Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out."
Sometime ago I was at the airport getting ready for a flight when I saw an actor. I remembered having seen him on television reruns in Korea when I was a boy, so I introduced myself and began to talk to him. As he was very friendly and open to talking, I asked about some of his acting work and then took the opportunity to witness to him. As I shared the Gospel with him, he told me he had played a big role in a Christian film back in the 1970s and that he "knew about that stuff."
I hope that he truly is converted, but it is certain that being in a Christian film, going to church, getting baptized, being confirmed, or anything else that we do or don’t do will not save us. Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven. Our world pushes the idea of all religions being different yet viable paths to the truth; the premise is that any kind of faith will be pleasing to God.
Those of us who know the truth have a great responsibility to stand against that false idea and explain clearly that Jesus is God’s only plan of salvation. Jesus said that in the day of judgment, "Many will say to me" that they are His children only to hear the awful words, "I never knew you: depart from me" (Matthew 7:22-23). I don’t want that to happen to anyone, so I never assume that anyone knows that he must trust Christ in order to enjoy salvation.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Martin and Gracia Burnham were missionaries who served for years in Mindanao in the Philippines. They were taking a short rest at a hotel when Islamic terrorists attacked and took them hostage along with several others. They were dragged out into the jungle and chained to trees. During a rescue attempt, Martin was killed. In her book In the Presence of Mine Enemies Gracia wrote: "My faith has been tested, and I’m more sure of what I believe now than I ever was before. God has given me joy and peace in the midst of trials."
Most of us will never face such an extreme test of our faith, but we do have to undergo trials and tests. Like the Apostle Paul we may find ourselves begging God to deliver us from a severe test. Sometimes God does grant us deliverance, but He also sometimes knows that we need the difficulty. In those cases He grants us a measure of grace that is sufficient to allow us to endure the hardship.
Regardless of which answer God gives us for our individual situation, it is vital that we allow His grace to play its role in our hearts and lives. The challenge you face today does not take God by surprise—it is part of His plan for you. But remember that along with His plan comes His grace, and it is enough.
"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
For her birthday celebration, one of the things my grandmother wanted was for us to sing some of her favorite songs. Her requests revealed a lot about the things that mattered to her. Why did she want to hear "I've Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop"? Because her heart was fixed on Heaven. The interests and affections that filled her heart governed the things that she loved.
The story of Abraham is a story of great faith. This Old Testament saint did not have the Scriptures to guide him, but he believed the promises of God and radically altered his entire life to obey what God told him to do. Our faith is not found in our declaration of allegiance to God, but in our obedience to Him. Abraham was willing to leave behind everything to obey God because he was seeking an eternal reward.
Too often the busyness of life can get our eyes off of the goal. Once we are distracted from our calling and purpose, it is easy for us to be turned aside from the right path and stop obeying God. Hebrews 12:2 urges us to run the race of life with focus: "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." The concerns and cares of the world around us are temporary; the city of gold that God has prepared for those who love Him is eternal.
My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.
When Saul turned away from obeying God, God instructed Samuel to anoint a new king who would be "a man after his own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14). That man was David, and during his reign, God made many promises to him about the future. The kingdom grew and prospered during David’s life and during the reign of his son Solomon. Yet in his later years Solomon turned away from God, and after his death the kingdom was divided. The divided nations were later conquered, and the Jewish people were scattered across the Assyrian and Babylonian empires.
What had happened to God’s promises? Were they nullified and broken? No! Every promise of God is sure. As the prophet Isaiah tells us, these promises of the eternal kingdom through David’s throne were and are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Isaiah 9:7 says, "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." The throne from which Jesus will rule the world is the throne of David, just as God promised.
Even when it appears that things are not going according to God’s plan, He is in control. You do not need to doubt or fear or wonder how things can possibly be fixed. The God of the universe whose promises are as certain as the sun and the moon will work to do exactly what He has promised in His Word.
"And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood. All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee. And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver."
2 Samuel 24:22-24
During World War II a young soldier named David Webster of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne wrote his mother: "Stop worrying about me. I joined the parachutists to fight. I intend to fight. If necessary, I shall die fighting, but don’t worry about this because no war can be won without young men dying. Those things which are precious are saved only by sacrifice."
Scripture often refers to the Christian life as a war—a spiritual battlefield. To answer the question of hymn writer Isaac Watts, we will not be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease. And there is no victory apart from sacrifice. Just as our salvation was purchased at great cost, overcoming the enemy and walking in the Spirit require that we be willing to give up some things in order to triumph.
Whether it is large or small, there should be nothing we hold onto so tightly that it becomes more important to us than pleasing God. Paul said that if he knew eating meat would create an offense to others, then, "I will eat no flesh while the world standeth" (1 Corinthians 8:13). Willingness to submit our desires and dreams to God places us in a position to receive His blessings.
"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
Of all the memorials and monuments that have great meaning to our nation, perhaps the most solemn is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. There lie the remains of one unknown soldier in a place of respect that is dedicated to all soldiers who have given their lives in our past wars but could not be identified. An honor guard keeps watch day and night as a symbol of our gratitude for their sacrifice. Inscribed on the tomb are these words: "Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier known but to God."
Sometimes we may wonder if anyone notices, appreciates or even realizes what we are doing. Elijah felt that way when he was standing for right against Ahab and Jezebel. He told God, "I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away" (1 Kings 19:10). Of course Elijah was wrong—God had thousands of other faithful servants. But even if he had been right and there had been no one else following God, Elijah still could and should have done so.
There will be a day in the future when all of our efforts, all of our labors, all of our sacrifices made in service for God will be remembered and rewarded. Whether anyone on this earth ever knows your name, you can be sure that God sees all that you have done and will greet you with the words, "Well done" (Matthew 25:21).
"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
Gold is one of the most valuable materials on earth. It has been used for centuries as money, but it also has many uses in industry, manufacturing, and even space flight. One of the traits that makes gold so useful is that it can be shaped and formed so easily. In fact, a single ounce of gold can be flattened out to cover three hundred square feet.
