Encouragement for Today
“Focus on the
Melissa Taylor, Proverbs 31 Ministries Speaker Team Member
Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.” (NIV)
As I set out for my morning run on this beautiful day, I made a decision. In yesterday’s devotion, I wrote about my choice to focus on God and His promises instead of my many problems. The Lord was providing me with the strength I needed. Just an hour ago, I awoke feeling sadness and despair. After spending time in God’s Word and having a cup of coffee, I felt new and rejuvenated. I was heading out for an early morning run, during which I planned to praise God and tell Him how I love and appreciate all of the marvelous things He’s done. I would spend my exercise time choosing to be filled with joy, all because of the Lord and what He’s done in my life. That was the decision I made: to keep my eyes fixed on Him and to praise and thank Him … despite the whirlwind I was living and the circumstances that surrounded me.
Believe me, this is not easy. Making the decision is, but actually living it out is not. God provided me with perfect weather this morning. On top of that, the birds were singing and there was a comfortable breeze. While running, I talked to God, just like I had planned to do. I praised Him for each beautiful flower, pleasant smell, and interesting sound. I thanked Him for my neighbors as I ran by their houses and prayed for the families inside. I thanked Him for the teachers who I knew were up early getting ready to spend their day teaching and encouraging my children. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love that could only come from God … and then the most incredible thing happened.
As I turned a corner, there in front of me was the most beautiful and amazing sight. A huge, bright, orange ball was rising in the distance. I thought the sunrise could only be this beautiful at the beach! “Oh Lord! You are so good to me. You knew I was down. You knew what I needed. I chose to fix my eyes on You and just look at the blessing You are giving me right now at this moment. Thank You!” I think I even had tears in my eyes. Then, out of nowhere, a big, loud, yellow school bus drove past me. The largest “poof” of black exhaust surrounded my body and it was all I could do to keep running. What happened to my sunrise? My fresh air? Now I know there were tears in my eyes!
In the moments following, here is an example of my thoughts:
“That’s just great! Just when everything seems to be going my way, I get smog in my face. I knew it couldn’t last. That’s how my life is. Why can’t I just have one day filled with peace? Why can’t I have an enjoyable morning without something going wrong? Now I can’t breathe and my beautiful morning is ruined!”
“STOP!” I heard the Lord say to me. “Remember the verses I gave to you just 30 minutes ago! I am your strength (Psalm 18:1); I will keep you in perfect peace when you trust in Me (Isaiah 26:3); I am with you, don’t be dismayed; I am your God (Isaiah 41:10); you will not be shaken Melissa, for I am right beside you (Psalm 16:8); draw near to Me and I’ll draw near to you (James 4:8); keep your thoughts steadfast on Me (Isaiah 26:3) and not the smog and circumstances that surround you.”
Whoa! In an instant, I’d forgotten all of the marvelous things my Lord had done. How quickly I turned my thoughts to me. One poof of smoke and I went from victorious to victim.
As God’s Word kept penetrating my heart, the smoke cleared and there in front of me was the sun, still beautiful and amazing, like God’s grace and love. It had not moved and, in fact, was growing more big and beautiful by the second. As my thoughts returned to what God had shared with me this morning, I went from victim, back to victorious.
In Psalm 119:11, we are told to hide God’s Word in our hearts. Now I know why. It makes so much sense when you think about it.
What are you focusing on today, the sunrise or the smog? As I circled back around and made my way back home, I was so very thankful for the way I chose to begin my day. Because I had turned to the One who could give me strength, I was able to get past any obstacles that clouded my mind and threatened to take my eyes off God. God reminded me there would be many situations that could easily cause me to doubt Him and turn me into a victim, but if I would remain in Him, focusing on His Word and promises, then I would be victorious and able to conquer all of the smog the day would bring me. Today, I choose to focus on the sunrise.
My Prayer for Today:
Lord, You are the giver of so many blessings, yet at times, I choose to focus on the dirt and smog in my life instead. Please forgive me for not trusting You and forgetting who You are in my life. I need You, I love You, and I trust You. Amen.
Yesterday, at the grocery store, I purchased a spiral notebook for everyone in my family. We are all beginning “thankful” journals. Grab a notebook or journal and begin this day by writing down just three things you are thankful for. Find one Bible verse to write also, one you can reflect on during the day. Do the same tomorrow. Then write five thankful entries the next day, along with a verse too. Keep the notebook somewhere that is easily accessible so you can add to it during the day. The point is to focus on the good in your life. Pretty soon, your attitude will improve and you’ll find yourself trusting God and hiding His Word in your heart.
What am I thinking of most today?
Did I begin this day in the Word of God?
How can I focus on the beauty around me today?
Psalm 9:1-2, “I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.” (NLT)
Psalm 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)
Psalm 16:8, “I keep the Lord before me always. Because he is close by my side, I will not be hurt.” (NCV)
Psalm 119:10-11, “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (NIV)
Who Holds the Key to Your Heart?, by Lysa TerKeurst
Becoming a Woman Who Listens to God, by Sharon Jaynes
P31 Woman Magazine
Originally published Thursday, 08 September 2005.