 23:1-6; Galatians 1:10
For they loved praise from men more than praise from God- John 12:43
When Billy Graham was trying to decide whether or not to accept the invitation to conduct his ﬁrst crusade in the Soviet Union in 1982, he sought the advice of several people, whom he respected before making his ﬁnal decision. While there were some who thought that he should go, there were others, who counseled him not to go because of the damage that it might do to his reputation or because of potential negative political repercussions. However, after agonizing over the decision at some length, Graham decided to go because of the great opportunity that this provided to advance the gospel. Though he had sought the advice of others, he had to make a decision that was most in line with God’s priorities — regardless of the risks involved. David sought the guidance of God as to whether or not he should lead his troops to ﬁght the Philistines, who were stealing grain in the Israeli town of Keilah. Even though he had received positive leading from God, David’s men were against the idea because they were fearful. However, David looked to God again, and having received conﬁrmation to move forward, he decided to ﬁght the enemy in Keilah, and they were victorious. While seeking the advice and input of others is important, ultimately a person must make the ﬁnal decision based on what he believes is most in line with God’s purposes and priorities. In order to do so you must be more concerned with pleasing God than with appeasing people. So, when making decisions are you secure enough to do what God wants you to do — even if others, whom you respect think otherwise? Are you more concerned with pleasing people or God?
Read Judges 3:31; I Samuel 22:1-2
Shamgar the son of Anath was the next to rescue Israel. In one battle, he used a sharp wooden pole to kill six hundred Philistines. Judges 3:31 (CEV)
Bobby Cox has been the manager of the Atlanta Braves baseball team for several years, and during that time they have won the Pennant and gone to the playoﬀ s more consistently than any other team. One of the attributing factors to this success has been Cox’s ability to make the most of the team’s personnel. This has been evidenced by the fact that the team’s payroll has not skyrocketed, as it has with other successful franchises. There is a valuable lesson to be learned from this: Instead of missing opportunities while complaining about the resources that we do not have, make a positive diﬀerence by making the most of the resources that we do have. When David was running from Saul initially, the men who composed his army are described as in trouble, in debt, and discontented. David developed the men, whom he had into an eﬀective ﬁghting force. My guess is that many of them ended up being included among David’s mighty men described later in scripture. In the society in which we live, we always want more. For those in leadership roles, there is the same tendency to want to make a bigger proﬁt, to have more space, to have a bigger ministry, etc. While there is certainly a place for expanding and growing, far too much time and energy is given to wanting things to be diﬀerent rather than with making the most of what God has already given us. So, are you a resourceful person, who makes the most of what you have or are you a complainer, who would do more only if or when? Perhaps you could learn a lesson from David.
Read: I Samuel 29; Proverbs 20:24
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21
Several years ago I went through a diﬃcult time, in which I lacked clarity of direction regarding job and ministry, which led to a feeling of hopelessness. During this period, a friend of mine gave me a gift of a framed Bible verse: “Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord; how then can a man understand his way?” (Proverbs 20:24) This helped me to learn that there are times when life just doesn’t make sense. David went through such an experience when the Philistine army commanders wanted he and his men to leave their army. David and his men had been living and ﬁghting for the Philistines in order to be safe from Saul. Their decision did not make sense to David. What David did not recognize at the time was that God was working through these leaders to prevent him from ﬁghting against the Israelites, because he would soon become their King. We all have those times when life throws us curve balls. We just don’t understand what God is doing. It could be a health problem, the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job. So, how should we respond? The place to start is reminding ourselves that God is in control, and He has a purpose in mind — even though we cannot see it! Also the passage of time helps in gaining a better perspective and the reality that our understanding is limited and in some cases we may never understand why things happen as they do. Conﬁdence in God can help us to be certain — even when life is not clear.
