15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Fatherd is not in them. 16For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17
Have you ever been driving home down a familiar road and missed your turn because you were distracted in some way, possibly by a random thought that crossed your mind, or even more unnerving to consider, a conversation you were having with yourself that was taking place? Come on now, you know we’ve all been there when our mind is elsewhere and we find ourselves several miles past the turn toward our destination because we were distracted – it could have been a distraction of simplistic proportions or one of more serious circumstances in our lives. Nevertheless, the Apostle John warns his readers here of ‘Distractions on The Journey’ of life that can draw them away from intimacy and close fellowship with their heavenly Father, leading them down paths away from true hope and life.
He begins with a warning that the ‘things of the world’ have little to offer in the way of spiritual nourishment, healing, restoration, and vitality. “15Do not love the world or anything in the world.” Considering anyone who love the things of the world, John says ultimately, they are chasing after those things - “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” This is a stark warning of our need for God and that the things of this world will never satisfy the deepest longings of the soul – a genuine personal relationship with Jesus, life-giving hope that restores the hopeless, true light which shines in darkness, and the truth of God that we are redeemed and unconditionally loved. Thus, John warns of the snares of the enemy in this world that so easily cause us both false hope and to fall into sin, 16For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—come not from the Father but from the world.”
Each of these Lusts or Pleasures of Life deserve a proper definition for our daily spiritual armor and battle preparations. The Lust of the Flesh refers to sensual pleasures of the eyes, the Lust of the Eyes refers to covetousness or materialism, and the Pride of Life refers to pride in one’s perceived position in society. These lusts, which really can be seen as spiritual matters of the heart, are counterproductive as they become major distractions to both spiritual growth and our true identity in Christ Jesus our Savior, who desires to continue His work in us. John bookends this passage with an essential truth regarding the desires and passions of this life – they are fleeting and will pass away. They will come and go like waves in the ocean tossed back and forth by the undercurrents of life’s circumstances, yet he states, “whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
Today, remember to turn toward Jesus as your source of true identity and contentment, relying on God’s truth and promises, speaking His word over yourself moment by moment if necessary. Take small steps of obedience toward Christ today avoiding the ‘Lusts of the World’ by pressing into the Him, where you will find true peace, rest, and fulfillment traveling on the path He has laid out for your journey. May the desire of your heart be for the love of God to dwell within you through His Spirit day by day.
Father, thank You for this day You have made, let me rejoice in it and find my delight in You alone. May the many distractions of this world continually fade into the background of my life as I pursue You more closely day by day. The things of this world grow strangely dim when I set my gaze on the light of Your glory grace. Give me the strength and will to pursue You Lord above all else, turning away from the things of this world that will not ultimately fulfill my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
9Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
There’s so much to be said for close companionship and a strong sense of community along life’s journey especially when the path is littered with trials, suffering, or uncertainty. If we’re honest, this is the path everyone travels, yet most are not ready to admit it. One thing I’m continuing to learn as the years go by is that ‘control’ is an illusion and that I must surrender more and more areas of my life to the Lord, trusting that He is with me in all things. I do find that He gives us assurance of His presence through the comfort of His Holy Spirit and the truth of His word, but He also provides sources of comfort and fellowship through close companions who are committed to walk the journey with us. However, within ourselves can be a prevailing mind-set of ‘self-sufficiency’ that pushes us even as believers to strive for survival, independent of God and community with other believers (The Church). It’s often easy to hide behind seemingly ‘perfect facades’ out of fear, not wanting to let anyone into our world. The Apostle Paul commands us in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The Lord’s desire for us is to speak His truth into one another’s lives, doing life together, benefiting from a fellowship that is not easily broken.
God’s call for us is to become transparent with other individuals we can trust to accompany us along the journey, in which we can mutually show compassion, demonstrate His unconditional love, pouring His grace over one another, allowing us to continue growing into the unique children He created us to be. In return, we will continually be transformed through the process of being in community and fellowship with these trusted individuals that God has placed in our path. This is part of God’s work in our lives as He strengthens our faith and trust in Him, and therefore we will be less likely overpowered by the things that once defeated and discouraged us so easily. Pray and ask God to lead you to a “trusted” believer who will walk with you, who will demonstrate compassion, who will sometimes simply listen, who will be okay with not having all the answers, and be content as your companion along The Journey.
Father, thank You for the beauty of companionship along the journey of life as we travel with fellow believers who help us to carry our burdens. Thank you for individuals you purposefully allow to cross our paths for encouragement, growth, and comfort. You are the God of infinite wisdom who knows every intimate detail of our lives, especially when we need those trusted companions in the faith to help us bear our burdens. Lord, may You continually bring those individuals into my life according to Your time and will, and allow me to cross paths with others who You need me to bring the hope and comfort of Christ. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” Philippians 3:20-21
I visited a dear friend in his late twenties who found himself in the hospital awaiting a heart transplant and basically a permanent resident there until his new heart arrived or until which time the Lord chose to call him to his heavenly home. Before I comment any further, I will boldly proclaim for my friend that he already has a “New Spiritual Heart” because he has accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, therefore, if God did choose to call him home today, he would by days’ end be sitting at the very feet of King Jesus. Having walked through the corridors of the hospital I was quickly reminded of how fragile this mortal life is that we’ve been granted by our Creator God – the ONE who created us in His image. However, we understand that when sin entered the world, God’s created order for the world was sent into chaos including the incredibly perfectly functioning body of every human being, therefore, we became subject to pain, disease, and earthly death.
The Apostle Paul refers to these earthly bodies as our “Mortal Bodies” that will eventually be replaced with new bodies which resemble that of Jesus Himself, “He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” The “power” spoken of here is the amazing power of God, above and beyond any power we can ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21) – the power that set all of Creation into existence, the power that defeated our sin and death on the cross, the power that works in our hearts through the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen us in times of hardship & pain, and the power that God will use to create new bodies for us in heaven that will be without pain, disease, sickness, anxiety, depression, or any other type of illness. Thus, our hope is in the promise that God is faithful to the promises of His word, that our ultimate home is not this world nor our fragile bodies, and here we are promised that even if in this life our pain, diseases, struggles, or disabilities are not completely removed, God will sustain us, one day granting us a “new and glorious body” as we enter our heavenly home.
Father, thank You that as believers in Christ we are not “citizens of this world” and these fragile, mortal bodies are not where our hope is found. You are the Creator and Sustainer of life through Your amazing power and I’m thankful for Your eternal promises of new and glorious bodies as we enter our heavenly home. May we continually be strengthened each day by Your word and through the presence of Your Spirit within us knowing that on this journey we are simply passing through. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path.”
