Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
1 Corinthians 10:13
We each face temptation every day. Sometimes it even seems as if there is no escape. Yet, Joseph in the Old Testament provides a sterling example for all of us. His purity, even in the face of great temptation, shows us how we can resist wrong and overcome temptation.
Joseph refused to do wrong. Over and over he said "no" to Potiphar's wife. I Peter 5:8 says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Satan will not tempt you with sin just once; he will persistently and continually entice you, hoping that you will eventually fall. To resist wrong, you must continually say, "No!"
Joseph set boundaries against wrong. Joseph knew his moral boundaries, and in Genesis 39:9 he told Potiphar's wife, "Neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife." No one but God would have known if Joseph yielded to temptation, but he resisted because he had pre-determined his boundaries. Don't wait until Satan tempts you to establish biblical boundaries. Rather set boundaries for your life before you are in the place of temptation.
Joseph was conscious of God's presence. He viewed sin as a direct offense toward God. This is why he said, "...how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). The best motivation for avoiding sin is realizing that sin is ultimately against God. Avoiding sin for your family or job is good, but avoiding sin for God is best!
Joseph may have lost his coat, but he kept his character. You and I can likewise resist temptation by following Joseph's example.
Pinpoint the areas where you struggle, and purpose to resist temptation through God's strength.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18
A faithful churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of his newspaper complaining about going to church every Sunday. He wrote, "I've gone for thirty years now, and in that time I have heard something like three thousand sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them." This disgruntled church member was silenced when someone else responded, "I've been married for thirty years now. In that time my wife has cooked some thirty-two thousand meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work."
Biblical preaching nourishes our souls and strengthens us spiritually. It gives a spiritual charge to face trials or temptations throughout our week. It focuses our hearts and minds on the Lord and renews thinking through His Word. God wants to nourish and strengthen you through His Word, and preaching is one of God's methods of giving His children the nutrients they need.
God's Word says, "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained" (I Timothy 4:6). God desires to speak to us through the preaching of His Word. But we must make it a priority in our lives, listening with an open heart.
Ask yourself, do I go to church to hear from God? Or do I think of church attendance as just another weekly obligation? Preaching is a powerful tool that God uses to grow us spiritually. Make preaching a priority for you and your family.
God uses preaching to nourish your soul and help you grow spiritually.
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
1 Corinthians 1:10
In his book The Pursuit of God, author A.W. Tozer wrote the following:
"Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship."
In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul draws attention to disturbing news that believers had been in contention with each other. People who supposedly had the same goals and desires had been fighting and working against each other.
With any sort of human interaction, there's likely to be a difference of opinion or some sort of contention. We aren't all robots, so naturally we'll butt heads with other people. But as believers we should be so focused on Christ and the advancement of His kingdom that we forget the petty differences and work toward His glory.
When you're tuned to God and His will, you'll find that the little differences between you and others don't matter as much. Fighting over church responsibilities or seating preference seems trivial in light of the salvation of others.
How tuned are you to Christ's will? If you find yourself disagreeing over petty things, take some time to rethink the purpose of the church and your role in it. Ask God to keep you focused on His will rather than your own.
Great things can be accomplished for God's glory when we're fully tuned to Him.
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
2 Corinthians 3:18
A woman watched a silversmith as he heated a piece of silver over the fire. He explained that to refine silver he needed to hold it where the flames were the hottest to burn away all impurities. The silversmith said that he had to watch the silver carefully because if it was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked, "But how do you know when the silver is fully refined?"
"Oh, that's easy," he answered, "when I see my image reflected in it."
Like the silversmith looking into the precious metal, Christ desires to see Him image reflected in our lives. The moment God saved us, He formed a new creature, and He expects us to be constantly changing into His image and reflecting that image to others. Ephesians 4:24 explains the goal of every Christian: ,em>"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
Do you reflect God's righteousness and holiness in your daily life? Can others see Christ's image in what you say and do? This is not only a humbling thought, but it is also a thrilling thought that we have the opportunity to reflect the image of our Saviour and Creator.
During trials and troubles reflect Christ's joy and strength. During temptation, reflect the power and righteousness of Christ. During periods of blessing, reflect His graciousness and love.
The process of becoming more Christ-like may, at times, be painful as God allows "fires" to remove the impurities from our lives. But even then, we can rejoice knowing that the end result is a clearer reflection of Christ to others.
Allow God to change and mold your life so you can reflect His image more clearly.
"Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also."
2 Corinthians 8:7
The following fable is told of a man's interaction with God about stewarding:
"Once, a man said, 'If I had some extra money, I'd give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.' And the same man said, 'If I had some extra time, I'd give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, and my clubs.' And the same man said, 'If I had a talent I'd give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I've never been able to lead a group; the way I would like to.' And God was touched and gave that man money, time, and talent. And then He waited but the man never changed."
Sometimes we become like the man in this fable. We look around and see what we don't have and use that as an excuse for not spending more time, effort, and money on God's work. We complain about what we don't have so much that we fail to use what we do have.
God's plan for stewardship is basic. Often, it begins with entrusting a little to our care and building from there. He might give you a modest job, a small salary, a small role in your church, or a humble family, but He desires for you to use them for Him.
You can faithfully steward exactly what you have right now. While you may look at it as not much, God looks at it as a way for you to faithfully obey Him. Consider how you can use what you have for God's kingdom. God puts more emphasis on your faithfulness than the size of your gift.
The success of stewardship is not based on the amount stewarded but on the faithfulness of the steward.
"For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?"
1 Corinthians 10:30
In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, Illinois. Edward Spencer, a nearby ministerial student, saw the event and waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue seventeen passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged and he had to live with complications for the rest of his life. Years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.
Giving thanks, even for such a monumental task as saving someone's life, seems to go unnoticed today. And if something so large as this can go unthanked, how many smaller acts of kindness go unnoticed on a daily basis?
How often do you give God thanks? God desires that we would live in a spirit of thankfulness each day, daily pointing out kindness from others and being grateful for the goodness of others and from Him.
When was the last time you made a special note to thank God for all He's done for you? We may say thanks for a meal or express gratitude after an answer to prayer, but how often do we make time to thank God? God has blessed each of us in so many countless ways and deserves constant praise from our lips.
Take time today to thank God for His goodness. Carve out a time in your schedule when you can be alone with God and reflect on His blessings. Perhaps write them down. You'll soon find that God's goodness cannot be fathomed. Make a point of constantly living in a state of thankfulness and never go a day without giving God thanks.
Taking time to give God thanks will remind you just how blessed you truly are.
"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."
II Corinthians 12:9
I once read a story of a Christian singer who was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. Just before the surgery that would remove both the cancer and his ability to sing, he questioned the doctor. "Sir, are you sure that I will never sing again after this surgery?" The doctor nodded.
