Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
The birth of Jesus was announced to the world by a bright host of angels shattering the darkness over the hills where shepherds were watching their sheep. The arrival of the King of the Jews was announced to the wise men by the appearance of a new star in the darkness of the night sky. That is only fitting, for the baby born in Bethlehem came to bring light into the world darkened by sin. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
The light of Jesus is not just a light of example or a light of kindness or a light of teaching, though it includes all of those things. It is the light of God Himself. It is the Source of all light and shines forth with both truth and grace. It provides the hope of salvation for all who believe in Jesus as Saviour. John wrote, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Luke 1:9).
Ever since sin entered into the world, man's default condition has been darkness. Our only hope of finding our way out of the bondage of sin and the certainty of death and eternal separation from God is for someone to bring light into that darkness. Jesus is that Someone. "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not....But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:4–5, 12).
We who have received Christ as our Savior should reflect the glorious light of the gospel to others.
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
I came across this letter to Santa that says a lot about the way we view ourselves. “Dear Santa, there are three little boys who live at our house. There is Jeffrey; he is two. There is David; he is four. And there is Norman; he is seven. Jeffrey is good some of the time. David is good some of the time. But Norman is good all of the time. I am Norman.” We like to think that we are at least mostly good people. In truth though we are all sinners. “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” (Isaiah 53:6).
God does not judge us on a scale by comparing us to others. He judges us against the perfect standard of His holiness, and each one of us falls short of meeting that standard. None of us are good enough to stand before God on our own.
Mary was a godly young woman who was selected for the amazing honor of giving birth to the Messiah whom the Jewish people had been waiting for over the centuries. God clearly placed a great deal of confidence in her, or He would not have given her such an overwhelming responsibility. Yet even Mary recognized her own need for salvation and a Savior. She rejoiced that in the baby to whom she would give birth, her own sins would be forgiven. Rather than viewing herself as someone special who did not need a Savior, she exalted God and rejoiced in what He was doing in and through her life.
Christmas reminds us not only of God's love for us, but of our great need for His salvation.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
The city of Bethlehem was just a small town not far from Jerusalem. There was nothing to particularly set it apart from any other village in Israel. Yet it became central to the history of the Jewish people, and then to the history of the whole world. First it gained fame as the birthplace of the great king David who united Israel and made Jerusalem the capital. Then, of course, it was the birthplace of Jesus Christ which had been foretold by the prophet Micah. It was an agricultural town where crops and herds were the main business of the town. The name Bethlehem means “house of bread,” which is a fitting name for the birthplace of the Bread of Life.
Because of the fall and the entry of sin into the world, there is a great need in our hearts—a hunger that cannot be satisfied by any of the things of this world. Yet God offers salvation freely to those who come to Him. Isaiah wrote, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). Jesus satisfies every need that we have both for this world and the next. Long after this world ends, He will still be all we need. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat” (Revelation 7:16).
Jesus is all we need, and no one and nothing else can satisfy our hunger for salvation.
Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation. The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.
The story of Christmas has a great deal of seeking involved in the details. Joseph and Mary searched without success for a room in Bethlehem. The shepherds had to seek out the manger where Jesus was laid, just as the angels had told them. The wise men searched Jerusalem, causing a great stir in their search for the King of the Jews before the star that had announced Jesus' birth led them to the house in Bethlehem where Joseph and Mary were staying. But the greatest search of all was the one Jesus came to do. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). This is the heart of the Christmas story, but it is not the end of the story.
We did not seek after Jesus, but He sought after us. We were His goal and reason for coming into the world. Having been found by the Lord and made part of God's family, we in turn must seek God and His things day after day. Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). This is not a searching for something that is lost, but rather a diligent seeking for what matters to Him above what matters to us. Every part of our lives should have Jesus first. David wrote, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psalm 63:1).
We were a high priority for Jesus, and, in return, He must be our highest priority in life.
And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
When Gabriel came to announce to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah, he also told her that Elisabeth, her cousin, was expecting a child, despite the fact that she was long past the normal age of childbearing. Mary immediately made the trip to see her cousin, and when she arrived, she found a welcoming and loving friend. No doubt this was in great contrast to what Mary experienced from others who learned that she was expecting a child even though she was not yet married to Joseph. Undoubtedly there were rumors and looks and snubs in the marketplace as people made the assumption that Mary had been immoral.
Rather than critiquing Mary, Elisabeth was delighted to see her. She recognized that God was at work in Mary's life, just as He was in her own. She believed that what was impossible for people to accomplish was no challenge to God. She recognized and praised Mary for her faith even in trying circumstances. All of us need people like Elisabeth in our lives. We need someone to encourage us when others tear us down. We need someone to strengthen our faith rather than telling us how difficult things are going to be. We need someone to welcome us with open arms rather than keeping us at a distance. We also need to be like Elisabeth in our relationships with others. We can be a source of help and hope and a safe place for people who are hurting to come.
Every one of us can use encouragement, and every one of us can and should be an encourager to others.
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
The promises surrounding the birth of Jesus stretch all the way back to the Garden of Eden. One of the crucial prophecies was that the Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah and from the family of David. Over the centuries following David's death, his descendants continued to rule in Jerusalem, but many of them were wicked men who did not follow God. Just before the Babylonians conquered Judah and destroyed the Temple, God announced a curse through the prophet Jeremiah on the very wicked king Jeconiah. “Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:30).
This seemed to end the possibility of the prophecy being fulfilled. It was like a tree that was cut off, leaving only a stump in the ground with no hope of fruit or growth. But God knew all this long in advance, and though Joseph was a descendant of Jeconiah, and thus his son could not be king, he was not Jesus' father. Mary was also descended from David through a different son, Nathan, and thus Jesus was still both qualified to be King of the Jews and fulfill all of the prophecies God had given. When things seem hopeless to us, God is still able to do all He has promised. Even stumps can produce growth when God is involved.
No human obstacle or action can stop God from doing exactly what He has promised to do.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 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.
On December 24, 1914, with World War I raging in Europe, something very strange happened. British soldiers in their trenches heard singing from the German lines. The familiar tunes of Christmas carols filled the night air. Soon the British soldiers joined in the singing. The next day, rather than fighting against each other, the opposing troops met together in friendship. They exchanged presents, and several soccer games were played. Many of them took pictures with their opponents, showing men in differing uniforms smiling with their arms around each other's shoulders. News of the impromptu truce quickly spread. While many people were delighted in the story, military leaders on both sides were troubled and took steps in the following years to make sure the brief ceasefire was not repeated.
