The Importance of Right Motives 1 Samuel 17:20-40
David found King Saul’s hefty reward for Goliath’s defeat interesting—in fact, he asked to have it repeated twice (vv. 26, 30). Money, freedom, and a pretty girl would make almost any teenage boy take notice! However, though David was young, he was not foolhardy. The reward was a nice perk, but it wasn’t the young shepherd’s motivation.
David’s reason for standing against Goliath was to serve the Lord. The boy openly expressed his disdain for the giant: “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” (1 Sam. 17:26). Challenging the chosen nation, Israel, was the same as defying the Lord Himself. David was prepared to defend Yahweh’s holy name and His people, even against this fearsome warrior. A right and holy motive gives a person confidence to obey God, even if doing so defies human wisdom.
It is possible for believers to seek victory over life’s Goliaths with wrong motives. A lot of reasons that sound good are actually selfish. I’m tired of being in this mess. Or Lord, I can’t run away, so You’ll have to remove this problem. Some people try to bargain their way out of tight spots: If I had more money, then I’d give more to the church. Those promises are rarely fulfilled.
The right motive for facing a problem is a desire to follow, serve, and honor God, no matter what. Life’s Goliaths do not just tax our comfort or wellbeing; these challenges can impede our obedient walk with the Lord. He will give victory to those who stand strong in His name.
Defeating Our Goliaths 1 Samuel 17:45-47
Life’s Goliaths come in all shapes, sizes, and intensities: an unhappy relationship, a difficult job, a rebellious child, a pile of debt, an uncontrollable habit, etc. David faced what appeared to be an insurmountable problem. Like Him, we can gain victory through God’s power, though we may “suffer and bleed” on the battlefield.
Notice that David declared victory over Goliath before the battle even began (1 Sam. 17:46). The shepherd’s confidence was rooted in his past experiences. David credited God with protecting and strengthening him when he killed the lion and bear that had threatened his flock.
Furthermore, David believed he would triumph because he was God’s servant. The boy had spent hours alone in the wilderness listening to God’s quiet voice. Even a giant’s discouraging shout could not shake his convictions about who the Lord was and what He could do through His servant.
David had practical faith habits. He spent time with God, which yielded a strong relationship. In turn, he responded to a problem with the certainty that he was a beloved child of God with full access to his Father’s storehouses of power, courage, and wisdom. If David had a moment of doubt, he could recall his own poetic words about the Lord’s great faithfulness in past troubles.
I often encourage you to practice David’s faith habits. Spend time alone with the Lord, and keep a record of His work in your life. Then you can be confident that God is sufficient, no matter how big a problem looms. He gives victory to those who stand in faith and confront their Goliaths.
A Special Purpose Psalm 150
The Lord has made us a special people in order that we may fulfill a special purpose. Isaiah 43:21 says, “The people I formed for Myself will declare My praise.” An integral part of worshiping the Lord is proclaiming His greatness.
To praise our Father is to applaud Him for who He is and what He has done. This involves the release of our emotions, which frees us to express unrestrained adoration of the Lord. When someone loves another person, the most natural response is to speak highly about the cherished one. In the same way, those who love Christ find that praise comes easily to their lips.
Praising the Lord is good for us. In our self-centered society, people are primarily interested in getting their own needs met. Sadly, this same attitude has infiltrated some churches. But God doesn’t want us to come to church concerned only about ourselves. Praise lifts our eyes to Christ and fills our hearts with the contentment that eludes us when we focus exclusively on personal needs and problems.
Although praise and worship are usually associated with church services, they ought to characterize us wherever we are. Some of the most intimate and precious experiences of worship can happen during times spent alone with God.
If you find that your praise lacks vitality, tell the Lord you want to learn to extol Him with your whole heart. The focus of worship is the key. Remember how God has cared for you, and look for daily evidence of His hand on your life. Then tell Him how great He is.
Special People 1 Peter 2:9-10
Whenever feelings of low self-worth threaten us with discouragement, we need to rely on the truth of God’s Word rather than our emotions. Today we are going to examine four phrases that describe how the Lord sees every believer.
- A Chosen Race. God chose you and me to be part of His kingdom and family because He wanted us. No one who has been specially selected by almighty God is insignificant.
