Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
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Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:
None of us find hardship or suffering enjoyable. But the pain of living in a fallen world is a reality of our daily lives. We must remain on guard not to allow our difficulties to lead us to think that God has forgotten us or is not being good to us. Indeed the Bible repeatedly tells us to consider hardship, opposition, and even persecution as a cause for joy rather than anger or despair. Jesus said that when we are persecuted or falsely accused we should, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12).
Jesus suffered for us, and if we mean to follow Him, we should not expect the path to be easy and painless. When things go wrong, for whatever reason, we still have a faithful and loving Father to help us. Our attitude toward suffering in large measure determines the effect it will have on our lives. A. W. Tozer wrote, “What then are we to do about our problems? We must learn to live with them until such time as God delivers us from them. We must pray for grace to endure them without murmuring. Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting. They harm us only when we resist them or endure them unwillingly.”
There are crowns and rewards waiting for those who faithfully serve God regardless of hardship, opposition, and suffering. We should never expect or ask for God to make our lives painless. Instead we should seek His help and His grace to work our suffering for His glory. Paul wrote, ”Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Our suffering does not take God by surprise, but He promises to give us grace to endure while He uses it to work for our good.
For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
The Apostle Paul started a number of churches across the Roman empire. He did not just start them and leave, but instead even after he was gone, Paul had a deep burden for those Christians he had left behind. He wrote, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). This care even extended to churches in places Paul had never personally been, like the Colossians. He wrote to them of the internal wrestling—great conflict—that he had on their behalf. Alexander MacLaren wrote, “How could Paul, in Rome, wage conflict on behalf of the Church at Colossæ? No external conflict can be meant. He could strike no blows on their behalf. What he could do in that way, he did, and he was now taking part in their battle by this letter. If he could not fight by their side, he could send them ammunition, as he does in this great Epistle, which was, no doubt, to the eager combatants for the truth at Colossæ, what it has been ever since, a magazine and arsenal in all their warfare. But the real struggle was in his own heart. It meant anxiety, sympathy, an agony of solicitude, a passion of intercession.”
We are meant to care passionately and deeply about the needs of others. We are called to invest ourselves into their lives. We are commanded to bear their burdens. If those around us hurt, we should hurt. If those around us are celebrating, it should make us glad. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:5). We will not make the kind of positive impact God wants us to make on others unless we are willing to invest ourselves wholeheartedly in the cause.
If we do not care enough to invest ourselves in others, we will have little impact on their lives.
And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
The world we live in is filled with battles and conflicts. The devil is actively involved in opposing those who are committed to following God. As long as we live, we will fight the sinful nature with which we were born, which is constantly in conflict with our new nature in Christ. We should not think that these struggles are an indication of spiritual failure. Rather, they are an indication that we are engaged in spiritual battle. We also should not think that we cannot win these battles. The power and promises of God provide everything we need for total victory. Paul wrote, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
The path that we are on not only leads to victory in this life, but it leads us to a place of eternal rest. There will come a day when we set aside our armor and lay down our weapons and enjoy the presence of God. There will come a day when every enemy has been defeated and every battle has ceased forever. The ancient Irish hymn “Be Thou My Vision” says:
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise;
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always.
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven's joys, O bright Heav'n's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whate'er befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
No matter how severe the battles of life may be, we can have complete confidence in the victory God has promised.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
1 Corinthians 1:18-21
There are many different ideas about what makes an effective ministry in the world. Every year a number of books are published, articles are written, seminars are held, and courses are developed with an eye toward finding ways to reach those around us. While it is certainly not wrong to serve God as effectively as we can, we must not fall into the trap of rejecting the core message of the gospel in an effort to attract more people to ourselves. God's plan in the first century was to reach the lost through the message of the cross, and that is still His plan today.
Whether it is in a church service or revival meeting, or in a personal conversation with a friend, neighbor, family member or co-worker, when the gospel is presented—the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to provide the only hope of atonement for sin—God's plan is at work. God does not need our creativity to replace His message. He does not need us to change the message to make it more acceptable. He simply needs us to be faithful to proclaim the truth, and He will do the rest. Of course there will be people who reject and even mock the message of the cross. That is not our responsibility. Our job is to be courageous and consistent witnesses of the truth. That is the duty we have, and when we do God's work in God's way, He provides the harvest.
God is pleased when we faithfully do His work in the way He has directed.
Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
The training process for the elite Navy SEAL units is brutal. Those who make it through the course are not necessarily just the strongest, but those who have the mental capacity to endure the pain for the sake of reaching their goal. Navy SEAL Kaj Larsen who was considered the best swimmer in his class said, “The adaptability of the human condition never ceases to amaze me. The fact is, if you put yourself in cold water scenarios often you are going to be better at tolerating it. I don’t think that it’s only about increasing your ability to withstand cold water mentally, but there are also significant benefits physiologically.”
God not only saves us, but He calls us to serve Him in the spiritual warfare that is raging in our world. If we go through our lives unprepared for and unaware of the reality of the spiritual warfare in which we are living, we will eventually fall by the wayside on the road of spiritual growth. We should not be surprised or taken off guard when struggles come, but instead expect to both have them and overcome them. In his final letter, Paul wrote to Timothy, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). Each trial, each battle is an opportunity to grow stronger and be prepared to serve God more effectively. Though the struggles are not pleasant, they come to us for a purpose. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Only those who are willing to keep going no matter what comes will reap the harvest and win the prize.
So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
1 Corinthians 14:9-12
When people stand out in any endeavor, it draws attention. Whether in business or sports or education or anything else, those who excel are looked up to by others who want to do the same. The book In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, Jr. was a publishing success story. It sold three million copies in just four years, and remains one of the better selling business books of all time. People wanted to know the traits and procedures that made excellent companies stand out. Yet when it comes to God's work, sometimes that drive for excellence is missing.