Jesus came into the world as the Prince of Peace. Through Him we have peace with God, and through His Holy Spirit the fruit of peace is produced both inwardly in our hearts and outwardly in our relationships with others. But the devil is not happy when we have peace. He does everything he can to ensure continued fighting, unhappiness, unrest, conflict and disturbances. But he cannot overcome the power of God, and we have His promise of lasting peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
We must not allow the attacks of Satan to take away the peace God has promised to us.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Along with pastoring one of the largest churches in the world and operating a training school for pastors, Charles Spurgeon also ran a number of orphanages, caring for children who had no other source of help. During a trip to France, Spurgeon wrote this letter to the children at one of the orphanages: “Dear children, I wish you a merry Christmas; every one of you. I hope you are all well, and able to enjoy the good things which kind friends have enabled us to provide. Three cheers for those friends! As long as you are in the Orphanage, I hope that all of you, both boys and girls, will be very happy. I should be very unhappy myself if I thought that you were unhappy; yet the best joy some of you may not yet know; it is the joy of being right with God through faith in Jesus Christ, and so being ready both for the life which now is and for that which is to come. I had this happiness when I was a boy, and I wish you all had it.”
There are so many joys at Christmas. Parents and grandparents enjoy watching little ones open presents (even though sometimes that ends up being us watching them drop the present to play with the box it came in). We enjoy time with family and friends, a respite from the pressures of work, and the opportunity for fellowship and worship. But there is no greater joy of Christmas than the joy of sharing the good tidings with others.
The message of Christmas is not just for us to enjoy, but also for us to share with others.
The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
D. L Moody often told this story in his meetings: “A gentleman was walking down the streets of a city. It was near Christmas-time, and many of the shop windows were filled with Christmas presents and toys. As this gentleman passed along, he saw three little girls standing before a shop window. Two of them were trying to describe to the third the things that were in the window. It aroused his attention, and he wondered what it could mean. He went back, and found that the middle one was blind—she had never been able to see—and her two sisters were endeavoring to tell her how the things looked. The gentleman stood beside them for some time and listened; he said it was most interesting to hear them trying to describe the different articles to the blind child—they found it a difficult task.”
Moody concluded, “That is just my position in trying to tell other men about Christ. I may talk about Him; and yet they see no beauty in Him that they should desire Him. But if they will only come to Him, He will open their eyes and reveal Himself to them in all His loveliness and grace.” The beauty of the Christmas story and the birth of Jesus is not apparent to those who have been blinded by sin. So it falls to those of us whose eyes have been opened to the truth to do our best to bring others to Jesus. If we do not share the gospel with them, they have no means of seeing it.
It is always important to share the gospel with others, and Christmas offers opportunities which we must seize to do so.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
The birth of Jesus Christ was the most important thing that had ever happened in the history of the world. It was the beginning of the fulfillment of God's plan for man's salvation. It was certainly a reason for joy and celebration. Yet when the wise men arrived in Jerusalem looking for the newborn king, the response was anything but joy. T. DeWitt Talmage said, “When princes are born, heralds announce it and cannons thunder it and flags wave it. Some of us in England or America remember the time of rejoicing when the Prince of Wales [Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's oldest son who later became King Edward VII of England] was born. But when our glorious Prince was born, there was no rejoicing on earth.”
Instead of being a cause for rejoicing, the birth of Jesus sparked a homicidal rage in Herod that resulted in the murder of innocent children. It sparked indifference in the hearts of religious leaders who knew the prophecies of the coming Messiah, including where He would be born, but had no interest in making the short journey to Bethlehem to see Him. Christmas is only a source of true joy and celebration to those who are focused on the reason for the season. The world did not welcome Jesus with open arms. John wrote, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:10-11). We who know the truth and have accepted Jesus as Saviour must be careful to keep Him at the very center of all we do during the holiday season.
If we do not keep Jesus at the center of Christmas, we will not find it the time of joy it is meant to be.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
It is impossible to properly observe Christmas without it being a time of worship. There are many traditions that we love and enjoy. There is certainly nothing wrong with Christmas being a time of joy and family fun. It's not wrong to wrap presents and deck the halls. But all of that is secondary to the primary thing. Christmas is a time for special worship and remembrance of what Jesus did for us by coming into the world. When the wise men found Jesus, they knelt down and gave presents in a sign of their recognition of His right to be worshiped. They were probably well-educated, wealthy, prominent men, yet they rightly fell down before Jesus.
Though it is not true now, one day the whole of creation will be united in worship of Jesus: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). But there is no reason for those of us who know Him to wait. Every day is a good day to worship the Lord, but Christmas has special meaning for us. The word holiday is a contraction of the expression “holy day.” Truly Christmas should be holy to us, and we should be holy in all of our thoughts and deeds. Like the wise men, let us worship Christ on our knees.
Christmas is a wonderful reminder to us of the priority that worshipping Christ should be in our lives.
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.
More and more people are giving gift cards for Christmas presents. What used to be somewhat rare has become commonplace. One of the surprising things about gift cards is how often people fail to use them. The Journal of State Taxation reported that the average America home has $300 in unused gift cards. Often the use of the cards is not simply delayed—it never happens. One estimate revealed that between 2005 and 2011, $41 billion in gift cards went unused. That represents a lot of gifts that were available but did not benefit the intended recipient.
This is a little bit sad in the physical world, but in terms of the gift of salvation that God freely offers, it is eternally tragic. Those who do not receive Christ as Savior forfeit the gift of eternal life and instead suffer the just punishment for their sins. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). God does not have to be convinced to save people. He is not reluctant to respond to those who come to Him. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus came to save all who would believe in Him. John R. Rice said, “You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father's face and tell Him you have received His Christmas gift.”
God's gift of salvation is available to all who believe, but it must be accepted to be received.
And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
The first promise of the coming Savior was announced even before Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden after sin entered the world. God laid out His plan for victory in the battle against Satan. Sin brought death into the world, but Jesus would come with the promise of eternal life. Satan would not be able to overcome His power. Even death and the grave would not be able to hold Him. Paul wrote, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
The story of Christmas is the story of the fulfillment of God's promise. Even those who followed Jesus most closely during His lifetime on earth were not always clear on His purpose. Their primary interest in the promised Messiah was to gain freedom from Rome and see Israel become an independent nation once more. Their secondary interest was jockeying for position in what they expected to be an earthly kingdom. They heard what Jesus said about the heavenly kingdom and God's salvation, but they didn't focus on that. Jesus never lost focus on the real purpose for His life. He said, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are proof that we can confidently rely on every promise God makes to us.
