April 2, 2010

What Jesus’ Blood Can Do Revelation 5:6-10

There are five words that every believer should know and be able to explain. I have defined and discussed all of them many times in sermons and writings, but I am doing so again because they are so essential. Being confident in our beliefs is ever more important as cultures become bolder about persecuting Christians.

Jesus’ shed blood redeems believers (1 Peter 1:18-19). This means that we are purchased from a life of slavery to sin. Furthermore, we receive forgiveness—the wrongs of our past, present, and future are totally washed away (Eph. 1:7-8). For the rest of eternity, God views His children through the “veil” of Christ’s blood, which makes them pure and holy. Everyone who trusts in Jesus is declared no longer guilty (justified—Rom. 5:8-9) and brought into relationship with God (reconciled—Col. 1:19-22). This unalterable change in status from sinner to saint happens the moment a person receives Christ as Savior.

The final word, sanctified, describes the life-long maturing process that begins when a person trusts in the Savior (Heb. 13:12). A saint is set apart from the rest of humanity for the purpose of making him Christ-like. Through discipleship, testing, and teaching, God “drains out” our old self and pumps the life of Jesus into our heart and life.

These five words tell the story of our faith. Meditate upon the verses related to each one, and pray that God will write the meanings on your heart. When we’re confident in our beliefs, we can be a light to others instead of crumbling at the threat of pain.

April 1, 2010

Where the Battle Is Won Matthew 26:36-46

The garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives was one of the Lord’s favorite places to pray throughout His earthly ministry (Luke 22:39). But believers remember it best as the site of a great spiritual battle. The story of Jesus pleading with His Father is extremely meaningful to Christians, and one of the reasons is that the Lord looked so human. From the gospel’s description, we can see that Jesus, the God-man, experienced fear, anxiety, and dread as He prayed. In other words, He reacted to His imminent ordeal with feelings we can relate to and understand.

Satan taunts believers by telling them they can’t be like Jesus because He is God. But He was God cloaked in human flesh, which means that He experienced the world as we do. Yet He won every spiritual and life battle he faced. The secret to His success is what He did at Gethsemane. He secluded Himself and prayed until His will was fully surrendered to the Father. The battle was won on His knees.

Jesus left the garden a prisoner, but at the same time He walked out a winner. He accepted God’s will for His life, even though pain was a guarantee. Our Savior had been called to die, and He knew that the potential blessings and consequences were all in His Father’s hands.

Believers confront fearsome trials too. God uses these hardships to conform us to His Son’s image (Rom. 8:29). If we are to be like Jesus, we must learn from His actions. In the face of difficulty, we should seek God’s will, commit to following it, and leave the consequences in His almighty hands.

March 31, 2010

The Precious Blood of Jesus 1 PETER 1:17-21

Many churches today have erased all mention of Jesus’ blood from their worship. But the shedding of blood is essential to the Christian faith—without a sacrifice, no one can have a relationship with God. For that reason, the Lord wove the story of death, renewal, and reconciliation like a red thread from Genesis to Revelation.

What do you have if you take all the blood from a body? A lifeless corpse, right? The same thing is true of the Bible. Scripture would be no more than historical literature if we edited the “unpleasant” bits regarding animal sacrifice, Jesus on the cross, or the power of His blood.

God designed the redemption system in such a way that anyone could understand the connection between shed blood and freedom from sin. The Lord gave detailed instructions for offering a perfect animal sacrifice so that His holiness would be satisfied. God also wanted His followers to understand that sin brought terrible consequences and resulted in death. The first fatality in Scripture was the animal whose skin was used to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Gen. 3:21). Every time an Israelite brought to the priests a lamb or a pair of doves, he recognized that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

God chose a graphic solution to the world’s sin problem. Therefore, believers cannot be squeamish about explaining what truly happened at Golgotha. The words we choose influence listeners; “Jesus shed His blood for you” is a powerful statement. It is also the message God repeats throughout the Bible.

March 30, 2010

Understanding Jesus’ Sacrifice MATTHEW 26:36-46

Jesus journeyed into the deepest pit of despair hours before His crucifixion. In the garden of Gethsemane, He repeatedly prayed that “the cup” would pass away (Matt. 26:39). Christ was staring into a chalice of wrath and judgment that must have made His soul recoil (Is. 51:17). Mankind had filled it with the most depraved and evil deeds and thoughts they could conceive. According to Scripture, Jesus Christ did not just die for our sins; He became our sin (2 Cor. 5:21). The holy, perfect Lamb took on Himself all that was vile and dark.