The patient asked if he could sit up for a moment. "I’ve had many good times singing the praises of God," he reminisced. "And now you tell me I can never sing again. I have one song that will be my last. It will be of gratitude and praise to God. "And there in the operating room, the man sang God’s praise in the words of Isaac Watts’ hymn: "I'll praise my Maker while I've breath, and when my voice is lost in death. Praise shall employ my nobler power; my days of praise shall ne'er be past while life, and thought, and being last, or immortality endures."
This elderly man experienced the power of God while enduring a great trial. Because we know the same God of that man, we can experience the same power. God enables us to bear trials and afflictions through His great power.
We may not think we are able to bear the death of a loved one or the loss of a job; and truthfully, we can't. But we serve a God who gives us His power and strength to go through any difficulty.
Take comfort in knowing that you have the ability, God's power, to endure and overcome the trials in your life. Ask God to give you strength and power for whatever difficulty you face today.
Through trials, God gives us His grace, strength, and power.
"Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour."
1 Corinthians 3:8
When a six foot four inch, muscularly built man tried to light an explosive hidden in his shoe on Flight #63 on its way from Paris to Miami, several passengers and flight attendants took action. A flight attendant noticed the man bent over in his seat trying to light a match. When she saw the fuse leading to his shoe, she screamed before he attacked her. Several other flight attendants came to her aid, and several passengers jumped the man. The flight was re-routed to Boston's airport where the man was arrested before the passengers were safely taken to their destination.
As Christians, we need to utilize everything available to us to see that others can be delivered to their safe destination in Heaven since the enemy is doing everything in his power to stop people from reaching Heaven’s shore.
God has set His church as a beacon in this world to guide people to safety. The church functions to spread God’s Good News and rescue those trapped in sin. Yet sometimes we become so preoccupied with the minute details of our own ministry and recognition that we fail to accomplish more by working with others.
Does it matter if you get to sing the special as long as God's glorified? Does it matter if you get to sit in your favorite seat as long as a lost person gets to hear of God's hope and as long as lives are being changed?
Focus on the greater good of your work for Christ. Value production over glory. Humbly pitch in to help advance God’s kingdom without worrying about receiving credit or praise.
God's glory means more than earthly praise or personal recognition.
"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time."
1 Peter 5:6
Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of humility. Once, shortly after he became the president of Tuskegee Institute, he was walking through town when a wealthy woman offered him a few dollars to chop her wood.
Mr. Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and completed the chore. A young neighbor recognized the famous Booker T. Washington and later told the lady who he was. The following morning, the embarrassed lady found her way to Mr. Washington’s office and profusely apologized. "It’s perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend."
Although humility can be difficult to claim, the marks of this vital Christian grace are obvious. Notice these five marks of growth in biblical humility:
Seeks guidance in prayer from above: "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" (James 1:5).
Seeks godly counsel: "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14).
Admits failure: "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:5).
Defers credit to others: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3).
Gives glory to God: "That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31).
Do these five marks of humility describe your life? Are you consistently growing in this grace and daily choosing to find ways to humble yourself? Ask the Lord to help you develop and display humility today.
God delights to honor the person who chooses to humble himself.
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
1 Corinthians 6:19–20
Elizabeth Keckley was a slave in Missouri before the Civil War. Her greatest desire was to purchase freedom for herself and her son. Her owner agreed that if she could raise $1,200 she could gain her freedom. Keckley worked as a seamstress and came up with a plan to go to New York City and work there to raise the money, but her owner feared that she would not return.
Instead, some of her wealthy clients in St. Louis contributed the money she needed, and Elizabeth Keckley paid the price for her freedom as well as her son's. She moved to Washington, DC, where she counted Mary Lincoln among her dressmaking clients. Without the help of someone else, Keckley would never have been able to purchase her freedom.
All of us were enslaved to sin with no hope of ever gaining freedom. In mercy and compassion, Jesus gave His life for us, purchasing our salvation by shedding His blood on the cross. We are now free from sin, but that freedom does not mean that we do whatever we want. Instead we are to live how Jesus wants us to live.
In Romans 1:1, Paul by inspiration called himself "a servant of Jesus Christ." The word he used is the word for a bond slave—someone who has voluntarily committed his life to an owner. God is our owner not only because He created us, but because of the price He paid for our redemption. That should determine how we live—not according to our plan and wisdom, but according to the plan and wisdom found in the Scriptures.
The price Jesus paid for our freedom motivates us to a life of service for Him.
"…Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:9–11
James Taylor loved to go wherever John Wesley was preaching—not to listen, but to throw stones and mock those who did listen. However, on the day before Taylor’s wedding, Wesley preached on Joshua 24:15, "…As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Taylor came under intense conviction and was saved. This man who once was a chief scoffer became a believer who led his family in the paths of righteousness. His grandson, James Hudson Taylor, became one of the greatest missionaries in history.
No matter what you have done in the past, when God forgives you, your slate is wiped clean. The Lord does not wait for us to "clean up our act." Instead, He meets us right where we are and then begins the process of change. That is what His grace does. God knew all about us before He saved us. He knew all the things we had done and failed to do. But all of our past sins, no matter how vile, are covered under the blood.
Satan comes to us to remind us of the past. Revelation 12:10 calls him "the accuser of our brethren." He loves to point out sins from our past to keep us from serving God as we should. If you are bound by guilt today, remember that you have been washed in the blood; and, in the eyes of God, you stand innocent before Him. Do not allow who you were to keep you from being who you are meant to be.
We may be shaped by our past, but we do not have to be bound by it.
"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."
2 Timothy 4:1–2
Some years ago a pair of missionaries visited China. While they were there, they were passing out Gospel tracts. They would give each person a handful and encourage them to share the extra with others. After a while, a guard approached them. "Please don’t give them more than one," he stated. One of the missionaries asked, "Is it illegal to have faith?" "No," the guard replied, "but it is illegal to influence others to join with your faith." A faith that is not shared will become extinct. Christians around the world know this and are willing to suffer even government persecution to share their faith.
Thankfully, it’s not illegal to witness here in America. And yet so many of God’s children never tell anyone else about how they can receive salvation through Jesus Christ. We have all kinds of reasons—or more accurately, excuses—for why it should be someone else’s job. But God has given you people whom you can reach more effectively than anyone else.
When Paul wrote to Timothy not long before he died, he emphasized the importance of the preached Word. This is a message not only to pastors to be faithful as they stand in pulpits, but also to believers to be faithful as they share the message of salvation with everyone they can.
God has given to us the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18), which means that we have the privilege and obligation to share our faith so that others can join us in the family of God. Are you regularly sharing the Good News of salvation with others? Of all the ministries to which we should be faithful, the ministry of reconciliation is the most important!
Every believer is called to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:13–14
In 1994, a fire broke out at a club in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In the stampede to get away from the fire, four young people were trampled to death. The investigation revealed that the lighted sign over one of the two exits was not working at the time of the fire. Even worse, it was discovered that the exit door had been nailed shut—apparently to keep people from slipping in without paying. For those young people, there was no way of escape.