For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
2 Corinthians 9:12-15
We often think of presents when we think of Christmas. Or perhaps as we focus on the true reason for the season, our thoughts are focused on Jesus as the baby in the manger. But the birth of Jesus Christ was not really the end gift God gave the world. Rather, Jesus' birth was the beginning of God's larger gift. It is Jesus' sacrificial death and glorious resurrection that represent the fullness of God's gift of salvation. Our sin had hopelessly separated us from God, but Jesus took on our sin and made a way for us to be reconciled to God. Throughout His ministry on earth, Jesus always said, “Father” when He spoke to God. The only exception to that was on the cross. “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
On the cross, the full guilt of our sin was placed on Christ, and He—on our behalf—experienced the separation from God that would otherwise be our eternal destiny. The horrible physical suffering Jesus endured on the cross was nothing compared to the pain of bearing our sin and having His perfect union with the Father ruptured as a result. Yet all of this was according to God's plan. Isaiah wrote, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10). The true gift of Christmas is found not in a manger, but in a rugged cross and a borrowed tomb left empty.
God's gracious gift of salvation is beyond our ability to fully describe, but should be the theme of our continual thanks and praise to Him.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
It's easy to see that we live in a world where peace can be hard to come by. There are wars between nations, civil wars within nations, and threats of even greater conflicts. There are conflicts between employees, between businesses, and sadly sometimes even within churches and families. Many people struggle to have peace in their hearts. Pain from what they have experienced or guilt over what they have done or worry about the future can easily rob us of peace. Even in the midst of all this, God's peace is to be real in our lives. One of the crucial ingredients of having that peace is that we be grateful.
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we have nothing for which to be thankful because things are not going as we wish they would or think they should. But it is in those moments that gratitude is most important. Even as we pray, asking God for His help, we must be mindful of all the ways His grace has already been given to us, and be thankful in every circumstance. Paul wrote, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
We do not have peace because everything is going well, or because nothing will ever go wrong. We have peace because God never fails. He never abandons us or lets us down. He is always with us, even when the circumstances of life are difficult or demanding. With that assurance, we can always find reasons for gratitude. God expects and commands that from us. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
God's peace rules in the hearts of those who gratefully acknowledge His goodness in every circumstance.
Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.
All of us face situations where we need advice and counsel on what we should do. Perhaps it is a choice between different jobs. Sometimes it is a problem in a relationship that needs to be resolved. Sometimes we need direction on how to respond to something that has happened to us. There is incredible value in having wise people speak the truth to us. Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, but even he recognized the value of getting wise counsel from others. “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
However the most important source of counsel is not other people, but the Word of God. People can be deceived or make mistakes, but the Bible is always reliable. It is the best source of advice for direction that we have. “Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors” (Psalm 119:24). When we walk in human wisdom, the best we can expect is what humans can provide. When we seek God's wisdom and counsel, we have the certainty that what He tells us is true.
As believers, we have the Holy Spirit to help us interpret and apply the Word of God to every decision we face. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13).
No human advice or authority should ever be trusted over what God has declared in His Word.
For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.
Each time we reach the end of one year and approach the beginning of another, we have the opportunity to look back on what God has done for us, and look ahead in faith to what lies ahead. There is much we do not know about the future. Often the thing we expect do not happen, while things we do not see coming catch us off guard. Charles Spurgeon said, “You who trust in Jesus are under the guidance of the great Joshua; you are fighting sin; you have obtained salvation; you have left the wilderness of conviction and fear behind you, come into the Canaan of faith, and now the eyes of God are upon you and upon your state from the opening of the year to its close.”
Nothing ever surprises God. Nothing causes Him to adjust or alter His plans. Nothing can take His eyes off us, and we are never separated from His attention and care. We can face the future with confidence, not because we know everything will work out the way we want, but because God never fails. The truth of God's continual care for His children is a profound source of hope. God knows everything about us, even to the smallest details—and even more importantly, He cares about us greatly. Jesus said, “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7).
We never need to fear that our situation is not known by God, or that our concerns are not important to Him.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
The Bible is so much more than just a book of information and historical facts. Everything it says is true and correct, but it is not meant solely to make us more knowledgeable. The Bible is the very words that God breathed out for us, and it is our responsibility to ensure that His Word is constantly filling our hearts, our minds, and our mouths. We do not just learn the principles of Scripture for ourselves, but to share with others and encourage them to do what God says. When His Word dwells in us richly, it is an abundant and overflowing source of wisdom, and it impacts every part of our lives. The specific example Paul gives us of having a deep and lasting relationship with the Bible is how the Word influences our music.
Johann Sebastian Bach said, “Music is God's gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven.” When the world was created, singing was part of the celebration. God told Job about the day, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:7). When the world has ended and the new world begins, singing will be part of the worship in Heaven. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9). Music has enormous power to communicate truth, to stir our emotions, and to draw us closer to God. We need to be certain that our musical choices are honoring to Him and reflect our commitment to order our lives according to His Word.
Our relationship to the Word of God determines how we will live in every part of our lives.
Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD! Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity. Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.
In the days of Isaiah, the Jewish people were uncomfortably situated between the two largest and most powerful empires in the world—Egypt and Babylon. The rapid expansion of Nebuchadnezzar set off alarms in Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Judah started looking for help. Rather than turning to the Lord, Who had promised to defend His chosen people, they sought an earthly military alliance, repeating the mistake Asa had made years before. He failed to have God's protection and peace because he treated God as a last resort. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
Often we are tempted to look to our own resources or what help we may be able to get from other people when we are in trouble, forgetting the promises and power of God that is available to us as His children. It should be our first instinct and response to seek God's face when we must deal with difficulty and challenge. It is easy for us to rely first and foremost on others, but as the old hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” put it, “The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own.”
God can meet every need that we have, and we should go to Him first with all of our problems.
Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
Our level of commitment and devotion to God is not determined by what we say, but by what we do. While being a child of God certainly should impact how we talk, our words are no substitute for actually doing what God says. Jesus dealt with the Pharisees, who were fanatically committed to outward observances of the law, but whose hearts were closed to the truth God sent Him to reveal. “He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6).
The devil is perfectly content for us to express our love for God in flowery and beautiful language. That does not distress him or hinder his plans so long as we are not actually following through and living up to what we say. A. W. Tozer said, “Christians don't tell lies—they just go to church and sing them.” We need to be on guard to ensure that we are not substituting the right words for the right actions. God does not tell us what to do simply to increase our knowledge, but to change our conduct. Failing to do what we know to be right while proclaiming our love for God may be comforting, but it is still deception and sin. "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).