God is looking for people who are excellent, not to win fame and applause or financial rewards, but to serve Him and build up His church. God gives gifts to every believer to be used, not for ourselves, but for others. A gift that is casually treated or poorly exercised is not likely to make any positive impact. But a gift that is used in the power of the Holy Spirit to build and strengthen the work of God will change lives. It should be the desire of our hearts to be excellent in building up God's church by building up those around us. Not everyone has gifts for preaching or teaching or singing, but anyone can be an encouragement to others. The strongest churches are filled with people who are excellent in edifying.
God deserves our very best as we use what He has given us for the benefit of others.
According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness. Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments. Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.
During his lifetime, Charles Wesley wrote more than three thousand hymns, many of which are still being sung today. He served God faithfully for more than fifty years. While he was on his deathbed, Wesley dictated one final poem to his wife Sally:
In age and feebleness extreme,
Who shall a helpless worm redeem?
Jesus, my only hope Thou art,
Strength of my failing flesh and heart,
Oh, could I catch a smile from Thee,
And drop into eternity.
God is not a part-time, fickle, changing deity. He is our salvation, our defense, and our guide—not just for a day or two, but as long as we live, and then into eternity. In Him we have a loving Father who never fails, who never turns away from His children. We can trust Him when things are going well, and we can trust Him when we do not see any hope for the future. We can rely on His faithfulness to keep all of His promises.
People we trust can let us down. People we believed in can fail to keep their promises. People we love can get sick and die. God is eternal. His presence with us all the days of our lives is our strength, our hope and our confidence. Even when we reach the end of this life, we will still find Him faithful. Paul described death as our last enemy, but then he rejoiced that Christ has already conquered death. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
We can safely trust in God every day of our lives, secure in the knowledge that we will spend eternity with Him.
So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive. Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
Solomon had a unique combination of wealth and power. There was nothing that was beyond his ability to get. Merchants came from far away bringing exotic animals, spices, clothing, and treasures. He ruled over a kingdom at peace, without having to fear any attacks or invasions. Solomon was given great wisdom by God when he was a young man, and because he asked for wisdom, God gave him a great deal more. But Solomon did not spend his life wisely. He became focused only on what is “under the sun” rather than what is eternal and lasting. Despite all that he had, Solomon was miserable. He came to view life as empty and worthless. "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
In truth, the best that this world has to offer will never provide lasting peace and contentment. All of its pleasures are temporary. But we are not meant just for this life. This is not where we are meant to focus our efforts and energy. Paul reminds us, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). We need to keep eternity in view in all that we do. That will determine what we do, what we value, and how we live. Our hearts belong to God first and foremost. Rather than looking for hope and happiness in this world, we should look to Him for all we need both in this life and the next.
Only the eternal things really matter, and only the pursuit of eternal things will give our lives purpose and meaning.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Ever since Adam tried to shift the blame for his sin to Eve, people have been looking for ways to feel superior to others. Sometimes that takes the form of downplaying our own contributions to problems. Sometimes it takes the form of judging others for what they are doing or not doing. It's always possible to find something about even the greatest people to criticize if we choose to live that way, but it is a foolish approach to life. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
There were people in the church in Colosse who were observing the commandments of the Mosaic law in respect to diet, holidays, and observances. There were also people there who were not. Neither position was a valid cause for judgment or condemnation. It's important for us not to judge others unfairly, but it is also important for us not to accept false judgments from others. We can and should learn from criticism if it is valid, but we should not allow improper judgments from others to make us feel like we have fallen short. “Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth” (Romans 14:22).
We are one day going to give an account to God for our service to Him, and how we used the talents and abilities He gave to us. His evaluation will not be based on what anyone else thinks, but on what He has said. We do not need to fear that the judgments of others will persuade Him to adopt their views. We should be more concerned about obeying and honoring God than we are about anything else.
God is looking for people who are more concerned with doing what He says than they are with impressing others.
And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
In the days before modern communication, soldiers on the battlefield faced huge challenges with knowing what to do as conditions changed. Gideon faced this dilemma as his tiny army prepared to go up against the massive host of the Midianites. He resolved the problem by telling his men to watch him, and then copy his actions. We all know the story of how the sudden burst of light and noise in the darkness confused the Midianites, and they were defeated by an army a fraction of their size. The audacious plan worked because it was done at the direction of God, and He worked a miracle. But the mechanics of all three hundred soldiers doing it in unison worked because Gideon set the example, and others were able to follow it.
The Lord's plan is for those of us who have been saved longer and have grown in grace to be examples for others that they can copy. This process only works if we are diligent about setting the right kind of example. Paul was able to tell the Corinthian believers to follow his pattern, not because he was something special in and of himself, but because he too was following a pattern that had been set for him. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). If we live in such a way that those who copy our attitudes and actions are becoming more like Jesus, we are fulfilling one of God's main missions for our lives. If, on the other hand, those who emulate us are drawn away, we are failing.
We can only influence others to do right by copying us to the extent that we ourselves are copying Jesus.
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
In the 1800s, people began referring to those who were unconscious or in a coma as being “dead to the world.” Over the next hundred years the usage changed until it became a synonym for sleeping very soundly. But the original purpose of the expression had nothing to do with a person's psychical condition, but rather with his spiritual condition. Once we have trusted Christ as Savior, we are called to leave the things of the world behind—to treat them with no more interest than a dead person shows toward anything earthly.
Like his pastor father before him, William Jenkyn refused to support the official Church of England. He was a powerful and effective preacher, but he frequently aroused the ire of the authorities. He was imprisoned in 1651 and at one point even sentenced to be executed, but his life was spared. He resumed his ministry but found himself in trouble again ten years later when he refused to follow the Uniformity Act which dictated prayers and sermons to church leaders. Jenkyn died in Newgate Prison, where he had been sent after again refusing to stop preaching. William Jenkyn wrote, “To forsake Christ for the world, is to leave a treasure for a trifle, eternity for a moment, reality for a shadow.”
