DAVID DEVELOPED HIS GIFTS (30/12/19)
Updated: Jan 4
WELCOME TO 'COME TO JESUS DAILY'
This blog is designed to help you to develop a deeper relationship with God. Each of the devotionals (mainly based upon teaching at Community Church Putney) contains a number of elements:
1. Daily devotionals, closely based upon the text of the bible.
2. A small group/family study which is a summary of what has been covered during the week.
MONDAY – DAVID DEVELOPED HIS GIFTS
Today, you and I are exposed to excellence like never before. We can easily watch and listen to amazing artists, sports men and women, adventurers, speakers… on our devices. However, it’s easy to forget the countless hours of practice that always goes into high-level performance.
In Vienna, on October 12th 2019, Eliud Kipchoge became the first person in history to break the two-hour mark for the marathon. Prior to this he said,
“I believe in good training and good preparation,”
To back up his words, he ran 120-140 miles per-week, at his training camp in Kenya, typically waking up around 5 a.m! Hard things take hard work! Whether it’s athletics, computing, maths, memory, poetry, preaching, song-writing, painting… all excellence requires dedication.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Wrote,
“Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor the raw material he will fashion into a figure. But it’s the same with that type of artistic activity as with all others: We are merely born with the capability to do it. The skill to mould the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated.”
As Christians we must learn God’s way of ‘moulding the material’ of our lives. And God, in His word, teaches us the methods by which we can mature; and He also gives us the promise of reward for those who will get to work, and warning for those who will not!
David was skilful in everything he did. In particular, as a shepherd, musician, warrior and leader. We read,
1 Samuel 16:14-18 'Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.” So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.” One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”
David’s musical talent was a gift from God, but not a gift that required no practice on his part. David can play the lyre and he can play it well because he has practiced.
David was ‘a brave man and a warrior’; again, these are not the gift of birth, they are character traits and skills that are learned. He learned to be brave and fight well by doing scary things and getting into fights! We read,
‘David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:34-37)
David, as we should, attributes all of his gifts and success to the grace of God; however, let’s not be under any illusion, it's through facing fights, persevering and practicing, that God’s grace grows us! You and I all have a choice whether or not to stay, to fight, to practice, to study, to learn… or run away and do something more fun.
If we don’t practice we won’t be ready to serve God when opportunities arise.
David had the experience of what we read of in Proverbs 22 - Maybe, Solomon, the author, learned it from David, his father,
‘Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.’ (Proverbs 22:29)
In an age of distraction. An age when we too often want quick success, the quick fix, when we want the outcome that hard work gives but without the hard work; in an age like this, let’s ask God for the grace of self-control so as to work hard in the work, gifts and opportunities that God has given to us.
TUESDAY - PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
I’m told that it takes around thirty-thousand hours to become proficient in a language like Arabic! I’m sure that we would all like to listen to a CD, visit a website, learn that speed-reading method… in order to learn without any effort! However, I’m sorry to tell you, nothing worth having comes easily! And, maybe, without exception (I say maybe because I’ve not considered this exhaustively) all skill and maturity comes slowly over time.
They say that ‘practice makes perfect’ - and certainly it’s true to say that practicing the right things leads us toward perfection.
What are the sorts of things that God wants us to practice? Of course there are many personal things that we could practice: art, playing tennis, electric guitar, bridge, photography… but there are spiritual disciplines that we must all practice. These are like food, water, oxygen, on which our life depends. The three disciplines that I want to talk about are:
UP disciplines - Connecting with God through His word, prayer and worship.
IN disciplines - Connecting with God’s people
OUT disciplines - Connecting with those outside of the church - this is the overflow of the first two.
These three things must be practiced by all Christians and churches if they are to be healthy and fruitful. Today we will look at the first discipline.
David is renown as a writer of songs of worship (psalms). His relationship with God was rich. Like David, we will only become good at using God’s word, praying, worshipping and hearing God’s voice if we practice the ‘Up disciplines’. These disciplines are built upon the foundation of God’s word - the bible. This includes:
Hearing – Listening to teaching particularly with the church each Sunday (Acts 2:42).
Reading – Simply becoming familiar with the whole bible. A bible-reading scheme is a great help in this.
Studying – Studying books, passages, words, stories in greater depth. A study bible such as the ESV Study Bible is a good tool.
Meditating – Christian Meditation is simply to read really slowly, repeatedly, prayerfully, using your imagination (Ps. 119:15, 1:1-3; Josh 1:8.
Praying and worshipping out of God’s word – As we read, study and meditate, turn what God impresses on us into prayer and worship.
