Don’t Be a Wimp When Trials Come!

The apostle Paul’s ministry wasn’t easy. He was imprisoned, beaten, criticized and shipwrecked. Yet he served God with great joy. When he was stoned and left for dead in Iconium, he gathered the believers and told them: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). He urged his disciples to follow his example and endure hardship.

We don’t hear much preaching today about suffering. We prefer the easy road. Yet the Christian life is a struggle. We are in a spiritual war, and our enemy is real. Jesus said: “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Then He added the good news: “But take courage; I have overcome the world.” Don’t be a wimp when difficulties come. Don’t cave in or give up. Be strong, pray, trust God, resist temptation and rejoice that Jesus is bigger than any problem you face!”


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Focus on the One, Not the Crowd

A few weeks ago I spoke at a church in Virginia where Brandon McPherson is the young adult pastor. I’ve been mentoring Brandon for a few years. I was glad I could speak at his church, and we had powerful services. The congregation was blessed. But my main goal that weekend was to spend time with Brandon. When I go on a ministry trip my focus is not on the crowd. I focus on the one.

The apostle Paul often preached to crowds. But he spent most of his time with his disciples, and he gave special attention to Timothy. The result was that Timothy carried Paul’s heart. Paul said of him: “I have sent to you Timothy…and he will remind you of my ways” (1 Cor. 4:17). Crowd ministry is necessary, and can result in changed lives. But you will make the most lasting impact if you reproduce yourself in the one. Then, when you die, the next generation will carry on!


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Don’t Be Discouraged By Your Weaknesses

Do you struggle with unclean thoughts, wrong desires or bad habits? Of course you do! We are all human, and we often feel the pull of our sinful nature dragging us down. Jesus knows this about us. He told His disciples: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). The first step to overcoming temptation is to admit your weakness. Don’t beat yourself up or condemn yourself because you struggle with sin. If you did not struggle, you would be dead!

When I told a good friend this week that I was battling temptation, he said: “The fact that you are battling shows that you are a warrior.” I love that! God does not condemn us because we have a sinful nature. He calls us to fight! He says: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Fighting is not an option. Spiritual warfare is real. But you don’t have to fight alone. Invite close friends into your struggle and enlist their encouragement and prayers. And always soak yourself in God’s love and remember that He accepts you in spite of your flaws.


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Discipleship Is About Spiritual Pursuit

When the time came for Elijah to leave this earth, Elisha chased him all the way from Gilgal to the Jordan River. He refused to let his mentor leave his sight. Elisha told Elijah: “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me” (2 Kings 2:9). Elisha knew he needed what his mentor had. He was passionate and determined. When heaven’s flaming chariots arrived, Elijah’s mantle fell on his disciple.

Many people today want spiritual power, but few are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to obtain it. You must humble yourself and admit you need the wisdom of those who have gone before you. Don’t become proud and think you can do this on your own. Be a learner. Study the Bible. Read spiritual books. Chase your mentors. Learn everything you can. And most of all, develop a prayer life and pursue the Holy Spirit. Ask Him for a double portion of His anointing in your life!


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Talk to God About Your Disciples!

One of the best ways to “grow” your disciples is through prayer. While they need you to talk to them about God, they also need you to talk to God about them! The apostle Paul selflessly invested his time in his disciples, teaching and training them, but he also spent much time on his knees interceding for them. Paul told his spiritual son Timothy: “I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day” (2 Tim. 1:3).

I keep photos of people I pray for on my iPad and I pray for them daily. Seeing their faces reminds me of how much I love them. Sometimes I spend more than an hour a day just praying for their needs. But I am also aware that prayer helps form a person into Christ’s image. I ask the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, answer specific requests and strengthen them with God’s grace and power. The prophet Samuel said: “Far be it from you that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam.12:23). If God has put disciples in your life, you have a parental responsibility to pray for them. Let God use you to nurture and shape them into powerful followers of Jesus!


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aYou Must Be a Fighter

I love Caleb in the Bible. He was a man of faith who fought for 45 years to take the land of Israel. And when he was 85, he could say: “I am still as strong today as I was in the day when Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in” (Joshua 14:11). Caleb was a fighter his entire life! He fought giants and drove them out of Israel.

God wants you to be a fighter—and to stay a fighter. Never allow the devil to knock “the fight” out of you! I have seen this happen to men and women of God as they got older. They became soft and lost their passion. They became distracted by material things or got tired of the difficulties of ministry. Or they made moral compromises that made them weak. Or they looked for easier paths instead of running to the next challenge. Keep your armor on at all times, stay full of the Holy Spirit, resist temptation and be aggressive as you take territory for God and make more disciples!


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You Need Resistance Training

I’m learning a lot about spiritual growth these days as I do my new fitness routine. I’m sure you know RESISTANCE is the only way to build muscle. Whether you do push-ups or weights, you must RESIST to stimulate muscle growth. The same is true spiritually. You must resist the pressure of temptation if you want to build spiritual muscle. James 4:7 says: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Resisting makes you strong in the Spirit. But like a fitness program, muscle gain takes time.

If you are tempted in any area (say lust, for example), you have two choices. If you RESIST, you will grow stronger and develop character and purity. If you give in to temptation, you will stay flabby and weak. Which do you want? My prayer is that you will consistently resist the devil until you are a ripped, shredded warrior!


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True Discipleship Is Not About You!

In Luke 5:17-26 we read about some unidentified men who brought a paralyzed guy to Jesus. The crowd was so huge that the men climbed on the roof, tore away some tiles and let their friend down into the room where Jesus was. I love their faith! Their friend encountered Jesus and was healed because they were so determined.

When you are making disciples, you are like these four men. Notice that the Bible does not give us their names. They were happy to see their friend get his miracle. They didn’t need recognition. They were not the center of attention in this story. Jesus was. When you are mentoring someone, it is never about you. Don’t try to be the focus of your disciple’s attention, and don’t be jealous if your disciple has other mentors besides you. Your role is to serve. By your love, example and prayers, you are bringing your disciple to Jesus. Do everything you can to push them in front of Him—then step back and be content to be in the background. That is true discipleship.


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You Must Learn the Secret of Transparency

James 5:16 calls us to live an open life: “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you will be healed.” You must learn to be transparent, and be quick to repent when you stumble.

Transparency requires you to open your heart with your close friends, or with those who are mentoring you. Don’t allow secret sin to fester in your soul. Choose to live with accountability. Confess your sins quickly. Don’t hide your struggles. Allow God to heal the areas of your life you are ashamed of. Then you will become an effective discipler of others.


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You Need ‘Protein’ to Get Spiritually Strong

1 John 2:14 says: “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” If you want to make strong disciples, you must teach them to feed on God’s Word. Nobody can overcome sin or become a strong Christian without feeding regularly on Scripture.

If you want to build muscle you must go on a high-protein diet. If you want to grow spiritual muscle you must discipline yourself to eat the meat of the Word. Don’t just snack on spiritual junk food. Don’t just listen to occasional sermons. Teach your disciples to study daily, cut deep into the Word, find the choice meat and chew long on it. That’s how you become a strong man of God.


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