Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.
About twenty years before Jesus was born, Herod the Great launched a massive building program in Jerusalem. He was not well regarded by the Jewish people over whom he ruled because he was only half Jewish himself, so he decided to do something he hoped would increase his popularity. He turned the existing temple, that had been rebuilt by Zerubbabel after the Babylonian captivity, into a beautiful and massive structure. He more than doubled the size of the existing temple site and raised up a truly marvelous building to house the worship of God.
But by the time Jesus began His ministry, the biblical purpose for the temple of worship had been forgotten by most people. Instead, the temple was a site of display and commerce. Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple in a demonstration of His devotion to God. In response, the shocked crowd asked Him for a sign. Rather than simply seeking to follow what God had already revealed to them, they were looking for a new and spectacular message. Jesus told them that His resurrection would be that sign, but they missed the point.
Their view was limited to what was before their eyes. They did not understand that Jesus was the Messiah and Savior for whom they had been waiting. They were taken in by the beauty of Herod's temple, and in the process, they missed the beautiful Lord. It is easy for us to lose our focus in the Christian life. We can get caught up in the battles and struggles and fail to see what God is trying to teach us. We must be in tune with His Spirit to grasp His truth.
Nothing should be allowed to take our focus off of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
There is no question that we live in unsettled times. A global pandemic, economic upheaval, political turmoil, war, and threats of terrorism—the list of things we could worry about is long. But worry is not the required response to trouble. It is a choice, something which we allow to fill our minds and hearts. We have the ability to choose faith and trust in God, and thus keep our hearts from being troubled. We have unfailing promises from an eternally faithful God. He has never failed one of His children. We can trust Him even when things seem to be going wrong.
Sometimes we act as if worry and fear are overwhelming forces and we have no option but to give in and allow them to control us. But as children of God, we should recognize that His faithful promises are ours through His grace. Worry is alluring and tempting to our nature that craves sight instead of faith. But it is both disobedient and unproductive. Vance Havner said, “Worry, like a rocking chair, will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.”
Rather than worry, we should claim God's promises and confidently go forward, trusting Him to deliver and provide. “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). A confident Christian is a powerful testimony to the world that God is real and that He is in control. This is the message we send when we refuse to worry.
Worry is an indicator that our faith is weak and we are not trusting God as we should.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
The Christians in the first century took the promise of the Lord's return seriously. They expected Him to come back any day, and they eagerly anticipated seeing the Savior. They believed they would live to see that day occur during their lives. But as time passed, some of those who trusted in Christ died, raising questions about what would happen to them. Paul answered those questions in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, pointing out that God is both the author of life and the victor over death, and that all Christians, whether living or dead, are safe and secure.
We do not save ourselves, we do not keep ourselves saved, and we do not get ourselves to Heaven. God does all of that, and we can trust Him to protect all His children. There is no reason for a Christian to fear for the future. We have the promise of God, and not even death can stop Him from claiming His own. There are no limits on His power, and we can confidently trust that He will do all He has spoken. There is no need to worry about eternal destiny for one who has trusted Christ as Saviour. It is already settled, not something that will be determined in the future. The eternal destiny of those who are already in Heaven is no more safe and secure than those of us who know Christ as Savior but are still on earth.
The God who saved us will faithfully keep us all the days of our lives and for eternity.
For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous. The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the health crisis, the world has seen massive economic turmoil. Businesses have been closed, jobs have been lost, and many people have faced economic hardship greater than any they have ever seen before. Christians have not been exempt from these difficult times. Like others, many have lost jobs, gotten sick, or even died. Yet in the midst of the hard times, we as believers have a resource that the world around us does not. We have a faithful and unfailing God who is willing and able to provide for us.
We should not be surprised when bad things happen to good people. We live in a fallen world, and trouble and trials are a natural part of life. Peter wrote, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12). God is just as faithful during hardship as He is during times of blessing. He is just as loving and kind when we are sick as He is when we are well. God is good all the time.
Hardship in this life is only a shadow compared to eternity. God is faithful, and our responsibility is to turn to Him when things are hard. Rather than complaining or feeling like we are being treated unfairly, we are to bring our troubles to Him. David reminds us, “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5
Barbara Hutton lost her mother when she was just six years old, and her workaholic father had little time for his daughter. On her twenty-first birthday, the heir to the Woolworth fortune received an inheritance of $50 million—worth nearly $1 billion in today's money. She spent freely, hosting lavish parties and buying expensive jewelry and clothes. In her search for happiness, she married seven times. By the time of her death, the woman the newspapers dubbed “the poor little rich girl” was almost bankrupt. She received a huge inheritance, but it did not bring her joy, nor did it last.
By contrast, the inheritance we have been given as children of God is one that never fades away. When God places us into His family, we not only receive access to the abundant riches of His grace, but we are kept safe and secure, knowing that we will never lose the treasure He has imparted to us. Just as we do not save ourselves, we do not keep ourselves saved. It is His power that guarantees our security in Him. We go through trials and tribulations in this life, but nothing can shake the surety of what is to come.
The great fortunes of this world frequently do not last. They can be dissipated by poor decisions or exhausted by economic reversals. Those who seek to find happiness or security in wealth can never be truly secure. But in Christ we have truly durable riches. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Earthly treasure may vanish and fade, but the treasure we have in Heaven will never pass away.
Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
The Sistine Chapel in Rome contains one of the most famous works of art in the world. The ceiling, painted over a period of four and a half years by Michelangelo, depicts scenes from both the Old and New Testament. In addition to showing the Bible stories, the paintings are filled with symbolism. One of the more notable frescoes depicts the brass serpent that Moses made at God's direction to provide healing to those who had been bitten by poisonous snakes. The focus of the painting is not Moses, and scholars are not even sure that the great leader of Israel is depicted at all. If he is, it is only incidental to the thrust of the artwork. The eye is drawn to the brass serpent on its pole.
Jesus used this story to illustrate God's plan of salvation when He was talking to Nicodemus: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). Just as there was no alternative plan for healing the snake-bitten Israelites, there is no alternative plan for curing the curse of sin. It is only in Jesus alone that man has hope of the new birth that is necessary for us to go to Heaven. In our increasingly pluralistic society, the exclusive nature of salvation is offensive to many, but it is still true, and we must faithfully proclaim it.
We must lift up Jesus Christ so that the lost world around us can see Him as the only way of salvation.
