Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
We live in a society that promotes and glorifies in self. Whether it is self-esteem, self-respect, or the “selfie” picture, we are encouraged to focus our attention and efforts not toward others, but toward ourselves. Yet God's command is not that we focus on ourselves, but on others. This is the pattern Jesus set for us to follow. When the disciples squabbled over who would have the most prominent positions, He told them to focus on others instead, and 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).
Everything in life flows from where our focus is. If it is strictly internal, we will not make the efforts and sacrifices required to do God's work. Instead we will tend to become proud and vain, looking at ourselves as much more than we really are. J. Stuart Holden said: “We sometimes speak of men and women—even Christian men and women—being wrapped up in themselves, and when a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a very small parcel. When he has shrunk to that size so that he can be wrapped up in himself, there is not much to wrap up.”
It is God's grace that offers us a place in His service. He certainly does not need our help, nor is He impressed with our talents, our fame, or our resources. He blesses those who are not self-focused, but instead live out their love for Him by investing in the lives of others.
To be great for God we must live for others rather than for ourselves.
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
A home security system that was only operational in certain hours would be of little use. Thieves would quickly learn the right time to carry out their burglaries. For the system to work as it should, it must be constantly active. While Jesus was here on earth, He declared that the time of His return was not known: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). With this reality, Jesus directed His followers to be constantly aware and prepared for His return. If we are not intentionally and deliberately staying alert, we are likely to be taken off guard and to be ashamed when the Lord returns.
That could happen at any moment. Though many centuries have passed since Jesus promised He would come again, it will happen. Since we do not know the time of that event, we must live each day, each hour, and each minute knowing that it could happen. We must be prepared, never forgetting what is at stake. Napoleon, who conquered much of Europe before his ultimate defeat said, “There is in the midst of every great battle a ten- to fifteen-minute period that is the crucial point. Take that period, and you win the battle. Lose it, and you will be defeated.” We don't know in advance which moments will matter most, so we must stay on guard at all times. Jesus made it clear that this instruction to be ready is not just for certain people, but for all who follow Him. “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:37).
Live today and every day in readiness for Jesus to return, and you will be glad when you meet Him.
Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
The story goes that a lady went to a pastor and revealed that she was under conviction regarding the way she talked to and about others. The pastor told her to take a feather pillow up into the steeple of the church, tear it open, and let the wind carry the feathers away. Once she had done that, he suggested she go and gather them up. She told him that was impossible. He agreed and pointed out that it is similarly impossible to track down the words we have spoken and remove their influence from the hearts and minds of others.
Being careful of our speech is meant to be a way of life. Our words have a powerful impact on others, so it is important that we carefully balance what we say between grace and truth. We should not take our words lightly, but instead consider what they can do for good or bad.
When Jesus returned to Nazareth after He had begun His ministry, He spoke in the synagogue. “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?” (Luke 4:22). Matthew Henry wrote, “Christ's words are words of grace, for, grace being poured into His lips (Psalm 45:2), words of grace poured from them. And these words of grace are to be wondered at; Christ's name was Wonderful, and in nothing was He more so than in His grace, in the words of His grace, and the power that went along with those words. We may well wonder that He should speak such words of grace to such graceless wretches as we are.” We do not speak gracious words to others because they deserve them, but because we are trying to follow the example of the Lord and be effective witnesses for Him.
Our words have such power that we must choose them wisely and with care, guided by grace.
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
The world's idea and definition of wisdom is very different from God's wisdom. The primary difference is in the focus. God's wisdom focuses on obeying Him and living according to His commands. The world's wisdom is focused on getting what we want without any regard to God's Word or the impact our actions will have on others. The devil promises we can have what we desire by following his methods. He even tried this with Jesus when he tempted the Lord. “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9). Jesus rejected the offer to avoid the hardship involved in fulfilling God's plan, recognizing that Satan's promise was an empty one.
Jesus responded to all of Satan's temptations in the same way—by quoting a relevant portion of Scripture that applied to the temptation. One of the definitions of wisdom, God's wisdom, is to live according to His Word. The more we know the Bible, the more we memorize and meditate on it, the more we read it, the more we hear it, the better equipped we are to reject the wisdom from below and instead follow the wisdom from above. The only path that is pleasing to God and the only path that leads to peace is the path that conforms to what He has told us.
We cannot walk in God's wisdom without walking in His Word.
So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
Since God had destroyed the Egyptian army with the waters of the Red Sea, Israel had not yet had to fight a battle when they faced the Amalekites. This kingdom, descendants from Esau, refused to let the Israelites pass by them as they journeyed to the Promised Land. Instead, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites. In defense, Moses sent the Israelite army into battle under the leadership of Joshua, while Moses watched the battlefield and prayed. The thing that brought the Israelites the victory was not the courage of their soldiers or the military abilities of Joshua. He is renowned even in secular history as a great general, but the victory was not his. Instead the triumph of Israel over Amalek came because Moses prayed. As Moses watched the battle and raised his arms in prayer, his arms grew tired. It was then that Aaron and Hur supported him so that he could continue praying until the victory was won.
It is easy for us to underestimate the importance of prayer, and the importance of encouraging and helping others pray. But in truth, prayer is not an add on or sideline to the real work. Prayer is spiritual work for God, and it is a work that produces results. Curtis Hutson used to say, “There is more that you can do after you pray, but there is nothing you can do until you pray.” We are utterly reliant on God's power to win any battle, large or small. We do not fight in our strength but in His, and that strength comes to us when we pray.
Our strength will never be enough, but through prayer we tap in to the unlimited power of God Almighty.
All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord:
We know almost nothing about Tychicus. Though he is mentioned five times by Paul in various epistles, we are not given his background, his conversion story, or anything else in the way of personal details. We don't know where he was born, where he spent most of his life, or where he died. What we are told is that he was faithful. Tychicus never became famous like Paul. His letters, if he wrote any, were not inspired and kept for future generations. But Tychicus was faithful. We have no record of him being the pastor of a major church like Timothy at Ephesus or Titus in Crete. But he was faithful. Through all of the difficulties in being a part of the ministry of Paul, he remained faithful.
Our world values fame and notoriety above almost everything else. People who are famous are often asked for their opinions on subjects they know little or nothing about, and their words are given weight simply because they are well known. God places value on those who are diligent and consistent and keep on doing what they can for Him. This is not something optional, but rather a requirement for being an obedient Christian. Paul wrote, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).