But gold ore dug out of the ground contains many other elements that must be removed prior to the gold being useful. The refining process for gold involves intense heat. Gold melts at a temperature of almost two thousand degrees Fahrenheit. That incredibly high temperature is required for gold to be ready to be used. The Christian life involves much the same process. Sometimes we are surprised when "bad things happen to good people." But the Scripture tells us that fiery trials are part of God's refining process for our lives. Rather than griping or complaining when trials come, we should rejoice as we think of the end result they will produce.
It is impossible for us to be like Jesus without taking part in His sufferings. The notion that believers never get sick, never have financial difficulties, never have problems at work, or never have relationship struggles is popular in our culture; but it is contrary to the Word of God. Jesus promised, "In the world ye shall have tribulation" (John 16:33a). However, though the trials are real, so is the victory. For Jesus went on to say, "but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b). Every trial is part of His plan.
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."
Here in California we have wonderful oranges. As you drive through agricultural regions, you can see grove after grove of orange trees. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of work go into those orchards. I’ve seen watering and pruning and, of course, harvesting. But I have never yet seen a planter out in the field talking to the orange trees and telling them that they need to get busy having oranges.
Why? Because oranges are a natural result of healthy orange trees. In the same way, spiritual fruit is the natural result of a healthy Christian. If your life is not producing fruit, it is a sign that something is wrong. Jesus tells us that if we abide in Him—if our hearts are fixed on Him and we are filling our minds and heart with His Word—we will bear fruit. A fruitless Christian is a contradiction, an indication that something abnormal is going on.
Rather than command us to bear fruit, Jesus tells us that we must abide in Him. If we do that, fruitfulness is assured. Then He lays out the purpose of our fruitfulness—to bring glory to God. Everything we do is meant to honor our Father in Heaven, and fixing our hearts and minds on Jesus assures that we will be fruitful.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
2 Corinthians 5:17-19
I heard about a pastor who preached a strong salvation sermon. When he gave the invitation, a five-year-old boy came forward. Not knowing whether the boy understood what it meant to be saved, the pastor began to ask him questions. The more questions he asked, the more confused the boy became. Finally the boy interrupted and asked, "Pastor, in your message this morning you said that if I would come and trust Jesus to save me, He would! Did you really mean that?" The pastor said, "I did not ask him any more questions after that!"
God has called every believer to be a witness of the Good News. This call is not restricted to pastors, evangelists and missionaries. The reason that God wants each of us to be sharing the Gospel is that He wants people to be saved. God could have made salvation difficult; instead He made it as simple as possibleâ€”so simple even a child can understand and obey. Salvation is not cheap. Jesus paid an unspeakable price that our sins could be forgiven and we could be reconciled to God. But salvation is simple.
Paul said that God has given us "the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19). We can't keep the wonderful message of reconciliation with God to ourselves. Knowing that God wants people to be saved should motivate and encourage us to faithfully give the plain and simple truth of the Gospel to everyone we can.
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
Years ago, a well-known evangelist was pulled over for speeding in a small southern town and taken to traffic court. The preacher pleaded guilty because he had been speeding. Recognizing him, the judge said, "You are guilty and the fine must be paidâ€”but I am going to pay it for you." The preacher said that not only did the judge pay the fine, but after court the judge took him out for a steak dinner. The preacher said, "That is how God treats repentant sinners!"
All of us are sinners. But when we trusted Christ as our Saviour, God in mercy and grace replaced our debt with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Nothing will ever be laid to our charge. We were guilty, but Jesus paid the price of our sins on the cross, and through faith we have received justification through His blood. No sin will ever be held against us.
But there is even more. Not only has God freely given us salvation and removed the penalty and guilt of sin, but He also promises to freely give us all of the things that we need to live for Him. Do not let anything in your past keep you from experiencing His great love and provision.
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
John Dyer, a Welsh poet and pastor from the 1700s once wrote, “A man may go to Heaven without health, without riches, without honors, without learning, without friends; but he can never go there without Christ.” Today our world is filled with people who are seeking some other way to God than the one found in the blood of Jesus and His precious name, but all such efforts are doomed to failure. Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
Our salvation, however, is more than just a ticket to Heaven; it is a daily provision for our lives here on Earth as well. Jesus has also given us the access to come to the Father in the power and authority of His name to present our requests. Jesus said, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do” (John 14:13). Being able to act and pray in His name is a powerful delegation of authority.
In His Great Commission Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). It is this power that He has offered to us that enables us to be faithful witnesses for Him and to see our daily needs met. There is no power that can stand against the name of Jesus as we work, worship, walk, and witness in that precious name.
"For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
There was a time in America when our government acknowledged that we were a nation under God. Carved into the stone walls of the Capitol, the Supreme Court and our national monuments are reminders from Scripture of the roll of faith in the founding of our country. Today those truths are under attack. But even if these attacks succeed and every vestige of our heritage is taken away, this nation that we love is not our home. We are ultimately citizens of Heaven.
The fact that our home is in another land should produce a difference in the way that we live. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said it this way: “Christians ought so to live that it were idle to speak of a comparison between them and the men of the world. It would not be a comparison but a contrast. No scale of degrees should be possible; the believer should be a direct and manifest contradiction to the unregenerate. The life of a saint should be altogether above and out of the same list as the life of a sinner. Wide as the poles asunder are life and death, light and darkness, health and disease, purity and sin, spiritual and carnal.”
The problem in our country is not that the sinners are rebelling against God; that has been true throughout history. The problem is that God’s children have adopted the manners and morals of the world around us. We should live each day with the knowledge that we are representatives of the King and behave in a way that brings honor and glory to His name.
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit."
George Muller was a man of incredible faith and prayer. He supported, educated, and led to Christ thousands of children in his orphanages in Bristol, England. Yet despite the vast scope of his ministry, Muller never asked anyone for money. He told those who wanted to know how they could help to ask God, as he had already taken his needs before the Lord. Over his life the equivalent of what would today be millions of dollars came in to provide all that the work needed.