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Orachorn Ayudhya did not have a driver's license, but she did not let that stop her from getting behind the wheel. The teenager was also texting while she drove through Bangkok, Thailand, and hit a bus. The resulting accident left nine people dead. But because Ayudhya's family was wealthy and well-connected, she only received a two-year prison sentence. Even that was replaced by a three-year probation. Amazingly, the family appealed even this lenient sentence, but it was upheld by Thailand's Supreme Court. No one could possibly say that justice was done in that case.
God could not let sinners off with just a warning and still be a just and holy God. But in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the full demands of justice are met. Our salvation is free to us, but it came at great cost to Jesus. Charles Spurgeon said, “That the blood of Christ was shed to buy our souls from death and hell is a wonder of compassion which fills angels with amazement, and it ought to overwhelm us with adoring love whenever we think of it, glance our eye over the recording pages, or even utter the word redemption.”
A Christian who forgets the lengths to which God went to provide his salvation is apt to be complacent and lax in his obedience and service. When we recognize the price that was paid for grace to be extended to us and the reason for it, it should fill our hearts with both gratitude and a firm resolve to live up to the great privileges we have been given as children of God.
We must never lose sight of the price that was paid for our salvation or fail to gratefully live to honor the One who paid it.
When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
Jesus knew exactly how sick Lazarus was even before the urgent message from Mary and Martha reached Him. He deliberately delayed going to see His friend until after Lazarus was dead and buried, because He knew that He would be bringing Lazarus back to life. Yet when He talked to Martha and Mary, their sorrow moved Him to compassion. Jesus cared about their grief even though He was about to replace it with the greatest joy they would ever experience. That is why He wept. It was a sign of His love for them, and His concern for their feelings.
I read about a little four-year-old boy who lived next door to an elderly couple. When the wife died, he saw the man sitting on his porch crying. The boy walked across the yard, climbed the steps of the porch, and sat down in the man's lap. When he returned home, his mother asked what he had said to the man. The boy replied, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.” All around us there are people who are hurting. Many times they feel isolated and alone and wonder if anyone cares. When we show them concern and compassion, it makes a world of difference. It is important for us to not be so busy or caught up in our lives that we miss the needs of those around us. The Lord was just days away from the cross, but He still had time to grieve with His grieving friends and show them that He cared.
Showing compassion for others in need is one of the most effective ways to touch their lives.
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Every Christian should desire to be as much like Jesus as possible. He is the perfect pattern and example for us to follow, and His life shows what it looks like to live in a way that is honoring and pleasing to God. Of course we will never measure up to His perfection, but we should strive toward that goal. Living like Jesus did requires that we follow Him in humility. He had all of the glory and honor of Heaven, yet He laid aside all of that to come to Earth. He lived in submission to His parents, despite the fact that He was God. He completely fulfilled all the law that God had given. Jesus was humble and obedient.
The world does not place great value on humility, but instead honors those who are powerful and praised. We are called to a different way of life. “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister” (Mark 10:42-43). The desire for fame and the praise of men is attractive to us, but we are commanded to follow the path of Jesus rather than the path of the world. Instead of lifting ourselves up and trying to gain attention and promotion, we need to humbly walk as God directs.
The praise and attention of others pales in comparison to walking humbly and pleasing God.
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 forth labourers into his harvest.
The needs of the world around us should make a powerful impact on our hearts. Jesus did not just see the masses of people. He had compassion for their needs and instructed His followers to see those needs as well. Though the people Jesus saw had material needs, His greatest concern was for their spiritual condition. When we look at the world around us, the fact that many people have no interest in the gospel should not discourage us. We should see it as an indication that there is a great harvest in store if we pray as Jesus commanded.
J. C. Ryle said, “Personal working for souls is good. Giving money is good. But praying is best of all. By prayer we reach Him without whom work and money are alike in vain. We obtain the aid of the Holy Spirit. Money can hire workers. Universities can give learning. Congregations may elect. But the Holy Spirit alone can make ministers of the Gospel, and raise up workmen in the spiritual harvest, who need not be ashamed. Never, never may we forget that if we would do good to the world, our first duty is to pray!”
Prayer is the means by which God works in our world. As we pray for workers, we should be willing to be part of the answer to that prayer ourselves. Each of us are uniquely positioned to reach specific people with the gospel. The harvest field may be in some foreign country, but it may also be across the street or at the next desk. Every time we pray for workers for the harvest, we should be looking to where we can work ourselves.
The great scope of the harvest requires both our faithful prayers and our faithful witness.
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
2 Corinthians 8:1-4
In 1994, Alvin Straight got the news that his older brother Henry had suffered a stroke. Unable to drive a car because of his poor health and failing eyesight, Alvin set out on his John Deere riding lawnmower from his home in Iowa toward his brother's home in Wisconsin. He took along camping supplies and traveled at five miles per hour. After breaking down twice and having to wait for his Social Security check to come in so he could continue his trip, Alvin Straight finally arrived in Blue River, Wisconsin six weeks after he left home. He was willing to do whatever it took to see his brother. Eventually, his nephew packed up the riding lawnmower in the back of his truck and took Alvin back to his home.
When the Apostle Paul was in need, the churches in Macedonia into which he had poured so much responded with a gift of incredible sacrificial generosity. It was far beyond what they could have been expected to do. Yet they gave that gift joyfully, even begging Paul to take it because they wanted to be part of his ministry. A person's willingness to give and sacrifice is never determined by their resources, but by their love. The more that we love God, the less attached we are to the things of this world. There are always reasons for us not to give—to hold on to everything we have for the future. But if our hearts belong to God, our possessions will be His as well.
Our true loves and priorities are most clearly seen by where we invest our time and resources.
LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
After several years of performing at California music venues, Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille, who performed as The Captain and Tennille, became a smash success in 1975 when their song “Love Will Keep Us Together” became a number one hit. Many awards and best selling albums followed, and the married couple continued to perform together for many years. In January of 2014, they announced the end of their thirty-eight-year marriage. The press release stated, “almost all people naturally evolve over time, and sometimes hidden feelings start to be uncovered.”
In our marriages, and in every other commitment that we make, there needs to be a determined decision that circumstances will not change the outcome of that commitment. Once we have given our word to do something, nothing should shake it. Even if it becomes difficult or costly, we should maintain our commitments. God honors those who do that. David wrote that the person who dwells in God's presence is one who, “...sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not” (Psalm 15:4). That is, even when the circumstances have changed and made it difficult for this person to keep his word, he does it anyway.
We live in a society of disposable relationships and broken commitments, but that does not mean that we have to follow the example set for us by the world. God expects us to be faithful and to keep our promises, just as He does. No matter how much things change, our commitment to keep our word should be unshakable.
No action by others or change in circumstance can make us fail to keep our commitments.
