Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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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. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
The Bible is not just something we read and hear on Sundays. It is the Word of God, and it must be a central part of our lives. It should fill not just our hearts and minds, but our mouths as well. The Bible should be on display in our speaking, our teaching, and even our singing. Those who know us should be aware that we are students of the Scriptures. This does not happen by accident or by chance. It requires us to make a commitment to know the Bible as we should and then to follow through with it. “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:10).
There are no shortcuts or quick paths to the mastery of the Word of God. It only comes from faithfulness. Day after day, month after month, year after year as we learn and apply what God tells us, we become more and more people of the Word. There is always more to learn, no matter how long we have been saved, no matter how long we study, and no matter how long we may have taught or preached. A person who has been a Christian for decades needs the Bible just as much as one who has just been saved. We should never allow ourselves to become casual about this great treasure God has given us.
Only if our hearts and minds are filled with the Word of God will our speaking, teaching, and singing be filled with the Word.
Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me. My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.
Most people remember Charles Spurgeon for being an incredibly gifted and influential preacher, and he certainly was. From the time he was a teenager he was one of the most sought-after speakers in all of England. Thousands of people came to hear him every week. Yet Spurgeon spent much of his life dealing with intense physical pain, great opposition and ridicule, and feelings of discouragement and depression. At one point Spurgeon said, “I could say with Job, ‘My soul chooseth strangling rather than life’ [Job 7:15]. I could readily enough have laid violent hands upon myself, to escape from my misery of spirit.”
There are no promises in the Bible that the Christian life will be easy or painless. Many of the people who have made the greatest impact for God have dealt with extremely difficult circumstances. When those hard times and hardships come, we are tempted to try to escape from them. There is nothing unusual about that. Even David expressed his desire for wings so he could leave his troubles behind and find a place of rest. Instead he learned, as so many other believers have through the years, that God will never abandon us, and that we can always rely on Him. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance” (Psalm 42:5). God never fails to support those who flee to Him for help.
God's grace is enough for any challenge we face, and we must rely on Him rather than ourselves.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Most of us have experienced the deep weariness that comes from extended periods of work without a break. There are times when we work and work and work, only to find out that when we have reached what we thought was a stopping place, there is still more to do. We remember the story of Jesus telling the disciples it was time to come apart and rest. Yet when they reached the other side of the lake, they found that a crowd of people had gathered. Rather than sending them away so He could get the rest He needed, Jesus ministered to them. “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).
God does not promise that when we come to Him for help He will make the burdens go away and stop the race we must run. What He promises instead is that He will give us the strength and endurance to keep going and to do what we must for Him. Those who ask for ease and nothing to do are not seeking the right thing. God calls us to work for Him, not because it is easy or without pain, but because it is necessary, meaningful, and important. He will equip us and strengthen us and uphold us if we seek His help. There is nothing we can do apart from His power, and there is nothing we cannot do with His power. Those who labor for Him will never find His strength lacking for the task.
God will never fail to give us the strength to do His work if we rely on Him.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
The foundation of right living is found on the inside, not the outside. Our behavior is determined by the thinking which proceeds it. J. C. Ryle said, “Imagination is the hotbed where sin is too often hatched. Guard your thoughts, and there will be little fear about your actions.” We have control over our thinking if we choose to exercise it. Neither the devil nor the world can force us to think the wrong things. We only do that when we choose to do so. Because there is frequently a delay between the wrong thinking and the wrong actions that follow, we are tempted to feel like what we think does not matter. But what we continually think in our minds will certainly eventually show up in our actions.
There are temptations and thoughts that are hard for us to resist. While those vary according to our personality and experience, we share in common the need to control what we are allowing to fill our minds. There is victory available over wrong thinking for those who will claim it. Paul wrote, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We have a responsibility to take control of our thinking instead of allowing anything to linger in our minds that will lead us away from God. To please Him with our conduct, we must first make sure that our thoughts are filled with truth and right. Temptation will come, but we do not have to allow it to take root.
The key to godly living begins with biblical thinking.
Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.
1 Samuel 30:4-6
The story goes that during a particularly difficult time in his ministry, Martin Luther fell into a deep depression. After a few days, his wife Kitty came downstairs dressed in mourning clothes. “Who died?” Luther asked. “God,” she replied. “God can't die,” Luther objected. “Well, from the way you are acting, I thought He had,” Kitty explained. There are hard times and difficulties that come to all of us due to living in a fallen world. Sometimes we face additional difficulties because of our allegiance to Christ. We must not, however, allow these hardships to defeat us, but rather to turn to God for help in overcoming them. There will never be a challenge we face that is too great for Him to handle.
David, before he became king of Israel, faced years of difficulty—on the run, forced to hide from King Saul who was fearful and jealous of David. These years were not only difficult for David, but also for the men who stayed with him. On one occasion, David and his men left briefly and returned to the town they were staying in only to find the town looted and their families taken captive. To make matter's worse, David's men blamed David and spoke of stoning him. These were tough men, men of war, and they were fully able to carry out their threat against David. Yet David was not defeated. He turned to the unfailing source of help and comfort that God provides. the Bible says that he “encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
The devil lies to us and tells us that we are alone—that no one else faces problems as bad as ours. But in truth, we all face difficulties and discouragements. The difference is in how we respond. Do we live as if God were dead, or do we encourage ourselves in His unfailing love?
No matter what others say or do, God is always ready to comfort and encourage His children who come to Him for help.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
Every day we receive from God far more than we deserve. His blessings and favor make it possible for us to enjoy good things, and His mercy keeps us from being destroyed. “It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-32). Day by day we benefit from God's goodness, yet all too often we fail to be grateful for what we have received. Instead, we take God's blessing for granted, or think that somehow we deserve it apart from His grace. Nothing could be further from the truth. God owes us nothing. We owe Him everything. And when we receive His goodness, it is a sin not to be thankful.
Dr. John Rice said, “One of the greatest sins among Christians is ingratitude. A lack of praise to God for His mercies shows a wickedness of heart. Discontent, fret about the future, complaining of hardships—these are the marks of unbelief and ingratitude, the marks of one who does not delight in the Lord. There are people who claim to be Christians who often eat a meal without thanking God. And in some homes where there is a little formal prayer there is often no real praise, no glad acknowledgment of God's blessings.” The Jewish lepers Jesus healed didn't bother to be grateful, but the Samaritan—a man despised and looked down on by others—fell down at Jesus' feet. We must never forget His blessings, or take them for granted.
