Garth Brooks was performing in Oklahoma City when he noticed a commotion in the crowd: a man had just proposed to his fiancée. Brooks stopped the concert to ask their names. Then he told them that he and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, would pay for their honeymoon if they went to Hawaii. I hope you’ll watch the video—it’s a great moment that defines grace and joy.
Let’s think about Brooks’s offer: he would pay, but only for Hawaii. Did this make him gracious or demanding? He gave the couple no explanation for insisting that they go to Hawaii. They could accept his generosity, or they could question his motives.
But they could not do both.
When our challenges are growing and our prayers seem unanswered, it is easier to question our Father’s providence than to trust his provision. In Psalm 22, David cries to the Lord, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v. 1). But note his affirmation just two verses later: “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” (v. 3).
In Habakkuk 3, the nation is in financial crisis, but see how the prophet responds: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (vv. 17–18).
One of the main reasons many Christians fail to serve God joyfully is their uncertainty about where they stand with Him. They don’t understand the basic nature of their relationship with the Lord and, as a result, hold back from dedicating themselves fully to His service.
You probably have seen similar types of hesitancy played out in day-to-day life. For example, perhaps you’re acquainted with a man and a woman who are known as the “on again, off again” couple—the pair who seem to dance around the idea of relationship but somehow never quite seem able to commit. It’s difficult to make that life-changing decision when you’re not sure how the other person feels about you, isn’t it?
The same thing holds true in your life of faith. No one wants a spouse—or a Savior—who might leave at any time, for any reason. No, we want certainty. And when that is missing, the whole context of the relationship is out of balance.
The apostle John was surely thinking about this as the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the beautiful word of encouragement we find in 1 John 5:13. What was his purpose in writing? “That you may know that you have eternal life” (emphasis added).
John was writing to bring certainty to uncertain believers. He wanted them to know that there was no “off again” time for anyone who had engaged in a relationship with the Father. Because God is your constant companion, you can trust that He is faithful—eternally.
Bible in One Year: Ecclesiastes 1-4
Read: John 5:17–20
Bible in a Year: Psalms 18–19; Acts 20:17–38
The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.—John 5:19
Isn’t it endearing to see a child mimicking his parents? How often we’ve seen the young boy in a car seat, gripping his imaginary steering wheel intently while keeping a close eye on the driver to see what Daddy does next.
I remember doing the same thing when I was young. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than doing exactly what my dad did—and I’m sure he got an even bigger kick watching me copy his actions.
I would like to think God felt the same way when He saw His dearest Son doing exactly what the Father did—reaching out to the lost, helping the needy, and healing the sick. Jesus said, ”the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19).
We too are called to do the same—to “follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love” (Eph. 5:1-2). As we continue growing to be more like Jesus, may we seek to love like the Father loves, forgive like He forgives, care like He cares, and live in ways that please Him. It is a delight to copy His actions, in the power of the Spirit, knowing that our reward is the affectionate, tender smile of a loving Father. —Leslie Koh
Jesus, thank You for showing us the way to the Father. Help us to be more and more like You and the Father each day.
Our Daily Bread welcomes writer Leslie Koh! Meet Leslie and all our authors at odb.org/all-authors.
The Father gave us the Spirit to make us like the Son.
INSIGHT: The theme of following God appears throughout all of Scripture. In the Old Testament, Moses warned the Israelites not to live like the Canaanites when they entered the Promised Land: “Do not follow their practices” (Lev. 18:3) or “imitate the detestable ways of the nations there” (Deut. 18:9). Instead they were to obey and follow God’s laws (Lev. 18:4, 26-30). They were His chosen people. “The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples . . . to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deut. 7:6-7; 14:2; 26:18).
In the New Testament, the apostle Peter says that believers in Christ are also “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9). Therefore, we are to imitate God: “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1:15). We are to live radically different from the world, to “be perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), to “be merciful, just as [our] Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36), to love as God loves (Eph. 5:1-2).
As we reflect on the challenge to imitate God, we can ask, If I am not following God’s example, who am I imitating?
