Does your faith shrivel when you encounter trouble? Perhaps you prayed about a situation and expected God to act according to your desires, but He didn’t. Though you were hoping for a smooth path, He gave you one with bumps, twists, and turns, which left you wondering where He was. He promised to care for you, but instead you felt deserted.
These are situations that test our faith, and they are common to all believers. Abraham, a man with great faith followed God’s instructions to leave home and travel to Canaan. You’d expect the Lord to honor such bold obedience with blessings, but it wasn’t long before Abraham faced another faith challenge—a famine. This time, his trust faltered. Instead of believing God would provide, he fled to Egypt and made more foolish and costly decisions.
The next time you’re tempted to think that God has let you down, remember that trouble is one of the means He uses to strengthen your belief in Him. When circumstances seem to indicate He doesn’t care, stand firmly on the truths of Scripture and fix your eyes on the Lord, who is always faithful.
In February 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis was just beginning, a newspaper columnist’s concerns struck me. Would we willingly self-isolate, she wondered, changing our work, travel, and shopping habits so others wouldn’t get sick? “This isn’t just a test of clinical resources,” she wrote, “but of our willingness to put ourselves out for others.” Suddenly, the need for virtue was front-page news.
It can be hard to consider others’ needs while we’re anxious about our own. Thankfully, we’re not left with willpower alone to meet the need. We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us love to replace our indifference, joy to counter sadness, peace to replace our anxiety, forbearance (patience) to push out our impulsiveness, kindness to care about others, goodness to see to their needs, faithfulness to keep our promises, gentleness instead of harshness, and self-control to lift us beyond self-centeredness (Galatians 5:22–23). While we won’t be perfect at all of this, we’re called to seek the Spirit’s gifts of virtue regularly (Ephesians 5:18).
Author Richard Foster once described holiness as the ability to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. And such holiness is needed every day, not just in a pandemic. Do we have the capacity to make sacrifices for the sake of others? Holy Spirit, fill us with the power to do what needs to be done.
“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7).
God’s Word imparts wisdom and knowledge beyond the realm of mere human understanding.
David’s characterization of God’s Word as “the testimony of the Lord” (Ps. 19:7) speaks of its role as God’s witness to who He is and what He requires of us. In addition, it’s a “sure” witness. That means it’s unwavering, immovable, unmistakable, reliable, and trustworthy.
Peter made the same point when, after recounting his incredible experience with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Pet. 1:16-18), he said, “but we have a testimony more sure than that—the prophetic word” (v. 19, literal translation). The testimony of God’s written Word is a surer and more convincing confirmation of God’s truth than even apostolic experiences with Christ Himself!
Perhaps that’s why our Lord prevented the two disciples on the Emmaus Road from recognizing Him as He gave them a biblical basis for the things they had seen and heard (Luke 24:27). Their faith and preaching were to be based on Scripture, not merely on their own personal experiences—no matter how profound or moving those experiences may have been.
The benefit of God’s sure Word is that it makes the simple wise (Ps. 19:7). It takes undiscerning, ignorant, and gullible people and teaches them profound truth from God that they can apply to their lives. As they do, they become skilled in the art of godly living.
That was the psalmist’s joy when he wrote, “Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Thy precepts” (Ps. 119:98-100).
Applying that principle to New Testament believers, Paul prayed that we would be “filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). As that occurs, we’re enabled to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and please Him in every respect (v. 10). That’s the outworking of godly wisdom, and the key to holy living.
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that God’s wisdom will increase and abound in your life today and every day.
For Further Study
Read Luke 24:13-35, noting how Jesus ministered the Word to the disciples on the Emmaus Road.
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
— Matthew 6:27 (AMPC)
We often tell people not to worry, and when we are worried, they tell us the same thing. But not worrying about a problem we cannot solve is not easy. I’ve been teaching people not to worry for many years, and I have finally realized that the only way they will ever stop worrying is to fully realize that worry does absolutely no good.
Worry makes people do some things that can be very detrimental. It makes people anxious and nervous, and it causes us to be tense and often difficult to get along with. It can even cause a variety of health problems, some of which can be serious. Worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair all day—it keeps you busy but gets you nowhere.
I also think we must realize that we cannot change our situation, but God can. Let us use the energy we spend worrying to trust God and wait on Him because what is impossible with human beings is possible with God (Luke 18:27).
Prayer Starter: Father, I don’t want to waste my time worrying, because I know it doesn’t do any good. Help me release my concerns to You so You can take care of me. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Are you mourning, believer, because your spiritual life is so weak, because your faith is so small, your love so feeble?
Cheer up because you have reason to be grateful. Remember that in some things you are equal to the greatest and most mature Christian.
You are as much purchased with blood as he is.
You are just as much an adopted child of God as any other believer. An infant is as truly a child of its parents as is the full-grown man. You are as completely justified, for your justification is not a matter of degree: Your little faith has made you clean every bit.
You have as much right to the precious things of the covenant as the most advanced believers, for your right to covenant mercies does not lie in your growth but in the covenant itself; and your faith in Jesus is not the measure but the token of your inheritance in Him.
You are as rich as the richest—if not in enjoyment, yet in real possession. The smallest star that gleams is set in heaven; the faintest ray of light has affinity with the sun. In the family register of heaven, the small and the great are written with the same pen.
You are as dear to your Father’s heart as the greatest in the family. Jesus is very tender toward you.