Read: I Samuel 24-26; Romans 12:17-21
Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you. Proverbs 20:22
My wife and I have a friend who has been treated badly by her husband for many years. He, likewise, has deeply hurt their three children in various ways. As she seeks to address this situation with the assistance of others, one of her biggest challenges is that of leaving vengeance in God’s hands rather than taking this upon herself. In I Samuel 24-26, this same issue surfaced for David in three diﬀerent situations. In chapters 24 and 26, he had opportunities to get even with King Saul, who had been trying to kill him. Yet, in spite of the encouragement of his men to do so, he chose to leave pay back in God’s hands. However, in chapter 25, David revealed his humanness by preparing to get even with Nabal, a wicked man, who had refused to honor David’s request for provisions for he and his men. Due to the intervention of Nabal’s wife, Abigail, David refrained from doing harm. Later on God did get even with Nabal. One of the realities of life is that of being wronged by others, who seemingly pay no consequences for their wrongdoing. It just does not seem fair! Each of us has our own way of getting back at people, overtly or subtly. In such situations, however, we need to trust in a just God, which necessitates letting go, and leaving vindication in His hands. What makes this diﬃcult is that this involves waiting. Perhaps you are struggling with the issue of revenge toward a wrongdoer in your own life. Remember: Let it go, and leave it in His hands! He will deal with it in His way and time! Don’t allow yourself to become a victim of bitterness and vengeance. Then you can be free to lovingly reach out to and inﬂuence others.
Read: I Samuel 21:1-9; 22:11-23
Then David confessed to Nathan, “I’ve sinned against God.” II Samuel 12:13 (The Message)
Major League Baseball has come under scrutiny in recent years because of steroid use by numerous players, including some of its biggest stars. Players taking, performance enhancing, substances, in turn, has brought into question some of the records that have been set. Perhaps even worse, has been the vehement denial by these athletes that they have ever partaken of such substances. One player, who tested positive, stated that he had not knowingly used anything. Such dishonesty puts a dark blot on the integrity of these players. By contrast, back in the 1970s, when someone put poison in Tylenol, which led to the deaths of several people, Johnson and Johnson, accepted responsibility for the situation, and recalled the product from the shelf. Though this cost the company millions of dollars in the short-term, this action preserved its integrity and reputation, and has attributed to its ongoing success today. When running from Saul to Ahimilech the priest, David out of fear of being denied the help that he requested, answered the priest’s questions dishonestly. While David received the food and weapon that he asked for, later many priests were slaughtered when Saul found out David had been given help, David’s fear lead to dishonesty, which in turn, resulted in the deaths of many innocent people. Though dishonesty may work or seem to work in the short-term, ultimately it results in negative consequences. Honesty, on the other hand, even if there are consequences to pay, preserves one’s integrity, which is of much higher value than anything that is saved by being untruthful. The eﬀects of honesty or the lack of it are more profound for those in leadership. It helps to decide ahead of time to operate with honesty no matter what! Have you made that decision?
Read I Samuel 18:1-5; Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17
I am challenged by the ability of my daughter to build friendships. It seems that cell phones were made with people like her in mind. She does several things that attract people to her: She listens well to others, she spends time with them, and she laughs with them. Perhaps most importantly, she is transparent and is open with her life. She ﬁts the description given by Solomon of being loyal and available to others in times of need. One of the by-products of Tina’s capacity for friendship is her spiritual inﬂuence on others. Another example of a person, who was adept at building friendships was King Saul’s son Jonathan, who was the rightful heir to his father’s throne. After David had killed Goliath, and was being recognized for his military accomplishments, instead of viewing him as a threat or becoming jealous of him, Jonathan opened himself to David in a special bond of friendship. He actually sealed this bond by giving David his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt, some of his most valued possessions. Even later, when he knew that David would become the next king, he stayed true to him. Friends are important for encouragement, support, and, at times, for protection. However, to build lasting friendships there must be a willingness to sacriﬁce time, privacy, and possessions. For example, several years ago, when I was about to graduate from college, a friend gave (not lent) me a sizable amount of money so that I could pay oﬀ my college bill and walk in my graduation. He certainly could have used that money on himself. The ﬁrst question to ask regarding friendships is “What am I willing to do to be a friend to others?” Leaders without friends are loners with limited inﬂuence on others.
