Confidence, Practical Living

Positioned

“And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus”

(Daniel 1:21 NIV)

This seemingly straightforward, almost administrative fact about Daniel’s training is recorded in scripture right alongside all its promises and story arcs (The first year of King Cyrus. Who’s King Cyrus?). And yet “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV). It is a detail by a God who even numbers the hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30), who watches the sparrows (Matthew 10:29) and dresses unseen wildflowers, and pays just as much attention to your years in preparation, before you even do a single thing before the king. Here Daniel is not only given the gifts and education needed to enter the king’s service, but does so in the fullness of time, within the wider political context of the nation into which he was born.

I remember one moment when I sat in a meeting that I could barely believe I was in, examining changes in the industry and the implications of shifts that were occurring in the wider political climate. I was a momentarily awestruck when I realised that without planning my position was ideal in a way that could not have been achieved or predicted by any one person. You would almost need to plan in advance even my date of birth so that I would be the right age, and ideally prepared and positioned in both time and place when the time came decades later. Some occupations and technologies did not even exist some years ago – and actually, neither did we. Nevertheless, God always knew His plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11), and He says with a purpose in mind; “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV). Esther was challenged to think that perhaps she has entered her royal position “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Not only will He personally prepare you for your role, but His eye is upon you even in time. You never have to worry, and nothing is ever wasted. God is your Grand Master.

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Confidence, Encouragement

Unconventionally Prepared

“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear…”

(1 Samuel 17:36a NIV)

Violent beast-slaying aside, this is a fascinating statement by David before he claims his destined victory against Goliath, recognising God’s faithfulness in preparing him while he was a lone shepherd boy defending his flocks. David did not go through formal military training. For an army expecting a commanding officer, or at the very least a soldier, or the very least a man and not a boy, no one was prepared for what was coming. But David was able to be confident in the way God had prepared him for His purpose in private, when no one was around to see.

When I look back, I can see in my own life that God prepared me in incredibly special ways for the things that would come to be required of me professionally, in a way only He could have known or done. It wasn’t until later that I realised the experiences and training I received were actually extremely rare and critical. And we probably can’t know until the moment comes.

But before He formed you in the womb, He knew you, and set you apart for a purpose (Jeremiah 1:5). He knows the plans He has for you (Jeremiah 29:11a) , and the Lord will fulfill His purpose for you (Psalm 138:8a ESV). He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). No matter how unconventional it looks, He can always be trusted with the process, and thanked when the moment comes to glorify Him.

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Practical Living

Before Kings

“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 NIV)

If you are faithful with little, you will be given the opportunity to be faithful in much. And it will simply happen to you. One day, you will be doing what you have always done, and then there will be just another day at the office, but this time before the King (and it will be too good for a selfie!). It is not honourable to seek one’s own glory (Proverbs 25:27), as much of our world is cultured to do (1 John 2:16), but a person can allow the natural buoyancy of excellence to rise. An excellent person is like a cork that inevitably pops to the top, and does not need to grasp for recognition. What they are simply goes up; “Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom” (Daniel 6:3 ESV).

Daniel kept rising and rising under multiple successive kings, an incredibly rare feat historically. Joseph rose from within even the prison to come to oversee Egypt and save a nation from famine. Jesus rose from the tiny place of Nazareth, and ultimately from the grave, and He lives within you (Mufasa and everything).

If you are a student, if you keep being a great one, someday you’ll do even greater work. If you are a worker, if you keep doing excellent work, you’ll be absolutely astonished at the people and places it will bring you. You won’t need to worry or be proud. It just comes.

Excellence in Christ just doesn’t stay down. And neither will you.

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Confidence, Encouragement, Inspiration

The Grand Master

“By the second move, there are 72,084 possible games. By the third, 9 million. By the fourth – there are more possible games of chess than there are atoms in the universe. No one could possibly predict them all, even you. Which means that that first move can be terrifying. It’s the furthest point from the end of the game, there’s a virtually infinite sea of possibilities between you and the other side. But it also means that if you make a mistake, there’s a nearly infinite amount of ways to fix it” – Harold Finch in If-Then-Else by Denise Thé, in Jonathan Nolan’s Person of Interest

It seems counter-intuitive that, as each move occurs, and pieces dwindle, that a chess game actually moves progressively into greater possibilities rather than a tighter deadlock. I once watched a chess champion take over what seemed like a losing game – almost all pieces captured, and no clear way forward. But in the command of a brilliant player, the few remaining pieces proceeded to completely decimate the opposing army – then checkmate the king. At first, a defeat seemed inevitable. But in the hands and perspective of a champion, the impossible was possible.

If there is endless possibility within 64 squares, how much more in a world and a life with endless variables? Jesus claimed that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). No matter how poorly you may believe you may have played in life, no matter how late in the game, how old in age, how great the loss, how far in debt, how deep in trouble, how severe the prognosis, how lacking in experience or education, how lost or uncertain – it is never too late or too much for Him to checkmate the enemy, never impossible to claim the victory Christ has already won for you. With Him, not even a dead man can be kept in the grave. He works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and gives you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) that is exceedingly and abundantly above anything you could ask, think, or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), and it is only possible through Him. It sounds too good to be true, but “the good news” is always even better than we dare to think or hope.