Science fiction novelist Kurt Vonnegut once said of one of his most recurrent characters, “Trout was the only character I ever created who had enough imagination to suspect that he might be the creation of another human being. He had spoken of this possibility several times to his parakeet. He had said, for instance, ‘Honest to God, Bill, the way things are going, all I can think of is that I’m a character in a book by somebody who wants to write about somebody who suffers all the time.”(1) In this scene from the book Breakfast of Champions, Kilgore Trout’s haunting suspicion is unveiled before him. Sitting content at a bar, Kilgore is suddenly overwhelmed by someone or something that has entered the room. Beginning to sweat, he becomes uncomfortably aware of a presence disturbingly greater than himself.
The author himself, Kurt Vonnegut, has stepped beyond the role of narrator and into the book itself, and the effect is as bizarre for Kilgore as it is for the readers. When the author of the book steps into the novel, fiction is lost within a new reality. Kilgore senses the world as he knows it collapsing. In fact, this was the author’s intent. Vonnegut has placed himself in Kilgore’s world for no other reason than to explain the meaninglessness of Kilgore’s life. He came to explain to Kilgore face to face that the very tiresome life he has led was, in fact, all due to the pen and whims of an author who made it all up for his own sake. In this twisted ending, no doubt illustrative of Vonnegut’s own humanism, Kilgore is forced to conclude that apart from the imagination of the author he does not actually exist. Ironically, he also must come to terms with the fact that it is because of the author that his very existence has been ridiculous.
Brethren, for this reason, in [spite of all] our stress and crushing difficulties we have been filled with comfort and cheer about you [because of] your faith (the leaning of your whole personality on God in complete trust and confidence).—1 Thessalonians 3:7
Go with the flow, and stop being anxious about things that may never happen. If you really trust God, you don’t need a backup plan. Faith means that you have peace even when you 12 don’t have all the answers.
Life will always be stressful if you constantly try to rearrange it. For example, getting upset in a traffic jam doesn’t get you out of it any sooner. But planning for obstacles will inspire you to leave a little earlier for your appointments and keep you from hurrying. Grow in wisdom, and place high priority on keeping your peace in spite of any jams you get into today.
From the book Starting Your Day Right by Joyce Meyer.
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later” (Romans 8:18).
In Sydney, Australia, a taxi driver to whom I witnessed became very angry.
“I was in World War II,” he exploded, “and I saw thousands of people die. I don’t want to have anything to do with a God who allows war.”
“Don’t blame God for war and the slaughter of millions of people,” I explained. “War is the result of man’s sin. Man does what he does because of his selfishness and pride. God does not desire that man should destroy men. God is not in favor of war. But sickness, death, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods are all a part of God’s judgement because of man’s sin, because of man’s disobedience to His commands.
The problem of suffering is a mysterious one, but for the Christian there is a good, logical answer. All creation waits patiently and hopefully for that future day when God will resurrect His children. On that day, thorns and thistles, sin and death and decay – the things that overcome the world will disappear at God’s command.
The world around us then will share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children enjoy. Even the things of nature, animals and plants which now suffer deterioration and death, await the coming of the time of this great glory.
We Christians – though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory – also groan to be released from pain, heartache, sorrow and suffering. We too wait anxiously for that day when God will give us full rights as His children, including the new bodies He has promised us – bodies that will never suffer again, and that will never die.
Bible Reading: Romans 8:24-27
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will rejoice in the certainty that glory is ahead for me as a believer, and as a result I am willing to joyfully endure whatever suffering comes my way. I will also encourage others in their times of sorrow to consider God’s love and plan for them, and will help them to understand the scriptural reason for man’s suffering.
See the cross on the hill? Can you hear the soldiers pound the nails? Jesus’ enemies smirk. “This time,” Satan whispers. “This time I will win.” For a sad Friday and a silent Saturday it appeared he had.
