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31 Days to THRIVE with Casting Crowns!
You were meant to do more than just survive. You were meant to THRIVE.
You were not meant to struggle to make it through the week, the day, or the next hour. You were not meant to be shackled by anxiety, worry, and fear. No, you were meant for so much more.
You were meant to have life and have it more abundantly. That is the promise of the eternal God.
You were meant to dig deep and to reach out.
You were meant to know God and to make him known.
You were meant to point to the one hope, the one anchor, the one true source of joy, peace, and contentment for the entire human race. His name is Jesus.
Surviving is for those who have no hope. That’s not you, not if you’re God’s child.
You were meant to thrive.
All of us will have bad days, but Jesus tells us to take heart. He has overcome the world. To live a life that thrives we should remember this: We can not live by what we feel, but by the truth God’s Word reveals.
Psalm 1 lays the foundation for a life that thrives. It says that the person who delights in God’s Word is blessed. Verses 1-3 say:
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Like a giant oak tree that stands tall and strong, growth as a believer requires two parts. You have to dig your roots in deep. And when you do, you naturally will reach out. To grow roots, we dive into God’s Word and prayer and learn from other believers. As we reach out, we show people the love of Christ. A balanced believer does both.
The empty promises of the world define success and contentment in terms of money, possessions, prestige, and power. The biblical definition of the word thrive means to dig deep into a personal relationship with Jesus and to reach out to others with his truth and love—to know God and to make him known.
God has a dream for you, and his dreams are always bigger than your dreams. His dream doesn’t necessarily include prosperity or good health or even what most people would describe as happiness. He’s not interested in making you comfortable. His dreams for you are much bigger than any of those pursuits. You were made to thrive in more than a worldly kind of way. You were made to thrive in your relationship with
Jesus, who has poured out his love into our hearts so that it will spill into the lives of others. God’s dream for you is to know him and
to make him known, to dig deep into his Word, to plumb his depths, and to reach out—to live in such a way that you point to the one true
hope for all people. It seems to be a spiritual contradiction, but it’s not: When you finally let go is when you grasp what God wants and has for you. Surrender to Jesus is the way not only to abundant life, but also to life itself.
Did you know that God is more interested in our weaknesses than in our strengths? It’s easy to focus on our strengths, because our strengths give us a sense of confidence and control. But 2 Corinthians 12 assures us that God uses our weaknesses rather than our strengths.
God uses the weak things in the world to shame the wise. At this point is where our buts, spelled with one T, usually get in the way. Christians have huge buts, where we believe whatever God says but—and then we insert an excuse. If you believe something but, there’s a good chance you don’t believe it at all. There’s a chance you just know it and it’s on your T-shirt, but it’s not the filter through which you run your actions.
The more we examine Scripture, the more we find broken people rather than whole people—people with serious issues like Moses, David, Peter, and Mary. We find that the weak overcome the strong. Everything the world calls success isn’t found in the Word. Instead, we find
that God takes you just as you are.
Throughout Scripture, God approaches different people with the same message: “I know you have great plans for your life and some ideas about how you’re going to pull off your plans. But I have something else for you.”God didn’t explain away all the details. He didn’t curb the difficulties. He didn’t even say, “It’ll be a little awkward for a while. You’ll hit some rough patches. And you’re even going to hurt.” But he dreamed much bigger for his people than they ever dreamed. In story after story, God’s Word shows how faithful he is even to those most desperate and downtrodden.How we face the future and how we make decisions are based on what we believe about God and what we believe about ourselves. We can say God is in control, but our lives often suggest that we don’t totally buy it. God is not finished with you. Wherever you are right now, know this: Jesus loves you, and he will bring about his best for those who love him and want to thrive in him. Trust his dream for you.
