Sunday, December 31, 2017

Nathanael Under the Fig Tree

Nathanael was sitting under a fig tree one day. We don’t know the details but he probably prayed, “Lord, can you see me under this fig tree? Can you hear what I’m praying? If you can, I’ll follow wherever you lead me.”

Sometime after that, Philip comes running to him and says, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth…Come and see.” When the Jesus saw him coming He said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” (John 1:45-50)

Although they had never met, Jesus knew everything in his heart. Like a computer program scanning for viruses, He scanned Nathanael’s heart and couldn’t find any deceit. The first words Jesus said to Nathanael must have stunned him: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Even though Jesus wasn’t anywhere near the fig tree, He saw him there. This was an unmistakable sign to Nathanael that Jesus was the Messiah and the one to follow.

Nathanael said, "You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel." Although we usually give credit to Peter as the first to say Jesus was the Son of God (Matt. 16:16), Nathanael was the first disciple to do so. Jesus said, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” Jesus not only saw Nathanael under the fig tree but He also saw his future.

Just as Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree, He sees where you are at this very moment. He knows what you’re going through and wants to lead you through this life. He knows what’s ahead in 2018. If you’ll follow Him like Nathanael did, you will see greater things too—both in this life and the life to come. www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com www.makinglifecount.net
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Making Life Count Ministries
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Prophet Predicted Bethlehem

The prophet Micah, who lived 700 BC, recorded a future event in the Scriptures: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).

Out of all the cities in the world, Micah predicted Bethlehem would be the place where the Messiah would be born. Micah’s prophecy also explains the dual nature of Christ—both God and human. The Messiah would be born in a physical body but the prophecy explains He existed in heaven in eternity past. Jesus told us where He came from, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven” (John 6:51).

Centuries passed without the prophecy being fulfilled. Then approximately 720 years later, events began to unfold to bring it to pass. Caesar Augustus issued a decree to tax everyone living under Roman rule. This required everyone in Israel to return to his or her own city to register. Caesar didn’t realize his order would set in motion the fulfilling of Micah’s prophecy.

Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth but both were from the house of David, which meant they had to travel to Bethlehem to register. What were the odds they would arrive in the town at the exact time Mary gave birth to Jesus, which fulfilled Micah’s prophecy from 700 years before? Only God could make that happen. Bethlehem means “house of bread.” The living bread came down from heaven to be born in Bethlehem—the house of bread.

This is just one of many prophecies fulfilled by Jesus, proving the Bible is inspired by God. For more about Bible prophecies being fulfilled read The Sure Cure for Worry.
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Making Life Count Ministries
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Saturday, December 16, 2017

How Did the Shepherds Find Baby Jesus?

You know the story. An angel appeared to some shepherds at night and announced the birth of Jesus saying, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). That’s it? No further instructions? How did they find Him? Maybe it happened something like this…

In April 2001, my friend Eugene needed his car windshield replaced. The repairman would be coming to town on a Sunday so Eugene left his vehicle at his workplace at 7 am. It was a cold morning and a storm was coming, but for some reason Eugene decided to walk home instead of having his wife pick him up. After walking a few blocks it started to lightly rain and he heard a baby crying in the distance.

As he kept walking, the cries grew louder and sounded desperate. He looked at a nearby bowling alley, which was closed, and noticed a baby stroller parked behind the building. Eugene sprinted to the stroller. Inside was a little baby that had turned blue due to the cold. He ripped off his shirt, quickly wrapped up the infant and called 911 on his cell phone. The police came and took the baby to the hospital.

The baby was too far away from the street to hear from inside a car. Only someone walking down the street could have heard the cries. Just minutes after the police left, it started pouring rain with winds reaching 40 mph. If Eugene hadn’t been walking down that street at that precise time, the baby would have died in the storm. Later it was discovered that a little boy who lived in a nearby apartment complex took the baby for a stroll and left her there.

Did God lead Eugene to find that baby? Yes He did. But Eugene didn’t know God was leading him. The Lord put a thought in Eugene’s mind to walk home in bad weather instead of calling for a ride. And that’s how God guided him to the right place to find the baby.

God did something similar with the shepherds. I believe as they hurried into town the Lord put a thought in their minds to turn left at the tax collector’s office rather than right. As they walked down the street they heard a baby crying and followed the sound to find Jesus.