Furthermore, Jesus knew the consequences of accepting mankind’s evil. God’s holiness prevented Him from being in the presence of sin. Therefore, the Father would have to separate Himself from the Son. Jesus had always enjoyed perfect oneness and relationship with God. To contemplate a wrenching rejection and separation must have been terrifying.

There was no question that Jesus would do God’s will. He would become sin and be separated from the Father, if that’s what was required to save mankind. For a while in the garden, He pleaded for another route to our redemption. However, when it was clear that the Father’s answer was “No, this is the only way,” Jesus obediently sacrificed Himself.

Jesus Christ sacrificed more than His life. He exchanged perfection for wickedness and holy union for separation. The Savior did this so we could be transformed into righteous men and women with an eternal future. No wonder all of heaven exalts Him (Rev. 5:11-14). We must do the same.

March 29, 2010

The Heart of the Cross 1 CORINTHIANS 1:18-31

Consider how illogical Jesus’ crucifixion looked to first-century observers. The Romans, who were concerned with power, probably wondered how a mighty God could allow enemies to kill Him. The Greeks valued wisdom and no doubt thought, There must surely have been a better way than the cross! And the Jews, who longed for victory over oppressors, probably felt bewildered to see Jesus humbly let Himself be brutally killed.

Yet, what seemed foolish was actually a brilliant plan. Through the cross, the Lord powerfully revealed His character. First, we see His unconditional love in dying for those who sinned against Him (John 3:16). Second, His righteousness is apparent—only the perfect sacrifice of His own blood could satisfy the penalty for sin. Third, He shows His faithfulness by redeeming us at so great a cost. And fourth, Jesus demonstrates power by conquering sin and death.

In addition to all this, the cross exposed and disarmed Satan (Col. 2:15), who no longer has authority over Christians. Though he can tempt and try followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit is there to strengthen and guide believers to victory.

One last benefit of God’s remarkable plan is that we are eternally secure because of the price Jesus paid. That gives us hope and confidence about our future.

Though the cross seems absurd to those who don’t understand, God’s children know it is the Father’s wise design. We have assurance for today and security for tomorrow only because of this amazing event that occurred over 2000 years ago. We have no need to fear, but every reason to hope.

March 27, 2010

Eternal Life: You Can Be Sure JOHN 3:16-17

I have heard many reasons why people are uncertain about their eternal future. “I sin too much,” says one. “I don’t feel saved, Pastor,” says another. Someone else worries that she did not follow the “right procedure” to ask for forgiveness. Still others have erroneously learned from their families or churches that no one can be sure of salvation.

My response to all of these rationales is the same: If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that His death on the cross purchased God’s forgiveness for your sins, then you are saved. And you can be sure.

God’s promises never change. He said that those who trust in His Son would have eternal life (John 5:24). What’s more, a believer cannot be snatched from God’s hand (John 10:27-30).

The Lord loves us unconditionally. Nothing can separate a believer from God’s love (Rom. 8:35-39). Satan’s charges against us can never change how precious we are to our Father.

The Savior’s work on the cross is finished. Jesus Christ made one perfect sacrifice—His own life. In this single act, He atoned for every sinful deed, word, and thought (Heb. 9:11-12, 26). When we receive His salvation, it is ours forever.

God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins so we could live eternally in His presence. It really is that simple. Whatever your doubts, ask the Holy Spirit to confront them with biblical truth. He will quietly assure your heart that you are God’s child forever (Rom. 8:16).

March 26, 2010

A Decision to Follow Jesus LUKE 5:27-28

Yesterday, we saw how Scripture answers the question, Who is Jesus? Once we have that information, we must decide what to do with it. Some may desire to ignore the truth of what they have learned, but that’s actually not an option. God calls us either to accept or reject Jesus as Savior; avoidance is actually a form of rejection.

How, exactly, can we accept Jesus in our life? We must believe in Him. This means placing confidence in the person of Christ, knowing that His death on Calvary’s cross paid for all our sin. This is not merely an intellectual understanding; rather, it is a total surrender to Jesus as the only One who can forgive our sins, thereby bridging the gap between us and the Father. When we receive the Savior, we immediately become children of the King!

