DEVOTIONAL: Redeeming the time: Make the best of difficult circumstances
By Pastor Darryl George
Mechanicsville Baptist Church
Challenged and determined to end 2021 well! “Therefore, He says, ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’ See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:14-16 The surge of extra-stressful circumstances may just be a sign of the times. A little more reality just set in over the past couple of weeks, as concerns over coronavirus new infections have increased. Stay with me now. I have no political advice to give and no medical expertise to share. But what I do have is a God-given spiritual insight from The Word of God to encourage you to make the best of these days. Yes … to redeem the time! The past year and a half have left many (including myself) a little more sidetracked spiritually, a little more likely to be discouraged emotionally, and a little heavier and out of shape physically. (Ouch, yes, I said it!) So a few weeks ago, I made a challenge to end the year healthier than I went into it! And I challenge you to do the same. Intentionally growing spiritually “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:18 1. Do you spend time privately with the Lord in prayer and reading His word every day? 2. Are you faithfully involved in group Bible study with fellow Christians every week? 3. Do you lead your family spiritually? Are you the spiritual leader in your home? 4. Are you familiar with your spiritual gifts and are you exercising them? 5. Do your friends and work associates see Christ in your decisions, attitude and work ethic? 6. Do you understand the issues our nation faces in such as way as to deal with them from God’s view? 7. Do you read books, magazines and papers that will nurture you and instruct you in your walk with God? 8. Are you more like Christ than you were three years ago? 9. If you speak on a matter crucial to the life of your church, are you listened to respectfully because you are considered, as was said of Elisha, “There goes a man of God”? 10. Do you understand the great truths of the Bible so you can discern spiritual errors? 11. Are you familiar with the distinctives of our faith? Two truths I have learned about spiritual growth: 1. It does not happen by chance; it happens intentionally as we Holy Hunger for God and His Word. 2. It does not happen as a lone ranger isolated from the body of Christ. Yes, we need each other! “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to lift him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm, But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 Intentionally grow emotionally healthy Get out and do the things you enjoy, or used to enjoy. It is so easy to get into a rut and to take our eyes off the things that used to encourage us. A few thoughts that I pray will help: 1. Go visit someone who has bigger problems than you and help them. Many years ago, I was with a man in his 80s who severely broke his foot. He got so discouraged and depressed. So as his pastor, I took him out to lunch to visit a 92-year-old man who lost both of his legs and who was known to have a vibrant life in his wheelchair! He left there smiling and said to his pastor, “You know what you do for a man who is depressed over his broken foot, pastor? You bring him to a man with no feet!” 2. Spend time with friends who are positive and encouraging! Ask them for help and encouragement. 3. Trust God to build you up! Billy Graham writes, “Discouragement is the very opposite of Faith. It is Satan’s device to thwart the work of God in our lives. Discouragement blinds our eyes to the mercy of God and makes us perceive only the unfavorable circumstances. I have never met a person who spent time in daily prayer, in the study of the Word of God, and who was strong with faith who was ever discouraged for very long.” 4. If things don’t improve, see a professional counselor. They are amazing and trained on how to help people through difficult times. Intentionally make hard decisions to be physically healthier Get some exercise. A nice walk in the cool of the morning. We have rebuilt a walking track at Mechanicsville Baptist Church that is open for all to use. I started riding my bicycle and eating healthier. Get back to the gym! I have watched seniors in nursing homes do exercises. They lift their legs up while in a chair so many times and they lift their arms to the ceiling. We can all start somewhere! I encourage you to join me in this challenge. Let us end this year better than we started!