BE A NEIGHBOR DEVOTIONAL
Matthew 11:12 – “From the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing.”
The times we’re living in are no surprise to God. While we may feel carsick from the shifts in government, social justice protests, and worldwide pandemics, Jesus is no less equipped to move in and through His Church. In Matthew 11:12, Jesus said, “From the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing.”
The Church has been presented with the greatest opportunity to rise up and demonstrate real faith. Nowhere is that more evident than in our relationships with our friends and neighbors.
So let me ask you, in this world where you’re able to get food, healthcare, and even church delivered to your front door, do you know your neighbors? When was the last time you spoke with them? Had them over for dinner? Saw a need in their life and met it?
Perhaps those steps seem too intense at first. But what about taking the small step of finding out their name and committing to pray for them every day for the next 5 days? After all, if “the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing,” why shouldn’t it continue to advance through you?
Pray this short prayer out loud: God, thank you for (your neighbors’ names). I pray your protection and provision over their life. Enable me to see how and when I can serve them, that they may experience your love, Jesus. In your name I pray, Amen.
Daniel 1:20 – “In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.”
Creating a community among your neighbors is a lost art. Just by approaching them and asking their name, you may very well have distinguished yourself from all the others.
In Daniel 1, we read how Daniel’s profound wisdom from God set him apart in the times he was living in. When the church moves in accordance with God’s heart for people, God will entrust us with the sort of wisdom that will make us stand out among others.
What do you think your neighbors currently think of you? Daniel’s neighbors knew he was a man of God for 7 reasons.
- CHARACTER: Daniel refused to do wrong even when it would seem to benefit him.
- COMPETENCE: Daniel was not only skilled and gifted, but he worked hard, refusing to be lazy.
- COMPASSION: Daniel was living in an enemy culture, yet he never lost his love for others.
- COMMITMENT: Daniel remained loyal to God despite the intense pressure to compromise his beliefs. He was all in, all the time.
- CHARISMA: Daniel wasn’t afraid to be himself. He turned in his “cool card” to instead use his “Called Card.”
- COURAGE: In the midst of lions, Daniel didn’t flinch.
- CONVICTIONS: Daniel ate differently than the rest of the king’s men. He didn’t consume all the same things as everyone around him.
On top of praying for your neighbors, write Daniel’s 7 Distinguishing Characteristics and place them somewhere you’ll see them. Perhaps a mirror or in your car. Ask God to show you how you can incorporate these 7 characteristics into your life, demonstrating God’s love and wisdom to those around you. Then, LOOK for opportunities—God may’ve been speaking to you this whole time!
Daniel 3:28 – “Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants!” They defied the kings command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”
Three of Daniel’s friends were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When the king demanded everyone bow to a statue of himself, they refused, even to the point of death. These 3 men valued obedience to God over their very lives, and were seemingly about to be thrown into a furnace for it.
If you’ve heard this story, you know that instead of dying, they came out of the furnace not even smelling like smoke!
The story starts with Nebuchadnezzar forcing others to bow to his statue and ends with him praising God! What made the difference? He lived in close proximity to 3 men who chose to honor God no matter what.
As you pray for you neighbors by name, identify one way you can serve them and do it TODAY. It doesn’t have to be some massive gift. It can anything big or small. Identify a need in their life and meet it. If they’re not okay with random visitors, send them a gift card for coffee and send a note of solidarity. You can do this! God is with you when you trust him in the furnace of faith!
1 Peter 2:9 – “But you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness and into his wonderful light.”
Like a car that doesn’t run without fuel, a Christian’s life without courage won’t get far either. Billy Graham once said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man (or woman) takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
The underlying reason many don’t move in courage is a faulty view of God. When you truly believe God loves you, is with you and eager to equip you, you’ll find that Jesus’ courage on the cross is more than enough for your courage in your workplace, neighborhood, and family.
We often forget the courage available to us in God because we’re doing the opposite of what Daniel did. In Daniel 1:8, it says that Daniel purposed in his heart not to be defiled by eating what everyone else was eating.
What have you been consuming? Has it been an endless cycle of news and social media? If so, I doubt you’re feeling very courageous these days. If you and your neighbors have only been able to bond over how crazy you think the world has gone, you may both be feasting on the same news. Be the one to introduce a shift in the conversation. It will take courage, but God has more than enough of that ready for you.
As you pray for your neighbors by name and once you’ve met a need in their life, ask them where they go to church. If they already attend church, ask them about it and actively listen to their response. If they’re already followers of Christ, you may have found some new friends! If not, have the courage to invite them to yours!
Daniel 6:23 – “Not a wound was found on Daniel because he trusted his God.”
Because of his obvious faith in God, Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den. Miraculously, God kept the lions’ mouths shut until the king realized God was with Daniel.
When you take steps to engage with your neighbors and advance God’s Kingdom, you’ll often find yourself surrounded by lions. Not real-life lions, but the lions of accusation, fear, defeat, lack, loneliness, shame, offense, apathy, and political correctness. These 9 lions are tools in the hands of unseen trolls and haters online, as well as many who may wish to discourage you from speaking out about your faith.
But like Daniel, you don’t have to panic. You can stand strong knowing God has your back. When you obey God, he won’t always prevent trouble from coming your way, but it’s often because he wants to give trouble a front row seat to His faithfulness toward you.
The king didn’t realize how powerful God was until he heard Daniel’s voice on the other end of a long night with nothing but hungry lions to sleep on.
As we near the end of our “Be A Neighbor” 5 Day Devotional, I challenge you to imagine who may be on the other side of your obedience to God. When you’re thrown into conversations or confrontations that seem like a den of lions, remind yourself: these are simply the people God has given a front row seat of his faithfulness toward me.
Pray for your neighbors by name. Check in with them regularly, asking them how you can pray for them and their children. If you see a need, begin to meet it. If the need is too big, ask your church to help.