Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."
I heard about a farmer who had received abundant rain on his soybean and corn crops. A friend congratulated him on the green state of his fields after the rain and was surprised when the farmer replied, "My crops are especially vulnerable right now. Even a short drought could have a devastating effect." "Why?" the friend asked. The farmer explained that while we see the frequent rains as a benefit, during that time the plants are not required to push roots deeper in search of water. The roots remain near the surface. A drought would find the plants unprepared and quickly kill them.
While we should rejoice in the times where we see an extra measure of the goodness and blessings of God, it is usually in times of struggle and testing of our faith that we develop strength as believers. We need to be putting down our roots, reaching into the Word and spending time with God in prayer so that we have the strength to stand the test.
It is popular today to teach that God's children receive only good things and will live in abundance, but that is not what the Bible says. We find in actuality that we are in a battle–war that will last as long as we live. Prepare to fight and win the battle today by digging deep roots in faith.
"And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful."
One of the most destructive weeds that crop farmers must deal with is the Canadian thistle. It has an extensive root system that makes it extremely difficult to eradicate once it is established. The root structure can reach a depth of fifteen feet, and the roots can also spread out the same distance horizontally. These prolific roots crowd out the plants. Just twenty thistles in one square mile of field can reduce barley yield by a third or alfalfa yield by one half! Canadian thistle is also very damaging to feed crops, as livestock will not graze near it.
In the parable of the sower and the seeds, Jesus described people who are not fruitful because the Word of God that is planted in their heart is choked out by thorns. He gave us specific thorns we must guard against such as the cares of the world; when we succumb to this particular thorn, anxiety and fear can fill our hearts and minds. We live in an uncertain world, and unless we maintain our faith, it will be easy for anxious care to choke out the Word.
Then Jesus explained how money and the desire for things can ruin the fruitful ground of our hearts. While we should be grateful for the good things with which God blesses us, it is vitally important that we not allow our lives to be consumed by the pursuit of possessions. We must remember the caution of Jesus that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). Removing these thorns prepares us to be fruitful and productive in our Christian walk.
"Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
There are many elements of our Christian testimony that are important. It is important that we speak right, look right, and act right. But the most important thing is that we love right. Jesus said this was to be the distinguishing mark of His followers that would convince the world that their belief in Him was genuine. We must not compromise what is true in the name of love, but we must always be characterized by a sincere compassion and concern for others.
Jesus certainly was not accepting of sin, but He was known as a friend of sinners. In fact He was frequently criticized for being willing to talk to those that the Pharisees deemed to be off limits. Jesus had the balance of grace and truth that allowed Him to touch the broken with kindness and love and lead them to salvation.
Such love is not the product of our own efforts or determination, but rather a product of the indwelling Holy Spirit working in our lives. The early American preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards said, â€œAll the fruits of the Spirit which we are to lay weight upon as evidential of grace, are summed up in charity, or Christian love; because this is the sum of all grace.â€ As we walk in the Spirit, we will exhibit the same love toward others that Jesus did, and they will know that we are truly His disciples.
"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work."
As D. L. Moody walked down a Chicago street one day, he saw a man leaning against a lamppost. The evangelist gently put his hand on the man's shoulder and asked him if he were a Christian. The fellow raised his fists and angrily exclaimed, "Mind your own business!" "I'm sorry if I've offended you," said Moody, "but to be very frank, that is my business!"
Ephesians 2:10 says we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” There are works that God has planned for you to accomplish today—witnessing, giving, encouraging, loving—and it is vitally important that you are busy doing God’s work while there is still time.
Some weeks after he spoke to the man on the street, Mr. Moody was in bed when he heard a tremendous pounding at his front door. He jumped out of bed and rushed to the door. He thought the house was on fire. He opened the door, and there stood that same man. He said, “Mr. Moody, I have not had a good night’s sleep since that night you spoke to me under the lamppost, and I have come around at this unearthly hour of the night for you to tell me what I have to do to be saved.” If you are faithful to share the Gospel with those you meet, God will use you to bring in the harvest.
"Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work."
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Dr. Charles Fuller, the well-known radio preacher, knew what it was like to go through difficult days. He suffered great financial reverses during the Great Depression, and his only child was at the point of death twice. Through that time Charles Fuller and his wife struggled with their faith, not understanding why so many things were going wrong. But they found that God was always faithful.
One day on his radio program, Dr. Fuller said, “I pass on to you a little of the comfort wherewith Mrs. Fuller and I have been comforted. We have come to know God in a new way because of the trials we have been going through these past three years. We have known what it is to have much sickness, financial losses, those turn against us and seek to hurt us who we thought were true friends, our only child brought down to death’s door on two occasions. I want to tell you that after going through all this and much more, Mrs. Fuller and I know that God is able—that His promises are true. We never could have known the sweetness of trusting God had we not come to the place where we ourselves could do nothing.”
God brings trials and testing into our lives for a variety of reasons. One of His purposes is so that we can experience His comfort in a powerful and meaningful way. Rather than allowing our difficulties to draw us away from Him, they should encourage us to run to Him, just as a child rushes to a parent for love and reassurance. God is with you today no matter what difficulties you may experience.
"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."
Following a massive wildfire that ravaged thousands of acres of land in Utah, a volunteer returned to the site of an eagle’s nest that had been burned in the fire. He was expecting to retrieve the band he had earlier placed on a baby golden eagle, fearing that it had been killed in the fire. To his amazement, the two-month-old baby, though badly burned, was still alive although its beak and talons and feathers were all damaged by the blaze. The baby eagle was taken to a wildlife rescue center where it was named Phoenix. The staff believes that after a year of therapy and the natural regrowth of feathers through molting, it will be able to be released into the wild.
When we experience difficult or even devastating events, we may be tempted to wonder if things will ever be right—if we will ever be happy again. But we serve a God who transforms the past, replacing mourning with joy and sadness with praise. There are no circumstances which dictate that we are doomed to a life of regret and emptiness. Instead God promises that as we come to Him, He will replace pain with hope.
