Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and turned their backs. Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel. Wherefore the wrath of the LORD was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he hath delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing, as ye see with your eyes.
2 Chronicles 29:6-8
Since 1944, the Gallup polling organization has been asking Americans about a number of issues relating to their beliefs and interests. One of those questions is simply whether people believe in God—not what their religious belief may be, but whether He exists at all. In the earliest polls, that figure was around 98%. It has been dropping over time, and in the latest poll, only 81% of Americans said that they believed in God. What has brought about that change? Why has a nation which was once overwhelmingly religious, even among those who were not Christians, seen such a decline?
Israel experienced a similar spiritual decline. When Hezekiah became king, he was determined to reverse that course. He reinstated worship at the Temple and destroyed idols and groves where people worshiped false gods. He highlighted the truth that when people turn away from God, there is always judgment. Faith is not genetic. We do not inherit it from those who have come before us. Faith is a personal and individual thing. But while each person must have their own faith, we can do things to share our faith with others, and pass it on to those who come after us. Parents teach their children, soul winners teach their converts, churches train their members to reach others. We should do all that we can to pass our faith on to others.
We must not only keep our own faith strong but also share that faith with others.
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
The Seven Years' War, commonly called the French and Indian War in the United States, pitted the two largest colonial powers in the world, England and France, against each other. One of the incidents that started the war was an attack by a young colonial officer named George Washington on the French forces at Jumonville Glen in what is now Pennsylvania. The American colonists fought with the British against the French forces until the war finally ended in 1763. Yet just fifteen years later, the French joined the fight with the Americans during the Revolutionary War, sending vital supplies and military personnel to enable America to defeat England. The two countries who had once been at war had become allies, and men who had once fought against each other were now fighting side by side. In the same way, God takes those who once were His enemies and turns them into His children and His workers.
There is no greater illustration of this truth than the life of the Apostle Paul. He led the persecution of the early church, doing everything in his power to stamp out Christianity. He used every tool at his disposal to find, arrest, and if possible, even kill the followers of Jesus Christ. Paul was even willing to go to foreign countries to hunt down believers. Yet after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, everything changed. He became the most passionate proclaimer of the faith he had tried to destroy. “But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed” (Galatians 1:23). Even those of us who were saved at a young age in a Christian home were not on God's side from the beginning. We were His enemies once, but He reached out to us and reconciled us to Himself. Could there be any greater gift?
Thank God today for His grace that changed us from His enemies to His children and friends.
And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that. And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.
The victory that God gave Gideon over the Midianites was utterly impossible in human terms. An army of three hundred men had no hope of overcoming an army of tens of thousands. Yet when God's power is unleashed, nothing is impossible. God could have simply spoken a word or sent an angel to destroy all the enemy soldiers, but instead He left part of the work to Gideon and his men. In the confusion sparked by their shouts and lights in the darkness, the Midianites began fighting against each other and then fled. But Gideon knew the work of delivering Israel would not be complete unless the enemy was utterly defeated. So even though he didn't get much help from others, and even though he and his men were exhausted, he kept on until the job was finished.
Victory in the Christian life requires us to keep on going no matter what. Horatius Bonar wrote, “The road to the Kingdom is not so pleasant, and comfortable, and easy, and flowery, as many dream. It is not a bright sunny avenue of palms. It is not paved with triumph, though it is to end in victory. The termination is glory, honor, and immortality; but on the way, there is the thorn in the flesh, the sackcloth, and the cross. Recompense later; but labor here! Rest later; but weariness here! Joy and security later; but here endurance and watchfulness—the race, the battle, the burden, the stumbling block, and oftentimes the heavy heart.”
Nothing meaningful and lasting will be accomplished unless we keep on until our tasks are done.
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:10-11
Every Christian is called to work for God. We are not called to sit back and coast our way into Heaven. Instead we are called to labor diligently as long as we live. Yet there is a danger that comes when we are actively involved in God's work, and that is that we are tempted to focus on ourselves, forgetting that it is only God's strength and grace that makes anything we do for Him possible. Paul wrote, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). Our work is all about God, not about us.
Any time that we preach or teach or witness or disciple, we must remember that we are doing it for the Lord, not for our own glory. We must continually and completely rely on God, or nothing that we do will amount to anything of lasting value. Jesus made this abundantly clear. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). If we can do nothing without Him, then there is no basis for pride or self-focus. When we are focused on what God wants and using all that He has given us to accomplish His work, He will receive the glory that only He deserves.
Our work for God must be done in complete reliance on Him, and for His glory alone.