A lack of gratitude toward God reveals a heart that has grown cold toward Him.
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3
John Roach Stratton who was a powerful and effective preacher shared this story from his own life: “I wish to bear my own personal testimony that I did not overcome the habit of smoking until the truth of the return of our Lord came home clearly to my mind and heart. When I did thus believe that Jesus Christ is surely coming back to this world again, even as He plainly promised, and that His coming for His church—the redeemed—may be at any moment, I found grace to throw pipes and cigars away completely, never to take them up again.”
The truth that Jesus is going to return is meant to be a comfort and encouragement to us. It is also meant to be an impetus toward holy living. If we truly believe this doctrine, not just giving it lip service but taking it into our hearts and living by it, it will transform the way that we live. Too many Christians are content to make their own choices regarding activities, employment, and entertainment rather than taking into account what God says in His Word. Our purpose should always be to please Him rather than ourselves. The proper question is never whether we will enjoy doing something, but what God will think about it. Sometimes we are tempted to look for loopholes that will allow us to justify doing something rather than simply determining how we would feel if the Lord returned and found us doing it. If we allow things we know are wrong to remain in our lives, we will be greatly embarrassed when we see Jesus.
Live every day so that you will be thrilled to see Jesus should He come that very day.
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Salvation is God's free gift to us. And once we receive Christ, God works an inside-out change in us that proves to others the reality of our faith in Christ. The commitment Zacchaeus made to make things right and help those in need was cited by Jesus as evidence that his faith was genuine. There is no real faith that does not produce a result in our lives. James wrote, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
James Henry Jowett said, “There is something more in this abandonment than the desertion of an old road. We cannot turn from that road as though nothing had been accomplished in it. A certain life has been lived and certain damage has been done. No man can leave that road where ruin has been wrought and turn away as though nothing has been done. The abandoning of the old road must be accompanied by the rectifying of the old wrong. So far as restitution is possible, it is part of our forsaking the old life. Here, then, is where repentance begins.”
If there are people we have harmed in the past, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to make things right. While this is not always possible, we should not be content until we can truly say that we have made that effort. God freely and completely forgives all of our sins through the blood of Jesus, but He leaves us the duty of living out our faith, not just toward Him, but in our dealings with others.
True faith in Christ will produce action and change in our lives.
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
As we look around, it is easy to see there are great differences and divides among those who claim to be Christians. The word Christian itself can mean any number of things to different people, and just because someone claims the title does not mean that they are truly followers of Jesus Christ. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed that His disciples would experience unity. He did not ask that the disciples would be able to join hands with the Pharisees who elevated tradition above God's law or the Sadducees who denied the power of God over the natural world. We should never join in unity with those who are not believers in Jesus Christ. However, we should have unity with true Christians.
The unity that Christ desired for His followers is based on the truth that we find in the Word of God. There is no other proper foundation for unity. It cannot be based on our feelings or preferences, or on our assessment of what is correct. It must be grounded in the unchanging truth. Unity is of vital importance, or Jesus would not have prayed that His followers would have it. Yet if unity is our highest priority, we will be tempted to compromise the truth to achieve it. Paul told the church at Ephesus that God had given them leaders to build them up in faith and doctrine, not just to know more, but to be united. "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
We should do everything in our power to maintain unity with those who are committed to Bible truth.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Even though God had freely given Adam and Eve the fruit of all the trees in the Garden of Eden (except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), Eve did not appreciate His bounty and blessing. Instead she focused on the one thing that was forbidden. The fruit on the forbidden tree did not appear to be dangerous or harmful; in fact, it was attractive. Yet it was deadly all the same—not because of its appearance but because of what God declared would happen if they ate it.
In the northeastern part of England lies the Alnwick Garden, which contains one of the most unusual collections of plants in the world. In addition to beautiful roses and flowering fruit trees, Alnwick is home to the Poison Garden, known as the deadliest garden in the world. Containing about one hundred toxic plants, the garden is protected by an iron fence. Visitors are only allowed to tour under strict supervision. The garden's website says, “Visitors are strictly prohibited from smelling, touching, or tasting any plants, although some people still occasionally faint from inhaling toxic fumes while walking in the garden.”
Satan works diligently to make things that are deadly appear to be beautiful and attractive. He hides the consequences of our actions and focuses instead on the temporary pleasure that will come from indulgence, but that does not change those consequences. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15).
We must not allow the beauty of temptation to hide the deadliness of sin.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are. And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.
Over the past two years, our world has been shaken by a global event like most people living now have never seen before. The Covid-19 pandemic created not just a health crisis, but an economic upheaval as well. The world is a different place than it was before the pandemic started. All of us know people who have gotten sick, who have passed away, or who have suffered economic hardship because of the pandemic. Yet in spite of that reality, we must not allow ourselves to forget that God is still in control.
When the first plagues struck Egypt, they impacted both the Israelites and the Egyptians. But starting with the plague of flies, God drew a line between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The remaining plagues—the pestilence, the boils, the locusts, and the darkness—did not touch the land of Goshen where the Israelites dwelled. God is more than able to protect us and provide for us, no matter what is going on in the world around us. David reminds us, “They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied” (Psalm 37:19). God does not promise that nothing will ever go wrong, but He does promise that we will never be forsaken.
We must not allow our circumstances to undermine our faith in what God is willing and able to do.
But Job answered and said, Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up. For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.
At a young age, Frank Graeff committed his life to serving God. He trained for the ministry and spent many years working with children and young people. He was noted for his positive attitude, so much so that one of his contemporaries nicknamed him the “sunshine minister.” Yet Graeff's life was far from simple or easy. He struggled with serious health issues that would take his life at just fifty-nine years of age. While still in his thirties, Graeff wrote a hymn that expressed his confidence in God during times of suffering.
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress
And the way grows weary and long?
Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.
There are times when we are tempted to wonder if anyone cares. We may be let down by those on whom we depended most. That was Job's experience. In his time of great suffering and loss his friends came, but rather than comforting him they accused him of harboring hidden sin in his life and being proud and arrogant. Job knew that he was suffering, though he did not know about Satan's conversation with God that was behind his troubles, and he wanted the hurt of his heart to be taken seriously. When no one else cared, Job knew he could trust in God. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” (Job 13:15).
No burden we face is unimportant to God, and no tear we shed escapes His notice.
