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Gone Too Soon
Jan 31 3:17 AM

Gone Too Soon

Jan 31 3:17 AM
Jan 31 3:17 AM

David had not yet been crowned king when he heard the news that both King Saul and his dearly beloved friend Jonathan had been killed in battle.

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Day 17
Jan 17 12:31 AM

Day 17

Jan 17 12:31 AM
Jan 17 12:31 AM

As you read today's devotional, play "GRACEFULLY BROKEN" from the Sacred Whispers Playlist.

Spiritual

FINISH WELL, FINISH STRONG 

By Loretta Shelton and Pastor Marlin Harris

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

2 Timothy 4:7

The Apostle Paul uses an illustration in 2 Timothy 4:7 reminiscent of competing in the Roman Olympic games in order to demonstrate the Christian believer’s life of faithfulness. He says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

What is remarkable is that Paul makes these comments while imprisoned in a Roman jail knowing he is at the end of his life and consequently at the end of his God-given mission. Throughout Paul’s Christian journey, he remained steadfast and loyal to his calling, despite the unimaginable obstacles and perils that he faced. Paul remained faithful to his ministry for the sake of Christ by fighting what he called “the good fight of faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). This means he maintained a godly character, lived by Biblical principles, and was unwavering in his faith and trust in God. This characterized Paul’s life regardless of the unpleasant circumstances he was often attacked with. He did not rely on his past service, but he persevered and served God until crossing the finish line at the end of his ministry on earth. 

Like the Apostle Paul, we must live this Christian life with the same convictions and grit as the athletes competing in the Roman games. Christians must run the race, fight the good fight, and endure hardships with bravery, in order to receive the prize of an incorruptible crown that never fades away. The qualifications required to receive this coveted prize are to run lawfully and diligently until we finish. Running this race means honoring God with our hearts and bodies, developing a character that looks more and more like Christ each day, and living a life that pleases our Father, and is worthy of the great redemption that we have been graced to receive. 

 We must start, run, and then finish the race. We will finish because no believer ever runs the race of his life alone. The Lord Jesus Christ runs with us, and He will get us to the finish line if we stay the course and “finish well and finish strong”. 

When you are running the race of life there are a few things you want to be sure to do. First of all, you must be spiritually prepared for the journey. This spiritual preparation is impossible without being filled with the Holy Spirit, for which there is no substitute. The scripture is clear that we are to be empowered by the Holy Spirit if we hope to accomplish anything in this life that brings glory to God. The Spirit of God empowers us with wisdom, strength, and godliness that causes the blessings of God to rest upon our journey. He alone conditions our hearts to endure the pain of the race and to not turn back or give up before we reach the finish line.

Secondly, we must endure the necessary disciplines needed to prepare us for the rigor of the race we are to run. When runners prepare for lengthy marathons they will often spend months preparing themselves physically for that one race. They will attempt smaller races and work their legs and test their endurance with exercise regimens. They do this so that when they are in the ‘big’ race, they will have the strength to finish. Finishing our Christian race is more about the strength of our spirit than it is about the desire we may have in our hearts. Many people start out with Christ, and they desire greatly to finish, but they have not developed the spiritual strength to endure the trials and tests that befall them along their journey and they, sadly, fall away.  

Jesus speaks about this reality in Matthew 13:1-9 when He shares the Parable of the Sower, where he outlines four different scenarios of seed-planting. One of his 4 scenarios involves a farmer who sowed his seeds in soil that was cluttered with rocks. He says that the soil received the seed quickly, but because the ground had not been tilled and prepared, the rocks were too numerous in the soil and made the soil depth shallow. Soon the seed died in the soil because there was no depth created by tilling. This is what happens to any of us who set out to run this Christian race, and we have not had the hard, stony rocks in our hearts, minds, and habits broken up and tilled away. Without the discipline of dedicated study of the Word of God, the daily practice of prayer, and regular worship and thanksgiving to God, we will not be able to break those hard rocks that have settled into our hearts and have made them resistant and impervious to the convictions and truths of the Word of God.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, every sincere believer must have an ardent and passionate desire to finish their race well. 

God placed that desire in your heart when you gave your hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ. The only way to satisfy that aching and longing in your soul to finish well is to daily discipline your life with the Spiritual practices of prayer, worship, and time in the Word. As you attend to the things of God, He will attend to the cares and desires of your heart. Let’s lay aside the weights and the many distractions, and run this race with all we have so that when we are finished, we will feel our Master’s embrace and hear him say, “Well done”.

PRAYER

Holy Father, we all have our own individual race to run. May You grant us the strength and the conviction to run our race well. Remove the hindrances from our path, and unchain our feet from the heavy weights and burdens that have weighed us down. Lord, grant us the freedom to run and not get weary, and to walk and not faint. In Jesus’ Strong Name, I pray. Amen.

DAILY SPIRITUAL EXERCISE

Spend today surveying your life to determine what are those weights and distractions that make it difficult for you to finish your race well. Consider those challenges, temptations, and tests that you are engaged in daily, and actively name them before the Lord, and make the decision to do whatever is necessary to lay them aside. Seek the Lord for His strength and lean upon the Holy Spirit for His guidance.