A very well-known fact is that it’s difficult to find our way around in the dark especially in unfamiliar places, yet sometimes, even in familiar surroundings we find ourselves disoriented because of the darkness that has fallen upon the landscape. Even in our homes, (I’m sure that I’m not the only one this has ever happened to), when one of your children calls out in the middle of the night, the house is dark, you get out of bed confident you can navigate the living room obstacles in complete darkness. However, as you respond, being confident that your path is clear, without warning you smash your knee on a hardwood end table and with every fiber of your being you attempt not to screech in pain waking the rest of the house. Light is of utmost importance, not merely in this simple illustration, but much more so in life’s journey where God’s word must be “a lamp for our feet, and a light on our path.”
Keeping the path on our journey well illuminated is a daily process of obedience that requires intentional steps beginning with inviting God into our circumstances, desiring for Him to be intimately involved in our lives moment by moment. Secondly, feeding ourselves on His word and speaking the truth of His word over ourselves constantly throughout the day is essential to keeping our path full of light, His light. This is important because the many misguided messages of the world, well-worn paths to dead ends and discouragement, along with the whispers of our enemy can cast the shadows of darkness over the path on which we travel, blinding us to the light of the hope we have in our Savior, Christ Jesus.
Father, thank you for your grace and love, your mercy and compassion, your kindness and protection, and your provision as the author of True Life and Light. You are our Good heavenly Father who is righteous and true, generously giving Your Word as a “lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Your word breathes life into the soul who is weary from the journey and shines new light full of hope on the right path allowing those who follow You to press on taking intentional steps of daily obedience. Thank You for being the God who brings The Light! In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not
cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing
spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10-12
One step, ‘the first step,’ of each morning for so many of us is the most important step each day, for without the first step, the steps following throughout our day may or may not take place. In walking the journey through anxiety, depression, or other life struggles, God is our ultimate source of strength, as He desires to be for everyone. However, in that, we are called to those “simple steps of obedience” spoken of here by the psalmist David. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit (firmly fixed in place; firm in belief) within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” We’re able to draw nearer to the comfort and the strength of God’s Spirit with a clean heart, which only comes through the recognition of, confession, and forgiveness of our sin. As we walk through times of difficulty and suffering, it’s easy to forget that we still fall short daily of God’s perfection, and need His grace, mercy, and forgiveness to cleanse our hearts again. The ability of the Holy Spirit to bring hope, comfort, and strength to us is vital to providing us with the will and ability to press on in Jesus’ name for another day.
There is such strength found in the hope and salvation we have in Christ Jesus for taking those crucial first steps each morning. In the words of Pastor Johnny Hunt, “There is so much that is dependent upon our ‘will’ to do something.” It is in our mind that God has given us a ‘will,’ the free, human desire and ability to take action or remain inactive, to ‘fight or flight,’ in the midst of the difficulties of life. David rightly calls upon the Lord to bring him both joy and sustaining strength through the Holy Spirit; “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” He understood the importance of inviting God into his immediate circumstances, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day. In a culture which seems to thrive on ‘self-sufficiency,’ the Lord is decisively drawn to those who call upon Him for help, and whose desire is to be drawn closer to Him yearning to have a “clean heart” through His forgiveness, grace, and mercy with each new day. “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Today, I’m reminded of an old Chinese Proverb in which the author appropriately speaks to the importance of taking these daily simple steps of obedience: “To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.” As we continue to walk this journey, may we purposefully ‘keep on stepping’ in the strength of Christ, drawing from the hope we have in our salvation, and with a renewed spirit as we call on His name in our time of need. We must continually be reminded to walk in the truth that He is our strength, our sufficiency, our hope, and that He gives our lives ultimate value, purpose, and meaning for each new day.
Father, today I thank You for Your faithfulness and unending mercy that is renewed in my life every morning. I ask that You create in me a clean heart and a renewed spirit to sustain me regardless of the circumstances I may encounter throughout this day. Thank You for the will and strength through Your Spirit to keep stepping in obedience toward Christ on this journey. May I set my gaze on the joy of my salvation today and the ultimate sense of hope that comes from focusing on You moment by moment. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this He meant the (Holy) Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive…”
Along the journey there will be dry times in which evidence of God’s presence and movement in and around our lives may not be as apparent causing us to become weary and burdened, also thirsting for meaning, relevance, and deliverance. We know that God created us with a purpose (Ephesians 2:10), to be used by Him for His glory and to do the work ‘He prepared for us in advance to do.” Our spiritual journeys include experiences that teach us, build our character, and reveal to us more of the specific purposes God has for our lives. These experiences often challenging and painful, leave us with only one direction to turn for our source of strength to endure - Jesus, our Savior.
God never intended that we live, work, or serve without Him. In fact, He has given us His Holy Spirit as a guide and a “well-spring of life” that enables us to press on as we press into His wisdom and presence in our circumstances. “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within Him.” The Holy Spirit of God which comes to dwell within our hearts once we’ve received Christ as our personal Savior, is and becomes that unending source of God’s love, grace, strength, and truth flowing into our lives especially in those desert-like seasons of life.
Looking to Christ, daily inviting Him into our circumstances, turning to His Holy Spirit as well as God’s word for spiritual nourishment, will never leave us thirsting for the things of the world to satisfy our deepest needs. However, we must remember that dwelling daily in the presence of God is essential to having access to the ‘living water’ Jesus provides as we become “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.” (Psalm 1:3) Jesus also echoed the importance of dwelling in Him through ‘the drinking’ of His ‘living water’ to the woman at the well – “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again (doing life his own way apart from God), but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again. Indeed, the water I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) This nourishment results when we choose to center our lives on Christ, daily walking with Him in spirit, and purpose to be filled with the truth of God’s word.
Father, thank You for being streams of water and a well-spring of life along the journey for all who seek You for nourishment. Thank you for Your Spirit living with me who is the unending source of this nourishment when I come to You in prayer and through Your word, “casting my cares upon you” (1 Peter 5:7), “Seeking first the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33) May Your streams of living water well up within my spirit, especially in desert-like seasons of life when I can’t readily see Your hand, but can trust Your heart. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
11Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.
Have you ever found yourself in a set of circumstances that required a bit of courage on your part? I mean, by definition, what we would call something that required mental, emotional, and especially, spiritual strength to persevere amidst danger, fear, or difficulty. This is obviously not a comfortable place in which to find ourselves in any situation or season of life regardless of the cause. However, this is where the prophet Nehemiah finds himself – right in the crosshairs of courage and fear. He is deeply grieved over the news that his homeland lay in ruin, and his desire is to leave his post as cupbearer to the king, making his way there to assess the damage himself. But he would need permission and provisions to make this long trip possible. What we do know is that before our story picks up with verse eleven, Nehemiah deeply wept and fervently prayed to God over what appeared to be a hopeless situation.