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Following a couple seasons as a part time player, Norm Van Brocklin became the starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams and helped the team win the NFL title in 1952. Years later playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, he led that team to the championship in 1960. At the end of his playing career, he became a coach and spent the next fifteen years in that role. As a coach he often cited something he had learned during his playing days—the danger of the “look out” block. Van Brocklin said that was when an offensive lineman would give a halfhearted effort and then shout a warning to the quarterback that danger was coming.
When we do not give our full effort, problems always result. There are many people who talk about compassion and helping others, but far fewer people who do something about it. There are many people who talk about what the church could accomplish with more resources, but far fewer who are active in giving. The measure by which God holds us to account is not so much what we say, though our words are important, but rather what we do. A person who says all the right things but does nothing about them has a faith that is anything but living and active. When we see needs we can meet in the lives of others, it does not take an extended season of prayer and fasting to decide what to do. We simply need to act.
The best way to demonstrate our faith is not with our words, but with our actions.
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
All of us know people who were once active in church and displaying all of the outward evidences of obedience to God, but who left that behind and followed the allure of temptation into sin. How does that happen? There are a variety of possible reasons, but one reason is that the allure of sin is strong. For this reason, we should never settle for tolerating a certain level of sin in our lives, assuming that we can handle not being pulled into its deceptive grasp. To live a holy life as God calls us to live, we must hate sin. The Scottish preacher William Arnot wrote, “The difference between an unconverted man and a converted man is not that one has sins and the other does not; but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins.”
While we should always treat people with courtesy and respect, we must not accord sin the same toleration. Instead we should hate it in all of its forms. We cannot love that which is good without a corresponding contempt and disdain for that which is evil. Too many Christians allow themselves to sin, thinking only of the attraction of sin rather than its bitter fruit. They tiptoe up to the line, like Lot pitching his tent toward Sodom. That course can never lead to holy living. Instead we must respond to temptation with utter rejection, not allowing anything to overcome or lessen our hatred of sin. Someone said, “What makes resisting temptation difficult for many people is they don't want to discourage it completely.” We need to be willing to do whatever is necessary to reject temptation, not in some mild or halfhearted fashion, but completely. Only then can we hold fast to what is right.
When we consider what our sin cost Jesus, it should be easy for us to hate and shun it.
Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
In the 1950s, a social psychologist named Leon Festinger became famous for his work on cognitive dissonance and social influences. One noted experiment looked at what happens when people are paid to argue in favor of a position they don't necessarily hold themselves. The researches expected to find that the more people were paid, the more vigorously they would argue, but the reverse was true. Those who were paid only $1 were much more intense in defending their position than those who were paid $20. Festinger postulated that the highly paid test subjects were just doing something for money. But those who had only received a token payment committed themselves to their position, and even though they had not held it long, they held it intensely.
Those of us who have received Christ as our Savior have even more reason to intensely believe—not because we are paid, but because of Jesus' great sacrifice on our behalf. And our fervency and love for Him should grow over the years. Barnabas and Paul were willing to literally put their lives on the line, not because they were being paid, but because they loved the Lord. While there are rewards in Heaven for faithful service, that is not the primary motivation for our service. Instead we should have hearts overflowing with gratitude for the amazing grace we have received, and fervently and faithfully serve God at every opportunity. Anyone who knows us at all should be able to see clearly that we are Christians, not with a surface faith, but with a heart belief that cannot be shaken.
When we reflect on the gift of our salvation, nothing will be able to deter us from fervently serving God.
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.
One of the most common and difficult issues people deal with is guilt. All of us have done things for which we are sorry, and all of us have failed to do other things we know we should have done. The devil uses our guilt over things from the past to hinder us in our walk and work for God. Guilt is not a bad thing in itself, as God uses that to prick our consciences and prompt us to return to Him. But there is no reason for feeling guilty over something we have confessed and forsaken. It is no longer on our record as far as God is concerned. Paul wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
In the US legal system, there is the principle of double jeopardy. A person who has been found "not guilty" can not be tried again for the same offense. When the blood of Jesus Christ is applied to our account, all of our sins are gone forever, and there is no venue in which God will allow them to be brought against us. Charles Spurgeon said, “There is not a sin in the Book of God, even now, against one of His people. Who dares to lay anything to their charge? There is neither speck, nor spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing remaining upon any one believer in the matter of justification in the sight of the Judge of all the earth.”
God holds us blameless for our forgiven sins, and He will never allow us to be held guilty for them.
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
Though we receive immeasurable benefits from our salvation, we are not saved for our own sake alone. God cleanses our sins and adopts us into His family for a purpose. He has placed a calling on the life of everyone who comes to Him for salvation. We do not have to question whether He has something for us to do. It is certain. And in truth it is an honor and a privilege to serve God far more than it is a responsibility. The great missionary David Livingstone said, “If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”
When Jesus called His first disciples, they already had jobs and careers. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were partners in a fishing enterprise on the Sea of Galilee. But when Jesus told them that they were to become His followers, they did not hesitate. They were on the water at the time, but as soon as they got back to shore, they committed their lives to a new direction. “And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him” (Luke 5:11).
A Christian who is not fruitful in his life is failing in his most important assignment. Nothing should hold us back from doing what is necessary to follow Christ. Even if it requires what the world regards as a great sacrifice, serving Jesus is worth whatever it costs. When we are faithful to Him, we are His friends.
We were saved to be lights in the world and faithful servants of Jesus Christ.
But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 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 4:5-8
One of the leaders of the great prayer revival in 1858 in Philadelphia was a pastor named Dudley Tyng. More than 10,000 people were saved over the course of the meetings that were held. One day Tyng went out to watch a demonstration of a new threshing machine. Somehow his coat became entangled in the machine, and he was severely injured. By the time a doctor could be summoned, there was nothing that could be done to save his life. From his deathbed, Tyng sent a message by his own father to a pastor friend named George Duffield, who would preach his funeral: “Tell them to stand up for Jesus.” Not long afterward, Duffield wrote the hymn we still sing today.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high his royal banner,
It must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory
His army shall he lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
And Christ is Lord indeed.
God has not promised us an easy or painless life. Many of His most faithful servants through the centuries have been persecuted and even martyred for their faith. Most of us have never had to take a stand for Christ at the risk of our lives, but there millions of Christians in the world today for whom that is not true. We should be building and strengthening our faith day by day so that when a great trial comes, we will stand faithful until the end.