 


PRACTICAL

WHAT’S YOUR S.H.A.P.E? – A BRAND NEW YOU IN 2022

By Loretta Shelton

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. “

1 Corinthians 9:27

As we enter the year 2022, we are on the horizon of becoming a brand new person. Many of us make New Year resolutions to get in shape, modify eating habits, lose weight and grow spiritually. This transformation depends on setting goals and a made-up mind for a continuous state of improvement (e.g. better health, longer life and/or renewed spiritual growth). Goal-setting requires a certain amount of discipline to achieve desired results. Self-discipline is key to usefulness in the kingdom of God, and also what is needed to achieve any goal that you may set in life.  

Physical lifestyle changes can result in a “better you” if you focus on a mindset of discipline in seeking to reach your goals. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, The Apostle Paul writes about the need to gain control over his body through personal self-discipline. He speaks about not indulging in fleshy desires in order to have an effective ministry. He adopted this mindset which would prevent him from being disqualified from obtaining the ultimate prize of heaven. As Christians, we must seek to develop a similar mindset – a mindset of discipline, service, and surrender, to obtain the prize of heaven.  

One way to become more impactful in your personal ministry, as well as your personal life, is to understand, utilize and exercise your spiritual S.H.A.P.E.  S.H.A.P.E. is a simple acronym used by Pastor Rick Warren, and stands for  Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experience. Each of these areas, when surveyed, will help us to better understand who God created us to be, and what He intends for us to do with our lives. Our life’s goals are to fit our S.H.A.P.E., and we should use everything about our unique personhood to fulfill the purpose for which God made us. Knowing and living in your best S.H.A.P.E. is essential in preventing us from being disqualified and missing the mark that God intended for us to hit.

Knowing and understanding your S.H.A.P.E. will provide you a deeper perspective of the design God has for your life. Understanding and developing each of these areas provides a unique roadmap of how God wants to use you to advance His Kingdom’s purposes on earth – and in your life as well.

Knowing our spiritual S.H.A.P.E. is a critical and indispensable part of our spiritual growth. But also, knowing what kind of physical “shape” we are in is very important to our spiritual development and overall health as well. We cannot forget that our bodies are the earthly temple of the Holy Spirit. When we allow unhealthy habits and practices to hinder us from becoming our “best selves” physically, we may not realize it, but we are also allowing those things to stop us from becoming our “best selves” spiritually also. Becoming your ‘best self’ means focusing your heart on your spiritual and emotional health, as well as giving careful attention to ensure that your physical health is free from illnesses and diseases that are caused by unhealthy habits and unwise choices.

Therefore, it is important to practice personal discipline and self-care in order to be prepared for the physical and spiritual calling that we all have in our lives. Sometimes we can become lax and unmotivated in continuing with our physical journey, which might lead to us getting out of physical “shape” and spiritual “S.H.A.P.E.”.  

This actually happened to me when I became a caregiver for my mom for 4 years. I lost my focus on physical discipline and was inconsistent with exercise, all while developing poor eating habits, which resulted in me gaining 40 pounds. 

My doctors considered me overweight for my height and age. This was not healthy, and I knew that it didn’t honor the Lord, nor did it honor the body that the Lord had entrusted me with. I made up my mind to reverse my slow, downward spiral towards illness and poor health by pushing my heart towards discipline and re-directing my efforts towards a transformative, healthy lifestyle. I am far from perfect, but by God’s grace I am achieving success in transforming my life by exercising more and eating a daily nutritional diet.

The following exercise tips have been very helpful for me, and perhaps they can assist you in your physical journey towards getting in ‘shape’ and in “S.H.A.P.E.”.

(Note: These are only recommendations for becoming active. 

You should always check with your physician or medical care provider before attempting any exercise or movement suggestions.)

PRACTICAL ACTION TODAY

Beginners Level Equipment: 1 to 2-pound weights

Intermediate Level to Advanced Level Equipment: 5 to 10-pound weights  

Beginners Level  

- Jumping Jacks: 3 sets of 10 repetitions  

- Bicep Curls: 3 sets of 10 repetitions  

- Sit-ups: 3 sets of 10 repetitions  

- Ab Crunches: 3 sets of 20 repetitions  

- Calf Raises 3 sets of 15 repetitions  

- Squats: 3 sets of 10 repetitions  

Intermediate Level to Advanced Level 

- 1 minute of Jumping Jacks

- Bicep Curls: 3 sets of 15 repetitions

- Sit-ups: 3 sets of 25 repetitions  

- Ab Crunches: 3 sets of 50 repetitions  

- Calf Raises: 3 sets of 30 repetitions  

- Squats: 3 sets of 20 repetitions   

The above are suggestions only. Please feel free to adjust or augment as you deem appropriate for your health and comfort level of activity.

PRAYER

Dear Lord, thank you for blessing me with this very precious body. Help me care for it and protect it from disease by reminding me that Your precious Holy Spirit lives inside. May my body bring you glory. Let the choices and decisions I make today move me closer towards my “best self” physically and spiritually. In the Name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Download Fasting Guide

Listen To Sacred Whispers Playlist

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