Death to the world and self and our own interests and desires is not a one time thing, but something that must happen again and again if we are to love God as we should and value what matters to Him. Paul wrote, “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Only when we are dead to the world can we truly be alive to the things of God. Only when we are dead to the world can we truly make the difference in our world that God calls us to make.
We cannot value the things of God as we should unless we have first died to the things of the world.
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. 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 12:8-10
God delights in supplying what we lack. When Paul was struggling with his thorn in the flesh, his prayers for it to be removed were not granted. Instead, God told Paul to rely on Him and He would provide. There are people who tell us that loving and serving God means nothing should ever go wrong. That sounds nice, but it isn't what the Bible teaches. Things do go wrong. We get sick. We get tired. We get discouraged. We get let down by people we counted on. We face challenges that are too big for us to handle. But in every situation and in every difficulty, God's grace is more than enough for everything we may need. And He invites us to turn to Him and rely on Him rather than on ourselves. When we take matters into our own hands rather than seeking God's grace, we are headed down the wrong path.
The prophet Hanani told Asa, king of Judah, that his response to enemy aggression—seeking to hire heathen armies to fight for him—had kept him from experiencing God's deliverance. “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars” (2 Chronicles 16:9). The problem is not that God is reluctant to help, but that we are reluctant to admit our complete dependence on Him. When we rely fully on what His grace provides, we will always find that we have more than enough.
Rejecting the lie that we can do things on our own is the first step toward receiving God's help to accomplish His purposes.
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
President Harry Truman was noted for his outspoken bluntness. One of his most famous sayings was issued to those who were complaining about difficulties: “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” While that is a clever and memorable turn of phrase, it, in some ways, misses the point. The real question is not whether we can stand the heat, but whether what we are cooking is worth standing in the heat for. If our cause is light and trifling, we will not want to endure hardship, opposition, and persecution. But if our cause is weighty and important, we will not be deterred from continuing no matter how hot the “kitchen” gets.
Paul suffered far more than most of us can even imagine, yet he called that “light affliction” not because it was not painful and difficult, but because his driving purpose and motivation made that suffering immaterial. Paul regarded his ministry as a vital necessity, worthy of sacrifice. He wrote, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
The center of our focus determines how we evaluate and respond to the events of life. At the time Paul lived, some people might have thought that facing so much opposition was a sign that Paul was not doing what was right. He viewed it as a sign that the devil was trying to stop him. With the goal of eternity in mind, none of the things that endured kept him from continuing his work and ministry.
If we keep our eyes on Jesus, our work for Him will never cease because of opposition or suffering.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14
I learned a lot of things during the years we spent on the mission field in Korea when I was growing up. One of them was the difficulty of communicating with people who don't speak your language. No matter how much you may want to get a message across, if they don't understand what you are saying, they won't get it. Even a conversation about the simplest things is fruitless when your words have no meaning to the person who hears them. If you don't speak their language, you need an interpreter to get them to understand what you are saying. Otherwise no matter how eloquent or persuasive your words may be, they will not produce understanding or response.
In a similar way, when we try to share biblical truths with those who do not know Christ, they cannot understand the spiritual realities behind those truths. In fact, the unsaved person ("natural man" in 1 Corinthians 2) will never understand spiritual truths until he is saved. And even to be saved, he needs the Holy Spirit to convict him of his need for a Savior. In a very real sense, when we share the gospel with unsaved people, the Holy Spirit works as an "interpreter," convicting the hearts of those with whom we speak of the realities of what we are telling them. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).
The way we can effectively witness to those around us is through the filling and power of the Holy Spirit.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:14-16
Though the idea of organ transplants go back to ancient times, it was not until relatively-recent times that medical science advanced far enough to allow it to become reality. Skin grafts began to be performed around 1900, but internal organs posed a great challenge. The first successful kidney transplant took place in the 1950s. The next decade saw successful liver and pancreas transplants as well as the first successful heart transplant. In the 1980s lungs were able to be transplanted as well. Thousands of people are living today because of an organ they received from a donor. None of these people have a transplanted brain.
A brain transplant is far beyond the reach of man's ability. Yet God changes everything about us at salvation. He gives us a heart transplant. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). But He also changes our mind as well. The way we thought as lost people was completely in opposition to the way God thinks. He views everything differently than we do, and unless we come to view things His way, we cannot live as He commands. So when we are saved, God gives us a new mind—a new way to look at the world. It is a mind which is available to us, but we must exercise it and use it and allow it to control our lives. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
If we have the mind of Christ, then our words, attitudes and actions will reflect His priorities and purpose.
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
There are all kinds of ways that people identify themselves. I am a husband, a father, and a grandfather. I am a pastor and a college president. I am a friend, author, Californian, and an American. But none of these identities, or any of the hundreds of others that people rely on as part of the way they view themselves, should be the primary one. Instead, the first and foremost identification in our lives should be that we are Christians. Nothing else comes close to being as important as our position in Jesus Christ. It is this position in Christ that is my most precious identity, and it is what gives me the most in common with any other person. .
The Colossian Christians were a mixture of cultures, languages, social statuses, and backgrounds. It would be easy for divisions to grow in the church that would hinder the work of Christ. This is what was allowed to happen in the church at Corinth. Paul wrote to reprove them: “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it” (1 Corinthians 11:18).The importance of unity within the body of Christ cannot be overstated. It is critical to His mission for us and His plan for us to reach the world.
There is no class or group of people who are superior to others, and there is no justification for anyone to look down on others. None of us can stand before God in our own righteousness. Nothing that we have done is accomplished through our own power. No talent or gift that we have is a result of our merit. It is all God's grace. “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 4:7).
Our position in Christ overrides any temptation we have to think ourselves better than others.
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17
In 1795, near the end of George Washington's second term as President, the Great Seal of the United States with the motto e pluribus unum—out of many, one—was struck on the $5 gold coin known as the half eagle. The motto was added to silver coins starting in 1798, and it remained in use until the 1830s. After the motto had been dropped, a movement arose to have it returned to the coins, and the Coinage Act of 1873 (which remains in effect to this day) required that it once again be included.