Muller prayed for more than fifty years for the salvation of two of his friends from his wicked youth. One friend was saved just before Muller’s death, the other shortly after. Muller wrote, “The great fault of the children of God is, they do not continue in prayer; they do not go on praying; they do not persevere. If they desire anything for God’s glory, they should pray until they get it.”
There are times when God answers our prayers immediately, sometimes sending the answer even before we ask. But there are other times when we must learn the discipline of patience and perseverance in continued prayer. Unless God has definitely closed the door as He did with Paul and the thorn in the flesh, we should continue to be faithful in prayer. Many times we do not receive the answer to prayer simply because we give up on praying before it comes.
But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.
1 Corinthians 16:8-9
Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “The door to the room of success swings on the hinges of opposition.” Sometimes we mistakenly believe that because we are having difficulty we are on the wrong track. We think that if we were doing the right thing it would be easy. However the presence of obstacles and opposition does not mean that we are doing wrong; in fact, that can even be a sign that we are close to seeing wonderful things happen.
Russell Conwell, a Baptist pastor in Philadelphia, was the author of one of the best-selling books of the 1800s called Acres of Diamonds. In it Conwell told the story of a man obsessed with finding diamonds. He sold his home and travelled the world for years in a futile search. Meanwhile the buyer of the man’s property discovered one of the richest diamond mines in the world on that land. Too often we dream of greener pastures or easier paths when what we need to do is just persist in doing right where we are.
It is said that the great missionary David Livingstone received a letter from a young man who wanted to come and join his work. “Please tell me the easiest way to get to Africa to join,” he wrote.” Livingstone replied, “I am not interested in someone who is looking for the easiest way.” The Christian life is described in Scripture as both a war and a long distance race. Success at what God has called us to do requires struggle, intensity, and the commitment to overcome obstacles. If you are facing opposition today, rejoice—that may be the best sign yet that victory is close at hand.
"There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them."
There is nothing of lasting and eternal value that a Christian can accomplish in his own strength. We cannot stand alone. The good news is that we don’t have to. The same God who stood with and empowered Moses, Joshua, Esther, Daniel and the heroes of the faith throughout the centuries is alive and active in your life today. The same power that worked miracles in the past is still the same today.
Hudson Taylor said, “Many missionaries estimate difficulty in light of their own resources, and thus they attempt very little, and they always fail. All who have done great things for God first reckon on His presence and power to guide them.” The work that Hudson Taylor did in opening China to the Gospel and seeing multiplied thousands brought to Christ was a miracle work that can be explained only by God’s power.
Our culture values the rugged individual who stands alone. But while there are times when we may have no human help, we are never truly alone. God will never forsake or abandon us. The promises of God are just as true today as when they were first given. One of the names of Jesus is Emmanuel—God with us. We do not serve an absent or distant God; we serve the God who is "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). When you face your battles and struggles today, rely on His strength, and you will find that the victory is assured.
"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."
Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe said, “In the Christian life you’re either an overcomer or you’re overcome, a victor or a victim. After all, God didn’t save us to make statues out of us and put us on exhibition. He saved us to make soldiers out of us and move us forward by faith to claim our rich inheritance in Jesus Christ.”
Every believer has a place in God’s plan for warfare against the enemy. The world has no power to resist the devil. The Bible tells us that they "are taken captive by him at his will" (2 Timothy 2:26). But that is not true for the child of God. We are no longer helpless against Satan, but that is true not because of our strength, but through the blood of Jesus.
The power of the blood pays the price for our salvation, but it does far more than just that. The same blood that saves us makes us victors—overcomers—by empowering us to win the victory over the temptations and trials that we face. The truth is that our battles are not just for our own benefit. Each of us has a powerful influence on others. Our family members, neighbors, co-workers, and friends at church need us to help them in the battle as well. If we forget the purpose for which God has saved us, we are likely to fall victim to the wiles of Satan. Remain focused today on the calling of God, and rest in His power as you walk with Him.
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
I once read the story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application that asked, "Are you a leader?" Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, "No," and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: "Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower."
There are times for all of us to lead in various roles and ways in our lives, but sometimes we become so focused on leadership that we forget our first responsibility is to be followers of Jesus Christ. The first command that He gave to His disciples was to follow Him, and the same is true for us. There is no way to be a successful, victorious Christian without first walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
Often we hear people ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” While that is a good question to help us order our actions, His life was not the only example for us—we also find a pattern of behavior in His death. "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus died for others, and as we follow Him, what we do should also be for others.
"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?"
We know that God corrects every one of His children, but it is also true that not every believer benefits from that correction. Andrew Murray said it this way: “A believer may pass through much affliction, and yet secure very little blessing from it all. Abiding in Christ is the secret of securing all that the Father meant the chastisement to bring us.”
God never chastens us arbitrarily. There is always a purpose behind His correction, but the author of Hebrews warns us that there are two reactions that will cause us to miss the benefit of that correction.
First we can despise it—holding God’s rebuke in contempt and refusing to agree with Him that we need to change our ways. This attitude of rebellion makes it impossible for us to receive the blessing of a restored relationship with the Father.
The second wrong response is to faint—to give up because of the severity of the correction. The important thing to remember during chastening is that it is meant to help us. We can fall into the trap of thinking that God is judging us to “get even” or “settle the score.” But the price for our sin has already been paid in full by Jesus. We are not punished for our sins; we are chastened as a means of bringing us back to right and godly living. If you have done something for which you are being chastened, quickly repent. You will find that God awaits you with open arms.
"And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever."
Charles Francis Adams, son of President John Quincy Adams and grandson of President John Adams, kept a diary. One day this busy political leader entered this description: "Went fishing with my son today—a day wasted." His son, Brooks Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day, Brooks Adams made this entry: "Went fishing with my father—the most wonderful day of my life!"