When we are tempted and give in to sin, we sometimes look for someone else to blame. But every sin is our responsibility. James 1:14 says that each of us is led to temptation "by his own lust." There is always a way for us to escape; the door is never nailed shut. But sometimes we don’t really want to take that escape. Someone said, “The hard part of resisting temptation is that we don’t want to discourage it completely.”
Playing with sin is one of the most dangerous things we can ever do. Instead of seeing how close we can get to the fire without being burned, the Bible instructs us, "flee also youthful lusts" (2 Timothy 2:22). God places the responsibility for escape on us because He provides the way to escape.
Next time you find yourself in a moment of temptation, remember that God provides the way for escape, and quickly flee before you find yourself trapped in sin.
God provides a way of escape, but we must choose to walk through the exit door.
"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body."
2 Corinthians 4:7–9
The story is told that Andrew Jackson's boyhood friends just couldn't understand how he became a famous general and then the President of the United States. They knew of other men who had greater talent but who never succeeded. One of Jackson's friends said, "Why, Jim Brown, who lived right down the pike from Jackson, was not only smarter but he could throw Andy three times out of four in a wrestling match. But look where Andy is now."
Another friend responded, "How did there happen to be a fourth time? Didn't they usually say three times and out?" "Sure, they were supposed to, but not Andy. He would never admit he was beat—he would never stay 'throwed.' Jim Brown would get tired, and on the fourth try Andrew Jackson would throw him and be the winner." Picking up on that idea, someone has said, "The thing that counts is not how many times you are 'throwed,' but whether you are willing to stay 'throwed.'"
The Christian life is a battle. Scripture often speaks of God’s children as soldiers, and we should not expect to have things always be calm and peaceful. The question is not whether we ever fail, but whether we get back up when we do. Proverbs 24:16 says, "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief."
You cannot be defeated by the enemy; you can only lose by giving up. Don’t let defeats or setbacks discourage you. Instead commit yourself to standing firm and not giving up no matter how tough things get.
Get up one more time than you fall, and in the end you will be victorious.
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
In response to the rapid growth in radio advertising, the Federal Trade Commission was tasked in 1938 with regulating the advertising industry to protect customers from false advertising. They passed a series of laws and regulations designed to ensure that any claims made about a product be based on facts. Each year they bring a number of cases against companies that violate their restrictions.
The devil certainly is a master at false advertising. The book of Revelation calls him a dragon and a serpent. Yet when he appears to us, he comes in a different guise. Warning about the deceptiveness of the devil, Paul wrote, "â€¦Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). Satan is not only deceitful about his person and in his appearance, but he is deceitful in his promises as well. The temptations that he offers always lead to disappointment and bitter ends.
If the true cost of sin were displayed in the beginning, most of us would have no problem fleeing temptation. But instead we get the pretty picture painted by a master deceiver. The dragon appears as an angel to better convince us to turn away from what is right. When you face temptation today, look behind the mask. If you are allured by the promises he makes, look back at the history of the lies he has successfully convinced you of in the past, and turn your back on him. Resist temptation through the power of Scripture, and you will never be sorry.
Every enticement of the devil is based on a lie; every promise of God is based on His eternal truth.
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
2 Corinthians 7:1
The great pioneer missionary Adoniram Judson was the first to take the Gospel to the country of Burma. He buried his wife and several of his children on the mission field, remarried, and then lost his second wife to disease as well. He spent months in prison during Burma’s war with England when he was suspected of being a spy even though he was an American. Judson labored for seven years before seeing his first convert.
Still, through all that difficulty, Judson remained committed to his calling. He translated the Bible into Burmese and established a number of churches. Even today, despite intense persecution over decades, there are descendants of Judson’s converts serving God in Burma. One of Judson’s favorite sayings was: "The future is as bright as the promises of God." To Judson, the promises of God were living and powerful words that could transform heartache to joy and years of labor into a joyous harvest.
The promises found in Scripture are not simply platitudes or kind expressions—they are guarantees, backed up by the power of Almighty God and His unfailing nature. Solomon said, "There hath not failed one word of all his good promise" (1 Kings 8:56). It was true in the days of the wise king, and it is still true today. There are always circumstances that could cause us to doubt and lose heart, but God’s promises never fail.
The only thing that hinders us from experiencing what God has promised is when we fail to do what He has commanded—to claim those promises. We must come to Him in faith, believing that we will receive His reward (Hebrews 11:6), and we must fulfill the duties which allow us to reap the rewards of obedience.
Claim God’s promises today—He will do everything His Word offers you as His child.
"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
Martin and Gracia Burnham were missionaries who served for years in Mindanao in the Philippines. They were taking a short rest at a hotel when Islamic terrorists attacked and took them hostage along with several others. They were dragged out into the jungle and chained to trees. During a rescue attempt, Martin was killed. In her book In the Presence of Mine Enemies Gracia wrote: "My faith has been tested, and I’m more sure of what I believe now than I ever was before. God has given me joy and peace in the midst of trials."
Most of us will never face such an extreme test of our faith, but we do have to undergo trials and tests. Like the Apostle Paul we may find ourselves begging God to deliver us from a severe test. Sometimes God does grant us deliverance, but He also sometimes knows that we need the difficulty. In those cases He grants us a measure of grace that is sufficient to allow us to endure the hardship.
Regardless of which answer God gives us for our individual situation, it is vital that we allow His grace to play its role in our hearts and lives. The challenge you face today does not take God by surprise—it is part of His plan for you. But remember that along with His plan comes His grace, and it is enough.
God’s grace is more than enough to meet any challenge you face today.
"And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood. All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee. And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver."
2 Samuel 24:22-24
During World War II a young soldier named David Webster of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne wrote his mother: "Stop worrying about me. I joined the parachutists to fight. I intend to fight. If necessary, I shall die fighting, but don’t worry about this because no war can be won without young men dying. Those things which are precious are saved only by sacrifice."
Scripture often refers to the Christian life as a war—a spiritual battlefield. To answer the question of hymn writer Isaac Watts, we will not be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease. And there is no victory apart from sacrifice. Just as our salvation was purchased at great cost, overcoming the enemy and walking in the Spirit require that we be willing to give up some things in order to triumph.
Whether it is large or small, there should be nothing we hold onto so tightly that it becomes more important to us than pleasing God. Paul said that if he knew eating meat would create an offense to others, then, "I will eat no flesh while the world standeth" (1 Corinthians 8:13). Willingness to submit our desires and dreams to God places us in a position to receive His blessings.