Every day should find us living out in action and obedience the same love for God we profess with our mouths.
For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.
The prophet Isaiah was sent to king Hezekiah with a sobering message—that he would not recover from his illness, but should get his affairs in order. The distraught king cried out to God, and in response, God sent Isaiah back with a new message—that he would have an additional fifteen years added to his life. As God had promised, Hezekiah did recover. With restored health and renewed strength, Hezekiah wrote a prayer of praise as an expression of his gratitude that include the verses given above. In this passage, he highlighted the responsibility we all have to take full advantage of the time and opportunities God places before us.
In truth, none of us are promised the future. The only day we know for sure that we have to praise and glorify God and tell others about Him is today. James wrote, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). We have been given great blessings from God, not because we are so deserving, but because He is so gracious. In response, we should be filled with praise rather than with complaints. We should be sharing the truth with others rather than keeping it to ourselves.
The time to do those things is now. Unlike Hezekiah, who knew he would live another fifteen years, we do not know how much time we have to serve God. At some point, our lives will come to an end, and it is up to us to make sure they are not wasted by doing what we should one day at a time.
The successful and obedient Christian life is lived one day at a time, taking full advantage of all God places before us.
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.
Life is filled with tasks and responsibilities. The attitude with which we approach those tasks determines to a great extent how we will carry them out. If we dread doing something, fearing that it will be hard, it is not surprising if it does turn out to be difficult. Instead we are called to begin every task with gratitude and a determination to do it the way Jesus would if He had our assignment. Whether the job is great or small, whether it is public or one that no one will ever know we did, it should get our very best. We are given the opportunity to represent the Lord Whose name we bear and to serve others just as He did.
Martin Luther wrote, “The prince should think: 'Christ has served me and made everything to follow Him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve Him.' The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: 'I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor.' When a Christian does not serve other[s], that is not Christian living.”
Everything we do reflects on God. People cannot see Him, so their opinions of Him are formed in large measure by what they see in His children. When we perform with diligence and serve others with humility, it does not glorify us, but Christ. This is God's plan for us, and it applies to every part of our lives. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
In all that we do, we should be conscious of the precious name we bear, and bring honor and glory to Him.
After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
The United Nations Population Fund announced that on November 15, 2022, the population of the world had set a new record, having reached eight billion people. Every one of those people have a soul that will spend eternity either in Heaven or in Hell. Without exception, every one of them needs to hear and receive the gospel. But no one will hear this important news unless someone tells them. As Paul pointed out through a series of questions, "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14). There needs to be an urgency and consistency in our efforts to be an effective witness for the Lord. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army said, “'Not called!' did you say? 'Not heard the call,' I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of Hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face—Whose mercy you have professed to obey—and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.”
Eternity awaits every person we meet, and it is our duty and privilege to share the good news of Christ's offer of eternal life with them.
Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come? Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law. Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.
Because of their idolatry, immorality and refusal to repent, God sent a number of judgments on the Jewish people during the ministry of the prophet Isaiah. They suffered economic hardship and military defeat and eventually would be carried into captivity by the Babylonians. Yet the greatest tragedy was not what they lost or suffered or what they had to endure, but that they refused to submit to God, even though He sent prophet after prophet to warn them. Even after they experienced God's judgment, they continued in their sins. They “laid it not to heart.”
God wants us to promptly respond to His chastening with repentance. He does not randomly or capriciously chasten His children. It is always for a purpose. But for us to benefit from the experience, we have to pay attention to the lesson God is teaching. In one of his great songs about repentance and forgiveness of sin, David wrote, “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” (Psalm 32:9).
Not everything difficult or painful that comes into our lives is the result of sinful behavior on our part and God's chastening. But when that is the cause, we need to soften our hearts and change our ways. Rather than clinging to our sins, we should recognize the love of God calling us to repentance and restoration in our relationship with Him.
The more promptly we repent when God chastens us, the sooner we will experience restoration in our fellowship with Him.
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
According to a May 2022 report from the career development firm Zippia, the average American employee spends almost three hours of each eight hour work day on activities that are non-work related. While some of these tasks are necessary for the job though unrelated to specific duties, many of them are simply personal things being taken care of on company time. A full 89 percent of respondents to the survey admitted to wasting at least a half hour every day, and 31 percent admitted to wasting at least an hour every day while they are being paid to work.
Christians are called to a higher standard of performance. We are not supposed to work just when the boss is watching. We are not supposed to pass off slipshod effort in hopes that no one will notice. We are not supposed to give anything less than our best, no matter what the task may be. No matter who our employer is, no matter who signs our paychecks, no matter who our supervisor may be, we are ultimately working for God. He is the one who will evaluate whether our work is acceptable.
In Henry Wadsworth Longellow's poem The Builders he wrote:
In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the gods see everywhere.
Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.
We are not building temples to heathen deities, but everything we do should receive our very best effort. Since we know that God is watching, how hard and diligently we work should not depend on whether a supervisor or stakeholder is present. Instead, our desire to please Him and our fear of bringing reproach on His name should be all the motivation we need to be excellent and diligent in our work.
As Christians, our work reflects on the God Whose name we bear, and we should always honor Him in all we do.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 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: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:6-9
Throughout history, different items have been used as a currency of value. In New Testament days, Roman soldiers were often paid with salt rather than money. In fact, the word salary is taken from the Latin word for salt, and that is also where the expression “worth his salt” comes from. In Revolutionary America, the new Congress printed so much paper money that people stopped accepting it. Something that did not have any real value would be referred to as “not even worth a Continental.” In contrast, gold has been a constant medium of exchange and wealth for thousands of years. Yet we have something far more valuable than any currency, including gold. We have faith.
The reason our faith is so valuable is not found in us—in how deeply or firmly we believe—but in the object of that faith. It is Jesus Who is always faithful, Who never changes, and Who never abandons His children. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). No matter what trial may come into our lives, we can count on Him to be faithful to us, and it is our duty to be faithful to Him in return. No matter how painful or difficult or disappointing our circumstances may be, each trial gives us an opportunity to refine and strengthen our faith, and demonstrate to all those around us that it is indeed real and precious.
No trial can shake a faith that is based on the faithfulness of Jesus to keep all of His promises to us.
Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same.