We should never let any hardship, threat, or trial cause our faith and testimony for Christ to waver.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
As Paul traveled from place to place on his missionary trips, he often was in a town for only a few days or weeks. But in other places, he was able to stay for a longer period, investing more and more of himself. Nowhere was that more evident than in the city of Ephesus. The great city was a center of culture and trade, first in the Greek empire and later the Roman empire. Paul did not have an easy time there. He faced much opposition from the worshipers of Diana, and had to fight for his life. “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32).
Paul stayed in Ephesus for three years, in spite of the obstacles he faced. He committed much of his life to reaching those people. He did not allow anything to deter him from doing what God had called him to do. Horatius Bonar wrote, “The road to the Kingdom is not so pleasant, and comfortable, and easy, and flowery, as many dream. It is not a bright sunny avenue of palms. It is not paved with triumph, though it is to end in victory. Rest later; but weariness here! Joy and security later; but here endurance and watchfulness – the race, the battle, the burden, the stumbling block, and oftentimes the heavy heart.” We can be faithful through each challenge as we keep our eyes on Christ and on the priorities which He has placed before us.
Regardless of the results we see or opposition we face, we must remain faithful to serve and follow Jesus Christ.
Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Though he grew up in a poor home and had little formal schooling, Joseph Grigg showed an early and intense interest in the things of God. Grigg spent some time on the staff of a church in London, and then spent the rest of his life filling pulpits and writing hymns. His most famous hymn was written, not during his adult ministry, but when he was a boy of just nine or ten years of age. Grigg wrote:
Ashamed of Jesus! just as soon
Let midnight be ashamed of noon;
'Tis midnight with my soul till He,
Bright Morning Star, bid darkness flee.
Ashamed of Jesus, that dear Friend
On whom my hopes of Heav'n depend!
No; when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His Name.
Though we often think or perhaps say that we would never deny the Lord, we should not forget that the disciples all thought the same thing. Even though Jesus warned them what was coming, they were completely self-confident. “Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples” (Matthew 26:35). But while they were confident, they were wrong. The world around us often views Christianity as a disgraceful set of old-fashioned beliefs that are out of step with the times. And if we are not careful, we will find ourselves trimming our message and adjusting our beliefs so that we fit in and are not mocked or looked down on. We must instead stand firm in our commitment to God.
If our faith is not strong in good times, it will not last when hardships and persecution come.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
We live in a world of storms and trials, yet even in the midst of those trials, God's people can enjoy His peace. We are not dependent on our own strength and resources, and every trial is an opportunity to build our faith. A. T. Pierson wrote, “Beneath the surface that is agitated with storms, and driven about with high winds, there is a part of the sea that is never stirred. When we dredge the bottom and bring up the remains of animal and vegetable life, we find that they give evidence of not having been disturbed for hundreds of years. The peace of God is that eternal calm which lies far too deep down in the praying soul to be reached by any external disturbance.”
The heart that is trusting in itself can never really know peace. There is always one more thing to check, one more threat to fear, one more potential problem about which to worry. There is always another trial ahead—that is a natural part of living in a broken and fallen world. Rather than allow these trials to discourage us and take away our peace, we should celebrate them. James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). The only way that we can have that attitude toward trouble is by living in God's peace. No human source of comfort can sustain through tribulation. Only the peace of God that comes to those who have peace with Him through His Son can bring that strength.
Peace does not come from an absence of trouble, but from the presence of God.
These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.
After the Japanese annexation of Korea, a wave of religious persecution broke out against the Christians there. Many were harassed, jailed, or even killed for their faith. The story goes that one young believer was jailed and found himself in trouble because he would not stop telling the other prisoners about Jesus. At last the Japanese authorities exiled him to an island nearby, thinking that would silence him. After his release, he reported, “I have been longing for a chance to speak of Christ, and was mourning because I could not speak in jail. Then God sent me off to an unevangelized island, where there was plenty of work to do, and the government paid my fare.”
Those who serve God faithfully should not expect that things will always go easy for us. We should not be caught off guard if our message is rejected by the same world that rejected Jesus. He told us to expect exactly that. Yet in the midst of our trials, there are also doors that open for us to be faithful witnesses. When Paul and Silas were unjustly jailed in Philippi, they had the opportunity to lead the jailer and his entire family to Christ. When Paul was in Rome awaiting trial, he was chained to a relay of soldiers as his guards. He used that opportunity to witness to them. Eventually he would write, “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household” (Philippians 4:22).
God can use opposition and difficulty to further our work for Him if we do not let it discourage us.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Joshua Byers, whose parents were Baptist missionaries, answered the call to serve his country in uniform. The US Army captain was part of the invasion of Iraq. In a letter to his wife back home, he expressed his confidence that God was in control no matter what happened. On July 23, 2003, a bomb exploded under his vehicle. Grievously injured, Captain Byers had one final command for his troops, “Keep moving forward.” Investigation afterward revealed that his last order saved the lives of two other soldiers.
There is no question that Christians are in a battle with the world and the devil. This is not new, and it should not take us by surprise. Opposition should not lead us to assume a defensive posture and try to stay out of sight, hoping that the enemy will not notice us. Instead we should be always moving forward. In the time of Christ, the gates of a city were one of its most important defenses. Jesus was not saying that we will be able to resist Satan's attacks, but that he will not be able to resist our attacks on him.
The battles we face and the opposition that comes are not an indication that we are on the wrong track. Instead they are evidence that we are having an impact. As the followers of Jesus Christ we are not meant to be hunkered down and trying to hang on. We are to be on the offensive, overcoming the world. Paul wrote, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). We must keep moving forward until we see the Lord.
Christianity is not a defensive religion. We are to be busy and active, moving forward in God's work every day.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 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 15:55-58
For forty-five years, Queen Elizabeth I ruled over England, navigating the religious and political wars that were raging and guiding her nation to a period of success and prosperity. It is said that when Elizabeth I was dying, her final words were, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” Her power and her wealth and her fame could not extend her life. It is futile to seek purpose and meaning in human endeavors. Solomon wrote, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
Yet as Christians we do not live “under the sun” without a hope for eternity. That is why Paul ties together our confidence that our work for Christ has a lasting value with the victory of Jesus over death. This world is not all there is. Those around us who are living only for what they can see will one day realize that it has all been for nothing. For them, death represents an ending which takes away everything they have. That is not true for believers, and we must not forget it.
If we lose the hope that our work for the Lord has lasting meaning and value, we will be weak and wavering in our commitment to Him. Death came into the world because of sin, and it is the natural end of human life. Yet because the Jesus rose from the dead, we can face the future with certainty rather than fear.
The things of this life quickly vanish, but the things which are eternal are worthy of our love and work.