- A Royal Priesthood. As believers, we are children of God and, therefore, part of a royal family. In other words, we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Just as Jesus fulfilled the roles of both king and priest, so God has also entrusted us with priestly responsibilities of worship and intercession for others.
- A Holy Nation. The church—or body of Christ—is a group of people who are holy, which means “set apart” for the purposes of God. Our lives are never meaningless, because living for the Lord is the greatest purpose one can have.
- A People for God’s Own Possession. You and I are the personal possessions of God (Deut. 14:2; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9). He so values each of us that He sent His Son to die in our place in order that we could be His.
Each of these descriptions shows the high value God places on you. Satan may whisper lies of condemnation and criticism, but he can’t change who you really are. Begin today to demonstrate the truth of Scripture by remembering your real identity and living out your high calling from the Lord.
God Has Time for You Mark 10:46-52
Because time is such a precious commodity in our fast-paced culture, it is also a tremendously valuable gift we can give someone else. Jesus was the ultimate model of balanced time management. He demonstrated His love for mankind by being available.
Did you ever notice that there are no biblical accounts of our Lord hurrying? You will never come across a verse saying that He “ran to Bethany” or “rushed back to Galilee.” Wherever the Savior went, He was sensitive to the needs of the people around Him and reached out in love to help. He wasn’t so busy that He could not be interrupted.
Right before He went to the cross to accomplish the most important work of His life, Jesus stopped to help a poor blind beggar, who was a nobody in the eyes of society. Although the redemption of mankind was vitally important, the Lord cared enough about the suffering of one lowly individual to stop and do what He could to relieve the man’s suffering.
If the Lord allowed Himself to be interrupted on the way to the cross, will He not also stop and listen when you call out to Him in your distress? He is never too busy governing the universe to hear His beloved child’s cry for help.
In order to follow in Christ’s footsteps, we have to ask ourselves, Am I willing to be interrupted? We are stewards of all God gives us, including our time. Consider this precious commodity a resource to be used when reaching out in love as Christ did. Give someone your time today.
The Source of Our Strength Ephesians 6:10-12
People can have very different reactions to similar circumstances. For instance, suppose two women from the same church are battling cancer—let’s call them Jean and Barbara. Both are believers, but only Jean is living peacefully, even joyfully, through her ordeal—she long ago admitted her weakness and need for the Lord’s intervention. While Barbara prays for God to “help me get through this,” Jean says, “God, I cannot. Please carry me through.”
Jean knows that Jesus Christ is the source of her strength, but Barbara is relying mostly upon herself. Everyone has a certain amount of fortitude, but that human capacity can carry a person only so far. Some situations will sap every drop of energy we have and still demand more. Through the Holy Spirit, believers can access an endless well of supernatural power to triumph in any trial.
However, the second woman is not receiving the same infusion of the Spirit’s power as Jean. Barbara wants help—which is why she desperately calls out to the Lord—but refuses to admit that she cannot face cancer alone. In truth, we all dislike acknowledging that we are weak. Human pride is a potent force that must be uprooted before we can be filled with the Spirit’s power.
Our weakness frees God to make His greatest triumphs. His power is loosed when His children admit they are not in control and can do nothing to help themselves. Only then do we find the energy, courage, and peace we need to go on living for His glory.
A Time to Suffer James 1:1-4
Yesterday’s devotion noted that Joseph suffered 13 years before he was pulled from adversity. God could have fixed that mess more quickly or, better yet, prevented Joseph from enduring it at all. But can you imagine a 17-year-old boy skipping into Egypt and sitting down at Pharaoh’s right hand? Certainly the Lord’s power could make such an unlikely event happen. But would a slightly arrogant, ignorant Hebrew teenager make a good leader? Not until God made him into one.
Our suffering lasts only as long as necessary for God to accomplish His purpose. He is interested in equipping servants and molding followers rather than in providing carefree lives. Yet the Father deeply loves His children—that’s why He shares in their hurts and limits the hardship so it doesn’t extend one moment beyond its usefulness.