In the 1500s, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent ruled over a vast territory which included the city of Jerusalem. According to some accounts, he had a dream in which he was warned that he would be devoured by lions if he did not rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Those walls had lain in ruins since the end of the Crusader wars. Regardless of whether that was his motive, Suleiman did order the walls restored, and those are the walls which still stand around the Holy City today. One of the gates in the walls is adorned with lions carved from the stones, which may have been intended to represent what Suleiman had dreamed.
On the eastern side of the city, facing the Mount of Olives is the Golden Gate. It is believed that Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday through a gate located near this location. When the walls were completed in 1541, Suleiman ordered that gate into the city be closed up, apparently to prevent the promised Messiah from entering through it as Ezekiel foretold. Yet, God's promises are always fulfilled, and one day those stones and bricks that now block the entrance will be removed and Jesus will again come—this time not as a humble Savior, but as a reigning King. God is able to use anything and anyone to fulfill His Word, and we can fully rely on Him.
The promises of God are certain and sure, and He will use any means required to see them fulfilled.
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Like many other Jewish young men, Nehemiah found himself living in a foreign land. The Babylonian Empire that had destroyed Jerusalem and looted the Temple had been replaced by the Persian Empire. The land of Israel was under their complete control. Nehemiah had a position of high respect, trusted by the king to keep him alive from the threat of poison. Nehemiah certainly had a number of reasons to resent this heathen king, but instead he served him with gladness. When news of the horrible condition of Jerusalem reached Nehemiah, it produced a change in his demeanor which was noticeable. “And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,” (Nehemiah 2:1-2).
Despite his difficult circumstances, Nehemiah performed his tasks and duties without bitterness or resentment. He put his heart into his work. This is something that we are commanded to do as well. Rather than loafing through the day, we are called to work with whole hearts.
Perhaps you've seen the “motivational” poster that reads as follows:
The management regret that it has come to their attention that Employees dying on the job are failing to fall down. This practice must stop as it becomes impossible to distinguish between Death and natural movement of the staff. Any Employee found dead in an upright position will be dropped from the payroll.
A lackadaisical attitude is not the way to work. Not every job, or every part of any job, is enjoyable. But every job and every task deserves to be done with our hearts, knowing that we are doing it for the Lord.
If we put our hearts into our work, it will make a noticeable difference that others can see.
And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
Jacob spent his early life under the influence of two men who knew God—his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. Yet despite that, Jacob lived by deceit and trickery and ended up having to run for his life as a result. Even on the run, however, he did not forget the God his father and grandfather worshiped. Although his worship was inconsistent through the next twenty years, as Jacob returned to the land God had promised them, he made a commitment to worship God alone. Jacob instructed his large family to do the same. “Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments” (Genesis 35:2). That night, in an unusual encounter, Jacob expressed his complete dependence on God's help and was persistent in prayer until he received the blessing he sought.
Though God sometimes does answer prayers immediately, it is often the case that we must pray again and again. If we are haphazard and sporadic in our praying or if we give up before the answer has come, it is unlikely we will ever see God work in a great way. George Müller said, “We must then continue in prayer until the blessing is given to us. Furthermore, we have to believe that God does hear us and will answer our prayers. Frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained and in not expecting the blessing.”
Do not miss the blessing God has in store by failing to continue seeking it from Him until it arrives.
Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor. But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God.
Nehemiah gave up a safe, comfortable position in the palace of Persia for a difficult job no one else wanted to take on. He oversaw the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem and the restoration of much of the city. He faced down opposition and ignored the critics who tried to derail the work and even threatened his life. In his time as governor of Israel, he distinguished himself by the way that he treated the people. Rather than taking advantage of the perks that came with his position, as those who had served before him had done, Nehemiah paid his own way. He used his position to benefit others instead of taking advantage of them. The reason he did this was because of how he viewed God.
Nehemiah knew that God had commanded those who had positions of authority to treat people well. Moses wrote concerning those who would have Hebrew servants in time to come, “Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God” (Leviticus 25:43). The more that we recognize God's power and authority, the less likely we are to misuse the power and authority given to us. When we recognize that He is high and holy, and sees all that we do, we will strive to treat others as He commands. We should fear disobeying and disappointing God more than we fear anything else. We should seek to please Him, even if it means making personal sacrifices.
Our treatment of others is directly related to how we view God and how we fear Him.
Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
In 1995, McDonald's launched a Monopoly game promotion. Customers at the restaurants would get stickers to put on their game board with purchases of food they made, and if they collected the right set of pieces, they would win prizes that went as high as $1,000,000. It was a fun way for the company to attract business, and many people got their official game brochures and collected the stickers in hopes of getting the big prize. What no one then knew was that Jerome Jacobson, the head of security for the company McDonald's used to provide the games pieces for the contest, was stealing the most valuable stickers and distributing them to people who would pay him a portion of their winnings. Before he was finally caught by an FBI sting operation in 2001, it is estimated that he made at least $3,000,000 from the $24,000,000 people made by participating in his scheme. Meanwhile, millions of people across the country played the game hoping for a reward they had no chance of receiving.
When God promises to reward those who faithfully serve Him, we never need to fear that it is an empty promise or that someone else will take the reward meant for us. God sees all we do for Him, and though small things may escape the notice of others, He sees even the simplest things we do in His name. 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). While our primary motive for serving the Lord is our love for Him rather than what we receive, we also know that the crowns He gives to us will be laid at His feet as part of our eternal worship of the worthy Lamb.
God never overlooks our work for Him, and His promised rewards for that work are certain.
And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Abraham waited many years for the son God had promised, and he rejoiced when Isaac was born. But Abraham's love for his son did not keep him from obeying when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. He went to the mountain as God directed him and had Isaac on the altar when God told him to stop. Abraham's obedience to prepare to make what must have seemed an overwhelming sacrifice was a result of his faith. Even though there is no account of anyone being resurrected before, Abraham believed God would bring Isaac back to life to fulfill His promise. “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:19). Instead, God stopped Abraham from making the sacrifice, providing a substitute ram instead.
Obedience is always tied to faith. If we do not believe God, we will not do as He says. And if we do not obey God, we will miss out on blessings—not just for our own lives, but for our families, others we impact, and then the lives of those they impact as well. We today are still being blessed and are benefiting from Abraham's obedience. Often we do not realize the implications of our choices and actions, especially as they relate to those who come after us. But every day we are setting a pattern and leaving an example that will impact those around us as well. As we follow God in faith, our obedience will influence others to trust God as well.
Doing what God says brings blessings to us, but also to others in ways beyond what we can immediately see.
For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.
