Every one of us makes tracks through the valley of failure. The question is, How are you going to respond? Plenty of people give up and exchange a vibrant kingdom-serving life for a defeated existence. But failure need not be the end of the story. It’s a chance for a new beginning, living in Christ’s strength.
Peter had a life-altering failure. Jesus warned that Satan had asked permission to “sift” the disciple like wheat (Luke 22:31), referring to the vigorous shaking required to separate wheat kernels from debris. The enemy wanted to shake Peter’s faith hard in hopes that he’d fall away from Jesus like chaff.
Peter believed the promise he’d made to Jesus: “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not” (Mark 14:29). But Satan knows a few things about the power of failure. He realized that the disciple would be wounded by his own disloyalty. A man with tattered pride can’t help but question his usefulness.
When Satan sifts believers, his goal is to damage our faith so much that we’re useless to the Lord. He wants us shelved far from the action of God’s kingdom. Therefore, he goes for our strengths—the areas where we believe ourselves to be invincible, or at least very well protected. And when the devil succeeds, we are disappointed and demoralized. But we don’t have to stay that way.
If we are willing, God can use our failure to do spiritual housecleaning. Peter laid down his pride and instead put on the Holy Spirit’s courage. Thereafter, he risked humiliation, persecution, and death to proclaim the gospel. Failure was the catalyst that led to greater faith and true servanthood.
Bible in One Year: Daniel 3-4
Read: Hebrews 11:8–13
Bible in a Year: Proverbs 16–18; 2 Corinthians 6
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.—Hebrews 11:13
During a discussion of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, a teenager said he prefers his stories in books rather than movies. When asked why, the young man replied, “With a book, I can stay there as long as I want.” There is something to be said for the power of lingering in a book, especially the Bible, and “inhabiting” the stories there.
Hebrews 11, often called “the faith chapter” of the Bible, mentions nineteen people by name. Each one traveled a road of difficulty and doubt, yet chose to obey God. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (v. 13).
How easy it is to rush through our Bible reading without pondering the people and events in the text. Our self-imposed time schedule robs us of going deeper into God’s truth and His plan for our lives. Yet, when we are willing to stay awhile, we find ourselves caught up in the real-life dramas of people like us who chose to stake their lives on God’s faithfulness.
When we open God’s Word, it’s good to recall that we can stay as long as we want. —David C. McCasland
Father in heaven, thank You for Your written Word and the examples of people who lived by faith. Help us to follow You as they did.
Linger in God’s Word and you’ll find stories of faith.
INSIGHT: Hebrews 11 provides examples of how authentic faith leads to a changed life. Belief and action produce acts of courage and perseverance. As we ponder the deep and impressive faith our spiritual ancestors demonstrated through their actions, it encourages us to follow in their footsteps. The examples of those who have preceded us—those who lived as “foreigners and strangers on earth” (v. 13)—help us to fix our eyes on Jesus (12:2).
As you reflect on today’s reading, how are you inspired in your walk with Christ? J.R. Hudberg
In my mother’s antique shop were a variety of treasures for a curious child. My personal favorite was the Victrola that sat stately in the corner, a large internal phonograph that begged to be heard. The sounds it made were bold and cavernous, like an opera in a wooden box. This one was an early model, I heard adults say, and it was in mint condition. So it seemed peculiar to me that our frequent requests to put it into action were, from time to time, resisted. To me it was a perfect treasure, a magnificent and flawless toy. To the motherly owner of the store, it was a treasure that was capable of breaking before it sold. “As is” was not a phrase she wanted to add to the price tag.
A label that was seen occasionally within the shop, “as is” conveyed an item with damage or brokenness of some sort. “As is” marked the clock that had stopped ticking, or the rocking horse that had a crack in one of its legs. Because I knew my mother as one who could fix almost anything, the label also conveyed to me a certain sense of defeat. Whatever the item, it was a lost cause—a treasure bearing some distinguishable, irreparable flaw.
In different ways and in varying degrees throughout our lives, many of us feel something like the object marked “as is,” or the treasure with only a matter of time before something goes awry. With a sense of defeat, we view our lives through the lens of what is broken or has been broken, what is irreparable or what might break. Looking ahead, we see the broken down trailer behind us, which seems to declare emphatically our status “as is.”