The motto of our country is also a good description of God's plan for His church. Though people come from all different backgrounds, races, economic statuses, education levels, and life experiences, they find unity in Jesus Christ. The night before He would be crucified, Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:21-22).
The one central thing that unites us is far greater than anything that might divide us. There is no reason for God's people not to be united in fellowship, in worship, and in working for the Lord. Indeed this unity of God's children is one of the key evidences meant to convince the world that we are truly following Jesus Christ. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
God unites our hearts with other believers so that we can show and reflect His love to the world.
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
D. L. Moody was noted in the city of Chicago for his efforts to reach children. He organized special classes for those in whom others were not interested. Many of his pupils traveled past a number of other churches to arrive at Moody's. Moody told the story of a little boy who traveled a number of blocks across the city in the cold of winter for Sunday school. Someone stopped him and asked, “Where are you going?” “To Mr. Moody's Sunday school,” the boy answered. Then he was asked if he would not prefer going to a church that was closer, but he continued to insist on heading for Moody's. When he was asked the reason he replied, “Because they love a fellow over there!”
The thing that should be the distinguishing mark of our lives and service for God should be that we are reflecting His love. We should be treating others with the compassion and love that Jesus showed to them. It is not a question of programs or ideas or methods, but a question of the heart. Good methods and even great sacrifice will not produce any lasting benefits unless they are motivated by and saturated in love. Paul wrote, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).
Love motivates us to keep going when we feel like giving up. Love encourages us to try again when someone rejects the gospel. Love lightens the load that we carry when we are investing in the lives of others. Love indicates that we are walking under the control of the Holy Spirit for it is the first of the fruit that He produces. Love shows that we are like Jesus, Who extended an invitation to all who would come to Him, meeting them with open arms.
The love of God is not just something we receive, but something we are to display to those around us.
And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
The first promise of the coming Savior was announced even before Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden after sin entered the world. God laid out His plan for victory in the battle against Satan. Sin brought death into the world, but Jesus would come with the promise of eternal life. Satan would not be able to overcome His power. Even death and the grave would not be able to hold Him. Paul wrote, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
The story of Christmas is the story of the fulfillment of God's promise. Even those who followed Jesus most closely during His lifetime on earth were not always clear on His purpose. Their primary interest in the promised Messiah was to gain freedom from Rome and see Israel become an independent nation once more. Their secondary interest was jockeying for position in what they expected to be an earthly kingdom. They heard what Jesus said about the heavenly kingdom and God's salvation, but they didn't focus on that. Jesus never lost focus on the real purpose for His life. He said, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are proof that we can confidently rely on every promise God makes to us.
For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
2 Corinthians 9:12-15
We often think of presents when we think of Christmas. Or perhaps as we focus on the true reason for the season, our thoughts are focused on Jesus as the baby in the manger. But the birth of Jesus Christ was not really the end gift God gave the world. Rather, Jesus' birth was the beginning of God's larger gift. It is Jesus' sacrificial death and glorious resurrection that represent the fullness of God's gift of salvation. Our sin had hopelessly separated us from God, but Jesus took on our sin and made a way for us to be reconciled to God. Throughout His ministry on earth, Jesus always said, “Father” when He spoke to God. The only exception to that was on the cross. “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
On the cross, the full guilt of our sin was placed on Christ, and He—on our behalf—experienced the separation from God that would otherwise be our eternal destiny. The horrible physical suffering Jesus endured on the cross was nothing compared to the pain of bearing our sin and having His perfect union with the Father ruptured as a result. Yet all of this was according to God's plan. Isaiah wrote, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10). The true gift of Christmas is found not in a manger, but in a rugged cross and a borrowed tomb left empty.
God's gracious gift of salvation is beyond our ability to fully describe, but should be the theme of our continual thanks and praise to Him.
For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.
2 Corinthians 8:3-6
God is the ultimate owner of all the resources that exist. He could provide for the needs of His work in any number of ways. He could send birds to fly into the church building and drop money in the offering plates, like the ravens feeding Elijah. He could drop money on the church grounds every morning like the manna that fell to feed the Israelites. He chooses instead for His work to be funded and supported by the gifts of His children. Giving is a touchy subject in some churches, but it is God's plan.
A. W. Tozer, said, “Before the judgment seat of Christ my service will be judged not by how much I have done but by how much I could have done! In God’s sight, my giving is measured not by how much I have given but how much I have left after I made my gift. Not by its size is my gift judged, but by how much of me there is in it. No man gives at all until he has given all! No man gives anything acceptable to God until he has first given himself in love and sacrifice.” No amount of money someone puts into an offering will make up for a heart that is not fully devoted to God. We do not buy His favor. Though there are blessings promised for those who give generously, the primary motivation for our obedience is our love for the Lord Who has given us so much.
Giving God our hearts and our lives must precede any acceptable gift we could bring to Him.
But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
On April 15, 2012 a memorial garden was opened in Belfast to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The massive ship had been built in Belfast, and made her first and only voyage from those shipyards and then to England before setting out across the Atlantic. Though there are memorials to the Titanic in countries around the world because there were passengers from so many nations, the memorial in Belfast is believed to be the only one that lists the name of every passenger and crew member who perished on that trip—more than 1500 people. Rather than separating them by what class tickets they had purchased or what their role on the ship was, the memorial lists them in alphabetical order, every one given equal listing.
The world often favors those who are powerful or rich or well-connected. Sometimes people get away with serious crimes simply because of who they are or the resources they can bring to their defense. But God does not judge as man judges. No amount of money will impress the God Who paved the streets of Heaven with gold. No amount of fame will impress the God Whose glory fills the heavens. He judges us righteously and fairly. No one will be exempt from His evaluation. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).
If we have trusted Christ as our Savior, we have no need to fear God's eternal judgment—Jesus paid for our sins. But we will stand before God, on equal and level ground, to have what we have done for Him weighed. No one will be exempt, and no one will receive special treatment. “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:15). May we live today for that day!