There should not be anything in your life that you are not willing to give up in order to better serve the Lord.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
2 Corinthians 5:17-19
I heard about a pastor who preached a strong salvation sermon. When he gave the invitation, a five-year-old boy came forward. Not knowing whether the boy understood what it meant to be saved, the pastor began to ask him questions. The more questions he asked, the more confused the boy became. Finally the boy interrupted and asked, "Pastor, in your message this morning you said that if I would come and trust Jesus to save me, He would! Did you really mean that?" The pastor said, "I did not ask him any more questions after that!"
God has called every believer to be a witness of the Good News. This call is not restricted to pastors, evangelists and missionaries. The reason that God wants each of us to be sharing the Gospel is that He wants people to be saved. God could have made salvation difficult; instead He made it as simple as possibleâ€”so simple even a child can understand and obey. Salvation is not cheap. Jesus paid an unspeakable price that our sins could be forgiven and we could be reconciled to God. But salvation is simple.
Paul said that God has given us "the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19). We can't keep the wonderful message of reconciliation with God to ourselves. Knowing that God wants people to be saved should motivate and encourage us to faithfully give the plain and simple truth of the Gospel to everyone we can.
Find someone today with whom you can share the wonderful news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.
1 Corinthians 16:8-9
Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “The door to the room of success swings on the hinges of opposition.” Sometimes we mistakenly believe that because we are having difficulty we are on the wrong track. We think that if we were doing the right thing it would be easy. However the presence of obstacles and opposition does not mean that we are doing wrong; in fact, that can even be a sign that we are close to seeing wonderful things happen.
Russell Conwell, a Baptist pastor in Philadelphia, was the author of one of the best-selling books of the 1800s called Acres of Diamonds. In it Conwell told the story of a man obsessed with finding diamonds. He sold his home and travelled the world for years in a futile search. Meanwhile the buyer of the man’s property discovered one of the richest diamond mines in the world on that land. Too often we dream of greener pastures or easier paths when what we need to do is just persist in doing right where we are.
It is said that the great missionary David Livingstone received a letter from a young man who wanted to come and join his work. “Please tell me the easiest way to get to Africa to join,” he wrote.” Livingstone replied, “I am not interested in someone who is looking for the easiest way.” The Christian life is described in Scripture as both a war and a long distance race. Success at what God has called us to do requires struggle, intensity, and the commitment to overcome obstacles. If you are facing opposition today, rejoice—that may be the best sign yet that victory is close at hand.
Do not allow any opposition to deter you from doing what is right.
"For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 3:9-11
Edward Mote was born in England in 1794. His father ran a pub, and Edward received little care as a child. After working as a cabinet maker, he was saved and eventually became a Baptist pastor. He also wrote a number of hymns.
The hymn by Edward Mote that we best remember is "The Solid Rock." Mote was working on the hymn when he learned about the dying wife of a church member. Mote went to visit the woman and shared his words of comfort: "On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand." These words brought the woman hope, and Mote finished his hymn which we still sing today.
You have been given a solid and unshakeable foundation as a child of God. The faithfulness of every one of His promises has been proven again and again by centuries of believers. The ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes said, "If you give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, I can move the world." You have that place to stand today—on the promises of God.
Knowing the certainty of God’s truth and the surety of His promises gives us a responsibility—to build something of strong and lasting value on that foundation. Our lives are not our own; they are meant for His purpose. The Christian life is not an unstable or uncertain life; rather it is a life of meaning built upon a firm and solid Rock.
Even if all others fail you, the faithfulness of God is a foundation on which you can build.
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."
Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation's deserts. All that vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for.
Our affections—the things that we love—determine the things we focus on. The world is filled with trouble and heartbreak, yet the same world is filled with blessings and benefits from God. Which one we choose to focus on to a large measure determines whether we will be content and happy or not. Believers who are joyful Christians are not somehow spared from the hardships of life. But they are focused on the things of God.
This world is just temporary. The trials that we endure and the hardships we experience do not force us into bitterness or depression. Paul certainly endured much more than his share in the way of trouble, yet he viewed it as being for his own benefit. Paul wrote that his afflictions created "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). He could say that because his heart was settled in Heaven.
Check your focus today: are you looking at the things of Heaven, or are you fixated on the things of Earth?
"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
Former Congressman J.C. Watts from Oklahoma once said, "Compassion can’t be measured in dollars and cents. It does come with a price tag, but the price tag isn’t the amount of money spent. The price tag is love." Love is anything but free. The nature of godly love is that it is willing to make sacrifices for the good of the other rather than being focused on protecting itself or getting its own way.
Of course the ultimate example of this love is found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He willingly came "to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). This is a different kind of love from the kind our world knows today. Most of what is called love would more properly be called attraction, and in many cases simply lust. This kind of self-focused behavior is far short of what God has in mind.
It is no surprise that the world falls short when it comes to love, but that should never be true for us. Each of our relationships—with family members, friends, fellow church members and the lost—should be characterized by this divine love that "seeketh not her own" (1 Corinthians 13:5). As we evaluate our love for others, we should not measure our feelings or our words, but our actions. Are we loving as Christ did, willing to give up that which we have every right to claim in order that someone else may benefit? Truly loving another is never an inexpensive proposition.
It is impossible to truly love people without being willing to sacrificially give to them.
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
I remember attending the funeral of a greatly used pastor who had died suddenly at a young age. His death was so unexpected, and it was obvious that his family and the church family had been staggered by the news. Yet despite the sorrow and sadness that were very real, there was also a spirit of hope at this funeral. The people sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." Several of the speakers, including the pastor’s family, talked about the importance of trusting God. As I spoke to the pastor’s wife, she told me how she was trusting God in the storm.
Being a child of God is no guarantee that we will not endure suffering and times of grief. But as children of God, we have a resource of comfort and strength that the world does not know. We have a God who gives us comfort in the midst of our grief. Because Jesus endured suffering, He knows well the pain that we feel. In fact, the Bible calls Him "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3).
It should always be true that our Christian friends and church family will gather around us during difficult times. Yet even if that does not happen and there are dark days when we feel like we are all alone, we are never abandoned or forsaken. The God who gives comfort and peace is always there for His children to help them through the darkest days they face.
If you are burdened or grieving today, turn to the God of all comfort; you will find strength and help.
"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
1 Corinthians 1:17-18
There are many things that are important, but there is one thing that is essential. The heartbeat of the mission of Christ, the driving purpose behind His life, death and resurrection was "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Oswald Smith put it this way, "Oh, my friends, we are loaded down with countless church activities, while the real work of the church, that of evangelizing the world and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected."
Our church is a busy place, and I like it that way. I love that we have programs for fellowship and encouragement and instruction and fun. But I never want us to lose sight of the fact that the primary focus—the most important thing we can do—must be winning the lost to Jesus Christ. There is no greater important priority for us. This is the final command that Jesus left before He returned to Heaven, and we must obey it.
