Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
2 Timothy 4:6–8
The famous and very successful football coach Bear Bryant often told reporters, "I’d croak in a month if I quit coaching." After twenty-five years as the head coach at his alma mater, Bryant announced he would be stepping down at the end of the season. On December 29, 1982, he coached his Alabama football team for the last time in the Liberty Bowl against Illinois. On January 26, 1983, he died of a massive heart attack.
Every one of us needs a reason to live—a compelling cause and purpose that keeps us going when we would rather quit. The truth is that we all face obstacles that hinder us and make life difficult. Some people allow those obstacles to stop them. Others overcome. The difference is not in the obstacles, but in the determination and drive of the person who faces the obstacles.
The passion and purpose of every believer should be to glorify God and bring others to Him. If that is our purpose, then nothing will stop us from continuing on the right course. When Paul faced the threat of imprisonment or even death for preaching, he said, "…none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself…" (Acts 20:24). His purpose for life was so compelling that it drove him to overcome and finish the course which God had laid out for Him. May that be true of each of us.
"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
It’s one of the most successful and longest running series of commercials on television. The ads promise a fun and happy experience in "Sin City" (Las Vegas) and then sell the false notion that there are no consequences. "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," they say. But, in reality, the consequences of sin always follow us.
Think of the story of Achan in Joshua 7. God commanded the Israelites that all the spoils from the city of Jericho were to be sacred and holy unto Him. They were to take nothing for themselves. There would be more than enough spoils of war for the Israelites from among the other cities over which God would give them victory. Yet Achan was tempted by the gold and silver and clothing he saw.
Disobeying God, Achan took those for himself and hid them in his tent. No doubt he thought that, after another battle or two, he could bring them out and no one would ever know the difference. But God knew what Achan had done, and the results of Achan's sin stretched far beyond what he had considered. In the battle at Ai, many Israelite soldiers were killed because God’s protection had been withdrawn. When the sin was discovered, Achan, his wife and their children were all stoned to death.
I’m sure Achan would never have chosen those results for just a little money and some nice clothes, but we don’t control the consequences of our sins. When you are tempted to sin, remember that sin always finds us out. Rather than enjoying the short pleasure of sin, choose the victory available through Christ.
"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Eugene Bartlett was a prolific hymn writer. Of the several hundred hymns he composed, the last is the best known. Late in his life he suffered a stroke, which left him mostly paralyzed and unable to speak. Though his health was broken, his spirit was not. He laboriously scribbled out a few words at a time until he had completed the words and music for the final song of his long career. We still sing this song of triumph today—"Victory in Jesus."
Temptation comes to every Christian, but Jesus proved that we can know victory over temptation. Jesus was faced with temptation during His life. The Bible tells us in Matthew 4:1 that the Spirit of God led Him into the wilderness to be tempted. This was an intentional part of God’s plan, both to demonstrate the power of His Son over Satan as well as to provide us with a pattern for overcoming temptation. Jesus responded to each temptation with the Scriptures. This is our pattern—to use the Word of God to overcome the evil one.
As children of God, we go through difficulties and struggles. We face temptation, and we sometimes give in to it and sin. Yet, Scripture promises us that we are victors through Christ. We can rest in complete confidence in the power of God that has triumphed over the enemy. Like Jesus did, we can memorize and meditate on the Bible to have the strength to overcome any temptation.
"Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
Genesis 3:1, 4–5
A man who was taking flying lessons related this story: "On one occasion, my instructor used an unusual but effective method to teach me a key lesson. At the time he was flying the aircraft and he had it banked to the left. He then told me to close my eyes and to focus on my physical feelings….Then he said this, 'I want you concentrate on those feelings and tell me when you feel the plane is no longer turning but is now flying straight and level.'
"With my eyes still closed, I concentrated and, sure enough, I could feel the plane level out. My instructor told me to open my eyes and, to my complete surprise, we were still banked to the left but even more so! What was he trying to teach me? Always trust your instruments, not your feelings."
One of the tactics that Satan uses to lead people astray is to encourage them to begin questioning the truth of the Word of God. His plan is simple: if your faith in the Bible weakens, you are far more vulnerable to temptation. He tells us to rely on our feelings of truth rather than trusting in God’s declared truth.
We may not understand everything in the Scriptures, but we can fully and completely rely on the inerrant, unfailing, eternal Word of God. It is settled forever in Heaven (Psalm 119:89), and it is a completely reliable and trustworthy guide to life.
We must beware of allowing anything—be it a person or a philosophy or our own mind—to cause us to question the truth of God’s Word. Our feelings will deceive us, but God’s truth will never lead us astray.
"And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."
2 Timothy 2:24–26
In 1939 just before the outbreak of World War II, Germany and Russia signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. This treaty promised that neither nation would attack the other, and it laid out a plan for how they would divide the nations of Eastern Europe between them. Yet in 1941, without warning or provocation, Adolf Hitler sent his tanks across the Russian border in a sneak attack. Hitler had no interest in keeping his word; the treaty was meant only as a temporary measure until he could do what he wanted.
The devil will you tell you anything you want to hear to get you to do what he wants you to do. He is a master liar; in fact, Jesus declared Satan to be "the father of lies" (John 8:44). The devil breaks every promise that he makes. He never delivers what he leads us to expect. While sin may be enjoyable for a little while (Hebrews 11:25), it always leads to a bitter end.
Every temptation we face is rooted in a lie. An evangelist of yesteryear used to preach a famous sermon entitled “All Satan’s Apples Have Worms.” No matter how attractive or appealing sin is made to look, the wages of sin are still death. We face all kinds of temptations, but they all have one similarity—they never deliver. The false promises of Satan have led many astray. Choose the truth, and you will be able to resist the lie that leads only to enslavement and death.
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
I counseled a man some time ago who was enslaved by pornography. He wanted to get rid of that vile habit, and sometimes he managed to stay away from it for a week or two. But after a little time passed, the craving for sin returned, and he would go to almost any lengths to find something to feed his addiction. I’ll never forget what he said to me: "I just don’t think normally anymore. Lust has destroyed my mind."
This man was once a loving and committed husband. He had no intention of becoming enslaved to a destructive habit. Sin is deceitful because it shows you the pleasure without showing you the pain that follows later on. To overcome temptation, you need to consider the end result of the sin. Many of us learned this saying back when we were in Sunday school: "Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay."