THE LESSON: If someone wants to find Jesus, God will make sure the person will find Him. And He can lead us by putting thoughts in our minds, even if we are unaware of it. For more about God’s guidance & divine appointments read The Sure Cure for Worry.
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

It's How You Say It

You can control how people respond to you by the way you say it. An Army private was serving apricots in the lunch line to the other soldiers. As the first 100 soldiers passed through he asked, "You don't want any apricots, do you?" Only 10% replied they did.

When the next 100 soldiers came through, he changed the question and asked, "Would you like some apricots?" When asked this way, half the soldiers wanted them. He asked the next 100, "Would you like one bowl of apricots or two?"  This time 50% wanted one bowl and 40% wanted two bowls.

Asking negatively brought a 10% response but asking positively brought a 90% approval. By changing his wording he changed their perception of the apricots. It changed from something they didn't want…to something they wanted…to something so good they wanted more.

This shows that relationships can improve or be destroyed by our words. “From the same mouth proceed blessing (building up) and cursing (tearing down)….these things out not to be so.” (James 3:10). We can bless instead of curse by doing 3 things:

1. Check your motive. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34). Look inside your heart and make sure you’re “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).

2. Choose your words wisely. Think before you speak. “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18). We can actually heal a wounded person’s soul by first thinking, then speaking.

3. Change your tone of voice. “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1). A gentle answer is a soft tone of voice and calms the other person. Harshness is loud and obnoxious, which evokes anger in the hearer. Can you see how lowering your tone can restore a strained relationship?

Remember, it IS what you say, but it’s also how you say it. www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com www.makinglifecount.net
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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Stop Comparing Yourself

Do you keep comparing yourself with others? Paul warned about using others as a measuring stick for self-worth. “When they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. (2 Cor. 10:12)

When the men went into Canaan to spy the land, they compared themselves with the giants living there. They said, "All the people whom we saw in it are men of great size…and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight" (Numbers 13:32, 33). The way you see yourself determines how you believe others view you. The spies saw themselves as grasshoppers (“in our own sight”) and believed their enemies also saw them that way (“so we were in their sight”).

WHEN WE COMPARE WITH OTHERS:
1. We become either proud or discouraged—and neither attitude is from God. We compare our physical appearance, intelligence, and success hoping we’ll find ourselves better than average. Of course, it all depends on the people we’re comparing with. We’ll swell with pride if we view ourselves more important, or get depressed and feel like a failure if we don't measure up. Both are destructive attitudes.

2. We fail to recognize God created everyone unique. Although we all have equal value, God has given everyone different appearances, abilities, intelligences and personalities. He made “each according to his own ability” (Matt. 25:15). The Lord made everyone unique because we have different purposes to fulfill.

3. We tell God we aren’t happy with how He made us. “The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this’ will it?” (Rom. 9:20). You must accept the fact that God made you and be thankful for it. David said, “I give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…and my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14). When you can also say that, you’ll stop comparing yourself.  www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com  www.makinglifecount.net
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Making Life Count Ministries
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Friday, October 27, 2017

Are Ghosts Real?

Ghost hunters try to video paranormal images from “haunted” houses in an attempt to prove ghosts really do exist. For example, they’ll claim to see a soldier wearing a Confederate uniform who was killed in the Civil War. They’ll ask questions to the deceased person and record EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) that seem to give an intelligent answer. According to ghost hunters, this is proof the spirits of dead people are still wandering in the place where they died.  

But think about it. How could a ghost wear clothes? A uniform is made of cloth, so how could the material appear as a ghost? What the hunters see and hear may actually be real, but they aren’t ghosts. They’re demons. These demons are called “deceitful spirits" (1 Tim. 4:1) because they try to convince people they are disembodied spirits of dead people.

Demons are fallen angels who were kicked out of heaven for rebelling against God and are now on earth, trying to lead people away from Jesus Christ. They’re also called “familiar spirits” (Lev. 20:6, Isa. 8:19) because they’re familiar with people who lived in the past and can easily impersonate them. They disguise themselves (2 Cor. 11:14) and can pretend to be a Confederate soldier wearing a uniform, or someone else who has died.

Why? They want us to believe that people don’t go to heaven or hell when they die. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Second Corinthians 5:8 says when a believer dies he or she is absent from the body and present with the Lord. There is no in-between state where a spirit is trapped.

