Overcoming Expectations

Steve Arterburn

One of the subtlest enemies of spiritual life and growth is the influence of other’s expectations of you.  The world expects you to continually seek possessions and prestige.  It expects you to fill your time with busy activity, whether meaningful or not.  

Are you allowing the world’s expectations to dictate your life?  How often do you act in order to please others rather than because you want to please God?  Sometimes pleasing God may actually require that you disappoint others because you can’t fulfill their demands on you.

What do people expect of you?  What do you do when the world’s demands are pressing in on you?  Solitude can help you break free from other’s expectations.  When you spend some time quietly alone you can see more clearly what the world is asking of you.  In solitude you’re more able to evaluate these expectations in relation to God’s desires for you and to decide which demands should or should not be fulfilled.   

Following one of the busiest days’and nights’of his ministry, the book of Mark tells us that Jesus ‘awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.’  Is your life busy?  Are you feeling pressure from your work, your wife, your friends, or your kids?  Follow the example of Jesus.  Make solitude a priority in your life today. You’ll be better for it.

Encouragement

Steve Arterburn

Discouragement will drain your energy, especially when you face trials. That’s why, it’s very helpful to spend time with people who know how to encourage. Some people know just what to do or say to remind you that life is worthwhile, even in the midst of pain and failure. They know how to inspire when there seems to be nothing to hope for. Barnabas, an early follower of Jesus whose name means ‘son of encouragement,’ was just that kind of guy.

Barnabas’s gift of encouragement was demonstrated through his financial generosity, his leadership, and his teaching of new believers. He accepted the apostle Paul when others were afraid of him. And it’s probably accurate to say that Barnabas changed the course of church history by persevering in his encouragement to John Mark.

On his first missionary journey John Mark abandoned his friends. Barnabas was willing to give him a second chance. Paul wouldn’t hear of it. But with Barnabas’s encouragement, Mark became faithful in his missionary ministry and was able to renew Paul’s respect and friendship. Later he would write the Gospel of Mark.

Are you feeling discouraged? God’s forgiveness offers you the chance for a new start. Persevere. God is a God of second chances. And in time, you’like Barnabas’will have the privilege of encouraging others along the way.

More Powerful Than Blood

Steve Arterburn

Family is important. It provides relationships that will be your foundation, through thick and thin your entire life. What’s more, families are where we get our foundation spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. In short, families are the cradles of character.

 

But in Mark chapter three, Jesus demonstrates that as important as family truly is, it’s not what’s most important. The scene took place on a day when Jesus and His disciples were so overwhelmed by the crowds they didn’t even have time to eat. Jesus’ mother and brothers approached the house where Jesus was, but couldn’t get in. So they did the next best thing. They sent word inside that they wanted to speak to Jesus.

 

When Jesus heard this, He asked provocatively, ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ Then He looked at the crowd around Him and declared that they‘those who did God’s will’were His true family members!

 

This is one of the many times where Jesus shatters our preconceived notions. Yes, your family is very important. It’s very important to God, and therefore, should be important to you as well. Yet family doesn’t take precedence over the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom makes a total claim upon us and radically reorders our entire existence. Therefore, to exalt anything over our loyalty to Jesus Christ is to make that thing an idol, even your family. Don’t let something good take the place of what’s clearly best.