It’s not hard to cut down a tree when it’s only three or four inches tall. But allow that tree to grow for a few years, and the task become much more difficult. Allow it to grow for decades, and it will take power tools and a full day’s work to cut it down. Sin works the same way. It slowly grows over time until it becomes so large and powerful that it is almost impossible to remove.
Destroy your sins while they are small; don’t be deceived into thinking they will remain that way.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Ephesians 6:13, 16–17
One of the best known military units of World War II was Easy Company of the 101st Airborne. Their story was told in the book Band of Brothers which was later turned into a film. One of the most interesting things about this unit is that even though the war was raging in Europe, they spent over a year in training in the United States and then an additional nine months of training in England prior to being part of the D-Day invasion in 1944.
In nearly two years of intense training and drill, this unit became a well-oiled machine. They knew exactly what to do and how to best fight against their enemy. As a result, they played an important part in fighting and winning some of the most critical battles in the European theater of the war. They had become military experts by training and practicing over and over again. A number of the soldiers said their basic training experience was more challenging than actual combat.
Jesus overcame the temptation of Satan by using the Word of God. Three times He was tempted, and all three times He responded, “It is written.” There is power to overcome every temptation found in the Bible. It is a living book (Hebrews 4:12), and it is no accident that God chose the analogy of a sword to compare to the power and impact of the Scriptures. It is critically important that you take the time to study and learn the Word so that you can overcome the enemy.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:13–14
In 1994, a fire broke out at a club in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In the stampede to get away from the fire, four young people were trampled to death. The investigation revealed that the lighted sign over one of the two exits was not working at the time of the fire. Even worse, it was discovered that the exit door had been nailed shut—apparently to keep people from slipping in without paying. For those young people, there was no way of escape.
When we are tempted and give in to sin, we sometimes look for someone else to blame. But every sin is our responsibility. James 1:14 says that each of us is led to temptation "by his own lust." There is always a way for us to escape; the door is never nailed shut. But sometimes we don’t really want to take that escape. Someone said, “The hard part of resisting temptation is that we don’t want to discourage it completely.”
Playing with sin is one of the most dangerous things we can ever do. Instead of seeing how close we can get to the fire without being burned, the Bible instructs us, "flee also youthful lusts" (2 Timothy 2:22). God places the responsibility for escape on us because He provides the way to escape.
Next time you find yourself in a moment of temptation, remember that God provides the way for escape, and quickly flee before you find yourself trapped in sin.
"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?"
When our son Matthew was two years old, he loved to run the other direction when we called him. He thought that was great fun. One day he was playing on the front part of the lawn when I called him. He turned around and ran right into the middle of the road. Thankfully, there weren’t any cars coming, and he didn’t get hurt. Concerned for Matthew’s future safety, however, I took him into the house where I gave him a correction to his behavior.
Why did I do that? Was I upset at Matthew? Not at all; I just wanted to protect him from doing something that could hurt or even kill him. In the same way, God chastens us—His children—for our own good. In fact Hebrews 12:8 tells us that if we are not being chastised when we are doing wrong, we are not really part of His family.
When hard times come, we are sometimes tempted to think that perhaps God is being unfair or hard on us. Of course, not every difficulty that comes into our lives is the result of some sin or failing, but there are times when the pressures and trials we face are God’s way of trying to get our attention and bring us back to doing right and to Him. When we refuse to listen to what Proverbs 15:31 calls the "reproof of life," we place ourselves into a very dangerous position. Don’t reject or despise God’s chastening in your life. If you sense that God may be correcting you, submit to Him and thank Him for His love.
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also."
Years ago, a man came to me at the close of a church service and said, "I was saved at a young age, but I’ve been away from the Lord." We knelt together and prayed, and he rededicated his life to the Lord. The following evening, I visited his home and shared the Gospel with his wife. She was saved that night, and this couple’s lives were transformed.
The following Sunday he walked into church with a black eye. "What happened to you?" I asked. Then he explained: "When I got to work and started reading my Bible at lunch time and turned down the drugs my co-workers offered me, they didn’t like me anymore. They took me out behind the building and beat me up!"
Sometimes we expect praise and appreciation for doing right. But we should not expect the enemies of God to be pleased when we do what He wants. This vile world is no friend to grace, so hatred and persecution should be no surprise to us.
Today, the man who took a stand for Christ is the pastor of a church. Although his co-workers were upset by his loyalty to the Lord, he is experiencing the joy of serving Christ. Jesus warned us that persecution would come, but He also gives us the strength to remain faithful to Him through it.
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
1 Peter 4:12–13
Dr. Lee Roberson, a great pastor for many years in Chattanooga, Tennessee, experienced great tragedy in his life. His baby daughter Joy died not long after she was born. He was serving the Lord, leading a church, and faithfully preaching the Word. Yet that did not mean he was exempt from suffering trials. Through this tragedy, Dr. Roberson led his church to establish a camp in memory of his daughter. At this camp, thousands of underprivileged children attended free of charge each year. They heard the Gospel and learned that they were loved and important to God, and thousands were saved.
If Dr. Roberson had become bitter against God because of the loss of his daughter, he would have missed his opportunity to be a blessing to so many people. It is not easy to go through a time of trials. The temptation is to feel that we are being treated unfairly in some way when things don’t go as we think they should. But God’s plans are far higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8–9). When we respond to pain with faith in Him, He uses even trials and tragedies to provide us great opportunities for service to others.
Trials are a test of whether or not we truly trust God. We may say that we believe He knows all things and has all power when things are going well, but when things go wrong do we still believe? Job said it this way: "shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10). God always brings us what we need and what He knows is best. Trust Him in all circumstances.
"All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree."
There are some pretty interesting laws in the California books. For example, it is illegal to shoot any game from a moving vehicle unless that game is a whale! Women are not allowed to drive while wearing housecoats. Peacocks have the right of way when crossing any street. And it is against the law for any car to go more than 60 miles an hour if it does not have a driver.
But strange as our laws may be, there is no law against prayer in our country such as the one that Daniel faced. He was threatened with death in a den of lions if he prayed to anyone except King Darius. Yet even this law did not stop the faithful servant of God. He opened his windows as he always had toward Jerusalem and prayed to the God of Heaven. Daniel continued in his established practice of prayer, and God delivered him from the lions.
While it is true that our society is becoming more hostile to true Christianity, we can freely pray. The tragedy is that even though we are allowed to pray, too often we do not. Prayer is a means for us to communicate with God, and we must be people of prayer if we are to be rooted in our Christian walk.
"And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king… But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself."