Christians don’t need to be afraid of demons who appear as ghosts because "greater is He (Jesus) who is in you than he who is in the world (demons)" (1 John 4:4) and He has given us authority “over all the power of the enemy” (Satan). www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com  www.makinglifecount.net
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Making Life Count Ministries
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Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Lord Make His Face Shine on You

Archaeologists in Israel discovered two small silver scrolls in 1979 that recorded a priestly blessing from Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.” God spoke this to Moses approximately 1500 BC and the scrolls were dated to the 7th century B.C., which means the blessing was still being honored 800 years later

Why was this Scripture so important and what did it mean? Since God told Aaron and the priests to say this blessing over future generations (Numbers 6:22-23), it must have an important purpose. This blessing is an appeal to God to look favorably on His people and to grant His presence, blessing, guidance, and grace.

1. The Lord bless you asks God to extend His favor and bless what we do.

2. And keep you requests God’s protection from evil and harm.

3. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you suggests that God does NOT shine on everyone or give His grace. He causes His face to shine on those who seek His face and want to know Him. These verses ask God to not hide His face from them (Job 13:24, Psalm 27:9, 44:24, 69:17, 88:14, 102:2, 143:7). Today we’d say, “Please don’t turn your back on me.”

Jesus said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). Jesus informed us that the angels watch over children and at the same time are looking at God’s shining face in heaven. Sometimes we forget God in heaven is that close.

4. The Lord lift His countenance on you is a picture of a father smiling and taking pleasure in his child. When the Lord lifts His countenance upon us, it shows that He is looking on us for our good.

5. And give you peace. Peace calms your soul and keeps your soul from being tormented. Only God can give peace to your soul.

God wants to bless us. He wants to protect us. He wants to smile on us, be gracious to us, and give us peace. But it doesn't come automatically. It happens when we seek to know and please Him. www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com  www.makinglifecount.net
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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Paul's Unplucked Thorn

When my daughter was five years old she came to me crying. “Daddy, I’ve got a sticker in my finger and I want you to pull it out.” I grabbed some tweezers and held her finger as I attempted minor surgery. She pulled her hand back and said, “I’ve changed my mind. I want you to leave it in!”
     Apostle Paul was tormented by a “thorn in the flesh” and asked God to use heavenly tweezers to remove it. Paul described it as a “messenger of Satan to buffet me” (2 Cor. 12:7). God decided to leave it in.

What was the thorn? It was a “messenger” from Satan. The Greek word is angelos and is also translated angel. It was a fallen angel--a demon assigned by Satan, which caused all Paul’s persecutions and troubles mentioned in 2 Cor. 11:23-26. Because Paul had received many great revelations from God, including a glimpse of heaven, the demon was allowed to “buffet” him to keep him humble. The Lord used hate and rejection by others to keep him from exalting himself. Paul needed to stay humble so God could continue to use him.

Paul’s response to the thorn. Paul doesn’t say when the thorn was given to him, but it may have been shortly after his visit to heaven since he seems to connect them (12:2-7). His first reaction was to get rid of it. After he cried for help three times, Paul had to be wondering if the Lord had heard his request. Then the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (12:9). God’s power is connected to our dependence on HimWhat can we learn from this?

1. God is more interested in your character than your comfort. He will use difficult circumstances and evil people to drive out pride and keep us from exalting ourselves.

2. God may answer your prayers differently than you ask. God did answer Paul’s prayer but not in the way he had asked. The Lord didn’t remove the thorn but gave him the grace to endure it. If Paul hadn’t learned to hear God speak to him, he never would have understood why the Lord allowed it.

3. God will give you the grace to endure what you're going through. If God doesn’t deliver you from your problem, He will give you the grace to get through it. Paul learned to embrace His grace to endure his difficulty. God’s grace is like a spiritual shock absorber that softens the full impact of the negative forces trying to crush us. If your car hits a hole on the highway, your shock absorber cushions the impact and gives you a smoother ride. God’s grace cushions us from the full pain of spiritual attacks and empowers us to live through difficulties. www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com  www.makinglifecount.net
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Making Life Count Ministries
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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Things That Get On Your Nerves

What drives you crazy? My wife doesn’t like hearing my metal spoon clicking the bowl when I eat ice cream. I’m not sure why it bugs her because it doesn’t bother me at all. But TV commercials with goofy songs—now that drives me nuts. Like this one advertising FreeCreditReport.com. When the annoying commercial comes on five times every night, I grab the remote and change channels—but it’s on the other station too! I’ve tried to call the companies to please stop them, but their websites don’t have any way to contact their advertising department. And that’s ANOTHER thing that gets on my nerves!