God values this trait because those who are faithful are not swayed by hardship, fame or any of the other tools the devil uses to hinder their work. The great missionary Hudson Taylor wrote, “A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in the little things is a great thing.” Whether the world ever notices or not, God is watching. “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).
God values faithfulness far more than talent or fame, and He will reward those who are faithful stewards.
The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
John Adams had a hugely distinguished career. He was already a prominent lawyer prior to the Revolutionary War. He was a member of the first Continental Congress and helped Thomas Jefferson with the writing of the Declaration of Independence. He helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris that ended the war, and he served as ambassador to France, Holland, and England. After two terms as George Washington's Vice President, Adams was elected the nation's second President. He had much of which he could justly have been proud and boastful. Yet in a letter to his grandson written not long before he died Adams wrote, “The longer I live, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know. Walk humbly. That is enough.”
Pride is a comfortable sin for many people. It may not be as obvious to others as other sins. And it doesn't always bring as immediate of consequences as sins like drunkenness or theft. But what it does is even worse—it breaks the closeness of our fellowship with God and robs us of His grace. Peter wrote, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). Though God is more than able to break our pride and vanity, He first calls us to lay it aside on our own. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10).
Though pride is an appealing sin, it is a deadly one, and we must always resist it.
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 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: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
It's easy to look around at our society and see that things are dramatically changing. It is also easy to feel like everything is out of control. Certainly there are many problems around us. There have been repeated economic shocks to our country. The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will probably be felt for years to come. The moral underpinnings of our culture have been eroded. Evil and wickedness parade openly in the streets. Places we once thought of as safe, like schools and libraries, have in many cities become platforms for the morally-degrading indoctrination of young people. Yet despite all this, nothing is out of God's control.
Isaiah prophesied to people who were facing an imminent judgment from God that would see their country defeated in battle, their cities razed to the ground, and even the beautiful Temple that Solomon had built would be demolished. Yet despite all that impending doom, Isaiah's message was not one of fear. Instead he reminded the people that God was still in control. While that did not mean that things would be easy, or that they would turn out the way people would have preferred, it did mean that there was hope in Him. That is just as true for us today. No matter how wicked our society may become, no matter how much judgment we may rightly receive from the hand of God, no matter how much opposition and even persecution we may face for standing for the truth, God is still in charge.
Nothing man does can change God's control and ultimate plan for His creation or His people.
Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, and comfort your hearts;
There are some things in God's work for which He gives people special gifts and talents. Some of us would be very poor at singing a solo in church, but there are other things we can do well. Some would be unequipped to coordinate nursery schedules, but are very good at teaching. But while there are some areas of service not every Christian is gifted in, there are other areas that all of us are supposed to do. These are not a matter of having a talent, but a matter of having a heart of compassion and concern and a willingness to follow the example of Jesus. One of these areas is being a comfort and help to others. “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).
The early church faced intense opposition and persecution. Many of the members had come from other nations to Jerusalem for the feast days, and had no way to earn a living. Others no doubt lost their jobs because of their faith in Jesus. In the face of that trouble, there were people in the church who stepped up to help. One man even got a new name because he did so much for others. “And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus” (Acts 4:36). There are no shortage of people to whom we can be a source of blessing and comfort. At home, at work, at church or in our neighborhood, there are countless people wishing someone would notice their need for encouragement. By being a comfort to them, you are having a massive impact on their lives. It may not seem like a large thing to some, but being a comforter is truly being like Jesus.
Spirit-filled Christians are quick to provide comfort and hope to others who are in distress.
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.
2 Chronicles 36:22-23
When the prophesied seventy years of captivity in Babylon reached their end, God touched the heart of the ruler of Persia, a man named Cyrus, to let the Jewish people go back. Cyrus not only freed them to return, but he also helped fund the work, instructing people to give to this purpose. “And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:4). But for the city of Jerusalem and the Temple to be rebuilt, there had to be people who heard and answered the call.
It would have been easy for people who had established homes, businesses and lives in Babylon to cling to the familiar rather than making a dangerous trip to a ruined city and facing an uncertain future. Yet that is what they were called to do. God is still looking for people who will hear and answer His call and take up the challenge of doing His work. Frances Ridley Havergal wrote:
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?
By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!
When God calls, we must answer, no matter what obstacles seem to be in the way.
All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations. The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.
Throughout history, great and powerful empires have risen and fallen. For a time their leaders exercised great authority and power. Then they fell. Some of them left behind impressive ruins that still exist today. Others are little more than a historical curiosity, known only to scholars of antiquity. God gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream that foretold future kingdoms that would follow his empire, until one day God's kingdom would rise—a kingdom that would never fall. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44).
No matter what we see happening around us, God is still the King. He is in charge of individuals and nations, and His purposes cannot be overcome by any power. Though God allows people the freedom to choose to reject Him, even their opposition will in the end be revealed as yet another way for Him to be glorified. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10). Martin Luther wrote insightful and comforting words based on this truth:
That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.
God is in control yesterday, today, and tomorrow; and that will never change.
With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.
The few details we are given in Scripture concerning Onesimus paint an intriguing picture. He had once been a servant to the godly Philemon, but he had run away, apparently after stealing money or valuables from his owner. He fled to Rome where God brought him in contact with Paul, and when he heard the gospel, he accepted Christ as Savior. Paul did not tell him that his past sins didn't matter any more. Instead the apostle insisted he return to Philemon to make things right. Paul sent along a letter to Philemon as well, noting the change in Onesimus and asking him to be forgiven. In a beautiful picture of Christ taking our sins, Paul told Philemon that anything Onesimus owed should be charged to him. “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides” (Philemon 1:18-19).
According to tradition, Onesimus would eventually become the pastor of the church at Ephesus, dedicating his life to God's service. In his life we see a wonderful example of faithfully serving God despite what had happened in the past. This man who had once been a thief and a runaway slave did not allow that to define his life and future. Instead, he went back to Philemon to make things right with him, and then did what God placed before him. God does not have any perfect people to do His work. Of course this does not minimize the awfulness of sin or mean that there are no real or lasting consequences that follow sin. But it does mean that we are not just the sum of our failures. We are also redeemed and forgiven to do God's work faithfully.
No matter what has come before, we should be faithful to God's work wherever He places us.
Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.
When Mordecai learned of Haman's plan to have all the Jews in the Persian empire killed, he sent word to Esther to go and talk to the king and plead the cause of her people. Under the custom of the time, entering the king's presence without an invitation carried a death sentence unless he extended his scepter to grant permission. This was a guard against an assassination attempt, ensuring that only those the king knew and trusted would be able to get close to him. Esther recognized the danger involved in what she had been asked to do. But she also recognized the importance of her mission, and so after prayer and fasting, she was willing to do it, even if it cost her life.
