“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” — Matt6:33
In the first of the Ten Commandments, God commanded the Israelites to serve Him exclusively because He was worthy of their trust, as He had proved by delivering them from Egypt. Later, just before Moses died and the Israelites entered the promised land, God inspired Moses to remind the people of their single-minded calling.
God’s people needed to submit fully to his authority and believe he could provide all they needed. It’s this kind of trust that Jesus calls us to demonstrate as his disciples.
Unfortunately, Jesus’ disciple Peter had a bit more trouble retaining his single-minded focus when he was met with distraction. Peter’s experience is a good reminder of how we are to think about Jesus, and keep our eyes on him, even when our thoughts get sidetracked or we feel frightened. (See Matthew 14:22-36).
Peter uses the symbolism of fire as a way to refine or purify our faith as he writes in 1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The language of the Bible is rich with metaphor. The biblical writers used familiar, everyday objects to symbolize spiritual truth.
Naturally, faith is not something that can pass through the fire but the symbolism with which Peter writes means that our trials refine our faith and burn everything away that is not genuine faith. So that all which remains is our faith that will result in the praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ returns.
God does everything for a reason, because He is a God of purpose. His actions are not arbitrary. “The LORD Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand'” (Isaiah 14:24). God is a God of purpose, and everything He has created in this world, including men and women, has been created to fulfill His purposes.
Hence, the purpose of prayer is not to bend God to our will, but to align ourselves to His will as we pray.
By abiding in Christ, and letting His word to abide in us, we will learn to pray according to his will not ours (John 15:7)
A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.—Proverbs 16:9
Let us pray:
Whatever it takes, Lord, align my desires with yours, so that my dreams align with your purposes. Let your will be done through me.
Sometimes you feel weak spiritually. And when you do, you probably feel like you’re the only one. However, you’re not alone. Every Christian experiences times of weakness.
What does weak faith feel like? Sometimes it manifests itself in: wondering if God is in control. Doubting God’s forgiveness.
Worrying about the future.
Weakness doesn’t have to be the new normal! God has the power to strengthen you. Luke 17:5 the apostles came to Jesus asking Him, “Increase our faith!” Also, a man cries to Jesus in Mark9:24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” For the God who created the Universe – who delivered the Israelites – who raised His Son – can (and wants to) strengthen your faith.
How?….faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
Hence, let us spend some time in His Word.
“So [the king’s overseer] listened to [Daniel and his friends] in this matter and tested them for ten days. And at the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables” (Daniel 1:14-16).
All spiritual commitment will be tested.
When God wants to prove the quality of one’s commitment, He tests it. The test may come directly from Him, as with Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22:1-2), or it may come through difficult circumstances, as with the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings (Deut. 8:16), or it may even come from Satan himself, as God permitted with Job (Job 1:12; 2:6). Regardless of its source, every test is designed by God to produce greater spiritual fruit in His children (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s tests came at the hands of their Babylonian captors. Separation from family, friends, and homeland must have been an extremely difficult test for them, but through it all their commitment to the Lord remained unshakable. Now they faced a test to determine whether or not they could remain undefiled. For ten days they would eat only vegetables and drink only water, while their fellow captives ate the king’s special diet.
Normally such a brief period of time would make no noticeable change in one’s physiology, but God must have intervened because at the conclusion of just ten days, these four young men were clearly healthier and more vigorous than their peers. The results were so convincing that their overseer allowed them to remain on a vegetarian diet throughout their entire three-year training period. God honored their uncompromising spirit.
When you are tested, remember that God is working on your spiritual maturity and that He will never test you beyond what you are able to endure and will always provide a means of victory (1 Cor. 10:13).
“Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
God will exalt the humble. Like Paul, the apostle Peter affirmed that the great theme of Old Testament prophecy was the sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow (1 Peter 1:11). Regarding Christ, the writer of Hebrews says that “for the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Christ understood His sufferings in light of His exaltation. Paul’s purpose in Philippians 2 was not simply to detail the humiliation and exaltation of Christ but to use those truths as a practical illustration. He was calling for unity produced by humility (vv. 2-4), with Christ as the preeminent example of humility (vv. 5-11). But beyond the humiliation of Christ, Paul also affirms that He was exalted. The implication is that when we willingly humble ourselves as Christ did, God will lift us up. As James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” It is true that the man who humbles himself, God exalts, and the man who exalts himself, God will humiliate. In the divine economy, it is by giving that one receives, by serving that one is served, by losing one’s life that one finds life, and by dying to self that one lives. These principles follow one another as surely as night follows day. Like Christ, you will be exalted in Heaven one day. Meditate on that truth, and be encouraged by it as you go through your earthly trials.
Thank the Lord for the exaltation that awaits you in Heaven.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Sin is pervasive and deadly. Sin mars all the relationships people are involved in: with other people, with themselves, and, most significantly, with God. Sin causes suffering, disease, and death in the physical realm and also causes spiritual death—eternal separation from God in Hell. Because sin is so deadly, we need to carefully define it, so we can understand and avoid it. First John 3:4 sums up the essence of sin when it says, “Sin is lawlessness.” Sin is refusing to obey God’s law; it is rejecting God’s standards; it is, in fact, living as if God did not exist. In 1 John 5:17, the apostle John describes it as “unrighteousness.” James defines sin as failing to do what is good (James 4:17). Paul defines it as lack of faith (Rom. 14:23). Sin is the ultimate act of ingratitude toward the God “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Sin pollutes the sinner, Paul refers to it as that “defilement of flesh and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:1) from which sinners are in desperate need of cleansing. No amount of human effort, however, can cleanse a person of sin. Such self-effort is as futile as attempting to change the color of one’s skin (Jer. 13:23). Only through the death of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:12), is forgiveness and cleansing available (1 John 1:7).
Sin is the only thing that God hates (cf. Jer. 44:4), and so must believers (Ps. 97:10; Amos 5:15). Renew your commitment today to grow in your relationship with the Lord by hating evil (Prov. 8:13).
Let us pray for each other that we would not be deceived by the subtleness of sin (Heb. 3:13).
“…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)
One of the Bible’s most astonishing image of Christ’s second coming is in Luke 12:35–37, which pictures the return of a master from a marriage feast.
“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” To be sure, we are called servants — and that no doubt means we are to do exactly as we are told. But the wonder of this picture is that the “master” insists on “serving” even in the age to come when he appears in all his glory “with his mighty angels in flaming fire” (2 Thessalonians 1:7–8). Why? Because the very heart of his glory is the fullness of grace that overflows in kindness to needy people. Therefore, he aims “in the coming ages [to] show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
What is the greatness of our God? What is his uniqueness in the world? Isaiah answers: “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4, RSV).
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24–25)
We do not glorify God by providing his needs, but by praying that he would provide ours — and trusting him to answer.
Here we are at the heart of the good news of Christian Hedonism. God’s insistence that we ask him to give us help so that he gets glory (Psalm 50:15) forces on us the startling fact that we must beware of serving God and take special care to let him serve us, lest we rob him of his glory. This sounds very strange. Most of us think serving God is a totally positive thing; we have not considered that serving God may be an insult to him. But meditation on the meaning of prayer demands this consideration. Acts 17:24–25 makes this plain. This is the same reasoning as in Robinson Crusoe’s text on prayer: “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. . . .Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:12, 15).
Evidently, there is a way to serve God that would belittle him as needy of our service. “The Son of Man came not to be served” (Mark 10:45). He aims to be the servant. He aims to get the glory as Giver.