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
1 Peter 3:5-7
Located at the intersection of Bullion Boulevard and Gold Vault Road, the US Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, is widely considered the most secure vault in the world. Holding nearly 150 million ounces of gold for the US Treasury, along with other valuable government possessions, the vault is protected by a variety of security measures. The building under which it sits is made of granite, concrete, and steel, and the vault itself has a gate that is nearly two feet thick. Outer security measures are secret but are believed to include land mines, electrified fencing, and thermal imaging cameras. Nothing has ever been stolen from Fort Knox.
Yet as secure as that facility is and as safe as its contents are, it pales in comparison to the security with which God's children are kept by His faithfulness and His power. Jesus said, “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand” (John 10:29). There are many troubles in this life, but there is no reason for a Christian to fear the future. We can trust God to keep us just as certainly as we trusted Him to save us. Knowing that we are kept by His power gives us confidence to faithfully stand in the face of trials, doubts, and fears. No power of Heaven, Hell, or Earth is able to sever the connection of God and His children. We are and always will be secure in Him.
We never need to fear that God will abandon or forsake us. We are safe in Him.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
The equities trading firm where Welles Crowther went to work after his graduation from Boston College was located on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Like his banker father, Crowther was a volunteer firefighter, so when American Flight 11 hit the North Tower, he planned to go and help. Before he made it down, United Flight 175 hit his building. There was only one staircase that was not blocked by fire and debris. Crowther made his way to it, but rather than fleeing, he began assisting others. With the red bandana he always carried tied across his face for the smoke, Crowther guided a number of people to safety, including carrying one injured woman down seventeen flights of stairs. The last time he was seen, Crowther was going back up the stairs, looking for others he could help.
Service for God is never without a cost. And if we are not willing to pay that cost and make the sacrifices that are required, we will never accomplish anything of great value for Him. When Jesus was on the cross, His enemies, attempting to mock Him, made a profoundly true statement. “He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” (Matthew 27:42). Only by laying down His own life and paying the penalty for our sins could the Lord provide a means of salvation for us. There was no way for Him to save Himself because He desired our salvation more. He made the sacrifice.
The cost of faithfully serving God may be high, but it is always worth paying.
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
The measure of the grace and mercy of God is beyond our ability to comprehend because it is part of His eternal nature. But we see demonstrations of it in Scripture that help us grasp the scope of His love. One of those demonstrations is found in the way that Jesus treated Judas. He knew even before He invited Judas to be one of the twelve disciples that Judas would be the one who would betray Him. Yet there is no record anywhere in Scripture that Jesus treated Judas any differently than the others. In fact, Jesus was so kind in His treatment of Judas that the other disciples trusted Judas enough to keep track of their money, not recognizing his deceitful nature. They never received a single clue about Judas from Jesus' words or His actions.
There are times when all of us experience the pain of being mistreated by others. Yet their behavior does not serve as justification for bitterness or retaliation on our part, no matter how bad it is. We can respond with gracious kindness, and we are commanded to do so. Jesus said, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Our natural response to offenses and insults is to strike back, but instead we are to extend to others the grace and forgiveness that God has extended to us.
We best show God's love to the world when, like Jesus, we love our enemies.
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.
Though we are called to live and walk by faith, that does not mean that we will have an easy journey. Faith does not insist on knowing how things will turn out. Instead it relies on what God has said and obeys even when it is not clear what will happen. Abraham had a lot to leave behind in Ur, but in obedience to God, he did leave it. He spent the rest of his life living in tents and moving from place to place. He never personally received the fulfillment of all the promises God made, but he still believed that they would come to pass, and they did. Abraham was even willing to sacrifice his son Isaac despite what that would mean to his future. He trusted that God would resurrect Isaac and went to the mountain and placed him on the altar as God directed.
We live in a world that values evidence. People want proof and a clear path to a desired outcome before acting. Yet God operates differently. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We don't have to know all the details of God's plan to walk in obedience to what He has said. We simply act in faith, trusting that He will do all that He has promised. Anything that God has directed is exactly what we should do, whether or not it makes sense to the world. When we walk obediently in faith, God will see to it that we receive an eternal reward that never fades.
Our belief in God's goodness and faithfulness is never based on whether we understand what He is doing, but on who He is.
And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.
The way that we make decisions reveals what is most important to us. When the herds of Abraham and Lot got so large that they were provoking dissension, Abraham offered Lot the first choice of the land. This was an extremely generous offer because God had promised the land to Abraham. But he wanted peace more than he wanted land, so he let Lot choose where to go. Lot made a horrible choice, which led to great devastation for his family. He made his choice solely on the basis of economics, selecting what would produce the greatest earthly return, without regard to the spiritual and moral consequences of his choice.
Lot started out spending his time looking toward Sodom, but it was not long before he moved there. Despite the moral depravity of the city, Lot endeavored to fit in and be accepted. He downplayed his witness of the truth so much that when the warning of judgment came, even those closest to him refused to take him seriously. “And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law” (Genesis 19:14). Every decision we make should be based on what is eternal and pleasing to God rather than what will produce the best earthly return. If we love Him as we should, we will not find it hard to turn our backs on Sodom.
Every decision we make should be made in light of eternity rather than temporal advantage.
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.
From a very early age, President Ronald Reagan's mother taught him to trust in God no matter what. In his book An American Life, Reagan wrote, “I was raised to believe that God had a plan for everyone and that seemingly random twists of fate are all a part of His plan. After I lost a job at Montgomery Wards, she told me that everything in life happened for a purpose. She said all things were part of God’s plan, even the most disheartening setbacks, and in the end, everything worked out for the best.”
God knows everything, and there are no accidents in His plan. He knows what we will do before we do it, and He knows what the results will be. God even knows what the results would be if we did something differently. Not only does God know what we should and will do, He offers us guidance and direction through His Word to help us choose what is right. David records God's promise this way: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye” (Psalm 32:8).
Our responsibility is to trust God, even when we do not see or understand what He is doing. Our faith must not fail just because we are enduring trials and testing. Corrie ten Boom said, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” God does not make any mistakes, and He makes all the circumstances of our lives work together to refine us for our good and His glory.
We can trust God just as much when things are going wrong as we can when things are going well.
Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.
Many years after Joseph's interpretation of a prophetic dream and his wise management saved the land of Egypt from a great famine, his contribution was forgotten. As a result, the Israelites began to be regarded as potential hostile strangers who posed a threat to the security of Egypt. So the new Pharaoh made them slaves and forced them work on his building plans. His plan was to keep the Israelites from growing any stronger, yet his oppression had exactly the opposite result. God has a way of taking what the world means for evil and changing it to produce exactly what He desires. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10).