Adversity is God’s sharpest and strongest tool for re-forming believers to Christ’s image, but He will not force change. The Lord molds His children in proportion to their willingness to be shaped for divinely appointed work. We can refuse to submit to His craftsmanship, but rebellion only prolongs the pain. The wise approach is to say, “God, I do not understand why You have allowed this hardship, but I am willing to follow You through it.”
The faithful child of God emerges from trials prepared and equipped to serve God. This is the believer who values obedience and prioritizes prayer and Bible study long before adversity comes. When the going gets tough, he knows that the Holy Spirit’s power is sufficient to carry him through.
The Dark Moments in Our Life Acts 14:21-22
If you want a meaningful life, you will at times travel the road of adversity. However, every hardship in your path has a specific purpose. Our Father allows pain and trials into His good plan for our life (Rom. 8:28).
When we are facing dark times, the first word that comes to mind is usually Why? God welcomes our questions but challenges us to obey Him, even when we don’t get answers (Prov. 3:5-6). In fact, we may have to wait months or years before knowing the purpose behind a trial. Sometimes the answers don’t come at all in this lifetime.
Joseph spent 13 harsh, dark years in Egypt. He faced betrayal, separation from loved ones, and culture shock followed by slavery, false accusations, and prison time. His only evidence of a sovereign, loving God was that he consistently prospered, even during times of trouble.
Everything Joseph endured prepared him for a job as Egypt’s prime minister. While still a boy, he learned the language, culture, and mindset of a foreign nation. Moreover, the man who emerged from hardship was the Lord’s disciplined, faithful servant. In the end, Joseph was positioned to save more than a country; he rescued God’s chosen people—the family tree of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Living in the center of the Lord’s love doesn’t guarantee an easy, pain-free life. In fact, the opposite is true. God loves believers so much that He conforms each one to His Son’s likeness through any means necessary. In His expert hand, we become servants whose victories and trials glorify Him.
Praying on Our Knees Hebrews 4:16
I remember the conflict that arose many years ago when I was being considered for the position of senior pastor. Every Sunday when I preached, I knew that a number of people in the sanctuary objected and were trying to get rid of me. It was not easy. Perhaps you have a difficult home life, work relationship, or school situation in which people are reacting negatively to you.
The way to handle life’s troubles is discovered on our knees. Our heavenly Father waits for us to approach His throne through prayer, gain His divine perspective, and receive instruction on how to proceed. In my prayer time, a battle was taking place between what I wanted—avoiding this conflict—and what the Lord had planned for me—to move forward in faith. Eventually, my mind agreed to God’s course, and I experienced His peace.
When we humbly seek the Lord through prayer, we invite Him to take the lead in our situation and accomplish His plan. He may direct us in ways that surprise us, but they will be for our good and His glory. In my case, God instructed me not to argue or defend myself. My part was to pray. It was hard to be silent, but I trusted Him, followed His lead, and watched Him resolve the situation.
Praying on our knees reminds us that God is the Master and we are His servants. He knows all things, while our perspective is narrow. He is also all-powerful—He can penetrate hard hearts and closed minds. We cannot. Let’s make prayer a regular part of our day and watch what happens.
The Reach of God’s Love Acts 9:1-31
Do you know someone with a hostile attitude toward God? It probably seems impossible that such a person could ever be saved. But no one is beyond the reach of our loving heavenly Father.
Saul of Tarsus, also known as Paul, is a perfect example. He was a Pharisee who persecuted Christians. In fact, he approved of stoning Stephen to death for his faith in Christ (Acts 8:1). Paul’s hatred for believers derived from his ignorance of grace and sin. According to the law, he was as close to blameless as was humanly possible. Isn’t it hard to imagine a person like this realizing his need for a Savior?
Saul was intent upon ridding the world of Christ-followers. But the Lord had other plans. When blinded by light and confronted with his wrong actions, Saul responded to Jesus, repented, and believed. For the rest of his life, the apostle was committed to spreading the gospel.
Our almighty God can reach anyone. Salvation is possible only when He convicts an individual of his or her sin and the need for redemption. The Lord’s intervening hand, however, does not stop once a person is saved. He continues to reveal areas of sin that need attention. Then He empowers the believer, giving strength and guidance through the sanctification process.
