Psalm 23:4 says, Even if I walk through a valley as dark as the grave, I will not be afraid of any danger, because you are with me. Your rod and staff comfort me. Some versions say "the valley of the shadow of death." This is a stark contrast to the green pastures and calm waters that he was talking about in verse three. It's important to remember that this is poetry, so the valley of the shadow of death is not literal, but metaphorical. Even though I walk through dark and difficult circumstances, I won't be afraid because God is with me.
Even though I am struggling with my studies, I won't be afraid because God is with me.
Even though my parents are separating, I won't be afraid because God is with me.
Even though my aunt is sick, I won't be afraid because God is with me.
Even though my best friend is ignoring me, I won't be afraid because God is with me.
Even though I have to do a presentation in class, I won't be afraid because God is with me.
Even though I am starting at a new school, I won't be afraid because God is with me.
Even though I am struggling with depression and anxiety, I won't be afraid because God is with me.
You get the idea.
The shepherd's rod and staff were used to guide and protect the sheep. Some Bible commentaries suggest that they represent the Word of God and the Holy Spirit which makes perfect sense to me. The Bible and the Holy Spirit guide me. They help me not to fall into sin. When you find yourself walking through difficult circumstances, press into God. Spend time reading the Bible and praying. Don't be afraid because he is with you.
In Matthew 10:32 Jesus said, Those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same for them before my Father in heaven. In verse 33 he went on to say, but those who reject me publicly, I will reject before my Father in heaven. That's pretty heavy stuff. When you read these verses in context you see that Jesus had just spent the previous 31 verses sending the disciples out to spread the Good News and warning them that they would be persecuted, sometimes even by family members. Verse 22 says, Everyone will hate you because of me.
The early church faced huge persecution from the Jews and Romans. Christians were beaten, imprisoned and killed for their faith. In Australia you might be ridiculed for your faith but you're not likely to lose your life for it. There are countries around the world where it is illegal to become a Christian. Ironically, the church is growing in these countries at an astounding rate.
It's not all doom and gloom though - Jesus also encouraged the disciples with these statements in Chapter ten:
If you ask God to show you opportunities to share his Good News, you will find that there are people around you who have questions and are interested in hearing more about your faith. Don't stress about not having all the answers - if they ask a curly question you don't know the answer to you can tell them you'll get back to them when you have more information. God will also help you to know what to say.
A great two minute testimony. God doesn't cause our pain, but he uses is for good.
Scientists believe that we have about 6000 thoughts a day though some believe the number may be as high as 60,000. I don't know about you, but a lot of my thoughts aren't helpful. These include:
Any thoughts that aren't of God are from the Devil and John 8:44 says, the devil is a liar. In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 Paul was concerned that the church was going to be led astray from the truth. He said, The weapons we use in our fight are not the world's weapons but God's powerful weapons, which we use to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ.
We are in a spiritual battle - and the battlefield is our minds. Satan wants to distract and discourage us from loving and serving Jesus with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. One way he does this is to bombard us with all kinds of unhelpful thoughts. We need to put on the armour of God to fight this spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:16-17 says, In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. And you will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God. We need to apply the truth of God's word and our faith in him to put out the fiery arrows or lies of the devil.
Challenge: What are some unhelpful thoughts/lies that pop into your head regularly? Find Bible passages to put out those lies.
We 'follow' a lot of friends, celebrities and random strangers on social media. We give them our time and attention as we scroll through their feeds. When Jesus told Matthew to follow him, he was telling him to give up everything and literally follow him. Do you follow Jesus like you follow your favourite band? You listen to and sing along to their music, you read their posts and wear the t-shirt. Or do you follow Jesus like Matthew and the disciples? They gave up family, jobs, friends, and wealth to devote themselves to Jesus' ministry and teaching. I think the Western church can be a bit casual about Christianity - we go to church on Sunday and youth group on Friday, but Jesus has little impact on our lives for the rest of the week. I want to live a life passionately following and serving Jesus, loving him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). How bout you?
Short and sweet inspirations for Christian teen girls.