Daniel 1:5, 8
When the Empire State Building in New York City officially opened in 1931, it was the tallest building in the world. The architectural firm of Shreve, Lamb and Harmon designed the building from the top down. The quality of their work was tested in 1945 when a B-25 bomber flying in thick fog struck the side of the building. Although, tragically, fourteen people were killed in the accident, the building itself reopened the following Monday.
Strength and stability do not come accidentally. If you see a person who has been a consistent and faithful Christian for many years, it is not a coincidence; it is the result of purposeful decisions they have made and followed over time. No one accomplishes great things for God by drifting.
When your purpose is certain and settled, you do not allow obstacles to keep you from achieving your goal. The strength of Daniel’s character was rooted in his commitment to his God. Before he declined the meat and wine which would have violated the Old Testament dietary laws, he had already “purposed in his heart” to live for God.
Paul, too, lived with purpose. In Philippians 3:14, he wrote, "I press toward the mark…." The Greek word he used is such a strong word that it is sometimes translated “persecute.” That represents the level of commitment and purpose that prepares us to do great things for God.
"And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."
One of the most powerful books revealing the horrors of the prison system in the former Soviet Union is Alexander Solzhenitsyn's A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch. The main character, Ivan, undergoes unspeakable hardship and horror. One day another inmate notices Ivan in silent prayer. In mockery the inmate says, "Prayers won't help you get out of here any faster." Opening his eyes, Ivan replies, "I do not pray to get out of prison but to do the will of God."
God has given us the privilege to come to Him in prayer, but sometimes we fall into the trap of praying according to our own will and purposes. While we certainly may ask God for what we desire, our prayers must always be in submission to His will. We do not pray to tell God our needs—He already knows them even before we ask. And we should not pray to tell God the solution to our problems. That is His sovereign choice.
Instead we should pray that our lives will bring honor and glory to Him and that our needs will be met according to His plan. When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was facing greater suffering than any of us can imagine, yet He was still willing to endure the pain and death of the cross to accomplish God’s will and our salvation. Our prayers should be offered in the same spirit of submission.
"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body."
2 Corinthians 4:7–9
The story is told that Andrew Jackson's boyhood friends just couldn't understand how he became a famous general and then the President of the United States. They knew of other men who had greater talent but who never succeeded. One of Jackson's friends said, "Why, Jim Brown, who lived right down the pike from Jackson, was not only smarter but he could throw Andy three times out of four in a wrestling match. But look where Andy is now."
Another friend responded, "How did there happen to be a fourth time? Didn't they usually say three times and out?" "Sure, they were supposed to, but not Andy. He would never admit he was beat—he would never stay 'throwed.' Jim Brown would get tired, and on the fourth try Andrew Jackson would throw him and be the winner." Picking up on that idea, someone has said, "The thing that counts is not how many times you are 'throwed,' but whether you are willing to stay 'throwed.'"
The Christian life is a battle. Scripture often speaks of God’s children as soldiers, and we should not expect to have things always be calm and peaceful. The question is not whether we ever fail, but whether we get back up when we do. Proverbs 24:16 says, "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief."
You cannot be defeated by the enemy; you can only lose by giving up. Don’t let defeats or setbacks discourage you. Instead commit yourself to standing firm and not giving up no matter how tough things get.
"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Joe Scriven was born to a well-to-do family in Ireland in 1819. After finishing college he moved to Canada to work as a missionary among the Iroquois Indians. He was joined by his fiancée who was also from Ireland. The night before their wedding, she drowned in an ice accident. Joe buried her with his own hands, and a broken heart. Later he fell in love again, only to have his second fiancée die of pneumonia.
When his mother was on her deathbed back home in Ireland, Scriven wrote her a poem to encourage her through her last days. We still sing his words today: "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer."
When we are going through hard times, we sometimes feel abandoned and alone. But that is never true. Hebrews 13:5 says, "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Even if there is no one who seems to care, you will always have one faithful and steadfast Friend in Jesus Christ. He has already endured every suffering and hardship we face, and He knows how it feels to be forsaken. No matter how many other people let you down, He will lift you up.
And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake. And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.
When Dr. Richard Halverson was the U.S. Senate chaplain, he spoke before a group of Christians who were irritated that Congress had not acted with a strong initiative to restore prayer in schools. To this audience who were seeking greater initiative from the government, Dr. Halverson asked, "How many of you have prayed with your children this month, outside of church?" Not one member of the assembly raised his hand. The problem is not only in Washington or in our state capitals, but in our own hearts.
If Lot had been a faithful witness, the cities of Sodom and Gomorra would not have been destroyed. Abraham begged God for mercy, and God declared that if there were just ten righteous people in Sodom, He would spare the city. But Lot had failed to win even his own family, and as a result judgment fell. While there is much wrong with our society, we must remember to personally choose to live for God and to accept the responsibility to lead our families in seeking God as well.
After John Quincy Adams was defeated for re-election as President, he became a member of the House of Representatives. There he worked for many years to end slavery in America. As he neared the end of his life, a friend asked if Adams was discouraged because he had not succeeded. Adams replied, “Duties are ours; results are God’s.” If you do what you should and can do, you can leave everything else in God’s hands.
"And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom."
In the 1929 Rose Bowl, the California Golden Bears squared off against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and provided one of the most famous plays in college football history. In the second quarter, California player Roy Riegels recovered a fumble, but instead of advancing it, he got confused and began running toward his own end zone. A teammate finally stopped him at the goal line, but the two points Georgia Tech scored following "Wrong Way" Riegels' mistake proved the winning margin in the game.
Many times believers make the mistake of thinking they can face the world and even move toward it without adverse consequences. They think that since they are not yet too close, they are fine. But in truth, the direction in which we are pointed tells the story of where we will end up.
Lot made the same tragic mistake. When Abraham offered him a choice of land for his flocks, Lot chose based on short-term rather than long-term benefit. Then when he reached the well-watered grasslands, he set up camp so that he was facing Sodom. It wasn’t long before he ended up in that wicked city, which eventually led to the destruction of his family.
If you fall into the trap of thinking your direction doesn’t matter, you are headed for trouble. It is far better to turn your back on the things of the world and fix your eyes on Jesus.
"And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people; And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho."
I once read a simple but profound saying: "There are no correspondence courses for swimming." In truth, the only way to learn to swim is to get in the water. Similarly, the only way to learn to walk by faith is to start moving.