What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. G. LeTourneau had become very successful in the construction business in the 1920s. But just two years before the Great Depression started, a failed job left him with a debt of $100,000. LeTourneau was a committed Christian, and he refused to file bankruptcy or take legal action to get out of paying the debt. On his next job the company insisted LeTourneau work on Sundays to finish on time, but he refused—and still was able to get the work done. Gradually, he paid the debts back, and even as the Depression grew worse, LeTourneau's business continued to grow. LeTourneau began giving 90 percent of his income to God and living on 10 percent. He said, “It’s not how much of my money I give to God, but how much of God’s money I keep for myself.”
We have been given a gift of God's grace that is greater than we could ever work for or pay for. Salvation is a free gift of God's grace paid for by Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross of Calvary. Because of this, the gratitude in our hearts should compel us to freely surrender ourselves and all we own to the Lord. The psalmist wrote that he would offer the "sacrifice of thanksgiving." That should be our heart as well. When a sinful woman came and anointed the feet of Jesus with a precious ointment, it caused a stir. But Jesus pointed out to His host that she was simply acting out of gratitude and love for God. He asked who would be most grateful—someone forgiven a little, or someone forgiven a lot. “Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged” (Luke 7:43).
When we meditate on God's great grace and forgiveness to us, it causes gratitude to well up in our hearts so that we want to give to Him.
And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month. For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat,
Before the Israelites who returned from seventy years of Babylonian captivity could worship God as He commanded, they first needed to be purified as they set themselves apart from the sinfulness that surrounded them. Every day as we walk through this world, we are surrounded by sin. Though our position as part of God's family never changes and our eternal destiny is settled, we still need daily cleansing so that we can remain in close fellowship with Him.
J. C. Ryle wrote, “Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Ghost, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood, but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart, and makes him practically godly in life.” Salvation is the miracle of a moment. When we call upon Christ for salvation, we are immediately saved from the penalty of sin and made a child of God. Sanctification, however, takes place over a lifetime as we grow in God's grace.
God does not excuse or tolerate sin in the life of a believer. No work that we have done for Him allows us to keep a few hidden sins in our lives without His disapproval. He calls us to a life of holiness that we might reflect His holiness as we serve Him. “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Timothy 2:21). A growing Christian is one that is continually becoming less like the world and more like Jesus Christ.
Our growth in sanctification expands our opportunities for usefulness for Christ.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
In the late 1960s a social scientist named Walter Mischel conducted a series of experiments at the Stanford Bing Nursery School. Four- and five-year-old children were offered a marshmallow, then told if they waited until the researcher returned, they would get two marshmallows. Some children ate the marshmallow immediately while others waited until they could get more. Mischel found correlations between the choice made as children with their later academic achievement and life success, and found that those who rejected the immediate reward tended to perform better. The study was later redone and those who conducted it announced they had found different results with a different set of controls, yet when the control factors were apples to apples, those who exhibited self control at a young age still did better later in life.
Every day we are presented with choices we must make. Will we choose what produces immediate gratification and pleasure, or will we choose what produces eternal results and pleases God? Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “Never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.” The devil tries to get us to focus only on the present without regard for the long term consequences. God calls us to look ahead to what He has in store for us. There are no sacrifices that we make for Him that are overlooked or ignored. The world may never notice, but God keeps careful records, and He rewards everyone who makes choices to honor Him. Although the results may not be immediately apparent, there are blessings awaiting those who decide to walk His way rather than choosing what is easy or pleasant for the moment.
Our decisions in life must be made with eternity as our highest priority to receive the reward God promises.
Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
When the Israelites found themselves trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh's army, they had no hope. In fact they even criticized Moses for leading them to freedom, saying that it would have been better to stay as slaves instead. Yet while the situation was truly hopeless humanly speaking, they were not limited to human resources. They had God on their side—but despite the fact that they had just seen His power displayed as the ten consecutive plagues hit Egypt, they did not view Him as being able to deal with their situation. Moses pointed out that God's ability to help did not depend on them. They were not to do anything but wait in faith, until He gave the victory.
There are circumstances that we face which appear to be insurmountable. It may be the loss of a job or a serious medical diagnosis. It may be a lost friend or family member who has resisted every attempt we make to present the gospel. It may be a broken relationship that seems to have no hope of restoration. No matter the circumstances, God is able to work. We are tempted to despair because of the difficulties, but we are called to faith because of God's power. We are tempted to give up and go back because of the obstacles, but we are called to move forward because God is with us. Nothing we face is beyond His ability to overcome.
Difficult circumstances call us to trust God more rather than driving us to doubt.
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God. Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
At the time Isaiah prophesied, things were bleak for the Jewish people. The northern kingdom had already been conquered and scattered by the Assyrians, and Isaiah was sent by God to warn that the Babylonians would carry the southern kingdom of Judah into captivity. It was at this time—when Israel was hopelessly outnumbered, unable to compete militarily, and under God's judgment for their idolatry—Isaiah still had a God-given message of hope for the future. He told them that the same God who punished sins was willing to forgive those who repented and was able to restore what they had lost.
There are times when we are in what seems to be a desert, and we cannot see a way forward. Even in the darkest days of our lives, God is still there. If we do not allow our faith to waver and do not let our fear cause us to give up, we can see Him do great things. Paul reminds us, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). It is never right to judge God's plan for us or His love for us by our immediate circumstances. Many times, following God's path leads us to the desert. Sometimes He leads us out and sometimes He makes the desert blossom, but He never abandons us.
It is often in the most difficult circumstances of life that our faith grows the most and produces the greatest fruit.
And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it. Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:
We often hear people say, “Seeing is believing.” Yet our faith is not based on what we can see. When Moses rehearsed the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai to the nation of Israel, he reminded the people that although there were visible and audible manifestations of God's presence, they did not see Him. The tendency of fallen man is to seek for something that they can see to worship. Throughout history people have made idols—carving statues from wood or stone—to have something tangible to represent their gods. Yet the Lord specifically condemned this practice. The Second Commandment forbids the making of any graven images.
God does not want us to focus on the physical manifestation of His being, but on His nature, His glory, His grace, and His holiness. We do not need an idol for any of that. Peter expressed this truth about Jesus when he wrote, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). The more we read the Scriptures and meditate on the character of God, the more we will love Him. This love grows, not from having a picture or image of God, but from having a heart that is focused on Him.
Our devotion to God grows not from seeing Him physically, but from seeing Him revealed in God's Word and experiencing His work in our lives.
The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
The first time Jesus came was marked with angels and a star in the sky, but by and large the event went unnoticed by the world. When He returns, however, things will be very different. He will appear in glory and power—not as a humble lamb, but as a conquering lion. The darkness and evil in this world is powerful, but it cannot stand against the Lord. He will pierce the darkness and replace it with His own light.