God wants to renew our minds and redefine our ideas of who he is and who we are in him. We have fuzzy notions of God and we partially believe what we’ve read, heard, and sung about him.Yet despite our shortcomings, God has been patient and kind, long suffering and forgiving. Even when we take a wrong turn, he transforms it for our good. Love from other people doesn’t work that way. Jobs don’t work that way. Even spouses don’t work that way. We’ve let the world tell us what forgiveness means. We’ve let the job market define our skill sets. We’ve let the SAT or ACT define how smart we are. We let labels pigeonhole our beliefs about ourselves and shape our views. The antidote is God’s Word and prayer. We must learn to put all of our weight on Jesus, to dig deep into his Word and obey his nudges to reach out to others in his love. All the while, he will bide his time and work out his dream for us. All the while, he will teach us to thrive.
God’s existence and sovereignty are the most fundamental beliefs we can possess—the very core of our deepest roots. When we dig in to know God more, we tap into the infinity of his love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, power, and sovereignty. Nothing or no one is greater. He sees all, knows all, and controls all. Whatever happens in our lives, God either brings it or allows it for his good reasons, and Romans 8:28 says God does everything for his glory and for our ultimate good.Do we really trust God? Ephesians 2 says we were dead in our trespasses before he saved us. Dead people can’t do anything. God did it all. If we think that we did something to start our relationship with God, it’s only logical to think that we could do something to end it. We can either rest in our picture of God or be haunted by it. This passage helps us determine whether we have painted a biblical picture of God and of ourselves. There’s no better reason to study Scripture. It’s the only way to live a life that thrives.
We have to let God paint for us the picture of who he is. If we paint our own picture of God, he’ll look a lot like our dads, for better or worse, and a lot like how love works down here on earth. We all know what human love is like—people will love us as long as and until. But there is always a line that human love won’t cross. That’s not what God’s love is like. You’re going to attach your idea of God to what you know. If you don’t know what he says about who he is, how are you going to get to know him? If you let God define himself for you and let him shape your views of yourself, now you’re ready to start blooming. We operate on a faulty root system when we go by our own logic. We choose the finite over the infinite. First Corinthians 1:8 states that God “will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What God starts, he finishes. The fun part comes in between.
Let’s aspire to let God have his Word back into our lives, so to speak. We need to let him—and only him—define what we are responsible for in
our lives. Jesus isn’t life enhancement. He’s life. He alone is the way life works. You can’t take someone else’s Jesus home with you. You can’t take your pastor’s Jesus home with you. Only your own walk with Jesus goes home with you. A relationship with Jesus is not automatic because you walk into a building with a pretty steeple or religious symbols. Buildings don’t change your life. When we surrender to Christ, the spirit inside of us—the real person within the bag of bones we call a body—is renewed. Our brains are still flesh and blood that have recorded everything we’ve ever done. Our spirit is new, but we still have lost minds. Our brains become a battleground.
Sooner or later, we have to realize that Jesus is more than church. It requires consistent study of God’s Word and consistent prayer to help us thrive by deepening our roots and redefining erroneous thinking.
After Jesus fasted forty days in the wilderness, Satan tempted him. At Christ’s physically weakest point, he still knew what to do. Every time Satan hit him with temptation, Jesus answered him with Scripture. You’re not the first person Satan has messed with. He made war with God, so figuring you out probably didn’t take long. He knows just what buttons to push, and he keeps his fingers right there. He doesn’t need to hit you with any new temptations. He’s got your favorites on speed dial. He uses the same ones over and over until you feel like more and moreof a failure. The battle of the heart requires digging into God’s Word to hide it in our hearts so we don’t sin against him. We have to guard ourtime with God every day because it’s the first thing the enemy attacks.If we keep planting things into our old life, what will come out of us? Old life.We have to dig deep into our new life in order to thrive, because when we read God’s Word, we hear his voice.
