Where is the Gospel Application?

dailyhope-header-1920Rick Warren has a daily devotion that is free online!  The devotion is called Daily Hope with Rick Warren. I haven’t looked at it much, but every Rick Warren message I have heard has a lot of Bible passages used through out and they are always well structured and delivered in a way that is easy to receive and comprehend.  He’s a great communicator!

A recent devotion was entitled, “How Can I Overcome Discouragement?”  It was based on the verse Nehemiah 4:10.  You can find it on Rick’s Purpose Driven site, here.  Rick provides 4 action items that we can do or practice to overcome discouragement.  I was asked if I liked the devotion?  I said that I did like it and that I thought it was all good advice, but I was curious if most of the devotions were of this nature, and I was told that they were.  I said, yea, I think this devotion was good advice and very practical, but that if this was what I heard every day, or every week as a church sermon, it would drive me inward to myself.  I say this because it was all commands that I should follow.  Even the “Talk About It” section was questions to guide me towards what I should do.  None of the devotion talked about what God is doing in me and through me and for me during my times of discouragement.  I was told that every message doesn’t need to say, “Jesus died for you,” and that to do such would be only giving spiritual milk and not solid food!

I disagree.  I think God’s actions to save and help lead us through this life go way beyond Christ’s work of salvation.  The Trinity’s work to not only justify us (declare us holy) but sanctify us (make us holy) involve law proclamations and Gospel proclamations.  I think what Rick called us to do in the devotion was all good, sound advice and he was drawing the implications from Scripture!  So Amen.  But it was only commands and demands put upon myself. If that’s all I hear everyday from pastors and teachers preaching God’s Word, that would be all I’d be trained to hear in my personal studies of God’s Word.  This would lead to a state of despair when I constantly fall short of those commands, or it would lead to a state of self-righteousness in which I think I am DOING it, and doing it well without God, because nothing about God’s work in me was ever mentioned, not once.

To demonstrate what I would add to Rick’s devotion, I decided to keep his devotion exactly as it was given, but add Gospel proclamations (statements of God’s work in the situation to lead us through this life to him as he is transforming us into the image and likeness of his son, our Lord, Jesus Christ).

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Here is Rick’s devotion and I have put in bold all the times we are the subject and all the actions we are called to do in the devotion are put in bold with itallics:

“How Can I Overcome Discouragement?”
By Rick Warren (With emphasis added)

“Then the people of Judah said, ‘The work crews are worn out, and there is too much rubble. We can’t continue to rebuild the wall.’” (Nehemiah 4:10 GWT)

Discouragement is curable. Whenever I get discouraged, I head straight to Nehemiah. This great leader of ancient Israel understood there were four reasons for discouragement.

First, you get fatigued. You simply get tired as the laborers did in Nehemiah 4:10. We’re human beings, and we wear out. You cannot burn the candle at both ends. So if you’re discouraged, it may be you don’t have to change anything. You just need a vacation! Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is go to bed.

Second, you get frustrated. Nehemiah says there was rubble all around, so much that it was getting in the way of rebuilding the wall. Do you have rubble in your life? Have you noticed that anytime you start doing something new, the trash starts piling up?

If you don’t clean it out periodically, it’s going to stop your progress. You can’t avoid it, so you need to learn to recognize it and dispose of it quickly so you don’t lose focus on your original intention.

Third, you think you’ve failed. Nehemiah’s people were unable to finish their task as quickly as originally planned and, as a result, their confidence collapsed. They were thinking, “We were stupid to think we could ever rebuild this wall.”

But you know what I do when I don’t reach a goal on time? I just set a new goal. I don’t give up. Everybody fails. Everybody does foolish things. So the issue is not that you failed; it’s how you respond to your failure.

Do you give in to self-pity? Do you start blaming other people? Do you start complaining that it’s impossible? Or, do you refocus on God’s intentions and start moving again?

Finally, when you give in to fear, you get discouraged. Nehemiah 4 suggests the people most affected by fear are those who hang around negative people. If you’re going to control the negative thoughts in your life, you’ve got to get away from negative people as much as you can.

Maybe you’re discouraged because of fear. You’re dealing with fears like, “I can’t handle this. It’s too much responsibility.” Maybe it’s the fear that you don’t deserve it or the fear of criticism. Fear will destroy your life if you let it. But you can choose to resist the discouragement. Say, “God, help me get my eyes off the problem and the circumstance and keep my eyes on you.” [This statement is simply a law, telling you what you are supposed to SAY!]

