We cannot help feeling disappointed when a door of opportunity closes. But our heavenly Father will often prevent us from going forward when He wants to redirect our steps toward a wiser pathway. What determines whether we partake of His greater blessing is our reaction: Will we beat against the barred door or look for a new opening?
Paul’s second missionary journey included a series of divine “no admittance signs.” The apostle set out to visit the churches he had started across Asia, but the Holy Spirit led him away from city after city. It must have felt quite frustrating to be prevented from carrying out the gospel commission (Matt. 28:19).
Paul kept traveling in search of fertile ground where he could plant a new church, and at last the Lord revealed an open door to Macedonia. The new route eventually led him into key cities of that day. Philippi, Corinth, and Ephesus were major commerce centers teeming with dignitaries and foreign traders who could carry the gospel farther and faster than Paul.
The apostle set out with a wise and rational plan, but human reasoning isn’t always reliable. The Bible tells us to trust in the Lord instead of our own understanding (Prov. 3:5). If we’re to follow God’s will for our life, we must live by the Spirit’s prompting. Consider that the Creator of the universe is taking a moment to nudge you in the right direction so that you may be fruitful and blessed. Follow Him, and He will direct your steps down the right paths and through the best doorways.
Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 23-25
Read: Mark 12:38–44
Bible in a Year: Psalms 140–142; 1 Corinthians 14:1–20
She, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.—Mark 12:44
I use writing to worship and serve God, even more so now that health issues often limit my mobility. So, when an acquaintance said he found no value in what I wrote, I became discouraged. I doubted the significance of my small offerings to God.
Through prayer, study of Scripture, and encouragement from my husband, family, and friends, the Lord affirmed that only He—not the opinions of other people—could determine our motives as a worshiper and the worth of our offerings to Him. I asked the Giver of all gifts to continue helping me develop skills and provide opportunities to share the resources He gives me.
Jesus contradicted our standards of merit regarding our giving (Mark 12:41–44). While the rich tossed large amounts of money into the temple treasury, a poor widow put in coins “worth only a few cents” (v. 42). The Lord declared her gift greater than the rest (v. 43), though her contribution seemed insignificant to those around her (v. 44).
Although the widow’s story focuses on financial offerings, every act of giving can be an expression of worship and loving obedience. Like the widow, we honor God with intentional, generous, and sacrificial gifts given from whatever He’s already given us. When we present God the best of our time, talents, or treasure with hearts motivated by love, we are lavishing Him with offerings of priceless worship. —Xochitl Dixon
Lord, thank You for never comparing us with others when we offer You the best of the gifts You’ve first given to us.
Sacrificial offerings motivated by our love for God will always be priceless expressions of worship.
INSIGHT: Do you ever feel like you have little or nothing to offer? It’s a lousy feeling, isn’t it? Maybe that’s one reason the gospel of Mark tells us about the day Jesus sat down by the collection box in the temple to watch people drop in their offerings. He noticed those who gave out of their wealth, and then he watched as a poor widow stopped by to drop in her two-cent offering. Why did she even bother? Even more important, what was she thinking? She put in everything she had. Jesus’s disciples must have been nearby, because He called their attention to this poor woman and made a point of the largeness of her gift.
Now maybe you’re wondering, What was Jesus thinking? He didn’t actually say we all should be like this woman who dropped everything she had in the collection box. What our Teacher did imply, though, is that God counts differently than we do. There was something about that woman’s heart that determined the value of what she had to offer to God. Mart DeHaan
Magicians draw crowds when they pull a rabbit out of a hat or a gold coin from behind someone’s ear. But even though they appear to do the impossible, we know there is a trick behind their illusions. The magic depends on shifting the attention of the audience to disguise ordinary actions that create the appearance of the impossible.
When Jesus turned water into wine, however, He was not just creating an illusion. He was indeed doing the impossible. At weddings, the best wine was traditionally presented first, so guests could fully appreciate its flavor. The cheaper wine would be presented later when it could pass unnoticed.
While Jesus was attending a wedding, the hosts ran out of wine, which would have been a deep embarrassment and social faux pas. Jesus’ mother, Mary, turned to Him for help (v. 3). At first, Jesus resisted, saying it was not the time to perform miracles before the public. But then He relented and asked servants to fill the stone jars with water. With that simple command, He produced the very best wine (v. 10).
Why did Jesus wait to perform the miracle? The following verses give us some insight. After the wedding, Jesus cleared the moneychangers from the temple. When asked about His authority to take such action, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (v. 19). People misunderstood, thinking that it was a boast about a miraculous building project. Many saw His miracles and believed. “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people” (v. 24). He knew that some were able to see miracles but were not yet able to understand the identity of the One behind them, the Son of God. Only some would realize His true nature.
APPLY THE WORD
When you communicate God’s message to others, they may not be ready to hear it. We must present the good news of Jesus Christ faithfully, but we cannot carry the burden of their understanding. We must trust the Holy Spirit to work, preparing them to hear and understand. Pray for your friends and loved ones today that God will open their ears.
Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am. — Philippians 4:11 (AMPC)
The Bible teaches us to be content no matter what our circumstances may be. The apostle Paul wrote, Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.
Contentment is a decision to be happy with what you already have. Unfortunately, we usually learn to be content by living discontented lives for a long time and then finally saying, “Lord, I don’t want to live this way any longer.” But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can choose to be content every day. This is worth more than all the material possessions you could possibly accumulate in a lifetime.