Why is it that we feel closer to the Lord after we spend only one hour at church on Sunday? It’s because we took the time to pour into our new life. What if that devotion was a lifestyle rather than a trip to a building every week or two? All we did during that brief time was pour into our new life and starve our old life. We closed out the world and the distractions and opened up his Word, and in just one hour our perspective changed. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” This is an irrefutable principle: When I sow to the Spirit, God’s Spirit begins to change my thinking, my tastes, my will, and my emotions. This is how I learn to walk in the assurance of God’s presence. This is how temptation that once enticed me now reeks to me. When I wage the battle of the heart and pour into my new life, new life will come out. And that’s when I begin to thrive.
When we yield to Jesus, he works through us to reach others. We cannot produce fruit in and of ourselves any more than a detached
tree limb lying on the ground can produce leaves. We should want our hearts to be so close to God that we would never dream of
disobedience. This means that sometimes, through a sheer act of our will, we’ll choose to obey the Lord we love by refusing to go
there or join in that or click on this. All of us have our this, that, and there. What we direct our hands to do reveals the condition of
our hearts. Your actions are the outward expression of an inner reality. If you were a tree, your heart would be your root system, and your hands would be your branches. In Luke 6:45, Jesus says that out of the abundance of the heart a person’s mouth speaks. In the same way, out of the overflow of the heart our hands act and our feet move.
What have your hands and feet been saying about your walk with God?
Most believers understand the main spiritual disciplines of worship, Bible study, and prayer. However, a fourth discipline is often overlooked. It’s the practice of community. Community means sharing life with other followers of Christ. Of all the Bible’s descriptions of the church, perhaps none is more appropriate than the “body of Christ.” God’s Word calls us the body of Christ because we are a collection of individual parts grouped into a purposed whole. If God calls his church the body of Christ, what other encouragement do we need to get together and stay together? Even Jesus didn’t do ministry alone. He started the church by discipling a group of men. Similarly, we forfeit a significant part of our growth when we do not join with other believers.Why is community so important? Because one of the primary ways God ministers to us is through other believers. Fellowship is not pizza and Coke after church; it’s the certainty that we’re in something together and that our common faith will keep us going no matter what. Community is an essential part of the thriving life.
Worship is taking God’s best and giving it back to him. This can happen in serving, in giving, in singing, and in admiring his majesty in creation. A butterfly can lead to tears of adoration of a holy God. The idea that citizens of Jerusalem lay palm branches and sang hosannas five days before they screamed, “Crucify him!” shows how quickly we can focus on ourselves. Worship is not praising the God you want. It’s praising the God who is. Worship is what we’re created for, and we’re never more at peace than when we’re doing what we’re created to do. But God didn’t give us worship because we have to remind him of how good he is. God knows he’s holy. He gave us worship as a gift so we can do what we’re created to do and enjoy community with him. A sign of spiritual maturity is when we show that we know the gift is to be given back. May our hearts spill with such gratitude that we’re never hesitant, never bashful to lift our voices to praise to one who gives us a thriving life.
When we think about God’s work in our lives, we usually focus on some big roller coaster moment. But we really get to know Jesus when we’re in line for the roller coaster. Every day as we pray, dig into his Word, go to work, go to school, sit at lunch, and drive home, we grow in Christ as we take time in our hearts and minds to stand in line with the Lord.
The exhilarating roller coaster moments serve only to show where we are with God. As much as we think the high points shape us, they only reveal how we’ve attended to our spiritual lives to that point. It’s the same with our quiet times. We go into our quiet times wanting the earth to move. But it’s not about the roller coaster ride anymore. It’s just you and God, and you’re not in it for the buzz of an emotional experience. Think about your best friend. You’re not looking for an adventure every time you hang out with her. You just hang out and talk about nothing and you’re fine. Let’s aspire to be so intimate with the Lord.
When we fail, Satan throws lies at us. He wants us to remain failures. He whispers, “Are you sure you’re even saved? Look at what you’re doing.”
He wants us out of the Word and into the mirror. If Satan can get us to focus on our circumstances and ourselves, he can mire us in numbing guilt and neutralize us.