But as author Gene Getz writes, “Nehemiah demonstrates that in our moments of pain and helplessness, we need to remember we have access to God – the One who can help us make our way through life’s greatest moments of darkness.” Nehemiah’s prayer, 11Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man (the king),” is one much like you and I can pray – “Lord, in this moment, please go before me making a way where there seems to be no way.” Very often on our journey, courage in taking the next step is placing our circumstances in God’s hands, and then as difficult as it can be, waiting on Him to move on our behalf as He did for Nehemiah. The important thing to remember is it’s not about the number of steps we take each day, but more so that we continue to take courageous steps of obedience toward Christ one at a time, trusting in Him for the results. Not to leave our story incomplete, God honored Nehemiah’s prayers and granted him favor in the sight of the king allowing him the permission he would need for travel along with the provisions for his mission. God is so often waiting for us to come to Him for what are our everyday needs as well as our greatest needs in moments of crisis. May we take a cue from Nehemiah in seeking God first through prayer when we need courage on the journey.
Father, I thank You this morning that because of Jesus, I have direct access to You in prayer because I can “boldly approach your throne of grace, that I may obtain mercy and find grace in my time of need.” (Hebrews 14:16) Lord, let your ear be attentive to hear my prayers as I, like Nehemiah, fear (revere) Your name. May I seek You first for courage along the journey as I’m reminded in Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified of them, for the Lord your God goes before you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Father, thank You for the courage you provide through Your word, Spirit, and through prayer. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Acts 13:2-3; 11:22-24
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,
‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
(Arriving in Antioch) “News of this (news of revival) reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”
How valuable and powerful are words of encouragement to us in times of hardship, grief, distress, and suffering? Being encouraged literally means to ‘be inspired by someone with courage, spirit, and hope.’ Further, it is a means to ‘make someone more determined, hopeful, and confident.’ There are days when life seems to bring us to the end of ourselves, at which time we can become extremely discouraged, feeling powerless and hopeless to see a clearer path on our journey. God as our greatest source of encouragement sends His hope and encouragement to us through His word, and the comfort of His Spirit. But He also provides encouragement by placing individuals into our lives whose specific purpose is to come along beside us, simply for companionship and encouragement.
We know God had radically changed Paul’s life from one who had a troubled past which included persecuting Christians, yet his life was transformed by Christ, with a new purpose and mission. But God, in His infinite wisdom, understood that Paul would need a close companion, an ‘encourager’ to accompany him along his spiritual journey for the Lord. As our journey in the Lord continues, we need those same type of encouragers in our lives in the form of a close friend, a mentor, a spouse, etc. by which God will continually use to remind us of His truth about who we are in Him, and that we too, like Paul, have a renewed purpose each day.
As Paul and Barnabas were ‘set apart’ for the Lord, so too, we are set apart for His purpose for our lives. As we’re reminded in Ephesians 2:10, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared for us to do in advance.” However, in the moments of life when the truth of God becomes “blurry,” those people whom God has placed in our lives become a conduit for His encouragement empowering us to take that “next” necessary step to live and thrive in Christ for another day. Barnabas encouraged the believers, “to remain true to the Lord with all their all hearts.” When we find ourselves in difficult moments, days, or seasons of uncertainty, God uses these most precious people in our lives to help us to press through and press on in the strength of Christ as Paul was reminded by the Lord in 1 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Furthermore, quite often after we’ve passed through a storm in our path we find ourselves becoming encouragers to others along their life’s journey.
Father, today I thank You for being our greatest source of encouragement for this journey through Your word and Spirit. I also thank You that in Your infinite wisdom You place like-minded agents of encouragement in our lives at just the right moments so that we can be reminded of who You are and that we never journey alone. May we draw near to You and may You strengthen us to remain true to You with all of our hearts even when the path is unclear and the future seems uncertain. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
This side of heaven there are many things for which we take out “Insurance Policies” such as our homes, vehicles, and even life insurance all in the name of protecting and preserving what is valuable property. However, on our journey in this life, what’s needed more than “Insurance” is “Assurance” meaning a definitive statement that something will happen or that something is true. Now as a general practice, if an individual has too many accidents or incidents on their car insurance record, the insurance company has a right to drop that individual’s coverage, leaving them ultimately “uninsured.” Conversely, a promise of “Assurance,” especially as it relates to God’s word, never ceases to exist, it never changes in form or fashion, but is always true in its original form regardless of one’s circumstances. God’s assurance for us is always dependable, regardless of our record.
In Isaiah 43 we find the Prophet Isaiah speaking God’s words of assurance to the people of Israel that during times of difficult trial they would not be overtaken by their circumstances. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. These same assurances can be applied to our lives as we continue to take steps forward in our life’s journey this side of heaven, especially when the path gets weary and we become worn. There will be times when life feels like a raging river or an all-consuming fire that is set to overtake us, but the Lord says, “the rivers..shall not overwhelm you” and “the flame shall not consume you.” What profound assurances these are on our journey for on the most difficult of days we will need to reach for them. Remember God assures us, “I will be with you, you will not be overwhelmed, nor will you be consumed, reach out for me, hold onto my promises.”
Father, thank You today that Your word is full of unchanging promises of assurance for us along life’s journey. We can trust that when life seems like a raging river or an all-consuming fire, You are with us, promising that ultimately we will neither be completely overwhelmed nor consumed by our circumstances. Help us to cling to those assurances in faith setting our gaze continually on You for strength and hope to endure. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
When we think of God’s provision, we may think of all we’ve been blessed to have as a family, a community, or even our nation. We are ranked among the wealthiest nations in the world, yet interestingly, we have a less impressive ranking when it comes to “happiness” and “contentment.” This fact alone means that less materially fortunate nations are filled with more happiness and contentment with their lives than we are, and they have less “stuff” to keep them happy, content, and occupied. Such an illustration should serve as a stark reminder that God’s provision is not solely for the purpose of our happiness, but ultimately holiness – meaning He desires for us to draw nearer to Him, molding and shaping us more like Himself. Along this journey of transformation, there is the joyous promise that as we pursue the Lord in desperation for His provision, He will do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power (The power of His Holy Spirit) that is at work within us.” This same message is echoed again in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “Rather, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him."