It is tempting for us to sit back and wait until we see the way ahead of us to be clear, but often the only way to truly go forward is to march ahead in obedience to God even when we cannot see the way.
When the Children of Israel were preparing to enter the Promised Land, they had to cross the flooded Jordan River. God promised Joshua to make a way for the people, but He did not part the river until the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant were standing in the water. Every time we see faith in the Bible, we see it expressed in action. There is no such thing as passive faith.
There are still great things that need to be done in our day, and God’s power has not changed. What we need are believers who will act in faith. As the missionary William Carey said, "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God."
"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is."
The great military leader Napoleon, who conquered much of Europe at the height of the French Empire, once said: "There is in the midst of every great battle a ten- to fifteen-minute period that is the crucial point. Take that period, and you win the battle. Lose it, and you will be defeated." The idea of "redeeming the time" is to make the most of every moment and every opportunity. None of us know which ten- or fifteen-minute period may be crucial to our job, our family, our Lordâ€¦so we must make the most of every minute we have.
There are more than six hundred references to time in the Bible. Obviously, how we use our time is important to God. In Psalm 90:12 Moses prayed, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." When we carefully count our days according to the teachings of the Word of God, we realize that this day is the only one we know that we have. We cannot go back to yesterday; we have no certainty of tomorrow. If we are going to accomplish anything for God, it must be done now rather than later.
We will always be able to come up with reasons and excuses for why we could put off what needs to be done, but those must be overcome. Many people look back at the end of their lives with regret for what they failed to accomplish. The only way to avoid that is to take action today. There is enough time to do everything God has planned for us to do, provided that we use that time wisely. Just as with our money, investing time well brings great results.
"And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
At the Harry Truman Presidential Library in Missouri, there are more than 1,300 letters that President Truman wrote to his wife Bess during their marriage. He made a commitment to write his wife a letter every day they were apart. Such consistent dedication to expressing love goes a long way to building a marriage that can stand the tests of time.
Even though our society has fallen prey to an epidemic of divorce, we do not have to allow our relationships to be measured or influenced by that standard. God created marriage to be a picture of His faithfulness, and He desires that we would express consistent, faithful love in our marriages.
No marriage is perfect, because every marriage is composed of two imperfect people. But that is no reason to give up on the most important human relationship you will ever have. So many people think the grass will be greener with a different husband or wife, only to find the same problems when they find someone new.
Focus on building and strengthening your marriage by focusing on what you can and should do for your spouse rather than on what you want your spouse to do for you. The strongest marriages are those where each person is dedicated to building up and encouraging the other. A marriage built on the Word and joined in faith will not fail.
"For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."
One of my favorite places in the whole world is my grandfather's farm. To get there you must drive past the farmhouse and down a Colorado dirt road for a mile or two. On the left are pinion trees and sage brush, and on the right fields of red dirt. To the north are the La Salle Mountains, and to the east are the San Juan Mountains. Cutting through the trees, you walk a narrow path to a canyon ledge. In that spot, time seems to stand still for me. One of the things I love most about that special place is that it never seems to change.
All of us live in a fast-paced, constantly changing world. It wasn't so long ago that a fax machine was cutting edge technology; today it is almost obsolete. The changes go far beyond technology. Companies come and go, and a lifetime job is an endangered species. Even churches that once were faithful to preach the Word and win the lost
have altered their beliefs; some have even closed their doors.
In this changing world, we go through seasons of upheaval and times of uncertainty. People we once trusted turn against us. Plans we so carefully laid are turned upside down. That which we believe to be unchangeable suddenly shifts. Our health, relationships, finances, jobs—none of it is for certain.
But through it all God remains faithful. He never changes. Hebrews 13:8 assures, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." God always keeps His promises. Nothing that changes in our world undermines His constant love and care for you as His child. Rest in the certainty that God is faithful.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
In 1999 John F. Kennedy Jr. flew his small airplane from New York City to his family home in Massachusetts for a wedding. On board were his wife Carolyn and her sister. Though Kennedy was a licensed pilot, he had not yet been approved for instrument flight (using only instruments to navigate). When their takeoff was delayed until after dark, Kennedy should have waited for daylight or sought a more experienced pilot to help. Yet, Kennedy took off into the darkness. The plane never reached its destination, and all three passengers were killed in the crash.
Investigators determined that the crash was likely caused by disorientation from flying over open water at night without any landmarks or visible horizon. Kennedy’s lack of experience may well have led him to trust what he thought he was seeing more than what his instrument panel was telling him.
Our human nature is such that we frequently are not sure who or what we can trust. All of us face the temptation to walk according to sight instead of faith. Faith—if it is based on the right thing—will keep us from crashing. The reason faith in God and His Word keeps us on the right path is because God never fails. There is not even the slightest hint that He will ever change His nature, His character, or His promises.
No promise is better than the one who makes it. We have seen many examples of people who trusted investments, companies and governments only to find that their confidence was misplaced. Those who put their faith in God never suffer the disappointment of broken promises.
"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God."
One of the best-loved hymns of the faith, "It Is Well with My Soul," was written by Horatio Spafford. Mr. Spafford, a wealthy businessman in Chicago, lost much of his real estate holdings in the Great Chicago Fire. After the fire, he sent his wife and four daughters on a ship to Europe, intending to join them later. But the voyage was also struck by disaster, and Spafford received a cable from his wife with the painful message, "Saved alone."
Spafford quickly made arrangements to join his wife. When they reached the spot where his daughters had drowned, Spafford marked that sad event with words of hope: "When peace like a river attendeth my way; when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well with my soul.'"
These powerful words written in the midst of such pain are a reminder to us today that, even though we may be enduring great suffering and hardship, it is not the end of God’s plan for us. Sometimes God’s children get discouraged because it appears that life is going better for those who are doing wrong. Yet the end result of both paths is already settled. Those who fear God will be able to say, "It is well." Those who oppose God will quickly find that the end of their path is death and destruction. Keeping the end result in mind helps us keep doing right.
"For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged."
Suppose you were driving on a mountain road and saw a sign that said, "Slow—Dangerous Curves Ahead." There are three basic responses to such a sign. You could heed the warning and slow down. You could choose to ignore it and continue driving as you were. Or you could choose to defy it and accelerate. No matter which response you choose, the sign will not change. The only thing that changes by your heeding, ignoring, or defying the sign is the amount of the repair and medical bills you will incur.
