When God recruited Moses to rescue the Hebrews from slavery, their situation went from bad to worse as well. There was no doubt that the job needed to be done. The people had been crying out to God to help them (Ex. 2:23).
Reluctantly, very reluctantly, Moses agreed to appeal to Pharaoh on behalf of the Hebrews. The encounter did not go well. Instead of releasing the people, Pharaoh increased his unreasonable demands. Moses questioned whether he should have started (5:22-23). Only after a lot more trouble for a lot of people did Pharaoh let the people leave.
While the justice systems of our world might struggle and falter because of the inherent failings of the humans that manage them, we can always trust our God to excel in wisdom and fairness. The psalmist sang, “The Lord reigns; the world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously” (Ps. 96:10). God judges according to righteousness—defined by His own perfect justice and flawless character.
We can trust God now when life seems unfair, knowing that He will one day make all things right in His final court (2 Cor. 5:10).
Oswald Chambers observed, “God has a way of bringing in facts which upset a man’s doctrines if these stand in the way of God getting at his soul.”
Jesus wept at His friend Lazarus’ grave (John 11:35), and He weeps with us (v.33). His heart was broken as well. Our tears attract our Lord’s lovingkindness and tender care. He knows our troubled, sleepless nights. His heart aches for us when we mourn. He is the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). And He uses His people to comfort one another.
But tears and our need for comfort come back all too frequently in this life. Present comfort is not the final answer. There is a future day when there will be no death, no sorrow, no crying, for all these things will “have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). There in heaven God will wipe away every tear. We are so dear to our Father that He will be the one who wipes the tears away from our eyes; He loves us so deeply and personally.
Solomon’s father, David, was called “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22). Yet David’s life illustrates how life is filled with seasons of ups and downs. David wept over his and Bathsheba’s first child who was fatally ill (2 Sam. 12:22).
Yet he also wrote songs of praise and joyous laughter (Ps. 126:1-3). With the death of his rebellious son Absalom, David experienced a time of deep mourning (2 Sam. 18:33). And when the ark was brought to Jerusalem, David, in spiritual ecstasy, danced before the Lord (2 Sam. 6:12-15).
Second Kings tells the story of King Hezekiah who reached up to God for help (19:15). Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, had made threats against Hezekiah and the people of Judah, saying, “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you . . . . You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you be delivered?” (vv.10-11).
King Hezekiah went to the Lord and prayed for deliverance so “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God” (vv.14-19). In answer to his prayer, the angel of the Lord struck down the enemy, and Sennacherib withdrew (vv.20-36).
Jesus has this perspective on the stuff that’s hard for us to manage. When life seems like a carousel of catastrophes, Jesus isn’t fazed by a fender-bender, troubled by a toothache, or harassed by a heated argument—even if it all happens in one day!
He can handle anything, and that is why He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28).
In a world where ambition often compels people to do whatever it takes to rise to positions of power over others, God calls His people to a new way of living. We are to do nothing out of selfish ambition (Phil. 2:3) and to lay aside the weight of sin that ensnares us (Heb. 12:1).
If you want to be someone who truly “rises up,” make it your ambition to humbly love and serve God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).
God called Job “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). God allowed Satan to take everything Job had—his children, his wealth, and his health. But despite his heart-wrenching circumstances, Job refused to curse God.
“In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (v.22). Satan had challenged God’s assertion of Job’s blameless character, but he was proven wrong.
Yet, confidence is appropriate for followers of Jesus Christ. We have the assurance from God’s Word that when we die we will immediately be with our Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Thankfully, this is more than just wishful thinking.
It is grounded in the historic reality of Jesus, who came and died to cancel our penalty for sin so that we could receive eternal life (Rom. 6:23). He then proved that there was life after death by exiting His grave and ascending into heaven where, as He promised, He is preparing a place for us (John 14:2).
No matter what kind of sorrow we experience, there is only one real comfort—the mercy of God. David, in his own heartache, cried to his heavenly Father, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body!” (Ps. 31:9). Only in the mercy of God can we find comfort for our pain and peace for our troubled hearts.
In all losses, we can turn to the true Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who alone can heal our brokenness and grief.
The people of Gander showed the kind of love described in Hebrews 13: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (v.2). This is probably referring to Abraham when he entertained three men who came to tell him that he would soon have a son (Gen. 18:1-16).
Two of the “men” were angels, and one was the Angel of the Lord. Bible commentator F. F. Bruce says about Abraham, “Among the Jews, Abraham was regarded as outstanding for his hospitality as [he was] for his other virtues; a true son of Abraham must be hospitable too.”
One way of numbering our days is to ask ourselves these kinds of questions: How can I become more like Christ? Am I reading the Word regularly? Am I devoting time to prayer? Am I meeting together with other believers? The way we answer these questions is an indicator of the progress we’re making in gaining wisdom and becoming more like Christ.
No matter the phase of life—childhood, youth, middle age, or our senior years—life always affords us opportunities to grow in faith and wisdom. Numbering our days is the wise response to life’s inevitable progress.
If we insist on fair treatment for ourselves, we can become angry and frustrated. But when we embrace the Bible’s wisdom, we will seek the welfare of others. Proverbs calls us “to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity” (1:2-3). Oswald Chambers said of our personal dealings with others, “Never look for justice, but never cease to give it; and never allow anything you meet with to sour your relationship to men through Jesus Christ.”
When we experience unfairness, it is our privilege and responsibility as followers of Christ to respond with honesty and integrity, doing what is right, just, and fair.