Talk It Over

  • Rubble is the trivial things that waste your time and energy and prevent you from accomplishing what God has called you to do. What is the rubble in your life?
  • How can you reduce negativity in your life that is keeping you discouraged?
  • On what abandoned goal do you need to refocus so that you can accomplish something God has called you to do? 

When you look through this devotion, the only two times that God is the subject is when he is calling you to do something. Otherwise, all the action is inner focused!  It’s turned towards you and what you need to do.  However, God’s relationship is two ways.  Yes, God calls us to action, but Scripture shows that we always fall short of those actions and that brings condemnation upon us.  Therefore, God acts to save us and through our lives he works to make us more like him and he blesses us to be  a blessing to others.

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Here is Rick’s devotion with my additions.  I added God’s work in the situation, not just what God calls us to do, but how he acts in our lives.  I think by adding these additions, I am not watering down the message, and I am not somehow turning solid food into some sort of liquid mash that would be called giving spiritual milk.  What I have done from my understanding of Scripture is delivered the Gospel.  I have shown God’s actions to save us and sanctify us (bring us through this life into the next as he works in our lives to make us holy).  Therefore, I see what I have done is take a devotion that was all law and make it a proper balance of law and gospel.  Again, I haven’t changed any of Rick’s words.  They are all still present.  I have added emphasis on God’s actions this time, now that they are present.

“How Can I Overcome Discouragement [And How Does God Provide Encouragement in my Discouragement]?” By Rick Warren and Andy Wrasman

“Then the people of Judah said, ‘The work crews are worn out, and there is too much rubble. We can’t continue to rebuild the wall.’” (Nehemiah 4:10 GWT)

Discouragement is curable. Whenever I get discouraged, I head straight to Nehemiah. This great leader of ancient Israel understood there were four reasons for discouragement.

First, you get fatigued. You simply get tired as the laborers did in Nehemiah 4:10. We’re human beings, and we wear out. You cannot burn the candle at both ends. So if you’re discouraged, it may be you don’t have to change anything. You just need a vacation! Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is go to bed.

Sometimes you might feel guilty for taking a break when more work needs to be done, but it’s not God’s desire or plan for any of us to work ourselves to death.  This is seen most evidently through God’s design of creation, by taking six days to create all things, and a seventh day to rest.  We learn that God took six days to create to serve as a pattern of work for us.  Exodus 20:9-11 clearly shows this for us, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God ; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day ; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”  God even built in special days of rest into each year as well as an entire year’s worth of rest every seventy years.  All of these times or rest given by God, served as signs of encouragement to the Israelites who were the only nation at the time to have days of rest to see that when they stopped working, God still provided and had everything under control.  [Rest is a gift!]

Second, you get frustrated. Nehemiah says there was rubble all around, so much that it was getting in the way of rebuilding the wall. Do you have rubble in your life? Have you noticed that anytime you start doing something new, the trash starts piling up?

If you don’t clean it out periodically, it’s going to stop your progress. You can’t avoid it, so you need to learn to recognize it and dispose of it quickly so you don’t lose focus on your original intention.

God as a loving Father helps in this process.  As Jesus said in John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away ; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”  As  good gardener, God is taking care of us and desires that we will bear much fruit, so he is actively cutting out the parts of our lives that restrict us from growing.  Will we be patient and work with God through this process?  Or will get frustrated and give up when we see all the rubble in our lives?  [Since this is sanctification and we work with God in this process, I tie in our role in this process]

Third, you think you’ve failed. Nehemiah’s people were unable to finish their task as quickly as originally planned and, as a result, their confidence collapsed. They were thinking, “We were stupid to think we could ever rebuild this wall.”

But you know what I do when I don’t reach a goal on time? I just set a new goal. I don’t give up. Everybody fails. Everybody does foolish things. So the issue is not that you failed; it’s how you respond to your failure.

Do you give in to self-pity? Do you start blaming other people? Do you start complaining that it’s impossible? Or, do you refocus on God’s intentions and start moving again?