The Word of God is the same. It never changes. The warnings it gives that spell out the dangers of wrong behavior are not in the least affected by whether or not we believe them. So many people today are convinced that truth is relative—that truth is determined by what they believe to be true. That lie has been destroying lives ever since Satan first presented it in the Garden of Eden. Rather than trying to decide for ourselves what is right and true, we need to be willing to take God’s absolute standard and adopt it as our own.
When we choose to ignore the warning signs posted along the road of life, we are placing our wisdom and judgment above that of God. That approach always leads to destruction. Faith in God requires that we trust Him to know what is best, even if it does not seem right to us.
Has God been bringing warning signs into your life lately? Heed the commands of Scripture and the biblical counsel and concerns of godly people. You will be thankful you did!
"Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee. Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread."
Dr. Lee Roberson once told the story of a young family who went through the tragic death of the young mother. The first night after the funeral service, the little daughter couldn’t sleep. She went to her father’s bedroom and asked if she could sleep with him. He agreed, and she climbed into bed. She still couldn’t sleep, and through the darkness her voice came, "Daddy, is your face turned toward me?"
All of us go through times when we wonder if there is anyone who cares about us. David knew that feeling when he was fleeing for his life to get away from Saul. He lamented: "No man cared for my soul" (Psalm 142:4). Yet no matter how alone we feel, even if those closest to us abandon us, God never turns away from us. There is nothing you can do that will change His love and compassion for you. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our salvation is the ultimate testimony to the depth of God’s love for us.
Today spend some time rejoicing and giving thanks for your salvation. When you do, you will find that the burdens of life are lighter, and your hope for the future is greater. Jesus cried out on the cross, "My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). His sacrifice to make atonement for your sins is all the guarantee that you will ever need that God’s face is toward you.
"Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me."
Jack Benny was one of the most successful comedians of the last century. He was known for his wry sense of humor and his stage persona as a tightwad. In real life, he was actually a very generous man. Benny once received an award and said, “I really don’t deserve this award. But then I have arthritis, and I really don’t deserve that either!”
Most of us have experienced situations where we don’t think the outcome worked out right or we got what we think we deserve. We ask questions like: "Why was that Christian family killed while the drunk driver walked away?" "Why does that couple who never goes to church seem to have a better marriage than I do?" "Why is my company going under despite my working so hard?" In order to have a proper perspective on life, we must never forget that God always does what is right.
Joseph did not understand why his brothers sold him into slavery, why he was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, or why he was forgotten by those he helped in prison. Yet through all of those circumstances God was at work, and in the end He placed Joseph exactly where He intended for Joseph to be. It is God’s nature to do what is right, and every part of your life will work according to His purpose and plan.
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
One of the great preachers and Bible expositors of the past, G. Campbell Morgan, was often asked to speak to groups in special settings—prisons, nursing homes, and orphanages—when he was holding evangelistic campaigns. Once he spoke in a nursing home from Matthew 28:18–20. Reading the words of Christ "I am with you always," Morgan paused and asked, "Isn’t that a wonderful promise?" "No," one of the ladies replied aloud. "It is a wonderful reality!"
All of the promises of the Word of God are true, but perhaps none is so precious and so important as the promise of Jesus to be present with us throughout our lives until we see Him face to face. This presence of the Son of God is a reality—every moment of every day. When we recognize that He is always with us, it influences everything about our behavior, our attitudes, our speech, and our relationships.
The Jewish leaders who opposed the early church brought Peter and John before them to try to stop their preaching about Jesus. As they looked upon these two ordinary fishermen, "they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). The presence of Jesus in your life day by day transforms everything so that you begin to live as He lived. This is the purpose of God for our lives according to Romans 8:29—that we be "conformed to the image of his Son." Meditate on the presence of God today, realizing that He is with you wherever you go.
"Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
When A.C. Green was a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, he was almost as well known for the commitment he had made to remain morally pure as he was known for his skill as an athlete. He had the same temptations that have drawn so many others astray, yet he did what was right. An interviewer once asked him about the stand he had taken, and Green said, "I have been given the power of choice. I have the power to make a choice. Once I make a choice, it has power over me."
As you go through this day, you will face a series of choices between right and wrong. These decisions, both large and small, will determine the course of your life and your future. Though an individual choice may not seem to be that important, each choice takes you closer to God or further away from Him. For example, I’ve never yet had someone tell me they set out intending to destroy their marriage, but I’ve counseled many people who have destroyed their marriages.
It has been said, "You control your choices, but you don’t control the consequences." When you are tempted to do wrong, to cut corners, to let down your guard, to tell a "little white lie," resist, and instead choose to do right. You will find when you do that your character is strengthened and your purity is protected.
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
In response to the rapid growth in radio advertising, the Federal Trade Commission was tasked in 1938 with regulating the advertising industry to protect customers from false advertising. They passed a series of laws and regulations designed to ensure that any claims made about a product be based on facts. Each year they bring a number of cases against companies that violate their restrictions.
The devil certainly is a master at false advertising. The book of Revelation calls him a dragon and a serpent. Yet when he appears to us, he comes in a different guise. Warning about the deceptiveness of the devil, Paul wrote, "â€¦Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). Satan is not only deceitful about his person and in his appearance, but he is deceitful in his promises as well. The temptations that he offers always lead to disappointment and bitter ends.
If the true cost of sin were displayed in the beginning, most of us would have no problem fleeing temptation. But instead we get the pretty picture painted by a master deceiver. The dragon appears as an angel to better convince us to turn away from what is right. When you face temptation today, look behind the mask. If you are allured by the promises he makes, look back at the history of the lies he has successfully convinced you of in the past, and turn your back on him. Resist temptation through the power of Scripture, and you will never be sorry.
"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
On February 2, 1943, a troop ship named The Dorchester was carrying more than nine hundred soldiers and military personnel across the North Atlantic. A German U-boat spotted the convoy and fired three torpedoes at the ship. Only one struck the target, but the blast below the waterline fatally damaged the ship. In the cold darkness, the crew was ordered to abandon ship. There were not enough lifeboats for all the men, nor were there enough life jackets.
Four chaplains onboard the ship that night helped comfort those injured in the explosion and those who feared the coming of death. When the ship was ready to sink, the chaplains took off their life jackets and handed them to four young soldiers who had none. They gave up their own lives in order to save others. The heroic gesture inspired a nation, and Congress voted a special posthumous medal in their honor.