2 Corinthians 8:3-6
God is the ultimate owner of all the resources that exist. He could provide for the needs of His work in any number of ways. He could send birds to fly into the church building and drop money in the offering plates, like the ravens feeding Elijah. He could drop money on the church grounds every morning like the manna that fell to feed the Israelites. He chooses instead for His work to be funded and supported by the gifts of His children. Giving is a touchy subject in some churches, but it is God's plan.
A. W. Tozer, said, “Before the judgment seat of Christ my service will be judged not by how much I have done but by how much I could have done! In God’s sight, my giving is measured not by how much I have given but how much I have left after I made my gift. Not by its size is my gift judged, but by how much of me there is in it. No man gives at all until he has given all! No man gives anything acceptable to God until he has first given himself in love and sacrifice.” No amount of money someone puts into an offering will make up for a heart that is not fully devoted to God. We do not buy His favor. Though there are blessings promised for those who give generously, the primary motivation for our obedience is our love for the Lord Who has given us so much.
Giving God our hearts and our lives must precede any acceptable gift we could bring to Him.
But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
On April 15, 2012 a memorial garden was opened in Belfast to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The massive ship had been built in Belfast, and made her first and only voyage from those shipyards and then to England before setting out across the Atlantic. Though there are memorials to the Titanic in countries around the world because there were passengers from so many nations, the memorial in Belfast is believed to be the only one that lists the name of every passenger and crew member who perished on that trip—more than 1500 people. Rather than separating them by what class tickets they had purchased or what their role on the ship was, the memorial lists them in alphabetical order, every one given equal listing.
The world often favors those who are powerful or rich or well-connected. Sometimes people get away with serious crimes simply because of who they are or the resources they can bring to their defense. But God does not judge as man judges. No amount of money will impress the God Who paved the streets of Heaven with gold. No amount of fame will impress the God Whose glory fills the heavens. He judges us righteously and fairly. No one will be exempt from His evaluation. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).
If we have trusted Christ as our Savior, we have no need to fear God's eternal judgment—Jesus paid for our sins. But we will stand before God, on equal and level ground, to have what we have done for Him weighed. No one will be exempt, and no one will receive special treatment. “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:15). May we live today for that day!
God sees and will reward every act of service we do for Him—regardless of how obscure or well known we are or if anybody else ever knows we did it.
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
Many religions teach and many people believe that our eternal destiny is determined by the things we do or the things we avoid doing. Often people picture a scale where good things will be weighed against bad things and whichever proves to be heavier will settle the outcome. That is not the way God works. In judgment, He will separate believers and unbelievers. “And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:32-33). That separation is not based on what people do but on what they believe.
Those whose faith is in Jesus Christ alone are His children and will go to Heaven. Those who have chosen some other way to approach God will be separated from Him forever. While we certainly should be active and busy in God's work because of our salvation, that has nothing to do with us receiving salvation. D. L. Moody said, “The thief had nails through both hands, so that he could not work; and a nail through each foot, so that he could not run errands for the Lord; he could not lift a hand or a foot toward his salvation, and yet Christ offered him the gift of God; and he took it. Christ threw him a passport, and took him into Paradise.” The only way anyone can be saved is by accepting God's gracious offer of salvation by faith in Jesus alone.
We stand before God in His grace and mercy alone, or we have no hope of salvation.
Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.
When Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that he recognized as important, he asked his counselors and those who claimed to be able to communicate with spirits to tell him what the dream meant. The problem was that he couldn't remember the dream. When they told Nebuchadnezzar that they needed to know the dream in order to interpret it, he became angry and ordered them all killed. Daniel asked for time to respond, and after he prayed, God showed him both the dream and what it meant. Daniel was able to explain to the king the plan for the future that God had shared with him, and a recounting of the empires that would rise and fall before God's kingdom was established. While the king promoted Daniel and exalted him to a high position, Daniel continued to exalt God, giving Him the credit for the insight he had told the king.
God knows everything. All human knowledge is limited. All human understanding is restricted. We make decisions without knowing what the outcome will be, but God not only knows what will happen, He knows what would happen if we made a different decision. “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10). In a world filled with confusion, doubt, and fear, we can be confident. God never fails. He is never puzzled or confused. He has all of the insight and knowledge we need, and He freely gives wisdom and understanding to those who love and follow His Word.
God offers His wisdom and insight to all those who admit their need of His guidance and seek direction from Him.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
At a time when many marriages crumble and fail, God calls His children to a different standard. His design for marriage is that it will be built on a firm foundation and that it will last. John R. Rice wrote, “If marriage is what God intended it to be, it will be happy and prosperous and successful and permanent.” Of course, all of us know relationships that are not like that. One of the most important facets of a proper marriage relationship (or really any human relationship) is that each party is taking responsibility for what he or she should do rather than focusing on what the other is supposed to do. God places high expectations on both husband and wife, and our obedience to His commands is not based on how we feel about ourselves or each other, but on our obedience to Him. If we love and honor and worship and fear God, it will provide protection not just for us individually, but for our relationship as well. Solomon wrote, “The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil” (Proverbs 19:23).
The only person whose behavior any of us can control is ourselves. A husband can determine he will love his wife as God commanded, regardless of what she does or does not do. A wife can determine she will be submissive to her husband as God commands, regardless of what he does or does not do. There are some sins that require action on the part of a husband or wife, but that does not change the basic responsibility for us to be primarily focused on honoring God by obedience to His Word in relation to our relationships. Many of the bitterest fights, the kind that can lead to dissolution of a marriage, come about because one or both spouses is focused only on the other rather than themselves.
We cannot improve any human relationship by insisting others do what they should, only by doing what we should.
Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.
The Lord gives each of us far more than we deserve. His gracious love for us pours out blessings, not grudgingly but gladly. Again and again, we receive good things from our loving Father in Heaven. These blessings come not just occasionally but day after day. David wrote, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” (Psalm 68:19). Yet even with all of God's bountiful blessings, we often are not grateful. Rather than filling our mouths with praise and guiding our lives with obedience, we gripe and complain about what we do not have and covet what others have.
But it get's worse. When we do not appreciate God and His abundant blessings, it impacts the way we view Him. If we let our gratitude lapse, it will not be long before our outward behavior begins to reflect the evil in our hearts. That is why we are reminded, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2). The alternative to gratitude and obedience is servitude to sin. Once we have decided that we know better than God what we should have, or what we deserve, it is just a short step to violating His law in order to get it. All of the devil's promises are based on lies. As John R. Rice said, “All Satan's apples have worms.” Sin that we enter into seeking what we think will make us happy always ends in bitterness and disappointment. Rejoicing in gratitude protects us from great evil.