In desperately seeking the Lord for His provision we come to understand that His desire is not simply to provide the material needs of this world to us, but more importantly, the spiritual. This process may require us to experience times and seasons of suffering to bring about the necessary heart transformation God desires in us. At times we may have overwhelming financial, physical, relational, or other needs that through much prayer, God answers according to His will and purposes making unexplainable or unexpected provision in meeting those needs. On occasion, there are matters of the heart that need His provision, and it’s only in our broken desperation that we find our hope in Him, and He is able to provide “immeasurably more” of the life-breathing power of His Spirit to restore our weary souls than we could ever imagine. Today, it would serve us well to seek what is “best” for our lives by becoming desperate for God’s provision, bringing our requests to Him, because often we settle for what we simply see as “good” in this world by attempting to provide for all our needs in our own strength. As Paul writes, we are indeed in the hands of the One who provides and grants us peace when we bring our requests to God, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Father, You are our ultimate Provider and able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to Your amazing power and abundant resources. May we be reminded that You desire to be intimately involved in even the most minute details of our lives – meaning there is no request too small nor any so large that You cannot meet according to Your will. Lord, You stand ready and waiting for us to become more desperate for Your provision inviting you into our circumstances in order to bring glory to Yourself as You reveal Your power in our lives. Thank You for Your faithfulness to move in amazing ways as we become more desperate for You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
1 John 4:18-19
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”
There are things of this life that can cause us to “fear” wreaking havoc on our bodies, our minds and spirits, even to the point of paralyzing us as to normal daily function. Fear is a real tool of our enemy as well, used to render us ineffective to serve the Lord and others with the unique gifts and talents we’ve been given by our Creator. Sometimes these fears are born out of experiences long ago, present fears of the unknown, or fears regarding one’s future. These fears can produce mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish in our hearts preventing us from experiencing completely, the gift of God’s love He has given us. The Apostle John explains to us, “There is no fear in love,” that is in God’s love, because His “perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.” If you have fearful scars from long ago, present fears, or fears of the future which we know are not born of God’s love and often torment the soul, they must be turned over by faith into God’s perfect love, at which time these fears can begin to be disarmed in one’s life.
John continues, “But he who fears has not been made perfect in love,” revealing a heart that has not fully experienced God’s perfect love through true faith and understanding. The key to being delivered from fear is continuing to grow closer in a personal relationship with God, coming both to know and walk in His perfect love through a deeper understanding of that great love. The Apostle Paul writes, “No in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. I am convinced that…nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39), thus, allowing His truth and promises to drive out our fears. In response to “perfect love casting out fear,” famous theologian John Calvin writes, “It may, however, be asked, when does perfect love expel fear, for since we are endued with some taste only of divine love towards us, we can never be wholly freed from fear? To this I answer, that, though fear is not wholly shaken off, yet when we flee to God as to a quiet harbor, safe and free from all danger of shipwreck and of tempests, fear is really expelled, for it gives way to faith. Then fear is not so expelled, but that it assails our minds, but it is so expelled that it does not torment us nor impede that peace which we obtain by faith.” Calving is saying our most reasonable response to fear is to flee to our Creator in faith, worship and truth. Drawing near to the One who is our “Refuge and Strength in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1), our “safe harbor,” and the “shade at your right hand.” (Psalm 121:5) Our Lord is the ONE who gives us His peace that surpasses all understanding regardless of our circumstances.
Most importantly, we need not forget that true love began with God himself as John concludes, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) God’s love to us is unconditional and was ultimately demonstrated by His free gift of salvation through Christ Jesus our Savior at the Cross. Therefore, we have the capacity to love God in return as well as to love others toward Him. The Lord can use His love to transform our fears into catalysts for change in our hearts, which causes us to become more desperate for Him, moving us beyond places of fear into places of “safe harbor” in His Perfect Love.
Father, thank You that Your love is perfect and is able to drive out our deepest fears. Let us draw nearer to You in full assurance of faith in Your unconditional and unfathomable love demonstrated to us through Your Son Jesus. May we stand in Your perfect love and unchanging truth when tempted to fear our circumstances or the things of this world. Continue to strengthen our faith through the promises of Your love for us and by the overwhelming sense of love from Your Spirit within us. Enable us to stand not in fear, but to stand Desperate in Your Perfect Love. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Has anyone ever showed you compassion or comfort in a given situation? Compassion is showing concern for someone who is sick, hurting, or in a poor condition. It is demonstrating a sense of consciousness of another person’s distress with a desire to walk with them in it. Whereas Comfort literally means to give strength and hope, to ease someone’s grief, to console them. Both compassion and comfort go hand in hand with our command to “bear one another’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2) The Apostle Paul declares that the Lord God our Creator, is the ultimate source for distributing these two elements to the hurting soul as he writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” This statement in itself should give us pause to ask some questions, “Where are we looking for compassion and comfort? What or who is our source? Does this source ultimately provide hope, compassion, and comfort along life’s journey, possibly even for the benefit of others?”
Paul gives us a two-fold reason for God’s great comfort and our desperate need for it, as he explains, God “comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Therefore, we understand that God in His goodness comforts us in our troubles, hardships, pain, and suffering, not merely for our benefit, but also for the purpose of comforting and ministering to those around us with the same comfort we have received from Him. However, in order to receive this comfort from God, there must be an element of desperate surrender to Him, asking Him for comfort within our trials and suffering, not necessarily immediate deliverance from them. Then, if we desire to be used of God for His purposes and have an awareness of the needs of others, He will lead us to those who are in desperate need of the comfort with which we have already received from Him. One of the greatest promises we have is that our suffering is never in vain, God will always use it for His glory and purposes to draw ourselves as well as others nearer to Him. Today, if you’re hurting, struggling, or it feels like your hope is fading, turn toward the ONE who is the “Father of Compassion and the God of all Comfort,” then commit to be desperate for Him.
Father, I thank You that in times of suffering, pain, or hurt in my life You look upon my circumstances full of both comfort and compassion. Thank You for being ever-ready to pour your compassion and comfort over me like medicine for the weary soul. Help me to “cast my cares upon you because you care for me” (1 Peter 5:7), inviting You to both comfort and strengthen me. Allow me to be aware of opportunities to be used by you to comfort those in any trouble with the comfort I have received from You, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
When I think of “peace,” I think of the quietness of early mornings with a cup of coffee, silence in the air, no telephone pings, no sounds of traffic, and no sounds from games on electronic devices. Even more so the peaceful tranquility within that comes with beginning a new day in some devotional time with the Lord. There are many mornings that this peaceful solitude is easy to enter into, yet other times it calls for a heart of desperation for His peace, as the trials and circumstances of this life can often linger from one day to the next. This calls for one to move past his/her immediate feelings, thoughts, and perspectives, purposefully setting one’s mind steadfastly on the Lord. Setting one’s mind to remain steadfast is to be firmly fixed in place or immovable on an object or person. Steadfastness requires the elements of faith and trust in the Lord – “trusting in Him, not on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
The promise given here by the prophet Isaiah is of the Lord’s provision of peace, “You (Lord) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” This promise of God’s perfect peace is not dependent on one’s circumstances, but on the ONE who provides the Perfect Peace within the midst of the storms of life. Just as Jesus calmed the storms before the eyes of His disciples, commanding the wind and the waves (“Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:39), so He can quiet the hearts of you and I in our circumstances. Secondly, it is dependent on the connection between the ONE who provides this Perfect Peace and those who desperately reach out and call upon Him, placing their trust in Him to provide it. Speaking again before His disciples, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27) We too have access to this peace through the Lord’s promises for us and His spirit within us, understanding that His is a peace that surpasses all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)
Today, if you sense in your spirit anxiousness and a struggle to find rest, pray asking the Lord to be your ultimate source of peace, not dependent on your immediate circumstances. Be desperate for His peace setting your gaze upon Him, purposefully setting your mind to be steadfast and immovable on the truth and promises of His word, trusting that He is faithful. He will give you His peace!