Paul made this clear when he wrote in 1 Timothy 6:6, …Godliness accompanied with contentment (that contentment which is a sense of inward sufficiency) is great and abundant gain.
What is sure to make us happy? Choosing contentment in the Lord, every day. Saying to God, “Lord, I only want what You want me to have,” is the only way to have real peace and lasting happiness.
“Now do you see it? No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what the law commands. For the more we know of God’s laws, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying them: His laws serve only to make us see that we are sinners. But now God has shown us a different way to heaven – not by ‘being good enough’ and trying to keep His laws, but by a new way (though not new, really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago). Now God says He will accept and acquit us – declare us ‘not guilty’ – if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we can all be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like. Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; yet now God declares us ‘not guilty’ of offending Him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in His kindness freely takes away our sins” (Romans 3:20-24).
One of my greatest concerns through the years, especially for those who are involved in Christian ministry around the world, has been the problem of legalism. In my opinion, legalism is the greatest heresy of Christianity. The reason legalism is so dangerous is that it is extremely subtle in its appeal. It is attractive even to the most sincere Christians, who are genuinely seeking to please God by determining to be “good enough” and to “earn God’s favor” through the good works of their self-effort.
How often there has been a tendency to forget “the just shall live by faith,” and “without faith it is impossible to please God.” There is a strong tendency to work hard in the flesh in order to please God. But if we trust Jesus Christ to take away such sins in our lives, He is faithful to do so, as He promised.
Bible Reading: Romans 3:25-31
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will remind myself often that the law is merely a way to show me that I am a sinner. By faith, I will trust Christ and accept His grace and forgiveness. By faith, I will draw upon the mighty resources of God to live the supernatural life, which is my heritage in Christ.
I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him. I will bring him, and he will succeed in his mission. Isaiah 48:15
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Ecclesiastes 4:10
If the team is successful, the leader is successful; so it is imperative the team succeeds or the leader won’t. Your role as the leader is to provide coaching, resources, relationships, teaching, and training to the team. Help them craft their strategic plan and then let them execute the plan with excellence. Yes, there needs to be periodic assessment and feedback around the mission and objectives. But use this time of accountability for alignment and encouragement. The team wants to succeed, but they need to be assured that they are succeeding at the right things. Indeed, the team is where the leader has led them.
If your team is unfocused and ineffective, start by looking in the mirror. The leader sets the pace for focused, diligent, creative, systematic, and wise work. Your affirmation and the ability to help others adjust contribute catalytically to team success. Therefore, don’t hold team members back, but free them around their passions, skills, and gifts. You want the team to surpass any results you could accomplish alone. So allow the team to succeed by coaching them, but not micro-managing them. Provide feedback, resources, and training by investing in their personal development. Promote team members by giving them the opportunity to replace or surpass you.
Failure is an option for the wise leader, for God fosters faith out of failure. Some of your best lessons are learned through failure. It is imperative for the leader to give team members permission to fail, or even encourage them to fail. Team members who never fail are team members who need to fail. Without failure, there’s no innovation or creativity. Small failures lead to big successes, for this is the process for improvement.
The secure leader knows how to manage risk. When team members do fail, the leader is there to infuse them with courage and perseverance. The road to success is paved with potholes of failure. Therefore, give the team permission to fail by encouraging them toward their goals and aspirations. This gives them the respect and responsibility needed for a willingness to fail.
Allow them to craft their own plans. This ensures their ownership with passion around execution. Affirm them when they do fail. This invites them to continue taking risk. Our heavenly Father knows we will fail, but He is there to pick us up and encourage us to move forward by faith. Carry on with Christ through the ups and the downs. He celebrates with us on the mountaintops. He comforts us in the valleys. We lose, not when we fail, but when we give up.
So persevere, as you are a success in the eyes of your Savior. Wisdom says, “…for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again…”(Proverbs 24:16a).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me to lead well during successes and failures, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Application: Who needs to be reaffirmed in the middle of their failure and who needs to be affirmed for their success?
Related Readings: Joshua 1:8; Psalm 73:26; Proverbs 2:7; Luke 1:37; Acts 5:38
Read: Genesis 26:6-25
Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you. (v. 24)
Genesis 26 reads like a contemporary novel, full of plot twists and intrigue, deception, ruined relationships, jealousy, and fear. In this chapter, Isaac has become very wealthy and his neighbors are jealous and nervous. After digging several wells that were either stopped up or confiscated by his enemies, Isaac finally digs a well that no one quarrels about, so he names it “Rehoboth,” saying, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land” (v. 22). That night God appears and tells Isaac not to fear, assuring him of his presence and blessing.
Isaac responds to God’s visit and promise to bless him and his offspring with four positive actions: he builds an altar, calls on the Lord’s name, pitches his tent, and tells his servants to dig another well. Instead of wallowing in fear, Isaac responds with worship and prayer.
Perhaps you live or work in an environment that is hostile to Christians. Many things make it difficult to obey God’s call to follow him: governments, social pressures, secular culture, or neighbors; even our own family and friends can make it hard for us. To counteract our fear, like Isaac we can respond with positive action and obedience, trusting that God is with us. How will we follow Isaac’s example and build our own altars in worship, call on God’s name, pitch our proverbial tents, and dig in? —Denise Vredevoogd
Prayer: God of our fathers, show us positive actions we can take to eliminate fear and do your will.