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Have You Lost Your Grip?
We never run out of things to keep us busy; consequently, life’s essentials can slip right through our fingers. Learn how to strengthen your grip on 16 changeless truths from God’s Word, and then watch as these truths transform your life.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Priorities
1 Thessalonians 2:1–13
The church pulpit is much more than a polished podium from which a pastor can pontificate. Since the beginning of our Christian heritage, the pulpit has been the primary place from where God’s Word has been dispensed to His people. From the pulpit, pastors proclaim God’s truth, sound His warnings, and feed His people.
But what governs the words of spiritual nourishment that come from the pulpit? Priorities. It’s easy to see a church’s priorities when the ministry is just starting out, when the ink of the congregation’s ideals is still wet on the paper. But later on, when storms roll in, the priority list can get blown away in a gust of confusion.
To keep this list securely nailed down, we must strengthen our grip on four priorities that must characterize our churches as well as our personal lives.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Involvement
Acts 2:42–47; Romans 12:9–16; 1 Corinthians 12:20–27
In an article written a number of years ago, a psychologist attempted to describe the relationship of Christians with one another. He compared us to porcupines on a cold winter night. The cold drives us together in a close, tight huddle to keep warm. But as soon as we get so close that we start touching, we start jabbing one another with our sharp quills, scattering the huddle. But when it gets cold again, we move back toward one another to get warm . . . Only to prick each other yet again.
And so we are constantly coming together then moving apart in a sort of religious dance. We need each other . . . yet we keep needling each other!
It's a bit dismaying to realize that you’re going to be spending eternity with people in the family of God you don’t even speak with on earth! Quite frankly, when someone has wounded us with their sharp quills, it’s natural to want to keep our distance. But we do need each other . . . Needles and all!
- Strengthening Your Grip on Encouragement
Hebrews 10 commands Christians to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). But do you know what command follows it, written before the ink had dried on the first? “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (10:24).
Did you know those commands were in the Bible? God wants us to think about how we can encourage our brothers and sisters in the Lord. And remember, it’s impossible to stimulate someone else to love and good deeds if we are not around them. Encouragement is primarily a face-to-face thing.
The family of God is not a place for verbal putdowns, sarcastic jabs, critical comments, and harsh judgments. We get enough of that from the world. This is a place we need to assemble for the purpose of being encouraged . . . and we are free to be ourselves.
In this lesson, we will learn that encouragement is not the responsibility of a gifted few but the responsibility of the entire family of God. That means you.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Purity
Matthew 18:15–17; 1 Thessalonians 4:1–5
“Pleasure is supreme.” . . . “Follow your feelings.” . . . “Do whatever makes you happy.” . . . “Purity? That went out with the Puritans!”
These slogans of our pleasure-obsessed society pulse from the media like a strobe light, mesmerizing us into a state of moral apathy. Sitcoms depict abstinence as fit for only the undesirable or the immature. And advertisements blatantly seduce us into acquiring absolutely everything our hearts desire.
But before we burn the media at the stake, we have some confessing of our own to do. Christianity historically has been the advocate and defender of purity, but that may no longer be the case. When we watch the news and read about current events, the church seems silent. Maybe we have drifted from the call to defend biblical purity.
Far too many Christians have bought into the “pursue pleasure at all costs” philosophy. Marriages are breaking up at almost the same rate inside the church as outside. Christian leaders often create just as much scandal as any movie star. And many churches no longer place holy living at the top of their priority list. But purity, as Paul explained in Romans 6, is a powerful alternative to our culture’s formula for living.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Money
1 Timothy 6:3–19
As we consider strengthening our grip on various things in this life, we certainly cannot overlook the issue of money. It can be difficult to bring up the subject of money. People get tense and clutch their wallets a little tighter. When the words tithing and stewardship come from the lips of a pastor, many people run. And we have the prosperity gospel preachers to thank for that. These false teachers have broken trust between the people and the pulpit. They teach that God’s blessings can be bought for the right price, and that God’s highest blessing on His people is monetary.
But in reality, God’s blessings are not for sale. He showers His gracious gifts—monetary and otherwise—on whomever He pleases. In fact, Paul wrote about this subject in the last chapter of his first letter to Timothy, explaining that God expects contentment and stewardship from His children. The Lord calls Christians to manage His gifts in order to accomplish His purposes and bring Him glory.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Integrity
Psalm 75:5–7; 78:70–72
Integrity is the opposite of hypocrisy. A person with integrity follows through on commitments and doesn’t back down when something better comes up. A person with integrity refuses to use others for personal benefit, doesn’t tend toward haughtiness, and has an accurate view of personal strengths and weaknesses. Integrity welcomes accountability, even when it comes through constructive criticism.