Remind yourself of this truth: I may have tripped a thousand times and stumbled back into church a wretched mess, but every time, Jesus has waited on me. A song hit me. A verse pierced me. A prayer crushed my heart. In some way, God spoke to his wayward child.
Just when we’re starting to thrive, the Enemy will try to derail us. He’ll bring up our past. He’ll make us doubt our future. He’ll put obstacles in our way. He’ll even make us doubt whether all of this is real and whether we really belong to God.
Even when we do the worst we can possibly do, Jesus catches our gaze. And he says, “You don’t have to start again for me; I’ll start over with you.”
Our failings often occur when we take a God-given need and try to fill it with the world’s answer. We most often trip over our wants—the want to be loved, the want to be needed, the want to matter or make a difference.
We usually only attribute things we consider to be “good” as God-given. Talents are God-given. Bodily attributes like strength, intelligence, and beauty are God-given. We seldom consider that God also gave us our needs—but he did. In fact, they’re gifts. It is a gift to want to be loved. Why else would we pursue and give love? It’s a gift to want to be needed. Why else would we reach out to others or fill voids? It’s a gift to feel the need for significance. Why else would we pursue excellence and God’s plan for our lives?
Yet we sabotage God’s intentions to meet our needs when we pursue our own answers and the world’s shortcuts. Those who wait on the Lord’s timing are the ones who mount on eagle’s wings. They are the ones who thrive.
You may have heard someone say, “I tried Jesus, but it didn’t work.” But Jesus isn’t an “it.” He’s not a sweater you try on. He’s not a diet. He’s not a behavior system. If you’re going to ‘try’ Jesus, the closest you’ll ever get is religion, and religion is the stuff of God without God in it. It’s the shell.
Belonging to Jesus isn’t going out and being better. It’s not living a holy life so he’ll love you. Being a believer is just that: believing, which means trusting and placing all of your weight on Jesus for now and eternity. It means confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead.
To confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord is not to repeat a line in a dark worship center or to slip up your hand during an invitation on Sunday. Rather, it means we say in earnest, “You’re the king of my life forever. I’m handing over my future. I’m handing over my past. I’m handing over the controls here and now.”
Colossians 2:6-7 states, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Our faith is rooted when we’re planted by the constant living water of God’s Word and prayer, providing us with stability and strength. But what does it mean to abound in thanksgiving? While it obviously means to be grateful, the word “abound” carries the connotation of action.
“Abound” is the verb form of “abundant,” the adjective Jesus uses in John 10:10 to describe the thriving life he intends for us. To abound in thanksgiving is to purposely direct the overflow of our root system into other people’s lives.
The only fruitful Christian is the one who abides with Jesus. We can’t abound unless we abide in Christ. When we do, he produces the fruit. We can reach out in a million and one ways. We hear him in his Word, we sense his Holy Spirit’s nudges, and we move. This is what it means to reach out. This is what it means to thrive.
The Apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners. Why did Paul see himself in such a radical way? Because Christ had changed him, and he was able to look at where he came from and where he was going through the lens of the gospel. Through surrender and obedience to Christ, Paul’s vision had changed to the point that he considered as rubbish everything outside of knowing Jesus. To see with Christ’s eyes is to have an eternal perspective, and it is essential in reaching out.
When we sit on the throne of our lives instead of giving God his rightful place, we can’t see past ourselves, much less see other people the way he sees them. When our perspective is temporal and our focus is on this life, we will not reach out to others. We will reach in to ourselves.
However, when we soak our minds and hearts with God’s Word, when we follow the Holy Spirit’s prompts to pray for others and act on their behalf, our vision changes. We see with the compassion and clarity of Christ. We see how to thrive.
In Philippians 3:12-14, the Apostle Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. … One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
In other words, Paul says, “I’m not done yet. I’m half-baked cornbread—I’m getting there but incomplete.” Paul says he presses on because he knows he’s not perfected. But one thing he does—he forgets about his past. Not that he doesn’t remember those events. They’re impossible to forget. He just reckons himself righteous because Jesus said he is, and he chooses not to allow those past mistakes to dictate his present and future. Like Paul, our daily goal should be to thrive by pressing on toward the goal that God has for our lives, which is to glow closer to Jesus and tell others about him.