God has given fathers a special responsibility to make a meaningful investment of time in the lives of their children. This is His pattern for continuing faith through the generations of a family. There need to be memorials in our lives—signposts that we can point out to our children to show them that the God they read about in the Bible is still active in our world today. This does not happen accidentally or without the investment of serious time.
Many believe it to be wise and proper to make financial preparation for our children’s future, and it is. But far more important are the spiritual investments we make through spending time with them talking about the things God has done in our own lives.
"Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands."
1 Samuel 17:45-47
When you are confronted with what seems to be an overwhelming problem, how do you react? Do you cower in fear and look for a different way to reach your goal, or do you charge ahead, confident in what God has called you to do? It is impossible for us to win the victory apart from courage.
Famed World War II tank commander General George Patton said, “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.” If you give in to your fears, you are on the path to defeat. If instead you stand strong in spite of your fears, you are on the path to victory. And we must never forget that we are not in the battle alone. With the power of God on our side, we cannot be defeated.
When David went out to fight Goliath, the Bible says he "hasted, and ran…to meet the Philistine" (1 Samuel 17:48). Even though Goliath was huge and heavily armed and David had only a sling, David’s faith gave him the courage to face and defeat his foe—and faith will do the same for you.
"My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah."
Amy Carmichael, missionary to India wrote, “Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace…If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you know what His will is.”
We live in an impatient society. We want what we want, and we want it right now. There is even a pot roast now that you can cook in a microwave in less than ten minutes—but it’s not as good as the real thing. When we refuse to wait on God and allow Him to work according to His schedule, when we take matters into our own hands, the result is always disaster.
We see this illustrated so clearly in the life of Abraham. Because he had not yet received the son of promise, he listened to Sarah’s plan and had a son with Hagar. Some four thousand years later our world is still dealing with the fallout from that impatient decision as the descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael struggle for control of the land of Israel.
Take advantage of every opportunity and open door that God places before you. But if you do not see the doors opening according to your schedule, take heart. God knows exactly where you are. If you wait on His timing, you will find Him to be a refuge and defense in every test that you face.
"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
Every person who is a born-again believer starts life as a baby in Christ. Whether the new convert is six or sixty, that person is still a new Christian. Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village who walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked him, "Were any great men born in this village?" The old man replied, "Nope, only babies."
It’s a good thing to be a baby, but it’s not a good thing to remain a baby. This is just as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the physical realm. A baby Christian who has been saved for forty years is a tragedy. God intends for us to grow and mature so that we can be a positive influence in the lives of others. Until we learn to dig into the meat of the Word for ourselves, we will never grow.
I have the privilege of pastoring a local, New Testament church. I take the Word of God to the pulpit and preach His Word. Attending a good Bible-preaching church is vital to your spiritual growth, but it is not enough. In addition to hearing the teaching and preaching of the Word, you need be a student of Scripture yourself.
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Charles Spurgeon used this parable to illustrate the bondage of sin. He said, “There was once a tyrant who summoned one of his subjects into his presence and ordered him to make a chain. The poor blacksmith—that was his occupation—had to go to work and forge the chain. When it was done, he brought it into the presence of the tyrant and was ordered to take it away and make it twice the length. He brought it again to the tyrant, and again he was ordered to double it. Back he came when he had obeyed the order, and the tyrant looked at it then commanded the servants to bind the man hand and foot with the chain he had made and cast him into prison.”
Spurgeon continued with an application. “That is what the devil does with men. He makes them forge their own chain, and then binds them hand and foot with it and casts them into outer darkness.”
Every sin places us in bondage to the enemy. We hear in religious circles today about freedom, but too often those who use the word use it wrongly because they do not understand the danger of sin. In many cases, they speak of being free to sin, rather than being made free from sin.
We who know the Lord have been made free from sin. But Christian liberty does not entitle us to do wrong. That is the path back into bondage. Think about the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. Again and again they complained against Moses and against God. They often said, “We wish we were back in Egypt.” In Egypt they were slaves and their male children were killed at birth. Why would they want to go back to such awful circumstances? Yet when we choose to sin, we are placing similar chains of bondage on ourselves.
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments."
1 John 2:1-3
A pastor finished his message early one Sunday, then he decided to see if his congregation understood what he had preached. So he asked, “Can anyone tell me what you must do before you can obtain forgiveness of sin?” There was a short pause and then, from the back of the room, a small boy spoke up, “You have to sin.”
There are some people who teach that it is possible for a Christian never to sin. I’ve often thought that it would be nice if they were right! But Scripture makes it plain that although we should always obey God and His Word, we will not. Paul wrote, "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do" (Romans 7:19). The question is not whether we will sin, but whether we will respond properly when we do sin.
There is an old saying in the legal community that a lawyer who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. I am so grateful that when we sin we do not have to stand on our own before God. Jesus acts as our attorney—placing His blood and His righteousness on our account in place of our sin.
This truth is critical for us to grasp. I have counseled many people who were struggling with guilt over a past sin. They are being held captive by the enemy rather than living in the freedom that is available to every child of God.
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
Two little neighbor boys had quarreled bitterly one night. But the next morning Johnny took his cap and headed for Bobby’s house. Surprised, an older member of the family said teasingly, “What! Going to play with him again? I thought you quarreled only last evening and were never going to have anything more to do with each other. Funny memory you have.” Johnny looked a little sheepish, dug his toe into the carpet for a moment, then flashed a satisfied smile as he hurried away. “Oh! Bobby and me are good forgetters!”
It is a virtual certainty that someone is going to disappoint you today in some manner. A friend may not stand up for you when you need him to. A family member may say something unkind. A spiritual leader may not respond properly. Whatever the case, you are faced with a question: How will you respond? The key to a proper response is found in the way God deals with our sins.
When we fall short, as all of us do, and ask for His forgiveness, God does not demand that we go through a long process to prove we have learned our lesson; He forgives. Then He forgets—never bringing up our sin again. While we cannot forget as God does, we can refuse to ever bring up the sins of the past.