Thankfully most of us are not faced with literal life or death consequences when we are called to take a stand for Christ. While we like to think we would make the right choice in such a situation, that is not guaranteed. When Jesus warned Peter that he would deny Him, Peter completely rejected the idea. “But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all” (Mark 14:31). Yet when he was pointed out as a follower of Jesus, Peter swore an oath that he didn't even know the Lord. When we are faced with speaking up for God or keeping silent, we must trust God enough to obey Him, no matter what the consequences of that choice will be.
We should be faithful to Christ in everything both large and small, regardless of the cost.
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God? God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds' feet: and setteth me upon my high places.
2 Samuel 22-31-34
When she was just six weeks old, Fanny Crosby lost her eyesight because of a doctor's error. Years later she said, “I have heard that this physician never ceased expressing his regret at the occurrence, and that it was one of the sorrows of his life. But if I could meet him now, I would say, ‘Thank you, thank you”—over and over again—for making me blind…. Although it may have been a blunder on the physician’s part, it was no mistake of God’s.” In one of her best-known hymns, “All the Way My Saviour Leads Me” she wrote:
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell
For I know, whate’er befalls me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
We can trust God fully. That does not mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us, but that nothing will deter His plans for us. David faced many battles in his lifetime. He spent years fleeing from Saul's attempts to kill him. He was betrayed, falsely accused, and had to take his family out of the country for their safety. He knew what it was to be tired and hungry and scared and lonely. Yet despite those difficulties, David described God's plan for his life and the path He laid for him as perfect.
The circumstances and sudden changes in our lives never take God by surprise. He never changes His plans. Even before our lives begin, He knows everything about how they will turn out. “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).
The perfection of God's plans for our lives are not measured by our comfort but by His purpose.
Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)
At one time Paul viewed Mark as undependable and unreliable. Mark had abandoned Paul and Barnabas after originally accompanying them on their first missionary trip. This desertion concerned Paul, to the point that he would not bring Mark on their second trip. “And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work” (Acts 15:37-38). The contention between Paul and Barnabas over this matter was so sharp that it divided them, despite all they had been through together. Yet later on Paul recognized that Mark had indeed changed and become someone who was reliable. In Paul's final letter, he even asked Timothy to bring Mark to Rome stating, "Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). These are high words of praise, especially considering Mark's history.
If someone lets us down or disappoints us, we are not to write them off forever. We are not to assume that because someone has failed once they will never become better. Helping others grow and develop requires that we are willing to recognize if someone has truly changed and treat them accordingly, without holding the things of the past against them. This is exactly what Barnabas had done for Paul after his conversion. When the church hesitated to believe that Paul had been saved, it was Barnabas who supported and defended him. “But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27). We should be quick to give people credit for the changes they have made in their lives.
We should always be open to the possibility that people can change through the work of God's grace in their lives.
And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him. And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.
1 Samuel 17:27-28
God does not evaluate people and their fitness for His work based on their outward attributes. What seems to human observers like the perfect person for a job may not measure up to what God knows about how they truly are on the inside. When God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse's sons as the king who would replace Saul, Samuel quickly focused on the oldest. He was the most physically impressive of the group, yet he was not God's choice. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
We see Eliab's internal failing on display in the story of Goliath. Eliab heard the challenge of the giant, but he did not respond in courage and faith. He was not outraged that this Philistine warrior was blaspheming against the God of Israel. His anger flared instead when his little brother David asked why Goliath was going unchallenged. He falsely accused David of abandoning the family's sheep so he could see the battle and acting in pride. Eliab's failure was not caused by the threat of Golaith and David's response, but it was revealed. When we face challenges and battles in life, the thing that matters most is not whether we measure up to someone's idea but whether we are seeking and trusting God from the heart. Others may see our physical attributes or developed skills—or the lack of them, but God sees our heart.
The heart that is pursuing after and trusting in God will be equipped to face the challenges of life with confidence in God.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the Lord: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.
In Old Testament times people who wanted to devote themselves to God's service for a period of time would take the vow of the Nazarite. This was normally viewed as something that would be done for a specific and limited amount of time. But in rare cases it could be a lifelong commitment. Samson's parents were instructed that he was to be a Nazarite even before he was born, but Samson did not keep that vow as an adult. One of the things that marked a Nazarite was a separation from things that other people did as a normal part of life. This separation was partly a way to mark their commitment, but it could also be a way to guard against sin. For instance, the Nazarite was not only not to drink wine, but also to avoid grape juice, raisins, and anything made from grapevines. This seems extreme, but God knows how quickly sin grows from small things to big ones.
Proverbs warns us on the dangers of alcohol: "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder" (Proverbs 23:31–32). The best way to avoid drunkenness is not to drink at all. A Japanese proverb warns, “First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes the man.”
The best way to avoid any sin is to stay far away from it before it starts. Paul warned, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
The closer we allow ourselves to get to sin, the more likely we are to yield to temptation and do wrong.
And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.
One of the most serious issues facing the early church was the divide between Gentiles and Jews. Jesus had made it clear that He was the Saviour not just for the Jewish people, but for those of every nation who believed in Him. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Following the spread of Christianity across the Roman Empire, some people erroneously began teaching that in order to be truly saved a person had to conform to the Jewish law as well as trusting in Christ. These teachers demanded Gentile men get circumcised as Jewish men did. Paul spent a great deal of time in his epistles pointing out the error of this doctrine. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Galatians 6:15).
Yet there were others, like Paul's helper Justus who rejected this false teaching and instead of opposing the truth, pointed people to salvation by grace through faith alone. No doubt Justus received criticism and scorn from those “of the circumcision” who were not willing to let go of their old beliefs and trust in Christ alone. But Justus was not deterred. Instead, he worked faithfully with Paul, which was a great encouragement and comfort to the apostle. There are always reasons a person could give for not doing what is right. There is always a heritage or tradition someone could point back to as an excuse for undermining the truth of God's Word. These must be rejected. There is no room for an obedient Christian to allow anything to take precedence over what God says. There is no excuse in culture or religious tradition that justifies failing to serve God faithfully.