What Satan intended as the ultimate evil, God used for the ultimate good. God rolled the rock away and Jesus walked out on Sunday morning. And if you look closely, you can see Satan scampering from the cemetery with his forked tail between his legs. “Will I ever win?” he grumbles. No…he won’t.
Do you believe no evil is beyond God’s reach? That He can redeem every pit, including the one in which you find yourself? Trust God. He will get you through this. Will it be easy or quick? I hope so, but it seldom is. Yet, God will make good out of this mess. That’s His job.
From You’ll Get Through This
For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.
Of all the strange stories making news over the weekend, this was perhaps the strangest. A worker went inside an ATM in Corpus Christi to repair the locking mechanism of the door. It shut behind him, locking him in.
He didn’t have his phone with him, so he started feeding notes into the receipt dispenser asking for help. Most customers thought his notes were a prank, but someone finally called the police. They kicked down the door, freeing the man.
Imagine this event as a parable: people are locked inside the materialism of our culture. They need help escaping their prison for the freedom found only in Jesus. How will we respond?
I was reading Jeremiah 1 and came to this statement from God about Israel: “I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me” (v. 16a). What “evil”? “They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands” (v. 16b).
What was Jeremiah to do in response? “But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you” (v. 17a). Note that the prophet must say “everything” he hears from God, whether his message will be popular or unpopular. The Lord anticipated this concern, continuing: “Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you” (v. 17b). “Dismayed” translates a Hebrew word that means to be “terrified.”
As I studied these words, this paradoxical insight came to me: we need not fear people unless we fear them.
The Father’s love for His children is so vast that we can never fully fathom its extent (Ephesians 3:14-19). God’s love is constant, unchanging, and eternal. But sometimes we have emotions that tell us otherwise.
In our mind, we frequently correlate divine love and our behavior. When we have been good, we believe that we’re loved by God. But when we sin or make mistakes, we sometimes question how much He cares for us. After a series of missteps, we might conclude He disapproves of us far more often than He loves us. Some of us even think that the Lord’s judgment hangs over our heads like a dark cloud.
The truth is, there is no condemnation for any believer. Everything that would condemn us before almighty God was placed upon Jesus at the cross. In the Father’s divine court of law, His Son was found guilty in our place so we could be set free from condemnation forever. It’s as if God stamped the record of our sin-debt with the words “paid in full.” No matter when the offense occurred—whether before salvation or years still in the future—the Christian’s transgressions are fully paid for by Jesus’ blood. No believer is indebted to God for sin.
The Lord does not excuse our sin. He is a loving heavenly Father, and He will use discipline to bring us back to godly behavior (Heb. 12:7). He also allows us to experience the consequences of sin; however, divine condemnation is not one of them. Won’t you open your heart and mind to receive God’s love today?
Bible in One Year: Proverbs 29-31
Read: Luke 24:44–49
Bible in a Year: Psalms 16–17; Acts 20:1–16
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.—Luke 24:45
The sequoia tree, one of three species of redwoods, is among the world’s largest and most enduring organisms. It can grow to 300 feet in height, weigh over 2.5 million pounds (1.1 million kg), and live for 3,000 years. But the majestic sequoia owes much of its size and longevity to what lies below the surface. A twelve- to fourteen-foot-deep matting of roots, spreading over as much as an acre of earth, firmly grounds its towering height and astonishing weight.
A redwood’s expansive root system, however, is small compared to the national history, religion, and anticipation that undergird the life of Jesus. On one occasion He told a group of religious leaders that the Scriptures they loved and trusted told His story (John 5:39). In the synagogue of Nazareth He opened the scroll of Isaiah, read a description of Israel’s Messiah, and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
Later, after His resurrection, Jesus helped His disciples understand how the words of Moses, the prophets, and even the songs of Israel showed why it was necessary for Him to suffer, die, and rise from the dead (24:46).
What grace and grandeur—to see Jesus rooted in the history and Scriptures of a nation, and to see how extensively our own lives are rooted in our need of Him. —Mart DeHaan
Father in heaven, please help us never forget that the history of Israel and the inspired words of Scripture ground us in seeing our need of Your Son.
