“…and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 15:20 KJV. One of the things the prophet Jeremiah felt very keenly was a sense of loneliness in the midst of the great battle he was in. He was ministering in an apostate generation. His message from God was being rejected by the people he was trying to help and he felt them turning against him. God had given these same words to him when his ministry began (1:19). But now, nearly 30 years later, he has experienced the reality and the agony of his own people fighting against him. And he needs this reassurance, that God will always be with him and deliver him! There will be times in our lives we feel similar things. The very ones we love and try to help turn against us. We recognize the forces of evil fighting against us and we feel alone and vulnerable. But let us take courage. Let us be sure that God Who has called us, is always with us and will deliver us. Those who are enemies of righteousness will not prevail against us. We have no promise that the Christian life will be easy. In fact, it is just the opposite. Jesus said “all they who live Godly will suffer persecution”. But thank God, we do have the promise that victory will be ours as we are faithful to God’s call on our lives.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV. Imagine how different the lives of most believers would be if we all lived each day with this desire foremost in our hearts and minds, to be ‘Approved unto God’. Too often when this passage is read, most people skim over it because they think it is only for preachers and teachers encouraging them to study. But may we realize, that having God’s approval should be a personal longing for every true child of God! While we should do our best in whatever task God has called us to, for His glory, we should always keep in mind that we are not living to gain the approval of those around us. If we are employed, we should want to be a good employee, not to please the boss, but to be approved unto God! Young people should strive to be good students, not for the teacher or parents, but to be approved of God. Every parent, every gospel worker, every Christian, should do their very best, not for human recognition, but to please our Father in Heaven and to have His approval. Let this be the measure of our every choice and activity, “Is this approved by God?”. As we do this, we will not be ashamed when we stand before Him.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I Corinthians 1:18 NKJV. Let us consider these words: The message of the cross is the power of God to us. In these days when we have so much religious information available to us, it is easy to lose sight of the most important things. Many in religion have chosen to focus their attention on other, lesser things. And that is why the power of God is so lacking in most churches and most Christian lives. There is a great need today to get back to this foundational truth. Paul said his purpose was to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This is the only message that can bring salvation to lost souls. This is the message that brings deliverance to the captive. And the message of the cross is still what God uses to bring spiritual power to His church. If we get away from this message, we have left the true Gospel. To this unbelieving world, this message may seem like foolishness. But to us who have experienced it’s life changing power, this is still the most important message we have. By God’s grace, let this be our main message and then, the power of God will work through it to change hearts and lives.
“The Stone which the builders refused Is become the Head Stone of the corner. This is the LORD‘s doing; It is marvellous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:22-23 KJV. This amazing work that God did in Jesus Christ for our salvation, is truly a marvelous thing. What a profound plan it was, that He would send His only Begotten Son, to be rejected of men, to be ridiculed and scorned, and then to suffer and die as the propitiation for our sins. And then God said that this ‘Rejected Stone’, Who is Jesus Christ, would become the Head Stone, the Chief Corner Stone, the One upon which all the church would be founded. Surely the plan of God was confusing to the minds of religious men. They could not comprehend a Suffering Saviour, Who was rejected by His own people, becoming the Rock of our Salvation. They could not grasp the truth that in His humiliation would be such glory. And yet that is exactly what God has done! He has confounded the wisdom of men. But today, we must ask ourselves, “Is this Divine Plan of a Suffering, Rejected Saviour a marvelous thing to me? Am I willing to be identified with Him and be a partaker of His suffering? Am I willing to be rejected by this world because I stand with Jesus Christ?” Can we honestly say, that the plan of God fulfilled in Christ, is a marvelous thing to us? Most of modern religion has joined the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They follow an easier path with another gospel. But will we follow Jesus Who is the only true way?
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:1 KJV. Be strong in grace. As we read these words in the context of Paul’s writing, we realize that he is not telling Timothy simply to remember God’s ‘undeserved favor’ to you. That is the very limited definition used by modern religion to describe this profound word ‘grace’. But here and many other places in God’s Word we realize, that ‘grace’ also means that divine, supernatural ability to do, what cannot be done in human strength. This is what Jesus meant, when He said to Paul, (2 Cor. 12:9) “My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in your weakness”. It is the divine ability God gives that enables us to overcome and do things that are not possible to us on a human level. It is very clear as Paul writes this letter to Timothy, that he was encouraging him to rely upon the divine strength and ability (grace) that comes only from Jesus Christ. When we begin to understand God’s grace in this light, we will realize that everything God calls us to, He gives the ability (grace) for us to do it! So today, we have this same encouragement that Timothy received. We can be spiritually strong because we rely upon the unfailing grace of God.