Believers must also follow Christ’s ways. Allowing Jesus to live out His Lordship through our lives means yielding our will and desires to His. In addition, Christians are to worship Him. We ought to be so overwhelmed by His presence that our hearts and lips overflow with adoration.

One last thing, of course, is that we’re to share the truth with others. Just before ascending into heaven, Jesus commanded His followers to spread the good news of salvation to the entire world (Matt. 28:19-20).

We are blessed to have God’s Word readily available. And this benefit leaves no excuse for ignorance regarding the person of Jesus Christ. Once we know who He is, we must decide whether we will surrender our lives to Him. He longs for an intimate, personal relationship with you. Will you let Him?

March 25, 2010

Jesus: To Believe or Not to Believe MATTHEW 16:13-20

When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15-16). The Lord asks us the same question, though not with audible words. Let’s check Scripture for answers.

First, Jesus is God the Son—a member of the Trinity. After Christ’s baptism, the heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, and the Father Himself announced, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17).

Next, Christ is the Savior of mankind. When Adam and Eve chose to sin against Jehovah, there was a separation between God and man. In Old Testament times, an animal sacrifice was necessary to atone for the wrong in one’s life. But that was a temporary solution, until Jesus—the perfect sacrifice—atoned once for all sin. He was the only One who could satisfy God’s requirement for a Savior, because He had no sin (2 Cor. 5:21).

Finally, He is our High Priest (Heb. 4:15; 7:26). In Old Testament times, a mediator—often a temple priest—interceded between God and man, offering an animal’s blood as atonement for sin. Jesus’ death and resurrection took away the need for such sacrifice. Christ now stands as our intercessor, the bridge between Holy God and sinful man.

Who do you believe Jesus is? These characteristics of Christ are taken directly from the Bible. Do they align with your understanding? Check your view of Him against the standard of Scripture. Then ask the Lord to reveal Himself so that you can know Him accurately and personally.

March 24, 2010

The Priority of Prayer MARK 1:35-37

Our Father does not consider prayer an optional part of the Christian life. The Bible tells us that two-way communication with God is essential.

The discipline of prayer includes . . .

1. An expectant attitude. We must believe that God has something important to say to us. It could be a strengthening reminder of His love, insight into our situation, or the answer to a petition. With such an outlook, we’ll be listening more than we are speaking.

2. A focus on our heavenly Father. When we praise the Lord, our minds will let go of worldly things and center on Him. Thinking of His perfect character and sacrifice at the cross readies us to hear from Him and obey.

3. A willingness to see ourselves the way that God does. The Holy Spirit works in us to produce Christlikeness. That means uncovering what is unholy and replacing it with righteousness. It also includes recognizing when we demonstrate godly character (Gal. 5:22-23).

4. A surrender to His leadership. When we submit to Him as Lord, our petitions will be more in line with His will.

5. A regular “appointment.” Developing a strong faith-life takes commitment. Daily activities will crowd out time with the Lord unless we set a time and place to pray.

Everywhere Jesus traveled, the multitudes approached Him with their needs. Even though there were many people to help, our Savior regularly took time to pray. He’d step away from the demands of the crowd to interact with His Father (Mark 6:45-46). Won’t you give prayer that same priority?

March 23, 2010

A God of Grace JAMES 1:17-18

The Lord’s character is often distorted by the world. To unbelieving eyes, God can appear as a harsh ruler who is quick to condemn any disobedience. Somehow that false view has infected our churches as well. There are believers who approach the Lord as if He were a stingy old man doling out shreds of love, grace, and forgiveness. But spiritual poverty is not the Father’s plan for His children!

At salvation, we received every good gift that God intends to give us: forgiveness, redemption, righteousness, a place in His family, and much more. There is a misguided notion among some believers that the Lord’s grace to us increases as our faith matures. If that were accurate, we would be earning His blessing though works. The truth is that spiritual growth broadens our capacity to recognize and enjoy His grace in our lives.

Sadly, plenty of people feel unworthy to enjoy the Lord’s blessings. Thankfully, we do not have to merit His goodness, because none of us would be able to do so. In fact, Ephesians 2:8-9 underscores the fact that God operates on the basis of His grace rather than our works. Think of how big, wide, and deep His love is—He adores, blesses, and showers us with grace because He wants to and not because we earn it.