Many times we lose our focus in the busyness of life. There are a thousand things—good things—that can keep us from doing the main thing. And though those things are not bad in and of themselves, they can be used to keep us from doing what matters most. The Bible said of Christ just before He met the woman at the well that He "must needs go through Samaria" (John 4:4). Jews in that day usually travelled around Samaria to avoid the people they looked down on, but Jesus needed to go there—He knew there was a hungry heart who needed a Saviour, and He went where others would not go to reach her.
Take time today to tell someone the Good News. Nothing you can do will matter more.
"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
2 Corinthians 5:18-20
I read about a barber who had just been gloriously saved in an old-fashioned revival meeting. The next morning at work he wanted to share his new faith and witness to the lost. A customer came in, and the barber began to shave him. He was trying to muster up the right words to say. Finally as he stood with his razor poised over the man's throat he asked, "Are you prepared to meet God?"
You may not always find exactly the right words, but God has given to you and every Christian the task of representing Him to a lost and dying world. For thousands of people, today is their last day before they enter eternity. Of course we don't know who those people are. But we do know that God loves the people whose paths we cross and that He has entrusted to us the most important message they can ever hear. The question is whether we will be faithful to share that message with them.
It is said that D. L. Moody made a commitment to God that he would not go to bed without having witnessed to at least one person. On several occasions he went out late at night to find someone with whom he could share the Gospel. There should be a sense of urgency and passion for the lost that drives and motivates us to be effective ambassadors for Jesus Christ.
Share the Gospel with someone today. You never know who may be getting a last chance to hear it.
"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."
1 Corinthians 3:6-9
William Carey, often called the father of modern missions, arrived in India in 1793 with a burden to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who had never heard His name. For seven years he proclaimed the Gospel message faithfully week after week, month after month, with not a single native of India converted to Christ. Carey could have allowed himself to return home defeated and empty-handed.
But he had faith that God would bring the harvest. To his sisters back home in England Carey wrote, "I feel as a farmer does about his crop: sometimes I think the seed is springing, and thus I hope; a little blasts all, and my hopes are gone like a cloud. They were only weeds which appeared; or if a little corn sprung up, it quickly dies, being either choked with weeds, or parched up by the sun of persecution. Yet I still hope in God, and will go forth in His strength, and make mention of His righteousness, even of His only."
Carey established one of the great missionary works in all of history, in great measure because he stayed in the field rather than allowing discouragement to drive him to quit. When we work for the Lord, we will not always see quick results. But just as a farmer remains diligent throughout the spring and summer in hopes of the harvest in the fall, "we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9).
Do not be discouraged if your work and witnessing do not yield immediate results—God will bring the harvest in His time.
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
During the administration of President Ronald Reagan, one of the main international issues facing the United States was a new arms control agreement with the then Soviet Union. As part of his negotiations with Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan refused to agree to a new treaty unless there were significant measures put in place to ensure that both sides complied with its terms. Reagan used an old Russian proverb doveryai, no proveryai—trust, but verify—to drive home his point. When the two men finally did sign the treaty, Reagan used that proverb again, and Gorbachev said, “You say that all the time!”
In our day, there are many who claim to be Christians who are teaching false doctrines and leading people astray. Just because someone uses Bible terms does not mean that their teaching can be accepted without comparing it to Scripture. We need to heed the warning of John when he wrote under the inspiration of God, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1).
Most of us would recognize the devil if he showed up dressed as the cartoon image with a pitchfork and horns and tail. But he is subtle and, as part of his deception, presents himself as a force for good rather than evil. Remember that in the Garden of Eden the serpent tempted Eve by telling her the fruit would make her like God. Is it good to be like God? Of course. But the means proposed by Satan do not lead to that end, so we must be on guard.
Be sure to compare the teaching you hear with the Word of God to determine whether it is true.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
Near the end of his life, Paul wrote to his young protégée Timothy one final letter to encourage him to continue in the ministry and in service to God. The aged missionary knew that his life would soon end. He was being held in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, an underground dungeon where prisoners who had been condemned were held before they were executed.
Yet despite his circumstances, Paul did not complain. He was focused on what was to come—the crown that he would receive from the hand of the Lord for his love of Christ’s appearing. Most of us have never enduring anything like the physical suffering and abuse that Paul experienced for preaching. He was beaten and stoned and persecuted. But the love in his heart kept him going. “The love of Christ constraineth us” he wrote to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 5:14).
I am sure that Paul did not enjoy being chained in a damp, dark underground cell. Yet he regarded his surroundings as an opportunity to witness. Every six hours a new shift of soldiers would arrive to guard him. Clearly that witness bore fruit, because Paul told the church at Philippi about the saints, “that are of Caesar's household” (Philippians 4:22). Rather than focusing on your struggles, focus on your love for the Lord. One day we will see His face, and if we have been faithful to love and serve Him, we will hear Him say, “Well done.”
When we love God as we should, nothing in our circumstances will keep us from continuing to serve Him.
"Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 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. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences."
2 Corinthians 5:9-11
We have the certain knowledge that one day we will give an account of our lives to the Lord. That should motivate us to be faithful in obeying His commands, including the final instruction He left to, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). But in addition to obedience, there is another motive for sharing the Gospel—the knowledge that each person must stand before God either saved or lost.
Charles Spurgeon described that day this way: “If you haven’t looked at Christ on the cross, you’ll have to look at Him on the throne—with great trembling. The sacrificial death of Christ will be brought before the eyes of all who refuse to accept His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. In Bethlehem He came in mercy to forgive sin. In the future He will come on the clouds in glory to establish justice. What will we do without a Saviour? On the day of judgment there is nothing we can do if we have not trusted Christ.”
The only hope of salvation is found though faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way to Heaven. And God’s plan for people to hear the Good News and be saved is for His children to tell them. This is a wonderful privilege, but it is also a heavy responsibility. Remembering that judgment is coming, we should do all we can to reach the lost.
Each person you meet today will one day stand before God. Have you warned them of the judgment to come?
"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:57-58
Someone once said, “The men and women who have moved the world have been the men and women the world could not move.” There is something wonderful about a person who takes a stand for God and does not allow anything to shake or change his position. In 1521 the reformer Martin Luther was summoned to appear before Charles V at the Diet of Worms because of his opposition to the false teaching of the Catholic church. Luther was told that he must recant, but he remained committed to the truth even though he was threatened with excommunication and even death.
Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason—for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves—I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant.”
May God give us men and women today who share that passionate commitment to God’s Word. The Bible is under attack on so many fronts, and even the idea that there is such a thing as absolute truth is mocked and scorned by many. Yet despite what man may say or do, the truth abides. And as children of God, when we are committed to standing firm for what is right, we can know that our efforts will be rewarded. Nothing done for God is ever wasted—our work and our sacrifices and our stands are not unseen. The God who gives the victory will bless and reward our efforts.
Take your stand for God, and do not allow anything to move you away from the truth.