It’s always a cheating ruse – a lie – that it’s over. A ruse to make you forfeit what is actually an already secure victory. If you give Christ your cares, believe and not doubt, trust and not meddle by trying to turn your stones to bread, but let Him make the play for you (Psalm 55:22), no matter how little you believe you have to offer – even if you think you’re handing him a losing game, even if you only believe you have a few loaves and fishes in the face of feeding a multitude - you’ll be in position to see something only a Grand Master can do.

Unlike chess, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against a spiritual enemy who opposes us (Ephesians 6:12). He has the full intention to take pieces – to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Unfortunately for him, he’s already lost (Revelation 12:9), he is contending with omnipotence. You have in your defense a Grand Master with the highest thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:9). The enemy may intend his moves for evil, but God can always outplay his schemes so that they become for your good (Genesis 50:20) and “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30). It is God who directs your steps (Proverbs 16:9), who restores your soul and leads you in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, so that even in the valley of the shadow of death, you will have nothing to fear – because He is with you (Psalm 23).

I’ve heard of a chess master laughing privately (to his opponent’s puzzlement) in the middle of a game. It turns out he was laughing about the elegance of a move twenty moves in advance, so great was his foresight in strategy. And indeed, twenty moves later, his unwitting opponent was completely blindsided. In the same way, God speaks in past tense about the battles you are currently fighting, calling into being the things that do not exist (Romans 4:17), declaring the conquering of Jericho before its walls have even fallen (Joshua 2:6), declaring victory in Christ even while you are still in it. From outside of time, He already knows the victory is coming. So why not laugh with Him now? Why not believe His promise, and praise Him now, even when the pieces don’t yet seem to have an apparent order, even in the face of what seems like certain defeat. His promises are actually surer evidence than what we see with our eyes, and we live by faith, and not by sight. We may not see how because it’s such a brilliant play, one outside a rookie’s repertoire, one that only a Grand Master could orchestrate. But in this game, the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, is still standing victoriously, having incapacitated and taken the keys of the enemy (Revelation 1:18).

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”

(John 16:33 ESV)

Be brave. “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals” (‭Revelation‬ ‭5‬:‭5‬ NIV). “It is finished”. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37).

Checkmate.

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Practical Living

How to Tag your Workout with Scripture

Whether it’s the meditative levels of consciousness in yoga, the principles of Pilates and Paleo diets, the Many Luxury Items Rapped by Jay-Z or the muscle-building worship of the gym, we all follow something while we train, whether or not we mean to. Every single sportswear manufacturer markets a seasonal or classic mantra, every inspirational quotation and every motivational trainer gives you words and direction, pointing you somewhere (even it’s just on the treadmill). The best thing you can do is be intentional about what you follow. And if it is Christ, and if it is always, why not when you train?

Why it’s worth trying:

  • I was surprised at how much physical stuff is in the Bible – it’s fascinating. It uses running with perseverance, training yourself, endurance, strengthening your hands and fighting the good fight as spiritual analogies for the journey with God. It might seem like a tenuous connection to tag your workouts with scripture, but in fact, when you struggle physically, you are actually meditating more deeply on the what everything means – what it’s trying to say about endurance, the strength it will build, the need to rest, even as you literally experience it firsthand. And even if it’s not directly referring to your sport, His words are so powerful and potent that they will drop deep into your spirit and make you strong.
  • You’ll remember it. If you train regularly, with the scripture attached to an existing routine, reflected on deeply through its movements, every time you train, every rep you do – bam. You’ve memorised it. If you literally do one for every session, every rep, you’ll have so many scriptures deep within your spirit by the end of the year, by the end of your life time, you are guaranteed to be a winner. And meditating on it day and night is the secret to success (Joshua 1:8).
  • It will strengthen you inside as well as out, and pretty much set you up for life, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV). “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV). “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24 ESV). And you are rock solid.
  • But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15 NIV). I like the the Lorna Jane Philosophy, but we’re going for the words of life.

One more rep:

  • “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29 NIV)
  • “They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion” (Psalm 84:7 NIV)
  • “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong”(Proverbs 31:17 ESV)
  • “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3 NIV)
  • “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 6:9 NIV)
  • “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”(James 1:4 NIV)

Runs:

  • “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness”(1 Timothy 6:11)
  • “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)
  • “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV)
  • “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:14 NIV)
  • “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:4 NIV)
  • “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

Holds:

  •  “By your endurance you will gain your lives”(Luke 21:19 ESV)
  • “Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger” (Job 17:9 NIV).
  • “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV).
  • “Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Revelation 2:25-26 ESV).

Train with others:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

Recovery/Rest/Cooldowns:

  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)
  • “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jeremiah 31:25 NIV).

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV)

Go for it!

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