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
2 Peter 1:2-4
I read about a Christian attorney who, after meditating on several Scriptures, decided to cancel the debts of all his clients who had owed him money for more than six months. He drafted a letter explaining his decision and its biblical basis and sent the letters via certified mail to seventeen past due accounts. One by one, the letters began to return to his office. Eventually sixteen of the seventeen letters came back unopened. A few people had moved, but the most common reason was that his clients refused to sign for and open the envelopes fearing that he was suing them for their debts!
Sometimes people approach the Word of God as a long list of rules and regulations rather than a message of love and forgiveness. The Bible is not telling you all the things you can’t do in an effort to ruin your life; it is telling you how to experience freedom and the joy of the Lord. God has given us everything we need to live a happy and godly life in the promises of Scripture, yet too many of His children never “open their mail” from Him.
Set aside time to read, study, and meditate on the Bible. You will find that God’s promises of forgiveness and hope lighten your load and set you free.
"Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
The largest piano in the world is the Challen Grand Concert Piano. It is more than two feet longer than a standard grand piano and weighs over a ton. When the 230 strings are connected, the frame tension is more than 60,000 pounds‚Äîthirty tons of pressure! That‚Äôs a lot of pressure, but without that pressure, the piano cannot make beautiful music.
Life works in much the same way. All of us have times when we experience extreme pressure. Whether it is sickness, financial difficulty, a strained relationship, a besetting sin, or something else, these times of trial and testing can produce something beautiful. Job certainly experienced far worse trials than most of us will ever endure. He lost his wealth, his health, and his children; and his wife suggested he curse God so he could die. At the lowest point in his life, even when he could not see or understand what God was doing, he had faith that he was being refined and made better by the pressures he was enduring.
The attitude we take toward the pressures of life goes a long way toward determining whether those pressures will produce improvement or bitterness. If we react with anger or complain about our circumstances, our lives will not be made better by what we experience. If like Job we respond in faith, God can use those trials to refine us and make us more useful to His work and to others. The pressures of your life hold the key to your productivity for Him.
"When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living."
I read a tragic story about a young lady in England who told the world on her Facebook page that she was about to end her life. She wrote, "Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone." She had 1,048 "friends" on Facebook. Most did not respond, and there is some indication that some of her friends posted mocking statements on her wall and did not take her seriously. While there are reports that some out-of-town "friends" tried to obtain her contact information, no one local came to her physical rescue.
We live in a world that is constantly "in touch" online and yet also increasingly disconnected at the same time. There are people all around us with hidden hurts and heartbreaks that they may never reveal in public, but they are in desperate need of someone to care for them—and someone to remind them that God loves them as well. The comfort of a friend and a kind word can make all the difference to someone in need.
In our fast-paced society it is easy for these people to be overlooked and ignored, sometimes until it is too late. Many people have perfected the art of looking fine on the outside while covering a broken heart. Take the time to look beneath the surface and find out what is happening. Express your love, and remind people of God’s unfailing love. No one should ever leave our presence feeling that there is no one who cares for and loves him.
"And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
A young boy traveling by airplane to visit his grandparents sat beside a man who happened to be a seminary professor. The boy was reading a Sunday school take-home paper, and the professor thought he would have some fun with the lad. "Young man," said the professor, "if you can tell me something God can do, I will give you a big, shiny apple." The boy thought for a moment and then replied, "Mister, if you can tell me something God can't do, I’ll give you a whole barrel of apples!"
Each of us faces difficult circumstances at times in our lives. There may even be days when we see no way out of the problems we face. But when God is involved, nothing is impossible. No obstacle you face challenges His strength and resources; no decision you must make challenges His wisdom and knowledge. If there is a problem, it is not with God’s ability but with our faith.
After Jesus began His public ministry and became well known for the miraculous works He had done, He returned to His home region. Yet there, the same power that had awed so many others was not widely displayed. Matthew 13:58 explains, "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief." Believe God today—not only that He can do what you need, but also that He will.
"But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:10-12
Paul sent his young associate Titus to the island of Crete to set elders over the churches there and establish strong churches. Though the Bible doesn’t continue the story, church history tells us the story of a job well done. Titus led the church in Crete until 105 AD, when he died at age 94. Nearly one hundred and fifty years later, in January 250, the Roman Emperor Decius issued an edict for the suppression of Christianity. He demanded that the bishops and officers of the church make sacrifices to the Emperor as a sign that their allegiance was to him rather than to God.
Leaders from the churches of Crete who became known as the “ten surmountable martyrs” refused and died for their faith. Their stories were told for centuries to encourage others to stand firm in their faith.
There are many places in the world today where Christians face grave persecution, but most of us in America have enjoyed religious liberty and do not face the choice
between being faithful to God and saving our lives.
However the day may come even here when we are faced with such a decision. Scripture tells us that persecution should not come as a surprise to us, because of the hatred of the world for the things of God. Every committed, consistent Christian is a rebuke to those who are doing wrong, without ever saying a word. And if we do reach a point where it is no longer acceptable or even legal to be a witness for Christ, we should remain firm in our faith.
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
The Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at USC released a study on how American families are impacted by technology. Their report shows that more and more families are spending less and less time together. The number of Americans who acknowledged they are spending less time with those in their household has nearly tripled since 2006, from 11 percent to 28 percent. With the proliferation of social networking, time spent with family members has dropped from 28 hours per month just 6 years ago to 18 hours per month. Facebook, Twitter, and a whole list of social networks are capturing the time and attention of American families.
Each day we have opportunities to have an impact on others, particularly on our families. But that requires a decision to take advantage of those opportunities and spend our time on things that really matter. It is easy to fritter away an entire day without doing anything of lasting importance—easier today than at any time in the past. But as someone once observed, "A wasted life is nothing more than a bunch of wasted days put together."
Determine to focus your energy and attention on what is eternal. As you go through the day, talk about the principles and precepts of the Word of God. Encourage others to see Bible truth illustrated in the events of daily life. Taking this approach, you will find that you are a strength and help to those you influence.