Father, You are always good, righteous, and faithful to Your children – desiring to be intimately involved in every area of our lives as we surrender to You. You are the author and deliverer of true peace to all who call upon You in sincerity of heart – desperate for Your presence and Your peace. Today, may You strengthen us to set our minds steadfast on You, knowing that as we trust in You, we will be kept in Perfect Peace. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance, 4and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
I don’t know about you, but there’s something about the peace and tranquility of a quiet Sunday afternoon nap that seems to take all of life’s cares away. I believe God created those occasions to “be still,” and we find in scripture, Jesus even taking time on occasion Himself, to be away from the crowds to become rested, refreshed, and refocused on His heavenly Father. The Apostle Paul begins here with two essential elements of our faith, first being “Justification by Faith” meaning we have gained access to God and salvation through Christ Jesus alone, and secondly, we have “access by faith into this grace (The Free Gift of Salvation – Ephesians 2:8-9) in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
Paul continues to explain that in light of these essential elements of our faith, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The theme of Suffering continually arises throughout scripture as one of God’s greatest tools for molding and shaping His people to make them more like Him, drawing them nearer to Himself. We must also notice that if we respond rightly to this suffering, God brings about glory and honor to Himself, and life transformation to us. Take note of the progression here – “Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, character produces Hope.” Paul unequivocally states that this “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,” however, we must remain desperate for the Lord throughout this process in order to receive and maintain His life-giving hope.
Today, as we take small steps of obedience to remain desperate for Hope in Christ, we must set our gaze upon Him, knowing that we are “justified,” saved by grace alone not by anything we can do, and that God pours His grace (undeserved favor) over our lives daily. Being desperate for His hope means our willingness to surrender our lives to Him moment by moment, inviting Him into our circumstances, allowing Him to be our strength when we are weak, to be our refuge when we need a place to rest, and to thank Him for His faithfulness to us amidst trials of any kind.
Father, I thank You today that even in our suffering and trials of many kinds there is amazing hope found in You. You are our ultimate source of true hope by Your word and through Your Spirit within us. Help us to be desperate for that hope in You today and give us the strength to endure as You produce more of Your character in us – even if by means of suffering, knowing that You are with us in all things. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23 is by far one of the most well-known and often quoted passages of scripture even to those who are not believers in Christ Jesus. It is one of the Psalmists’ David’s greatest writings penned within all the psalms he wrote as it depicts God as our True Shepherd – The ONE who is faithful to provide protection, safe pasture, and carry us through even the darkest of times in our lives. This passage possesses an underlying theme that is of utmost importance in our life’s journey with the Lord – His unending, “ever-presence.” God is always with us, in all circumstances, even when we cannot see evidence of Him moving, when we think we don’t “feel His presence,” when we think He’s not at work within our given situation, He has not turned away. However, it’s often you and I who have turned our eyes away from Him and focused our attention on our immediate situation, taking our lives into our own hands instead of inviting God into our circumstances. God’s desire is for us to desperately call on Him to be present with us as we walk through the valleys of life.
David writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Drawing from his personal experiences as a sheep herder by trade, David understood the protection and comfort the sheep received by remaining in close proximity to the shepherd. This applies to our lives as children of the most High God, who has promised to never leave us, nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). David knew that life would involve occasions in which he would be called to travel through deep valleys, even causing him to feel he may be coming to the point of death, yet he need not fear, because his God was with him.
You and I will journey on mountain tops and down into some dark valleys of life, at times feeling as if death is casting a shadow. Such can often be the case with prolonged seasons of trials, suffering, or waiting on the Lord, yet we have the same promise David held onto, “for you (God) are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” There are times when we will feel God’s direct presence come over us, other times will require us to simply trust in faith the comfort we find in the truth and promises of His word in scripture. Yet other times it will be the soft whispers of His Holy Spirit living within us that say, “Do not fear, I am with you. I will never leave you.” We must remain desperate for His presence by inviting Him into our circumstances moment by moment, especially when we need to be led through the valley.
Father, You are the True Shepherd who cares deeply for His flock in every way and desires to carry us through the valleys of life reminding us that we’re never alone. Thank You that I need not fear when entering those valleys because You are with me and will provide comfort and safety along the journey. Just as You have purposes for our “mountain top” experiences, You often use the “valleys” in our lives to mold us, test us, and draw us nearer to You than we could ever imagine. Thank You for Your faithfulness as my Shepherd to walk beside me especially when the valley becomes deep. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
28Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
In these final verses of Chapter 40, the prophet Isaiah is focusing in on some key themes that are essential for you and I along life’s journey. First, the Lord our Creator does not grow tired & weary nor do we understand all His ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9) Secondly, the Lord strengthens the weary and empowers the weak, renewing those who have put their hope in Him alone. However, found within these promises regarding our Almighty, powerful God and the strength we have access to through Him, Isaiah describes our struggle – the desperation in our frail humanity to deal with life’s struggles and hardships, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall.” Therein lies the danger of “doing life” in our own strength, frantically trying to reason our way out of situations, and solve our problems without inviting God to be a part of our circumstances, asking Him for the strength to endure. Isaiah reminds us here that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” I will say that hope requires an element of desperation as we must cast off all of our human efforts and reasoning to the wind, becoming desperate for the Lord to renew our strength.