Our service to God must not be limited by what others say or think about us but must be done faithfully as unto the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
God's Word never fails. Nor does it ever change. The fact that some people refuse to believe what it says or say that it does not make sense does not mean that it is not true. We may struggle to understand parts of the Bible, but we should not be reluctant to believe that it is true. People don't reject the Bible because there is no evidence it is true. There is much evidence of the reliability of Scripture. They reject it because they do not want to be believe it. J. C. Ryle wrote, “Be very sure of this—people never reject the Bible because they cannot understand it. They understand it too well; they understand that it condemns their own behavior; they understand that it witnesses against their own sins, and summons them to judgment. They try to believe it is false and useless, because they don’t like to believe it is true.”
The Bible is not a book of ancient history, though all it records is true. The Bible is not a book of religious philosophy, though spells out the way to God. The Bible is the living, active, and powerful Word of God, and it produces results. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is God's Word, and everything it says is true and right and unchanging.
The Bible must be believed and followed, or we are missing the harvest of blessings God has prepared for us.
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus did not stop being God when He came into the world and was born into a human body. Yet though He was God, even as a baby, He still had to learn to walk and talk and all the other things that are part of growing to adulthood. The difference between Jesus and everyone else who has ever lived is that He never sinned against God. He was obedient to Mary and Joseph, but most of all He was obedient to His Heavenly Father. His will was yielded to God's will, despite what He knew it would require. That was the only way for Him to become the Savior lost mankind needed. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). As a result of His obedience, Jesus is exalted as Lord of Heaven and Earth.
We sometimes think of being like Jesus in terms of how we deal with others, or how we feel about their needs. But in order to be like Him, we must first and foremost be obedient to what God says, no matter what the cost may be. Peter wrote, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). The sacrificial obedience of Jesus is the model for how we should live each day. This submission to God's will is essential to being like Him.
Jesus was willing to obey His Father regardless of the consequences, and that is the pattern we must follow.
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
While we are instructed and encouraged to pray for our own needs, we are also commanded to pray for the needs of others. This kind of praying is not something that can be done casually. It is serious work that requires a great deal of effort. When Paul described the prayers of Epaphras, he used the Greek word agōnizomai. You don't need to be a Greek scholar to recognize it as the root of our word agony. Praying for other people effectively requires that we take it seriously and put our hearts into the work. James wrote, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
It was His love for us that made Jesus willing to go to the cross. He knew what it would take to pay the price for our sin. He dreaded what lay ahead, and sought the help of His Father in serious and intense prayer. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
The key to being willing to put forth effort in prayer is the way we view others. If we have love and compassion for them as Jesus did for us, the work of prayer will pale in comparison to our desire to see them blessed and helped. Our prayers for others are not meant to be asking God that they will do what we think they should, but that they will do what He says. When we pray for someone's spiritual growth we know that we are praying for something that is within God's will, so we can ask for it with confidence.
To pray for others with the fervent intensity we should, we must first love them as we should.
And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.
We would understand if Joseph refused to forgive his brothers. They had done him wrong, selling him into years of slavery and imprisonment. They sold him because just killing him would not have made them a profit. But Joseph did forgive his brothers. His choice to forgive is one of the most amazing stories in Scripture.
Even so, years after Joseph and his brothers had reunited, they were still not confident that Joseph was not holding a grudge. After their father Jacob died and they returned from burying him in the Promised Land, they came to Joseph again to ensure they would not be treated as they treated him. At least thirty years had passed since their offense, but they were not sure Joseph was not holding a grudge against them. Again Joseph declared his forgiveness, and promised to care for them and their families through the years ahead.
The reason Joseph was willing to forgive despite all that had been done to him was his recognition of God's control over the events of his life. Both when it happened and years later, Joseph realized God had a purpose in all that happened. Though he did not fully understand that purpose until many years later, Joseph was always aware that God was at work. He also recognized that it was not his place to get even with his brothers for what they had done. He was willing to trust that God would exact any retribution that was needed, and leave the matter to Him. Joseph's brothers apparently spent years eaten with guilt. But Joseph, with trust in God and His plan, was free through forgiveness.
Forgiveness requires us to believe that God is in control, and that He will ultimately do what is right.
Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
God has a purpose and a plan for each of our lives, and He has things He wants us to accomplish for His kingdom. Paul wrote, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). In order to fulfill our mission, however, we must be prepared for God's use. Soldiers even in a time of war are not sent directly into battle, but rather go through training at boot camp. In the same way, we should not expect to immediately or automatically have everything we need for God's work. We need to grow in grace as He prepares and polishes us for His service.
We don't need to be worried about whether what we are doing is public and will be known by others. Instead, we need to trust God to use us in His time in whatever way He chooses. F. B. Meyer wrote, “Fit yourself for God’s service; be faithful. He will presently appoint thee. In some unlikely quarter, in a shepherd’s hut, or in an artisan’s cottage, God has His prepared and appointed instrument. As yet the shaft is hidden in His quiver, in the shadow of His hand; but at the precise moment at which it will tell with the greatest effect, it will be produced and launched on the air.” Preparing arrows and polishing the shafts took a great deal of time in Bible days. It was not something done quickly, but once the arrow was prepared, it would fly straight to the target.
We must never rebel against the timing or the process by which God prepares us for His service.
For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.
Effective Christian living never comes from a careless, indifferent approach to the things of God. Rather it requires a passion and zeal for God and His Word and His work that drives and motivates us when we might otherwise settle for less. There was no question that Jesus was passionate about His purpose, and the honor and glory of His Father in Heaven. When He drove the money changers out of the Temple, the disciples were reminded of the words of David. “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me” (Psalm 69:9). Jesus did not take the desecration of His Father's house lightly. He viewed it as something to be passionate and active about.
There is always a temptation to passivity in life. We see a problem or an opportunity, but rather than doing something about it ourselves, we hope someone else will act. We think something should be done, but we don't want to be the ones to do it. Our love for God should be so fervent and intense that we cannot be content to just sit back and observe the world around us. Paul was in Athens waiting for the rest of his traveling companions to arrive, but he could not keep from preaching the gospel. “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry” (Acts 17:16). While it is vital for us to be zealous for the things of God, it is also important for us to make sure we are standing for the right things. Paul pointed out that before his conversion, he was zealous, but not in a good cause. “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:6).
Our love for God should be so intense that it inspires passion in our daily living and service to Him.
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
1 Kings 17:1-4
As judgment for the idolatry of His people under the wicked reign of Ahab and Jezebel, God sent Elijah to declare that there would be a drought in the land. In an agricultural economy that was a devastating blow. Knowing how Ahab would respond, God instructed the prophet to hide himself in a spot by a little brook called Cherith, and He promised that He would care for Elijah. While Elijah was not miraculously taken out of the land and away from the drought and famine, He was fed by ravens that God sent and could drink the water from the brook. When the brook dried up, God sent him to a widow in Jezebel's home country where he stayed until the time of judgment was ended. Again God provided as the little bit of meal and oil that the widow had lasted until the famine was over.