Most of us are not called upon to physically lay down our lives, but there are many people who need our help. People all around us who don’t know the Lord need us to give them the Gospel. Others need perhaps a kind word or an investment of our time or a gift of our finances. Whatever sacrifice is required, if we are to truly live as children of the King, we must be willing to make sacrifices to demonstrate Christ’s love.
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Someone once observed, "Man proposes; God disposes." This simple expression sums up a vital Bible truth: God is Sovereign over everything in earth and over every part of our lives. No plan that we make will ever surprise Him; no opposition can overcome His purposes. He is God, and we are not.
Scripture tells us that God laughs at those who think they can exalt themselves against His will. Every plot of man against His design is doomed to failure. But the sovereignty of God is more than just a shield against our enemies; it is an assurance to us as His children. There is no attribute of God that is more comforting than the attribute of His sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials we can know and be certain that God has not forsaken us.
God's sovereignty overrules our afflictions so that through these circumstances He can sanctify us and make us more like His Son. God's loving exercise of His sovereignty assures us that we can always trust Him, even if we do not understand the trials that He has allowed in our lives. There are no accidents with God. Although we are often tempted to question our circumstances, we can trust that everything that comes to us has gone through the filter of His love. When we trust His faithful sovereignty, we can be confident of two things: God knows what is best for us; and, because He is in control, He will see to it that we receive what is best.
"Wherefore David blessed the LORD before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all."
1 Chronicles 29:10–11
The great missionary David Livingstone was inspired to go to Africa by the testimony of Robert Moffat who reported seeing the smoke rise from a thousand villages where the name of Christ had never been heard. Livingstone determined that he would take the Gospel where it had never been preached. Leaving England behind, he spent most of the rest of his life penetrating the interior of Africa—exploring unreached territory for future missionaries and preaching the Gospel everywhere he went.
A strong sense of purpose drove Livingstone to face hardship and danger and give up much of what the world holds dear. He said, “I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time or eternity.”
Since everything that we have already belongs to God, we are not making great sacrifices when we give back to Him part of what is already His. The priority of our lives is not meant to be our comfort and safety, but advancing God’s kingdom and bringing Him glory. The good gifts we have are from God, that we might steward them for Him. If we lose sight of that fact, we are in danger of becoming selfish rather than using our possessions in ways that lay up treasure for us in Heaven.
"And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
In our culture today the idea that all religions or belief systems (or none at all) are equally valid and true is becoming more widely accepted. A popular American entertainer was interviewed on a television program a few years ago. She has dabbled in a number of religions, but she is known for the blatant anti-religious elements of much of her music.
In the interview, this woman explained, "I can disagree with doctrines and still celebrate them. I go to the synagogue; I study Hinduism…in the end all paths lead to God." Her statements are an expression of what many believe today.
No matter how many people adopt this view, the Bible is clear that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. There are no alternatives and no options to salvation—it must come through Jesus Christ. Sincerity, misplaced faith, obedience to laws, and moral living will never atone for sin. Only a sinless sacrifice can substitute in our place.
The exclusivity of Jesus places a great responsibility on those of us who are believers and know the Lord to share this truth with others. Each of our family members, co-workers, neighbors and friends need to be saved…and we are the ones who must tell them.
God’s plan is for every follower of Jesus Christ to be a witness of faith. It is not enough for us to just have taken the only path to Heaven for ourselves; we have a duty and obligation to invite others to join us on the journey. There is nothing more important you can do today than to be a witness of the Gospel.
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."
When I travel somewhere to preach I often will take out my Bible to read or study. Over the years I have found that the Bible provokes strong reactions. Some people love the Word of God and are happy to see it, but many are anything but happy. Some even react very strongly against the very presence of Scripture. The reason for that is that the Bible forces people to confront the truth.
There is a widespread acceptance today of the notion that there are no absolute truths. Yet the unchanging and eternal Word of God directly contradicts that notion. It does not merely suggest good ideas; it declares the very Word of the Lord and sets the standard for everyone in every age. Jesus said, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). The intense negative reaction of the world to the Word is yet one more evidence that it is from God rather than from man.
It is no accident that when Jesus was tempted by Satan, He responded to every challenge by quoting Scripture. There is enormous power in the Word of God. The author of Hebrews compared the Bible to the swords carried by the Roman soldiers of the day; those swords could be used in battle in both directions because both edges were sharp. The Bible has the answers to every challenge, and the more you know about its truths, the better prepared you will be to face the world.
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
1 Timothy 1:5-7
The story is told of a zoo that was noted for their great collection of different animals. One day the gorilla died, and to keep up the appearance of a full range of animals, the zookeeper hired a man to wear a gorilla suit and fill in for the dead animal. It was his first day on the job, and the man didn’t know how to act like a gorilla very well. As he tried to move convincingly, he got too close to the wall of the enclosure and tripped and fell into the lion exhibit. He began to scream, convinced his life was over…until the lion spoke to him: “Be quiet, or you’re going to get us both fired!”
Not everyone is who they appear to be. One of the common excuses people give for not trusting Christ is that there are so many hypocrites in the church. While that excuse does not justify not being saved, it is all too often a valid complaint. Our faith and love are supposed to be genuine and unfeigned.
It is a great testimony for us to be known as someone who is real—that our Christianity is more than just a cultural affiliation or a belief system in name only, but that it actually changes the way in which we live. One of the things that distinguished the members of the early church was that their lives had been transformed by their faith. No longer were they focused on themselves, but on the things of God. May it truly be said of us that our religion is more than just skin deep—that we are real disciples of Jesus Christ.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
1 Timothy 6:6-10
In 1995 the nation was stunned when news broke that an elderly woman named Oseola McCarty had donated $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi for their scholarship fund. This eighty-seven-year-old woman had been forced to drop out of school in the sixth grade to care for her family. For more than sixty years she made a living washing clothes for hire in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, saving as much as she could from her meager pay. She wanted others to have the opportunity for the education she never received, so she gave away the money she had saved for so many years.
Our society values how much a person has; God values how much a person gives. When Jesus watched the people giving in the Temple, He praised the widow who cast in just two mites—a fraction of a penny—because it represented such a sacrifice. Though money itself is not evil, loving money leads to all kinds of evil.
The best protection we have against the sorrows that come from loving money is to cultivate generous hearts. Look for opportunities to use the resources God has given to you (even if they do not seem to be great) for the benefit of others. Rather than waiting until you have enough to give, be generous and give what you have to help others today.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
I read about a young boy who accidentally killed a goose on the family farm. His sister saw what happened and leveraged the incident to her advantage. "If you will wash the dishes every day and do all of my chores, I won’t tell Mom," she promised. Soon, the boy tired of being his sister’s slave and decided to take matters into his own hands. When he told his sister that he was quitting on her agreement, she reminded him that she would tell their mother. "It doesn’t matter anymore," he said cheerfully. "I already told Mom myself, and she forgave me."