God sees and will reward every act of service we do for Him—regardless of how obscure or well known we are or if anybody else ever knows we did it.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
One of the most important facets of our prayer lives should be consistency. If we pray once or twice about something and then stop, it is unlikely that we will see great answers to prayer. Most of the big things in our lives, the things that we want or need God to do that are vitally important, require ongoing and repeated praying on our part. When we get tired, we should continue in prayer. When we get discouraged, we should continue in prayer. When we feel like there is no hope, we should continue in prayer.
The truth is that God is always good and faithful. His timing sometimes does not match with ours, but He is the one with perfect and infinite knowledge, not us. So we express our trust in Him by continuing to pray until the answer comes. C. A. Gabriel wrote the following lines:
Pray when the storm clouds gather o’erhead
Hiding the light from you,
Filling your soul with darkness and dread,
Pray till the light breaks through.
Just keep on praying till light breaks through
The Lord will answer (will answer) you,
God keeps His promise; His word is true.
Just keep on praying till light breaks through.
The only time we should stop praying before the answer comes is if God steps in and points us in a different direction. Paul prayed repeatedly for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, but once God closed the door, he changed his praying. “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Unless that happens, we should just keep praying, no matter how long it takes. Faith does not allow delay to destroy its hope for the future.
Prayers that are quickly abandoned will not produce powerful answers.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
It wasn't an honest question, seeking truth or information. Instead, the lawyer's question was a trap designed to force Jesus into saying something that could be used against Him by His enemies. But even though that was the background for the question, Jesus still gave a straightforward and truthful response. God comes first, and we must love Him above all else. Others come next, and we must love them as we do ourselves. This proper love provides the foundation for everything else in life. All that God has commanded us to do springs from these two directives, and both of them are focused on our hearts.
Ever since Cain brought the wrong kind of offering, people have been trying to substitute other things for love for God and obedience that springs from a heart devoted to Him. Isaac Watts said, “The Great God values not the service of men if the heart be not in it: The Lord sees and judges the heart; He has no regard for outward forms of worship, if there be no inward adoration, if no devout affection be employed therein. It is therefore a matter of infinite importance, to have the whole heart engaged steadfastly for God.” All efforts to please God without our heart being fully involved fail, no matter how sacrificial they may be. Paul wrote, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).
We cannot obey and please God unless our hearts are fully devoted to Him.
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
1 John 3:14
Our salvation does not depend on us. Rather it is all of God. He wants those of us who have received His free gift of salvation to be fully assured that we have it. Satan has used doubts about salvation to hinder many believers from being effective in their service to God. If we are not confident in our own salvation, how can we expect to point others to Christ? There have been false professors of faith ever since Judas Iscariot, and we must be certain that we are truly saved. Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
But there should not be constant doubt and dread that we have truly been saved and are secure. The same God who saved us keeps us safe and secure in Him. Samuel Rutherford wrote, “I rejoice in the hope of that glory to be revealed, for it is no uncertain glory that we look for. Our hope is not hung upon such an untwisted thread as, 'I imagine so,' or 'It is likely,' but the cable, the strong tow of our fastened anchor, is the oath and promise of Him who is eternal verity. Our salvation is fastened with God’s own hand, and with Christ’s own strength, to the strong stake of God’s unchangeable nature.
The apostle John wrote the epistle of 1 John to help believers have the assurance that they are saved. He gave a number of indicators of a new birth and new life, including the verse above about having a love for other Christians. None of these things are done so that we can be saved, but rather are done because we have been saved. The more closely our lives align with God's Word and God's will, the less opportunity there will be for doubt to creep in and undermine our confidence.
Confidence in our salvation grows from a reliance on His faithfulness and a recognition of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
Almost all of us have had the experience of having a tire go flat while we are driving and having to pull over to the side of the road to change it. We have to go through the hassle of getting the spare out of the trunk, getting the jack in place, getting the lug nuts loose, and finally putting the new tire on so that we can continue on our way. Invariably this is a dirty job with grease and grime that gets all over your hands even if you try to avoid it. And it seems like no matter how carefully or thoroughly you try to wash afterward, there will always be a spot you missed that will transfer to something light colored, like a white shirt, that shows the stain for all to see. Dirt spreads rather than being contained and confined.
Sin has the same impact. No matter how hard a lost person tries, they cannot cleanse their lives of the stain of sin. Even things that should be innocent and pure are defiled when they come into contact with sin. No amount of good works or turning over a new leaf or trying to make things right with those we have harmed or offended removes the underlying problem. We are sinners both by choice and by nature, and we cannot change that. Our only hope is found in Jesus Christ Who took on our sins and made the payment God required for them on our behalf. “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). He alone is able to forgive and cleanse us of our sins, and remove the stains from our lives.
Only the blood of Jesus can take away the stain and defilement of our sin.
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
One of the parables Jesus used to highlight the value of God's forgiveness and the importance of us extending it to others was a story of a man who owed a staggering debt. There was no hope he would ever be able to pay it off, yet he received mercy and his debt was wiped clean. This same man was owed a trivial amount of money, yet, sadly, he refused to let it go. He was not willing to do for others even a fraction what had been done for him.
None of us deserve to receive the mercy and forgiveness of God. We owe Him a debt that cannot ever be repaid. Yet He wiped the slate clean and marked out our debt as "paid in full" because of the sacrifice of Jesus. Paul wrote, “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). Salvation is the completely free gift of God's extravagant grace.
Yet, why is it that we who have experienced so great a measure of forgiveness struggle to forgive others? How is it that we do not readily show to others the mercy we ourselves have received? A. T. Pierson wrote, “[Mercy] is the forgiving spirit; it is the non-retaliating spirit; it is the spirit that gives up all attempt at self-vindication and would not return an injury for an injury, but rather good in the place of evil and love in the place of hatred. That is mercifulness. Mercy being received by the forgiven soul, that soul comes to appreciate the beauty of mercy, and yearns to exercise toward other offenders similar grace to that which is exercised towards one’s self.”
