PRAISE & PRAYER PROMPT ••• In Proverbs 17:22 ESV, it says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
It’s easy to be joyful on the good days, but it’s this joyful spirit that can strengthen us and help us get through the difficult ones.
A joyful heart isn’t about being happy.
It’s more than that.
It’s the deep-seated faith and contentment that comes from trusting in God’s sovereignty.
In Ezekiel 24:16 ESV, God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down.”
Further do-not-mourn instructions were given in verse 17, and in 18, we learn that Ezekiel’s wife died (“the delight of your eyes”).
Why would God tell Ezekiel not to mourn?
To Ezekiel’s credit, he obeyed God in this.
Let me clarify a few points:
1) God has asked His followers to do some difficult things and this is a prime example of Isaiah 55:8-9—God’s ways are not our ways.
2) Ezekiel can be a difficult book to read, especially since there are so many complex images and symbolism.
And 3) For the millionth time, I’m not a theologian so I’m not going to try to explain complex theology or get into the purpose of God’s no-mourning instructions.
Let’s just all agree that Ezekiel was having a very, very bad week.
Ezekiel already had the difficult responsibility of prophesying God’s judgment on the nation of Israel.
Losing his wife too and not mourning according to the normal customs was probably not easy.
But it wasn’t the first time God commanded someone not to mourn.
In Leviticus 10, Aaron’s sons died after not following the proper process in the Tabernacle.
Aaron was told not to mourn.
Mourning isn’t a bad thing…
Even though Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He wept (John 11:28-44).
This devotion is kind of going in an unexpected direction…
I didn’t intend to get into such heavy material, but the overall point is this—no matter our circumstances, we can choose to have joy in God’s plan.
Or we can wallow in bitterness and despair.
Ezekiel trusted in God and because of that trust, He was able to obey.
I’m pretty certain he wasn’t happy at that moment, and maybe he didn’t even feel joy.
We don’t always feel it, but we can always be confident of joy’s presence when we know God is working all things for His good purpose (Romans 8:28).
Today, as you pray, give thanks to God that He always has a plan and a purpose, even when we don’t see or understand.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you have joy in all circumstances.
Ask Him to help you trust, even when tempted to be bitter or overwhelmed with despair.
PRAYER PROMPT ••• Some mornings, when I study God’s Word, I’ll bundle up with a throw blanket.
Especially now as the mornings are colder.
And every time, I end up fighting a battle.
The blanket is meant to ward off the chill and help me be comfortable.
But as the hour progresses, I find myself getting too comfortable.
All warm and cozy, it gets easier to say “five more minutes…” with each moment.
Complacency sets in until I find myself rushing like a crazy woman.
Staying a little chilly keeps me alert and is a far better way for me to study, pray, and write.
This morning, I succumbed to the temptation to be comfortable with my blanket but the moment I was started designing the prayer prompt graphic, sleepiness washed over.
I had to kick that blanket off!
How many ways do we let our comfort turn into complacency?
My Bible reading has moved into Ezekiel and in Ezekiel 3:18-19, God said, “If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.”
Talk about your motivation to be obedient!
Without context, it may seem harsh to hold Ezekiel responsible for another’s soul.
But God didn’t tell Ezekiel to beat people with a Bible until they surrendered.
His job was just to share what God said; he wasn’t responsible for how they responded.
His obedience was rooted in sharing God’s message.
We all have a similar obligation.
As Christians, we are called to share the Good News!
Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 that we to “go and make disciples of all men.”
If you are a recipient of God’s grace and mercy, why wouldn’t you share His Gospel so others can know it too?
There’s more than enough to go around for anyone who wants it!
Kick off that blanket that has you pulled into complacency and share Jesus!
It’s easy to think that’s the responsibility of preachers and evangelists, but Jesus didn’t say that.
He simply said “go.”
No resumes or specific job skills required other than faith in Jesus.
By the world’s definition of who’s who, I’m not remotely qualified to share the Gospel.
A woman who spent the better part of two decades as a prodigal doing her own thing, I don’t have a degree in anything, much less a degree in theology!
When the Holy Spirit put this assignment on my heart, I wanted to bundle up in a blanket and succumb to sleep.
“Sorry, God, I’m too sleepy; I can’t hear you.”
But He wasn’t going to let me be complacent.
Nor should I want to be.
God’s been too good to me to not obey Him.
What is the Holy Spirit calling you to do?
Maybe your direction is to simply live out your faith boldly so that others want to know what is different about you.
A strong example of Christian love may be your exact brand of ministry!
God doesn’t send everyone to a foreign mission field, but He does give each of a mission.
Today, as you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to remove any complacency you have that’s preventing you from following God’s calling.
If you aren’t sure of your role in sharing the Gospel, ask Him for direction.
Ask Him for opportunities to obey.
Pray that your comfort in knowing your saved never moves into complacency that prevents you from leading another to Christ.
PRAYER PROMPT ••• I am terrified of butterflies.
Anyone who knows me personally, who is reading, may wonder, “Who is this and what have they done to Denise? She would never intentionally pick a butterfly picture to illustrate her Prayer Prompt!”
But it is me and yes, I chose it for a reason, though it was difficult to look through the inventory of butterfly images.
But moving on to my point – my fear aside, butterflies are a great illustration of the change that God can work in our hearts and lives.
Ezekiel 36:26 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
God has the power to move mountains (Mark 11:23).
Nothing is impossible for Him (Matthew 19:26).
So a stubborn heart is no match for the power of God!
Look at the miracle He worked in Paul’s heart!
This former zealot who was determined to eradicate those who proclaimed the Gospel would later become the Gospel’s greatest champion (aside from Jesus, of course)!
If you allow Him to work in your life – expect miraculous change.
Like the butterfly, you can expect to emerge from the cocoon of your sinful nature and be born a new creature.
Today, as you pray, ask God to work on your heart.
Ask Him to remove any stubborn resistance from your heart, and mold you into the person He wants you to be.
And if there’s someone you’re praying for – someone you pray will find Jesus and experience the new life of a Christian – keep praying.
Don’t be discouraged.
God hears your prayers.
James 5:16b says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Trust in His timing.