Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17–18

It’s been said that worry is the interest we pay on troubles that seldom come. We try to justify worry, of course: “It’s okay for me to worry because I’m in a difficult situation.” In many ways we are all in difficult situations, some more than others. But maybe we just need to lighten up a little when we can. You might think, “Easy for you to say.” And you may be right.
I want you to consider the words of the apostle Paul, who was writing under adverse circumstances. He was under house arrest. It was possible that he might be acquitted but it was just as likely that be might be beheaded. He didn’t know what his future held. Yet he gave us some of the most inspiring words found in Scripture:Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:4–6.
I love these verses because Paul wasn’t sitting in some ivory tower, crafting nice sounding phrases. He was not lounging on a beach in the Mediterranean, eating calamari and drinking iced tea. He was incarcerated, and yet he was still able to say, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”
By the way, it’s a command from God himself. To put it another way, to not rejoice is disobedience to God. Anyone can rejoice when things are going well. But when we’re facing adversity or sickness or hardship or death, and then we rejoice, we are obeying God.
God is on His throne. He loves you and is watching out for you. So rejoice in the Lord.

David Ball

Worry into Prayer

Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

There are so many things today that cause people to worry. There are the worries of the world. There are worries in our country, including the threat of terrorism. Then there are personal worries, such as health, financial and family worries.
It seems as though worries are always there, always closing in on us. But worry isn’t productive. In fact, it’s a sin, a failure to trust God. The word worry comes from an Old English term that means “to strangle” or “choke.” That is what worry does. It chokes us. Worry does not resolve tomorrow’s sorrow; it empties today’s strength.
Modern medical research has proven that worry breaks down our resistance to disease. It affects the nervous system, the digestive organs and the heart. In fact, 80 – 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are stress related.
Philippians 4:6–7 says, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.
We need to turn our worries into prayer. That requires developing a conditioned reflex. We all have natural reflexes, like when we touch something hot and immediately pull back. And there are conditioned reflexes, something that becomes natural after we’ve done it a number of times. For instance, standing when the national anthem is played.
We can’t control our universe, as hard as we try, but we certainly can pray about it. The next time you’re tempted to worry, pray instead. Turn your worries into prayers.

David Ball

A Good Question

If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes.

Job 14:14

The book of Job is one of the oldest books of the Bible. In Job the question is asked, “If a man dies, shall he live again?” That is a great question. What happens when we die? What is there beyond this life?
Before I was a Christian, I thought about life and death quite often. I was a teenager. It was a heavy subject to be contemplating, but I found myself thinking about death on a regular basis. My belief at the time was that once you stop living, you simply cease to exist but something else inside me questioned that belief. I knew of the existence of Heaven and Hell but was too concerned about my present life to think too much about them. Until the day I almost died.
The afterlife is something that many people think about today because numerous books have been published on spirituality and life beyond the grave. For the Baby Boomers, the inevitability of death is approaching. We are having to come face-to-face with our mortality. We used to sing that we were forever young, but that song doesn’t ring true like it once did. We are becoming forever old. The clock is ticking. Time is marching on. We are trying to pretend it isn’t happening and trying to turn back time, but we know that death is coming.
What happens beyond the grave? According to the Bible, there is life beyond the grave. And because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, and our belief in Him we as Christians have the hope that when we die, we will immediately go into the presence of God to a wonderful place called Heaven. That is the message we have been given to bring to this world.

David Ball

Leaving a Legacy

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

3 John 1:4

When David was on his deathbed, he called for his son Solomon. Solomon was going to carry on his reign as king, and here is what David said to him, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever” 1 Chronicles 28:9.
Like David, we all leave a legacy. And our job is to introduce our children to Christ, by our actions and our words. The legacy we leave for those that follow will affect generations to come.
James Merritt, in his book What God Wants Every Dad to Know, wrote, “Fatherhood is more than conceiving, feeding, clothing, educating, and sending children out on their own. Dads have the responsibility of preparing their children for the eternal destiny of meeting God.” I agree with that. We need to pass on an eternal legacy.
The choices of our time are binding in eternity, not just during life here on earth.
Having lived over 60 years, I have seen many generations. My grandparents’ generation. My parents’ generation. My generation. My children’s generation. My grandchildren’s generation. And this is what I have seen: things we do today impact us later in life. Our actions impact our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.
You are leaving a legacy. The question is: is it a godly or an ungodly legacy?

David Ball

Decide Today

Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Philippians 2:12-13

In 1787, on the final day of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, a woman known as Mrs. Powell said to Benjamin Franklin, “Well, doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin famously responded, “A republic, madam—if you can keep it.”
A good beginning doesn’t guarantee that you will have a good ending. If you’re running in a race but don’t finish it, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve held the first-place position for nine out of ten laps. If you don’t finish the race, you don’t win the prize.
It is the same with the Christian life. We want to finish the race. But we decide today how we will fair later in life. We don’t decide later. For example, if you’ve been married for two years and you say, “I want to have a strong marriage 50 years from now.” That’s great. But you must decide today and every day between now and then. You need to do everything you can to strengthen your marriage over the years. Don’t wait until you’re older because as you get older, you get set in your ways. You like to do things the way you’ve always done them. Decide now. Establish good patterns now. You decide today how it will end up.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him”.
No Christian ever reaches a plateau where he or she says, “I don’t need to go to church anymore. I don’t need to read the Bible anymore. I’ve arrived.” One way you know you’re growing spiritually is when you realize that you will always need to grow spiritually.