If someone does something that irritates you:
1. You might need more patience. God tells us to “be patient with everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14). Yes, even offensive people. “Bearing with one another” (Col. 3:13) means to put up with those who get on your nerves. God often uses quirky individuals to develop godly qualities in us. After all, how can we gain patience if we don’t go through any trials?

2. You might need to avoid them. The Bible does tell us to avoid certain people (See Prov. 20:19, 1 Cor. 5:11, 2 Tim. 3:5). You can be friendly to everyone, but you don’t have to be friends with everyone. You don’t have to be best friends with someone who aggravates you. It makes more sense to spend time with those who encourage you.  

3. You might need to change something. If you’re married just say, “Honey, did you know when you [fill in the blank] it gets on my nerves?” That’s what my wife said about my spoon clicking. The solution was simple.
The apostle Paul said, “If food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again” (1 Cor. 8:13). I didn’t quit eating ice cream, but I did start eating it with a plastic spoon, which makes my wife happy. See? It’s not that hard to figure out how to calm your nerves. www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com  www.makinglifecount.net
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Making Life Count Ministries
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Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Invisible Fence

My friend installed an invisible fence around his property to make sure his dog wouldn't run into the street and get hit by a car. He buried an electrical wire around the perimeter of his property. A small box sent out a signal to a receiver in the dog's collar. If the dog walked near the boundary line the collar vibrated, which warned him to back away. If he ignored the warning and kept going, he received a small electrical shock, which turned him back. The invisible fence taught his dog where he couldn't go.

God uses two types of invisible fences.
First, He puts a conscience inside everyone. “The Gentiles (unbelievers)…show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness [to right and wrong], and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:14-15). Adam and Eve crossed the invisible fence to look at the forbidden fruit. When people continue to override their consciences nothing will bother them anymore—even torturing and killing others. They’ve become “seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Tim. 4:2) and are heading for the shock of their lives.

Second, the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer convicts us of right and wrong. He speaks to our hearts to guide us on the right path and warn us when we’re going the wrong way. But He also empowers us to live for Him. His warnings are not just trying to keep us from getting run over, but to keep us living in the area of joy and freedom. “For you were called to freedom, only do not turn your opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13).

When you walk in the Spirit, you won’t keep trying to sneak across the invisible line. You’ll enjoy living in the land of freedom so much that you won’t want to leave it.  www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com www.makinglifecount.net
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Making Life Count Ministries
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Sunday, September 17, 2017

When You Don't Understand

Have you ever watched a magician levitating a person? You know it must be a trick, but you can’t figure out how he does it. You think, “That’s impossible. He’s defying the law of gravity! How is it possible for him to do that?” You’re baffled because you don’t understand how he does it. But suppose the magician were to tell you the secret to his trick. After he explained how he did it, you’d say, “Oh—NOW I understand!” 

We usually start doubting God when we have questions that don’t seem to have an answer. Something bad happens and we don’t understand why God would allow it. It’s an unanswered question. And so we’re left wondering what’s going on and why He won’t let us in on the secret.

God doesn’t always let us in on what He’s doing. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us.” The secret things are the perplexing mysteries that we’ll never understand in this life. Although the Lord may not answer every question during our lifetime, He promises to answer them after we get to heaven.

First Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now (in this life) we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face (when we stand before Him). Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” In the next life He’ll explain every secret thing to us and then we’ll say, “Oh—NOW I understand!” 

Until that day comes, God wants us to place our complete trust in Him. He knows the answers to every question that baffles us. He doesn’t do magic tricks but promises to turn the bad things that happen around for good to those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). But remember--with our limited knowledge we won’t be able to figure out how He does it. www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com  www.makinglifecount.net
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Having a problem trusting God? Read The Sure Cure for Worry. It gives reasons why we can trust God even when we don’t understand.

Many Bible study groups and churches are studying Slaying Your Giants. A separate Study Guide provides Q&A for small group discussion (up to 20 Lessons).
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Making Life Count Ministries
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Sunday, September 10, 2017

What is a Living Sacrifice?