In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
In 1998 the Charles and Covard jewelry company introduced moissante rings to the market. Moissante is named for the 1906 Nobel Prize winning French chemist Henri Moissan who was one of the first to consider the possibility of creating synthetic diamonds. He designed and built an electric arc furnace capable of creating small stones, and his work formed the foundation for the modern process. These lab-created silicon carbide gemstones are almost impossible to distinguish from diamonds without advanced scientific equipment. The stones reflect light through their facets just as diamonds do, and they are almost as hard as real diamonds. The only reliable means of determining whether a diamond is an actual diamond as opposed moissante requires x-ray machines or extremely high-powered microscopes. Under 1200x magnification, the flaws and inclusions can be detected, and a valid determination can be made as to whether a diamond is real or not.
God sees us as we really are. Nothing can conceal our true nature from Him. None of our excuses or justifications or rationalizations will sway His evaluation. He knows not only what we do, but why we do it. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). Yet despite the scope and breadth of His knowledge of us, when He sees those of us who have trusted Jesus for salvation, He sees not the flaws and sins of our past or the weaknesses of our human nature but the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ. Through His blood, that righteousness has been placed on our account, leaving us "holy and unblameable and unreproveable" in God's sight. The apostle Paul testified of what it means to have this righteousness: “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).
Grace lets God see the perfect righteousness of Christ when He looks at our lives.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
1 Peter 4:12-14
Before her second birthday, Helen Keller contracted an illness that left her both deaf and blind. Her parents consulted with Alexander Graham Bell, who, in addition to inventing the telephone, worked extensively with the deaf, and he referred them to the Perkins Institute. A recent graduate named Annie Sullivan was asked to take on the task of teaching Helen, who was by this time seven years old. Helen learned a complex sign language system that spelled out words on her hands or arms. Helen's education continued until in 1904 she became the first blind and deaf person to ever receive a Bachelor's Degree when she graduated from Radcliffe College. She would write a dozen books and travel around the world, speaking to inspire audiences and promote education. Helen Keller wrote, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
We should not be shocked when things go wrong. We live in a world that is under a curse because of sin. We are surrounded by people with sinful natures, and they are going to behave in sinful ways. Doing what is right should produce praise and reward, but often that is not the case. Yet God sees, and no act of obedience or service will escape His notice. When we are persecuted or face opposition, that should be a cause for joy rather than grief. It is a sign that we are living as Jesus did, and doing what Jesus would do. He was not accepted by the world, but He still accomplished His purpose.
Opposition, hardship and suffering are reasons for joy, not despair or defeatism.
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
For hundreds of years, the folk tale of "stone soup" has been told across Europe. When a group of hungry travelers reached a village, they found that no one was willing to share food with them. So they announced they were about to make a delicious stone soup. They selected a large rock and put it in the cooking pot. When the villagers asked, they described how wonderful the soup would be—and how much better it would be with a few carrots. When someone donated carrots, they mentioned that salt would help as well. One by one the villagers contributed different ingredients to make the soup better. By the time they were done, the soup was indeed delicious, not because of the stone, but because of what had been added.
The body of Christ does not work if only one or two people are trying to provide all the ingredients for the ministry. God designed it so that each one of us has something to contribute. When anyone holds back and does not do his part, something will be lacking. Whether it is the use of talents or the investment of time or the gift of money, what we have to add to the work of the church is vital. It may seem small and meaningless to us or to others, but it is not. God takes all that we give, large and small, and uses it to accomplish His purpose in our world.
Every contribution whether large or small is necessary for the body of Christ to function as it should.
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
The 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, was the first in which Japan participated. One of the Japanese athletes was a marathon runner named Shiso Kanakuri. The marathon was run on July 11 with the temperature topping 90 degrees. After running seventeen miles, Kanakuri collapsed with a heatstroke. A family that lived on the race route carried him into their home and laid him on a couch until he recovered. Ashamed of what he viewed as his failure, Kanakuri returned home to Japan without ever returning to the Olympics. Officials did not know what had happened to him. Fifty years later a Swedish reporter doing a fifty-year retrospective on the Stockholm Olympics discovered Kanakuri's whereabouts in Japan. Five years later, the retired geography teacher was invited back to Stockholm to finish his race. When he crossed the finish line, his time was recorded as 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds—the slowest marathon in history.
The Christian life is a distance race, not a sprint. There are many things that are important, but none more important than faithful consistency, keeping on until the task is complete. It is not enough just to believe and do right for a day or a week or even a year. We must continue in the faith, not allowing anything to distract or derail us. Paul said, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Act 20:24). No matter how difficult things become, we must continue faithfully until we see the Lord face to face.
Continuing to do what is right day after day means that we will fulfill God's calling and purpose for our lives.
The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD. For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.