Conviction is usually uncomfortable. Often, we go to church, hoping to be uplifted by the pastor and to leave feeling good. While encouragement, peace, and joy are vital aspects of the Christian life, refinement is also necessary. It is the testimony of Christ’s hand in our life, molding us to be like Him.
Childlike Faith Mark 10:13-16
On our own, we are unable to choose salvation. God’s Spirit must first convict us of our spiritual need. Specifically, He nudges—that is, He almost places a discomfort within our hearts—and reveals sin. This imperfection in our lives creates the need for a Savior to redeem us.
Do you ever wonder, then, how young children can be saved? Can they truly grasp the depth of their sin and their need for redemption? In most cases, probably not. Yet both my son and daughter genuinely received Jesus at the tender age of five.
Thankfully, almighty God is a gentle Father who meets us right where we are. Preschoolers can understand the basics of right and wrong—and the difference between obedience and defiance. The Lord can place within a young heart the desire to obey and follow Christ. Then, as that little one learns at home or church, God gives him a yearning and sense of need for Jesus. It is a simple longing without the deep, more complex understanding of an adult.
In many ways, however, the unencumbered faith that children have is what He desires of us, but with more understanding and gratitude, of course. What a gift! If we were expected to understand spiritual matters in great depth prior to salvation, none of us would qualify for the gift.
The lifelong process of spiritual maturation begins the moment a person is saved. Prayer and Scripture are essential, as is the role of other Christians. Each of us should be teaching those less mature—especially children—about Jesus. God uses believers to reveal young ones’ need for the Savior.
Our Financial Security Matthew 25:14-28
Feeling safe is one of our basic human needs. Many people think they are financially secure until a little blip comes along in the economy or in their personal circumstances. Then the reality that they are vulnerable hits home. Contrary to what the world says, financial security is found not in a bank account or a retirement fund but in a relationship with the One who owns everything in heaven and on earth.
The Lord is not too busy running the universe to be concerned about your financial situation. The truth is, He cares about every detail of your life, including your need for economic security. By heeding His directions about how to acquire and use money, you can experience peace, contentment, and joy.
When it comes to finances, three basic truths should govern our thinking:
- God owns it all.
- We are managers of His possessions.
- We are responsible and will one day give an account to Him about the way we used His resources.
True financial security comes only when we use God’s money His way for His purposes. He alone knows the future and has the power to provide for our needs, whereas any personal financial strategies are backed only by human effort and wisdom.
Don’t you want to experience the stability of internal peace, even during an economic earthquake? Trusting in the Lord’s provsion and obeying His instructions will fill you with confidence when others are gripped with fear and uncertainty. Rest in the knowledge that He provides for His children.
God’s Promises to the Generous 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
The principle of sowing and reaping is a universal truth ordained by God that applies not only in agriculture, but also in the area of giving. Despite the fact that the Lord promises an abundant harvest for those who give generously, many Christians still struggle with releasing their grip on money.
Some fear that they won’t have enough if they give. Others, pulled by a strong desire for worldly goods, are unwilling to sacrifice pleasures and comforts. Those who succumb to their fears or greed will miss out on the great harvest God wants to give them.
In the midst of a chaotic economy and uncertain times, we can find our security in the Lord. His ways are often the opposite of our natural tendencies. The world says that to have enough, we must acquire more. God says that in giving generously, we will have an abundance of both provision for our needs (bread) and resources to continue our generosity (seed).
Beyond this, the Lord also promises that the harvest of our righteousness will increase, and we will be “enriched in everything for all liberality” (v. 11). God’s riches encompass so much more than earthly wealth. Generosity produces godly character, which is valuable now and in eternity.
Although we’ve been given the promise of a bountiful harvest, it will be realized only by those who sow abundantly. In following God’s plan for giving, you can be free of worry because the One who guarantees you a harvest is also the omnipotent Lord who is able to richly produce it.
From Glory to Humility Philippians 2:3-11
In order to save mankind and shower grace upon the undeserving, Christ had to make a voluntary choice to leave heaven and become a man. He took upon Himself the weakness of humanity while never losing His divinity. Though still fully divine, He did not cling to equality with God but limited the use of His supernatural powers and rights.