God does not promise us that we will not experience the hardships that occur where we live, whether those are the result of divine judgment or from a natural disaster. While God could and sometimes does directly deliver His people from such events, most of the time He simply provides for them during the time of hardship. Often this is not done in the way we might choose. Taking food from an unclean bird like a raven was probably not what Elijah would have chosen. But it was the way God ordained his deliverance, and Elijah trusted and obeyed God regardless of his circumstances. And he was privileged to experience the miraculous provision of God.
Having faith in God's provision and protections requires allowing Him to work in whatever way He chooses to accomplish His purpose.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
One of the unique tools by which Babylonian Empire was able to control a large expanse of land in the days long before quick communication was to take young men from conquered lands and bring them to Babylon for training. These captives would be brought up and trained in the Babylonian way of doing things. Everything about their past would be changed in an effort to ensure their loyalty would be to Babylon rather than their home countries. Their names, their language, their education, even their food was changed to get them to conform to the Babylonian system and culture. In most cases, this system worked as designed, but in the case of Daniel, it was met resistance.
Daniel refused to go along with things that would violate the law of God. He was willing to go to the Babylonian classes. He responded to the name he had been given, Belteshazzar. He was willing to learn and speak the Babylonian language. But he was not willing to eat the unclean food that was provided for him. Daniel's refusal to eat food from the king's table could have cost him his life. But he was determined to stand for God regardless of the consequences. God intervened to give Daniel favor with those in charge and he was allowed to do right. We should not yield to any pressure to violate God's law regardless of what the consequences may be.
No one drifts into doing right. It must be chosen on purpose.
Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
After the massive fire that devastated Rome in 64 AD, Nero was blamed by many people for not doing enough to stop it. Some even suggested that he was responsible for the fire. To divert attention, Nero accused Christians of setting the fire and declared them all guilty. The early Roman historian Tacitus who lived during the time of Nero described the wave of persecution that followed. “Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of 'hating the human race.' In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot.”
The early church did not have buildings as we do today. Instead, they would meet in public places, or more often in the home of one of the local believers. Hosting a church was a dangerous act. Anyone who did so was publicly identified as a follower of Jesus. That could result in prison, a beating, or even death. Though Nymphas is not a major character, appearing only here in this Bible story, we know that he was a fearless Christian. We should never be ashamed to take our stand as followers of Jesus Christ. No matter how offensive the truth becomes, and no matter what the repercussions of speaking the truth may be, we should stand firm in our faith and public witness. It is when it is most unpopular that our faith is most important.
Our stand and witness for Christ must not be determined by what is popular or safe, but by what is right.
On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him.
When Mordecai discovered a plot to kill the king of Persia, he could have looked the other way. It would have been easy for him to rationalize doing nothing to save the life of a heathen ruler of a foreign empire that had control over the land of Israel and who had caused great suffering to Mordecai's own cousin Esther. Instead, Mordecai promptly responded, sending a warning to the king in time for the plot to be stopped and the king's life spared. Yet Mordecai was not honored or rewarded for his help, despite how important it had been. It was only after some time had passed that the king was reminded of this story, and then he moved to reward Mordecai at just the perfect moment in God's timing.
We do not serve God for the sake of rewards, although His rewards are unfailing. People may ignore or overlook or dismiss what we do for God, but He never misses even the smallest acts of service. 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). We do not need to take action to make sure people know how much we are doing. In fact, doing so ensures that we will not receive any rewards. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).
We can trust God to rightly reward us for work done for His glory rather than our own.
Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.
Along with thousands of other Jewish people, Mordecai was taken as a captive to Babylon when God sent them out of the land in judgment for their idolatry and disobedience. Far from home as a member of a defeated and despised group of people, Mordecai faced a choice. He could have used what happened to him and his nation as an excuse to turn away from God and live like those around him. Instead, Mordecai determined to maintain his belief in God and his personal integrity. Rather than shirking responsibility, he performed the tasks given to him to the best of his ability. He took care of his younger cousin, Esther, after her parents died. He taught her to believe in the God of Israel, so much so that when her greatest challenge came, she turned to prayer and fasting in response.
Mordecai fulfilled the responsibilities given to him and rose to a position of prominence and influence despite being a foreign captive. He even foiled a plot to kill the king of Persia, uncovering the details in time for the assassins to be stopped. We can do right and do well regardless of our circumstances. No outward condition is an excuse not to do our very best. No difficult circumstance justifies shirking responsibility or doing wrong. We are ultimately working for God, not man and He deserves our best. “Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:24).
If we are diligent no matter what happens, we are prepared for God to use us for His purposes.
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
For the members of a first century church, receiving a letter from Paul was a major event. In some cases, the apostle had only been in a city for a few days or a week before leaving. In other places, like Ephesus or Corinth, he was there longer. The letter to the Colossians was written to people Paul had never even met. Because Paul spent so much time in prison, he was often not able to return to see the people he had led to the Lord. With the difficulty and danger of travel in those days, it would often be weeks or even months after the epistle was written that it would arrive for its intended audience. These letters were read, studied, copied, and passed around, not just from person to person but even from church to church. It was a vital means of instruction and guidance for the believers.
Today we often take the Word of God for granted. We have multiple copies in our homes. We have access to the Scriptures and numerous Bible study tools on our phones, tablets, and computers. We can read or listen to the Bible no matter where we are. It is critical that we not allow this ease of access and familiarity to diminish our sense of awe and wonder at what God has given us in His Word. Just as He has done through the centuries, God is still looking for people who treat the Word of God with awe and reverence and a commitment to obedience. “For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). The Bible is far more than a collection of ancient stories and religious teachings. It is God's revelation of Himself to us, and it contains His perfect direction and guidance for our lives.
Our love and service for God are shaped by, grounded on, and empowered by His Word.
And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
The picture that God's Word gives us of the future of our world is not pleasant. We do not know when the events foretold by the prophets and apostles will take place, but they are certain. When the Tribulation comes and evil is given free reign over this world, there will be sorrow and suffering like nothing seen before in all of human history. When the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit is removed, great evil and wickedness will follow. “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). This evil will not be rejected by the lost, but instead will be welcomed with open arms and even worshiped.