"For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 3:9-11
Edward Mote was born in England in 1794. His father ran a pub, and Edward received little care as a child. After working as a cabinet maker, he was saved and eventually became a Baptist pastor. He also wrote a number of hymns.
The hymn by Edward Mote that we best remember is "The Solid Rock." Mote was working on the hymn when he learned about the dying wife of a church member. Mote went to visit the woman and shared his words of comfort: "On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand." These words brought the woman hope, and Mote finished his hymn which we still sing today.
You have been given a solid and unshakeable foundation as a child of God. The faithfulness of every one of His promises has been proven again and again by centuries of believers. The ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes said, "If you give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, I can move the world." You have that place to stand today—on the promises of God.
Knowing the certainty of God’s truth and the surety of His promises gives us a responsibility—to build something of strong and lasting value on that foundation. Our lives are not our own; they are meant for His purpose. The Christian life is not an unstable or uncertain life; rather it is a life of meaning built upon a firm and solid Rock.
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Over recent decades, nationally-known preachers and authors have specifically and publically predicted the date for the Lord’s return. In almost every case, they state that their declarations are the result of careful study of Scripture, and that there is no chance they may be mistaken. When one preacher’s date proved to be incorrect, he recalculated and declared a second date later in the year. The mistaken declarations provided great humor for the world and great embarrassment to those who believed them.
As children of God we should all be looking forward to the day when the Lord will return. We know that His coming could be at any moment, but the Scripture is also clear that no one is able to set a date or a time for “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing” (Titus 2:13).
It is possible for us to become so focused on future prophetic events that we miss the tasks that God has assigned for us today. In fact, the disciples found themselves in just that position. Just before the Lord returned to Heaven, their focus was on figuring out God’s timetable. Jesus told them that instead of worrying about “the times or the seasons” they should instead be witnesses for Him. There is no more important mission that we have been given than bringing lost men and women to salvation in His name. When we win the lost, we are focused on what matters most.
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
The Bible tells us that there are things we do not have simply because we do not ask God for them. That is a tragedy, because prayer is the means which God has ordained for our needs to be met. One preacher of the past told of a dream in which he was taken by an angel to a large warehouse in Heaven. Shelves were piled high with packages. He asked the angel what he was seeing, and the angel replied, “These are things God had for you for which you never asked.”
But a second tragedy is when we pray for the wrong things or with the wrong motives. It is not wrong for us to ask for what we want or what we need, but we must be careful not to put ourselves in the place of God, asking Him to fulfill our will. That is not the purpose of prayer, and there is no basis for expecting answers to selfish prayers. Our desires will lead us astray unless we submit them to God’s will.
As in everything, Jesus is our pattern for proper motivation in prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed for the cup to pass, but then said, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). God’s wisdom so far exceeds ours that we must trust Him to give us what is best. The many wonderful promises of Scripture concerning answered prayer are true, but they are conditioned on proper attitudes and asking in our praying.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
If you have ever seen a video of lions hunting their prey in the wild, you have seen that while they may chase a herd of animals, they focus their attention on stragglers and strays—those who have gotten separated from the herd. These are the ones who are taken in the hunt. Any individual animal in the group is no match for a lion, but it finds that there is safety in numbers.
God never intended for His children to be isolated and alone. When Jesus sent the disciples out to begin preaching on their own, He sent them in pairs. When Elijah was depressed and discouraged, God gave him Elisha to join him in the ministry. When God commanded the early church to send out missionaries, they sent Paul and Barnabas together. There is enormous safety and encouragement in knowing that we are not alone.
We live in a culture that glorifies individualism. One of the most popular songs of the last century is called “I Did it My Way.” Satan is delighted when he can convince us to strike out on our own, leaving behind our spiritual family in the church. He knows that an isolated Christian is an easy target. There is truly safety in numbers. The giant redwood trees of California soar hundreds of feet into the air, but their roots are strong. The strength of a redwood’s roots is found in other redwoods. Instead of going deep underground, they spread sideways and entwine with the roots of other redwood trees so that they hold each other up. That is God’s pattern for us.
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.
1 Timothy 2:1-3
In 1776, a group of fifty-six men met in Philadelphia to set the thirteen colonies on the path to independence. Though they were not all Christians, many of them were, and they set a pattern for our nation that from the beginning of our history declared our reliance upon God Almighty. The Declaration concludes with these words:
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
Though many today would deny the godly heritage of America, the testament to our historical reliance on God is written into our founding documents and carved in stone on the walls of our national buildings and monuments. Those of us who are believers have a responsibility to both God and our country to pray for our leaders regardless of who they may be. The Roman emperors during Paul’s day were certainly no friend to Christians, but that did not change the command to faithfully pray for them. Just as our Founding Fathers once did, today we must again turn to God and seek His grace and favor for our land.
"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. Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 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 1:5-6, 8
In 1992, we took some time apart as a family to establish a written "Chappell Family Purpose Statement." It was our desire to have a focus that would guide our activities and interactions, so we sat down and talked about how we wanted to live our lives as a Christian family. Here is what we wrote and each of us signed: "The Purpose of Our Family is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ through obedience to His Word, and by edifying and exhorting one another."
Have each of us lived up to that goal every single day since then? No. We are imperfect people. But by having an established goal, we have done more to reach it than we would have had we just drifted through the days without a purpose. As the old saying goes, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time."
When Daniel was just a young man, he was ripped away from his home and family and taken to the center of the heathen world. There he was enrolled in a training program designed to break down his allegiance to his own country and his own God to make him a useful servant of the Babylonian Empire. Yet that well-refined program did not work on this young man because of the purpose he established and kept throughout his life.
"Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil."
A hunter raised his rifle and took careful aim at a large bear. When he was about to pull the trigger, the bear spoke in a soft, soothing voice, "Isn’t it better to talk than to shoot? What do you want? Let’s negotiate the matter." Lowering his rifle, the hunter replied, "I want a fur coat."