Our heavenly Father is not stingy. He opens His hand wide to pour out grace upon us. Instead of sampling meager bites of His Word and His presence on Sunday, we ought to devour whole “meals” every day. Follow the psalmist’s advice to “taste and see that the LORD is good” (v. 34:8).

March 22, 2010

The Riches of God’s Grace EPHESIANS 1:3-9

Imagine an elderly couple living in a dilapidated farmhouse. They can barely afford a few groceries and the medicines they need. There isn’t even enough money to keep the heat on all the time.

Then a short while after they both have died, a huge deposit of oil is discovered on the old homestead. All their years of poverty were lived out sitting on top of untapped wealth.

Sadly, many Christians go through life like that elderly couple. These believers have distilled Christianity down to its most basic parts: God saved me and someday I’ll go to heaven. Jesus Christ offers an abundant life now (John 10:10), but they aren’t living it. Spiritually poor Christians fail to tap into the reservoir of God’s grace. Eternity begins the moment we are saved; there is no reason to wait until heaven to start enjoying the Lord’s riches.

God has lavished His grace upon believers. We receive righteousness, freedom from legalism, and an unbreakable union with Him. In return, He desires that we invest time and energy in our relationship with Him. When believers open themselves to God, then everything He has to offer flows freely into their lives. Our connection to Him makes it possible for us to live joyful, contented lives rich with blessing.

True wealth isn’t measured by your bank account or automobile. Believers, as joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), have access to God’s riches, which include unspeakable joy, unconditional love, and peace beyond understanding. Invest in your spiritual life, and enjoy these blessings of grace.

March 20, 2010

The Trustworthy Character of God 2 SAMUEL 7:21-22

Whom do you trust? These days, it’s not easy to find many people who are true to their word. At some point, we all learn the hard way that anyone other than almighty God can disappoint us. Let’s look at the Lord’s character to discover why He can be trusted.

First, He is the one true God. Back in Old Testament times, it was common for people to actually carve and worship a false god. Today, it is more typical to idolize something unseen, such as wealth, power, fame, or relationships. These can consume our passion, money, and time—and in the end leave us fruitless and empty. Jehovah, on the other hand, is alive and real, ready to be intimately involved in our lives.

Second, God is truth, and He is always faithful (John 14:6; 1 Cor. 10:13). Unlike sinful man, the Lord is trustworthy—and everything that He says will happen comes to pass. Our sovereign God has all power and is in control of every situation.

Third, Christ loves us unconditionally. How can we ever doubt His love when He willingly gave His life in our place? And His love is based not on our behavior or status, but rather on His character alone.

Fourth, the heavenly Father is unchanging. All of the above are timeless attributes that will forever be true.

God can be trusted. So don’t give Him just the easy concerns; rely upon your Creator for everything. He desires a personal relationship with His beloved and is able to guide each believer through life victoriously. In a changing, suspicious world, you have a Friend who is 100 percent reliable.

March 19, 2010

A God We Can Trust PSALM 37:1-9

Throughout Scripture, we are admonished to trust in the Lord. When times are good, this doesn’t seem like a difficult task. However, when trials arise, it is much more difficult to rely fully upon Him.

Yet it is always important for us to place our trust in the living God, especially when everything around us seems to be falling apart. That may well have been the situation that inspired the writing of Psalm 37.

Notice that in today’s passage, the psalmist mentions several times that we should not fret (vv. 1, 7, 8). Distress over a situation is the opposite of trust, and fretting has ill effects. For one thing, it can take a toll on physical and emotional wellbeing. Another problem is that feeding worry can lead to evildoing: by attempting to manage the situation quickly in our human way, we may miss God’s best solution. A third consequence is that others may not enjoy our company, so we could lose our effective witness for the kingdom.

What, then, is the antidote for worry and stress during a difficult time? Absolute trust in Christ. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” This means we are to lay all our burdens at His feet, believing that He is good, loving, and in control.

When trials arise, do you run toward the Lord? Or do you try to handle things yourself? He who created you can handle any difficulty and pain, even when it seems overwhelming. What He desires is your surrender and trust. It is in His arms that you will find rest for your soul.

March 18, 2010

When Others Fail Us 2 TIMOTHY 4:9-14

The apostle Paul knew the value of having good friends. Barnabas encouraged him in his ministry. Silas partnered with him in establishing new churches. Timothy became like a son to him. Paul also knew the heartache of co-laborers turning away from him when times got tough (2 Tim. 1:15). We may experience something similar in our life.