Something weird happens when church people get together. We feel we need to live to honor God, but yet we can never let others see our weaknesses. We can never be less than our spiritual best. A lot of us pretend everything is okay when we really know better. We think the elevated platform holding the pulpit is the only stage in the room, but it’s not. The biggest stage is out in the crowd. More performances happen in the congregation than anywhere else.
We’re beat up and wounded, but we’re afraid to let anybody know it because we have to look like we have it all together.
Church is the place to be broken together. It’s the place to say, “I’m struggling. I’m not in the Word and I’m not praying and I don’t really want to do either one. Pray for me.” We all want a safe haven, but we have to be willing to be transparent.
Your scars are a road map to God’s grace in your life. To thrive, sometimes we need to be willing to open up, be real, and share those scars.
So many of us obsess over things outside our control. We fret over our past because we’re afraid it will either come back to bite us or we’ll fall back into it. Then we sweat our future because we either fear we’ll blow it yet again or we fear what God will allow into our lives.
Either we believe God is sovereign and arranges all of our circumstances, or else we believe some things are beyond his control. If we believe the latter, that means we believe in whim and happenstance. That means we believe in chaos. That means we believe things happen to God.
We pray and beg for God to show us his will as if we’re spiritual paupers. God is not a cosmic Santa Claus who has loaded the Christmas tree of
his will with a hundred wrapped boxes with no names on them. He isn’t standing back and laughing at us as we try to figure out which one is meant for our lives. If we are thriving by digging into God’s Word and reaching out to his world, then we are his will.
We’re all guilty of living in anticipation of a fork in the road. But there is no fork in your road.
God didn’t ask you to make any huge decisions. All he said was “Lean on me, see like I see, and realize your past is gone and your future is mine. All I ask is that you get to know me and make me known.” God hasn’t called us to something in a year. We’re called for here and now. We
were not made to survive today for some potential future endeavor, something that maybe he’ll do through us one day.
We’re looking so forward to tomorrow that we’re tripping over today.
God has placed you where you are, right now, totally on purpose. God didn’t call you to figure out what happens next. He’s already there. He’s at the end of your life looking back on it right now. He wants you to rest in that truth, rest in who he’s made you, and dig your roots in and know him.
And he welcomes you to start today.
Doing big things for God is not some grand movement to shoot for in the future. Doing big things for God just means doing the very next thing he says. It’s the very next person you need to love on and forgive. It’s the very next person to tell about Jesus. It’s the very next temptation to resist. One decision at a time, we should seek to look at it the way Jesus does and trust him for the results.
Are you surviving life right now, or are you thriving through your life? Survivors tend to think that tomorrow will be easier, tomorrow will work out better, and if they can just get to tomorrow they’re going to be okay.
We’ll always anticipate another tomorrow, and tomorrow will never fill us. Only Jesus will bring us fulfillment and peace now.
God wants us to see with the eyes of Christ right here and now. Only then will we see a purpose for being where he has us at this moment. He tells us to redeem the time, and the time is now.
There is something about the way Jesus sees people that invites us to want to know him more. Until we have a true love for Jesus, until we search out his heart, our hearts will not be broken by what breaks his. The more I walk with God—not practicing religion or
doing ministry but getting to know the person of Jesus by spending time with him—the more I see people the way he sees them. When I start seeing people like he sees them, I start hurting like he does.
Even better, when I spend time with him and I’m grounded in his Word, I minister out of pure motives and not sappy emotionalism. Sappy emotionalism runs out of steam. Biblically grounded and Spirit-led outreach, in contrast, stays consistent and strong, like the thick branches of a giant oak that thrives with abundant life.