It is an insult to God's forgiveness toward us if we refuse to extend mercy to those who do us wrong.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
The Bible makes it clear that the Christian life is a battle. We are exhorted to be on guard, attentive, and prepared for the attacks of the enemy. We are warned of the dangers of overconfidence and thinking we are above being defeated. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). It is important to remember that our struggle is not merely defensive. In addition to putting on armor to protect us from spiritual attacks, we are called to take up a weapon to take the fight to the enemy, and that weapon is the Bible.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “This weapon is good at all points, good for defense and for attack, to guard our whole person or to strike through the joints and marrow of the foe. Like the seraph’s sword at Eden’s gate, it turns every way. You cannot be in a condition that the Word of God has not provided. The Word has as many faces and eyes as providence itself. You will find it unfailing in all periods of your life, in all circumstances, in all companies, in all trials, and under all difficulties. Were it fallible, it would be useless in emergencies, but its unerring truth renders it precious beyond all price to the soldiers of the cross.”
Just as a soldier is put through training to become familiar with his weapon before being sent into battle, we need to be filling our hearts and minds with the Word of God. We need to know what it says, and know how it applies to the situations in which we find ourselves.
Knowing and using God's Word is the way to living in victory throughout the Christian life.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
2 Peter 2:1-2
The legend behind the fairy tale der Rattenfänger von Hameln, or The Pied Piper of Hamelin, many of us heard when we were young dates back to the late 1200s. Like many of these early stories it has a dark lesson to teach. It tells of a village overrun by rats who hired a man to remove them. The piper walked through the streets playing his flute and the rats all came out to follow him. He led them down the nearby river where the rats all drowned. Despite his success, the townspeople refused to pay him the agreed upon price. In return the piper walked through town again playing his flute. This time he was followed by the town's children who he led away never to be seen again.
There are pipers roaming the earth today, seeking to get people to follow them. While there are some people who teach error because they are genuinely mistaken, Peter warns that there will be others who are teaching heresy on purpose. They are not leading people to truth and righteousness, but instead intentionally leading them toward destruction. The “music” they are playing may sound good, but that does not mean it is safe or right to follow them. We need to be alert to the attempts of the devil to lead us astray. He and his demonic minions do not appear in red suits holding pitchforks. Instead, they come as counterfeits of God's angelic messengers, appearing as good rather than evil. Paul wrote, “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” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).
Knowing that Satan uses false teachers to deceive us, we must be on guard to make sure what we are hearing is the truth.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
The Holy Spirit who comes to live inside every believer at the moment of conversion plays many roles in our lives. He is a source of comfort and conviction and guidance and discernment. But the primary focus of His ministry to us is not about us at all, but about Jesus. The Holy Spirit always lifts up and exalts the Lord, and points our attention to Him. When Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration, they were impressed to see Moses and Elijah with Him. But the Father's focus was not on the great Old Testament heroes, but on His Son, and His voice from Heaven instructed the disciples to listen to Jesus alone: "And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him" (Mark 9:7).
The center of an effective ministry for God is not talents and programs. It is not our innate ability or our effort. Effective ministry flows from making Jesus the center of everything we do. When Paul summed up his ministry in the city of Corinth he said, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We will always be tempted to shift the focus away from Jesus to ourselves. But apart from Him we have nothing to offer the world. Jesus is the beginning and end of everything. He must always be the center of our focus and praise. The more that we are yielded to the control of the Holy Spirit, the more we will talk about and live for Jesus.
If anything other than Jesus is the focus of our life and ministry, our priorities are out of place.
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 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 6:18-20
Our attitude toward temptation is directly related to the way in which we view our relationship with God. If we view Him as the absolute owner of our lives, our bodies and everything we have, then our desires must be subject to His commands. If we recognize that the Holy Spirit is constantly with us, then we must behave in ways that will honor and please Him rather than bringing shame and sorrow. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). The price that Jesus paid to pay for our sins was high, and we must not live in a way that disrespects His sacrifice.
Scottish pastor Thomas Boston wrote, “In vain will ye fast, and pretend to be humbled for our sins, and make confession of them if our love of sin be not turned into hatred; our liking of it into loathing; and our cleaving to it, into a longing to be rid of it; with full purpose to resist the motions of it in our heart, and the outbreakings thereof in our life; and if we turn not unto God as our rightful Lord and Master, and return to our duty again.” The devil knows how to make sin look attractive to us, so we must keep our eyes fixed on God and our relationship with Him close and personal. The more we are like Him, the more we will hate sin, just as He does. The more we hate sin, the easier it will be for us to resist temptation.
A Christian who grasps God's ownership of every part of his life is a Christian prepared to defeat temptation.
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
1 John 4:13
The Holy Spirit is not just some kind of influence that comes over our lives from time to time. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is God, and if we are children of God, the Holy Spirit indwells us. We have the Holy Spirit constantly within us. Paul wrote, “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?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Though Jesus returned to Heaven when His work was complete, He sent the Holy Spirit to assure us of His continuing presence and to guide our lives each day. There are no days when He is not there. We can do things that bring Him sorrow, but He never leaves a Christian. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
Charles Spurgeon said, “And you may know whether it is the Spirit’s work by this. Have you been led to Christ, and away from self? Have you been led away from all feelings, from all doings, from all willings, from all prayings, as the ground of your trust and your hope, and have you been brought nakedly to rely upon the finished work of Christ? If so, this is more than human nature ever taught any man. This is a height to which human nature never climbed. The Spirit of God has done that, and He will never leave what He has once begun.”
The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives allows us to live with confidence rather than fear. He is the evidence God leaves with us that we are His children. He is the guarantee that we will never be abandoned or forsaken. He is the guarantee that we will spend eternity in Heaven. Our responsibility in light of this wonderful gift is to walk each day under the Holy Spirit's control, obeying His commands and fulfilling His purposes for our lives.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a constant reminder that God will never lose or leave us.