And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
1 Corinthians 4:6-7
Recently I came across an excellent quote that says much about how we view the things we have. “The law of rightful ownership says: When we are blessed with money and material things, we are not getting what we deserve, but what God in His grace lovingly allows us to enjoy and care for.” Everything we have belongs to God. The things we have are entrusted to us as stewards to care for on behalf of the rightful Owner.
We like to take credit for our successes and our possessions. Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” That mindset fits well with our world, but it does not fit well with God’s Word. The Bible teaches us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). While it is true that God expects us to work hard and be diligent, it is also true that the very strength and energy that allow us to do that are from Him.
Remembering this truth is especially important when we receive blessings. Though God should receive all of the credit, too often like Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, we boast of what we have done. Far better it is for us to give Him all the glory rather than being judged for our pride.
Rather than being proud because of your possessions, rejoice that God has been so much better to you than you deserve.
"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:"
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
We often think of giving only in financial terms, and that is certainly an important part of it. Yet there is so much more than money involved in having a giving spirit. Giving begins with our attitude, not our checkbook or wallet. When we grasp our possessions and talents tightly, wanting to keep everything we have for ourselves, we are not following the plan of God for our lives.
His grace is meant to turn us into givers, and not just givers, but cheerful and generous givers. Appreciating grace means that we understand that all of the things we have are given to us by God. It also means that we understand the difference between the temporal and the eternal. The great missionary Jim Elliot who was killed in Ecuador in 1956 said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
God does not need our money or our talent or anything else that we have. He owns everything and is all-sufficient. He said, “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (Psalm 50:12). He has designated His work to be supported and carried out by His people because we need to give and work for Him. If we allow His grace to work in our hearts, we will not find it hard to be generous and do what we can to minister to others in need.f
Be a giver today—of your time, your talent and your money—to things that are eternal.
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
I read a beautiful story about a young lady who wanted to join a church. One of the deacons asked, “Were you a sinner before you received the Lord Jesus into your life?” “Yes, sir,” she replied. “Well, are you still a sinner?” “To tell you the truth, I feel I'm a greater sinner than ever,” she admitted. He questioned, “Then what real change have you experienced?” “I don't quite know how to explain it,” she confessed. “I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I am saved, I’m a sinner running from sin!”
The transformation that the Holy Spirit works in our lives when we are saved goes far beyond changing our eternal destiny. He also changes the desires and appetites of our hearts. The sins that once were so attractive are no longer what we seek. As He sanctifies us, we can leave the past behind and move forward “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
Someone once told Charles Spurgeon, “If I believed what you preach about eternal security, I would sin as much as I wanted.” Spurgeon replied, “I sin more than I want to!” Our flesh will never be fully eradicated in this life, but we should be growing and maturing in grace and leaving the sins of the past. The same power that provided our salvation is available to provide our sanctification as well.
Live today in accordance with your new nature as a child of God.
"And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform."
The Christian life cannot be separated from faith. We are saved “by grace…through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). We “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We “live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Yet despite this truth many people do not really understand what faith is. In its simplest form, faith is believing what God says and then acting on it. It is treating what God says as true even before it happens.
Over and over Scripture tells us that nothing is impossible for God. Yet all too often Christians live as if they were orphans, with no Heavenly Father able and willing to work in their lives and meet their needs. George Mueller said, “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.”
Can your life and work for God be fully explained by things that can be seen, or is there something going on that shows God’s power? Do you believe the things that God has said in His Word are true? Are you living as if they are true? When God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, no one had ever been resurrected. Yet Abraham believed that would happen. He went to Mt. Moriah “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19). Let nothing shake your faith today. Every promise of God is certain and true, and you can trust it completely.
Trust God today for things that are beyond your ability to accomplish and believe that He will work.
"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
2 Corinthians 5:20–21
Many years ago, the famed pastor R. G. Lee visited the Holy Land. When he reached the place where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, he wanted to go to the top of the hill. His guide discouraged him from climbing up, but the elderly pastor insisted. When they reached the top the guide asked, “Have you ever been here before?” “Yes,” Dr. Lee replied, “I was here some two thousand years ago.”
Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, but He also died specifically for my sins and for your sins. All that I have done that I should not have done, and all that I have not done that I should have done was placed upon Him while He hung on the cross. Jesus—the perfect and sinless Son of God—became sin because of me so that I could be righteous in the sight of God. What a treasure! What an enormous price!
Though I have been saved since an early age, I never want to lose sight of the fact that my salvation is an unmerited gift of God’s grace that transformed my life and my eternal destiny. I never want to forget that Jesus went to the cross because of my sin. I never want to get so accustomed to my salvation that I lose the wonder and gratitude that God loves me so much. The Christian who has forgotten that he stood at Calvary has lost one of his main sources of joy and one of his main motivations for service.
God’s salvation is a gift beyond price, and we should rejoice and give thanks to Him for it.
"For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."
1 Corinthians 15:9–10
I’ve often heard people describe grace as “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” A. W. Tozer put it this way: “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. Its use to us sinful men is to save us and make us sit together in heavenly places to demonstrate to the ages the exceeding riches of God’s kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
We should not need to be reminded that everything good that we have or do is a direct result of the grace of God. Yet our pride constantly tempts us to take the credit that rightly belongs to God. We would probably never say out loud what Nebuchadnezzar did: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). But too often we look at our accomplishments and achievements as if they were solely the result of our effort and intelligence.
The thing that makes God’s grace so amazing is that it is both completely undeserved and completely free. His grace is given to us because of His great love for us. Rather than focusing our attention on ourselves, the grace we receive should cause us to glorify and praise Him. The realization that it is only because of grace that he was anything at all made it possible for Paul to recognize that the great things he accomplished for God were not because of his efforts in his own strength but because of God’s grace.
Give thanks to God today for all that you do and have, for it is only because of His grace.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
After unwrapping all of her presents, a little girl was asked, "Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?" She thought for a moment and said, "No. But then, it's not my birthday." There is a lot attention paid, and rightly so, to the over-commercialization of Christmas. This is not a season for seeing how much stuff we can pile under the tree and how deeply in debt we can go in order to make sure everybody in the family gets everything they want.
This is a season that celebrates the good gifts that we have received from God. Of course the gift of Jesus is the “unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)—a gift so precious there are no words that can adequately describe it. Yet that is far from the only gift that we received because of Christ’s coming. As David put it, God “daily loadeth us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19). The Hebrew word used here signifies a load that is almost too heavy to carry—that’s a lot of benefits!
It is a measure of how much God loves us that He not only gave us His Son but so much more along with Him. We should never forget all that He has graciously bestowed upon us. The gift giving season of Christmas is a time to share our expressions of love with others, but it is also a time when we should be grateful for all that we have received. If you maintain that focus this Christmas, you will find that you are having a truly merry holiday no matter what is under the tree.
All of the blessings we enjoy as children of God can be traced to the gift of God’s Son on the first Christmas.