T. DeWitt Talmage said, “I have read that near the North Pole, the night lasting for months and months, when the people expect the day is about to dawn, some messengers go up on the highest point to watch; and when they see the first streak of day they put on their brightest possible apparel, and embrace each other, and cry, 'Behold the sun!' and the cry goes through the land. Behold the sun! Behold the sun! Would God that every blinded eye might now see it!”
None of us knows when the Lord will return or how long we will have to serve Him before that day comes. That means that every day needs to be used to full advantage to work for the Lord and to point others to Him. Those who are not reached will not find His appearance a pleasant one. “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16).
Knowing that Jesus could return at any moment should inspire us to do all we can to tell others about Him.
Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
When Anne Morrow Lindbergh was six years old, her father hosted a dinner party for some of his friends. Among those invited was Calvin Coolidge, then a member of the Massachusetts state legislator and not yet well known in political circles. After the dinner was over and Coolidge had left, Dwight Morrow told those who remained that he thought Coolidge would be a good President. Some of the guests had not been that impressed with “Silent Cal” and disagreed, saying people would not like him. “I like him,” Anne said. She held up her bandaged finger and continued, “He was the only one at the party who asked about my sore finger.”
All around us there are people with hurts, burdens, needs and sorrows. Sometimes it almost seems overwhelming to think about all the problems. Yet when we show compassion, whether the matter is large or small, we are following the example of Jesus. While we should certainly do what we can to help those in need, many times the simple fact that someone has noticed the problem and does care is a huge encouragement to the one in need. All of us want to feel that we are not isolated and alone. We want there to be people who have compassion and will be there for us in times of trouble. We must demonstrate that love and compassion every chance we get.
We will not be able to meet every need we see, but we can always show compassion to those who are hurting.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
James M. Gray, who followed R. A. Torrey as head of the Moody Bible Institute, grew up going to church. He was confirmed as a teenager, but nothing changed in his heart, and when he left home, he soon turned far away from what he had learned as a boy. Despite his sinful life, he still kept some of the books his mother had given him and would read them at night before going to bed.
Gray wrote, “One night, after an evening of excitement among worldly people, my eye fell on this sentence: 'Every soul not already won to Jesus is already lost.' It was an arrow of conviction to my soul. I had absolutely no plea but for mercy. Daily I had said my prayers since childhood, but that night I really prayed. And God heard it. That night He lifted me up out of the miry clay and planted me upon a rock. He put a new song in my mouth, which I have been singing ever since, even salvation unto my God.”
Salvation does not leave us the same as we were before we received it. Salvation takes people who once were held captive by Satan and gives them freedom from the sins of the world. All of us were hopelessly lost without Jesus. Even those of us who grew up in church still needed a Savior and a salvation that would transform our lives. The world loses its allure when we are praising God for His deliverance from sin.
Salvation does not leave us the same as we were before but changed as we live for a new Master.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The law of God given to Moses went far beyond the Ten Commandments handed down on Mount Sinai. It encompassed instruction for every part of life, and if followed completely would have made someone righteous even by God's standards. However, every person born into this world has a sinful nature because of the fall of Adam. That means that none of us can perfectly keep the law—no matter how diligent an effort we might make. We still fall short. Some Jewish rabbis taught that the Messiah would appear as soon as one person lived a perfect day according to God's law. But that never happened.
What Paul called our “sinful flesh” is constantly and continually at war with what is good and right and holy. We do not naturally do right. Thankfully Jesus came and lived a perfect life, keeping the law of God, and then laying down His life as the sacrifice for our sins. When we are saved, the old nature does not disappear. Yet the power of God's Spirit living within us is so great that we can win any of those battles against the flesh if we are walking in Him. No matter how long we have been saved, we still need God's power to win the victory over temptation and sin. No matter how strong the allure of the world is, we will overcome it if the Holy Spirit is in control of our lives.
Yield daily to the control of the Holy Spirit, and you will experience His power to overcome sin.
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
A pastor in the Philippines told the story of an old man who was walking down the road, carrying a heavy weight on his shoulders. The driver of a wagon headed to the market in town saw him and felt sorry for him. So he stopped and offered the old man a ride in the back of the wagon. As they continued on toward town, the driver looked back to see how his passenger was getting along. He saw that the man was still straining with the weight of his load, because he had not taken it off his shoulders. "You can put your load down," he told the man. "Oh no," the old man said, "It's enough that you are giving me a ride. You don't have to carry my belongings too."
Whether or not that scenario actually happened, it's a good illustration of how ridiculous it is for us to refuse to cast our cares on the Lord. It's no extra burden to God, Who has already assumed the responsibility for our salvation and eternal destiny, to receive our burdens as well.
God promises us rest and comfort, but we must come to Him and trust Him for it. Many people express their complaints and problems to the Lord about the load they are carrying, but they are not willing to let Him take the burden completely. So though they pray, they are still weighed down. As Charles Tindley wrote in his hymn, “Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.” If we insist on carrying the load, we will never know the rest and peace that God is willing and able to provide. David wrote, “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). Life is filled with burdens that are too much for us to bear in our own strength, but none of them pose a challenge to God.
Peace and rest come to those who trust God both with their burdens and with the solutions.
So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
1 Corinthians 3:7-9
The Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA in the 1990s, winning six championships in an eight-year span. The leader of the team was Michael Jordan, but he could not win games by himself. The Bulls assembled a supporting cast of players one of whom was Stacey King. In a 1990 game against the Cavaliers, Jordan scored a career high sixty-nine points in a game the Bulls won in overtime. King, then a rookie, came off the bench late in the game and scored one point on a free throw. As the reporters crowded around Jordan in the post-game to talk about his offensive outburst, King walked by. He told the reporters, “I will always remember this as the night that Michael Jordan and I combined to score seventy points.”
God does not need our help. Our “one point” doesn't add enough to His achievements to even notice, let alone brag about. Yet He graciously calls us to work together with Him to accomplish His purposes in our world. Not only that, but He also strengthens us for the labor and gives the harvest that follows. Then He promises rewards to us for our work for Him. Even the smallest things are not overlooked by God. Jesus said, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41). There is no room for pride in anything that we do for God because it is His grace and strength that makes it possible. We cannot produce anything of good or lasting value apart from Him.
Our work for God must be done in His power and in His way if that work is to please Him.
The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.