However, selfish pride, our inner man, and our enemy would have us believe that we would be fools to lay down our guard and simply become desperate for the Lord. But we must remember that with desperation for the Lord comes a heart of humility and gratitude that brings about a peace that surpasses all understanding regardless of our circumstances. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Allowing ourselves to become desperate for the strength of the Lord, and continually placing our hope in Him, assures us of the promise that He will not allow us to grow weary (give up) or faint (be defeated) in the midst of our circumstances. From a worldly perspective it may appear that we have lost something, or someone has gained something over us, but in God’s perspective He is doing a greater work that only He may be able to completely see at the present moment, and in His time will reveal to us as we remain desperate for Him. Today, know that being desperate for God’s strength is not a sign of weakness, rather instead, a sign of maturity in your faith, understanding that He must always and ultimately be our source of power in this world where we can become easily weary and worn.
Father, this morning I thank You and praise You for being my Everlasting God and the Master Creator of all that I see. Your creation speaks of Your mighty power and of Your daily presence with me for this journey. I place my faith and ultimate hope in You today to strengthen me when I become weary and to give me Your power when I become weak in body, mind, soul, or spirit. (2 Timothy 1:7) My desire is to become more desperate for you Lord in every area of my life, so that You can demonstrate Your strength, power, and glory within me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“I will praise you with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
I will worship toward your holy temple,
And praise your name for Your lovingkindness
and Your truth;
For you have magnified Your word above all Your name.
When I called out, You answered me.
And made me bold with strength in my soul.”
Praising the Lord by cultivating a heart of gratitude & thankfulness is an essential part of the Christian journey, but even more so in our lives as believers when we walk through seasons of trials, tests of faith, or suffering. On so many occasions it is the smallest expressions of praise and thankfulness to the Lord that enable us to find the hope and strength to press on, to take further steps toward Christ our Savior, and in persevering along the journey especially when the path becomes difficult. We can derive from this text of scripture, that the Psalmist was well-acquainted with struggle and hardship as well as the Lord’s faithfulness to both hear and to strengthen him, “When I called out to you, You answered me. And made me bold with strength in my soul.”
In the opening verses, the Psalmist places strong emphasis on the praise and worship of His God, our God, the One who created us and is standing at the ready to meet our every need, and to walk with us on every step of life’s journey with Him. “I will praise you with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You. I will worship toward your holy temple, and praise your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” Even on our most difficult days, we can choose to worship and praise God for His faithfulness. We can thank Him for His provision, His grace poured over our lives, His strength in us through the Holy Spirit, and for the hope in Christ Jesus He gives us to press on one step at a time.
This process of praising and thanking God begins with taking a few moments to be still and observe simple things to show gratitude for; things that may seem small and insignificant to mention, but nevertheless they begin to cultivate a heart of worship. For example, “God, thank you for waking me up for a new day, helping me to take a small step to get out of bed, to take a hot shower, to get dressed. Thank you that I have clothes to wear, for a morning cup of coffee, for family, for salvation through Jesus, and the grace, love, & forgiveness you pour over my life today.” As we continue to thank God throughout our day for things both simple and complex, large and small – we develop a heart of worship that changes our perspective and recalls God’s goodness, faithfulness, truth, love, provision, protection, and hope – both eternal hope and earthly hope this side of heaven. This heart of worship begins with the smallest of steps – showing gratitude for the person of God, for who He is and the many things He has done for us. Through a heart of gratitude and worship, God will strengthen your heart and soul for the day’s journey.
Father, I thank You that I can call out to You at any time regardless of my circumstances because You care about every detail of my life. (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7) I desire to draw near to You as the Psalmist did through offering praise and worship for who You are and all that You are in my life. May You change the perspective of my heart and mind regardless of the circumstances or challenges I encounter today, strengthening my soul with Your word and Your presence. Continue to cultivate in me a heart of gratitude and worship so that I have eyes to see Your perspective on the events of my life, enabling me to wait on You to move. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
17The Lord is righteous in all His ways
Gracious in all His works.
18The Lord is near to all who call on Him,
to all who call on Him in truth.
19He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him;
He hears their cry and saves them.
20The Lord watches over all who love Him,
but all the wicked He will destroy.
21My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise His holy name
for ever and ever.
The Psalmist David compares two attributes of the Lord – “righteous” meaning He is upright, acting in accordance with divine law free of sin, and of the highest standards which must be upheld. Secondly, He is “gracious” meaning to offer unmerited divine saving action leading to forgiveness of sin to all of humanity. 17The Lord is righteous in all His ways Gracious in all His works. In this comparison we see a God who is just, yet one who is compassionate and gracious toward His creation, as well as one who is not far from those who call upon Him for rescue. We must first ultimately be rescued from sin and death by accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9), as David explains, 18The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. Next, he states that that the Lord explicitly fulfills the desires of those who fear Him and that He both hears their cries for help, saves, and watches over all who love Him. 19He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. 20The Lord watches over all who love Him…”
Today, hold on to these truths, call out to the Lord inviting Him into your circumstances because He hears your plea. He is near, He hears your cry, He watches over you, He saves you in times of trouble, and fulfills the desires of your heart as your desires become aligned with His. As you walk more closely with God day by day, you will develop a deeper sense of assurance that He is with you in all things and desires you to draw near to Him in both seasons of trial and seasons of peace. In closing, David includes an element of praise as he often does in his writings which always sets his gaze upon the Lord and develops a heart of gratitude that honors God regardless of one’s circumstances. 21My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.
Father, I thank You for being gracious toward me in everyday things and ultimately through my salvation in Your Son, Jesus. I praise Your name for You are my God, as well as Lord and Master over my life as I surrender it daily to You. Thank You for being a God who is intimately involved in my life and who hears and answers my cries in times of trouble along with my prayers in times of peace. May the desires of my heart be aligned with Yours so that I will walk in the plans You have for my life. Today, I choose to claim the promises of assurance that You are near to me and watch over me as I fear You with a holy awe and reverence reserved for no one else. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
1How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Sometimes we wonder if the Lord has forgotten about our circumstances even as we’ve prayed earnestly for Him to intervene and answer our cries for help. In fact, as more time passes we can grow impatient and our questioning of God can become quite intense as exhibited by the Psalmist David as he writes, “1How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” This is a natural response to suffering, pain, hardship, and grief that lingers over an extended period of time, coupled with the inner battle of the mind searching for both answers and relief to life’s troubling circumstances. Whether our trials are from within or from without, if we determine they have taken a position of “triumph” over us, it can be a major source of anxiety and depression in our lives as we seek peace, rest, and refuge.
However, in the midst of his struggle, David rightly responds petitioning God for help, “3Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 4and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” David’s request is that God would open his eyes once again so he may fully see the glory, hope, strength, and faithfulness of his Lord to deliver him out of or to carry him through this difficult season of his life. One anonymous author wrote, “Often times we go through Strange Delays in God’s handling of situations.” Echoing these thoughts on God’s knowledge and perfect timing, Charles Spurgeon penned these words, “God is too wise to be mistaken, God is too good to be unkind.” God is always working on our behalf even in times of lengthy waiting or what we may deem to be strange delays.