Integrity is solid like a rock. It won’t crack under the pressure of circumstances, and it won’t crumble when others leave. Integrity keeps one strong while under the white light of examination and the exacting demands of close scrutiny.
Though Christians should strive for personal integrity, we must remember that integrity does not equate sinless perfection. No one can achieve that goal in this life. A person with integrity doesn’t hide his or her shortcomings but confesses them to the Lord and to others. Let’s learn more about integrity in this lesson.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Discipleship
Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 3:13–14; Luke 14:25–33
Time for a pop quiz. What is a disciple?
a. Someone who has completed a ten-week Bible study course
b. A Christian leader
c. A knowledgeable Christian
d. A zealous Christian
e. A Christian who listens to spiritual CDs
Answer? None of the above. Surprised? Don’t be! Never has a word been so overused yet so misunderstood. Although the topic of discipleship has been overworked, it is an under-applied concept. We all have probably heard a lot about discipleship. But if the truth were known, most of us still are not discipling others or being discipled ourselves. Most of us are still spectators when it comes to ministry. That is not only unwise and unhealthy, it is unbiblical. Let’s focus our attention on what the Lord said in His Great Commission in Matthew 28:16–20 and learn what it means to live as a true disciple.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Aging
Joshua 14:6–14; Psalm 90
No series on godly priorities would be complete without addressing the issue of those who are growing older: “senior citizens,” as they are commonly called. All too frequently, however, this particular group is given the message: “You are finished . . . you really do not figure that highly in our future.” Although this is a familiar philosophy within the ranks of humanity, Scripture does not support this view, either in philosophy or practice. The man whose life we unveil today exemplifies God’s desire for the aged. Caleb remained forever young, even though he had every reason to back off, fade into oblivion, and give up with a long, heavy sigh as he snuggled down into a bed of moth balls. No way! As we shall observe, Caleb stayed in the mainstream—in fact, on the front edge of new and fresh challenges.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Prayer
Matthew 6:5–15; Philippians 4:1–9
Wait—don’t skip this lesson! This isn’t a typical guilt-inducing, anxiety-producing, schedule-restricting lesson on prayer. No one will come to our homes to peer over our shoulders, stopwatch in hand, evaluating our devotional time. No one will inspect our knees for callouses caused by long hours of prayer.
No, the goal of this lesson is to help us see prayer as a way to lighten our burdens, not add to them; to relieve anxiety, not to increase it. The last thing we need is for someone to pour fuel on the fire of our angst. We already have enough of that—from not quite being the people we really want to be and from not living the Christian life as abundantly as we’d hoped. Instead, this lesson will help us open up the lines of continual communication with our Lord, giving us joy, hope, and stability in our anxiety-producing world.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Leisure
Genesis 2:1–2; Matthew 6:24–34; Ephesians 5:15–16
When was the last time you took a long walk, read a good book, or just rested while watching the sunset? Many of us feel guilty when we spend more than ten minutes being “unproductive.” We have been sold a bill of goods that the committed Christian is the busy Christian—constantly involved with people, programs, and producing results.
And because many Christians relentlessly drive themselves to constant productivity, they often view those who enjoy regular leisure time as undisciplined and irresponsible. We’ve been programmed to believe that fatigue is next to godliness, that it’s better to burn out than to rust out. But either way, we’re “out,” which means we can’t finish the race God has set before us.
So, if your work has become your all-consuming interest or your greatest source of identity, worth, and security, this lesson is for you. Though it may feel unnatural, sit back, put up your feet, and allow yourself to get a grip on leisure.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Missions
Most of us like the view from our own backyard better than from anywhere else. Oh, we open the gate now and then to see what’s going on in the world. We watch the news or read the paper and shake our heads over the pain, injustice, and persecution in other countries. But that is often as far as it goes. After all, we’ve got our own lives and our own problems to worry about. We’ve got our own dreams to fulfill and goals to pursue.