God has given us complete forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross. The price of sin has already been paid in full. There is no remaining condemnation. Yet many Christians struggle with guilt for things they have done or failed to do. The devil is a master at using these things against us. Revelation 12:10 calls him "the accuser of our brethren." Satan not only accuses us before the Father, but He accuses us to our own conscience.
Like the girl in our story, the devil taunts us with our past sins. He knows that if he can keep us consumed by guilt, he can limit our effectiveness for God. We must remember that God has fully forgiven us for every sin because of Jesus. When God sees us, He sees only the righteousness of His Son.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
Some time ago I came across this “message from God” that shows His love and concern for you and I so beautifully:
My Precious Child,
I am in control. I am sovereign. I am able to make things happen the way I want them to go. Yes, I allow you to make your own choices. And I know you don’t fully understand how these ideas can operate side by side. But I’m able to work within and around the choices you make to cause My ultimate purposes to succeed. For this, you must trust Me. Ask Me about your choices and plans. My wisdom is yours if you’ll ask.
I want you to cooperate with My plans. When the people around you don’t do that, be assured, I am still in control. I will fulfill My plan. Their choices are their own, but I’m still in control. Trust me. I’ll use it for your good.
Your Heavenly Father, the King
Sometimes we forget that God is in control of our lives. Even when others hurt us by acting against God’s will, God is able to turn their choices into our good. (Think of how He did this for Joseph!) With God in control, there are no accidents or coincidences.
And God has big plans for your life. He told the people of Israel through Jeremiah that even though their current circumstances were bad and showed no hope, the future was bright indeed…and it is for you as well.
"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke."
We live in a society that has a very distorted view of God. When the prophet Isaiah saw his vision of God in Heaven, he saw a God who was transcendent in holiness. Around His throne, seraphims cry out with unceasing worship, "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory."
God could have chosen any attribute of His character and nature to highlight. He could have commanded the seraphims to cry out "Love, love, love" or "Just, just, just." But He has especially created angels to declare His holiness.
To understand that God is holy means that we understand how far His standards for righteousness are above our own. No one who truly grasps how exalted God is can do anything except fall on his face and beg for mercy.
When angels appeared to men and women in the Bible as angels (sometimes they appeared as men) the immediate response was terror. In fact, the angels almost always had to calm the person they visited with the words, "Fear not." And that is just the angels—God is far above them in His glory and grandeur. An appreciation for God’s holiness will give us a holy reverence and fear of Him that will cause us to examine our ways and make sure we are walking according to His will.
"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
We are in a battle in the Christian life. As someone said, we travel to Heaven on a battleship, not a cruise ship. And in the battle it is vital that we stand firm and maintain our character. The devil knows that if he can get us to let down our guard in even a small area, it will not be long until he has free reign to go to work in our lives. There are no small character failures.
Oscar Wilde was a brilliant and much-praised writer but also a greatly immoral man. Late in life as he suffered the consequences of his lifestyle, he wrote: "I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber, one has some day to cry aloud from the house-top. I ceased to be lord over myself. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace."
The devil is perfectly content to take small pieces of ground. If you do not stand firm, you will find yourself continually moving backward until you are completely defeated. When the temptation comes, remember the warning of Scripture, "Neither give place to the devil"20 (Ephesians 4:27). Guard your character so that he has no room to work in your life, and you will be on the road to victory.
"When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:5-7
I heard about a dad who took his son on a fishing trip to a nearby river. They caught a couple of fish early in the morning, but the fish stopped biting. When they were done they didn’t have enough fish for a meal, so they released the ones they had caught back into the water. "Will they be okay?" the boy asked his dad. "They’ll be fine," the father replied. "Any dead fish can go downriver, but when we put those fish in the water they swam upstream."
We live in a culture that is filled with negative influences, but ours is hardly the first generation with that experience. I think of a young man who grew up in a home without a Christian father, but with a godly mother and a godly grandmother; and this young man became a major influence for the cause of Jesus Christ in the first century. His name was Timothy. How did a little boy from the city of Lystra, a mystical place given over to idol worship, develop into such a great leader for the cause of Jesus Christ?
Paul tells us that Timothy had a real, living faith in his heart. He had more than just a profession of faith; he had an active faith. This faith equipped a young man to rise up and go against the tide of the world around him. God has given us the Spirit of power that allows us to overcome the world through faith.
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
I have never forgotten a saying I heard some years ago, "Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit." We will all go through hard times, but if we respond properly, those troubles can be the tool God uses to make us more effective for His kingdom. For example, some of the greatest preachers I have ever heard had to grow up without a father in the home. Some of the sweetest Christian kids in our school are dealing with huge family troubles.
The difference between people who benefit from their troubles and those who do not is found in their response, not in their troubles. One ancient philosopher said that if everyone in the world could see all the problems of all the people in the world and could choose which ones to have, everyone would go home with their own. The difference is not that some people have trouble while others don’t; the difference is that some people respond properly while others don’t.
If we realize the purpose and meaning of our troubles—God’s plan is that they will make us mature believers—then we can truly rejoice even during hard times. Of course we’re not happy about having trouble, but by keeping our eyes focused on the end result of our trials, we find the patience and strength to endure them and reach the other side. The real tragedy is not when things go wrong in our lives. The real tragedy is when we don’t let God work through the things that go wrong to make us what He wants us to be.
"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him."
One of my favorite hymns is "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." I love the way it describes God’s goodness to us no matter what happens. This hymn was written by a man named Thomas Chisholm. He was born in Kentucky just after the Civil War, and following his salvation, he became a pastor. But his broken health did not allow him to continue in the ministry, and he served the Lord for the rest of his life as a layman. He wrote well over one thousand poems, but this one celebrating God’s constant love is the best known.
Late in his life Chisholm wrote a friend: "My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although, I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness."
Often we struggle to believe that God is faithful because we live in a world filled with people who are untrustworthy. But no matter how others may fail us and no matter how we may fail Him, God is always there with new mercy to meet the needs of a new day. I love the image of our "mercy account" being refilled as the sun rises each morning. There is such a wonderful peace and hope in knowing that God’s compassion and love for His children will never falter or fail. Great is His faithfulness indeed.