Though the full measure of this evil will not be revealed until the Tribulation, we see it already working in our world. This is not something new—it was already present in the first century. John wrote, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). This knowledge of the reality of evil and its future spread is not meant to discourage us. It is a warning we must take seriously, but it does not mean we are doomed to defeat. We are on the winning side. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).
Though evil is powerful, it is no match for God's power in the lives of His people.
And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. Then the king's servants, which were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king's commandment? Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.
Haman was a wicked man, but he knew how to manipulate the systems of the Persian empire. Using the tools of flattery, bribery, and corruption, he rose to a prominent position and gained favor with the ruler—so much so that the king commanded the servants in the palace to bow to him just as they would have done for the king. Yet despite that promotion, Haman was not content. There was one man, Mordecai, who refused to bow before him. As a Jew, Mordecai was committed to the worship of the God of Israel alone. So even though everyone else in the palace bowed before him, Haman was enraged because there was one person who would not. His rage led him to plot the extermination of all the Jewish people, which eventually led to his own downfall.
It is not hard to find something about which we can get upset or angry if we allow our focus to be only on what we do not have rather than what we do have. Haman could have basked in the honor given him by the multitudes, but all he could see was the one man who remained standing. Many times we struggle to focus on what is good in our lives. Even in the most difficult times, there are always things for which we can be grateful.
A large part of controlling our emotions is controlling our main areas of focus.
And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.
Some people start out well in their lives of service for God. They use the talents and abilities He has given them, and for a time they are active in the ministry. But as time passes, they began to pull back from their commitments. Rather than continuing as they started, they do less and less. Whether or not a person is in full-time vocational ministry, every believer is meant to be active and faithful in the work of the Lord. God does not need our help for His work. It is a privilege He gives us through His grace. Yet if we are not careful, we will not reach our full potential. Fulfilling a ministry only happens if we do so intentionally.
We must be aware of the things that would derail us from being faithful ministers. We must be willing to do whatever work God places before us, remembering that He is in charge, and we are not. Oswald Chambers said, “The goal of faithfulness is not that we will do work for God, but that He will be free to do His work through us. God calls us to His service and places tremendous responsibilities on us. He expects no complaining on our part and offers no explanation on His part. God wants to use us as He used His own Son.”
Peter knew what it was like to fail in a moment of challenge and testing. Even through Jesus warned him what was coming, Peter did not watch and pray, and he denied the Lord. Many years later Peter wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). I'm sure when he was inspired to write those words, Peter remembered that morning and the sound of the rooster. The devil is out to derail every effective worker for God, and we must take heed so that he does not succeed.
Staying on guard against the attacks of Satan keeps us on course to be faithful and effective in God's work.
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
Most ancient kingdoms that were ruled by a monarch were at the whim of whoever held the highest office. What was a hard and fast rule yesterday could be completely different by tomorrow if the king changed his mind. One of the notable exceptions to this trend was the empire of the Medes and Persians. Recognizing the importance of stability and certainty to the people of their kingdoms, they refused to allow even the king to alter a decree once it had been approved and signed. This meant that everyone could know in advance exactly what they could or could not do and what the consequences would be.
There is enormous value in dependability, not just in government but in our personal lives as well. Character is revealed in consistency. F. B. Meyer wrote, “The supreme test of goodness is not in the greater but in the smaller incidents of our character and practice; not what we are when standing in the searchlight of public scrutiny, but when we reach the firelight flicker of our homes; not what we are when some clarion-call rings through the air, summoning us to fight for life and liberty, but our attitude when we are called to sentry-duty in the gray morning, when the watch-fire is burning low. It is impossible to be our best at the supreme moment if character is corroded and eaten into by daily inconsistency, unfaithfulness, and besetting sin.”
Being consistent and dependable is vital to being effective in our work for God.
And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
When Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John, He found His other disciples facing a distraught father. He had brought his demon-possessed son in hopes of help, but the disciples had been unable to do anything. Jesus cast the demon out of the boy and sent the rejoicing family on their way. In response to His disciples' question, Jesus talked to them about the importance of faith in seeing God work and how that faith is demonstrated through prayer and fasting. Fasting is sometimes not given the attention that it deserves. It is not a way to prove to God that we deserve His help; rather, it is a way to focus our own hearts and minds in prayer and on our dependance on God.
When Esther was preparing to risk her life going before the king uninvited to plead for her people to be spared, she first assembled a group of people to pray and fast with her. “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Casual praying does not produce a powerful answer. It is the intense need that elevates prayer above even necessities like food that successfully deals with the major “this kind” issues we face.
Our greatest challenges give us an opportunity to see God work in the greatest ways, but we must seek His help.
The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.
In 1872, after a difficult year working and raising money to rebuild his church that had been destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, D. L. Moody sailed for England. His purpose on the trip was not to preach and hold meetings, but to have a time of rest and study. He agreed, however, to preach in a London church on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. Following the morning service, Moody told a friend that it was the coldest and least responsive congregation he had ever seen. He was reluctant to return for the evening service; but since he had committed, he went to the pulpit again.
What Moody did not know was that an invalid lady in the church had heard of his ministry in America and had been praying that he would come and speak at her church. When her sister returned from the morning service and told her what had happened, she spent the rest of the afternoon in prayer and fasting. When Moody preached that night, a revival broke out. So many people responded to the invitation for salvation that Moody, unsure the congregation had understood, stopped and repeated his offer for people to come who wanted to be saved. More people responded to the second invitation. Before the week was over more than four hundred people had trusted Christ and had been added to the church.
No circumstance in our lives can keep us from being used by God. Paul spent much of his ministry in prison. But that did not stop him from tending to the needs of the churches. From prison cells he wrote letters that form much of the New Testament. And he continued to be an effective witness, using his captivity as a way to share the gospel even in the heart of Rome. He wrote, “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household” (Philippians 4:22). God's work is not restricted by any human boundaries, but powerful and active as we carry out our part.
God's work is free, not because of our resources or talents, but because of our availability for His work.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
2 Corinthians 5:6-9
We hear much about the importance of faith in the Christian life, and there is a good reason for that: faith is central to every part of that life. It is essential. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Even so, many people have a distorted view of faith. Faith is not thinking that nothing bad will ever happen. Faith is not believing that God will do anything and everything that we want. Faith is moving ahead in obedience to God even when we do not see exactly what He has in mind.
Simply put, faith does what God says regardless of how possible or impossible it looks or whether we fully understand His plan. Faith is obedient action in accordance with God's Word, and that kind of faith is pleasing to God.