All Scripture helps us see our need of Jesus.
INSIGHT: This remarkable passage records Jesus Christ’s explanation of the scriptural foundation to His redemptive ministry on earth. He tells the disciples—and us—that Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms bear witness to who He is. The expectations of the Jewish nation had been that Messiah would be a conquering hero who would liberate them from tyranny. In the time of Christ, the obvious oppressor was the Roman Empire. Yet God’s eternal plan from before the creation of the world was that forgiveness of sins would be secured through the substitute blood offering of Messiah—Jesus of Nazareth. He would provide redemption for every member of the human race who would hear and believe the gospel of grace. Jesus told His followers that opposition and persecution would accompany this proclamation of the gospel, but an eternal reward and joyous fellowship with the Creator-Redeemer God would be given to those who persevered.
Who do you know who needs to hear this good news of grace? Dennis Fisher
Kids 4 Truth International – God Made Me Unique
“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)
The Browning family has five children. Each one of them is different from the others. No one looks exactly like another, and no two have the same personality. One is a bookworm who could spend hours reading and thinking about reading. One is athletic and loves to bake. Another is shy and enjoys making up new games to play. One talks really fast and has a silly sense of humor. The littlest one, who is adopted, seems to love everyone. Each child is unique, and their parents love each one of them. No family is the same as another family, and no one person is the same. Being unique but yet also part of a united group is one of the things that is so special about the family. That is how God created families to be.
We believe that kids are different from each other, but what about animals – even tiny ones, like ants? Have you ever seen a long trail of ants? Do they all look identical (exactly alike) to you? Did you know that each of those ants is different from the others? God made each of them unique. Or snowflakes: Have you ever watched snow fall? The flakes flutter down onto the windshield of a car or onto the ground. Some flakes are big, and some are small, but every single one of those snowflakes is unique – none of them are alike.
Do you think the differences among people, ants, and snowflakes happened by chance? Not a chance! We have a powerful, awesome God Who has created everything. Each of us has been created unique. Not one of us is exactly like another person. Even if you are an identical twin, you are different from your twin. It may be that your hair is thinner, or you are slightly taller, or perhaps your teeth are straight but your twin’s are not.
God made each of the Browning kids unique. And God made you unique! The Bible says we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God knows everything about you. He knows the number of hairs on your head – even if a few of them get pulled out somehow! He knows when you do right and when you do wrong. It takes an awesome, all-powerful God to create so many unique individuals and to know them so closely and personally.
Your awesome God made you unique.
» What does God know about me that no one else knows?
» Do I praise Him for being the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator that He is?
For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].—Corinthians 5:21
What if everywhere you went, you ran into someone you didn’t like? Wouldn’t that be terrible? Oh no, you’d think, her again. You attend a party, and you have to endure her conversation and views. You go to church, and she’s sitting right beside you. What a bummer to have to spend so much time with this person, you think.
Then it gets worse. There she is at the dinner table with you! She’s lounging by the pool; she’s even in your bed! She’s everywhere! That sounds pretty awful, but it is the exact situation you find yourself in if you don’t like yourself, because you are everywhere you go. You can’t get away from yourself, even for a second, so you are in for a sad life if you dread your own company. That much is pretty obvious.
But believe it or not, even though we can all agree that it makes no sense to live your life this way, I find that most people don’t like themselves. They may not even realize it, but some genuine soul-searching reveals the sad fact that they have rejected themselves and in some cases even hate themselves. I’ve come across a lot of people over the years, through my ministry and in day-to-day life, and I’m amazed at how few are truly at peace with themselves. Instead, they have declared war on themselves.
God wants you to love yourself, not in some wrong selfish or prideful way, but in a healthy way that truly understands how special you are to Him. As you begin to see yourself as God sees you, then not only will you love yourself, but you will have the confidence and faith to be a powerful force for good in the world.
From the book New Day, New You by Joyce Meyer.
“Let everyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches; He who is victorious shall not be hurt by the Second Death” (Revelation 2:11).