Anytime I am having difficulty trusting God, I remember things He has done for me in the past and I am reassured that He will do it again.
I have kept journals for forty years, and I ran across one recently from the 1970s, when I asked God to provide me with a dozen new dishtowels. Dave and I had no money to purchase them, and since I was just beginning my journey of trusting God, I approached Him as a little child and asked for them.
Imagine my elation when a few weeks later, a woman I was barely acquainted with showed up at my door and said, “I hope you don’t think I’m crazy, but I kept feeling that God wanted me to bring you some new dishtowels!” I got so excited that she was shocked until I explained to her that I had asked God to provide them. That is one of my vivid experiences with the faithfulness of God, and there have been many others through the years.
In the Bible, we read that when David needed to kill the giant, Goliath, and everyone was discouraging him and telling him that he would fail, he remembered the lion and the bear that he had previously killed with God’s faithful help. His faith was strengthened and he went on to slay Goliath. (See 1 Samuel 17:34-36.)
I want to encourage you to take time, perhaps even right now, to make a list of some of the times you have experienced God’s faithfulness in your own life. I can assure you that it will feed your faith and enable you to trust God more easily for the current needs in your life.
“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, KJV).
Jesus had a flashpoint against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They professed to be something they were not. Externally they did everything right, adhering meticulously to all the details of the law, yet He referred to them as being “whitewashed tombs” internally, and being “full of dead men’s bones.” Thus, obviously, the “pure in heart” did not apply to the Pharisees, according to His view of them.
In John 14:21, Jesus says, “The one who obeys Me is the one who loves Me and because he loves Me My Father will love him and I will too and I will reveal Myself to him.” That is another way of saying what He said in the verse in Matthew above. The pure in heart shall see God because He will reveal Himself to those who obey, and only the pure in heart obey.
If God seems impersonal to you, far off and unreachable, you may want to look into the mirror of your heart to see if anything there would grieve or quench the Spirit, short- circuiting His communication with you.
You may be sure of this promise of God: The pure in heart will experience the reality of His presence within.
If for some reason this is not your experience, God has made provision whereby you can have vital fellowship with Him. Breathe spiritually. Exhale by confessing yours sins, and inhale by appropriating the fullness of God’s Spirit. Begin to delight yourself in the Lord and in His Word, asking God to give you a pure heart, and you may be assured that God will become a reality to you.
Bible Reading: Psalm 18:20-26
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Because I desire to have a close personal relationship with God and to live a supernatural life, I will keep my heart pure before Him.
Many years ago I spent a week visiting the interior of Brazil with a longtime missionary pilot. Let me just say, Wilbur and Orville had a sturdier aircraft! I could not get comfortable. I kept thinking the plane was going to crash in the jungle and I’d be gobbled up by piranhas. I kept shifting around, looking down and gripping my seat—as if that would help. Finally the pilot had enough of my squirming. He looked over at me and shouted over the airplane noise, “We won’t face anything that I can’t handle. You might as well trust me to fly the plane.”
Is God saying the same to you? Examine the truths which sustain your belief in God. Make sure one of them is etched with the words “My God is sovereign!” Then, be anxious for nothing!
Read more Anxious for Nothing
Amy Coney Barrett is a law professor at Notre Dame. She also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Now she has been nominated by President Trump to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Here’s the problem: she’s a Catholic.
Barrett is the mother of seven, including a special needs child and two children adopted from Haiti. She is also a very public Christian. She told the 2006 Notre Dame Law School graduating class, “If you can keep in mind that your fundamental purpose in life is not to be a lawyer, but to know, love, and serve God, you truly will be a different kind of lawyer.”
She has also written that Catholic judges should not impose their faith on others. In rare cases, they should recuse themselves when their religious conscience prevents them from applying relevant law.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein wasn’t satisfied, protesting during Barrett’s confirmation hearing that “dogma lives loudly within you.” Sen. Al Franken compared her speech before a religious freedom organization to giving a speech to Pol Pot, the genocidal Cambodian dictator. Sen. Dick Durbin asked her, “Do you consider yourself an ‘orthodox Catholic’?”