"Good," said the bear, "that is a negotiable request. I only want a full stomach, so let us negotiate a compromise." They sat down to negotiate, and after a time the bear walked away alone. The negotiations had been successful. The bear had a full stomach, and the hunter had his fur coat!
If you give the devil even one inch, he will take a mile or more. The pages of Scripture and of history are filled with the sad stories of people who thought they could let down their guard just a little without suffering any negative consequences. Each of them was wrong. Lot, Noah, David, and Peter are just a few of the examples of those who made small first steps toward wrong, thinking they were still in control, only to find themselves mired in sin.
You may remember the saying many of us learned 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." There is no negotiating with Satan. Anything that you give up he will take, but because he is a liar, he will never keep a promise that he makes to you. Stand your ground firmly, and never retreat on a single principle or conviction.
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."
Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation's deserts. All that vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for.
Our affections—the things that we love—determine the things we focus on. The world is filled with trouble and heartbreak, yet the same world is filled with blessings and benefits from God. Which one we choose to focus on to a large measure determines whether we will be content and happy or not. Believers who are joyful Christians are not somehow spared from the hardships of life. But they are focused on the things of God.
This world is just temporary. The trials that we endure and the hardships we experience do not force us into bitterness or depression. Paul certainly endured much more than his share in the way of trouble, yet he viewed it as being for his own benefit. Paul wrote that his afflictions created "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). He could say that because his heart was settled in Heaven.
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."
1 Peter 5:5-7
James Cash Penney had a godly heritage as a child, and he carried those convictions into adulthood. A hard worker, Penney was scrupulously honest and maintained a godly lifestyle as he became successful in business. But when the Great Depression struck, he was overextended, and it appeared he would lose everything he had worked for. His health broke, and he was hospitalized. In such severe pain that he thought he was about to die, he wrote farewell letters to his family.
Penney later wrote, "I was broken nervously and physically, filled with despair, unable to see even a ray of hope. I had nothing to live for. I felt I hadn’t a friend left in the world, that even my family turned against me." But the next morning, he heard singing from the hospital chapel. "Be not dismayed, whate’er betide, God will take care of you." Those words rekindled his faith and he said, "I can’t explain it. I can only call it a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into warm, brilliant sunlight."
No matter what circumstance you are in today, God is there. He has never abandoned or forsaken a single one of His children, and He is not going to begin now. You can take your burden to the Lord and leave it with Him because of His compassion and care for you. Your needs do not take Him by surprise—He is simply waiting for you to come to Him for help.
"And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son."
1 Kings 17:11-13
I once heard a story of a missionary in Africa who received a knock on the door of his hut one afternoon. Answering, the missionary found a native boy holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, "Missionary, you taught us what tithing is, so here. I've brought you my tithe." As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he questioned the boy. "If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish?" At this, the boy beamed and said, "Oh, they're still back in the river. I'm going back to catch them now." This boy evidenced the joy of faith in his giving.
God does not need our money. He has all the resources of Heaven and Earth at His disposal. But He does command us to give tithes and offerings. Though this teaching is clear throughout Scripture, it sometimes meets with resistance from God's people. Yet those with a heart for God have no issue with giving back to Him part of what He has given to them. When we give to God first rather than handing Him the leftovers, we show that our heart is fixed on Him rather than on the material blessings we receive.
"Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
It’s no secret that families are in trouble today. The divorce rate continues to rise, with devastating consequences. A Michigan State University study of adolescent murderers found that 75 percent came from broken homes. The increasing drug use and immorality among young people is made much worse by the plague of divorce as children struggle without the guidance two godly parents are meant to provide. This is yet another illustration of the truth that God’s commands are given to us for our own good.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, man has been tempted to follow his own path. Isaiah said, "we have turned every one to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). Yet the God who knows everything has told us what will work and what won’t. If you want your family to be successful and blessed for generations to come, the first step is for you personally to be a Christian who fears and obeys God. This produces benefits that reach far into the future.
The great missionary Hudson Taylor is well known as a man of faith who was greatly used by God. But he was actually the fourth generation in his family to follow God. His great grandfather James Taylor was saved under the preaching of John Wesley when he heard a sermon called "As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord." If you follow Christ faithfully, you are setting an example and securing a blessing that can reach beyond your own children for generations.
"For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof."
The renowned teacher Harry Ironside was in a prayer meeting for a seminary at which he often lectured. The school was in critical need of $10,000 to keep the work going, and a group of men were praying together for this need. Ironside prayed, "Lord, you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Please sell come of those cattle to help us meet this need." Shortly after the prayer meeting, a check for $10,000 arrived at the school, sent days earlier by a friend who had no idea of the urgent need or of Ironside’s prayer. The man simply said the money came from the sale of some of his cattle!
The popular teaching in our day of the "prosperity Gospel" is completely false. It is not God’s will and plan for every Christian to be rich. However, it is also true that when we pray, we are making our request to Someone who has unlimited resources. None of our needs pose any challenge to His ability to meet them. You will never offer a prayer that will require God to dig into His reserves to answer. He has more than enough for every need.
Andrew Murray wrote: "Beware in your prayer, above everything, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do." The things that are impossible for us are fully possible for Him. Yet too often we pray small prayers, not expecting God to do great and mighty things. His loving nature and almighty power have not changed. God is still in the business of hearing and answering big prayers.
"And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word."
There are many things that are important in life, but only a few that are essential. One of the most important but often neglected essentials is time spent in prayer. The great evangelist R.A. Torrey said, "We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity but accomplish little. We have many services but few conversions. We have much machinery but few results."
Continued prayer should characterize the life of every believer. Yet often we have so much going on that we "don't have time" to pray. That is a tragedy because it cuts us off from a vital time of fellowship and communion with God and robs us of the resources that prayer is meant to provide. It is easy to set aside our time of prayer in the hurry and pressure of life, but it is a grave mistake to do so.