In His first sermon preached in Nazareth, Jesus said that He was the fulfillment of the Messianic promise in Isaiah 61. Jesus Himself suffered greatly, enduring the pain of the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). Because of His death and resurrection, we can find freedom from the pain of the past and hope for a beautiful and glorious future.
"And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain they prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."
1 Kings 19:13-14
The oldest of twelve children, Elizabeth Barrett received a classical education, learning Greek and Latin, and studying writers and poets. A well-received poet in her own right, she is best-remembered for her courtship by and love for another poet, Robert Browning. Barrett’s father did not want any of his children to marry, threatening to disinherit any who did. So Browning and Barrett, who had met only once, carried on their courtship via letters and poems.
Barrett had suffered for a number of years from a lung disease and was generally in poor health. Yet knowing someone loved her strengthened her, and she was well enough to get married the year after their first meeting and move to Italy where she lived for the rest of her life.
There is enormous strength and comfort in the knowledge that we are not alone—that there is someone who loves and cares for us. Isolation, on the other hand, can easily
lead to discouragement and even despair.
When Elijah was running from Jezebel, he left his servant behind and went on alone. This contributed to his feelings of defeat, and he complained to God that he was the only one left who was doing right. God told him, "I have left me seven thousand in Israel" (1 Kings 19:18).
If you are feeling discouraged and lonely in your work for God, remember God’s words to Elijah. Not only is God Himself with you, but you are part of an army of dedicated Christians laboring for the Lord.
"But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send for labourers into his harvest."
George Truett was a tremendously effective pastor for decades in Texas. His heart was broken when he accidentally killed his best friend while they were on a hunting trip. His daughter said that she never heard him laugh after that day. Truett had a radio program, and each day when it came to a close he would say, “Be good to everybody, because everybody is having a tough time.” Because he knew personally what a heavy burden people could be carrying, he encouraged compassion toward them.
Sometimes we cross paths with people who seem to be brusque and not very easy to like. Yet there is usually a reason for their behavior, and often it is because they are hiding a heavy heart. If we take the time to understand what has happened, we may find that while they have a tough outer exterior, inwardly they are desperately wishing for someone to care about them.
When Jesus looked on people, He had compassion on them and wanted to meet their needs. There is no shortage of people we can help if we simply will open our eyes toward them in compassion. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus talked about the priest and the Levite who passed by the injured man without stopping to help. It is a tragedy when we allow the busyness of life to prevent us from taking time to reach out in compassion to those in need. Instead we should stop and do everything we can to help them.
"And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read."
It is right and should be normal for every child of God to be a regular church attender. The Bible describes going to the synagogue as Jesus’ “custom”—it was His habitual practice. We can always come up with excuses for not going to church. Though there are times when sickness or some emergency may require us to be absent from the assembling of God’s people, it should be our normal, routine, habitual practice to go to church.
The great Christian businessman of the past, J. C. Penny, said, “If a man's business requires so much of his time that he cannot attend the services of his church, then that man has more business than God intended him to have.” Church is important. A church that provides sound Bible preaching and teaching is a vital resource for your family and for your own walk with God.
The Bible frequently uses the metaphor of sheep to describe believers. Sheep are herd animals that can usually be found close together. When they do stray from the flock, they often get disoriented and lost and find it hard to make their way back. It is much the same with people. We need to guard our church attendance and beware the many strategies the enemy uses to distract us from regular worship and fellowship with God’s people. No job, no promotion, no salary increase is worth losing the vibrant and vital connection with other believers that comes only from regular church attendance.
"Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."
1 Thessalonians 1:1-4
When I first came to pastor the Lancaster Baptist Church, I wanted our church to get started right. The first book of the Bible from which I preached was 1 Thessalonians. I challenged our people to have a faith that worked. The church wasn’t very big back then—just a handful of families. But the starting point for every church is the same as the starting point for every individual Christian—an active, working faith.
If a person decides to run a marathon, he doesn’t just wake up one morning and go run twenty-six miles. Instead he begins training, running shorter distances at first and then extending until he is ready to go the distance. The Christian life works the same way. God knows that, when we start out, we are not ready for the big tests and challenges. So He allows circumstances that cause our faith to grow. As we see His faithfulness to us through each situation, we prepare ourselves for greater service to Him.
The challenge for all of us is to have a working faith—to attempt to do more for God than we think we can do in our own strength. Strive to develop your faith through reading, studying, and hearing the Word. And prepare for God to do great things in and through your life.
"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set."
Of all the things that we have lost in our country, one of the most serious is the appreciation for the overtly Christian nature of our heritage. For example, Yale was founded as an institution dedicated to training preachers for the colonies as a conservative alternative to Harvard, which had begun as a sound institution but had become more liberal. Timothy Dwight, the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, graduated from Yale at just seventeen years of age and entered the ministry.
After a number of years as a pastor, Dwight returned as the president of Yale from 1795–1817. In an address to the graduating class of 1814, Dwight said, “Christ is the only, the true, the living way of access to God. Give up yourselves therefore to him, with a cordial confidence, and the great work of life is done.” Today Yale would laugh at someone making such a claim as it goes against their belief in diversity.
How does such a massive change take place? It begins with small compromises, usually made to be more acceptable to those around us. Of course this wicked transformation is not limited to institutions; individuals must guard against it as well. Think of Lot choosing to live in well-watered lands for his cattle and placing his tent so that it faced toward Sodom. On the day Lot first made that choice, he would have been horrified by his future actions. But little by little he moved closer and closer to Sodom until he was firmly entrenched in that wicked place and lost his family as a result.
The protection we have against ending up in the wrong place is to remain firmly planted in the right one. We do not need new theology or new beliefs. The Word of God never changes, and what was true yesterday is still true today.