Gratitude for God's goodness guards our hearts against the allure of sin.
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus laid out what is commonly called the Golden Rule, directing that we should give others the kindness and consideration we want to receive in return. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). None of us wish to be treated with anger and contempt. None of us enjoy being cheated or falsely accused. None of us desire to have our past failures and shortcomings pointed out. Yet too often we are guilty of doing those things to others. We forget that God is watching.
In every human relationship, we have a choice in how we will treat others. Whether it is a spouse, a family member, an employee, or a boss, we are to be guided by the knowledge and understanding that the way we interact with others should be governed by the certainty that one day we will give an account to God for the way we have acted toward them. This includes not just our actions, but the way we speak to them. Jesus warned, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
All that we say or do in our interactions with others reflects on God. Those who know us as His children will base their opinions of Him on how we act. Ghandi famously declared that he would have become a Christian if not for the Christians he had met. Anything we do that harms our effectiveness as witnesses of the gospel should be rejected. Anything we do that encourages others to think well of our Lord should be done. Every time we deal with anyone, we are either doing right and pleasing God, or doing wrong and bringing disgrace to His holy name.
Bringing honor and glory to God should be our overriding purpose and guide in every human interaction.
And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.
When God appeared to Abraham to reconfirm His promise that Abraham would have a son and found a great nation, He gave Abraham an instruction to circumcise himself and all of his workers. This would be a mark of their being set apart by God. Despite the pain and discomfort it would cause, Abraham immediately and completely obeyed what God had told him to do. He didn't wait for a better time. He didn't only do part of the job and leave the rest for later. Abraham fully carried out the directive he had been given.
Everything God tells us to do is important, and He deserves our quick and complete obedience. Nothing else substitutes for that level of compliance. Saul tried to excuse his failure to follow God's directive to utterly destroy the Amalekites by attributing his disobedience to a good motive. That didn't work. “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).
We are sometimes tempted to let saying the right things take the place of doing the right things. Jesus condemned this kind of hypocrisy. “He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6). Nothing takes the place of doing what God says—all of it and without delay. He is the Lord and King, and He deserves, and demands, nothing less.
Obedience that is not prompt and complete is not really obedience at all.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
One of the most important facets of our prayer lives should be consistency. If we pray once or twice about something and then stop, it is unlikely that we will see great answers to prayer. Most of the big things in our lives, the things that we want or need God to do that are vitally important, require ongoing and repeated praying on our part. When we get tired, we should continue in prayer. When we get discouraged, we should continue in prayer. When we feel like there is no hope, we should continue in prayer.
The truth is that God is always good and faithful. His timing sometimes does not match with ours, but He is the one with perfect and infinite knowledge, not us. So we express our trust in Him by continuing to pray until the answer comes. C. A. Gabriel wrote the following lines:
Pray when the storm clouds gather o’erhead
Hiding the light from you,
Filling your soul with darkness and dread,
Pray till the light breaks through.
Just keep on praying till light breaks through
The Lord will answer (will answer) you,
God keeps His promise; His word is true.
Just keep on praying till light breaks through.
The only time we should stop praying before the answer comes is if God steps in and points us in a different direction. Paul prayed repeatedly for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, but once God closed the door, he changed his praying. “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Unless that happens, we should just keep praying, no matter how long it takes. Faith does not allow delay to destroy its hope for the future.
Prayers that are quickly abandoned will not produce powerful answers.
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 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.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-8
When Jesus returned to Heaven following His resurrection, the angels announced clearly that He would be returning. The Old Testament prophets spoke of His Second Coming. The Lord taught about it during His ministry. Yet despite the clarity of the doctrine, it quickly became a subject of confusion and even mockery. Peter described the scoffers of his day who said Jesus would never return. “And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:4). The fact that Jesus has not yet returned does not mean that He will not. Indeed what it tells us is that we are one day closer to His return than we were yesterday.
The truth that Jesus will return is not merely an academic proposition or a theological position. It is primarily meant to serve as a motivator to us to live each day in such a way that we will not be embarrassed to meet Him. John wrote, “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28). Every day brings us opportunities to serve God, to love others, and to live obediently. Those who are living with a clear appreciation that each day could be the day He comes will act accordingly.
Knowing the Lord could return today should influence everything we do and every decision we make.
Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.
2 Timothy 4:9-13
We are not told how long Demas worked with the Apostle Paul, but we find him listed as a co-worker in the ministry in the letters Paul wrote to the Colossians and to Philemon. Those letters were written when Paul was in prison in Rome. So we know that Demas was willing to take the risk of being openly identified with the apostle and the gospel ministry at a time when the threats and danger were very real. Yet when Paul wrote his final letter to Timothy a few years later, he sadly revealed that his once faithful helper had deserted the cause.
All of us know people who once served God faithfully but then stopped. We are told that Demas left because he loved the world too much, but there are many reasons people leave God's work. F. B. Meyer wrote, “The causes of backsliding are many. We have pretended to be living a more devoted life than was actually the case; we neglected to watch unto prayer; we allowed secret sin to eat out the heart of our piety…or we yielded to temptation…or we yielded to the fear of man, and drifted with the multitude to do evil; or we became prosperous, and trusted only in our wealth; or poor, and succumbed to covetousness and the bitterness of despair.” The fact that we have been faithful for many years and through many trials does not protect us against the temptation to let down our guard and stop following God with our whole heart.
If we do not keep our love for God first, we will find it impossible to resist the allures of sin and the world.
Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
Paul was imprisoned in numerous cities across the Roman Empire over the course of his ministry. He wrote many of his letters, including Colossians, from a prison cell. He asked the people to pray for open doors—not so he could get out of jail, but so he would have opportunities to present the gospel. Paul's primary concern was not the things of this world, but the things of the next. I'm sure he did not turn down opportunities to improve his situation, but that was not his focus. He wrote (also from prison), “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
Not every circumstance of life is pleasant or enjoyable, but in every circumstance God is good and faithful. Often He uses our times of hardship to open doors for us to glorify Him and share the gospel with others. It is far more important to Him that we be obedient than that we be comfortable. He calls us to be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of His kingdom. He wants us to be focused on Him first rather than on ourselves. No matter what difficulties may come into our lives, we can be faithful and continue to be obedient witnesses for Him.