In July of 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission fined Ernst & Young, one of the largest accounting companies in the world, a record amount of $100,000,000. The fine came after whistle blowers revealed that employees of the company were cheating on the accounting exam, sharing answers on the Certified Public Accountant exam over a period of five years. Ironically the portion of the exam where the cheating occurred was in the questions about ethical behavior. Gurbir Grewal, director of the SEC's enforcement division, said in a statement, “It's simply outrageous that the very professionals responsible for catching cheating by clients cheated on ethics exams.”
The temptation to cut corners is part of our sinful human nature, but no matter how we try to justify or rationalize it, it is always wrong. God demands integrity, and He rewards those who walk uprightly and punishes those who do not. “But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Deuteronomy 25:15). If our hearts are committed to doing what is right, we will refuse the temptation to lower our guard and violate what we know God has commanded. Especially as people who carry the name of Christ, Christians should maintain the highest standards of integrity both in what people see outwardly and in what people do not see on the inside. Honesty even in little things matters to God.
Doing right when no one is watching is the definition of good character.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
When we talk about being close to God, it is more than just a warm feeling or an emotional experience. It is an intimate fellowship, and it depends on our willingness to do what is required. God has already made it clear that He will always respond when we choose to get closer to Him. James wrote, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8). If we want to be close to God, then we must do what He has told us to do.
We see this principle in the life of Joseph. Even after he was sold as a slave by his brothers and put in jail after a false accusation, he continued to be faithful to God. Through all that, God was very much a presence in the life of Joseph, so much so that those around him saw and took note of it. “The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper” (Genesis 39:23). The more that we do what God says in reliance on His strength and His power, the more like Jesus we will become, and the closer our relationship with God will be. It is foolish to think we can be both disobedient and close to Him.
The enjoyment of our relationship with God is directly connected to our obedience to Him.
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:
None of us find hardship or suffering enjoyable. But the pain of living in a fallen world is a reality of our daily lives. We must remain on guard not to allow our difficulties to lead us to think that God has forgotten us or is not being good to us. Indeed the Bible repeatedly tells us to consider hardship, opposition, and even persecution as a cause for joy rather than anger or despair. Jesus said that when we are persecuted or falsely accused we should, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12).
Jesus suffered for us, and if we mean to follow Him, we should not expect the path to be easy and painless. When things go wrong, for whatever reason, we still have a faithful and loving Father to help us. Our attitude toward suffering in large measure determines the effect it will have on our lives. A. W. Tozer wrote, “What then are we to do about our problems? We must learn to live with them until such time as God delivers us from them. We must pray for grace to endure them without murmuring. Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting. They harm us only when we resist them or endure them unwillingly.”
There are crowns and rewards waiting for those who faithfully serve God regardless of hardship, opposition, and suffering. We should never expect or ask for God to make our lives painless. Instead we should seek His help and His grace to work our suffering for His glory. Paul wrote, ”Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Our suffering does not take God by surprise, but He promises to give us grace to endure while He uses it to work for our good.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
When we talk about riches, most people think first about money. Maybe we picture stacks of dollar bills or piles of gold coins, but we tend to view riches in purely financial terms. God's version goes far beyond that. His resources are unlimited, so much so that the precious metal of earth is used as a paving material in Heaven. John wrote, “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass” (Revelation 21:21). He is more than able to meet any need that we have. This truth should encourage our hearts and guard us from fear or worry.
God is also rich in glory, mercy, grace, and all other good things. We live in a world of constant shortages. For most of us in this country, the experience of the last few years of going to the store and seeing empty shelves is a new one, though for many people in the world it has been common for a long time. We are becoming accustomed to some of the things we want or need not being available. That never happens with God. He never runs out—in fact His supply is never diminished by what He gives to us. He offers us more than enough. Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
We need never fear that God will not be able to abundantly meet every need that we have.
And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
We live in a world filled with temptations designed specifically to draw our hearts away from God. The devil knows that, and he is happy to use anything to take God's rightful place in our hearts. Satan does not have to get us to succumb to temptation to great sin to accomplish his goal. He simply needs to get us to love something or someone else more than we love God. Because of our sinful nature, it is easy for us to be drawn away from what is most important. No one has a close, loving, intimate relationship with God accidentally. Such fellowship is only possible if we purposefully pursue fellowship with God, deciding ahead of time that we will keep the most important thing in first place.
Our hearts so easily lead us astray. We're easily drawn aside from following the Lord and pursuing Him with our whole heart. A close relationship with God is not something we "do" and check off a list, never to give attention to it again. Like any other relationship, it requires consistent intention and purpose. In truth, there will never be a point in our lives here on Earth when we will be immune to the danger of a heart that fails to love God as it should. The church at Ephesus was one of the greatest churches of the first century, yet they fell into this trap. “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4). If we are to love God for our entire life, we must "with purpose of heart" choose to "cleave unto the Lord."
Don't allow the temptations and pressures of life to draw you away from your love for Christ.