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
President Ronald Reagan was the oldest man elected to the highest office in the land. He would sometimes take naps during the day, for which he was criticized. Once when a reporter asked about his practice Reagan replied, “They say hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take chances?” Of course in reality he did work hard, and so should we.
The Fourth Commandment is about more than the day of rest. It is also about our work. God created man for a purpose. Even before the Fall when sin entered the world, Adam was given tasks and responsibilities. Work is harder since the curse, but it existed before then. Beyond that, work has a purpose. God told Adam,"cursed is the ground for thy sake" (Genesis 3:17). We should not fear or resent work because it helps build character so that we can resist temptation.
Paul wrote that we are to view our work not just as employees but "as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart" (Ephesians 6:6). When that is our attitude toward our work, we will not find it difficult to be diligent about our tasks. Not every assignment will be pleasant or enjoyable, but each assignment is still important. Give it your whole heart, and you will find that God will reward you even if no one else notices.
"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."
Every Christian has been given the assignment to take the Gospel to the lost. When we have a real burden and passion for that mission, it is certain that we will see results. The great evangelist D.L. Moody was led to Christ by his Sunday school teacher when he was a teenager. The teacher was burdened for his lost pupil and went to visit him where he worked in a shoe store.
Moody later told the story of his conversion this way: “When I was in Boston I used to attend a Sunday school class, and one day I recollect my teacher came around behind the counter of the shop I was at work in, and put his hand upon my shoulder, and talked to me about Christ and my soul. I had not felt that I had a soul till then. I said to myself, ‘This is a very strange thing. Here is a man who never saw me till lately, and he is weeping over my sins, and I never shed a tear about them.’ But I understand it now, and know what it is to have a passion for men's souls and weep over their sins. I don't remember what he said, but I can still feel the power of that man's hand on my shoulder tonight.”
The concern and tears of a godly teacher resulted in the conversion of a man who saw a million souls saved in his evangelistic campaigns. What a wonderful result! We never know when we witness to someone how God can use that life to build His Kingdom. It is our responsibility to take the precious seed with a burdened and compassionate heart, then trust in God’s promise that we will see an abundant harvest.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
1 John 2:15-17
Looking at the religious landscape of our country we see that many denominations that once preached and taught truth have traded in their old beliefs in order to be better accepted by society. If what the Bible says rubs people the wrong way, they stop proclaiming what the Bible says and replace it with new interpretations—or simply ignore the Scriptures all together and teach the doctrines of men. Such acceptance comes at a very high cost.
A.W. Tozer said, “Religion today is not transforming the people—it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society—it is descending to society’s own level and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smiling accepting its surrender.”
Every church and every Christian must make a choice. Will we love the approval and the applause of the world, or will we love God and His Word? If we make the right choice, we can expect to be criticized and condemned. This should not come as any surprise to us. Jesus said, "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). When we take a clear stand for what is right, the world will not respond well. But such a stand is never taken alone. Like the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, we will find God walking in our midst.
"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."
2 Thessalonians 2:13-15
In 2006, the United States government received a payment of $83,250,000 from the British government. It was the final installment to pay off the loan for the military equipment and supplies furnished by America to our allies through the Lend Lease program to help them in the war against the Germans. England’s Treasury Secretary expressed his appreciation for the help so many years before and said, “It was vital support which helped Britain defeat Nazi Germany and secure peace and prosperity in the post-war period. We honor our commitments to them now as they honored their commitments to us all those years ago.”
The Apostle Paul said he was “bound to give thanks”—that he owed an obligation to be grateful—and this is true of us as well. God has done so many wonderful things for us, and none of them are deserved. Gratitude guards our hearts against pride and selfishness, for if we remember that the good things we enjoy are blessings from God rather than something we are owed, we will remain humble before Him.
It is also important for us to express our gratitude to those who have made investments in our lives. There is an old saying that applies here: “If you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, it’s pretty safe to assume he didn’t get there by himself.” Recognizing that others have helped us get to where we are, it is only right to thank them.
"And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
There was a political commentator some years ago who said, “The only thing you find in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead opossums.” While there are some who have elevated tolerance and compromise to the highest level, in the end these false paths lead to disaster. That was certainly true of the church at Laodicea. When God sent them a message through John in the book of Revelation, it was a stern rebuke of their accommodating ways.
Church history tells us that the Laodicean church was an accommodating church, more interested in fitting in with their culture than standing for the truth. We see that trend being repeated today as many churches take up causes that are either not in Scripture or are directly in opposition to Scripture. In far too many cases these “middle of the road” religious bodies cloak their betrayal of truth in flowery language that makes them sound very kind. But in truth it is no kindness to coddle sin. Love rebukes and exhorts a change in behavior.
Taking a firm and principled stand is not a recipe for popularity. If we refuse to compromise, we may be called haters and unloving. Yet in remaining steadfast for the truth, we win the most important approval of all—that of our Father in Heaven. It is a shocking statement that God would prefer our being cold than our being lukewarm, and it should remind us of the importance of maintaining our stand for the truth.
"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. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."
Some years ago I received a letter from Dr. Curtis Hutson as he was nearing the end of his life. He had served God faithfully and effectively, and knew he would soon be going to Heaven. He wrote: â€œI challenge you to take your place in the long line of independent Baptists who have stood for separation (I speak here of ecclesiastical separation) and soulwinning, and hold that banner high until Jesus comes or God calls you home.â€
It is an honor for a soldier to be tasked with holding a challenging position. Union General Joshua Chamberlain became one of the most noted heroes of the Civil War for leading his men to hold the Union line at Little Round Top during the decisive battle of Gettysburg. There will always be opportunities for us to make concessions to the enemy and give in to temptation. But when faced with those, we must stand firm. Those who have gone before us have set an example that should encourage us to hold our ground.
I recognize that one day I too will reach the end of my ministry when either the Lord returns or my life ends. When that day comes, I want to be known as someone who stood firmly for the truth. May all of us choose today to take our place in the line of those who have stood. Our Lord expects and deserves nothing less than our full devotion.