When Queen Mary I came to the throne of England, she unleashed a wave of persecution against those who refused to return to the Catholic church. Among those who were sentenced to die under the rule of “Bloody Mary” were Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. The Oxford Martyrs, as they came to be known, refused to recant. When he was led to the stake to be burned to death in 1555, the aged Latimer said, “Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
Our greatest concern should always be the work of God rather than our own comfort.
And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
When many people think of Jesus, they think first of his qualities of being kind, compassionate, humble, and loving. He was all of these. But He was also passionate about the truth, and He strongly condemned those who led others astray. His harshest critiques were directed at those who were self-righteous and thought they had no need of a Savior, not at those who were repentant over their sins. What Jesus did when He went to Jerusalem for the Passover was a shocking act. We do not typically picture the Good Shepherd chasing people with a whip. But in truth, any good shepherd will go to great lengths to protect the flock. Jesus' anger was not directed at those who offended Him personally, but against those who were using the worship of God for their own gain.
The same should be true of us. We do not have to respond in anger to every insult or attack. Psalm 119:165 tells us, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” But we should love God so that things that are offensive to Him are also offensive to us. Sins against God should make us angry—for the very reason that they are an affront to Him. Johnathan Edwards wrote, “Persons sin in their anger when they are selfish in it; for we are not to act as if we were our own, or for ourselves simply, since we belong to God, and not to ourselves. When a fault is committed wherein God is sinned against, and persons are injured by it, they should be chiefly concerned, and their spirits chiefly moved against it, because it is against God; for they should be more solicitous for God’s honor than for their own temporal interests.”
We should be far less angry about offenses against us than we are about offenses against God.
And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
2 Kings 5:10-12
Naaman went to Israel to be healed of his leprosy—not because he believed in the God of Israel, but because the captive Jewish servant girl in his home said that Elisha could cure him. When Naaman arrived at Elisha's home, he was outraged by the reception he received. He had traveled to a hostile foreign country seeking help. The prophet, however, did not come out to receive him but sent his servant with a message. The message itself was a directive that did not match Naaman's preconceptions, and he did not want to follow it. Only after his servants interceded and he obeyed the prophet was Naaman cleansed.
It is not enough to seek direction and guidance from God, but we must also follow it and carry out His instructions to receive the promised blessings. When we set out to seek God's direction in matters large or small, we must be committed to following it, no matter what that entails. George Müller said, “I never remember in all my Christian course that I ever sincerely and patiently sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost through the instrumentality of the Word of God but I have always been rightly directed. But, if honesty of heart and uprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait on God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellowmen to the declarations of the Word of God, I made great mistakes.”
The blessings of obedience only come to those who actually do what God says to do.
That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
There are many powerful things in our world. There are weapons capable of devastating wide areas in a single blast. There are rockets strong enough to deliver people and cargo from Earth's gravitational field and out into space. There are huge machines able to move massive amounts of material. But as strong as these things are, they are not more powerful than the tongue. Words may seem small, but they have great power. Solomon reminds us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21).
We should constantly be aware of the impact that our words have on those who hear them. Are we encouraging others and building up their faith, or are we tearing them down and placing snares in their path? Our words should be kind and helpful and considerate and uplifting. There is a right and proper way for us to use the incredible power of our words. And when they use those words for good, it produces a wonderful result. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). All of us know people who are a joy to be around because they are a source of encouragement and help, offering us kind words at a time when we really need to hear them. We need those people. We also have the opportunity to be those people. We can choose to speak as we should, building people up with our speech rather than tearing them down.
Knowing we will answer to God for the impact our words have on others, we should choose them carefully.
Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
Sometimes as we look at the world around us, it's hard to believe people are acting the way they are. Perhaps you remember the story of the man in Pennsylvania in 2018 who robbed a bank and was quickly captured because he signed his name at the bottom of the note he handed the teller. Then there was a New Jersey woman in 2022 who went to the police station to apply for a security job, even though there was a warrant out for her arrest for credit card fraud. In England, in 2021 a man who had escaped jail and hidden from the police for months was arrested when he broke the COVID lockdown and went out to buy a copy of the newest Call of Duty video game.
The truth is that because all of us have a fallen nature, it is easy for us to find sin attractive. Solomon pointed out that people living without God and His wisdom enjoy doing things that are wrong. And James reminds us that it is the sinful desires of our own hearts that make temptation attractive to us: "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James 1:14). Unless we are willing to turn to God and follow Him, not just for salvation but for strength every day of our lives, we will easily be led astray by things that seem good and enjoyable, but lead to destruction. It is not our own wisdom, but the wisdom of God that protects us from the allure of sin. It is His wisdom freely made available to us, that warns us of dangers and guides us to the right path.
Following the wisdom of God protects us from the foolishness of sin.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Perhaps the most famous miser in all of fiction is found in Charles Dickens' novel, A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge is wealthy, but his heart is closed to the needs of others. When he is approached by two men who are attempting to raise funds for the poor, Scrooge suggests the poor could go to the poor house or the debtor's prison and refuses to give. When he is pressed he responds: “I wish to be left alone. ... Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”
All of us know people who are stingy and tightfisted with their resources. We certainly would not expect to find it easy to talk them into helping us if we had a need. God is not like that. Rather than grasping and holding on to what He has, He freely and graciously responds to our pleas for help. Jesus said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). Whatever the need—spiritual, physical, financial, directional, or anything else—He is willing and able to help. In every conflict and trial, God has the answer, and we must go to Him in faith expecting our needs to be met.
We do not have to persuade God to help us—He delights in doing so.
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
One of the most sobering realizations of the Christian life is the awesome responsibility we are given to share the gospel with the lost. God does not hold us accountable for how people respond, but He does hold us accountable for whether we give the warning. “When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezekiel 33:8).
Every interaction we have with others should be guided and governed by this truth. People are watching us to see if our lives match our words. Bill Rice told the story from his days as an evangelist when he got on a streetcar and was given too much change. When he returned it to the driver the man said, “I knew I gave you too much. I heard you preach last night and wanted to see if you would live what you preached.” Our words should always be right, but so should our actions.
We do not live to impress others, nor are we to put on an ostentatious show of piety like the Pharisees did. But we should be constantly aware of the impact our actions have on our witness. The life Lot was living undermined his attempt to warn his own family of the coming judgment on Sodom. “And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law” (Genesis 19:14). Annie Johnson Flint wrote:
We are the only Bible
The careless world will read;
We are the sinner's Gospel,
We are the scoffer's creed;
We are the Lord's last message,
Given in deed and word;
What if the type is crooked?
What if the print is blurred?
Each day our lives bring credit to God and reinforce our witness or tear it down.