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
During the Middle Ages in Europe, many skilled craftsmen organized themselves into guilds. The guild would set prices, determine working conditions, and try to maintain control that would prevent anyone who was not in the guild from making their products. The guilds became very powerful and made concerted efforts to influence politicians to pass laws that would back up the guilds' rules. Once a person had been accepted into a guild, he would begin work as an apprentice. By helping someone who already knew the work, he would learn to do it himself. The next step was to be promoted to journeyman status. These people would work independently on projects, under the direction of the head of the guild. Those who proved themselves especially skilled could submit a special project to be judged, and if it was found to be worthy, the man would achieve master status. We get our modern term masterpiece from this process. Someone who wanted to reach that level would work diligently, often over a period of months or even years, to ensure their work would be approved.
When God saved you, He also equipped you for a work that He has called you to perform. When Paul described this process, he pointed out that we are God's work, not the product of chance or accident. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Just as God called and appointed us to His service, He gives us the strength and wisdom to perform the tasks which He sets before us. Each of these opportunities should be seized and used to its greatest advantage. There are no “little” tasks in God's eyes. The world or the church may not notice, but God sees when we work diligently for Him to produce masterpieces.
God not only calls us to His work, but graciously equips us for it—and that work deserves our very best.
And Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants unto Solomon; for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father: for Hiram was ever a lover of David. And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, Thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the LORD his God for the wars which were about him on every side, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet. But now the LORD my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent.
1 Kings 5:1-4
I've enjoyed reading the biographies of many of the great heroes of our faith. Throughout our Christian history, many men and women have stepped out by faith and accomplished great things for God that would have been impossible without His help. These stories challenge us to trust God more as we see what He has done in the past. Truly we have a great heritage of those who have gone before us in faith and obedience. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
While we rejoice in the stories of the faith of others, it is important that our faith be our own and rest fully in the Lord—not upon what someone else thinks or says or has done. When Solomon was preparing to build the Temple, he first talked about the Lord as the God of his father David, but then he talked about the Lord as his own God. Without a personal faith, built on our own experiences with God, reading His Word, and seeking His faith in prayer, we will not be prepared to fight and win the battles we will face. The faith of others will not sustain us when we face temptation and affliction, but an intimate faith in God will give the victory.
The faith we see in others can inspire and motivate us, but it cannot withstand the storms and trials of life—our faith must be our own.
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day: That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.
1 Kings 8:27-29
The Temple that Solomon built to be a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant was one of the most beautiful and expensive buildings ever created. No cost was too great to make sure everything was perfect. Building materials were brought from far away countries, and prepared off site so that they were ready to assemble. The furnishings and altars were made of pure gold, and an overlay of gold was used throughout. Some historians estimate that the approximately 34 tons of gold used represented half of the total gold then known to have been mined.
Yet despite the beauty and cost of what he built, Solomon recognized that it still fell far short of what God deserved. No Temple, regardless of how vast or costly or beautiful it was could truly be home to the infinite God who created Heaven and Earth. In Paul's sermon in Athens on Mars' Hill, he pointed out the transcendent nature of God. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). God's willingness to take notice of our feeble prayers and attempts to praise Him are a measure of His grace toward us. He does not laugh at our efforts or hold us in contempt because we fall short, but instead opens His ears and accepts our worship.
With all of His grandeur and glory, God still cares about us, and listens when we call out to Him.
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
God made the promise to Adam and Eve that one day a Savior would come to make atonement for their sin and for the sins of all those who would be born after them. Though the promise was true, it was not spelled out in detail. Generation after generation, the people who believed God's promises looked for them to be fulfilled, without a clear understanding of how it would happen. It was what the Bible refers to as a "mystery." Even when Jesus came, many did not accept Him as the Messiah because He did not fit in with their preconceived notions of how God would work to fulfill His promises. Yet what was hidden for thousands of years has been made clear for us. We now enjoy the reality of redemption that God promised so long ago, and we now have the opportunity to share this message with others.
Matthew Henry wrote, “The meanest [most lowly] saint under the gospel understands more than the greatest prophets under the law. He who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than they. 'The mystery of Christ, Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit,' (Ephesians 3:4-5).” We have both the knowledge for which so many sought, but it is crucial for us not to treat that knowledge as an end unto itself. The knowledge of God's plan of redemption is not just meant for our own benefit, but so that we would share it with those around us. Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16).
We are called and commanded to be good stewards of the knowledge of salvation God has given to us.
And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
1 Kings 18:33-35
Elijah stood alone on top of Mt. Carmel facing 850 false prophets. He had declared God's message that there would be no rain because of the idolatry of Ahab and the people. Now the time had come to demonstrate clearly that there was only one true God, and that was not Baal. After the false prophets spent the day fruitlessly crying out to their deity, Elijah's turn came. When it was time for his sacrifice to be offered, he did not want there to be any question that he had somehow manipulated the offering to create fire on his own. So he instructed them to pour twelve barrels of water on the sacrifice. Elijah's faith was not bound by what was possible in the natural world. He knew He was praying to the God Who could do anything.