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. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Sir Edwin Landseer was one of the most famous painters of the Victorian era. His talent developed early, and he had the first showing of his work at the Royal Academy when he was just thirteen years old. He was commissioned to do a number of official portraits of the royal family, and even gave private drawing lessons to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But he was best known for his depictions of the natural settings and life in the Scottish highlands.
One day as he was visiting a family in an old mansion in Scotland, one of the servants spilled a pitcher of soda water, leaving a large stain on the wall. While the family was out for the day, Landseer remained behind. Using charcoal, he incorporated the stain into a beautiful drawing. When the family returned they found a picture of a waterfall surrounded by trees and animals. He used his skill to make something beautiful out of what had been an unsightly mess.
God works in much the same way in our lives. The things that we think of as weaknesses and handicaps can, through His grace, become our greatest strengths—and the very things He uses the most to bring glory to Himself. Rather than wishing that the “stains” in our lives would go away, we should give thanks to God for our infirmities and seek His grace so that even those things can be used for His purposes. God’s grace provides the strength to meet every challenge and overcome every weakness.
When you allow God’s grace to transform your weaknesses, beautiful things result.
"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
My wife enjoys baking during the Christmas season, but she especially delights in the opportunity it provides for fellowship as loved ones gather together to enjoy the delicious fruit of her labor. One of the precious, although sometimes overlooked, gifts we have through Christ is Christian fellowship. It is impossible to overstate the importance and benefit of Christian fellowship to our walk with God.
One of the keys to the power of the early church was the fact that they spent so much time together. It is a hallmark of genuine believers that they long to be together. Praying and learning the Word of God together strengthens the bonds of unity in the church, but it also strengthens each individual who takes part. The challenges and struggles we face as part of daily life in a fallen world require more strength than any of us has on our own. While we receive strength from God to face these battles (“the inward man is renewed day by day,” 2 Corinthians 4:16), He has also ordained that we encourage and minister strength to each other during difficult times.
Christianity is not meant to be lived in isolation but in groups. Regular fellowship with other believers—both as part of church services or activities and on a personal basis—is meant to be a source of strength and encouragement as we face the challenges and struggles of life. Thank God for the fellowship you have with His people and together enjoy the celebration of His birth.
Build and strengthen your relationships with God’s people. True Christian friendship is a gift from Him.
"Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see."
The city of Nazareth was not held in high regard by the Jewish people of Jesus’ day. It was considered to be a small village not worthy of notice or attention. No one expected much of anything from that source, as evidenced by the question Nathanael asked Philip when he was told about Jesus.
What Nazareth did have was a young woman who was completely yielded to the will and purpose of God. When she was presented with a plan for her life that was impossible and would expose her to ridicule and possibly even death, she did not protest against it. Instead, she praised God for choosing her to be part of His plan. Mary did not have any financial or social advantages. She was not the person we would have immediately identified as the most likely candidate to be the mother of Jesus, but God saw what was in her heart.
In her song of praise to God, Mary said, “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree” (Luke 1:52). Great works of God rarely start in big places or with big people. Instead, they usually start in small places with little people who have a big commitment and a big faith to be used of God. Good things can come from your Nazareth as you follow Mary’s example of dedication and devotion. First Corinthians 1:27 says, “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” God has a plan for you—embrace your role.
God can do great things with your life—beyond what anyone expects—when you are yielded to Him.
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
2 Corinthians 8:9
If you were to make a list of everything you want or hope to receive this Christmas, how many items on your list would be things you couldn’t live without?
In truth, the only One that we cannot live without is the One whose coming we celebrate in this season of gifts. Without Jesus we have no Christmas. Without Jesus, we have no eternal life, no abundant life. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Every need of the human heart can be met in Jesus. First Corinthians 1:30–31 tells us, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
What a miracle of God’s power that He—the Creator of the universe—could clothe Himself in flesh and come to us as a tiny, helpless baby, and that in that coming, He could meet every need of our heart and soul. What love of God to desire to give us eternal life—at His expense. And what love of God to give us full, abundant life through His life!
As you approach Christmas this year, take a moment to reflect on the riches that we have through Jesus Christ. Christmas was God’s most valuable gift delivered to Earth—to you. And in this precious Gift, you have all you need.
Jesus humbled Himself to give us His great riches. Thank Him for His grace.
"And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds."
The angelic host returned to Heaven after announcing the birth of Christ to the shepherds. God could have sent these angels across Israel and even around the world to make the same announcement. Yet instead, the shepherds were the ones who spread the news that Jesus had come. God’s plan for spreading the message of salvation is that those who have heard it will take it to others all around the world.
Writing to the church at Corinth, Paul said that God, “hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). We have a calling to proclaim the Gospel. This task falls not just on those in vocational ministry, but on every believer. The shepherds had no training, but they could tell what they had experienced.
Our focus on the shepherds in the Christmas story often begins with the appearance of the angels and ends with them at the manager, but there is more to it than that. They became messengers for God. This is a wonderful time of year to share the Gospel with others. Even people who are not normally interested in spiritual things may be more open because of the season. Be alert for opportunities to share the true meaning of Christmas and God’s plan of salvation with everyone you can.
One of the best ways to celebrate the meaning and spirit of Christmas is by sharing the Good News with others.
"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."
One of the things that I love about Christmas is that, when we observe it as we should, Jesus is the center and focus of our attention. He deserves all of the praise and glory and worship that we can possibly give Him. Jesus is the Creator of all, yet He left behind the splendor of Heaven and, as Charles Wesley put it in the wonderful old hymn And Can It Be, “emptied Himself of all but love.”
He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
We should worship and give thanks all year long, but at this time of year we focus our attention on the gift of His love in a special way. Salvation is a wonderful gift that we receive only through grace; the gift of Jesus Himself is beyond anything that we could ever imagine.
He had everything, yet He gave it up so that we “through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). As you celebrate Christmas this year, take time to praise our wonderful Lord and Saviour who is the gift of Christmas. His high and holy name is above all others, and it is through His grace and sacrifice that we become the children of God.
Jesus emptied Himself that we might be made complete in Him and filled with all the fullness of God.
"When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom."
J. Hudson Taylor was one of the great missionary heroes in history. His work in the China Inland Mission saw thousands come to Christ, and the stories of his faith and prayers have inspired the generations that have followed. His work was driven by his passion to see the salvation of the lost. He once said, “If I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?” Taylor also had another outstanding characteristic—his humility.
The story is told of two women in Shanghai who were discussing the topic of pride and began to wonder if the famous missionary was ever tempted to be prideful because of his many accomplishments. One of the women decided to ask Taylor’s wife, Maria, about it. Maria promised the woman that she would find out. When Mrs. Taylor asked her husband if he was ever tempted to be proud, he was surprised. “Proud about what?” he asked. “About all of the things you have done,” his wife explained. Taylor responded, “I never knew I had done anything.”