"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
God places great value on work. Even before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam was given assignments and responsibilities. It is not a curse to have to work, but a blessing to be able to work. Rather than groaning and complaining when it is time to work, we should approach our jobs with a joyful heart and a determination to bring credit and honor to the Lord by the way we do our work. Jesus approached life with the attitude that work was a necessity, and we should as well.
One preacher said, “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the clergy who prays—not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
Work is a holy calling, no matter what field it is in, and as such it is worthy of our very best. A pastor friend of mine observed, “I work for God and get paid by the church. Many of our members work for God and get paid by General Motors.” We should never lose sight of the fact that our ultimate accountability is not to a time clock or a supervisor, but to God. When we work as if He is watching, which of course He always is, we will not find it difficult to be diligent.
"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."
1 John 4:4-6
The Bible often speaks of the Christian life as a war—a conflict between opposing forces. Yet though there is surely a battle going on, we must never forget that this is a battle which has already been fought and won. The Son of God already triumphed over sin and death, and His Holy Spirit who is in us is greater than any power or opponent that we may face. The victory is not won through our great strength. Instead it is won through reliance on God’s strength at work in our lives.
In the great hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is our God,” Martin Luther wrote: “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.” Yes, we must fight. But we are not fighting alone, nor are we fighting a battle which cannot be won. While we should never make the mistake of underestimating Satan’s cunning and guile, we do not need to cower before him.
Rather we are told, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The losses we experience in the battles of life come from our failure to, “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). To be an overcomer, we must utilize the strength and power that are made available to us as children of God. Then victory is assured.
"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."
In 1954 Roger Bannister became the first person in history to run a mile in under four minutes, breaking a barrier that had withstood challenges for years. Other runners soon began to match his feat, and an Australian runner named John Landry actually broke Bannister’s new world record time later that summer. In August the two met at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. Though Landry led for most of the race, Bannister surged ahead on the final turn and passed him with a strong finishing kick to win the race.
Just as on the track, there is enormous value to finishing well in life. The temptation is to let up and coast as we near the end. Society promotes this concept with the view of retirement as a time to sit back and take it easy. Yet the Bible instructs us to do more. Of course there may be physical limitations as we age that will restrict what we can do, but there is no reason for a believer not to continue to grow and mature in spiritual matters throughout life.
It is a tragedy when people make the decision to cut back on their involvement with church, with witnessing, with giving, or with being a help and encouragement to others so they can “enjoy more leisure time.” This robs the church of what is meant to be a great source of wisdom and godly leadership. Those who have walked with God for many years have learned things which they can and should pass on to others. Rather than looking forward to the day when we can sit back and do nothing, we should be doing all we can to finish well.
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust."
In 1555, Nicholas Ridley was sentenced to be burned at the stake in England because of his witness for Christ. On the night before Ridley's execution, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be of assistance and comfort. Nicholas Ridley declined the offer and replied that he meant to go to bed and sleep as quietly as ever he did in his life. Because he knew the peace of God, he could rest in the strength of the everlasting arms of his Lord to meet his need.
Most of us will never face a trial of our faith that is quite that severe, yet all of us go through difficult times. During those times, we have the opportunity to fix our minds on God and receive His peace. Or we can do as Peter did when he was walking on the water. It was when he stopped looking at Jesus and began to focus on the winds and waves that Peter began to sink. One of the lovely things about that story is that even when his lack of faith got him in trouble, Peter still believed enough to cry out for helpâ€”and Jesus rescued Peter from the water.
We do not need perfect circumstances to have perfect peace. Peace is the promise of Almighty God to His children when we trust in Him. He has the power and ability to cause everything that happens to us to work for good. Peace comes from believing that truth.
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
During the administration of President Ronald Reagan, one of the main international issues facing the United States was a new arms control agreement with the then Soviet Union. As part of his negotiations with Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan refused to agree to a new treaty unless there were significant measures put in place to ensure that both sides complied with its terms. Reagan used an old Russian proverb doveryai, no proveryai—trust, but verify—to drive home his point. When the two men finally did sign the treaty, Reagan used that proverb again, and Gorbachev said, “You say that all the time!”
In our day, there are many who claim to be Christians who are teaching false doctrines and leading people astray. Just because someone uses Bible terms does not mean that their teaching can be accepted without comparing it to Scripture. We need to heed the warning of John when he wrote under the inspiration of God, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1).
Most of us would recognize the devil if he showed up dressed as the cartoon image with a pitchfork and horns and tail. But he is subtle and, as part of his deception, presents himself as a force for good rather than evil. Remember that in the Garden of Eden the serpent tempted Eve by telling her the fruit would make her like God. Is it good to be like God? Of course. But the means proposed by Satan do not lead to that end, so we must be on guard.
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God."
Weddings are a big business in our society. In a typical year there are some 2.5 million weddings held, at a cost of more than $70 billion. It is believed that the royal wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 is the most expensive wedding in history with a total price tag of more than $110 million in today’s money. But whether the wedding is large or small, cheap or expensive, there is an air of excitement and anticipation surrounding the preparation for the wedding.
As believers, we have a wedding to look forward to. The Bible uses the illustration of a bridegroom coming to claim his bride to help us understanding the relationship between Christ and the church. It is a beautiful picture of the love of God and something wonderful for us to anticipate. Paul wrote, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
Jesus paid the price for our salvation in full, and once we have trusted Him as our Saviour, we become part of the bride. There is nothing that can take away our salvation, but we are expected to prepare for the day when we see the Lord. This preparation, which is seen in our personal commitment to holiness and our witness to a lost world, is evidence that we are eagerly anticipating His return.
"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."
When we drove a Ryder truck with our belongings into Lancaster on a hot July day more than twenty-five years ago, we had two children under five and another on the way. We didn’t have a whole lot of stuff, so it didn’t take us long to get moved in. We started going soulwinning with zeal in our hearts to do God’s work. You might think that no one would oppose such a good purpose, but one of the lessons we learned very early on was that anything we do for God involves spiritual warfare.