When the RMS Lusitania docked in New York City on April 24, 1915, she completed her 201st crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The First World War was in its second year, and although America was not yet involved in the war, the ship was believed to be planning to carry military equipment and munitions back to England on the return voyage. For more than a week, the German Embassy ran an advertisement that appeared in fifty papers warning those intending to sail on the Lusitania that they were heading into grave danger. The ad warned, “A state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; and travelers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.” On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine and sank off the coast of Ireland. More than half of the passengers and crew aboard perished in an attack they had been warned was coming.
When we do not heed the warnings we receive, we place ourselves in danger. God has given us guidelines and instructions in His Word that mark the “war zone” between Him and the devil. We should not be taken by surprise by the ways in which Satan tries to tempt us. He does not publish ads warning of the danger, but God has pointed them out. Paul reminds us that we are supposed to understand how the devil works, writing, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). When we decide we know better than God and can afford to reject His warnings, we are heading for disaster.
We need to take every warning and instruction of God seriously and heed them.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:11-13
Perhaps the most famous of Aesop's fables is the story of "The Tortoise and the Hare." No one expected a slow tortoise to be able to compete with a speedy rabbit in a footrace. But the arrogance and overconfidence of the hare led him to stop for a nap before the race was finished. By the time he woke up and started running again, it was too late. There are some powerful lessons in that ancient story, and they are lessons we need to apply in our spiritual lives.
There is no place for arrogance and self-confidence when it comes to dealing with sin and temptation. Every one of us is capable of committing awful sin. Often the thing Satan uses against us is that assumption that we do not need to be on guard. When Jesus warned that after His arrest the disciples would turn away, one of them was certain that it would never be him. “Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matthew 26:33).
When we are convinced that we cannot or will not fall, that is when we are most in danger. Just as Jesus told him, Peter denied the Lord three times—even cursing to make his point that he didn't know Jesus. Satan is patient, and he is willing to probe our defenses. Because he knows that pride undermines us, he often attacks at the point we think we are strongest.
We need to rely on God rather than on ourselves for the strength to overcome temptation.
Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
It is said that while he was a young man at college, John Wesley was deeply impressed by a fellow student who, though he had almost nothing, was continually joyful and praising God no matter what was happening in his life. As a result, Wesley determined that he too would be a person of praise. After decades of ministry, John Wesley fell ill at the age of eighty-eight. On his deathbed, he sang Isaac Watts' hymn “I'll Praise My Maker While I've Breath.”
I'll praise my Maker while I've breath;
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler powers.
My days of praise shall ne'er be past
While life and thought and being last,
Or immortality endures.
There is never a time, either in this life or in eternity, when we should not be praising God. We were created to bring honor and glory to His name. When we speak of Him in grateful terms, showing joy at His goodness to us, it is not just for ourselves. We also make a dramatic impact on those around us. The joyful song of the Israelites at their return from captivity in Babylon highlights this truth. “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them” (Psalm 126:2). We will never run out of things for which we can and should praise God. His overflowing goodness is inexhaustible.
Regardless of our situation, we can always find things for which God deserves praise.
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Though the sin nature remains with us even after we are saved and will as long as we live in this world, it no longer has the power it once did. Just as Jesus returned to life after three days and nights in the grave, we have a new life once we trust Him as Savior. But living up to the calling that is placed on us requires more than life. It also requires death. Dr. Curtis Hutson used the illustration of going to a funeral home. If you walk by the people in the caskets, it doesn't matter what you say to them, they won't respond. You can criticize or praise, it makes no difference. No matter what temptation or provocation you might offer, they will not react. That's because they are dead.
As Christians we are to count that we are dead to the old life and choose to live in the new life. The things that once appealed to us will have no impact on us if we are dead to them. This death to sin and self is not a one-time event. It is something that we have to do on purpose on a regular basis. Paul wrote, “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). While we will never succeed perfectly, we must constantly be choosing to die to self and live to God.
It is as we remember that we are dead to sin that we will be free to enjoy living for God.
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
John the Baptist did not conform to the expectations of the religious establishment of his day. He did not dress like they did, eat what they ate, or talk with the flowery hypocritical speeches they made. Yet his ministry was powerful and effective. That was because John's ministry did not depend on John, but on God. The large crowds that heeded his message and were baptized as a sign of their repentance were not produced by his skills as an orator, his plans as a promoter, or his techniques of publicity. God used this unlikely prophet in a powerful way to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus.
There are always people who will tell you that to be successful you must follow their model. They suggest that if we have the right color of carpet and the right amount of lighting and the right kind of sound system, people will come to our church. It may be possible to draw a crowd using human techniques, but it is not possible to produce a work of God with them. We must care more about what God thinks than what people prefer. When asked about the success of his ministry, George Müller said, “There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Müller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will, died to the world, its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends, and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.”
We cannot make a lasting impact on the world unless we are working and living in the power of God.
Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
Many people who accept Jesus as a good teacher or role model refuse to accept His divinity. Thomas Jefferson made his own version of the Bible that left out all the miracles, which he did not believe were real. He was fine with the moral teachings of the Lord, but he rejected much of the Word of God. In a letter to a friend, Jefferson decried the “artificial systems invented by Ultra-Christian sects” which according to him included “the immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection & visible ascension, the Trinity, original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, Etc.”
Jesus did work miracles, and He was divine. The fact that He was sent from God to be the Savior for all who believe was evidenced by the actions Jesus took in His life. He healed the sick and raised the dead, because of His compassion for those in need, but also to testify that He was indeed the Messiah. This was not just something that happened a few times. It characterized the entire life and ministry of Jesus. When Peter preached the gospel 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). A lost and cynical world may reject the Bible account, but that does not make it less true.
It is impossible to truly believe in Jesus unless we believe all that He is and all that He did.
Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
I came across an old Chinese story about a student who was seeking instruction in the martial arts. When he arrived at the school of a noted teacher, he was invited inside to have tea with the master. As they sat and talked, each time the teacher would say something, the student would interrupt. “I know that already,” he would say or, “I don't have a problem with that.” After a few minutes the teacher grew silent. Then picking up the teapot, he began pouring tea into the prospective student's cup. Soon it was overflowing and the student shouted, “Enough. My cup is full!” The teacher replied, “Yes, your cup is full, therefore I can teach you nothing until you empty your cup.”
The Lord has perfect wisdom and knowledge, and He offers that to us through His Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Yet too many times we do not listen to what He wants to tell us. Though we would never say out loud that we know better than God, we act like it. Frequently the problem is not that we do not know what God says, but rather that doing what He says would require us to do something we do not want to do, or require us not to do something we do want to do. We need to be humble and obedient to what God tells us. We need to remember our utter dependence on Him and reject the call of the world to walk in our own wisdom.