Having an incomplete understanding of all that Christ surrendered, we often lack an appreciation of the magnitude of His descent from the riches of glory to the poverty of humanity. He traded the praise and worship of the angelic host for the mockery and jeers of an angry mob. Laying aside His omnipotence, He experienced the weakness of fatigue and the need for sleep. Being immortal but wanting to pay our sin-debt, He had to take on human flesh in order to die for you and me.
The One who had authority over all creation (Col. 1:16-17) walked this earth in complete submission to the Father’s will (John 5:19, 30), “becoming obedient to the point of death” (Phil. 2:8). Instead of relying on His own strength, He depended on the power of God (Acts 2:22). Jesus’ manner of living not only accomplished our salvation but also gave us an example to follow.
Every believer has a choice to make: Will I live my way and demand my rights, or will I empty myself and submit to God? Only by humbling ourselves in submission and obedience to the Father will we experience the joy of the Lord and the glories of His eternal rewards in heaven.
The High Cost of Grace 2 Corinthians 8:9
Grace is God’s undeserved goodness and kindness toward us without regard to our merit or worth. It is freely bestowed on all who believe the good news that Jesus is the the Son of God, and He died for their sins.
Although grace is free, it isn’t cheap—the Lord paid a high price to obtain this blessing for us. He left the wealth of heaven to come to earth so that He could redeem us and give us the riches of His celestial home. Think of what that meant in terms of Jesus’ earthly life:
The One who is Creator and Owner of all things lived on earth without possessions. He was born in a borrowed stable, had no place to lay His head during the years of His itinerant ministry, and borrowed not only a donkey for entering Jerusalem but also an upper room for the last supper. Even the tomb was not His own.
Christ also laid aside the glory He had with the Father. Although He never ceased being God while on the earth, His radiant divinity was veiled with human flesh. Being born as a helpless baby, Jesus gave up the use of His omniscience and went through all the stages of human growth and development. The Son of God descended from reigning on the Father’s throne to washing the dirty feet of His disciples.
Christ became poor but lost nothing. Jesus regained the glory of heaven and brought us along. In following Him, believers likewise lose nothing and gain everything. We die to self and gain our souls; give away riches and receive heavenly treasures; and humble ourselves to be exalted in God’s time.
Learning to Know God Jeremiah 9:23-24
Today’s verses reveal that the Lord’s top priority for us is to know and understand Him. This is a lifelong pursuit which extends all the way into eternity (John 17:3). If someone asked me, “Do you know God?,” I’d have to say that I am learning about Him. My relationship with the Lord is becoming more exciting and satisfying as the years go by, but I realize that I have much more to discover about my Savior.
Since the Lord reveals Himself in His Word, that is where we need to start. Our understanding of who God is must match what Scripture says about Him; otherwise, we have deceived ourselves by trying to make the Lord into our own image. Descriptions of His characteristics and methods are scattered throughout the Bible. As you read, look for His attributes, desires, and ways. Consider how He responds in various circumstances.
Spend time interacting with the Lord in prayer and meditation. Discuss any insights you have received, ask Him about the concepts you don’t understand, and consider how to apply what you have learned. Those who are willing to obey His commands and follow His guidance will discover how faithful He is. They’ll also find that He is their most intimate friend.
Amazingly, the Creator and Ruler of the universe wants to spend time with you so that you can learn to know Him. It’s as if He is saying, “I want you all to Myself for a little while.” Take Him up on the invitation to come away to a quiet place and learn of Him.
The Privilege of Knowing God Philippians 3:7-11
It is a great tragedy that many people go through life without ever becoming acquainted with their Creator. To overlook that relationship is to miss the purpose for their existence and the greatest privilege available to mankind—knowing God. Even Christians can undervalue the honor of getting to know Christ more intimately.
Paul’s all-consuming passion to know the Lord caused him to count everything else as worthless in comparison to that tremendous blessing. Though believers can accept Christ as their Savior, faithfully serve Him, and anticipate being with Him in heaven, many have no hunger to know Him right now.
How can we be satisfied simply with being saved and have so little interest in the most gratifying and exciting relationship available to us? Pursuing Christ with Paul’s passion requires sacrifice—spending time alone with the Lord, surrendering our will, and learning to know Him through suffering. Although salvation is a free gift, intimacy with God is a costly process, but the rewards are invaluable and eternal.