Anything good that you try to accomplish will result in opposition. Dr. Bob Jones Sr. said, “The door to the room of success swings on the hinges of opposition.” The devil is not interested in seeing you succeed as a Christian, and he is especially unhappy if you are having a positive influence on others. Just as a soldier would not go onto the battlefield without his weapons and equipment, we should never start a day without taking time to equip ourselves for the battles that lie ahead.
There is an old story about a boxer who was losing badly during a match. In an attempt to encourage him, his manager said, “He hasn’t laid a glove on you.” The battered boxer replied, “Then watch the referee this round because somebody is beating the daylights out of me!” We have a very real enemy, and he will use any and every means possible to try to get us to quit doing what God has called us to do.
"At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion."
2 Timothy 4:16-17
In the 1840s, John Geddie left the pastorate of a church in Canada to take his wife and two small children to the South Sea Islands to begin a mission work there. After a voyage of more than 20,000 miles, they arrived in the New Hebrides Islands at Aneityum. The island chain was filled with cannibals, and more than twenty crew members of a British ship had been killed and eaten just months before the Geddies arrived on the mission field.
They faced the difficulty of learning a language that had no written form and the constant threat of being killed. Slowly at first, a few converts came, and then soon many more received the Gospel. Geddie continued his ministry faithfully, including translating the entire Bible into the native language and planting twenty-five churches. For many of those years, Geddie labored with little help and little word from home, but God was faithful to His servant. In the pulpit of the church Geddie pastored for so many years stands a plaque in his honor which says: “When he landed in 1848, there were no Christians here, and when he left in 1872 there were no heathen.”
You may find yourself needing to take a stand for God without anyone else to help you, but as you stand, you will find that God is there standing with you. You are never truly alone as a child of God. Whatever He has called you to do can be accomplished through His Spirit and His power.
Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.
2 Samuel 1:23-25
On September 11, 2001 we received a reminder of the brevity of life and the presence of sin and evil in our world. For a brief period after this tragedy many people showed a renewed interest in spiritual things. That did not last long, however. Soon, most returned to the same careless approach to life despite the reminder that should have focused their attention. That does not have to be true of us.
It is proper that we pause today to remember those who were killed on that day, and the thousands who have died during other wars. While we grieve for those who perished, this reminder of the brevity of life and the certainty of death should also cause us to examine our hearts. Are we living in such a way that we are prepared to meet God? Are we living in such a way that our death would be a cause for genuine sadness rather than fleeting regret? Are we living in such a way that we are honoring and glorifying God?
None of the people who were killed in that terrorist attack were planning on their lives ending that day. They had plans for the future and hopes not yet fulfilled. Today we should commit ourselves again to living each day with the realization that it could be our last—and so that if it is, we will not be filled with regret.
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
Near the end of his life, Paul wrote to his young protégée Timothy one final letter to encourage him to continue in the ministry and in service to God. The aged missionary knew that his life would soon end. He was being held in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, an underground dungeon where prisoners who had been condemned were held before they were executed.
Yet despite his circumstances, Paul did not complain. He was focused on what was to come—the crown that he would receive from the hand of the Lord for his love of Christ’s appearing. Most of us have never enduring anything like the physical suffering and abuse that Paul experienced for preaching. He was beaten and stoned and persecuted. But the love in his heart kept him going. “The love of Christ constraineth us” he wrote to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 5:14).
I am sure that Paul did not enjoy being chained in a damp, dark underground cell. Yet he regarded his surroundings as an opportunity to witness. Every six hours a new shift of soldiers would arrive to guard him. Clearly that witness bore fruit, because Paul told the church at Philippi about the saints, “that are of Caesar's household” (Philippians 4:22). Rather than focusing on your struggles, focus on your love for the Lord. One day we will see His face, and if we have been faithful to love and serve Him, we will hear Him say, “Well done.”
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
George Atley was killed while serving with the Central African Mission. There were no witnesses to his death, but the evidence indicates that Atley was confronted by a band of hostile tribesmen. He was carrying a fully loaded Winchester rifle and had to choose either to shoot his attackers and run the risk of negating the work of the mission in that area, or not to defend himself and be killed. When his body was later found in a stream, it was evident that he had chosen the latter. Nearby lay his rifle still fully loaded. He had made the supreme sacrifice, motivated by his burden for lost souls and his unswerving devotion to his Savior. With the apostle Paul, he wanted Christ to be magnified, "whether it be by life or by death" (Philippians 1:20).
When we are faced with difficult choices, the decisions we make reveal what matters to us the most. Those who are faithful, in matters both large and small, are those whose heart desires are fixed on the eternal. Nothing in this world, not even our lives, is more important than what waits for us in eternity. We should live with an eye on the things that matter most—those that will last.
"Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."
In the sixteenth century, there was a protestant reformer in England by the name of Hugh Latimer. He was known as a great preacher of his day and as a result he had many opportunities to speak. Once he found that he was to preach before the King Henry VIII of England. As he thought about his great responsibility to bring a message before the king he realized that the message that God laid on his heart was not the message that the king would want to hear.
As he contemplated this, he said that he heard a voice saying, “Latimer, remember you are preaching before King Henry VIII who, if he wills, can take away your life.” Then he heard another voice saying, “Latimer, remember you are preaching before the King of Kings, do not displease Him.” Latimer faced the choice: would he preach what man wanted to hear or would he preach what Christ would have him preach. Latimer did take his stand for truth and preached boldly. Eventually, he was martyred by Henry’s daughter Queen Mary.
The work that you do today is not just done to be acceptable to a boss or supervisor, it should also been done in such a way as to be faithful to our testimony and commitment to Christ. In every sphere of life, the ultimate accountability we have is to Him. He evaluates not only what we do but the motives with which we do it. And if we are faithful to Him, the final result is secure.