It is natural for us to assume that something is amiss when we face opposition and hardship. I don't know anyone who is thrilled to be on the receiving end of persecution or attack. In such a case we should examine our lives and make sure the problem is not caused by something we have done. Then we can confidently go forward, trusting God is in control. There are times when the hard things in our lives are exactly what we need. Charles Spurgeon said, “The cold water of persecution is often thrown on the church's face to fetch her to herself when she is in a swoon of indolence or pride.” If we keep our faith in God through difficulty, those hardships will only make us more fruitful for God.
The process by which God makes us more fruitful may not be easy or pleasant, but it is necessary and good.
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
While the noted Christian author Stuart Holden was on a tour of Egypt, he met a soldier who seemed especially devoted to the cause of Christ. Holden asked him how he had been converted. The sergeant replied, “There was a private in the same company as myself who had been converted in Malta, and I gave him a terrible time. I remember one night in particular when it was very rainy and he came in wet and weary from sentry duty. Yet, as usual, he still got down on his knees before going to bed. My boots were covered in mud and I threw them both at him and hit him twice on the head. He kept kneeling and praying. The next morning when I woke up I found my boots beautifully cleaned and polished at my bedside. This was his reply to me and it broke my heart. That day I was brought to repentance.”
Paul was falsely accused, beaten, whipped, jailed, and even stoned. Yet he did not let any of that deter him from faithfully preaching the gospel. He also did not let it sour his attitude toward others. We would find it very understandable if Paul washed his hands and quit preaching because people had treated him so badly. But he recognized that God was in control and that their need of salvation outweighed his suffering. If our faith in God is as it should be, nothing others do will lead to anger and vengeance.
No enemy or hardship can drive us to angry vengeance unless we allow it to do so.
Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.
Many people in our world are focused on getting what they think they deserve. They insist on counting and comparing and then complaining when things don't go their way. But in this, as in everything else, we can trust God to make sure things work out. When Jochebed gave birth to Moses, she defied the order of Pharaoh and refused to kill him. When he grew to the point where he could no longer be hidden, she put Moses in a basket and placed him in the river. Pharaoh's daughter found him and rescued him. Then she actually paid Jochebed to take care of him. God always works things out the way He knows they should.
The principle is seen in the life of Nebuchadnezzar as well. He led the Babylonian conquest of Tyre, fulfilling God's prophecy of their destruction. Yet his troops were not able to enjoy the loot and plunder usually associated with a military victory in those days. So God found a way to reward him. “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army” (Ezekiel 29:19).
The primary concern of our lives should never be whether what we are getting is fair, but instead whether what we are doing is right and obedient. Faith recognizes that God is in control and trusts Him to see to the results. We never need to fear that His purpose and plan for us will be defeated.
God is never unfair to us, and He will ensure that there is ultimate justice no matter what people may do.
The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live. In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months: And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
From the time he was five or six years old, Moses lived as royalty. As the adopted grandson of Pharaoh, he had all of the privileges and power a young man could want. He was taught and trained in the Egyptian system. Yet despite that indoctrination, Moses remained true to the God of Israel. When the time came to make a choice, he turned his back on prestige and position and chose to stand with the people of God, who were slaves at that time. God used Moses as the human instrument of their deliverance. Even though he was raised in the world's system, he remained true to God. The Puritan English preacher Thomas Watson wrote, “All the danger is when the world gets into the heart. The water is useful for the sailing of the ship; all the danger is when the water gets into the ship; so the fear is when the world gets into the heart.”
Daily we are exposed to the indoctrination of the world. It fills our education system, our media, our entertainment, and all too often, it begins to influence our thinking. It takes a great deal of effort and commitment to stand firmly for God and the truth in the face of such a strong force, but it is right and possible. Like Moses in Egypt or like Daniel in Babylon, we can be true to God no matter what others around us may be doing. We do not have to adopt their values and beliefs. We do not have to give in to the pressure.
The world tries to draw us away from God, but they cannot succeed unless we help them.
And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it. (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
One of the most destructive of all sinful emotions is jealousy. When we look at what others have and think we should have it instead, we place ourselves on a very dangerous path. When we are jealous, we are saying that God has not done right by us. We are saying that we know better than He does how our lives should go. When someone else gets a raise, we should rejoice instead of get angry. When someone else gets the promotion, we should congratulate them rather than get jealous.
D. L. Moody said, “There is a fable of an eagle that was jealous of another that could out fly him. He saw a sportsman one day, and said to him, 'I wish you would bring down that eagle.' The sportsman replied that he would if he only had some feathers to put into his arrow. So the eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but didn't quite reach the rival eagle; it was flying too high. The envious eagle kept pulling out more feathers until he lost so many that he couldn't fly, and then the sportsman turned around and killed him. My friend, if you are jealous, the only man you can hurt is yourself.”
A jealous Christian is an ungrateful, disrespectful, disobedient child of God. Rather than rejoicing in God's goodness to him, he is consumed by a focus on what others have. It is impossible for jealousy and gratitude to coexist. Rather than complaining about what we do not have, we should be celebrating the grace God has extended to us.
God expects us to be grateful for what He gives us rather than jealous over what others may have.
And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
Today many people look at God in a casual manner. He is often treated as a joke by our society. Even some churches have a low view of God's power, might, majesty, and holiness. But God has not changed. He is still the Almighty, and He deserves our complete respect and adoration. Charles Spurgeon said, “There are no measures which can set forth the immeasurable greatness of Jehovah, who is goodness itself. Notes of exclamation suit us when words of explanation are of no avail. If we cannot measure, we can marvel; and though we may not calculate with accuracy, we can adore with fervency.”
If we correctly understand the presence of God, it is awe-inspiring, glorious, and demanding of full respect. Even the angels that are closest to His throne cannot look at Him directly, but have extra wings to shield their faces. “Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly” (Isaiah 6:2). What our society needs, what our churches need, and what each of us as individual Christians need is a renewed respect, awe, and fear of God. Rather than coming to Him casually and flippantly, we need to enter His presence with humility and respect. We need to metaphorically “take off our shoes” and demonstrate an attitude of reverence and worship any time we come before Him.
Our high and holy God deserves our worship, reverence, and respect.
The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.