We cannot benefit from God's wisdom and instruction if we are determined to go our own way.
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Horrified by the massive toll of World War I, and looking for a way to prevent it being repeated, the nations of the world began negotiating a treaty that would govern future behavior. What came to be known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed in Paris in 1928. It committed the nations who joined to use peaceful means of resolving their differences. It said in part, “The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.” Just over ten years later, Germany invaded Poland launching a war far more deadly and destructive than the one that had sparked the “war to end all wars.”
Peace is not a natural part of the human condition. Our fallen nature and the presence of sin in the world lead to conflict, trouble, and discontent. Often we are tempted to try to get what we want apart from the way of God. Many people think that getting a better job, a better spouse, a better place to live, or a better bank balance will bring peace, but it never does. Peace, real and lasting peace, is only available from the presence and power of God. Jesus gives us peace for today and the certainty of victory for tomorrow. “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans 16:20).
Real peace can never come from the things of the world, but only from God.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Jesus came to the world with God's offer of salvation. Across the land of Israel He preached and taught people the way to God through repentance. He spent a great deal of time in Jerusalem, talking to both the leaders and the common people. Yet tragically many of them rejected Him, choosing to remain focused on their traditions and their positions rather than turning to the Lord. He came as their Messiah, but many of them rejected Him, closing the door of opportunity God had given them.
Under the pen name Ian Maclaren, the Scottish preacher John Watson wrote, “This world is full of tragic 'might-have beens.' No remorse, no regret, no self-accusation will avail one jot when the time for plowing is past. We cannot stick the share into the ground when we should be wielding the cycle. `Too late' are the saddest of all human words, and unless our lives are filled each moment with the task that is apportioned to us, then through all eternity we must ever regret lost opportunity.”
The opportunities of today are not guaranteed to still be available tomorrow. They may be. There are times when we have a chance to recapture a missed opportunity. But that is not always the case. God opens doors for us, and we should do everything possible to take full advantage of them. Jesus was very conscious of this truth, using every day to the fullest. He told His disciples, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4).
The opportunities of today are not guaranteed to be offered to us again—we must seize them in the moment.
For the LORD'S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
One of the tendencies we who have been saved for many years should fight is forgetting how desperately we needed salvation. This is especially true for those of us who were born into Christian families and saved at a young age rather than spending a lengthy period of our lives in the world. Yet in reality, all of us were in the desert, desperately needing rescue. We may have been in church every time the door was open, but our hearts were still made of stone, and we were headed for eternal destruction. All of us, old and young, churched and unchurched, needed what only God can do.
When four friends of a man who was crippled with palsy brought him to Jesus and let him down through the roof, Jesus addressed his spiritual need rather than the physical one. Yet when Jesus pronounced that his sins had been forgiven, many of the listeners were offended. They asked, “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mark 2:7). Though their hearts were not in the right place, they stated the truth: only God can save us.
Those who do not know Christ need that salvation. They need to be picked up from "the desert" of sin and rescued through Christ. If you already know Christ as your Savior, thank Him for providing this rescue. And look for someone today who doesn't know Christ that you might share the message of salvation through God's great grace with them.
We must never lose sight of the fact that God's salvation came to us through grace alone.
And it came to pass, that in process of time, after the end of two years, his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore diseases. And his people made no burning for him, like the burning of his fathers. Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired. Howbeit they buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchres of the kings.
2 Chronicles 21:19-20
Alfred Nobel followed his father into the business of making explosives and munitions. He vastly expanded the family business, especially following his invention of dynamite in 1867. His name was known around the world, but his reputation was not what he wished it to be. In 1888 when his brother Ludwig died of a heart attack, a French newspaper mistakenly published an obituary for Alfred instead. They called him a “merchant of death” and lamented the new ways he had come up with to kill more people in a shorter amount of time. Stung by the criticism, Alfred Nobel determined to change the way he was viewed. He left his vast fortune to establish a series of prizes that would be given to those who advanced humanity, of which the best known is the Nobel Peace Prize.
Every day we are building a legacy that will determine how people remember us. The death of the wicked King Jehoram of Judah was not followed by mourning as was the custom for the death of a Jewish king. The people were not saddened by his death. He had done nothing good for which he could be honored or remembered. He had not committed himself to living in such a way that he would leave a lasting, positive legacy. Each day of our lives we have an influence on other people. The cumulative effect of those days determines how we will be thought of when we are gone.
Our purpose is to bring glory to God rather than ourselves, but we should live in such a way that people are sorry when we are gone.
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Every year millions of people make the trek to the far northwest corner of Wyoming to visit Yellowstone National Park. Established by an Act of Congress in 1872, Yellowstone is considered to be the first national park, not just in the United States, but in the world. One of best-known and most-visited attractions in the park is a geyser known as Old Faithful. The geyser got its name because of the regularity of eruptions. Where most geysers only erupt sporadically, Old Faithful is known for going off on a predictable schedule. What many people do not realize, however, is that the time between eruptions has been increasing over the years. Over the past sixty years, the average has continued to increase. The most common interval now is more than ninety minutes between eruptions.
There are many churches and individual believers who have established a good reputation. But there are some whose current life and practice do not match what they are known for doing. God sent a warning to the church at Sardis where the people were coasting on what they used to do and benefiting because their reputation remained good. Yet regardless of what people thought, God saw the truth—that they had ceased to love Him and work for Him as they should have done. All that we have done in the past to establish a good name does not excuse us from continuing to do what is right.
It is not enough to have developed a good reputation, but we also must continue to live up to it.
And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.
We have no reason to expect anything good in this life to come easily. We will almost always face obstacles, and the more we are doing for God, the more we should expect Satan to oppose us. Paul knew that opportunity and opposition often go hand in hand. He wrote, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9). The good news is that we do not live and fight our battles in our own strength. We have the power and resources of God available to us; and if we rely on those, we will not be defeated.
When Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh with the demand to let the Israelites go from their bondage, they were met by the magicians of Egypt. These men, either through illusion or demonic power were able to duplicate in some fashion what happened when Aaron threw down his rod and it became a snake. But even then God's power was shown as Aaron's rod devoured all of the others. No obstacle that Satan places before us can overcome the power of God.