Faith that pleases God is not a theoretical, but a pratcical theology of daily living.
Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 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:
When Nebuchadnezzar asked his wise men to tell them the dream he wanted them to interpret, they could not, because he couldn't remember the dream. He just knew that it was important. He accused them of trying to make something up rather than actually telling him what it meant and ordered all of them to be killed. Daniel asked for time to pray and seek and answer, and God showed him both what Nebuchadnezzar's dream had been and what it meant. Providing that information to the king saved Daniel's life and saw him elevated to a position of power and prominence in Babylon. Daniel did not take credit for that, but instead glorified the God Who has all the answers.
All human knowledge is limited. Even in topics we know a lot about, our perspective is restricted. God knows all the answers to every question we will ever face. He knows what choices we will make, and what the results of those choices will be. He even knows what would have happened if we had chosen something else. God is in control, and yet He graciously offers to share His guidance and insight with us, if we will simply ask for it in faith. “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” (James 1:5-6). In every situation, whether large or small, God has the answers we need.
God makes His wisdom available for our needs as we ask Him to provide it.
And, behold, the acts of Asa, first and last, lo, they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.
2 Chronicles 16:11-13
Asa was one of the better kings Judah had. He loved and worshiped God and worked to stamp out the idolatry and immorality that had become common in the land. Yet after many years of faithful service, when he became ill, Asa did not turn to God for help. He went to doctors instead of and in place of going to God. The doctors were not able to help, and Asa died. We are not told why Asa failed to pray and seek God's help, but we know what the results were. And in truth, any time that we do not go to God first, we are on the wrong path. There is nothing wrong with getting help from doctors or other experts but that should always be secondary and come after taking our burdens to the Lord.
We do not pray to let God know we are in need. He is already fully aware of that. We pray out of our love for and faith in Him as our Father. D. L Moody said, “Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is not to come at all.” Prayer is not meant to be a last resort, but a first response. There are many things that may keep us from going to God. Our pride may deceive us into thinking we do not need His help. Our willfulness may insist on doing things the way we think best rather than trusting Him. Anything that keeps us from prayer is a hindrance that must be removed.
If our first response to any problem is not prayer, we are not trusting God in the way we should.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 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 12:7-9
God knows exactly what we need to be most effective in our service to Him. He knows what talents and gifts we have and what will make them productive. He knows how to shape our desires and guide our paths to get us where we need to be. We usually think of His gifts in positive terms. James wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). But sometimes the gifts we need the most are not ones we would prefer to receive. Sometimes what we need is a season of suffering, a time of testing, or a thorn in the flesh, like Paul experienced.
We need to be careful in those situations not to rebel against the tools God chooses to use in shaping our lives. While there are times when hardship and loss are the result of our sin, there are also times when they are simply God's preparation for increased fruitfulness in His service. Jesus said, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2). We have to be willing to let go of the things God wants to remove, and we have to be willing to endure the things He knows we need to shape us.
We must accept God's tools for shaping and pruning our lives so that we can be most effective in our work for Him.
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
There is an old story of a missionary returning from years on the field in Africa by ship. When they arrived in New York City, he saw the huge crowds with banners and marching bands gathered to welcome Teddy Roosevelt who was on the same ship coming home from a safari in Africa. Noticing there was no one to welcome him, the missionary was somewhat discouraged until he was reminded of this truth: you're not home yet. There are times when we feel like no one notices or cares what we are doing for God, but even if that is true in this world, it is certain that He is watching. He never misses a thing that we do for Him, and He is righteous to remember it.
When we reach Heaven, we will see that all we did for Christ because of our love for Him for His glory has been recorded, and we will be rewarded accordingly. These rewards are not for our own glory, but for us to add to our worship and glorifying of Jesus. John saw this in his vision of Heaven, “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:10-11).
We serve a God who is faithful to notice and remember even the smallest things we do in His name.
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Every one of us knows what it feels like to be mistreated by someone else. Maybe it was a case of our actions being misunderstood or our motives being mischaracterized. Maybe it was being cheated in a financial transaction or being slandered or falsely accused. Whether the offense is small or large, the natural tendency is for us to want to get even. We want the person who has hurt us to experience the pain we feel. We want the person who has caused us grief to know the weight of tears. Although this is a natural reaction, it is not the right reaction. Rather than getting even, we are commanded to leave vengeance in God's hands. He is more than capable of seeing to it that justice is done.
In Peter's description of the suffering of the Lord, he wrote, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Rather than seeking justice, Jesus instead asked for forgiveness for those who were doing Him wrong. Instead of speaking the word that would have brought legions of angels to His side, He remained silent. Jesus would have been fully justified in unleashing the power of creation on those who mocked Him, beat Him, spit on Him and nailed Him to the cross. But He did not. If Jesus can trust God in such circumstances, we can do the same in the face of the far lesser insults and injuries we endure.
We will never be able to forgive others unless we are willing to trust God to do what is right on our behalf.
Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
The privilege that God gives us to come to Him in prayer is based solely on our relationship with Him, not on anything that we have done to deserve His grace. If we tried to come to Him in our own merit and righteousness, we would never even be allowed into His presence. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life” (Revelation 21:27). We don't pray with the right to expect an answer because of our righteousness, but because of His.
Daniel was a man of sterling character who resisted temptation and refused to stop serving God even when it threatened his life. He was a powerful witness in the city of Babylon, showing people that the God of Israel was the true God. Yet he did not point that out to God in his prayer for his people. Instead, he focused on the nature and character of God, and used that as the basis for his appeal. None of us can ever be worthy on our own, but thanks to grace, that is not what God sees when we come to Him. Paul wrote, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). We who have trusted Christ as our Savior can boldly come to the throne of grace because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
God's righteousness given to us through salvation is the reason we can confidently come to Him in prayer.
But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
Jesus is the only Savior because Jesus is the only One who could both be the priest and the sacrifice to atone for our sins. Unlike the priests in the Old Testament era who had to keep offering sacrifices, what Jesus did on the cross was done once and for all, never to be repeated. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30). His sacrifice was sufficient to pay the price of every sin ever committed. He rose from the dead as evidence of His victory, and He continues forever as our Lord and Savior. This is our confidence and the foundation of our faith. We do not need to doubt His work or His Word—it is eternally settled.
Charles Spurgeon said, “On Calvary's tree He presented Himself a substitute for human guilt, and there He bore the crushing weight of Jehovah's wrath in His own body, on the behalf of all His people. On Him their sins were laid, and He was numbered with the transgressors; and there He, in their stead, suffered what was due to the righteousness of God, and made atonement to divine justice for the sins of His people. This was done, not by many offerings, but by one sacrifice, and that one alone. Jesus offered no other sacrifice: He had never made one before, nor since, nor will He present another sacrifice in the future.”