Memorising – Memorising passages of the bible is a vital discipline that is way too rare! This practice will encourage you and equip you to encourage others and enrich your praying, worshipping, prophesying… (Psalm 119:9, 11)
Let’s remember, the aim of these ‘up disciplines’ is knowing God: knowing Him objectively (as the bible describes Him) and subjectively (experiencing his presence through each day). Without practice we will remain immature and less fruitful. But, if we ask the Father to help us and prayerfully practice, He will teach us.
‘The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring for ever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous.’ (Psalms 19:7-9)
Here are a few questions to provoke you in this regard:
How are you, or will you, get into the bible each day? Maybe you could consider a reading scheme such as those provided in the 'YouVersion' bible app (take a look at the video).
Will you take five minutes each day to meditate on a text that inspires you? (Maybe write down your thoughts. Use Psalm 19:7-9 if you need a prompt)
Will you allow the bible to inspire your prayer and worship?
Tomorrow we will look at the ‘IN disciplines’ of community.
WEDNESDAY – PRACTICE THE ‘IN’ DISCIPLINES
The New Testament was principally written to churches on the good things that Jesus has done for them and how they should live together now they know God. The Christian life is a community life, but too often we reduce it to Jesus and me (or me and my family). God has designed it so that He transforms us through church community. David loved God and he loved God’s people. He wrote,
“I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ I say of the holy people who are in the land, ‘They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight." (Psalms 16:2-3).
Since the day I became a Christian I have made my local church one of my highest priorities. I never grew up going to church but loving the church seemed to come naturally to me after Jesus came into my life. It has principally been through being in various meetings and in community life that I’ve learned how to pray, parent, give, prophecy, forgive, sing... Community is a spiritual discipline through which God transforms us, it is a ‘means of grace’ - a way that we receive God’s power.
Donald Whitney wrote of the Spiritual Disciplines,
“Think of the Spiritual Disciplines, as ways we can place ourselves in the path of God’s grace and seek him as Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus placed themselves in Jesus’s path and sought him.”
The ‘IN Disciplines’ of devotion to church community are about putting ourselves in a place where we will meet Jesus.
When we are cold we seek ways to warm up. There is nothing like an open fire on a cold night to warm us up. Likewise, when using the spiritual disciplines, we bring nothing to the fire, we just position ourselves to receive its heat. God invites us to receive all that we need from Him, but we must come to Him in the ways that He teaches - church fellowship... is a vital ‘means of grace’ by which we are transformed and spiritually enlivened.
Here are a few texts for you to meditate and pray out of,
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD." (Psalm 122:1 )
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”(Proverbs 27:17 )
‘And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.’ (1 Samuel 23:16)
Do you believe that your spiritual maturity and health requires fellowship - devotion to church community? Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote,
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
Have we allowed hobbies, discouragement, depression, family, work... to usurp our devotion to God’s people? As we approach a New Year, I pray that our vision for this coming year is dominated by love and service for others - we can aspire for nothing greater and there's nothing more rewarding!
Peter speaks of deep love and community as being the natural outworking of coming to Jesus. Spend some time meditating and praying out of 1 Peter,
“As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)
If you are not yet in a Community Group please go to: https://www.communitychurchputney.com/community-groups
THURSDAY – PRACTICE THE ‘OUT’ DISCIPLINES
David was a skilful man because he practiced the things that were important. As a shepherd he would regularly have to use his experience to find lost sheep. Finding lost sheep is a good metaphor for how we are to think about evangelism. It’s a ‘discipline’ but, just like the ‘up’ and ‘in’ disciplines, it is to be inspired by love and will only be sustained by love. David was a ‘good shepherd’ because he cared for his flock. It was more than a duty, it was a labour of love. If we love, we will overcome all obstacles. If the Spirit of God is working in us, we will, like Jesus, learn to love those who are straying and in danger. Jesus said,
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." (John 10:11-16)
How can we become ‘good shepherds’ like David and, ultimately, like Jesus? How can we help the ’other sheep that are not of this sheep pen’ to come home to Jesus?
Practice the ‘UP’ disciplines. Connection to God will lead to the power and compassion that loving the ‘lost sheep’ requires.
Practice the ‘IN’ disciplines. We will only be able to reach and teach those who are outside the church if we are throughly ‘inside’ the church ourselves. Through the teaching, mutual encouragement, impartation of the Spirit, corporate prayer etc. we will remain faithful to loving those outside of God’s love. 'Fellowship' (koinonia) in the bible means 'partnership' it means to be in community for the sake of a shared purpose and mission. As Christians, fellowship is based on loving God, loving one another, and loving the lost. Take a moment to read Acts 2:42-47, noticing the emphasis on community and the result in the second half of verse 47.
