1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
One Bible passage that troubled me for years and caused me to struggle is a seemingly simple two-word exhortation: “Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17). I wanted to obey God’s call and follow his teaching . . . but how? How was I to pray without ceasing? How could I stay aware of God every moment and communicate my love with every breath? How could anyone measure up to this spiritual expectation?
After years of struggling with this passage, the Holy Spirit breathed a simple truth of understanding into my soul that changed everything. When the veil was lifted and I saw the real meaning of this passage, joy descended and prayers were expressed with a new freedom and passion. Here is what God taught me: It is not that we have to pray continually; it is that we get to pray continually!
This is a paradigm shift of heavenly proportions. It changed everything for me, and I hope it is just as transformational for you. It is not that you and I have to pray every moment of every day. God will not be disappointed with you if you don’t pray all the time. The wonder and joy is that the Maker of heaven and earth invites you and me to commune with him at all times and in all places. When we are ready to communicate with the God of eternity, his eyes, ears, and arms are always wide open.
Prayer, in its simplest form, is about being in the presence of the God who made us and loves us. It is about relationship. When we learn to pray with our eyes wide open, we will discover in new and greater ways that we are not alone. We sense more deeply and intimately that God is with us in the depths of pain, depression, sadness, and fear. He is also present at the heights of ecstasy, joy, and delight.
So my desire for you is that in these seven days of devotions you will learn to live with an awareness of God’s glorious presence in each situation and every moment of your day. For then prayer will become natural to you. You will talk with God as a friend who is walking with you through the heights and depths of your journey of life.
During your prayer times today, practice praying with your eyes literally open. It may feel strange at first. And of course it’s not something you must do to please God. But it will help you be aware of his presence throughout your life every day.
Day 2—Defining Your Character
Something about endurance has the incredible capacity to refine you. I suppose it’s like a fire for the silver, removing impurities and strengthening the character. Often because endurance goes hand-in-hand with trials and trials can burn.
One of the amazing results of persevering to the end is Christ-like character. It makes you a better person by pulling out the sin nature and cultivating a spirit that is kind, humble, patient, and above all, puts Christ before all else.
Romans 5 provides a blueprint for this journey. It’s not an easy one but it is an important one for every believer. It starts with the decision to rejoice in your sufferings. When you can do this, you fan into flame endurance, which produces character.
If you can make this journey, Romans affirms character. And not only here, either. Philippians 1 promises that if you will run the race with perseverance to the end, God will complete the good work He started all those years ago when you turned your heart over to Him.
You won’t find perfection today, but one day you will pass to your home—which Christ is preparing—and it will be here that you will find completion. You will walk, free from sin, in the fullness of who God originally created you to be.
Although you may want to give up today, remember that your perseverance will lend to a better version of yourself that resembles Christ more and more over time.
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!
1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV
Day 1—True North
Sometimes you might feel like the lonely ship tossed about by the waves on the stormy sea. Back and forth you float without direction, looking for any sign of hope. Without a compass, making it to dry land can be impossible.
The same can be said about life. Wandering through without a compass and hoping you fulfill your God-ordained purpose on this earth can be very challenging. Which is why you need a true north—a constant focal point that never changes. There’s only one and His name is Jesus.
God alone can give you the strength and endurance for a flourishing life. When you’re tired, His firm arms will scoop you up and breathe fresh life into those bones. When you’re too battered to take one more step forward, His wellspring of life rises up and fills you once again. When you’re lost and unsure, His wisdom and insight opens the weary eyes and illuminates the journey ahead.
Be assured: there is no other true north, no other source of strength that will sustain you or light that will faithfully guide you. Leave behind the world’s answers to your weariness and embrace your true north. He’s the only sustainable source and your anchor in all circumstances.
If you feel like the tousled ship among the waves today, before you pursue anything else, pursue Jesus. May the Lord direct your heart and His strength carry you through your darkest valley when you just want to give up.
Over this 7-day reading plan we are going to dive head first into the Bible and discover what God has to say about perseverance and endurance. This is your reminder and boost of encouragement to keep going when the going gets tough. So, come join me and uncover what the Bible says endurance produces and who else in the Bible persevered in the face of adversity.
And remember: eyes on Jesus, friends!