Samuel Rutherford ministered in Scotland at a very difficult time for those who were true to God. He faced constant persecution and trials. He was accused of treason for insisting that the laws of God superseded the laws of human rulers. It is said that at one point of deep distress, Rutherford was sorely tempted to complain. Yet his faith and hope were renewed, and he continued faithful unto God until the day of his death. Looking back on his troubles, Rutherford wrote, “Fool that I was not to know that the messages of God are not to be read through the envelope in which they are enclosed.”
The troubles of life are not necessarily a sign that God is displeased with us. Often they are His tools to make our lives more productive and fruitful for Him. He knows the sorrows of our hearts and the trials we are enduring. In those moments He is not far away from us, but instead very close. He protects us from being cast down by the enemy and turns that which is meant for evil into good. Bad things do happen to good people. David pointed out that there are many troubles even in the lives of those who are trying to follow God, and he certainly knew that from first hand experience. The devil tempts us to discouragement and defeat by telling us that God does not care about us and has abandoned us. But that is never the case. He is always faithful to keep His promises.
God has a plan and purpose for every trial that He allows to come into our lives.
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
The Christians of Corinth were surrounded by an immoral culture and society. The problem that we face of living in the midst of a sinful world is not new. These Christians had been saved out of all kinds of wicked habits, yet grace transformed them. After Paul listed a number of evil lifestyles that characterized the inhabitants of Corinth, he wrote: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
We have a responsibility to God to live holy and pure lives, behaving in a way that brings honor and glory to Him. This requires a balancing act. We are not supposed to completely withdraw from the world around us because then we could have no impact on their lives. However, we are greatly influenced by those with whom we spend a great deal of time, so we must make sure we are spending much more time with those who not only claim to love God but who are living in obedience to Him.
We must carefully guard against allowing ungodly influences that will corrupt our behavior or turn our hearts from God.
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
When Moses led hundreds of thousands of people into the desert at God's direction, they were going into a place where there was no hope of finding the provisions they needed to survive. So God miraculously provided manna six days a week for forty years. The people had to go out and get it every morning except for the Sabbath day. Even though the manna was a Divine provision, they still got hungry again after eating it. Jesus used this story as an illustration of the difference between the temporary sacrificial system of the Old Testament and the permanent, lasting, and eternal salvation He would offer through His coming death on the cross.
Every attempt by man to earn, deserve, or provide salvation fails because temporary efforts cannot address the eternal debt created by our sins. The very best that we can do is indescribably disgusting in the eyes of a perfectly holy God. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). Our only hope of salvation is in the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. Only in Him can we find the forgiveness that takes away our sins forever and satisfies every need of our soul.
Salvation through Jesus Christ is our only hope, and we should never lose sight of the amazing grace God has given to us.
And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.
Though they showed the Israelites the bounty of the Promised Land, ten of the twelve spies Moses sent out brought back a report which terrified the people. They described the walled cities and the giants and told the people that they could not possibly win the battles that were before them. In the natural world, they were correct, but any time we leave God out of the equation, we will come up with the wrong answer. Joshua and Caleb protested, pointing out that God had brought them out of bondage, through the Red Sea, and across the wilderness, and that He had promised them victory. Yet the people refused to listen, and as a result that entire generation perished in the wilderness, never reaching the place God had prepared and promised them.
There will always be obstacles and difficulties that we have to face. These are not evidence that we are being singled out for hardship and doomed to defeat. In those moments of challenge, it is vital that we not allow fear to govern our decisions. John Newton wrote, “If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us, His arm over us, His ear open to our prayer—His grace sufficient, His promise unchangeable.” God never takes us only halfway or abandons us in difficulty. When we allow fear to dominate our lives, we are slandering His faithful nature and character.
Fear reveals a failure on our part to trust God's faithful promises as we should.
And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.
Moses had a relationship with God that was unique in all the Old Testament. He was allowed to see a glimpse of God's glory, and God dictated the commandments to him that would govern the lives of the Israelites. His exposure to the presence of God even produced a physical effect as his face shone when he returned from Mt. Sinai. The people were terrified when they saw Moses, recognizing the change his time spent with God had wrought, but not understanding what had happened. He was forced to cover his face so that the people could hear the message he had brought back from God. The people knew that God was holy, and they were rightfully afraid of Him. “And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:19).
When Jesus was on the cross, the veil in the Temple was torn in half from top to bottom by an unseen hand, signifying that the way into God's presence was now open to all who would trust Him for salvation. There is no longer any reason for us to draw back in fear. In fact, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit—God Himself—living within us every day. As we yield our lives to His control, the inevitable result is that we will become more and more like Jesus. Though our transformation is internal, unlike what Moses experienced, the change it produces in our lives will still be visible to those who know us.
Living with a conscious awareness of God's presence changes us both inside and out.
Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. 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 16:5-9
We would certainly understand if Paul had been discouraged by the constant opposition, oppression, and persecution that he faced. If anyone had a reason to quit, it was Paul. Yet despite all the suffering, he remained undaunted. Paul was fully committed to serving God no matter what the cost and no matter what the results would be. He recognized that the cause was worthy of the sacrifice. He also recognized that most of the time the greatest opportunities to serve God come in the face of the greatest opposition. J. Sidlow Baxter wrote, “What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.”
The devil does not need to focus his attacks and attention on a believer who is doing nothing. But someone who is walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, being an effective witness of the gospel, demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit, and being a help and encouragement to others should expect to face opposition. Knowing that it is coming does not make it more pleasant, but it does help us to not be discouraged by problems. There are no promises that service to God will be painless and easy. Rather we are promised the opposite. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The presence of opposition and obstacles can be a good indicator that we are on the right track.
Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
It was many years after Samuel poured the anointing oil on his head that David finally became king of Israel. Those intervening years were far from peaceful. David was hated and hunted, literally running for his life from the jealous rage of Saul. Yet through all that he endured, David never turned away from following God. He kept his faith, even in the most trying circumstances. David believed that God would do what He had promised, even when it seemed to impossible. When we patiently wait on God in the face of opposition and hardship, He will renew our strength. God does not work on our timetable, but on His. We must trust Him for both the fulfillment and the timing of His promises.
If our faith falters and and we take matters into our own hands because of our impatience, bad things always follow. It is when things are going the worst that we most need patience. A. B. Simpson wrote, “Beloved, have you ever thought that someday you will not have anything to try you, or anyone to vex you again? There will be no opportunity in heaven to learn or to show the spirit of patience, forbearance, and longsuffering. If you are to practice these things, it must be now.” The world presents us daily with opportunities to trust God patiently while we wait to see Him work. If we do not, we will faint rather than stand firm. It is from our faith in God that we draw the strength we need to follow Him.
Faith and patience work together to strengthen us to overcome the challenges of life.