People will react differently to our struggles. Some feel inadequate and hold back because they are uncertain about what to say or do. Others are so protective of their time that selfishness causes them to turn away. And sometimes our friends and co-workers do not want to be identified with us in our trials. In my early days as a pastor, this happened to me when the church was going through a period of turmoil. Only two pastors reached out to me and offered support; the others stood back. This experience taught me the importance of reaching out to people in crisis.

Helping others requires an investment of time and energy. We start by praying for them and asking the Lord how we can help. He may have us lend emotional support, provide spiritual guidance, offer assistance in a physical or financial way, or find others who can. Standing with people will encourage them.

When friends abandoned him, Paul asked God not to count their actions against them. He followed the example of Jesus, who prayed for the Father to forgive His persecutors. What’s your response when friends let you down? Forgiveness is the choice that pleases God every time.

March 17, 2010

Forward by Faith GENESIS 12:1-20

Faith can be lulled to sleep when we are focused on our own comfort rather than God’s plan. Abraham did not fall into this trap. He traded the familiar for the unknown and received many blessings.

Living by faith is the right answer when God calls you to move forward. His call can come to us at any age and in any situation. Abraham was 75 when he began his journey. David was a shepherd boy when he was anointed to be king (1 Sam. 16:11-13).

Paul encountered the Lord on his way to arrest Jewish believers in Damascus. After his conversion, he became the Lord’s representative to the Gentiles (Acts 9:1-6). Our call may not be so dramatic, but it will always involve moving forward by faith.

Following the Lord will also include times of testing. Abraham, like all of us, had some successes and some failures. The initial call to leave his country was met with strong belief and immediate action. As a result, he received a promise of great blessing for him and his descendants. But encountering famine brought a different response—a sojourn to Egypt, deception about his relationship with Sarah, and chastisement from Pharaoh. Our response to God’s commands really matters. We can bring blessing or heartache through our actions.

Obeying God can be uncomfortable. Those close to us may question our motives or disagree with our decisions. And we ourselves may not want to do what He asks. But faith will keep us moving forward in obedience. It helps us stay the course and experience the blessings found in a relationship with Christ.

March 16, 2010

Living by Faith HEBREWS 11:8-10

Abraham is one of the people in the Old Testament who have had a great impact on my spiritual walk. In his life, I see the necessity of living by faith.

Separation is oftentimes a part of our development as Christians. Before we can take on something new, the Lord may ask us to let go of something we already have.

In Genesis 12:1-3, God told Abraham he was going on a journey that would require leaving his country, his people, and his father’s household. Obedience meant saying goodbye to relationships and things dear to him. The only family that traveled with him were his wife and nephew; the life he knew in his homeland was left behind. But this godly man did not hesitate. His strong faith enabled him to say yes.

Moving ahead in the midst of uncertainty can be another aspect of following the Lord. Abraham was told to travel without knowing his destination. Try to imagine explaining to friends that you’re moving away but have no idea where you are going. This lack of detail did not stop Abraham. Unwavering trust in his heavenly Father enabled him to answer the divine call wholeheartedly—even though specific details were lacking. Abraham was spiritually ready to answer affirmatively when God called.

Following God requires living by faith, which means: trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us (John 16:13) when we don’t see how all the pieces fit together; believing that God always works for our good (Rom. 8:28) and His glory; and desiring to please our Father. Will you be ready when He calls?

March 15, 2010

The Lord Comforts Sinners JOHN 8:1-11

We expect a loving heavenly Father to care for His children when they are hurt, persecuted, or misunderstood. But you might be surprised to realize that God comforts believers even when they have sinned.

Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save anyone who believes in Him (John 3:17). Consider His response to the woman whom the Pharisees dragged from an adulterous liaison and dropped at His feet. Her accusers wanted the offender stoned to death. But instead of taking up a rock, Jesus offered her forgiveness. The Lord did not defend her actions or completely erase all consequences of her choices. However, He did offer her compassion and an opportunity to turn her life around: “Go. From now on sin no more” (John 8:11).

God understands our human frailty. And even before we do wrong, He knows the poisonous harvest that we will reap from sin. We certainly want a lot of comfort when we are suffering from our own foolishness. A loving God does not abandon His children at their hour of great need—His Spirit wades into the mess we have made. He offers to guide us out of the pit, soothes our broken heart, and provides reassurance that He is always close by.