Read I Samuel 16:7
Be beautiful inside, in your hearts, with the lasting charm of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. I Peter 3:4 (NLB)
In many of the reality shows on television today, much emphasis is put on what people look like, their bodies and their faces, and very little on what kind of people they are inside, their character. The message that is conveyed is that the externals are the keys to success. Unfortunately, those, who possess these surface assets alone oftentimes are shown to be very unhappy and unfulﬁlled people. Their success is short-lived. This tendency to emphasize the outer person is not new. When Samuel was told by God to select one of Jesse’s sons as Saul’s successor as king of Israel, he immediately looked at Eliab, the oldest, as the most likely candidate, based on outward appearance. However, God intervened to convey an important truth to Samuel: The Lord doesn’t make decisions on the same basis as human beings! People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions (I Samuel 16:7 NLB). This ultimately led to the selection of Jesse’s youngest son David, whom God referred to in another place as a man after His own heart. His predecessor Saul, while being physically superior to other men, had distinguished himself as one who lacked the character necessary for being a leader, who was pleasing to God. Because we cannot see people’s hearts as God does, we also tend to measure people’s potential and value by externals, such as the beauty of the face and body, personality, etc. How can we develop a selection system more like God’s? The place to start is by putting a higher value on character development than on externals in our own lives. As we do this regarding ourselves, then we can gain discernment regarding others. Remember: True beauty is more than skin deep!
Read: Nehemiah 4:1-23
So we built the wall till all of it reached half it height, for the people worked with all their heart. – Nehemiah 4:6
Not long ago, as a part of my organization’s building renovation, several oﬃces were moved to a diﬀerent location. As a result, we signiﬁcantly increased our capacity for the number of clients we are able to serve. While we are very thankful for this opportunity, one of the related dangers, since my oﬃce is in the new building, is that of me becoming isolated or removed from those whom we serve in the other building. Instead of referring to the work with the pronoun we in my communication with others, I could start thinking in terms of they, them, or me. I have already decided to make a conscious eﬀort to visit the ministry site on a consistent basis so that I can stay attuned to daily operations and to maintain visibility. Fruitful people put a high priority on staying connected with others, regardless of the inconvenience of doing so. An acquaintance of mine who owns a business that spans several states illustrates this by taking a month out of each year to visit each of the sites. He does this primarily to interact with the people, who are making things happen on a daily basis. Nehemiah was an involved leader. In fact, in Nehemiah 4, he uses the pronouns “we,” “us,” and “our” thirteen times in twenty-three verses. Are you a we leader or a me leader? The former is a morale booster, while the latter is a morale buster
Read: I Corinthians 13:1-13
If anyone says “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. – I John 4:20
Years ago, on my return from a late night appointment, I was involved in a car accident in which I was at fault, was driving without insurance, and had forgotten to bring along my driver’s license! The other driver and I were both hurt and the cars had to be towed. However, amid this ordeal, perhaps the most diﬃcult part was having to call my closest friend Tom to admit my embarrassing dilemma and to ask for his assistance. As I reﬂect back on this situation, what stands out in my mind is Tom’s understanding, acceptance, and patience – in essence his love. Over the years, He has been there for me at several other critical junctures in my life as a consistent channel and model of love. One of the most important qualities of fruitful people is love. Such people attract and are able to beneﬁt others because their focus is on what is best for others rather than on themselves. Just prior to his cruciﬁxion Jesus decided to demonstrate His love for His twelve disciples by washing their dirty feet – including the feet of the one He knew was about to betray Him. Then He proceeded to exhort them to do the same with each other. It is possible for a person to have many commendable qualities, such as courage, steadfastness, and discipline, but to be lacking in love. However, deﬁciency in this regard signiﬁcantly limits one’s inﬂuence on others. What drives you to operate as you do in your involvement with people?
Read II Kings 2:1-18
Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me. – Ruth 1:17
The words Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never are part of a speech given by Winston Churchill, Great Britain’s Prime Minister during World War II. Such words are evidence of his refusal to give in to the intimidation of Adolph Hitler, the Nazi leader. His persistence eventually led to an alliance with Russia and the United States, which ultimately resulted in victory for the allies. Had it not been for this one man’s resolve to defeat this evil regime, the world as we know it would be radically diﬀerent today. One of the qualities of eﬀective people is determination. They are not easily dissuaded from the course they have chosen to pursue. In II Kings 2, we read the account of the prophet Elijah as he was completing his earthly ministry. Along the way to his destination his assistant Elisha stuck with him, despite the attempts of others to dissuade him from doing so. He demonstrated the single-mindedness, initiative, and refusal to quit that characterizes persistent people. In the end, he reaped the reward of succeeding his master as the leader of the school of the prophets. Persistent people refuse to deviate from their God-given course in spite of criticism or the well-intentioned advice of others – whatever the cost! What worthwhile venture have you resolved to pursue? How are you handling the potential deterrents to seeing it through? There may be reward just around the corner!