David Ball

Are You Able

I gave the responsibility of governing Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah, the commander of the fortress, for he was a faithful man who feared God more than most.

Nehemiah 7:2

There are certain people who will take care of a task if you give them one. You can consider it done. You don’t have to wonder about it. You don’t have to ask how it went. You know that person is dependable.
After Jerusalem’s walls had been rebuilt, Nehemiah appointed some people to take care of business: Hanani and Hananiah. Nehemiah knew he could lean on these two. He knew they would get the job done.
Everyone had a part in rebuilding the wall. Many people rebuilt the wall near their homes. They needed to keep Jerusalem’s wall secure, because if there was a breach in any part of the wall, it was penetrable. Everyone’s task was vital.
The same is true of the church. The greatest abilities are availability and dependability. Hananiah was a faithful man, the Bible points out, and he also feared God.
Are you available, are you dependable? God is looking for people who can take a task and complete it. He is looking for people who are faithful in the little things. We all have a role to play. Not all of us are called to be a Hanani or a Hananiah, but we all have a part to play as we find and use the gifts that God has given us in the church.
Do you want to be used by God? Would you like God to call you into some form of service in the future? That is a good thing to aspire to, but do what is in front of you now. Take care of the little things right now. If you’re faithful in the little things, then you will be faithful in the large things. But if you’re unfaithful in little things, then you won’t be faithful with greater responsibilities.

David Ball

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.

Philippians 3:13

When I started learning to play baseball one thing our coach always said was ‘keep your eye on the ball’. Watching the ball is a vital skill you need when you are learning to play baseball. I learned the hard way why this is important after a ball bounced off my head.
Certain sports require that you keep your eye on the ball. It is true in marriage too. You have to keep your eye on the ball. That means constantly doing things to strengthen your marriage. Don’t merely be reactive; be proactive. Be the best husband you can be. Stoke the flames of your romance. Don’t neglect it.
It’s true in the Christian life as well. It isn’t always sinful things that distract us. Sometimes it’s choosing the urgent over the important, choosing good over what’s best, choosing the short-term over the long-term. So be careful. The moment you take your eye off the ball and start kicking back a little, that could be a setup for a fall. Be constantly moving forward, growing, learning, and becoming more like Jesus.

David Ball

Be a Man of God

Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”

Nehemiah 4:14

When Nehemiah and the Jewish people started to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem attacks came in various forms. Check out how Nehemiah responded.
What I hope you see is that Nehemiah addressed the men: “Fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” The men were told to fight for their families.
For the most part each one was to rebuild the part of the wall that was closest to his home. If you were rebuilding the wall that was next to your house, do you think you would do a good job of securing the wall? Of course you would. That is your house, and your family is in that house.
If someone were to break into your house, would you defend your wife and children? Of course you would. You would do whatever you needed to do to stop the intruder.
So what about spiritual attacks against your family? What about a spiritual attack against your wife, children or your grandchildren? Would you be there as well? You should be.
As men of God we need to lead our families and protect them. You lead and protect in other areas, so lead and protect in this one as well. Lead your family in a Bible study. Protect your family through prayer. Be a man of God. You will be blessed if you do.

David Ball

Pray and Move

And the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.”

Exodus 14:15

The Israelites finally got out of Egypt and were returning to their homeland. But on their way they arrived at the Red Sea. Talk about an insurmountable obstacle. There was no way to get across. They were slaves not sailors. Then they saw the Egyptian army was hot on their trail. What did they do? They prayed.
I love what God said to Moses: “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea”.
We live in a physical world and most of our decisions are based on what seems practical at the time. But on rare occasions God splits the physical world and reveals spiritual realities to us. We need to pray, the bible is clear about that but there comes a point when we also need to move. What is the plan of action? What’s the first step?
Maybe you’re praying, “Lord heal my marriage. It’s unraveling. My spouse is a mess.” Hold on. What about you? Pray that you would be the husband God wants you to be. Are you loving your wife as Christ loves the church? Why don’t you start there?
Yes, we should pray about trials when they come our way. But let’s make sure we’re doing our part. There’s a place for the practical, and there’s a place for the spiritual. They work hand in glove.

David Ball

How to Start Your Prayer

Come, let us tell of the LORD’S greatness; let us exalt his name together.

Psalm 34:3

When Nehemiah heard the news that the walls of Jerusalem had been broken down he was a captive in Babylon. So, he prayed, “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer!” Nehemiah 1:5–6. First Nehemiah acknowledged the greatness of God.
That is how Jesus taught us to pray, in what is called the Lord’s Prayer. He said, “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:9–10.
Before you start giving God your list of requests, first stop and contemplate His glory. When you do, your list will change. As you get a better idea of how big God is, you will realize that He is bigger than your problems. So start by acknowledging the greatness of God.
It’s true that prayer changes things but understand the first thing prayer changes is you. First God changed Nehemiah and then Nehemiah changed things.
If you want God to answer your prayer, then you have to be willing to be part of the answer. So don’t just pray about a problem. Ask God what role you can play in it.
If we learn anything from the Book of Nehemiah, we learn this: Whenever we face walls that are falling down, whether it’s in our lives or the lives of our friends and family, the first place to go is to God in prayer. And the first thing to do is to acknowledge God’s greatness.

David Ball