I find great comfort in the promises of God’s word, and this is another that makes a positive assurance to use: we shall not be hurt by the Second Death.
But just what is meant by the term Second Death? It would seem to mean that the conqueror shall not have anything to fear in the future world. The punishment of hell is sometimes called death – not in the sense that the soul will cease to exist, but because death is the most fearful thing we know about, and there is a striking similarity in many respects between death and future punishment.
As death cuts us off from life, so the second death cuts one off from eternal life. Death puts an end to all our earthly hopes, and the second death to all hope forever. Death is accompanied by terrors and alarms, which are only faint emblems of the coming terror in the world of woe.
This promise of no harm for us in the second death really is all that is necessary to sustain us in our trials. Nothing else is needed to make the burdens of life tolerable but this assurance that the end of our earthly journey will bring us to the close of suffering. No power can harm us beyond the grave.
We have no promise that we shall not die, but we do have this glorious assurance that nothing beyond that will ever hurt us. Meanwhile, we are expected to listen – and to be faithful.
Bible Reading: John 8:21-25
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Knowing that nothing beyond the grave will ever hurt me, I will make this present life count for Christ and His kingdom.
He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Job 8:21
Laughter is from the Lord. It is His medicine for the mind and therapy for the soul. The Lord laughs because He is the dispenser of laughter. You cannot give what you do not have, and He has plenty to laugh about. Just as an engaging parent intently observes his children, so God sees antics and behaviors that are hilarious. The Lord must laugh when He sees one of His children smile and do something silly, harmless, and lighthearted. Indeed, He knows laughter is one way to get us through life’s intense moments. God is not so serious that he cannot smile and laugh.
How could Jesus have been 100% human if He hadn’t experienced an old-fashioned belly laugh? Just hanging out with impetuous Peter would be reason enough to giggle under your breath, or even burst into raucous, roaring laughter. Indeed, God has a sense of humor. You don’t have to look beyond the mirror to verify this fact. His joy and laughter are a refreshing combination. In a day when proud piety has frowned on laughter, God still laughs. He laughs, and so do you, for you were created in His image. It is no laughing matter to think that God does not laugh. A world without laughter would be like a joke without a punch line, so look to the Lord of laughter and smile; He does.
“So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure” (Genesis 18:12).
God has given you permission to laugh. In fact, He has put joy in your heart and laughter on your lips for a purpose. When you laugh, you relax. When you laugh, the cares of this world shrink and the Lord looms larger. When you laugh, you learn to enjoy life and the Lord himself. When you laugh, you look like the Lord. Laugh loudly and laugh often. Moreover, generosity will fuel your laughter. It is cheerful giving that brings joy to the soul (2 Corinthians 9:7). Generosity ignites joy and laughter. No wonder the greedy frown and fret; there is no freedom to let loose and laugh. Laughless living is for losers. They are bound up in boring behavior. If you are too serious to laugh, you are too serious.
Seriously, you can be too serious for your own good. You may be more serious than God. Instead, throw back your head and begin by laughing at yourself. Take yourself less seriously and God more seriously. A good laugh lends itself to longer and better living. A scowling face seems to rush more quickly to the grave. Lean on the Lord for your laughter, and make His joy your strength.
Laughter infuses your faith with mercy and hope. You are not a naïve laughing fool, but a joyful follower of Christ. Take time each day to laugh at yourself and to laugh with others. Recognize laughter as the Lord’s way of leveraging a balanced and healthy life. Life without laughter is dull and mundane. Therefore, choose to lift up others and yourself with a good laugh. There is a time to laugh, so do it often and do it well. The Lord may be laughing right now, so smile.
“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise you with thanksgiving for Your joy is my strength, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Application: What area of my life do I need to take less seriously and take the Lord more seriously?
Related Readings: Genesis 21:6; Job 8:21; Psalm 37:13, 126:2; Proverbs 14:13; Luke 7:34
Read 1 CHRONICLES 14
One challenge facing the American colonies after they declared independence from England was establishing the commercial viability of the fledgling nation. John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and second president of the United States, went to Amsterdam to obtain a loan so the new country could pay its war debts. He found that the bankers were reluctant to grant the loan until the Dutch parliament formally recognized the United States as a country.