"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
Charles Spurgeon said, “The good man has his enemies. He would not be like his Lord if he had not. If we were without enemies we might fear that we were not the friends of God, for the friendship of the world is enmity to God.” The choice that we face is not whether we will have enemies—anyone who takes sides will have enemies from the other. The choice that we face is whether we will stand with God or with His enemies.
It is a fallacy to think that we can somehow trim our message and soften our stance enough to avoid facing opposition. The devil is not content with small victories. He keeps pushing and pushing until everything has been lost. Many churches and denominations that once were faithful to the Word and to God stand as sad evidence of this truth. Little by little they gave up their convictions and commitments in search of acceptance and approval until nothing of value was left. They may still use religious symbols and language, but they are anything but Christian.
Of course we should not be making enemies because of our temperament or disposition. It is possible to stand for the truth without wavering while being courteous and polite. But we should never allow the natural tendency to want to avoid conflict and enemies to lead us down the path of compromise and decay. It should not come as a surprise that standing for the truth leads to opposition, and we must not let that opposition deter us from our stand.
"Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences."
2 Corinthians 5:9-11
We have the certain knowledge that one day we will give an account of our lives to the Lord. That should motivate us to be faithful in obeying His commands, including the final instruction He left to, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). But in addition to obedience, there is another motive for sharing the Gospel—the knowledge that each person must stand before God either saved or lost.
Charles Spurgeon described that day this way: “If you haven’t looked at Christ on the cross, you’ll have to look at Him on the throne—with great trembling. The sacrificial death of Christ will be brought before the eyes of all who refuse to accept His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. In Bethlehem He came in mercy to forgive sin. In the future He will come on the clouds in glory to establish justice. What will we do without a Saviour? On the day of judgment there is nothing we can do if we have not trusted Christ.”
The only hope of salvation is found though faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way to Heaven. And God’s plan for people to hear the Good News and be saved is for His children to tell them. This is a wonderful privilege, but it is also a heavy responsibility. Remembering that judgment is coming, we should do all we can to reach the lost.
"Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen."
The ancient inventor and mathematician Archimedes once said, “If you give me a lever long enough and a place on which to stand, I can move the world.” The importance of a stable foundation cannot be overstated. God has given us the means through His power to firmly and securely settle us and ground our lives on the principles and truths of His Word. This is crucial to our ability to glorify Him through our lives.
God wants us to be established and settled in every area of our lives. We should be on a firm footing in our family relationships, with our church, and with Him. Paul equated the presence of stability in our lives with spiritual maturity when he wrote, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). This growth comes from reading and hearing and studying the Bible.
Here in California, because of the many fault lines that run under the surface of the ground, all the buildings have to be built to a very strict code. If the foundations are not firmly settled, the building, no matter how impressive it may be, is not going to last. Instead great care is taken to ensure that even when the earth shakes, the building will stand. As we grow in our faith, building upon a foundation which cannot be shaken, we can move the world.
"And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet."
Things were very hard for the early church in Jerusalem. The believers faced intense persecution, and many who had come to Jerusalem from other cities and countries for the Feast of Pentecost found themselves stranded far from home. Those who had the resources made sacrifices, in some cases major sacrifices, so that the daily living needs of the others could be met. One of these generous people was a man named Joses, better known to us as Barnabas.
This nickname that he was given is very revealing. The disciples called him “the son of consolation” using the same word—paraclete—that Jesus used for the Holy Spirit in John 14. They were saying that Joses was like the Holy Spirit in the way that he interacted with other Christians to bring them hope and comfort. We see this illustrated again in the way Barnabas interacted with Saul after his conversion on the road to Damascus. When the other believers were afraid to allow Saul into their company, Barnabas championed and encouraged the new Christian and helped place him on the road to an amazing life of ministry and service.
So many people simply need an encouraging word or a small gesture of kindness to keep them going. They feel isolated and alone and wonder if anyone cares about what they are going through. We can make a real difference for them. Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” The impact that we make on the lives of others, sometimes without even realizing how much what we do or say means to them, can be the difference between despair and triumph.
"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:57-58
Someone once said, “The men and women who have moved the world have been the men and women the world could not move.” There is something wonderful about a person who takes a stand for God and does not allow anything to shake or change his position. In 1521 the reformer Martin Luther was summoned to appear before Charles V at the Diet of Worms because of his opposition to the false teaching of the Catholic church. Luther was told that he must recant, but he remained committed to the truth even though he was threatened with excommunication and even death.
Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason—for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves—I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant.”
May God give us men and women today who share that passionate commitment to God’s Word. The Bible is under attack on so many fronts, and even the idea that there is such a thing as absolute truth is mocked and scorned by many. Yet despite what man may say or do, the truth abides. And as children of God, when we are committed to standing firm for what is right, we can know that our efforts will be rewarded. Nothing done for God is ever wasted—our work and our sacrifices and our stands are not unseen. The God who gives the victory will bless and reward our efforts.
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, was repeatedly jailed for refusing to take a license to preach from the Church of England. He insisted on the truth that his authority came from God and not from man. From jail, Bunyan began his famous book as a way to convey truth to his children while he was separated from them by his stand for what was right. He was falsely accused of many things, but it did not shake his resolve.
Bunyan said, “Therefore, I bind these lies and slanderous accusations to my person as an ornament; it belongs to my Christian profession to be vilified, slandered, reproached and reviled, and since all this is nothing but that, as God and my conscience testify, I rejoice in being reproached for Christ's sake.”
It is normal for us to want to be liked and accepted, but our commitment to Christ should supersede all other desires. If and when we are persecuted or criticized for doing right, we should count it an honor, rather than assuming it is a sign that we should change our position or our stand. In fact, we should celebrate the opposition we receive for doing right.
Suffering places us in the long line of heroes of the faith who have endured abuse, ridicule, and persecution for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. John Bunyan’s jailers left a license to preach by the door of his cell, telling him he had only to take it to be free. Bunyan refused and left the license there until the rats ate it. May we be that faithful.