The proper measure of our spiritual condition is the quality of our lives, which is measured by such attributes as lowliness, gentleness, and longsuffering (Eph. 4:2). “Bearing with one another in love” (v.2) is a good indication that we are moving toward God’s goal for us: “the measure of . . . the fullness of Christ” (v.13).
It mustn’t escape our notice either that work was declared good before sin entered the picture. In other words, work didn’t result from the fall and therefore is not a curse. We see this idea again in Genesis 2, when God “took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (v.15).
Let’s approach each day’s labor—whether at a job or doing another activity to help our family—with an awareness of the dignity and nobility God granted it in creation.
It’s easy for us to get lost in “ant world”—to be so busy with our routines that we miss the joy of personally embracing the bigger picture of God’s great work around the world. The work of the Spirit is sweeping across South America, thousands in Africa are coming to know Christ daily, persecuted Christians are thriving, and the Asian Rim is throbbing with the pulse of the gospel! Do those thoughts ever capture your heart? Your prayer life? Your checkbook?
Our preoccupation with lesser things reminds me of Paul’s report that “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). I wonder if Demas regretted abandoning the gospel for the sand piles of this world?
As we encounter the inhumanity, suffering, and sin that wreak havoc in our world, how do we respond? If the heart of Christ breaks over the broken condition of our world, shouldn’t ours? And shouldn’t we then do everything we can to make a difference for those in need, both spiritually and physically?
Christian singer Jonny Diaz recognized this and wrote a song called “More Beautiful You.” The song begins: “Little girl fourteen flipping through a magazine; says she wants to look that way.” Some young girls wish they could be like Disney star.Diaz sings, “There could never be a more beautiful you; don’t buy the
God made us the way He wants us to be. Believe it. There could never be a more beautiful you.
In 2 Kings 22–23, we read how King Josiah and the people of Judah rediscovered the joy and importance of God’s Word. During the repairing of the temple, Hilkiah the high priest found the Book of the Law. It must have been lost or hidden during the reign of Manasseh. Then when the scroll was read to King Josiah, he listened and responded to it (vv.10-11). He sought further understanding of it (vv.12-20), and he led the people to renew their commitment to its importance in their lives (23:1-4).
Many today have unprecedented access to God’s Word. Let’s renew our commitment to “find” it every day and by our lives show its prominence.
This brief encounter made me think about our need to develop a teachable spirit, seeking wisdom beyond our own. In Proverbs 3, the attitude the father recommends to the son is one of humility: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord” (v.7). In chapter 2, he says, “Incline your ear to wisdom . . . ; search for her as for hidden treasures” (vv.2,4).
Knowing whether August has 29 or 28 days doesn’t matter much, but having a teachable spirit does. It will help us gain wisdom from God and others. Reading a chapter from Proverbs each day next month may give us a start.
As we strive to live a God-pleasing life, we realize that in spite of our best intentions and determination, we often stumble and fall short. By our strength alone, it is impossible. Oh, how we need the Lord’s help! And it has been provided. Paul declares it with these insightful words, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20).
We cannot finish the Christian race on our own. We have to do so by depending on Jesus living in us.
When we simply cannot understand why God allows circumstances that threaten to overwhelm us, it’s good to remember that He has our good and His glory in mind. If we can say, “Father, please enable me to trust and honor You in this situation,” then we will be in concert with His perspective and plan.
Eli the priest had two sons whom he failed to discipline. When their wickedness got so bad that he could no longer ignore it, he tried gentle rebuke (1 Sam. 2:24-25). But it was too late, and God announced the dire consequences: “I will judge [Eli’s] house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (3:13).
Being straightened out is painful, but being left crooked will ultimately hurt even more.
The apostle Paul understood the significance of humility and how it holds us together. This is especially important in marriage. Paul said to reject “me-first” urges: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition” (Phil. 2:3). Instead, we should value our spouses more than ourselves, and look out for their interests.
Humility in action means serving our spouse, and no act of service is too small or too great. After all, Jesus “humbled Himself . . . to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (v.8). His selflessness showed His love for us.
Too often, we run from challenges. Yet the people we love to read about in the Bible are impressive because they battled challenges. Consider Paul.
With the confidence of God’s help, he faced troubles head-on—and conquered them. Christ’s promise to Paul and to us is: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Like Paul’s example, in the confidence of God’s care we can say to the next challenge: Bring it on!
Jesus is worthy of the very best of our love and devotion—and nothing on earth should compare to the thought of seeing Him face-to-face. May our love for our Savior deepen as we anticipate our joyful reunion with Him.
Proverbs 4 urges us to consider carefully our own road in life. The passage contrasts the free, unhindered path of the just with the dark, confused way of the wicked (v.19). “Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live” (v.4). “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (v.23). “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established” (v.26). Each verse encourages us to evaluate where we are in life.
No one wants to go through life on a selfish, heartless road. But it can happen unless we consider where we are going in life and ask the Lord for His direction. May He give us grace today to embrace His Word and follow Him with all our hearts.
Saints have a responsibility through the power of the Spirit to live lives worthy of their calling. This includes, but is not limited to, no longer being sexually immoral and using improper speech (Eph. 5:3-4).
We are to put on the new character traits of service to one another (Rom. 16:2), humility, gentleness, patience, love, unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3), obedience, and perseverance during hardship and suffering (Rev. 13:10; 14:12). In the Old Testament, the psalmist called saints “the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Ps. 16:3).
The Old Testament quotes God as saying “I will” numerous times. God promises David: “I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:12-13). No uncertainty in those words. Recognizing God’s faithfulness to His promises, King Solomon says in his prayer of dedication for the temple:
“You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand” (2 Chron. 6:15). Centuries later, the apostle Paul said that all of God’s promises are “yes” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
February 2012 Devotionals