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:8-9
Even if we are doing all that we should, there will still be problems. We live in a fallen and broken world, and evil is widespread in our day. That is not new. Though it takes different forms and guises, the underlying opposition to God has been a constant throughout human history. Our responsibility is not to insist on fairness or getting what we deserve, but to do what is right even—especially—if we are being wronged. Paul condemned the members of the church at Corinth for resorting to suing each other rather than resolving their differences properly. “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7). We can always do the right thing no matter what anyone else does. Kent Keith wrote:
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
We control our reactions in every situation and can respond rightly no matter what is happening around us.
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
1 John 4:17
One day we will stand before God to give an account of our lives. We who have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation have no fear of our destiny, because He already paid the price for our sins in full. However we will find ourselves standing before the Lord from whom nothing can be hidden. J. C. Ryle wrote, “We and God must at last meet face to face. We shall have to render an account of every privilege that was granted to us, and of every ray of light that we enjoyed. We shall find that we are dealt with as accountable and responsible creatures, and that to whomsoever much is given, of them much will be required.”
If we want to face that judgment with confidence rather than fear, then we must devote our lives now to whatever work God has called us to do. The more that we love Him, the more dedicated and devoted our service for Him will be. Paul wrote about the power and influence of love on his own ministry. “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). He was willing to go to great lengths because God loved him and he loved God.
Paul had no fear of judgment, whether here or in the future. He was often called before the authorities, having been falsely accused of trying to undermine the Roman Empire or attacking the law of Moses. In every case Paul stood with complete confidence and boldness. Whether before kings or magistrates or religious leaders, he declared the truth without fear or apology. “And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:29).
If our love for God is what it should be, we will be bold in this world and the next.
For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
1 Corinthians 12:24-27
During his life, English clergyman and poet John Donne knew a great deal about loss. Two of his children were stillborn, and three more died before reaching ten years of age. His beloved wife Anne died giving birth to their twelfth child. Donne poured out his grief through his pen in his Meditation 17, writing these famous words about the impact losing anyone leaves on others: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
The church is not just a collection of families and individuals from different backgrounds who happen to worship in the same building. It is a body, and as such it is vital that we not allow it to be divided, and that we care for each other. Paul wrote, “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). If someone in the church has a problem, the entire body should join together to do what they can to help. There are no unimportant people who can be written off. Each member of the body matters, and we must not look away and hope someone else will step up, but do our part.
Every member of God's family is important and worthy of our love, prayer, and help.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
It's easy to look around and see that churches today are not making the same kind of impact on society that the early churches did in the first century. We have tools and techniques they could not even have imagined. We have programs and plans that have been market tested and promoted. We have buildings with comfortable chairs and air conditioning and state-of-the-art sound and light systems. But first-century churches shook the world without any of those things. What they had was an overwhelming love. They loved God wholeheartedly. They loved each other sacrificially. They loved the lost with a passion that made them brave every danger and overcome every obstacle to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
More than anything else, we need a revival and renewal of that kind of love if we want to have an impact on the world. The English Puritan Nathaniel Vincent wrote, “O love! How much want is there of you in the Church of Christ! And how much does the Church feel for this want! It groans, it languishes, it dies daily because of your absence. Return, O love, return! Repair breaches, restore paths to dwell in, edify the old ways and places, and raise up the foundations of many generations.”
Nothing done without love as its foundation and motivation will create lasting positive results. As the old hymn put it:
Let us love our God supremely,
Let us love each other too.
Let us love and pray for sinners
'Til our God makes all things new.
More than anything else, we need a revival of love to set the church on fire.
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5:5
Many people had trouble believing that Jesus was Who He claimed to be. Some cited His living in Nazareth in the Galilee region as a disqualifying mark. They knew the prophecy that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and either did not know or did not consider that Jesus was indeed born in the City of David. Some cited His violation of the traditions that had grown up and taken the place of the actual law God gave to Moses as proof He was not the Messiah. They could not understand how what mattered so much to them was interfering with doing what God actually said. In truth, they were simply not willing to believe in Him because they loved things in this world more than the things of God. Jesus told them about this divide in clear terms. “And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23).
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to live in this present world not as subject to its desires and interests, but as conquerors who are rejecting the temptations around us to walk as Jesus did. Our faith in Him as Savior is not just about the next life. It is to make us victorious in this life as well. Paul wrote, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). If our hearts are fixed on the things of the world, we will not be overcomers. It takes faith to believe that the promises of God are more real than things in the physical world, but if we have that faith we will triumph over the enemy. And the foundation of our faith is the belief that Jesus is Who He claimed to be.
Victorious living can only be built on a foundation of faith.
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 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 6:18-20
In 1802 near his home in Southampton, New York, a man named Lodowick Post was out with friends hunting foxes. Their dogs caught the scent of the fox, and they set out in pursuit, only to find that another man, Jesse Pierson, had already found the fox and killed it. The outraged Post demanded the pelt of the fox, but Pierson refused to relinquish it. Post actually took the case to court and won. Undaunted, Pierson appealed to the New York Supreme Court. The resulting case, Pierson v. Post, remains one of the most important precedents in the field of property law. The court ruled that merely pursuing an animal did not establish a right to it and found in favor of Pierson. Having caught and killed the fox, he was the rightful owner and could do with it whatever he pleased.
The owner of something has rights to do with whatever he chooses with it, in a way that others do not. We are not the owners of our lives. God is the owner of our lives because of the price Jesus paid for our redemption. He has the absolute right to tell us how to live and expect us to obey. When we refuse to follow His commands it is not just an act of disobedience but also an act of rebellion. We do not have the freedom to use our bodies however we see fit. Rather, we are to live fully dedicated to the Lord in both our spirit and in our body. Incidentally, when we live with this kind of surrender, we will find that it is the best life possible—the "good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:2).