In 1 Chronicles 14, the author highlights three indicators of David’s success. First, David received support from Hiram, the king of Tyre. This Phoenician port city was an important center for shipping. By supplying cedar logs and craftsmen to build David’s palace, Hiram was doing more than engaging in a business transaction. He was acknowledging the legitimacy of David’s rule.
Second, the expansion of David’s family was evidence of David’s growing prosperity. Even the opposition of the Philistines gave David a kind of legitimacy, since it meant that they viewed him as a viable threat. The fact that the Lord answered when David inquired of Him is the third proof that God was behind his rise to power. David’s predecessor Saul knew that God had removed His hand of blessing from him when he inquired of God “but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets” (1 Sam. 28:6).
The mode of David’s victory in verses 13 through 16 was proof of divine support as much as the victory itself. The advance of David’s men was masked by the sound of wind in the tops of the Balsam trees. Not only did God give David the plan, He enlisted the support of creation itself in David’s cause.
APPLY THE WORD
Most people believe the secret to success is a combination of optimism and persistence mixed with a dash of luck. Surely anyone can succeed if they try hard enough! But God was the key to David’s success. Are you hoping for success today? Then seek God first. He will show you what true success looks like.
It’s often easy to trace discouragement back to its apparent cause, such as a criticism at work or a relationship issue. But there can be subtle, less obvious factors that are valuable to understand. So let’s look at some spiritual components.
Satan. The enemy is a primary instigator. His purpose is to have us lose heart, think poorly of ourselves, and focus only on the negative.
An area of weakness. When the devil has a stronghold in our life, such as a tenacious habit, he can use it to discourage us. This can be especially disheartening because it feels as if we can’t escape his grip, no matter what we do.
Unanswered prayer. When a prayer is answered “no” or “not now,” we can lose hope. Sadly, some people quit praying altogether.
Prayerlessness. Failing to understand God’s sovereignty and timing can lead to this tragic result. When He answers prayer in an unexpected way, some believers are so taken aback or irritated that they give up on praying altogether. However, cutting off communication with the Lord is a sure way to move into deeper discouragement.
The sense you can’t please God. This is a tragic consequence of a works-based faith, wherein we believe God’s favor is tied to our good works. What a misguided error! Our Father’s love is based on His own grace, not our deeds.
It can be surprising to realize spiritual factors may be adding to our discouragement and further draining our joy and energy. Identifying these causes is crucial, even if the process is painful. Once we clearly see the problems, we can begin to learn how to avoid or correct these trouble areas.
Bible in One Year: Proverbs 26-28
Read: 1 Samuel 17:8, 32–37, 48–50
Bible in a Year: Psalms 13–15; Acts 19:21–41
The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and . . . the bear will rescue me.—1 Samuel 17:37
I worked at a fast-food restaurant for over two years in high school. Some aspects of the job were difficult. Customers verbalized their anger while I apologized for the unwanted slice of cheese on the sandwich I didn’t make. Soon after I left, I applied for a computer job at my university. The employers were more interested in my fast-food experience than my computer skills. They wanted to know that I knew how to deal with people. My experience in unpleasant circumstances prepared me for a better job!
Young David persevered through an experience we might well call unpleasant. When Israel was challenged to send someone to fight Goliath, no one was brave enough to step up to the task. No one but David. King Saul was reluctant to send him to fight, but David explained that as a shepherd he had fought and killed a lion and a bear for the sake of the sheep (1 Sam. 17:34-36). Confidently he stated, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and . . . the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (v. 37).
Being a shepherd didn’t earn David much respect, but it prepared him to fight Goliath and eventually become Israel’s greatest king. We may be in difficult circumstances, but through them God might be preparing us for something greater! —Julie Schwab
Lord, help me to hold on during the unpleasant times in my life knowing that You may be preparing me for something greater.