Many times we place limits on what we think is possible without considering that God knows no limits. That is a failure of faith that can rob us of great things God is willing and able to do in our lives. A soaking wet sacrifice burns just as well as a dry one. God's fire not only was able to burn a wet animal, but also the wet wood and the wet stones, and even the water standing in the trench around the bottom of the altar. No situation we bring to Him in prayer presents a challenge to God. No matter what others may say or what we may think, truly there is nothing that is impossible for Him.
Faith believes and acts on all God has said, whether it seems possible to our reasoning or not.
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
2 Thessalonians 3:10-13
Even before sin entered into the world, Adam had tasks and responsibilities assigned to him by God. Work is not a curse. The impact of sin made work harder, but from the beginning of creation, work itself was a valuable part of God's plan and design for us. We need to approach whatever tasks God sets before us with a willing heart and do the very best that we can. We only have one life, and how we work determines in large measure what impact we will make on the world around us. Solomon wrote, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Rather than trying to avoid work or putting it off, we should embrace the opportunity.
Alexander MacLaren wrote, “No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done, that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant. Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us. Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God. If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.”
If we view work as an opportunity rather than a curse, we are more likely to do it with a good attitude.
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam went and tried to hide from God. No longer did he look forward to their fellowship together. Instead, he knew that when God met with him, there would for the first time be a barrier between them—the barrier created by sin. Sin always impacts our relationship with God. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). But that distance was not God's design, and through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the way has been opened for us to return to close and intimate fellowship with God. He is not a distant deity, somewhere far away uninterested in us. Instead He lives within each Christian, a constant presence in our daily lives. We have hope both for today and for the future because He is always with us.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Now Christ in Heaven, Christ free to poor sinners is precious, but Christ here in the heart is most precious of all. Here is the marrow and fatness. Christ on board the vessel brings safety and calm. Christ in your house, Christ in your heart, Christ in you; that is the cream of the matter, the honey of the honeycomb. Gold is valuable, but men think more of a pound in their pockets than of huge ingots in the Bank-cellar. A loaf of bread is a fine thing, but if we could not eat it, and so get it within us, we might die of starvation. A medicine may be a noble cure, but if it is always kept in the phial, and we never take a draught from it, what good will it do us? Christ is best known when He is Christ in you.”
The presence of Christ is a daily source of strength and hope for every one of His children.
Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them. Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah. He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.
Ida Wood had once been at the center of social life in New York City. But following the death of her husband, New York Daily News publisher Benjamin Wood, Ida withdrew from society. She moved into a suite at the Herald Square Hotel and lived there with her sister. They went nowhere and saw no one. Maids were not allowed in to clean the rooms. She had food brought from the store and insisted on cooking it herself. When her sister Mary fell sick in 1931, she had to call for help. When the authorities came and discovered her squalid living conditions, they removed Ida as well. Inside the apartment they found nearly a million dollars. It was tucked into drawers, sewn into clothing, stashed in suitcases and buried under garbage. Ida Wood had great wealth, but she did not enjoy the benefits of it.
Because of His great grace, God offers to meet our needs from His unlimited resources. When we come to Him in prayer, He provides for us. He gives us far more than we deserve, loading us down with benefits that come to us only because of His love and goodness. Yet too often God's children live as if they have nothing. Certainly God's focus and ours is not to be primarily on physical or material things, and there is no promise of an overflowing bank account. However we should never think that God does not know or does not care about us. Jesus said, “(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:32).
God's greatest blessings are not material, but He does promise to provide for our needs if we ask.
But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
1 Thessalonians 5:8-11
On what would have been Abraham Lincoln's 167th birthday, the Library of Congress for the first time made public what had been found in his pockets the night he was assassinated. The keepsakes had been given to them by Lincoln's granddaughter many years before. Along with his glasses and a pocket knife, Lincoln had a wallet which contained a number of newspaper articles. Lincoln had faced brutal criticism and harsh attacks since even before he was elected President. The articles he kept were editorials and news stories supporting him, and praising his accomplishments. Some of them dated back as much as two years, but those words of encouragement still meant a great deal to Lincoln, and he kept them close at hand.
Every one of us needs encouragement as we go through life. Every one of us needs to be an encouragement to others. There will be plenty of trouble, hardship, heartache and criticism. No one in our lives needs more of that from us. We do not need to add to people's burdens, but instead build them up and help them keep doing what is right. We know how much it means to us to hear from someone that they appreciate what we are doing, or that believe in us. It means just as much to others to hear those words from us. The early church was blessed by a man who was an encourager. “And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,” (Acts 4:36). In fact, Barnabas' encouragement of the apostle Paul seems to be directly related to Paul's growth and future usefulness. Who knows how God might use your encouragement in another Christian's life!