Setting a great example for us in times of extended waiting, even times of waiting through hardship, David writes, “5But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” There will be many seasons and circumstances, some even extended and strange, filled with hardship that will test our faith, cause us to ask God some tough questions, and wonder if we’re winning the battle or not. But as David reminds us, we can trust in God’s unfailing love, rejoice in our salvation through Jesus, and praise the Lord for even the smallest blessings He has given us today. For there is not one day the Lord has not been good to us.
Father, I first and foremost praise You today because You by nature are always good and have my best interest in mind as I wait for You. I will not always understand the lengthy or strange delays in my life because Your thoughts are not my thoughts nor are Your ways my ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9) I’m thankful that You know what’s best for me and You promise to walk with me through the circumstances of my life moment by moment as I seek after You. Lord, today may I trust in Your unfailing love and rejoice in my salvation even If I’m waiting on You to move in some area of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!
“He knows where I am going.
And when he tests me, I will come out as pure gold.
For I have stayed on God’s paths;
I have followed his ways and not turned aside.
I have not departed from his commands,
But have treasured his words more than daily food.”
If you’ve ever had any exposure to the book of Job or heard any part his life’s journey, you would probably agree that he came to know a great deal about suffering, loss, tragedy, pain, and hardship in his life – none of which he brought upon himself. The Lord allowed Satan to touch parts of Job’s life but would not actually allow him to take his life. We know from scripture that Job was a faithful follower of God – loving and obedient, desiring to live his life in every way pleasing to the Lord. Therefore, there was no evidence for the calamities that came upon his life as was assumed from the standpoint of bystanders looking on as these events unfolded. According to their viewpoint, and to add insult to injury, Job must have done something wrong to deserve all of this. Yet, Job remained steadfast, pure, and a faithful follower of his Lord as he understood that God had complete knowledge of his journey regardless of its difficulty.
In his troubles, Job also had a conscious decision to make in his mind, heart, and soul. Would he choose in humility to walk the “Narrow road of Brokenness” or in pride and resentment, “The Broad Road to Bitterness.” The Narrow Road of Brokenness called him to place his trust fully in the fact that his life was in God’s hands regardless of his immediate circumstances. The opposing Road to Bitterness that many travel when faced with life’s difficulties, can breed a heart filled with bitterness toward God and others when life’s circumstances take an unexpected turn. When suffering, pain, and hardship become an unwelcomed guest there is a temptation to turn away from God and His truth, rather than turning to the Lord for His offer of help, comfort, strength, and hope.
Along life’s journey when we’re faced with unexpected events, life altering circumstances, or even tragedy – God desires the genuine brokenness of our spirit as we come to Him as His beloved children holy and dearly loved. In Psalm 51:17 we are reminded of how much emphasis God places on a broken spirit, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” If we have a desire to continually grow closer to Christ, even in our most difficult seasons of life, it will be through the brokenness and humility that comes through complete surrender of every area of our lives to Him. This requires us to relinquish control and take small steps of obedience on that Narrow Path of Brokenness toward God daily.
Father, today I praise You because I was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in Your image for a personal relationship with you. I am reminded that You know the number of my days (Psalm 139:16) and that my times are in Your hands (Psalm 31:15) regardless of the daily challenges I encounter. Help me to remain on the Narrow Road of Brokenness that draws me ever closer to You especially when I am faced with the difficulties and trials of this life. Remind me of Your truth and promises during those times and strengthen me with the presence of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
1This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. 5Then the word of the Lord came to me. 6He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. Jeremiah 18:1-6
There are times, seasons, and circumstances of our lives when all we can see are “Broken Pieces” from our point of view which can cause us to begin to lose sight of God, His promises, and the hope we have in Christ. We can literally feel like broken vessels, unusable – simply living from day to day, trying to survive the next storm of life, resulting in an “existence mentality” that doesn’t thrive on hope, but goes through the minimal motions of life. If we’re honest, like it or not, these are the places we find ourselves at times when unexpected seasons of trials, pain, or hardship settle in for an extended stay, interrupting what seemed to be positive forward progress in our journey.
If you’ve had an experience like the one described above you’re in good company with many others like you, who will read this and say, “I can relate.” One of the most difficult parts of this journey is when all you can see are those Broken Pieces of life and your hope seems to be at a low point. You wonder where God is in all of this, or if He can even put all of those pieces back together into something that resembles someone even close to being filled with hope and useful to Him again. In order to answer this question, we must walk down to the Potter’s House with the Prophet Jeremiah and witness an object lesson in how God is able to take the Broken Pieces of our lives and reshape us into what He desires us to be, regardless of the painfulness and hardship we experience or the shape we appear to be in along this journey called life. “3So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. 5Then the word of the Lord came to me. 6He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand...”
Today, remember that regardless of the level to which you feel marred or broken, God has you in the hollow of His hands, and He is still the Master Potter, molding and shaping your life as it seems best to him. Many times this can be a strenuous, fiery, painful process – yet if we’re patient in waiting on the Lord we will find it to be for our ultimate good, for His ultimate glory and purposes, and for the benefit of others around us. God can use our Broken Pieces.
Father, I thank You today for Your infinite knowledge of my life especially in times when what I see appear to be broken pieces. You are the Master Potter and the One who knows what is best for me as You seek to mold and shape my life for Your good purposes and for Your glory. Empower me through Your Spirit to surrender every area of my life to You, especially those areas that seem broken and need to be reshaped by You, my heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39
You will often recognize the principle of “inviting God into our circumstances” included in many of the devotions I write. This spiritual discipline and practice of prayer, involving God in the daily circumstances of our lives is essential, not only in the ordinary happenings of life all around us, but especially in the midst of the spiritual battles we encounter more often than we realize. Both knowing and speaking the truth of God into our circumstances is our greatest offensive weapon which the Apostle Paul referred to as “the Sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God.” Armed with the Gospel of Peace in our souls (our salvation in Christ) and God’s truth and promises in our hearts, we are able to speak light into darkness, and dispel the lies of our enemies.
However, we often struggle with the promise that God is with us in the moment by moment circumstances of life with the same power with which He resurrected our Savior, Jesus Christ from the dead. We tend to more easily trust Him with our sense of eternal security, but find less comfort and peace in Him during what Paul calls our “momentary troubles.” Addressing this issue in his book The Full Armor of God: Defending Your Life from Satan’s Schemes, Larry Richards comments, ‘Paul is very aware of our human frailty. He knows how hard it is for us to trust God for today. Oh, we rely on Jesus to bring us safely to heaven. But somehow it seems more difficult to have confidence that He (the Lord) is here, totally involved in our lives right now…Satan and his demons can cast their fiery arrows, but there is no circumstance that can cut us off from God’s love or make God’s love for us ineffective.’