It should not come as a shock or surprise when doing God's work and living for Him creates opposition. Our task is to remember that He fights for us, and trust in Him for the ultimate victory. We can only be defeated if we give up. The poet Edgar Guest wrote:
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
No matter what difficulties we face, God is always faithful and always able to overcome.
Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.
Since our existence is constrained by time, it is hard for us to fully grasp the nature of eternity. The limits of time that we know all of our lives do not apply to God. He was there before anything else existed, and He will never change, age, or die. The English Puritan Stephen Charnock wrote, “Eternity is stable; and after many ages, the joys will be as savory and satisfying as if they had been but that moment first tasted by our hungry appetites. When the glory of the Lord shall rise upon you, it shall be so far from ever setting, that after millions of years are expired, as numerous as the sands on the seashore, the sun, in the light of whose countenance you shall live, shall be as bright as at the first appearance.”
People come and go in our lives. Institutions alter, change, and end. Governments rise and fall. God never does. His eternal nature gives us security and hope no matter what changes we see in the world around us. Jesus announced this to John on the Isle of Patmos, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). John was there in exile for his preaching of the gospel, but he was comforted, just as we should be, by the declaration of God's eternal existence.
God's eternal nature gives us hope and confidence in a troubled and rapidly changing world.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
The center of our faith is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The stain of our sins was so deep and the penalty for our sins was so heavy that only a Divine sacrifice could provide the hope of pardon and salvation. Although it was free to us, our salvation came at a very high cost indeed for the Lord. He endured the physical torment of one of the most painful deaths ever devised. Even worse, He endured the spiritual torment of taking our sins upon Himself.
Octavius Winslow who pastored for many years in both England and America in the 1800s wrote, “The cross of Jesus displays the most awful exhibition of God’s hatred of sin and at the same time the most august manifestation of His readiness to pardon it. Pardon, full and free, is written out in every drop of blood that is seen, is proclaimed in every groan that is heard, and shines in the very prodigy of mercy that closes the solemn scene upon the cross. O blessed door of return, open and never shut, to the wanderer from God!”
The cost of our salvation should never be far from our hearts or minds. We need to be reminded of the extent of God's love for us, and the amazing grace that allowed us to be part of His family. Rather than taking that for granted, we should be continually grateful, rejoicing, and praising God for what He has done for us. Jesus bore the weight of our sins to be our Savior.
The incredible cost of our salvation is an amazing evidence of God's unfailing love toward us.
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
2 Timothy 2:19-21
The extent to which God is able to use us in His service is not determined by our innate talents or abilities. Vessels of wood and earth can be just as useful as vessels of gold and silver. In fact, a wooden vessel that is clean is much more useful than a golden vessel that is dirty. It is our responsibility as Christian to ensure that our lives are clean so that God can use us without restriction. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that as long as they have the outside clean, the inside doesn't really matter. That was the approach of the religious leaders in Jesus' day. They focused on rituals and what people could see, but missed the important part of cleansing. Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess” (Matthew 23:25).
The responsibility for our holiness does not belong to our pastor, Bible class teacher, a spouse, or a friend. Christ commands us to "depart from iniquity." It is the responsibility of the person we see when we look in the mirror to live in a manner that honors and brings glory to God. Only when we are clean are we prepared to go to work for Him.
No amount of talent can help if our vessels are not clean and holy in the eyes of God.
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
As we see the culture around us becoming more and more hostile to Christianity, we need to remember that this is nothing new. The religious freedom Christians in America have experienced is the exception to historical precedent. Being surrounded by a hostile climate is what most believers have lived with throughout history. Rather than being defeated by it, God has given us the resources we need to overcome any opposition or persecution.
The church in Jerusalem was threatened by both the civil and religious authorities of the day. They were strictly warned to stop telling people about Jesus. They were threatened with prison, beatings, and even death. Yet they continued to spread the gospel. Their prayer was not that they would never suffer for doing what Jesus commanded, but that God would increase their courage and boldness. They were far more concerned with what God thought than with what the authorities thought.
Looking at what is happening around us shows us the importance of establishing the habits of prayer and reliance on God now rather than waiting until things get worse. Daniel did not start praying when his enemies tricked the king into signing a law outlawing prayer. “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10). He did not stop praying either. Instead he relied on God just as he had always done.
Opposition and persecution cannot deter us from faithfulness to God unless we allow that to happen.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The days of paper maps are long behind most of us. Instead we've learned to rely on our phones or our cars, using the GPS directions that tell us how to get where we want to go. We trust what we are told, turn when directed, and expect to get to our destination. In 2018, a team of researches at Virginia Tech revealed that using readily available hardware, they could “spoof” the GPS system so that it would direct the driver to a different place than the desired destination. Their research also showed that most drivers blindly followed the directions they were being given rather than paying attention to their surroundings and whether they were actually going toward where they intended to get. They relied so fully on their GPS that they could be easily tricked into taking a different route to go somewhere they did not want to go.
The path we take through this life is determined by what guidance system we choose to trust. We can choose to walk according to what seems right to us, but that path never leads to a good place. Solomon warned, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Or we can choose to walk according to the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit Who lives within every child of God. He knows exactly what the right course of action to take is in any situation. He knows exactly what the outcome will be, long before we are even presented with a decision. Our responsibility is to yield our will to His and walk as He leads.
Following the leading of the Holy Spirit through the inspired Word of God, we will never go astray.
The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
Social scientists tell us that the percentage of people in the United States who do not have any personal religious belief is at an all time high. In the not-very-distant past, a majority of Americans, even those who were not Christians, still had a sense of the importance of worship and religion and at least in some form observed the formality of going to church. That is not true today. More than ever before in our country, we are dealing with people who have little understanding of the absolute truths of God's Word or of their need for a Savior.
But every person we speak to—whether or not they grew up in church or believe religion is important—has this in common: they need Jesus. Maybe they know Who He is and maybe they don't. But regardless of their situation, we need to be like Philip and use the Word of God to show people that Jesus is the only hope of salvation. Every person we meet has a soul that will live forever either in Heaven or in Hell. We who have trusted Jesus for salvation must obey His command to tell others what we have learned. “Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (Mark 5:19).
We must not shirk our responsibility to be faithful witnesses to tell others about the Savior.
Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Although many people doubt the accuracy of the Bible, it is true—from cover to cover. Christians who believe that the Bible is true, however, have two significant shortcomings in that truth impacting their lives. First, they don't really know what the Bible says. Although they say they believe the entire book is accurate, they haven't studied it, and so they don't know how to apply its truth to real-life situations. This leads to the second shortcoming: they don't apply it to their lives. Knowing the truth is different than acting on the truth. We need to not just know what the Bible says, but believe it and obey it. Otherwise the power of the Word of God will not produce its intended result in our lives. “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:2).