It costs nothing to give someone a word of encouragement, but it can still prove to be a priceless gift.
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
There is a story from the last century of a pastor who, as he was going by a department store in his large Midwestern town, was moved to go inside and speak to the owner. He said, “I've talked beds and carpets and bookcases with you, but I've never talked my business with you. Would you give me a few minutes to do so?” In the man's office, he opened his New Testament and shared the plan of salvation. With tears in his eyes, the man trusted Christ and then said, “I'm seventy years of age. I was born in this city. More than a hundred ministers and more than five hundred church officers have known me as you have, to do business with. But in all these years, you are the only man who ever spoke to me about my soul.”
Every person we meet has a soul that will spend eternity either in Heaven or in Hell. We should never let it be truly said that someone has known us for years without ever having heard God's way to eternal life. Not everyone to whom we witness will respond positively to the message, but that is not our responsibility. God told the prophet Ezekiel that if he failed to warn the people of God's coming judgment, their blood would be on his hands, but if he warned them, he was free of any guilt if they refused to respond. “Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezekiel 33:9). Paul shared the gospel with everyone he could get to listen because he recognized his duty to do so. That same duty rests on the shoulders of every follower of Jesus Christ.
Our love for Christ and our love for others compel us to be faithful witnesses of the gospel.
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
It's not uncommon for medical doctors from the United States to travel to other countries to see patients and provide surgeries that otherwise would not be available to them. But what happened in El Salvador in 2006 was rare indeed. Dr. Samuel Weinstein, who was the chief of pediatric cardio-thoracic surgery for Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, operated on an eight year old boy named Francisco. The completed operation had been going on for twelve hours when an uncontrolled bleed threatened the boy's life. His rare blood type, B negative, meant that the hospital had no blood for a transfusion. Dr. Weinstein paused the surgery, and donated a pint of his own B negative blood. After getting a drink and a snack, he completed the operation, and the boy's life was saved.
Nothing could make atonement for our sins except the blood that Jesus willingly shed on the cross. That was the purpose for which He came into the world. Peter wrote, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Through the centuries, people have tried all kinds of ways to gain God's favor, but Jesus is the only way. Every other substitute leads to death and eternal separation from God. Jesus provided what we needed for salvation at the cost of His very life.
The scope of God's love for us is revealed by the price that was paid for our salvation.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1 John 2:15-17
The crucial factor that determines our actions more than anything else is what we love most. People say they are committed to all kinds of things, but it is their actions that reveal whether their commitment is deep and abiding, or just a surface declaration. God wants the outside to be right, but He knows that the inside matters most. That is why loving God as we should is so important. When the lawyer came and asked Jesus what the most important of all the commandments was, the Lord had a ready answer for him. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).
It is impossible for us to love both God and the world at the same time. Yet too often we find Christians trying to straddle the divide rather than making the clear choice to love God most. A. B. Simpson said, “The chief danger of the church today is that it is trying to get on the same side as the world, instead of turning the world upside down. Our Master expects us to accomplish results, even if they bring opposition and conflict. Anything is better than compromise, apathy, and paralysis. God, give to us an intense cry for the old-time power of the gospel and the Holy Ghost!” It is far better to love God and incur the wrath and opposition of people than to love the world, and incur the judgment of God.
Loving God as we should protects us from the temptation to set our hearts on the things of this world.
Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
The work God has set before us is impossible for us to accomplish in our own strength and power. No matter how talented or dedicated we may be, we do not have the resources to impact the lives of others the way God wants us to. However we are not limited to what we have, because the power and promises of God are made available to His children to do His work in the world. In the Upper Room Jesus told His disciples that He would be leaving them. He also told them that they would not be abandoned. Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).
The work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives is what empowers us to successfully do the work of God in the world around us. Dr. John R. Rice wrote, “God takes the part of every Christian who is true to Him. Go on, my brother, my sister, and win souls at any cost! Take your plain stand against sin anywhere and everywhere. God never leaves one alone and ashamed and forsaken who is true to Him. Trouble may come in the will of God, but thank God, always God allows only what is best and then delivers His servant who is faithful!”
The power of God enables us to accomplish things that are beyond our ability. The power of God is strong enough to overcome any obstacle or opposition. The power of God makes us effective preachers, teachers, soulwinners, counselors and it makes us better parents, siblings, children, and friends. The power of God is not just for those in vocational ministry, but for every believer. Each one of us has a place in God's plan, and we must have His help to accomplish it. Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
God's power is available to all those who are committed to doing His work and His will.