Some of the most devastating and fiery arrows of our enemy and his dark forces are the “accusations of past sins” which cause us unmerited guilt and shame, because once those sins were confessed to God, they were immediately forgiven (1 John 1:9) and also “cast as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12) - God remembers them no more. However, we can be made to feel isolated, separated, unforgiven, unloved, and unusable by God because of these “false accusations” believing somehow we remain unfit to be used for the glory, purposes, and will of our heavenly Father. This is certainly one of the great lies of our enemy used to render us paralyzed with fear, anxiety, panic, even prolonged depression – with little if any hope to hold onto.
Therefore, Paul reminds us in Romans 8, first using an emphatic “NO”, saying, “No, in all these things (in daily life, in family, in marriage, in parenting, in work, in ministering and caring for others) we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us,” and continues to love us unconditionally, moment by moment, day by day. Paul closes this passage with a most powerful truth of assurance for us as we arm ourselves with truth for each daily battle. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We are empowered by the truth and promises of God to persevere, even in times of hardship, trials, testing, and when we feel persecuted by enemies from within or without. But God, has set us apart through Jesus Christ to walk in His victory with simple steps of daily obedience, taking with us and holding onto His promises, that He will never leave us or forsake us. He will never stop loving us, and He has specific plans for each of our lives that cannot be thwarted by Satan, his powers of darkness, nor anyone on this earth who is influenced by them. We are free in Christ to walk in His power and bring glory and honor to Him.
Father, I thank you on this day for arming me with Your truth for the battle. Your promises are the greatest source of power, strength, and hope in my life moment by moment for this day's journey. If I experience moments of doubt, fear, or heaviness, may the truth of Your word and Your Spirit breathe life back into my soul enabling me to press on setting my gaze on You. Thank You that nothing can ever separate me from the love You have poured over me through Jesus my Savior. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
7Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
There are often moments along The Journey that our thoughts, feelings, circumstances, or our enemy (the devil) would have us believe that we are beyond the reach of God, even if but just for a time. For a believer, feeling out of the reach of the Savior, can be a place of loneliness and despair, a place where hope fades and the light of life grows dim. Their foundation of purpose, identity, and sense of being loved becomes fractured with doubts, fears, and anxieties of the future. There are more of us who have such experiences than we realize – the fact is we’ve just become really good at hiding these realities when we approach a friend, walk through the doors of the church, or are in a public place. However, the Psalmist David never denied us insight into his life as God allowed the curtain to be “pulled back” as he penned these scriptures regarding The Comfort of God’s Spirit.
David is essentially proclaiming the truth that The Comfort of God’s Spirit Knows No Boundaries as he writes, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Basically, David understands that anywhere he is, there God will be and already is, because He is omnipresent (God is present everywhere all the time). David’s concluding words are the most comforting in that wherever he finds himself, in whatever situation or circumstance, he says of the Lord, “even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” This statement reminds me of a children’s Bible story I learned very early on in life which still holds true today – God has the whole world in His hand; He holds you and me by His Spirit in the hollow of His hand, and He will never let us go, nor can we be apart from Him because He is always right beside us. God’s Spirit brings comfort, strength, wisdom, guidance, and direction to our lives as we seek to follow His will and unique purpose for which He created us.
Today, remember to walk in the truth of the Apostle Paul’s writing in Romans 8:37-39…
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,k neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God’s love for us began at Creation, continued at the Cross through our Salvation in Jesus, and now will last throughout this life and all throughout eternity in heaven. But until we reach heaven, His Holy Spirit is ever-present in us and with us through all things. Our heart’s desire each and every morning should be to say, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here.”
“Praise the Lord, O my soul; All my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” Psalm 103:1-6
When the “battle” seems fierce our tendency can be to take our gaze away from God and place it on our outwardly or inwardly circumstances. There are many times when our inner battle is more fierce than our outward battle, because if our enemy can thwart our mind’s focus on the truth of who we are in Christ and the promises of God, the greater opportunity he has to defeat us spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, and relationally. These are all aspects of our lives with which God created us in His image as holistic beings, and with which we can be attacked by the “flaming arrows of the enemy."
In verse six of Psalm 103, David writes, “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed,” meaning that when we experience any type of oppression (the feeling of being pressed or weighted down), God remains faithful to be with us, and to never leave us, continuing to work on our behalf. Things of this world such as depression, anxiety, and fear of the uncertainty of the future can cause a sense of oppression leading to deeper feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and powerlessness. We can, if not careful and alert, be drawn away by our feelings and emotions from the very promises of God regarding our position in Him, and His promises to go before us in order to carry out His plans for our lives through the victory we have in Jesus moment by moment each day.
Our enemy and his dark forces would surely despise us at any point claiming the very truth of God that sets us free - for with freedom comes transformation, and with transformation in Christ comes lives redeemed for His glory and purposes. Therefore, in verses 1-5 of Psalm 103, David provides a prescription for times of discouragement in the battle and along our spiritual journey. He writes, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
In this passage, we are given a key element of truth that becomes part of our offensive and defensive strategies against our enemies. This most important element of the battle is praising God, “Praise the Lord, O my soul…praise His holy name…Praise Him and forget not all His benefits.” Praising God in the midst of adversity, struggle, and the trials of life reminds us that He is still in control and is able to go behind and before us as our refuge, strength, provider, and protector in all circumstances. We are also to praise Him for He has forgiven us of all our sin, heals our diseases, redeeming our life from the pit and crowns us with love and compassion satisfying the deepest needs of our soul. Not only that, but God renews our strength in Him, “so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” As we take small, simple steps of obedience toward Christ each day, we will be drawn nearer to Him through our praise and worship of Him for who He is and for all He is doing on this day, and in our days to come. For as we began with verse six, so we end, “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” Therefore, today if you have feelings of discouragement, anxiety, depression, or oppression in your spirit, reach out to the Lord by simply looking for opportunities to praise Him. This will guard your heart and redirect your spirit toward Him and away from a central focus on your circumstances.
Father, today may I find opportunities to praise and worship you even in moments of trial and testing, even when my emotions and feelings shout otherwise. Thank You for being ever-present, able, and in control of all the circumstances of my life. Regardless of what battles I experience today I know you are with me and that you go before me. Help me be quick to remember all of the benefits of being Your child - forgiven, redeemed, loved, and cared for in every way. Lord, You are always good, may I praise you for that moment by moment throughout this day. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.