One of the great truths we must remember is that it is God who does the work and deserves all of the credit. Paul put it this way: “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7). If we remain focused on this truth, we avoid the snare of pride because we realize that we have done nothing for which we can take credit.
Satan uses pride especially effectively against those who are busy in working for the Lord. Many mighty men and women who have done much for God have been brought to shameful sin through the snare of pride. Remember, we deserve no praise or recognition for what God has graciously done through us, but we do enjoy getting to be part of the process when we remain humble!
The subtle snare of pride leads to the awful pit of shame; the delightful blessings of humility allow us to rejoice in serving God.
"Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness."
When silver is mined from the ground it is commonly mixed with a number of other elements. In order to get pure silver that can be used for commercial or industrial purposes, it must be refined. Silver has an extraordinarily high melting point—it must be heated to nearly 2,200 degrees in order to be refined to complete purity. Only when it has been through that process does the silver become useful for its intended function. Beautiful service pieces, high tech equipment, and collectible coins all become possible once the silver has been refined. Without that process, it is largely worthless.
Satan is delighted when we allow wicked influences to remain in our lives, because they keep us from fulfilling the purpose and will of God for our lives. One of his most effective lies is that such influences won’t really have any impact on us. Believing this lie has destroyed many believers as they fell prey to an influence they did not recognize and guard against. As Paul warned the church at Corinth, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Sick people who are contagious don’t get well by being around healthy people. Instead they infect the healthy. The same principle holds true in the spiritual realm. The influences we allow to touch our hearts and minds—what we read, what we watch, who we fellowship with—will shape the way we view the world and the way we act. If we want to be established in righteous living, then we must do the hard work of refining our lives and removing the evil influences. Though this may be a painful process, the results are worth the cost.
When you remove wicked influences from your life, you are preparing for greater usefulness for God.
Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
Lenny Skutnik had no intention of being a hero that day. The staffer at the Congressional Budget Office in Washington was having an ordinary winter day when Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River shortly after takeoff. Those who survived the crash faced death as the plane sank in the icy waters.
A helicopter dropped a rescue line to one of the survivors, but she was too weak to hold on. Lenny Skutnik saw what was happening and dove into the water. He swam out to her and pulled her back to shore, saving her life. Two weeks later, President Ronald Reagan invited Skutnik to attend the State of the Union address, and in describing the accident said: “And we saw the heroism of one of our young Government employees, Lenny Skutnik, who, when he saw a woman lose her grip on the helicopter line, dived into the water and dragged her to safety.”
Skutnik was honored by the president of the United States, not because he tried to draw attention to himself but because he did what was right in a crisis. Satan tells us that we need to be sure everything we do is seen and praised. Yet God reminds us that attempts to promote ourselves eventually backfire. Only the honor that God orchestrates is sure. Psalm 75:6–7 says, “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”
It is much better to leave recognition in the hands of God. We can trust Him to see and properly reward all that we do for Him. Better still, when we do “all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), we are completely free from the being elated or deflated by the finicky approval of men.
When we leave our honor in the hands of God, we free ourselves to do all to His glory.
"Many seek the ruler's favour; but every man's judgment cometh from the LORD."
All over the world people seek the favor of God. Hindus follow holy sites on pilgrimages; Buddhists participate in devotion rituals; Animists offer sacrifices to appease the spirits; Catholics light candles for their prayers.
Truly, as mere mortals, we need the favor of God. Yet, God has made it clear that we can never earn His favor on our own. He tells us that salvation is “Not by works of righteousness which we have done…” (Titus 3:5).
When you think about it, it makes sense. How could we hope to earn God’s favor? And how could we be so brash as to assume that our good could cover our sin? The cross holds good news: we don’t have to earn it at all.
On the cross, God’s judgment and favor meet. Jesus—God in human flesh—bore the full cup of God’s judgment for our sin. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
We who have trusted Christ no longer have to “seek the ruler’s favour.” We already have it. Ephesians 1:6 tells us, “…he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” The righteous and sinless life of Christ and His death and resurrection allows Him to be both “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
But what of those who have not trusted Christ? As Proverbs 29:26 says, “…every man’s judgment cometh from the LORD.” Jesus extends the gift of salvation to them as well; they have only to receive God’s favor if they will escape His judgment.
What love Jesus poured out for us on the cross! He bore our judgment that He might give us His favor.
Tell someone today about the miracle of the cross—where God’s favor and judgment meet!
"The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough."
On May 13, 1864, a twenty-one-year-old private named William Christman from Pennsylvania became the first soldier to be buried in what is now Arlington Nation Cemetery. The two hundred acre farm and house had belonged to Robert E. Lee, who resigned his commission in the United States Army to lead the Confederate forces. The property had belonged to Lee’s wife, the great great granddaughter of Martha Washington before it was seized by the United States government.
The decision to place a military cemetery there was intended to ensure Lee would never be able to live there again. In addition to placing the graves as close to the house as possible, the director of the cemetery placed the remains of more than 2,000 unknown soldiers in what had been the Lee’s rose garden. Today Arlington is home to the Tomb of the Unknowns and the graves of some 400,000 men and women who have served their country. Nearly 7,000 funerals per year continue to add to those buried among “the honored dead.”
While the grave may never be satisfied as long as sin and death are part of the world, its power has already been defeated. On the first Easter morning, when after three days and three nights in a borrowed tomb the Lord of Heaven and Earth arose in His glorified body, the power of the grave was shattered. We have not yet seen the end, but the outcome of the battle is already assured. Today in faith we can ask with Paul, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our hope for the defeat of the grave and the promise of eternal life.
"My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."
Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic, often told his employees this story to emphasize the vital importance of maintaining integrity: “In China's later Han era, there lived a politician called Yang Zhen, a man known for his upright character. After Yang Zhen was made a provincial governor, one of his earlier patrons, Wang Mi, paid him an unexpected visit. As they talked over old times, Wang Mi brought out a large gold cup and presented it to Yang Zhen. Yang Zhen refused to accept it, but Wang Mi persisted, saying, ‘There's no one here tonight but you and me, so no one will know.’ ‘You say that no one will know,’ Yang Zhen replied, ‘but that is not true. Heaven will know, and you and I will know too.’”
When we are tempted to sin, we face a choice. Will we listen to the enticement and agree to go along with it, or will we stand firm for what is right? There will always be “reasons” we can use to convince ourselves why it is okay for us to do wrong—but any reasons that justify sin are short-sighted. If we allow ourselves to accept them, we will bear the consequences. Rather than trying to find a reason that will allow us to sin, we should instead search for God’s means of escape.
Paul wrote, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sin is not an overpowering force. Through grace we have been given the means to resist temptation—but to overcome we must refuse to listen to those who would draw us astray.
Temptation to sin never overcomes us without our consent—there is a way to escape.