Doctors recommend regular checkups to make sure our bodies are functioning properly. Though we might not even realize something is wrong, an undetected problem could potentially cause serious health issues. The same is true of our relationship with the heavenly Father. He desires that we seek His truth daily, allowing Him to shed light on anything that hinders our walk.
And, just as some people are nervous about seeing their physician, we might feel fearful of inviting the Holy Spirit to examine our life. It can be frightening to realize the truth about our sin and see ourselves as we actually are. What’s more, knowing that God will require our repentance and obedience may also cause us discomfort.
But the rewards are great. First, our Father removes any spiritual obstacles that impede a close walk with Him. Second, we gain greater intimacy with the Lord and with others. Third, as resentment, fear, and other ungodly attitudes stop draining us, our energy is renewed and serving God becomes a joy instead of a duty. Fourth, regardless of circumstances, we experience spiritual freedom through forgiveness. All of these benefits lead to deeper fulfillment, peace, and joy.
Maturity is a lifelong process. The heavenly Father will continue to grow His children until He brings them home. Seek the Lord’s wisdom and truth, and ask that He reveal anything holding you back from a beautiful friendship with Him. He wants to walk closely with you all of your days—and for all of eternity.
Bible in One Year: 2 Corinthians 5-8
Read: Micah 5:2–4
Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 45–46; 1 John 2
Bethlehem . . . out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.—Micah 5:2
“How much longer until it’s Christmas?” When my children were little, they asked this question repeatedly. Although we used a daily Advent calendar to count down the days to Christmas, they still found the waiting excruciating.
We can easily recognize a child’s struggle with waiting, but we might underestimate the challenge it can involve for all of God’s people. Consider, for instance, those who received the message of the prophet Micah, who promised that out of Bethlehem would come a “ruler over Israel” (5:2) who would “stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD” (v. 4). The initial fulfillment of this prophecy came when Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1) —after the people had waited some 700 years. But some of the prophecy’s fulfillment is yet to come. For we wait in hope for the return of Jesus, when all of God’s people will “live securely” and “his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth” (Mic. 5:4). Then we will rejoice greatly, for our long wait will be over.
Most of us don’t find waiting easy, but we can trust that God will honor His promises to be with us as we wait (Matt. 28:20). For when Jesus was born in little Bethlehem, He ushered in life in all its fullness (see John 10:10)—life without condemnation. We enjoy His presence with us today while we eagerly wait for His return. —Amy Boucher Pye
We wait, Father God, and we hope. We wait, dear Jesus, as we long for peace to break out. We wait, comforting Spirit, for all the world to experience Your love.
We wait for God’s promises, believing they will come true.
INSIGHT: Christ’s second coming is also the theme of several New Testament passages. As Christ ascended into heaven, the angels told His disciples that Christ “will come back in the same way” they saw Him go (Acts 1:11). Jesus said His return would be unannounced and could occur at any moment; therefore, we are to “Be on guard! Be alert!” (Mark 13:33-37). The early Christians believed that Jesus’s return was “almost here” (Rom. 13:11-14). The apostle James encouraged believers to “be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8; see also Rev. 1:3). The anticipation that Jesus could come any moment led some Christians in Thessalonica to become idle, quitting their jobs and waiting for Him to return. But Paul told them to get back to work and live meaningful lives (2 Thess. 3:11-13).
“While we [patiently] wait for the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)—that wonderful day of Jesus’s return—we can ask the Spirit to help us to live “holy and godly lives . . . spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:11, 14).
In what ways can you enjoy God’s presence today as you wait for Jesus’s return? Sim Kay Tee
Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31
Think the best of others because this is what you expect them to think of you. Give them the same benefit of the doubt you desire. Believe that they have your best interests in mind. The temptation is to default to cynicism and be suspect of their motives, but leave this to God. We cannot judge a man or woman’s heart. One role of the Holy Spirit is to convict and lead others to a higher level of Christian maturity.
Our role is to trust the good will of those God has placed in our lives. It is especially important to think the best of those closest to us. Husbands, think the best of your wives. Wives, think the best of your husbands. If they love God, they want His very best for your life. Their questions are not meant to be critical, but to bring clarity, connection, and accountability. Pride resists this level of trust and maturity.
Pride does not want to think the best of others. Pride would rather gut it out on its own and not have to listen to the loving counsel of those who care. This is especially tempting to teenagers growing into young adults. They want to figure things out on their own, and not be told what to do. But wise is the young person who will think the best of the authorities in their life. Their mom and dad who love Jesus are full of good will. They want God’s very best for their own flesh and blood. Your parents do not want to control you; they want to support you. There is a huge difference. Support means they trust you and they entrust you to God. They think the best of you and believe you will make the wisest decision. Your parents pray for you and care for you. Their intentions are pure and without wrong intent. Listen to them. Your parents are one of God’s means to His best.
Lastly, think the best of others because God does. When God looks at His children, He sees Christ. He doesn’t look at them as sinners stuck on themselves. The Lord looks at His followers as full of potential for Him. They are still rough around the edges in sin, and the world does roughen them up at times, but beyond the fear and the sorrow are hearts that want to move forward with their heavenly Father. He reaches out to His children and offers opportunities. He thinks the best of us because we are His. You can’t get any thicker than the blood of Jesus Christ.
Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].— 1 Thessalonians 5:18
The Bible encourages us to always be thankful. That’s easy when God answers prayer and delivers us from problems. But it isn’t always easy when things go wrong. So how can we remain thankful in the midst of suffering?
We have two choices to make. The first is to praise God in spite of what’s going on in our lives. Or another way to say it is, in the midst of our troubles and hardships, we can rejoice about God’s constant love and faithfulness to us and rejoice over the things that are not wrong in our lives.
The second choice is to ask, “God, what can I learn from this? What do You want to teach me through this so that I may be closer to You and rejoice more fully in Your goodness?” Those are not easy questions, and the answers are often hard to hear.
Sometimes we can only grasp the important lessons in our lives when we go through difficult times. Thank God that the hard times will lead you to better things.
In the midst of suffering, give thanks to God and trust Him to lead you to bigger and better things.
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2, KJV).
Sam was very impatient with himself. Though he was a new Christian, he could not understand why he was not as spiritual as some of the other students who had walked with the Lord for several years.
I explained to him the Christian life, like physical life, involves a process of growth. A person begins as a baby and goes through various stages of childhood, adolescence and young adulthood to reach Christian maturity. Very few, if any, Christians, I explained to him, become spiritually mature overnight.
Lane Adams, a beloved colleague, gifted teacher, preacher and author, said, “I shrink inside when I think of the times I have mounted the pulpit, recited the conversion experience of the apostle Paul, and then indicated that he went out and turned the world upside down for Jesus Christ immediately.”
He continued, “This simply was not the case. There is a difference of opinion among scholars concerning New Testament dating, but it seems rather plain that many years went by before the Holy Spirit laid the dramatic burden on Paul as a missionary of the cross.”
If you strongly desire to serve the Lord in some particular way, such as teaching, ask the Holy Spirit in faith to empower you to become an effective teacher. Now, it may be that the Holy Spirit will see fit to make you a great teacher overnight, but this is most unlikely. So if it does not happen, do not be discouraged. Have faith!
Continue to ask and believe that the Holy Spirit will make you an effective teacher of the Word of God and be willing to work hardand long to develop your natural ability. The Bible reminds us that “faith without works is useless.”
If we are unique members of the Body of Christ, and we are, if we possess special tasks to accomplish, and we do, then the Holy Spirit will empower us to carry out those tasks. God does indeed have a plan for each of our lives. And He gives us the direction and power of His Holy Spirit to accomplish that plan as we continue to trust and obey Him.
Bible Reading: 2 Peter 3:14-18
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Recognizing that I am in the process of maturing spiritually, I shall seek to accelerate my spiritual growth by hiding the Word of God in my heart, spending time in prayer, walking in the Spirit and sharing my faith in Christ with others as a way of life.
Read: Revelation 21:1-8
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (v. 5)
Sadar was born blind in the country of Nepal. In developing countries, blindness can be an especially devastating impairment, since fewer resources and opportunities are available for disabled people. Unable to read, Sadar started to listen to radio programs from Words of Hope’s Nepali partner. Eventually, Sadar decided to call the producer because he wanted to learn more about Christ. Words of Hope’s Nepali radio producer, Joshua, says, “Conversations with Sadar made me realize that he was really looking forward to seeing a world created by God. He had a quest in his heart for God, and the eyes of his heart could sense the true beauty of God and his creation.”
New life comes in many forms. Sometimes it means the end of a long-standing conflict or troubling health problem. Sometimes it means gaining freedom from an addiction or mental illness. But often, it is a new way of seeing, a shift in the way we experience the same difficult things in our lives. Sadar’s blindness has not ended. His hope has not come from that kind of change in his life. Rather, Sadar hopes for the newness that God can bring. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John describes a new heaven and a new earth. It’s not fully here yet, but it is the kingdom of God that we all long to see. —Christy Prins, WOH staff
Prayer: Lord, we hope for the new kingdom that you are making.
Imagine the opening scene of a movie that starts with a view of Earth from outer space and then moves downward, telescoping towards a particular continent, country, city, neighborhood, and then one particular house. This is the progression of Genesis, from the grandeur of “the heavens and earth” (Genesis 1) to the specific scene in the Garden of Eden in today’s passage.
As we focus on Genesis 2, Scripture presents Eden as the special place of God’s presence and blessing. This was the place where He dwelled on Earth.
Within Eden, the abundant blessings of God were available. There were “all kinds of trees grow[ing] out of the ground” (v. 9) and a life-giving river flowing from the garden. Outside its boundaries was a land full of gold and other precious resources.
Into this garden, God placed an image of Himself—humanity—and commanded mankind “to work it and take care of it” (v. 15). Interestingly, the instructions “to work and take care” are also used in priestly contexts later in Scripture. For example, Aaron and the Levites were told to “take care of the sanctuary and altar” and “work at the tent of meeting” (Num. 18:5–6).
Like the Ark of the Covenant, which resided in the midst of the temple and those who touched it suffered death (see 2 Sam. 6:7), so in the middle of the garden was “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (v. 9). Those who ate of its fruit were subject to death (v. 17).
God’s creation was complete, Eden was established, and His image was set in its midst. Unfortunately, not all would remain well for long.
APPLY THE WORD
As you pray, sing, and offer your heart to God, recall that Scripture links worship with our task as God’s image-bearers in the world (v. 15). In response, dedicate your worship this morning to the glory of God, and ask Him for the wisdom and strength to take that spirit of image-bearing worship with you into your daily activities of the week.