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
2 Corinthians 7:1
The great pioneer missionary Adoniram Judson was the first to take the Gospel to the country of Burma. He buried his wife and several of his children on the mission field, remarried, and then lost his second wife to disease as well. He spent months in prison during Burma’s war with England when he was suspected of being a spy even though he was an American. Judson labored for seven years before seeing his first convert.
Still, through all that difficulty, Judson remained committed to his calling. He translated the Bible into Burmese and established a number of churches. Even today, despite intense persecution over decades, there are descendants of Judson’s converts serving God in Burma. One of Judson’s favorite sayings was: "The future is as bright as the promises of God." To Judson, the promises of God were living and powerful words that could transform heartache to joy and years of labor into a joyous harvest.
The promises found in Scripture are not simply platitudes or kind expressions—they are guarantees, backed up by the power of Almighty God and His unfailing nature. Solomon said, "There hath not failed one word of all his good promise" (1 Kings 8:56). It was true in the days of the wise king, and it is still true today. There are always circumstances that could cause us to doubt and lose heart, but God’s promises never fail.
The only thing that hinders us from experiencing what God has promised is when we fail to do what He has commanded—to claim those promises. We must come to Him in faith, believing that we will receive His reward (Hebrews 11:6), and we must fulfill the duties which allow us to reap the rewards of obedience.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."
I read about a little boy who had been invited to a friend’s birthday party. He was so excited and started counting the days until the party. But the morning of the party he was devastated when he found that a blizzard had struck their little town. The snow was falling in wet, heavy flakes, and the wind was howling. "I don’t think you should go to the party," his father said. The little boy was so disappointed.
He began to importune his father, begging to be allowed to go. Finally, much to his surprise, his dad said, "All right, you can go to the party." The little boy bundled up in his hat and coat and mittens and started down the street to his friend’s house. When he got to the door, he turned around and saw his father turning to walk back home. It was then he realized that his father had been walking behind him all the way to make sure he was safe.
There may be times when we feel like we are alone, but in truth we are always surrounded by the love and goodness of God. There is never a time when we are truly on our own. Even when we do not believe Him as we should, "he abideth faithful" (2 Timothy 2:13). The struggles and battles you face today do not have to be fought and won in your own strength. The Creator of Heaven and Earth is your "very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
"Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."
At my grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration a few years ago, our family gathered to honor her lifetime of service to the Lord and love for us. It was a wonderful time of celebration and reminiscing as we talked about the years she has been a powerful influence on our lives.
One of the things that made the biggest impression on me was hearing from adults whose lives she had touched back when they were children. One man stood and said, "I just want to give thanks that as a teenager back in 1957, I came into the Chappell home and had a wonderful meal there with the family. Afterwards Edith [my grandmother] said, 'Alex, can I speak to you over here in the living room?' And I sat down with her and she asked me, 'Alex, if you die today do you know you'd spend eternity in Heaven?' And she opened the Bible and showed me what it meant to be a Christian. In 1957, I made the most important decision I've ever made in my life to trust Christ as my Saviour."
There is nothing we can do in this life that is more important than sharing the Gospel with others and teaching them to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that it was for this purpose that we were chosen and called. Will you have anyone in Heaven because of your life and witness? You can.
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
Frances Chadwick was one of the great open water swimmers of all time. She was the first woman to swim across the English Channel in both directions, and she also broke the time records for making the long and difficult swim. In 1952, she set out to cover the twenty-six miles from Catalina Island to the coast of California.
After Chadwick had been swimming for about fifteen hours, she was surrounded by a thick fog and began to struggle. She told her mother, who was in one of the boats accompanying her on the trip, that she didn’t think she could make it. After struggling a little longer, she gave up. It wasn’t until after she got in the boat that she learned she had only been one mile from shore. The next day she told an interviewer: "I’m not excusing myself. But if I could have seen the land, I think I might have made it."
So many times we fall short of reaching our goals and doing what we should for God because we get discouraged and lose heart just before we would have seen the victory. We must not be impatient when we do not see results immediately. The fact that we have not yet received the promises of God does not mean that we will not—every promise of God is certain from the moment He made it, whether it has yet come to pass or not.
Two months after her failed attempt, Frances Chadwick was back in the water to again attempt the swim from Catalina to California. Again the fog set in after she had been swimming for hours, but this time instead of quitting, she pushed on and reached the shore.
Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
On May 5, 1868, General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued a proclamation that "Declaration Day" should be observed across the country to honor those who had died during the Civil War. Flowers and flags were placed at gravesites in cemeteries across the country on May 30 that year. As the years passed the annual observance grew and became a national holiday. Today we know this celebration as Memorial Day; a time to honor and remember those who have given their lives for our freedom.
As Americans, we have great privileges and freedom because of the high price that has been paid by heroes of the past and present. As Christians, we have even greater privileges and freedom because of the high price paid by Jesus for our salvation. It is vitally important that we never forget the many good things that God does for us each day nor the cost that was required for the benefits we enjoy.
There is a real danger when we enjoy great blessings that we can begin to take them for granted and think that we deserve them. Moses issued a serious warning to the children of Israel about this very problem: "beware lest thou forget the LORD" (Deuteronomy 6:12). The more God does for us, the more grateful we should be. Just as we rightly set aside a day to honor our nation's heroes, we should also take time to give thanks to God for our spiritual liberty and His many benefits to us.
"But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification."
John Newton wrote what is probably the most famous hymn in the world, Amazing Grace. Before his conversation he was a wicked man, making his living as a slave trader—taking people from Africa and selling them into a lifetime of bondage. When Newton was saved, he was completely transformed by God’s grace. But through his later years of serving God as a changed man, he never forgot the kind of man he once had been. Newton wrote, "By nature I was too blind to know Him, too proud to trust Him, too obstinate to serve Him, too base-minded to love Him."
There is a danger that faces those who have been saved for a number of years. Sometimes we forget how desperately we needed God’s grace. Even those of us who grew up in Christian homes and were saved early in life still had no hope of salvation apart from God’s grace. We should never forget the incredible debt that was paid for our salvation and the free gift that was offered us through no merit or work of our own.
But we also need God’s grace for our daily lives as believers. Just as we could not save ourselves, we cannot live a consecrated Christian life in our own power. The world, the flesh, and the devil work against us constantly. Only the grace of God gives us the strength to be overcomers. The power of grace is something we must never forget.