Read John 13:1-17
But his servants caught up with him and said, “Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?” – II Kings 5:13
In the late afternoon after a couple of my key staﬀ had left for the day, a smell of pickles led me to the discovery of leaking pickle juice in the business oﬃce. This prompted us to an in-depth investigation to ﬁnd out the source of the leak. After about thirty minutes we discovered the source and were able to solve the problem. I had to get out of the comfort of my oﬃce in order to deal with a smelly situation. Fruitful people practice servanthood – even when it means getting down and dirty. Naaman was a celebrated military leader in the nation of Aram, who unfortunately had been stricken with leprosy. However, when he was directed to the prophet Elisha for treatment, he became insulted for two reasons. First, instead of coming out to Naaman directly, Elisha sent a messenger out to the commander. Second, the messenger directed him to go and wash seven times in the Jordan River instead of healing him in a more spectacular way. As a result, he left in a rage. Naaman’s servants had to persuade him to humble himself in following the prophet’s advice. Regardless of position or title, we should always be willing to engage in the dirty work, the menial tasks employed by others. This helps us to stay more attuned to, and appreciative of the eﬀorts of what others do. Never get too removed from cleaning up the pickle juice!
Read: I Kings 21
But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” – Jonah 4:4
My wife and I have been married for more than thirty years. As is often the case, the very things that attracted us to each other have been sources of conﬂict at times. But with the passing of time we have also positively balanced each other in some of our diﬀerences. One example of this is how we handle our displeasure toward each other. She gets over things fairly quickly. On the other hand, in the early years of our marriage I tended to stew when we would have a disagreement, making life miserable for both of us. Fortunately my wife did not indulge me, but would just exhort me to get over it. With God’s help and her example I have made great strides in this area. Ahab was the most wicked king ever to rule over the northern kingdom of Israel, due in large measure to his idolatrous ways and those of his vile wife Jezebel. One way that Ahab dealt with his displeasure when things did not go as planned was to get sullen and angry. He was a pouter. This was his response when a farmer named Nabal would not sell him his vineyard. Unfortunately, Ahab’s wife Jezebel indulged him by arranging for the assassination of Nabal. (It was not a good idea to get on her wrong side.) Ahab got his vineyard, but he also incurred God’s wrath for his treachery. We all have our ways of handling our displeasure when we do not get what we want. The right way is to take it to God, deal with it with another person if necessary, get over it, and move on. Fruitful people follow this pattern, so that they are able to be resilient when the realities of disappointment and disagreement occur, and to get over it.
Read: Jeremiah 42:1-22
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. – James 4:17
A college student chooses to get involved in some activities that he knows are not conducive to his spiritual life. A husband chooses to be unfaithful to his wife even though he knows better. A recovering drug addict chooses friends who will entice him back into his former life style. One commonality among all three of these individuals is that they made choices contrary to what they knew to be right. More than two thousand years ago, amid judgment at the hands of the Babylonians, a group of Jews came to the prophet Jeremiah requesting that he seek God’s will for them as to whether they should stay in Jerusalem or move to Egypt – even though they already knew the answer! When the prophet came back with an answer they didn’t want to hear, they rejected God’s guidance and went their own way. Jeremiah pointed out to them their folly of seeking God’s will with no intention of following it. This illustrates an age-old problem of people choosing their own will over God’s; the root issue usually is not one of ignorance, but of willfulness. A wise person once conveyed to my wife and me that a major responsibility of parents is to shape the wills of their children in preparing them to submit themselves to God later in life. How is your will these days? What is it that you know God wants you to start or stop doing that causes a struggle in your life? The sooner you submit, the freer you will be!