You are like the faintly burning wick; a rougher spirit would say, “Put out that useless flame; it fills the room with an offensive odor!” But the feeble wick He will not quench. You are like a bruised reed, and any less tender hand than that of the Chief Musician would tread upon you or throw you away; but He will never break the bruised reed. So instead of being downcast by reason of what you are, you should rejoice in Christ. Am I but small and feeble in the vast company of believers? Yet in Christ I am made to sit in heavenly places. Am I poor in faith? Yet in Jesus I am heir of all things. I do not need to boast or elevate myself; even as an infant in Christ I will rejoice in the Lord and glory in the God of my salvation.
Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.
“And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: For the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.” (Joshua 2:11-13)
Rahab was a sinner saved by God’s grace. She had been a godless woman living in a godless city, Jericho. One day, two spies from the children of Israel came to see Rahab’s city, because their leader Joshua had told them to. God was going to help the children of Israel fight and take over the whole city of Jericho.
Of all the houses the spies could have visited, they visited Rahab’s. Rahab had a bad reputation. She had done many bad things, and she was a low woman in her city. But Rahab took the spies in and protected them from the leaders of Jericho who came searching for them. She helped the spies, showing them kindness, and gave them guidance for how to escape. Do you know why?
All the people of Jericho had heard about the children of Israel and what their God had done for them. They had heard about how God opened up a dry path through the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross in safety, and then how the Egyptian army was drowned when they followed them and God brought down the waters on them. The people of Jericho had also heard about how God fought with the Israelites. And the people of Jericho were scared that they would be next.
Was Rahab like the rest of her people? Was she scared of the children of Israel and their God? Yes! So why did she show kindness to Israelite spies? Rahab was not just scared of God. She believed in Him. She believed that the God of the Israelites was the one true God, everywhere and over all.
Rahab believed God, and she feared Him. But in spite of her fear, she had the faith to ask for goodness and mercy and deliverance from death. Based on what she knew of the Israelites’ God, based on all that He had already done, she asked for mercy for herself and her family. The Israelite spies agreed. They promised that when they came to take over Jericho, they would protect anyone who was in her house.
Even though Rahab knew she was a sinner who did not deserve mercy, she asked for help from the only ones who could help her. She was not asking for mercy based on all the things that she had already done. How could she? But she knew enough about God and all the things He had done. She could ask for mercy, in spite of herself and in spite of her fear, because she trusted that He was the kind of God Who shows mercy to people who turn to Him.
God is the kind of God Who shows mercy to undeserving people who call upon Him for help.
My Response: » Am I trusting in the God of the Bible, or in myself? » On what basis can I hope to have mercy from God – based on my own good deeds? based on how well I pray? » How can I show by my actions that my faith is placed in the one true God?
To that end, Bishop Claude Alexander and Dr. Mac Pier unpack this topic around two primary beliefs.
The first focuses on Micah 6:8 and the Lord’s call “to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God.” The second stems from the first: “that the process of addressing the tensions and the realities underlying them requires awareness, ownership, and agency.”
As Alexander and Pier go on to explain, the justice, mercy, and humility with which we are called to live necessitate viewing the racial and societal injustice around us as problems over which we must take ownership and action, regardless of whether we had a hand in creating those problems.
Through exposition of passages like Esther, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and others, the authors demonstrate the biblical mandate to join the Lord in addressing these issues while providing examples of the God-sized impact that various organizations and people have had on their communities by doing just that.
Why Christians should read Required
Required offers Christians clear insights into God’s heart for his people to actively engage with the racial division that continues to place a ceiling on the impact that his church can have on our culture.
Alexander and Pier offer encouraging examples of Christians that have transformed their corner of society for the kingdom by responding positively to the Lord’s call and creatively looking for ways to be a blessing to those harmed by injustice. And they do so in such a way as to make clear that God has called and equipped each of us to do likewise.
The big takeaway
In Required, Alexander and Pier manage to leave readers both convicted and encouraged.
If you will engage with this book, taking time over the course of its chapters to prayerfully ask God to open your heart to the difficult truths revealed throughout, you will finish with a better understanding of the problems we face and God’s power to work through his people to redeem them for his glory and the kingdom’s advancement.
To truly experience that redemption and play a part in that advancement, however, you must be willing to do the uncomfortable work of engaging with these issues in a real and personal way.
The church is filled with well-intentioned believers who look at the racial injustices around us with lament, but far too few who decide to become part of the solution. An honest and vulnerable reading of Required will make the need to take that latter step unmistakably clear.
In their words
Consider these three choice quotes from Required:
“Our lives with God empower and inform our lives with others. It is what God requires for life with him that sets a conduit for what is necessary to do life with one another.”
“Whenever we speak of responsibility over the history of race and the continued existence of racism, some people will say, ‘Racism isn’t my fault. I’m not racist. I have friends of color.’ I respond that it isn’t my fault either. It is neither of our faults, but it is something that exists for which God calls us to own and change. None of us chose the race to which we were born. God assigned and designed it to us. With its conferral came blessings and burdens that we inherit. Thus, while the existence of racism, prejudice, and bigotry is not our fault, it is our problem. We all must own it as our problem. While we may not bear responsibility for its commencement, we do have responsibility in its continuance.”
“Cultures don’t change by merely posting things on the internet, making great declarations that everyone should follow, or getting angry about what’s not right. Cultures change one person at a time; it happens when others see you and me doing good, speaking differently, acting differently, and refusing to allow a political party, a news outlet, or the internet to define our views. Our good works and good words will be noticed. In time, they will follow our example. Good is more powerful than evil. So we need not wait for some messiah figure to make racism go away tomorrow. The Messiah has already come; we just need to follow Him, and the time is now!”