Practice the ‘OUT’ disciplines. There are specific things that we can practice that will help us to find ‘lost sheep’:
i) Pray daily – Pray daily for your own heart to love God in such that you want others to know Him, and to love others in such a way that you want them to know Jesus. I encourage you to have a short list of non-Christian friends whom you can pray for daily.
ii) Ask for the Spirit’s empowering – linking with the first practice, keep asking for God’s empowering (See Acts 1:8).
iii) Invest and invite – We must go and get to know people. It’s vital that we ‘invest’ in friendships and then ‘invite’ them to Jesus through sharing the gospel, sharing our story of conversion, inviting them to church gatherings where they can hear the gospel… you get the idea.
iv) Pray and share in your Community Group – If we share our encouragements, struggles, intentions, advice, and pray for one-anther regularly in our CGs this will be of the greatest help.
I’ve said a lot in the points above. Take some time to read and reflect on how you will seek to be a good shepherd.
As we enter this New Year, surely, seeing more people coming to Jesus is a desire that fills our hearts. But let’s be clear, if we don’t change what we do, we will keep seeing the same results. How will you do things differently this year so as to help to find lost sheep and bring them home to Jesus?
FRIDAY - WITH GOD’S HELP I CAN!
Too often we believe the lie that we cannot change. Maybe we’ve tried to start, tried to stop, tried to change only to have failed. Let’s remember that without faith, we will not attempt things, but with faith we can move mountains. Faith believes God. Believes that the God who made all things, who gave His Son to die for us, will certainly give us the grace to change and become more like Jesus.
What are you believing?
Do you believe that with God’s help you can? David, when faced with Goliath, was confident in God. Our sinful thinking and behaviour can seem like giants to us. However, faith in God is like the sling that will give us victory and transformation.
Creating new habits
God has created us with the ability to form habits. Bad habits can be broken and good habits can be formed. A New Year is a time when many make resolutions, and it’s a good time to review prayerfully and look ahead hopefully, knowing that with God’s power we can change.
To form new habits we simply need to repeat a behaviour or way of thinking repeatedly until it becomes ingrained in us.
For example, a few years ago I had a painful back due to a bulging disc. I could hardly put my own socks on, my sleep was disturbed, I felt anxious about it. I prayed about it, was prayed for. My prayer was answered - I was given some exercises by a physiotherapist and I decided to work on my posture, particularly when sitting. My back is now really good praise God! But I still do my exercise routine every night before bed and I still work on my posture. It’s got to the point where it’s harder not to do the routine and sit properly than it is to do it. I’m nothing special, I just sought God, took some good advice and didn’t want to live with pain! You can do the same! On a more directly spiritual note, for quite a while I’ve set myself to learn a new bible verse every day. Again, this has become a good habit and you learn methods that work for you as you go along.
We can all have first hand experience of what Horace Mann wrote,
‘Habits are like a cable. We weave a strand of it everyday and soon it cannot be broken.’
Prayerfully choose new habits
I suggest that you pick one or two new things to work on at a time. What UP , IN, or OUT habits will you work on?
I) UP HABITS - habits that connect with God
How will I develop my prayer life? Bible intake? Worship? Fasting? How can I help my friends/wife/husband/children to connect with God?
II) IN HABITS - Disciplines that connect us with God’s people
How can I better love and serve my church community? My Community Group? How will I serve? Give?Use my spiritual gifts? Build friendships? Etc.
III) OUT HABITS – Disciplines that connect us with non-believers
Who will I pray for and how often? What will I do to connect with people outside the church? How will I develop in this area? Is there an approach to work that I need to take? Etc.
(You may also want to think about your health but I’m not covering that in this blog)
MAKE A PLAN
Without a plan, our good intentions remain unrealised.
James Clear, author of the book, Atomic Habits, talks about an experiment on developing fitness habits. Three groups were studied: the first groups were told just to track how often they exercised in a month; the second group were to track, added to this they were given a motivational speech; the third group were to track, were given the motivational presentation but, add to this they were to fill in this sentence:
‘During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].'
The third were to state their intention to implement their behaviour.
The results? Of the first group, 1 in 3 worked out, the second group was not affected by a motivational talk, however, 9 out of 10 of the third group exercised! See the graph below:
He says, ‘Many people think that they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity (a plan).
So, make a plan.
Once you’ve selected a couple of specific things to work on, write down:
What you will do
When you will do it
Where you will do it
For example, I memorise a new bible verse, every morning, whilst having a cup of coffee (it's good to link new habits with things you already do -drinking coffee for example)
Obviously, I’ve only skimmed the subject of spiritual disciplines and forming habits. Someone once wrote,
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny,” (Anon)
Don’t despise making small commitments to what you believe is God’s will for you. It’s the small choices that make a world of difference - remember that every time you have the chance to use or waste five minutes! David learned the habits of worship, prayer, faith, using a sling… David did all of these things in secret, for God. with no dream of being a celebrity. Let’s do these things for the love of God, remembering the promise,
‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows… Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ (Galatians 6:7,9)