The precious blood of Jesus paid the price of sin forever for all those who come to Him in faith.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
One of the first lessons most of us had to learn when we were first starting to drive was the importance of keeping our eyes on the road. When you kept focused on where you wanted to go, it wasn't hard to keep the car moving in the right direction. But if you got distracted and turned to watch something you were passing, it wouldn't be long before the car drifted in the direction you were looking. What is true in an automobile is also true in our lives. The things we focus on guide us in the direction we will go. And this is especially true during times of suffering. When we are hurting, it is easy to focus on our problems and on ourselves rather than keeping our focus on Christ.
Paul endured more suffering than most of us can imagine. His fearless preaching of the gospel sparked great opposition. There were enemies who hated Paul and his message so much that they followed him from town to town for the sole purpose of stirring up trouble and forcing him to leave. “But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people” (Acts 17:13). Paul was beaten, imprisoned, falsely accused, shipwrecked, and even stoned.
Yet he remained focused on the eternal rather than the temporal. Rather than focusing on his suffering, he focused on the grace of God and the eternal rewards awaiting him. Maintaining this focus helped Paul remember that what he was doing was worth the sacrifice and investment. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
As we keep our eyes fixed on God through suffering, we'll keep our focus on the eternal.
For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
There is no question that Jesus finished the work of redemption. His death and resurrection provide the final atonement for all who believe. After our salvation, God gives us the incredible privilege of serving Him and being part of His work on this earth. One day we will stand before God and our faithfulness to Him will be weighed. Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Yet in this life as we do that work, mindful of the accounting that is to come, we often get tired and grow weary. The world of perfect and eternal rest is waiting for us, but in this life we need God's strength and help to keep going in His work. That rest in this world is promised to us. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Sometimes people talk about being burned out. Sometimes people who have been faithful in service stop doing work for God. The knowledge of the coming rest and the promise of the present rest are enough for us to keep going no matter what.
God promises to strengthen and give us rest for His work as we rely on His promises and labor in His strength.
The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people. And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. For Mordecai was great in the king's house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater.
It is nothing new for God's people to have enemies. The Jewish people often faced military threats from foreign nations and plots for their destruction. One of the most serious of these was Haman's plot to use the power of the Persian Empire to destroy the Jews. Through the faith and courage of Mordecai and Esther, God worked to deliver them. At Esther's request, the king granted the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against attacks. That was their legal protection. But God also worked in the hearts of the people, including high government officials, to motivate them to stand up and help the Jews.
God is never perplexed or overwhelmed by any trial or persecution we face. He is fully able to turn the hearts of even those who reject Him most to accomplish His purposes. God does not always deliver His people from physical threats. Throughout the history of the church millions have given their lives as martyrs rather than deny the faith. But God has the tools to ensure His plan is not derailed. Even when humanly speaking there seems to be no help or hope, we need not fear. Elisha told his servant who was distraught because of the threat of the Syrian army there was nothing to worry about. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16).
God is able to use even those who are against Him to help His children in their time of need.
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
1 Peter 1:4-7
In April of 1985, Coca-Cola made a startling announcement. After ninety-nine years, they were changing the formula for their popular soft drink. Coke had seen their sales slump, especially compared to Pepsi, and the move to “New Coke” was their effort to compete with changing tastes and customer preferences. The company spent millions of dollars on advertising as they unveiled their plan. The problem was that when it hit the market, people hated it. Coke was deluged with angry calls and letters, urging them to bring back the “real thing.” Sales of New Coke were dismal, and just three months later Classic Coke returned to the market. After a few years, New Coke was dropped completely. The product failed the test of the real world.
Our faith is not proven by how much we talk about it or how loudly we proclaim it, but by how it responds to the trials and tests of life. God's promises remain faithful, but sometimes we do not. Real faith, certain faith, precious faith does not melt in the furnace of affliction. Instead, it is shown to be genuine as it stands firm amid the trials. It is not our strength of will or character that makes faith powerful, but the God in whom we trust. When we rest in His goodness and faithfulness, our faith will stand the test of the real world. David wrote, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8).
Because our faith is in God and not ourselves, it can stand firm no matter how severely it is tried.
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
In 1979 Sumitomo Industries of Japan completed five years of work when they launched what came to be known as the Seawise Giant. Believed to be the longest self-propelled ship ever built, its length was greater than the height of the Empire State Building. The massive tanker was built to be used to transport crude oil across the globe, but its routes had to be carefully planned as it could not fit through the English Channel, the Suez Canal, or the Panama Canal. Fitting the enormous size of the ship, the anchor, which is now on display at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, weighed thirty-six tons. It was designed that way so that when the anchor was deployed, the ship would remain in place no matter what.
We have been given an even more secure anchor for our faith from our unfailing and unchanging God. He gives us refuge in every storm and a steadfast hope. God does not promise us that storms will not come to our lives. What He promises is to always be there. No matter how dark the night may be or how intense the storm, our hope remains. “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:25). When the frantic disciples woke Jesus who was sleeping through the storm, their fear made them forget their faith and hope. What they thought of as an insurmountable challenge was simply another opportunity for the Lord to demonstrate both His power over the things of this world and His love and care for them.
We need never fear that we will be the first person in history to be abandoned by God—He is our anchor.
Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:20-21
When Teddy Roosevelt was a little boy, his family regularly attended the Madison Square Presbyterian Church in New York City. One Sunday morning, he announced that he was not going to church with the family. Upon questioning the boy, his parents discovered that he was speaking from fear rather than rebellion. The previous Sunday, the pastor had quoted the verse: “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me” (Psalm 69:9). Teddy Roosevelt was convinced that if he went back into the church building, a fearsome creature called a zeal would devour him. His childish misunderstanding led to a change in his attitude toward going to church.
We understand why a child might be confused by something like that, but we don't expect an adult to think or talk that way. As believers we are called to grow in grace—to become mature in our thinking and actions. Spiritual maturity is not merely a function of how long we have been saved. Though it should not be the case, Christians of many decades can still be acting and thinking immaturely. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Hebrews 5:12). The process of spiritual growth is not automatic. It requires effort and intention. Peter wrote, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5). Every day we should be becoming more like Jesus and more mature in our understanding of His Word.
Every day we should be growing in grace and our commitment to know and obey God.