A fish out of water. That is what you will often feel like, O Soul, as you engage people in the world and live among them. How must Jesus have felt among publicans and prostitutes? Be sure you never become accustomed to worldly ways and thoughts. Remember always your purpose in being among them. You are not there to participate in their evil and immoral deeds, but to put before them the truth of the gospel. You have been sent as light and salt, to bring knowledge of God and transformation by the Holy Spirit. You were sent by the Lord Jesus as his personal representative. A foreigner are you, so do not adapt your life in ways that conflict with God’s holiness. Feel the awkwardness, and let love reach out to pull sinners from the fire.
The work of evangelism and edification means that your teaching usually will be on a simple level. You may miss digging deeper into the Word of God. You might even be tempted to pursue rather involved discussions of the academics. And while going beyond the basic teachings is necessary for your spiritual growth, you must always come back to those fundamental truths of the gospel: what is necessary for salvation, how saints are to be faithful, the nature of God, the work of the Spirit, redemption through the Cross, the church’s identity and mission. O Soul, do not chafe when you have taught the same basic lesson a hundred times. May God give you a thousand more opportunities to teach it!
Never think you’ve done enough or worked long enough to have reached a point of rest or retirement. Such thinking belies the grace of God. “Enough” is for the one who believes that merit attaches to effort. The goodness of God does not cease. The war for your soul and for the souls of others will not end until that final day. Discipleship reaches for the goal of faith, eternal redemption. The destination of the way of Christ, which you walk in faith and diligence, is reached only with your final breath. All the while, consider today is the day of faithfulness. Make every effort in the present. Step by step you will go forward, and in each moment you will give your best. Be diligent, never flagging in zeal, O Soul. God’s power for you is sufficient for now.
O Soul, in every word and act, offer hope. Show love. Build faith. Point the way. Promote peace. Tell the truth. Put away harshness and bitterness. Exercise patience. Avoid dead-end discussions and pointless debates. You must try the spirits, test all teachings, expose error, and stop the mouths of those who lead others astray, but at the same time you must provide a vision of the health of soul and hope of eternity that the benevolent God has revealed. Truth and love are two sides of the same divine coin of salvation. One without the other is useless. The world is sinking in its own destruction. Offer them Christ.
Pain is a part of life. Most everyone deals with it, in one form or another, most every day. Physical pain tends to be more obvious than other forms. Sickness, disease, accidents, harm caused by others, are some sources of physical pain. Then there is mental and emotional pain. People suffer in so many ways. Bad, unhealthy, or difficult relationships bring some of the deepest pain. Then, there is good pain, from growth, from serving, from dying to self. Learn to deal with each type of pain, O Soul, that you might live with joy and peace. Run to the Lord with your pain. He will teach you. Show others how to find meaning in their pain. And, in the end, God will bring you to that place where pain is not.
Man’s idea of what works differs greatly from God’s plan. Whether in personal life, the work of the church, or professional success, man creates all sorts of strategies. He imagines new paths to reach his goals. He lists every resource to which he might have access. God is wise, however. He knows what works, for he created us and revealed his way so that we might follow it and find joy in his wisdom. Do not be deceived, O Soul, by the intricacies and complexities of human ingenuity. Be absorbed with the simplicity of God’s plan. Be amazed at the knowledge that God shares with you. Be grateful that he has put into your hands all the keys to eternal life and to the blessings of his kingdom.
O Soul, do not miss the importance of this truth: Without gratitude in your heart, dissatisfaction will corrode your soul. Start your sentences frequently with the phrase: I’m thankful for/that … Ponder in great detail what good blessings God has given you. Do not let Satan point out to you all the things you are supposedly missing by obeying the Lord. He did this with Eve. He deceives with lies. Israel died in the desert from ingratitude. Do not faint and expire in your spiritual life from it. Hang on tightly to the gift of thanksgiving. It will save you at every turn. It will keep you in the presence of God. It will enliven your heart and flow out to encourage others. It will pave your way into eternal life.
Praise is a highly misunderstood activity. Do not let modern approaches turn you off to this necessary element of your faith. Emotion does not lead it, but rather the recital of God’s person and of his works, his word, and his ways. His presence is the air you breathe, O Soul, and just as God’s word is breathed out by him, so praise is what you breathe out from the powerful intake of his Holy Spirit. With praise and thanksgiving upon your lips, there is no room for complaint, murmuring, gossip, slander, or other bad language. In the Good News of Christ, there is praise for a lifetime.
The least harm that sin can do to you is disastrous for the kingdom of God, for it will cause you to waste your time. You know you are to make the most of your time. You should take advantage of opportunities. Serving the Lord, your family of faith, and your neighbor is your task in the short span you have on earth. O Soul, there is much destruction in sin, and many ways it will destroy. But consider that, if Satan can get to you do nothing or to occupy yourself with trifles, he has neutralized you for doing good. And the failure to do good is a great evil.
O Soul, sharpen your powers of observation. Notice what goes on around you and, more important still, what is happening in the Word of God and what it can do in you and through you. See with your eyes and with your mind. Connect thoughts to actions, actions with consequences. See how the pursuit of sin leads to frustration and death. Observe that only in Christ can peace and joy be found. Note how your neighbor is needy, what his true need is, and how only the gospel can satisfy both him and yourself.