The only satisfying life for a Christian is to live as one who totally belongs to the God Who gave His own life to redeem us.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Growing up in church, I remember watching people get baptized from the time that I was very young. Usually as the preacher was bringing someone back up out of the water, he would say something like, “Raised in the likeness of His resurrection” or “Raised to walk in newness of life.” That language, which I use as I baptize people today, reflects the reality of what baptism is supposed to represent. Baptism is not salvation. But it is an outward sign of the inward change already brought about in a life who has trusted Christ as his Savior. God does not save us to leave us just as we were before. He saved us to give us new life in Christ.
Paul highlighted this truth in his second letter to the church at Corinth. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Living as we should as believers requires that we leave the past things of the old life behind us. If we do not, we will constantly be drawn back to what came before. There is great danger in thinking that we can hold on to part of the old life and still live the new life, but it does not work that way. If we are not looking forward, it is almost certain that we will be going backward. “And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned” (Hebrews 11:15).
Our focus must be on our new life in Christ so that we are not drawn back into our former way of living.
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
In August of 2023 the city of Chicago filed an unusual lawsuit in response to a sharp rise in the number of car thefts. The suit blamed the problem on two car companies which they argued had not done enough to prevent their vehicles from being stolen. Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement, “The failure of Kia and Hyundai to install basic auto-theft prevention technology in these models is sheer negligence, and as a result, a citywide and nationwide crime spree around automobile theft has been unfolding right before our eyes.” More than seven thousand cars made by those two manufacturers were stolen in Chicago in 2022, and they accounted for more than half of all stolen vehicles in the first seven months of 2023. Kia released a statement describing the lawsuit as “without merit” and pointed out that the root problem was not the design of the cars, but the fact that people wanted to steal cars in the first place.
Many people in our world attempt to shift responsibility for what they have done, trying to place the blame on someone else in order to avoid the consequences. Of course this is not new. When God confronted Adam in the Garden of Eden, Adam blamed his sin on Eve, who in turn blamed the serpent for tempting her. God will never allow us to dodge responsibility, instead holding us accountable with perfect justice and knowledge. “But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Colossians 3:25).
Knowing we will give account of ourselves to God should help us live every day in such a way that we will not be ashamed when we stand before Christ.
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
As the Reformation and the teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone began to spread, Martin Luther became the target of a campaign of persecution and slander. He faced enormous pressure from both political and religious authorities to recant his teaching. Eventually he was summoned to Worms, Germany, in 1521 to answer charges of heresy. Luther refused to relent and deny what he believed to be true. Fearlessly he said, “Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scriptures or…by manifest reasoning I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s Word, I cannot and will not recant anything. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.”
Though we should not be arrogant or unwilling to listen to instruction and correction, when we know that we are standing firm on what the Word of God says, nothing should shake our confidence or cause us to abandon our commitment to the truth. Many people treat uncertainty as a virtue, but it is not. God wants us to know what is right and to clearly and firmly present it to those around us. There is an urgent need in our day for a clear and consistent declaration of what God has said. Paul wrote, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8). The more the darkness grows around us, the more vital it is to have clarity about the truth. God is looking for people who are unwilling to allow anything to deter them from speaking the truth to the world.
Nothing should be allowed to shake our commitment to stand for the truth.
And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
2 Corinthians 8:18-21
Charles Spurgeon was in the public eye in England from the time he became a pastor of the New Park Street Chapel (later named the Metropolitan Tabernacle) in London at the age of nineteen through the rest of his life. He quickly became one of the best known men in the entire country. His sermons were printed in newspapers, and so many people wanted to hear him preach that they gave out tickets to control the size of the crowds. His firm stands for the truth and his willingness to apply what the Bible said to the issues of the day regardless of whether it was popular or not aroused a good deal of opposition. At one point, he was even threatened that if he did not tone down his preaching, disparaging information about him would be made public. Spurgeon responded, “Write all you know about me across the heavens.”
Spurgeon was not claiming to be perfect. In fact, a reading of his sermons and articles reveals that Spurgeon was painfully aware of his own failings. But he also knew that he had led an honest and honorable life, and there was nothing about his personal or pastoral work that he would be ashamed to have revealed to the world. We know that God sees everything that we do, and nothing is hidden from His eyes. But we should be willing to have our work and lives examined by others. There should not be anything we do that we would be embarrassed or ashamed to have known by others.
If we do not want others to know about something we do, that is a warning sign that we should not be doing it.
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
Author and humorist Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me; it is the parts that I do understand.” Though there is some question as to whether he is the actual source for the quote, there is no question that he was hostile toward religion. We should not find it surprising when lost people find the Bible awkward or offensive. Paul wrote, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
For those of us who are saved, however, the commandments and instructions of Scripture are not obscure or odious. They are accessible and our joy to follow. God's Word has never been more available, especially in the English language. Most of us have multiple copies of the Bible in print, as well as phones and tablets and computers where we can read it. The Word is close to us, but that is not enough. We must keep God's word in our thoughts and in our hearts to obey all that it commands.
The depth of our commitment to God is demonstrated when we obey what He commands in His Word.
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
Our attitude and habits regarding giving reveal a great deal about the condition of our hearts. And God is far more interested in our hearts than in any amount we give. He certainly does not need our help to fund His work. If we give grudgingly, trying to get by with doing as little as possible, we are not going to receive a rich harvest of blessing. Giving is ultimately a reflection on our attitude toward God. If we view Him as the rightful owner of everything we have, then when we give we are simply returning to Him something He already gave to us. If we view ourselves as the source of our resources, we will not feel the need to give to God.
The topic of giving can be a touchy one in churches. Some people are out to keep all they can. Others are out to lay up treasure in Heaven. This kind of giving comes from the heart long before it comes from the bank account. Paul wrote of the Christians in Macedonia, “And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). No one has ever lost out financially by giving to God. He sees every gift and every sacrifice. He makes grace abound when we want to be part of His work and enables us to give even more. Someone said, “When it comes to giving until it hurts, most people have a very low threshold of pain.” That humorous statement should not be true of us. We should delight in giving to our God.
Our attitude toward giving is one of the best indicators of our true attitude toward God.