To help you in this process, remember that this life is not a sprint, but a marathon that demands endurance and perseverance.  The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us of this when he calls us to remember the men and women of the faith who have gone before us, suffering and stumbling along the way.  Despite their failures chasing after God, they never tossed in the towel of faith and God was faithful, bringing them to heavenly glory.  By the witness of God’s faithfulness in the lives of the saints before us, we are told, “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  [I added this whole paragraph and you can see that there is plenty of Law I spoke here too]

Finally, when you give in to fear, you get discouraged. Nehemiah 4 suggests the people most affected by fear are those who hang around negative people. If you’re going to control the negative thoughts in your life, you’ve got to get away from negative people as much as you can.

Maybe you’re discouraged because of fear. You’re dealing with fears like, “I can’t handle this. It’s too much responsibility.” Maybe it’s the fear that you don’t deserve it or the fear of criticism. Fear will destroy your life if you let it. But you can choose to resist the discouragement. Say, “God, help me get my eyes off the problem and the circumstance and keep my eyes on you.”  But even when we do fear the things of this world and we stray from the path of God, Jesus as our good shepherd never leaves our side.  He is always calling to us and leading us through the valley of death that we keep walking ourselves into. 

Negativity drowns out our Savior’s words of comfort.  Clinging to the positivity of God’s promises points us to depths of which Christ humbled himself to bring us to himself through becoming human and suffering and dying though he is God and did not deserve any such pain or temptation, we are encouraged to know that there is no reason to fear that he won’t continue to work to bring his goals for us to completion [we are passive here].

Talk It Over

  • Rubble is the trivial things that waste your time and energy and prevent you from accomplishing what God has called you to do. What is the rubble in your life?  How is God helping you remove this rubble?
  • How can you reduce negativity in your life that is keeping you discouraged?  What has God given that is positively moving you closer to the goals he has for you?
  • On what abandoned goal do you need to refocus so that you can accomplish something God has called you to do?  How has God equipped you for meeting this goal, or how has God grown you and prepared you to meet this goal since the time you abandoned it?

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So there you go.  Those were my additions.  You can see I added more law, but I add Gospel statements that were never present.  Compare Rick’s devotion to the one that I added Gospel statements too.  Rick’s devotion had no statements were God was acting besides to call us to do something.  The one with my additions shows God’s active involvement in our discouragement and how he empowers us to overcome the hurdles, equips us to accomplish what we are being called to, how it might take time, but God is faithful, how the fruit may not come instantly, as God is caring for us as a Father, and how God encourages us through the Gospel and example of the life of Christ.

Do you think I watered down the message?  Do you think I took away from the message by mentioning God’s works and actions?  Do you think mine provides encouragement that wasn’t in the first devotion?  Do you feel more able to meet the commands of the first devotion or less able?  Do you now feel as if you don’t have to do any work after reading mine?  Do you think I gave you spiritual milk by telling you what God has done for you and is still doing in your and through you in your times of discouragement?

I also want you to think about Joseph in the Bible?  When he was sold into slavery and then later imprisoned innocently, do you think he was discouraged?  Do you think he would need to be told – bro, just clean out the rubble?  Bro, what are you not doing that God has called you to?  Hey bro, how can you reduce the negativity in your life?   Hey bro, I think you are just being afraid and that ‘s why you are discouraged. Joseph needed to be encouraged by the promises of God!  If someone is in a situation like that, just being told a bunch of law wouldn’t help them get closer to God or know that he cared.  They would still feel trapped in slavery or their prison cell.  We have to proclaim both Law and Gospel.  We need both.  We need to be told what God desires of us, and the Gospel, the sweet news of salvation and God’s blessings that we don’t deserve, energizes us to do good works (God’s work).

Give me your feedback on this one. I’d love to hear it!  Thanks.  Peace in Christ, Andy Wrasman.

One thought on “Where is the Gospel Application?

  1. I think the devotion is good as it was written- short- solid- relatable.

    I appreciate what you have written as well… And were you teamed up with rick…I’d add a link like “dug deeper”. What you’ve added is thought filled … But no longer a devotional.

    I am not a member of saddleback church but I so participate in their Celebrate recovery program . I worship at another church- I had some stinkin thinkin about saddleback – I them started attending CR and found this is a Christ centered saved by grace through faith church … Not a works or decision driven theology church.

    Thanks for your faithful service !

    Very respectfully ,
    Ken Whitney.

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