And it came to pass at the return of the year, that Benhadad numbered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel. And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all present, and went against them: and the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country. And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
1 Kings 20:26-28
In the pagan polytheistic countries that surrounded Israel, belief in multiple gods with limited individual areas of power was widespread. The Syrians lost a battle to Israel in the mountains, and they thought they had simply wandered into an area where Israel's deity was powerful. If they fought in the valley instead, they reasoned, the Syrian gods would prevail. But God is God everywhere. In all places and circumstances, He is able to defeat enemies, no matter how numerous and give victories, no matter how unlikely. We can trust God wherever we are and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. He is always present for those who trust in Him.
Sometimes people view God as being reluctant to help. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is willing and able to help those who trust in Him. He is looking for opportunities to bless and defend His children. David wrote, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry” (Psalm 34:15). We do not have to talk God into helping us with our needs. Instead, we trust God to keep His promises, and He always does. Even when we are outnumbered and almost overwhelmed, we do not need to be fearful or defeated. As long as God is with us, we have nothing to dread.
God is able to meet any challenge we face, and He will work if we trust Him to do what He has promised and act accordingly.
So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
1 Kings 18:42-44
When David Brainerd determined to be a missionary among the American Indians, there was almost no one even thinking of that kind of work. And his early efforts were anything but successful. For nearly two years he saw no results. Brainerd was understandably discouraged. Of that time he later wrote, “It seemed to me I should never have any success among the Indians. My soul was weary of my life; I longed for death, beyond measure.” But he remained faithful in the work, and in the third year a revival broke out that saw 150 people accept Christ as Savior.
Very few good and meaningful things in life come easily. Often we must pray over a period of weeks, months, or even years before an answer comes. Often we must witness to someone multiple times before he trusts Christ as Savior. If we give up too soon, we will miss out on results that come to those who endure and persevere. Paul wrote, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). The world can load us down with discouraging things, but the world cannot make us faint. Instead, we faint when we choose to stop working, praying, and believing that God will do everything that He has promised.
Those who refuse to quit but instead remain faithful will see the promised harvest from their labors.
And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof. And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.
2 Kings 19:29-31
The Christian life is meant to be a fruitful life. We are not saved for our benefit alone. Every child of God should be producing fruit in the same way that a healthy fruit tree will produce a crop. It should be a natural thing, not something unusual. Jesus told His disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16). The key to bearing fruit is not found in our talents or abilities or efforts, but in our connection to the Lord. When we are anchored in Him, His power flows through our lives and produces fruit.
A Christian who lacks that connection will not be fruitful. In the parable of the sower and the different types of ground, Jesus described what happened to the seed that fell on stony ground: “But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away” (Mark 4:6). As the prophet Isaiah noted to Hezekiah, before we expect to bear fruit, we must take root. The time that we spend reading God's Word, praying, meditating and focused on Him is where the roots that can support healthy and fruitful living are strengthened. Without that connection, we have no hope of effectively living for and serving the Lord.
A fruitful life is only possible in those who are abiding in Christ so that they are firmly rooted in Him.
For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
The Apostle Paul started a number of churches across the Roman empire. He did not just start them and leave, but instead even after he was gone, Paul had a deep burden for those Christians he had left behind. He wrote, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). This care even extended to churches in places Paul had never personally been, like the Colossians. He wrote to them of the internal wrestling—great conflict—that he had on their behalf. Alexander MacLaren wrote, “How could Paul, in Rome, wage conflict on behalf of the Church at Colossæ? No external conflict can be meant. He could strike no blows on their behalf. What he could do in that way, he did, and he was now taking part in their battle by this letter. If he could not fight by their side, he could send them ammunition, as he does in this great Epistle, which was, no doubt, to the eager combatants for the truth at Colossæ, what it has been ever since, a magazine and arsenal in all their warfare. But the real struggle was in his own heart. It meant anxiety, sympathy, an agony of solicitude, a passion of intercession.”
We are meant to care passionately and deeply about the needs of others. We are called to invest ourselves into their lives. We are commanded to bear their burdens. If those around us hurt, we should hurt. If those around us are celebrating, it should make us glad. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:5). We will not make the kind of positive impact God wants us to make on others unless we are willing to invest ourselves wholeheartedly in the cause.
If we do not care enough to invest ourselves in others, we will have little impact on their lives.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
As we look at the world around us, it is easy to see trouble. We find sin being proudly promoted and politically protected. We find evil being called good and good being called evil, just as Isaiah did thousands of years ago. We find churches and institutions that once stood for the truth to have changed their beliefs or closed their doors. But the greatest threats that we face to the truth and what we believe are not external threats. The fact that sinners are behaving sinfully should not come as a shock. The fact that people declare they believe things that are laughably false to be true does not change the truth. The greatest threat is those who profess to be Christians but are actually wolves, coming in and undermining the truth and drawing people away from Christ.
