1) Praying the Word
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
The concept of praying the word is one of the best ways that you can find encouragement. I was not taught this growing up I was only taught that you should memorize the word of God.
“We often view prayer and Scripture reading as two distinct spiritual disciplines without much overlap, but what if they were meant to be hyperlinked? What if reading became a form of praying and praying became a form of reading? (Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, pg 96)
The Bible was meant to be prayed through because some say there are 3000 promises to us in the Bible.
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Have you ever felt alone? Jesus promised, no matter what our feelings say, that He would never leave us. When you pray you can pray this passage that Jesus says He is with you.
Psalm 73:22-24 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Look at all the promises you can pray in these passages. He has you with His right hand. (He will never let you go) He will guide your decision making if you listen even when you act like an animal. As Christians you can rest assured we will be received by Him. This verse is like Romans 8:28 that promises God will continue to work with you.
So if you think God is mad at you or has given up on you because you messed up one more time you can pray the Psalms and trust that God is going to continually develop you into being more like Christ.
Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We have to be careful to not twist scripture or take promises out of the Bible that are not for us but we can have total confidence when we pray if we pray the scriptures.
Does God want you to love the unlovely? Then look up and pray the scriptures about it.
Do you struggle with anger? Then find scriptures and pray them.
Fear, confusion etc find scripture and pray it.
Read some of the Old Testament stories and pray about those. Read about Job who trusted God regardless of what he went through. Read about how David took on the Giant, or how God provided for the Israelites in the desert. All those stories could be prayed through as you and those God has placed around you are walking through difficult times.
2) Family Devotions
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
We have to encourage our own children with the word of God. It is tough the older they get and even though they hate it we have to do it. We push them academically and athletically so why not spiritually? One of the hardest things to do is to encourage your child with scripture even though that is exactly what they need. We tend to give them advice but not Biblical advice.
We should not feel guilty about what we have done but just start where you are. Remember all spiritual disciplines are hard at first just like exercise.
3) Through Small Group Relationships
When people think of Small groups or Sunday School they get this image in their mind that they have to go and spend time with a bunch of people they may not know or may not have anything in common with. Small groups are designed for you to get together with your friends but to also be intentional about studying Gods Word together.
A) We were created to be in healthy relationships
Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Before sin entered the world God said it was not good for man to be alone. We are made in the likeness of God who is relational and therefore we are created for relationships. This means that Adam, who was in a perfect relationship with God, was still missing something in his life.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:14,18-19 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
B) We were created to be dependent on each other
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
C) Jesus prayed for us to be together
John 17:20-21 I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
“Have you ever noticed how often these early Christians spent time together? In the book of Acts, we see that they met together on the first day of the week and daily in their homes. They also met together in the temple courts in large numbers. Like people today, the early Christians were busy. They had character flaws, bad attitudes, and bad breathe. They came from different backgrounds and had different preferences. They had kids, work, and chores, yet their hearts were for their brothers and sisters in Christ. At times they were annoyed with each other, but they still were committed to meeting together. They felt that being together was better than being alone in the faith.” (Real Life Discipleship, Jim Putnam, pg 49-50)
Relationships with each other mean we understand each other even if we do not agree all the time. There seems to be no room for grace in our churches except for the areas of sin which the Bible commands us to correct. We go to church with people just like us and if church or the people in it make us uncomfortable.
“But if we choose to believe that somehow the blueprint for humanity doesn’t apply to us- that we have no need for intimate relationships- we will tend to redirect our intimacy needs into all kinds of unhealthy alternatives to fill the void.” (Preventing Ministry Failure, Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffman, PG 35)
When you neglect relationships then your life will take a downward spiral. Sin is the problem when it comes to any relationship and sin is always the reason for any division in a relationship.
Your relationship with God is severed until you accept Jesus Christ and what He did for you. Your relationship with others is severed because of sin, pride, adultery, betrayal and or fill in the blank.
Because we have been hurt then we assume that if we just avoid getting close that we are better off.
Consequences of avoiding relationships
Genesis 3:9-13 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[a] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
The first effect of sin in the relationship was fear. What if they do not like me? What if they hurt me like the last church?
“Do you know what fear and doubt fear? Community… Like you’re the only one who feels a certain way. Fear wants to isolate you and put you on an island. “ ( Start, Jon Acuff, pg 74)
We also fear that people may see who we really are. If they find out that my family is crazy then they will not want to spend time with me. That is why church has become so fake and not as impactful as it can be because we have not opened ourselves up to allow others into our lives so we can be changed. Yes we are changed by Christ but He also uses other in our lives to make us more like Him as well.
Did you know that poor health is associated with loneliness?
Even people that had unhealthy habits but healthy relationships lived longer than those who had great habits but unhealthy relationships.
John Ortberg says “It is better to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone.
We avoid people when they know we messed up and we go hide hoping they will just leave us alone. We hide by being busy, or by being fake, or making excuses about why we cannot come anymore.
Some say, “I’m not going to church anymore because that pastor mistreated me.” We shift the blame from our weakness to their weakness. They may say, “I cannot be with so them because they have a problem’ when in reality it is their own dysfunction that is driving them away.
Isolated people are selfish people. Narcissism is the belief that it is all about me and that is the opposite of Christianity. As John 17:20-21 said the world does not know God because of how we as Christians act toward each other. We keep people at arms distance to keep ourselves from being hurt by them and to keep them from seeing who we really are.
Things to look for when choosing friends
They love you no matter what you are going through
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Who stuck by you when things got difficult? When life gets tough the true friends stay with you.
They say what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear
Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
Luke 17:3-5 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
If someone stops hanging around you because you spoke truth into their lives then that is on them not you. God has called us to speak truth into each others lives but it has to be done correctly. Matthew 18 gives the clear guidelines when confronting another Christian. Our relationship with God is personal but He never intended for it to be private.
They make you better in every area of your life
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another
Some people do not make you better but actually drag you down. Relationships with others are based on a relationship with God. So your closest friends have to be not only Christians, but Christians that are growing toward God.
“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me” Henry Ford
A true friend loves you for who you are but loves you too much to leave you that way.
What is a small Group?
A group of people who meet together to pray, encourage and study the word of God”
Is there some material I want you to go through? Yes but you can start with something that is approved by the elders.
Who do we meet with? Do you have a group of friends that want to study the Bible together? Start with them.
To make an impact on this world we have to have intimacy with God (Listen to the Word) Community with others (Encourage with the Word) and influence with the world (Live the Word)
You have to take the initiative in order to get to know people, it does take work.
“So if you really want to know why people just go to church without engaging community or mission, you don’t need to look far. It’s not the pace of the world is too fast or the forces of darkness are too hard to fight against. It’s that we are fighting against ourselves.” (Tangible Kingdom, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, pg 150)
God loves community. He always intended to have people living out life together through meaningful Jesus-centered relationships. In today’s busy world this is not always easy – we need to be intentional about it. That is why we encourage everyone to join a small group. Small groups meet at various times and locations throughout the week to encourage and support one another in everyday life. They are a place where life is lived out together: learning, caring, eating, praying, supporting and just enjoying being with each other. (Brian Hogan)