Knowing what the Bible says intellectually does not change our lives. Knowing what the Bible says personally and believing it changes everything in our lives. If we do not have a personal, close and living relationship with the Scriptures, we cannot live as God expects. We are not meant to accumulate knowledge about the Bible for the sake of knowledge but for the sake of transformation. The religious leaders of Jesus' day could quote massive amounts of Scripture, but they did not read and study it in light of God's power, and thus they did not understand how to practically apply it to the questions and needs of life. Jesus rebuked them for not knowing the Bible in this way, and pointed out that it led them astray in their doctrine.
We cannot walk on the right path unless we believe, study, and obey the Word of God.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
If we understand the truth that God is at work in our world and in our lives, we will find it easier to accept whatever He brings to us. Rather than constantly complaining, we should be confident that He is working to accomplish His purpose and remember that the way we react is a testimony, for good or ill, to those around us. When we are focused on what we want but do not have or on what we do have but do not want, we are not living righteously.
Charles Spurgeon said, “A heavy wagon was being dragged along a country lane by a team of oxen. The axles groaned and creaked terribly, when the oxen turning around thus addressed the wheels, 'Hey there, why do you make so much noise? We bear all the labor, and we—not you—ought to cry out!' Those complain first in our churches who have the least to do. The gift of grumbling is largely dispensed among those who have no other talents, or who keep what they have wrapped up in a napkin.”
There is no sickness or hardship or burden or difficulty that justifies us complaining against God. When we do, we are really saying that we know better than He what is best. That is sinful and foolish. Instead we should be grateful in every circumstance. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
God never deserves our criticism or complaint, for He always does what is best.
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
For centuries, the children of Israel labored under bondage in Egypt. They were cruelly treated and miserably oppressed. In answer to their groaning, God sent Moses and miraculously delivered the nation of Israel from bondage. What they had sought most was finally in their hands. In response, however, they grumbled and complained and even said they wished they were back in slavery. Their excuse was that while they were slaves, they at least had food. Graciously God provided food for them, yet they were still not satisfied. Again and again they complained about what they had left behind in Egypt—the place where they were enslaved and oppressed.
It is easy for us to forget with the passage of time the bondage we endured before our salvation. Instead Satan reminds us of the “pleasures of sin for a season” with which he tempted Moses. But having been made free by God's grace, we should never want to go back into bondage. Paul wrote, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). Those who sit around glancing longingly back toward the days when they were in bondage are deluding themselves and at risk of giving up the freedom they experience in Christ.
We are freed from sin not so we can wish we were back in bondage, but so we can live for God.
He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths. He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers. And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness. And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust. Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
The story goes that an English nobleman leaving his house one day heard the cook say, “If I only had five pounds, I would be content.” Knowing that she had worked diligently for a number of years, he decided to provide it. So he went into the kitchen and handed her a five pound note. She thanked him for the gift. After leaving the room he paused for a moment to hear what she might say. In moments she cried out, “Why didn't I say ten?”
Every good thing that we have is because of God's grace, not because of our merit. Yet all too often we are not satisfied with what God gives us. Rather than being grateful, we insist on having more. Many sins have at their root a violation of the Tenth Commandment: "Thou shalt not covet." Coveting what others have and we do not motivates us to sinfully seek to fulfill our desires. Ahab would not have let Jezebel's witnesses lie about Naboth if he had not coveted his vineyard. David would not have instructed Joab to place one of his best warriors in the heat of the battle where Uriah would be killed if he had not coveted Uriah's wife.
Contentment is never based on the amount or quality of our possessions. Solomon wrote, “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith” (Proverbs 15:17). Contentment is instead internal, rooted in a belief that God is able to provide all that we need and that we should trust that what He gives is enough for us.
No amount of increase will allow a person who is not already satisfied to be content.
And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations. As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.
The manna that God provided for the Israelites to eat in the wilderness had a unique characteristic. It could not, except for the day before the Sabbath, be kept overnight. Those who tried to store it up on any other day found that worms grew in it, and it stank. God sent the manna for forty years, until the Israelites reached the Promised Land. “And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (Joshua 5:12).
Though the manna could not be stored, there was one exception. God instructed that a pot of manna was to be kept with the Ark of the Covenant. It would serve as a reminder of how He had miraculously provided for the needs of the people. It is a powerful reminder of sinful human nature that it didn't take long for the Israelites to start complaining about the manna. God knew that without a reminder, it wouldn't take long for them to forget what He had done. All of us need these kind of reminders in our lives. Our “pots of manna” promote the grateful attitude toward God that we should have. They also strengthen our faith, as when we are reminded of what God has done in the past, it is easier for us to trust Him for the future.
Remembering what God has done strengthens our gratitude and builds our faith.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
Missionary Betty Stam, who along with her husband John was martyred in China by the Communists, knew that the path of life she had chosen could be dangerous. But she was willing to pay the price to walk in God's way. She wrote, “Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt. Send me where Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.”
There are prominent and popular voices in our day who describe a Christianity that is all pleasure and no pain, but that is not what we see in God's Word. As long as we are living in a fallen world, we will have trouble. The more committed we are to following Jesus, the more likely we are to be treated as He was. Paul wrote, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Our faithfulness and commitment to God are most seen when times are hard. None of us want to suffer, but all of us must be willing to suffer. None of us enjoy opposition or difficulty, but all of us must be willing to endure it. This world is not all there is. Eternity awaits, and it is only then that we will fully see how God has worked in and through our lives.
Our focus on the next world and on God's grace to sustain us in this world enables us to endure hardship and keep the faith.
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Much of what people think about God is formed by what they see in those who claim to belong to Him. While it is true that there are many false religions and not everyone who claims to be a Christian truly is, those of us who are God's children have a responsibility to reflect His goodness and glory to those around us. 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.”
Christians who are constantly discouraged make a poor advertisement for the power of God. Of course things go wrong, and there are days when our hearts are grieved. But even through the hard and sorrowful times, we can still have the joy of the Lord. When we demonstrate His joy, especially in difficult circumstances, it has a powerful impact on those around us. David wrote, “And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:3). Our joy does not need to depend on how things are going; it can be rooted in the unchanging, eternal goodness of God.
A life that demonstrates the joy of the Lord is a powerful witness to the goodness and grace of God.