Our culture floods us with information and distractions that can fill our minds and hearts, leaving us indifferent to developing a deeper relationship with Christ. Some people even substitute learning facts about the Lord for knowing Him relationally.
Examine your life to see what is hindering your passion for God. Consider ways to carve out time each day to be alone with Him. As you go about your routine, seek His guidance and listen for His voice. You, too, will eventually count everything else as rubbish compared to knowing Christ.
Our Heavenly Place: New Jerusalem Revelation 21:1-8
The apostle John heard Jesus promise to prepare a place for His followers (John 14:1-6). Many years later, he was given a vision of that place—and he watched the New Jerusalem come down out of heaven. The sight was beyond human description, but he did his best to put this heavenly vision into earthly language (Rev. 21:9-22:5).
John saw the brilliance of God’s glory radiating from the structure, whose foundation gleamed with the dazzling colors of precious stones. The gates were made of pearls and the street of transparent gold. This 1500-mile cube-shaped city was designed by the Lord as a place for Himself and mankind to live in perfect intimacy for all eternity. In verses 3 and 4, he notes that “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face.”
Though we may have difficulty imagining the physical structure of this heavenly city, we have no trouble understanding the meanings of the things that are not in the New Jerusalem. There will be no pain, tears, mourning, or death. Sin and every one of its consequences will be removed. All frustration, boredom, and problems will cease. No one will have handicaps, and our bodies will never grow tired or sick.
When the difficulties of this life become burdensome, focus on your glorious heavenly future. The only trouble and pain you will ever experience is now. When your feet walk on the streets of New Jerusalem with the Savior, all the old ravages of sin will be gone, and your joy will be full.
A Place Called Heaven John 14:1-6
Because mankind is earthbound until death, misconceptions about heaven are common. Some people imagine it as an ethereal world of formless spirits who float about, while others flatly deny its existence. A few have returned from near-death experiences to describe what they saw. Amid all the confusing and contradictory views, we would do well to remember that our only sure source of accurate information about heaven is God’s Word.
Jesus had firsthand knowledge of heaven because He came from the Father to earth. Shortly before dying, He told His disciples that He would return to His Father’s house to prepare a place for them and then would come back to take them to their new home. Several weeks later, while standing on the Mount of Olives, the disciples watched the resurrected body of Jesus ascend into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
Ever since that day, believers throughout history have been waiting for the Lord’s promised return. Each one will be given an immortal resurrection body similar to Christ’s. It will be physical, visible, and recognizable to others. We will even be able to eat (Luke 24:41-43). Heaven is a literal place for physical bodies—a place to live, serve God, and worship and enjoy Him forever.
Knowing all the specifics of our heavenly home is impossible, but we can be sure that Jesus will fulfill His promise to come back for us. Stepping into our custom-designed dwelling places, we’ll each realize that we’re finally home—and throughout eternity can never be separated from God.
The Purpose of Life 2 Corinthians 3:15-18
Why am I here on earth? No doubt this question crosses everybody’s mind at some point. Unscriptural theories of evolution suggest that we are merely taking up space and will return to nothingness when we die. Cultural propaganda says that we choose our own destiny—in other words, we can live for any cause we choose. But that is absolutely untrue! The Lord has placed you on earth to fulfill His purpose.
Our heavenly Father has a unique plan for every person’s life, but He means for us all to share one goal: to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. The process of perfecting our moral, spiritual, and physical selves begins here on earth and is finished in heaven. Much of the work the Lord does in our earthly lives centers on our character. He shows us how to be as loving, kind, and peaceful as Jesus.
One would think that being like God’s Son must require a lot of effort. But the truth is, we are not called to work at it. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and then lives the life of Christ through him or her. Christians have the responsibility to be submissive to His guidance. That means we respond to every circumstance and event with this question: “How can You use this to make me more like Jesus?”
The sovereign Lord is behind everything that happens to you—either He directly instigates the situation or He allows it to take place. Both trials and triumphs are engineered to fulfill God’s great purpose: crafting a life that reflects His love and glory to the world.