"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."
Tertullian, one of the leaders of the early church in Africa, wrote, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” From New Testament days until now that has been true. According to the World Evangelical Encyclopedia, since the death of Jesus Christ 43 million Christians have become martyrs. More than half of those deaths occurred in the last century. More than two hundred million believers—over half of them children—face persecution on a daily basis. Each day more than three hundred people are martyred for their faith.
Because of the religious liberty that believers in America enjoy, it is important that we stop to remember those who are literally risking their lives to publicly take a stand as Christians. We should pray for and support these courageous men and women and young people, and we should also resolve to stand firm for our faith.
Even in places where the law guarantees religious freedom, there is a growing effort to silence Christians from speaking out on social issues from a biblical viewpoint. It is regarded as bigoted, hateful, and mean-spirited to say what God says in an uncompromising manner. And the day may come when we, too, are called on to make the choice whether to be silent or risk our lives for the truth.
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
Alexander MacLaren wrote, “The apostolic church thought more about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than about death and Heaven. The early Christians were looking, not for a cleft in the ground called a grave but for a cleavage in the sky called Glory.” Paul believed he would be alive when the Lord returned, as he declared, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
In our day when there is so much false teaching on prophecy and so many inaccurate predictions by people who think they have figured out the date for Christ’s return, it is easy to lose sight of the glorious truth—Jesus could come today. There are no events that must take place or prophecies to be fulfilled before His return. This truth should inspire us to be busy about the Father’s work, knowing that time is short.
This truth should bring us comfort and hope as well. Rather than dreading the Lord’s return, we should be eager and watchful for it. The key to greeting Him with joy rather than regret is found in doing His work and His will as we wait for His return. Picture a child given a task to complete before Mom and Dad get home. If the job is done, the parents’ return holds no terror. But if the child has been busy with things other than his task, the sound of a car in the driveway is not a happy one. Knowing that Christ could return at any moment, we should be busy so that we can rejoice at His appearing.
"And Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; And to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work."
The Bible commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a command for every believer, not just those who are in full time ministry. We need God’s power for every aspect of life. Bezaleel, who made much of the furniture and decoration for the Tabernacle in the Old Testament, needed the filling of the Spirit for his work just as Moses needed God’s power for his position of leadership.
Dr. Curtis Hutson said, “Every Christian is as full of the Holy Spirit as he or she has decided to be.” We are filled with the Spirit as we are emptied of ourselves. It is said that when a group of churches met to consider inviting the evangelist D. L. Moody to come to England for a crusade, a young, prideful pastor protested, "Why do we need this 'Mr. Moody'? He's uneducated, inexperienced, etc. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?" An older, wiser pastor rose and responded, "No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody."
God does not want control of our lives only for a while on Sundays or when we are with others from the church—His plan is for His Spirit to control our steps every day in every area of life. Surrender your will to His, and you will find yourself walking in the Spirit.
"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
1 Peter 2:21-24
When the wife of the great pioneer missionary Adoniram Judson told him that a newspaper article likened him to some of the apostles, Judson replied, "I do not want to be like a Paul...or any mere man. I want to be like Christ...I want to follow Him only, copy His teachings, drink in His Spirit, and place my feet in His footprints...Oh, to be more like Christ!"
Even before the world was created, God’s plan was for us to be, “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). God did not save us solely to allow us to go to Heaven, though of course that is a wonderful and undeserved blessing. God also saved us so that we could go into the world just as Jesus did and point men and women to Him. God intends for us to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ as we go through this world.
Though Jesus left us many important examples, perhaps the greatest is His sacrificial death for the sins of others. While we are not called on to do what only He could do, we are called to give up our rights and privileges for the sake of following Him and for the benefit of others. The more we are willing to give and invest in those in need, the more we are being like Jesus.
"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."
We can make no greater investment than to be a godly example of faith in action for our children. Speaking of Abraham, God said, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD” (Genesis 18:19). This requires both spending time in positive instruction and providing a positive example in daily life—teaching our children the truth “when thou walkest by the way” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
Charles Spurgeon said, “Brethren, I wish it were more common, I wish it were universal, with all [Christians] to have family prayer. We sometimes hear of children of Christian parents who do not grow up in the fear of God, and we are asked how it is that they turn out so badly. In many, very many cases, I fear there is such a neglect of family worship that it’s not probable that the children are at all impressed by any piety supposed to be possessed by their parents.”
While it is possible to present a front to the outside world for a while, those who live with us know best whether our faith if real. Live your faith outside the walls of the church, and you will have a powerful impact on your entire family.
"But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."
On February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia exploded while re-entering the atmosphere after completing its mission. Some of the heat shielding tiles had been damaged during takeoff, leading to the destruction of the ship and the death of all on board. The commander of the mission, Col. Rick Husband, had an outstanding Christian testimony. At a memorial service, a video that Husband had recorded before the flight was played.
He said, “If I ended up at the end of my life having been an astronaut, but having sacrificed my family along the way or living my life in a way that didn’t glorify God, then I would look back on it with great regret. Having become an astronaut would not really have mattered all that much. And I finally came to realize that what really meant the most to me was to try and live my life the way God wanted me to and to try and be a good husband to Evelyn and to be a good father to my children.”
One day each of us will reach our last day on earth. More than likely we will not know in advance when that day will be. That fact should remind us to live each day with a commitment to fulfilling our responsibilities so that, when we do reach the end of our lives, we do not look back with regret. Focus on what matters and what is eternal, and you will complete your mission with success.
And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!
George Washington’s father died when he was just eleven, and for a time the young Washington had his heart set on joining the British navy. However, his mother had some serious reservations about that path and eventually strongly urged him to reconsider. He listened to his mother, and rather than becoming the captain of a ship, he became Commander in Chief of the entire military forces of the United States of America.