In the Old Testament they offered dead animal sacrifices to God. In the New Testament, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Paul wrote to Christians in Rome, “I urge you…to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). Notice 4 things:

1. This offering is voluntary not mandatory. Paul does not say, “I command you” but “I urge you.” He writes to those who are already Christians and saved by grace. We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice—not to get saved but because we are saved.

2. Dedicate your body to God. Only you can surrender your body. Jesus had to live in a body to accomplish God’s will on earth, so we yield our bodies to Him so He can live through us and do His will. We choose to live for Him each day and not for ourselves. If the living sacrifice crawls off the altar, get back on.  

3. Your sacrifice is both living and holy. Holy means set apart and devoted to God. This means we abstain from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…and you are not your own. For you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Holy sacrifices are well-pleasing and “acceptable to God.”

4. Living for Him is how we worship Him. He says, “which is your spiritual service of worship.” Worship and service are tied together. Whatever we worship we also serve. “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Matt. 4:10)

PRAYER: “Lord, you gave your life for me, so today I choose to live for you. I present my body to you to honor you and to do your will. What would you like for me to do today?” www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com  www.makinglifecount.net
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Making Life Count Ministries
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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Don't Bow Down to Idols

Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar made a huge golden image and ordered everyone to bow down and worship it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were believers in the true God, refused to bow down, even under the threat of being executed (Daniel 3).

Today in our society, people order us to bow down to the idols of political correctness, fake news, the lie of evolution, and sexual immorality. Unfortunately, many people who claim to be Christians are bowing their knees to these idols. Are you bowing down? Three things are needed to stand up for the truth and to not bow down:

#1 We must be absolutely convinced the Bible is true. If you aren’t convinced the Bible is God’s Word, you will sooner or later bow down to idols. Did you know that every archeological excavation in Israel has confirmed the truth of the Bible? Did you know the Bible proves itself as true through fulfilled prophecies that have come to pass? God spoke to the Old Testament prophets about what would happen in the future. They recorded hundreds of predictions—and they all came to pass.

#2 Faith inside your heart must be greater than outward pressure. The pressure to bow to man-made idols is becoming greater every day. If you squeeze a cracker in your hand it will crumble because the outward pressure is greater than the inward strength. But you if squeeze a baseball, nothing will happen because the inside is greater than the outside.

#3 We must love the Lord more than this world. When we love the Lord we commit our lives to Him. Your life on earth will soon be over but you will exist forever either in heaven or hell. “Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…and the world is passing away, and also its desires, but the one who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15,17).

One day every person who has ever lived will bow down to Jesus and confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). This doesn’t mean that everyone will eventually be saved. Those who did not worship Him while on earth will not spend eternity with Him in heaven.  
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Sunday, August 13, 2017

God Will Reward Your Faithfulness

When you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord, God saves you by His grace alone. But many people don’t realize that their rewards in heaven will be determined by their faithfulness in serving Him after they’ve been saved. The few brief moments you live on earth will determine what you’ll be doing in heaven forever.

God is evaluating your faithfulness in this life because He wants to reward you with something much greater in the next life (Matt. 25:21, Luke 19:17). Life on earth is a test. He wants us to be faithful where you are right now, with what you have right now. Faithfulness means:

1. Faithfulness means excellence. Excellence doesn't mean doing more things, but doing things better. It’s doing your very best in every situation because you believe the Lord is watching and you want to please Him (Eph. 5:10).

2. Faithfulness means integrity. Integrity means being above reproach morally, even when no one is watching. A store owner interviewed a young man for a job and asked, "If I hire you to work for me, will you be honest and truthful?" He answered, "I'll be honest and truthful whether you hire me or not."

3. Faithfulness means dependability. Dependable people can be relied upon to fulfill their commitments. When a job is assigned to a dependable worker, the boss never has to worry if the job will get done on time. Your faithfulness is determined by the commitment in your heart and not by outside pressure.

4. Faithfulness means sacrifice. Sacrifice means giving up something now to get something better later. When you cheerfully give your offerings to Him, you’re laying up for yourself treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20).

5. Faithfulness means perseverance. Jesus said, "Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). Faithfulness means you keep running until you cross the finish line. The race you're running won't be over until you die. Be faithful until death. He promises you a great eternal reward if you will.

“Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, KNOWING that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). For more about God rewarding our faithfulness read Making Today Count for Eternity.  www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com  www.makinglifecount.net
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Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174
www.makinglifecount.net  Twitter: @KentCrockett