The disciples in the early church understood the priority of prayer. Rather than surrender their prayer time to the good and important function of caring for the needs of widows, they called the church to select the first deacons to meet that need. Nothing can substitute for the benefit of the time you spend before the throne of God in prayer.
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
2 Peter 1:2-4
The great missionary Hudson Taylor personally baptized more than 35,000 converts during decades of service in China. He brought hundreds of missionaries to what had previously been a closed mission field and established hundreds of churches. Over those many years, God worked miraculously to supply his needs, but there were many times when the money did not arrive until the very last moment.
Though those times could have shaken Taylor’s faith, he retained his confidence in God. At one point he wrote to a friend, “We have left eighty-seven cents and all the promises of God.” If we have the promises of God—and we do—then there is nothing to fear. Even if we cannot see how the answer could possibly come, He is not limited by our resources or lack of them. The most overwhelming problem you will ever face does not tax His abilities or power in any way.
We see this truth beautifully expressed in the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer going out alone to attack a garrison of Philistine soldiers. Jonathan was not the least bit worried about being outnumbered. He said, "there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6). When God is on your side, nothing else matters. Simply claim His promises in faith, knowing that not one has ever failed, and you will not be overtaken with fear.
"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. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
Former Congressman J.C. Watts from Oklahoma once said, "Compassion can’t be measured in dollars and cents. It does come with a price tag, but the price tag isn’t the amount of money spent. The price tag is love." Love is anything but free. The nature of godly love is that it is willing to make sacrifices for the good of the other rather than being focused on protecting itself or getting its own way.
Of course the ultimate example of this love is found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He willingly came "to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). This is a different kind of love from the kind our world knows today. Most of what is called love would more properly be called attraction, and in many cases simply lust. This kind of self-focused behavior is far short of what God has in mind.
It is no surprise that the world falls short when it comes to love, but that should never be true for us. Each of our relationships—with family members, friends, fellow church members and the lost—should be characterized by this divine love that "seeketh not her own" (1 Corinthians 13:5). As we evaluate our love for others, we should not measure our feelings or our words, but our actions. Are we loving as Christ did, willing to give up that which we have every right to claim in order that someone else may benefit? Truly loving another is never an inexpensive proposition.
"The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward."
In 1848 James Marshall’s discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in northern California sparked one of the greatest migrations in human history. News travelled slowly at first, but by 1849 tens of thousands of people were on their way to California. During the gold rush, some 300,000 people flocked to the area hoping for riches. The journey itself posed significant dangers. A trip across America required facing hostile Indians, wild animals, mountain snows, and desert heat. Sailing around the tip of South America took months and was quite dangerous as well. Yet people willingly took on the challenges and threats in hope of what might lie in store for them.
There are many things that people desire and are willing to sacrifice to attain. However there is no treasure that can be compared to that found in the pages of the Bible. God’s eternal truth is readily available to us, and yet we allow other interests and pursuits to fill our time. The wisdom and strength and power that we need for successful and blessed living is there, like the gold nuggets that were found resting on the surface in the creeks of California. But so often, we allow those truths to remain undiscovered and unsought while we settle for the trinkets of the world. Many, and in fact most, of the "forty-niners" went home empty-handed, never having found treasure. Yet those who seek the unsearchable riches of Scripture are never disappointed.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
When D.L. Moody was just starting in the ministry he heard a preacher say, "The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully surrendered to Him." Moody that night said, "By God’s grace I’ll be that man!" It is said that Moody shook two continents for God and over a million souls came to Christ under his preaching and ministry. Moody had little formal education, and he was not a polished speaker. But God greatly used his life.
At a memorial service some years after Moody’s death, Evangelist R.A. Torrey who had been one of his closest friends said, "The first thing that accounts for God’s using D.L. Moody so mightily was that he was a fully surrendered man. Every ounce of that two-hundred-and-eighty-pound body of his belonged to God; everything he was and everything he had, belonged wholly to God."
When we surrender our purpose and will to God and allow Him to use us as He sees fit, amazing things happen. The world is shaken not by the wise, the mighty, the intelligent, or the skilled, but by those who have yielded to God. Paul said it was "reasonable" for us to surrender our lives, but many today seem to think that it is too much to ask. Instead of surrendering, they cling tightly to their own desires and interests. How much better it is both for us and for a world in need if we surrender and let God choose our path!
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
I remember attending the funeral of a greatly used pastor who had died suddenly at a young age. His death was so unexpected, and it was obvious that his family and the church family had been staggered by the news. Yet despite the sorrow and sadness that were very real, there was also a spirit of hope at this funeral. The people sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." Several of the speakers, including the pastor’s family, talked about the importance of trusting God. As I spoke to the pastor’s wife, she told me how she was trusting God in the storm.
Being a child of God is no guarantee that we will not endure suffering and times of grief. But as children of God, we have a resource of comfort and strength that the world does not know. We have a God who gives us comfort in the midst of our grief. Because Jesus endured suffering, He knows well the pain that we feel. In fact, the Bible calls Him "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3).
It should always be true that our Christian friends and church family will gather around us during difficult times. Yet even if that does not happen and there are dark days when we feel like we are all alone, we are never abandoned or forsaken. The God who gives comfort and peace is always there for His children to help them through the darkest days they face.
"And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him."
The city of Jericho was the first city the Israelites had to face when they entered the Promised Land. Because the city was built on the site of an oasis and had high interlocking walls, it was considered impossible to conquer. The military technology of the day had no weapons capable of mounting an effective attack against Jericho. To the children of Israel, Jericho represented an insurmountable obstacle.
But to the God of the children of Israel the walls of Jericho did not present any challenge. Notice, however, that He did not just immediately level the enemy city. First the Israelites had to obey His command to march around the city day after day for a week. Then on the last day they circled the city seven times. Only after they had followed His instructions did God miraculously deliver the city into their hands.
Often when we face some difficult challenge, we are tempted to sit back and ask God to take care of it for us. While He is certainly able and sometimes does work in that way, often He expects us to take steps of faith even before He has worked. When we obey, He acts.