Sinning against the Lord makes us feel unworthy of His care and solace. Yet God’s forgiveness is based on His great mercy rather than our conduct. If Jesus Christ sacrificed His life to save you from your sins, then He certainly will love and comfort you, no matter what.

March 13, 2010

The God Who Comforts 2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-7

Look up “comfort” in dictionary.com or another reference, and you will read a definition like this: “Something that promotes a state of ease or provides freedom from pain and anxiety.” But God’s Word has a different solution when consolation is needed: the indwelling Holy Spirit. In Greek, He is called parakletos, which means “he who stands at one’s side; he who comes to one’s aid.” Believers don’t have to seek outward remedies or distractions to ease their mind, because help is available within.

Even before the Spirit was sent to indwell believers (John 14:26; Eph. 3:16), Scripture identified God as the one who comforts His people (Isaiah 40:1; 49:13). The Lord personally provides consolation and reassurance because no one knows our hurts the way He does.

I like this anonymous quotation: “When we have gone into the furnace of affliction, His hand is on the thermostat and His eye is on the clock.” God lets us pass through hardship to make us stronger believers, wiser servants, and more humble people. But He stays right by our side through the entire experience, sustaining us and limiting the intensity and duration of our distress. The Holy Spirit’s reassuring whisper to our heart gives more comfort than the solace of family or the encouragement of friends.

People who fail to understand the true source of comfort try to escape their pain. They seek out pleasures, material wealth, or drugs and alcohol to soothe their heart. Only God can offer lasting relief from the crushing pressure of heartache. He even brings joy into periods of mourning.

March 12, 2010

A Living Hope 1 PETER 1:3-9

Hope is both a strong belief and the anticipation that something good is going to happen. When our goals are not achieved, we may experience discouragement, which over time can turn into depression and even despair—the absence of hope.

How can we remain optimistic in the face of unmet expectations? First, we’re to remember the reason for our confidence: our relationship with Jesus. At salvation, we were born into a living hope (v. 3)—God made us a “new creation,” and we are no longer in bondage to the old sin nature (2 Cor. 5:17 NIV). His Spirit lives within us. We have been made co-heirs with Christ, and our true home is in heaven with Him. Nothing can alter our familial connection with the Lord.

Second, to maintain a positive outlook, we must spend daily time in the Scriptures. Romans 15:4 says that the Bible was written to give us encouragement and hope. The Psalms can be especially helpful in difficult times because they express the feelings we have and also tell us about the comfort available from God.

Third, we rely on the Lord’s faithfulness. Trusting in Him will never disappoint us because all of His promises are yes in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).

Believers should not react to trials as the world does. We’re to live by faith—”being sure of what we hope for ” (Heb. 11:1 NIV). When circumstances overwhelm you, shift your focus to the Lord. Read the Scriptures to find encouragement, and be reminded of what is yours in Christ (Eph. 1:3-8).

March 11, 2010

Feeling Hopeless ACTS 27:10-22

Jesus told His disciples that we would have tribulation in this life (John 16:33). And truly, people do disappoint us, circum-stances cause pain, and our own limitations lead to frustration.

Many Bible stories attest to this truth:

1. Hannah was unable to conceive. The longer her yearning for a child went unfulfilled, the more hope dwindled. Sorrow and bitterness took hold of her. (1 Sam. 1:6-10).

2. Paul was caught in a violent storm. Against his advice, the ship had set sail, endangering him and all the others on board. After futile efforts to save the vessel, everybody had to swim ashore to survive (Acts 27:11, 20).

3. Jealous Saul pursued David throughout the land, trying to kill him. In Psalm 13:1, David wondered if the Lord had forgotten him.

How did these people find their way through such negative emotions? All three spent time in prayer. Hannah cried out to God, confessed her misery, and asked Him to provide her with a son. When she left the temple, her face was no longer downcast. Her hope returned because she trusted Him with her future. Following prayer, Paul witnessed to the hopeless sailors. He told them to have courage because the Lord had promised to deliver them. David turned his attention away from his circumstances and focused on God’s unfailing love (Ps. 13:5-6).

Communion with God can combat hopelessness. Prayer moves our attention to the Father’s deep love for us, the Son’s sacrifice on our behalf, and the Spirit’s reassuring presence. If we confess ungodly thoughts and become willing to surrender personal desires, forgiveness and peace will be ours.

Scriptures, Lessons, News and Links to help you survive.