God uses present circumstances to prepare us for the future.
INSIGHT: When you reflect on experiences in your life, can you identify any that God used to minister to others or to further His kingdom? Are you in a difficult situation right now? Ask God to help you learn from it and to trust Him for your future. J.R. Hudberg
When we are facing a tough, extreme, or tragic situation, our faith is either strengthened or destroyed. Consider the intensity of a fire. Most things can’t withstand its heat, as it can consume entire forests and neighborhoods in a matter of days. But the same fire doesn’t burn up gold. Instead, it purifies it.
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced the furnace, they confirmed they would praise only the living God. It was a death sentence. They could have decided to save themselves by doing what the king wanted, but their faith would have been unreliable—burned up in the midst of danger. Instead they went against the king by keeping their loyalty to the Lord. Their faith was purified. Whether God saved them or decided not to, their faith didn’t waver because the holy object of their faith never wavers. (And God did save them in the most dramatic way: after they were thrown into the fire, they walked out unharmed!)
In an impossible situation, faith recognizes that the only hope is in God. If you are facing a desperate time, remember that your faith is being purified. If you don’t know all the answers, your faith is being developed. You may be overwhelmed by uncertainty and doubt, but your faith is being strengthened.
Dear Lord, Because you are trustworthy, I have faith in you. When I am desperate, I will turn to you. Amen.
For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God].—Hebrews 12:11
We should look to the future, determine what we want to see happen, and then discipline ourselves in order that we may have it. We must not buy into the lie that we should only live for the moment or that the present is all we have. We also have a future to consider, and we need to begin to live with an eye toward “afterward,” toward the “later on” times. We have to begin to care just as much or more about later on than we care about right now.
If you want to be thinner when the time comes to wear your swimsuit in June, you need to start eating healthily and exercising before summer arrives. If you want to be able to afford a new car next year, you need to work toward getting out of debt right now. If you dream of living in a nice, clean, orderly home, you have to clear out the clutter and clean it up!
Discipline may not be pleasant for your flesh while you’re doing it, but it will give you a tremendous sense of satisfaction in your soul—the satisfaction that comes from knowing you are making good choices. If you will pay the price to be disciplined now, you will enjoy rewards later. If you don’t pay the price now to do what is right, then you’ll suffer the consequences of an undisciplined life later.
“Remember, the Lord will pay you for each good thing you do, whether you are slave or free” (Ephesians 6:8).
When I proposed to Vonette I told her that I loved her dearly, and I wanted her to be my wife. I promised to do everything I could to make her happy and that she would always be the most important person in my life. But I further explained that my first allegiance was to the Lord, for I had already made that commitment to Him and could not and would not violate that promise to follow Him whatever the cost. She agreed, and we were married on those conditions.
My love for Vonette is far greater today because Jesus Christ is first in my life, and her love for me is far greater because He is first in her life. Our relationship is infinitely richer and more meaningful than it would have been had she been master of her life, and I the lord of my life, or if we had made each other first in our lives and the Lord Jesus Christ second.
The apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is affirming the promise of our Lord recorded in Matthew 6:32-33, “Your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well what you need and He will give it to you if you give Him first place in your life and live as He wants you to.”
In the context of this verse in Ephesians, Paul is dealing with family relationships – authority within the family. If we can grasp the concept of God as our paymaster, it will make a vast difference in the way we respond to the authority of men.
Christ knows everything you endure. He gives you your full portion of all that He owns. He is really the one for whom you are working. Wherever you are working, you may have assignments and responsibilities which you do not enjoy. But if Christ is truly the one for whom you work, then you will undertake His assignments cheerfully.
If we choose to be rebellious, we face the danger of a reward from our paymaster that might not be at all to our liking. Let us be about our Father’s business – willingly, joyfully, enthusiastically.
Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:1-7
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Though I may have a boss or leader who tells me what to do, and when to do it, I will always remember that my first allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ, and by putting Him first, even above my loved ones who surround me, I can serve others with greater joy, confidence and enthusiasm.