“And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” Acts 23:11 KJV. At this time, as the Jews tried to kill him, Paul had been taken into custody by the Roman authorities. He would never again be a free man. And yet, with his life under threat and being held as a prisoner, the Lord comes to stand beside Paul and speaks words of encouragement to him. And in the coming months and years he would experience the reality of what Jesus said. God did work through all these things for good! Paul had opportunity to witness to many souls he never would have reached. While being held as a prisoner, he wrote a good portion of the New Testament. His experience during those years became a source of inspiration for millions of Christians throughout history. We should learn from this, that in our worst circumstances, the same Jesus will be with us! He promised He would be with us always. And He will work through our difficulties to make us better witnesses for Him. He will allow our lives to bless others and glorify God in a way we never would have without them. Let us be encouraged to know, when trials come our way, our Lord is using them for our eternal good and for His glory.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”Philippians 2:5 KJV. We often think of the great peace and joy that Jesus lived with as the Son of Man. And how we desire those things in our own lives. But here is the key that so many do not want to use. We must be willing to have that same, humble mind in us as He lived with as a Man. Think of how this humble attitude defined His human life and how different people are. He made Himself of no reputation and yet the desire of most is make a name for themselves. He put other’s needs before His own, and yet today people live consumed by selfishness. He took upon Him the form of a servant and yet most people desire a position of prominence and to be recognized. He did not seek to do His own will, but always to do His Father’s will. Yet today, the majority in religion are seeking their own fleshly desires and they do what they want to do. Paul understood, even as he wrote these words, how far away people are from truly having the mind of Christ. He said in this same chapter, (verse 21) “for all seek their own, not the things of Christ”. By God’s grace, let us seek to have this same humble mind in us.
“For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:” 1 Timothy 4:4 KJV. In this season of year when our minds are turned to thanksgiving, we should open our hearts to what God’s Word says to us about this subject. Here in this passage, the writer is dealing with physical things. But let us apply this also to all things that our Heavenly Father allows to touch our lives. It is easy for us to be thankful for all of the good that comes to our lives. And we should often thank God for all of these obvious blessings we enjoy. But what about the things we cannot yet perceive as good things? What about the many ‘blessings in disguise’ that He allows and our eyes are too blind to see? We are very good at remembering God’s promises when we need them to help us. But will we also remember them, when they call us to receive all things with thanksgiving? Will we thank God He is working all things for good even when we can’t see how?This is one of the things that set Job apart from the men of his generation. He was willing to bless God when good things were given and when they were taken away. Through faith, let us be those who receive all things with thanksgiving to God.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 KJV. As human beings we have a natural desire to understand things. We go to great lengths to try to understand, to make sense of things. And we are thankful that God has given us an understanding of all things that are necessary for us to experience this great salvation. But then, there are times we face troubling circumstances that are impossible to understand on a human level. We go through difficult situations that make no sense and we cannot see how any good could come from them. In these times it is very important for us not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust in our Heavenly Father with all of our heart. Many people have tried to figure everything out and became very damaged in their souls. And sadly, for some, their faith has failed because they would not trust God with the things that are impossible to understand. But let us have the heart of a little child, who simply looks to and trusts his father to deal with the things he cannot understand. And one day, as the songwriter expressed, ‘We will understand it better by and by’.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 KJV. At some point in life, most everyone will have to walk through this valley. It is a place we, as human beings, dread and it is never easy for us. Sometimes it is the death of close friends and loved ones. Other times it is the death of relationships and career dreams. And certainly, there is much we do not understand about this valley of the shadow of death. But this we do know, that God’s presence with us is able to hold us up and sustain us. Because He is with us we do not have to fear the unknown things of this valley. Because we have the comfort of His abiding presence we can be sure that we can walk through this valley rather than remain in it. No matter how dark the valley may be, we have God’s own promise, “I will be with you always”. So when the valley seems dark and we can’t understand, let us find comfort in knowing that our God is always with us and He is sufficient for all of our needs. Let us keep faith in our Good Shepherd, and we will make it.