Isaiah probably felt the same way. Born almost 30 centuries ago, likely into an aristocratic family in Judah, Isaiah probably had his life-plan all mapped out. He surely caught reports about the mounting power of Assyria, Judah’s notorious enemy. He probably sighed about the pagan customs that had spread their roots across his homeland. He might have mourned about the idolatry, immorality, and ritualism that had begun to erode the foundations of his religion. But, at least from the biblical text, it didn’t seem like Isaiah had personally involved himself in changing the moral or spiritual landscape of his country—at least, not until Isaiah faced a heartbreaking loss and then had a life-changing encounter with God.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Godliness
1 Corinthians 10:1–13
Have you ever felt like you were surrounded by the things of God—the programs, people, and praise of God—but couldn’t find God anywhere? People smack-dab in the middle of Christian organizations sometimes forget about God. Pastors and members of churches. Administrators in parachurch ministries. Children in Christian homes. Students in Christian schools. It’s much easier than we think to lose our sensitivity toward God in a Christian environment. When we’re around His people regularly, talking His language, watching Him work, enjoying His blessings, we can start to take Him for granted. In short, we can loosen our grip on God while we’re handling all the things that pertain to Him.
This problem is nothing new. Who had more of God than the Israelites in Moses’s day? They were a people selected by grace to be God’s own . . . freed from Egypt’s chains . . . rescued from Pharaoh’s army . . . sustained by God’s miraculous provision in the wilderness. But they were ungrateful, hardened, and faithless. As cold and dark toward God as charred sticks in a doused campfire. Their Great Deliverer, in their eyes, had become a cruel taskmaster.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Attitudes
Philippians 2:1–5, 14; 4:4–8
Like a famished dog gnawing away at the last trace of meat from a bone, the Nazis stripped Victor Frankl’s life down to almost nothing. They took all his possessions, shaved his head, and stole his freedom. They robbed him of his family; his mother, father, brother, and wife all perished in the concentration camps. Once a renowned psychiatrist, Frankl was reduced to being a slave laborer at the notorious death camp Auschwitz.
Frankl endured hard labor—he once had to dig a water main tunnel alone—as well as abuse and starvation. He could have seethed with hate and self-pity but, instead, Frankl realized that the Nazis could never steal, shape, or dictate his attitude. In Man’s Search for Meaning he wrote:
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Evangelism
On your list of desired activities, does sharing your faith rank right up there with getting a root canal? Don’t feel alone. It seems that most Christians would rather do anything than witness. Why? First, we don’t really know how to go about it. Second, we’re indifferent; we have other things to think about, and besides, plenty of evangelists out there can do the job better than we could. Third, we’re afraid. Nobody likes to look like a fool because he or she can’t answer all of the questions others may have. And what if the response is hostile? The thought of sharing our faith often leaves us intimidated.
We’ve probably all been in situations—maybe on a plane or at a convention—when the topic of religion came up and we had to face the inevitable dialogue with a nonbeliever. We’ve usually ended up feeling awkward and uncomfortable, and we’ve walked away wondering, What could I have said or done not only to win a hearing but to keep a hearing? How could I have shown Christ to that person in a more understandable way? How could I have kept from sounding so pious or so out of touch with reality?
Good questions. Acts 8 has some answers for the apprehensive evangelist.
- Strengthening Your Grip on Authority
1 Samuel 15
Authority. That’s a bad word to many people. Question authority seems to be the motto of our culture, and rebellion seems to be a rite of passage.
How many teachers spend the majority of their class time just trying to get students under control? How many police officers realize that, to many, their badge is no longer an emblem of honor and respect but a target to shoot at? How many bosses get the feeling that their employees would do anything rather than what they’re supposed to do? And how many parents know the frustration of having their authority undermined, not just by defiant children but by their peers, the media, and the culture at large?
Let’s remember that God has set the authorities in place. Rebellion against earthly authorities amounts to rebellion against God, which is the most serious revolt of all.
- Strengthening Your Grip on the Family
What is the family?
In a culture where every role and relationship—from the husband-wife relationship to the parent-child relationship—is in the process of redefinition, it’s hard to get a grip on what family should look like. Even for Christians, who have many pictures of family life in the Bible, it’s hard to make those pictures a present-day reality when our culture paints a very different portrait.
To strengthen our grip on what God intended for the family, let’s turn to His Word, specifically Psalms 127 and 128. Though not a detailed manual for successful family life, these two ancient hymns paint a mural of inspired images depicting four stages of family life: the foundation of the home (Psalm 127:1–2), the expansion of the home (127:3–5), the child-rearing years (128:1–3), and the later years (128:4–6). These verses can help us appreciate, as well as improve, our families.