When you walk into your office or your school, do you see people as road cones on your way to bigger and better things? Or do you see them as God’s providential appointments to reach?
Do you see a chance to thrive?
You’re here on purpose, weaknesses included. You are all God’s fault. But guess what? He knows what he’s doing.
God doesn’t call extroverted people to be introverted or introverted people to be extroverted. He doesn’t call creative people to handle the church calendar, and he doesn’t call detail-oriented people to write dramas. He made you totally on purpose. God also knits together your personality for whatever he’s called you to do. But he uses his Holy Spirit to work the you part out of you. He always works on your rough
edges, but God doesn’t want you to be somebody you’re not. God can use you just where you are—your gifts, talents, and strengths
—but in using you, he will change you and conform you to look more like Christ. Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all for the glory of the Lord. When you work, do it as though working for the Lord. Use your gifts. Pour into others. Listen to that inner tug. See the hole you’re supposed to fill. Get busy thriving.
The fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Notice that the Bible does not call these attributes the “fruits of the Spirit”(plural). Taken together, they’re the “fruit of the Spirit” (singular), meaning that where the Spirit of God is present, all of these attributes are present in some degree. Some are present more than others, but they’re all there. We also forget that we cannot hang fruit. We try to hang it, but the graft fails every time.
It is God who works in us to will and to work for his good pleasure. While growing you, God tries to work himself into all of your life and how you react to people and circumstances.
The fruit of the Spirit is produced when we instinctively seek out God’s nourishment through spending time in his Word and in prayer.
Our focus is simply to know him, to be fed and refreshed by him, to rest in him, and to love him by loving others in his name. This is what it means to thrive.
There is no secret to learning how to thrive. God spelled it out in his Word, and the only way we’ll thrive is if we know his Word and live his Word. Money and fame do not equate to thriving, nor does a rewarding job. Our job is what we do. If it is who we are, we’re in for a miserable ride. Jesus came to give us life, and not just mundane life. He came to give us thriving life. But he is the door. He’s the way.
We have to walk through the door and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to him.
We can’t stand with one foot inside the door and the other foot out in the world and expect to have abundant, thriving life.
The thriving life means going all in with Jesus. But going all in with Jesus means being willing to minister how, where, and to whom he wants us to minister. We don’t get to pick and choose. It can be scary and even feel uncertain, but it makes for a great adventure and it thrills the
heart of Jesus to no end.
Part of the thriving life is to share the gospel—the reason we thrive. The world doesn’t want to hear about rules. Deep down, most people know they’re bad and can’t stop themselves from doing what they don’t want to do. Yet the gospel requires change.
The gospel is the good news of a God who makes all things new. Love earns the right to speak the truth. When we love others, they know we’re
sharing with them because we love them. Our willingness to share the truth of Scripture proves we really love, and if we’re not telling them the truth, we really don’t love them. We just love our friendship.
When we give truth in love, we are ambassadors for Christ. It’s not a reflection on us personally. It doesn’t matter if the other person rolls her eyes or yells at us or says, “That’s cool, but that’s not really for me.” She still realizes you did it in love, and in quiet moments to come,
she will remember it.
And some day it may take root. Just like it did in you.
God isn’t a mystical figure in the heavens who plays a mischievous game of hide-and-seek. He is a personal God who invades your life through the person of the Holy Spirit. He longs for you to feed the life of Christ in you with his Word and with prayer and then allow the results to reach out into other people’s lives. When we surrender our will to God, seek his heart, hear his voice, and respond to his nudges, we thrive. Life becomes radically different and we no longer hang on just to survive. Suddenly, life resonates with a deep-seeded—almost inexplicable—joy and peace that flows from a Father who is well pleased.
When you let Jesus have all of you, he will fulfill his purposes for you and show you exactly why he created you for himself. You will experience a contentment that comes from an assurance that God is right there with you and that he’ll never leave you.
And it comes from knowing you are his and that your life thrives because it demonstrates
just how much you love him.