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. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
Betty Scott was just 19 years old when she surrendered her life to God's service. She wrote, “Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will in my life, at any cost, now and forever.” After training, she went to the mission field of China where she married a fellow student named John Stam. The couple was ministering in what was supposed to be a safe region of the country, but the Chinese Communists captured their village, taking them as prisoners. Two days later, both of them were martyred. The cost of their commitment was high, but they never wavered in their devotion to God.
The world around us is becoming more and more hostile to those who hold the truths of God's Word. We are viewed as backward and bigoted, often criticized and condemned by those who want to cast off God's rule. In the face of opposition, and the threat of even worse, each follower of Jesus Christ must choose between courage and cowardice. The disciples forsook and denied the Lord after His arrest, despite having protested that they never would. We do not measure our courage by what we do when things are easy, but when things are hard.
Whether we are facing persecution or not, we have a responsibility to be faithful all the days of our lives. “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” (Revelation 2:10).
Courage counts the cost of faithfulness to God and pays it, no matter how high it may be.
For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
The scope of the promise God made to Abraham regarding the land where his descendants would live was very large. It went far beyond the borders of the modern day nation of Israel, stretching from the Nile River in Egypt to the Euphrates River in Iraq. That includes all or part of at least seven different countries on the current map. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God gave them victory after victory, and their enemies were driven out before them. Yet despite the power that was available to them, the people settled for far less than what they had been promised. “Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed” (Joshua 13:1).
Even at the height of Israel's strength under David and Solomon, the land they controlled only amounted to about 10 percent of all God had promised. They fell short of what God would have given them, not because He was unable to perform what He had promised, but because they were willing to settle for less. We have an entire Bible filled with promises God has made. They cover every part of life—our salvation, our daily walk as believers, our families, our finances, our relationships, and more—and they are wonderful. Yet all too often we do not receive those promises because we do not claim them in faith. “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” (James 4:2).
We should never be content to settle for less than God has promised us.
Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
In August of 1961, East German authorities began construction of what they called the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart. The rest of the world called it the Berlin Wall. More than three million Germans had fled from Communist rule, escaping to the West, and the government wanted to stop these escapes. As the construction work went on, the wall grew taller and more secure. The story goes that at one point, guards on the East German side of the wall threw bags of trash over the wall into the West Germany zone. The next day bags filled with food and clothing were thrown back across the wall with a note that read, “Each gives what he has.”
The things that we give to those around us—our words, actions, and contributions—reflect what is within our hearts. When we do good to others, we are demonstrating that the Spirit of God is working in our hearts, and we are following the example of the Lord. When Peter was preaching to Cornelius, he said, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). The key to improving the way we act toward others is not in changing what we do outwardly but in changing how we think inwardly. When our minds are filled with the Word of God and our hearts are controlled by the Spirit of God, it will naturally produce good fruit in our lives.
What matters most in our hearts will eventually be displayed through our actions and words.
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
The most famous miser from literature is probably Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The character was based at least in part on a member of Parliament named John Elwes. Though he had inherited the modern equivalent of more than $30 million, Elwes lived like a pauper. He went to bed when the sun went down to avoid buying candles. He refused to build a fire to dry out his clothes after being caught out in the rain because of the cost of firewood. He wore such ragged clothing that he was sometimes mistaken for a beggar and given money by people he passed in the street. Elwes had great resources, but he didn't use them and so lived as if he had nothing.
In the Bible, God has given us an incredible resource filled with His wisdom and instruction for life. Peter wrote, “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” (2 Peter 1:3). Yet despite the wonders of the Word of God, too many believers live like they have nothing. The Bible does not overflow in their hearts and minds. They turn to the Scriptures only as a last resort, after they have consulted other secular or religious sources. The Bible is a treasure that only increases as we use it, unlike human treasure that quickly flees away. Our lives should reflect our commitment to living in the Word as our overflowing and abundant treasure.
We can never exhaust all of the treasures and promises God has given to us in His Word.
But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock. Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.
1 Samuel 13:20-22
The failure of the Israelites to drive out all the inhabitants of the Promised Land as God had directed had dire consequences for them and for future generations. Some of the most persistent and deadly enemies of the Jewish people were the Philistines who lived along the Mediterranean Sea. Their location and trading prowess gave them access to superior weapons. They had the knowledge, tools, and people to make weapons of war at a time when the Israelites were using farming tools to fight. When the armies met, only Saul and Jonathan had weapons. It is no wonder that the Philistines enjoyed so much military success. They were fighting soldiers without swords.
The Word of God uses the metaphor of a sword to describe itself. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). There is no question that we are in the midst of a battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Too often God's people lose the battle because while the enemy is fully equipped for war, the Christian is trying to win victories without using the weapon God has provided. When Satan tempted Jesus, each inducement to do wrong was answered by the Lord with a specific Scripture.
Christians who are not reading, learning, and hearing God's Word cannot expect victory in spiritual warfare.
And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.
1 Samuel 17:8-11
When the enemies of God and His people become brazen in their attacks, it is imperative that those of us who love God and the truth take a clear and definite stand. Yet it is often in those moments that we are tempted to stand back and hope that someone else will confront the problem. We do not have to be afraid of our enemies, for God is more powerful than all of them put together. We do have a responsibility to stand firm for the truth, especially when the battle is raging. Solomon wrote, “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10). Just because the enemy is loud and strong and tall does not mean he is able to fight against God.
There is an old quote often attributed to Martin Luther, but which is true no matter who originally said it. “If I profess with loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated into silence and cowardice when God's truth is under attack.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29
God is gracious and merciful, giving us far more blessings than we deserve. He not only gives eternal salvation to those who call out to Him for it, but He meets our needs, hears and answers our prayers, and blesses us in more ways than we can count. All of these blessings should point us to God and to His incredible goodness and glory. Too often, however, we start to take credit for the gifts God has given us.
It is God's gift of grace that enables us to be used, and we should never take credit. God will not give His glory to anyone else. “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8). God will not allow us or anyone to claim the credit and glory that belong to Him alone. That is why He commanded Gideon to send home most of the soldiers who came to fight against the Midianites. That is why He told Jehoshaphat to send the army into battle led by singers and musicians who were praising the Lord. That is why He sent a chariot of fire to take Elijah to Heaven. God wants there to be no doubt that He is the one who is to be worshiped and glorified.
Our lives should be a display that reflects God's greatness, and His glory should be our joy. Jonathan Edwards wrote, “God is glorified not only by His glory being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.”
No achievement in the Christian life can be considered truly successful unless it brings honor and glory to God.