The idea that there would be people who claim to be following Christ and the truth but really are not is not a new one. “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). We cannot automatically accept whatever someone says just because they say it in a convincing way or because they are part of a certain group. Every claim must be measured and evaluated in light of the Word of God. The most dangerous wolves come from inside, not from outside. The more we know the truth, the easier it is for us to identify and reject error. The more we walk in the light, the easier it is to detect and defeat the darkness.
Knowing the truth protects us from false doctrine and false teachers, wherever they may arise.
On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
As a student training for the priesthood in Holland, Menno Simmons was not encouraged to rely on the Bible. In fact he did not read it at all, later writing, “I feared if I should read them they would mislead me.” Simmons struggled with the Catholic teaching on the Mass and their belief that the elements literally turned into the body and blood of Christ. He wrote, “Finally, I got the idea to examine the New Testament diligently. I had not gone very far when I discovered that we were deceived, and my conscience, troubled on account of the aforementioned bread, was quickly relieved.” Simmons left the Catholic church and later founded the Anabaptist group that came to be known as the Mennonites. His reading of the Word of God changed his belief.
There is no more important resource God has given us than the Bible. It is as important to our spiritual health and well being as food is to the body. In fact we cannot survive merely on physical food, as Jesus pointed out when He was tempted by Satan. “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We should never allow the Bible to become just another book to us. Even if we have read it through dozens of times, there is still more to learn. Our hearts should desire the spiritual food of the Word far more than our bodies desire physical food.
Only the Word of God has the guidance and direction we need to walk in the truth each day of our lives.
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
The story goes that a missionary working in the remote mountains of Mexico was laboring to translate the Scriptures into the language of the people. As with any translation, it was difficult to get some of the concepts put into words they would understand. One of the words he struggled with most was “comfort.” He wanted to be sure the idea would be clear. As he worked, one of his helpers came to request a week off from work. He said that since his uncle had died, he planned to go and visit his aunt to “help her heart around the corner.” The missionary immediately recognized that he had found a way to express the concept of comfort.
One of the great resources God has given us to make our way through a world filled with hurt and heartbreak is other Christians. As we fellowship together, we have opportunities to be an encouragement and comfort to those in need, and to receive that comfort when we are suffering ourselves. Paul was greatly blessed in his ministry by people who helped and encouraged him. He referred to several of them by name, as in his final letter written not long before his execution. “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain” (2 Timothy 1:16). Being able to share our grief and heartaches with people who love us is a huge blessing and source of comfort. That is one of the reasons why it is so important for us to spend time with other believers, not just at church, but as a regular part of daily life. Those with whom we have developed meaningful friendships—whose hearts are “knit together” with ours—will be the best source of help when we need comfort.
The deep friendships that allow us to provide and receive comfort are built before the trouble arises.
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
For many years the Israelites prayed for deliverance from their bondage in Egypt. They were forced to labor for their masters under harsh conditions. Eventually things got so bad that just being born as a male Hebrew child carried a death sentence. When God sent Moses to deliver them, the people rejoiced—briefly. But it was not long before they found their new circumstances not to their liking. Instead of celebrating the freedom God had provided, they looked back with longing on their days of slavery. Rather than being grateful for the manna God dropped from Heaven, they desired to go back to the menu of their days in Egypt. “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick” (Numbers 11:5).
It is shocking to think that someone who had been freed and delivered would want to go back into bondage, but that is what too many Christians do. Rather than rejoicing in their freedom in Christ, they long for the way things used to be when they were still being held captive by the devil. If we do not focus with gratitude on the good things God has done for us, we will find the temporary enjoyment the world offers has a strong attraction. Moses himself made the choice to endure hardship in the cause of freedom and obedience rather than taking what the world had to offer. “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25).
A Christian who loves the things of the world will soon be a Christian who is in bondage to the things of the world.
And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
The world we live in is filled with battles and conflicts. The devil is actively involved in opposing those who are committed to following God. As long as we live, we will fight the sinful nature with which we were born, which is constantly in conflict with our new nature in Christ. We should not think that these struggles are an indication of spiritual failure. Rather, they are an indication that we are engaged in spiritual battle. We also should not think that we cannot win these battles. The power and promises of God provide everything we need for total victory. Paul wrote, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
The path that we are on not only leads to victory in this life, but it leads us to a place of eternal rest. There will come a day when we set aside our armor and lay down our weapons and enjoy the presence of God. There will come a day when every enemy has been defeated and every battle has ceased forever. The ancient Irish hymn “Be Thou My Vision” says:
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise;
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always.
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven's joys, O bright Heav'n's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whate'er befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
No matter how severe the battles of life may be, we can have complete confidence in the victory God has promised.