Much of the course of our lives is determined by the input we get when making decisions and whether we heed wise counsel when we receive it. By admitting we don’t know everything and seeking counsel, we are protecting ourselves from great damage. What the Bible says in regard to counsel is often misquoted. It is common to hear people say, “In the multitude of counselors there is wisdom.” While there is truth in that statement, the Scripture actually says, “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
Refusing to heed godly counsel places us on a pathway to destruction. Each of us has a heart that is deceitful and subject to being deceived. That is why counsel is so important—so that someone can objectively evaluate the situation and respond from a biblical perspective. Though the Scriptures do not directly address every area of life, the principles in the Word of God can and should guide us in all that we do. Rather than being a sign of weakness, seeking counsel—and following it—is a sign of wisdom. Surround yourself with people whose thinking is influenced by Bible principles, and you will be protected.
"That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another."
In 1987 the Rockdale County Bulldogs won the Georgia state high school basketball championship for the first time in the school’s history. The celebration was short-lived, however, because the school discovered that one of the back-ups who played just one minute of one game during their entire playoff run was academically ineligible. Though they had not known it or broken the rule intentionally, the discovery meant that they had to inform the state athletic association and forfeit their championship.
"Some people have said we should have just kept quiet about it, that it was just forty-five seconds and the player wasn't an impact player,” the team’s coach said. "But you’ve got to do what's honest and right and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball games; they don't ever forget what you're made of.”
Our integrity is far more valuable than anything we can gain by giving it up. Any temporary and fleeting victories that may be achieved through dishonesty will never bring satisfaction. Even if we manage to deceive the rest of the world, we ourselves will always know the truth. Worse, dishonestly quickly grows into a habit that spreads into every part of our lives.
The nature of lies is that they multiply. One lie necessitates the next, and then the next. This negative process begins with one moment of dishonesty or falsehood, often one designed to protect us from the consequences of something we have done or failed to do. Doing right in those moments offers great protection.
"The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well."
2 Timothy 1:16-18
One of the overlooked needs that people have is to be encouraged. It is often easier for us to see and identify physical needs than emotional ones. Yet in truth many people are discouraged as they face the challenges and pressures of life. Hearing a kind word of hope from someone else can make all the difference. William Arthur Ward said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.”
In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon described the importance of having an encourager this way: “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10). From creation we were designed with a need for fellowship and companionship. Our world may worship the myth of the rugged individual who needs help from no one, but that is not God’s plan. He means for His children to use their words to build and strengthen each other.
The person who sets out to be an encourager will never find a shortage of people to help. Even simple words spoken sincerely may make all the difference and give someone who is struggling the strength to go on. We call it encouragement, which literally means to give courage to someone who needs it. Such words are beyond value to the hurting heart that receives them.
"And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him. And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction."
An old saying admonishes that we should learn to write our hurts in the sand and carve our blessings in stone. Much of our happiness and contentment is found not in what we have or don’t have, but rather in where we choose to place our focus. There are things that we should forget and things we should remember, yet our tendency all too often is to reverse the two.
Every person who has ever lived has had trouble and struggles with which to deal. “Man is born unto trouble” Job 5:7 tells us. But we do not have to remember and replay our troubles over and over in our minds. Instead we can focus on our blessings—which is the key to living productive and happy lives. People who are trapped in the pain of the past will never be fruitful. The point is not that the pains are not real, but rather that our minds should not be focused on that pain.
As an antidote to allowing the troubles of the past to overwhelm us, the Bible commands us to be grateful. Over and over the Scriptures tell us to remember what God has done. “Forget not all his benefits” the Psalmist instructs in Psalm 103:2. By fixing our thoughts and our attention on the many good things God has done for us, we can begin the process of moving away from the painful past into a fruitful future.
But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
1 Thessalonians 5:8-11
R. A. Torrey was a brilliant and educated man and a powerful preacher who was greatly used by God. His evangelistic meetings all around the world resulted in thousands trusting Christ as Saviour. Yet within his own home, Torrey was more known for his gentle compassion than his fervent preaching. When his daughter Edith mentioned a failing of a friend, he told her, “What looks like a flaw may be the scar of a great battle.”
If we extend that spirit of compassion to those we meet, we will find that we are not harsh and judgmental toward them. In return we will find them willing to listen to the truth. One of the interesting characteristics of Christ is that so many people felt free to come to Him despite the troubles and sins in their lives. He was always gentle, accepting those who were heavy laden and offering them rest.
The story of the woman taken in adultery found in John 8 beautifully illustrates this truth. Jesus said to her both “Neither do I condemn thee” and also “go and sin no more.” He never accepted or expressed approval of sin, but He was and is a friend of sinners. If we view people with compassion as Jesus did, we will find it easy to reach out in love rather than condemning them because of their conduct. God has called us to encourage, strengthen and build up each other.
And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
1 John 5:11-12
As I witness to people, one of the most common misconceptions I hear them express is that our eternal destiny will be settled after we die. Many think that their deeds will be measured, and if they have done “enough” good things, they will be allowed into Heaven. Of course we know the truth that each person’s destiny is determined by whether they accept Christ as Saviour. Yet salvation is so much more than just our getting to go to Heaven—it is also peace, comfort and security while we are here on Earth.
Timothy Dwight, the grandson of Jonathan Edwards who went on to become president of Yale University, wrote: “Christ is the only, the true, the living way of access to God. Give up yourselves therefore to him, with a cordial confidence, and the great work of life is done.” Though there is work God has for us to do as His children, there is no work which we can or must do in order to become His children. That which we could never do for ourselves has already been done for us by our loving Saviour.”
This knowledge should give us confidence. Rather than being tormented by doubt and uncertainty, we can place complete trust in the promise of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ as our substitute. We do not need to fear the future. This knowledge should also give us a sense of urgency to share the Gospel with others. When we take the Good News to the lost, we are offering them God’s gift of eternal life, as well as the blessings for this life that come from being a child of God.