We have certainly undergone some strange times over the past year, times that we never anticipated and would surely rather never have happened. But this is life, and, as we have learned from Proverbs 27:1, “...thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” Each day we face as believers has its challenges, its possibilities, heartaches and joys. One thing is certain, we can face our days in the assurance that our Lord is with us to guide, to comfort, to correct and whatever else is needed. “...my God shall supply all your need....” (Philippians 4:19)
For this month’s devotions, I would like for us to examine the way our Lord would have us to face the different challenges that come our way in this life. Part of the testimony we put forth as being followers of the Lord Jesus Christ is how we face life; how we deal with our successes, failures and those things that challenge us as mortals. I am convinced that God’s Word has the right counsel for every situation that we are confronted with as we walk upon this earth. May He direct us in His Word as to how we can face those uncertainties that are ahead!
March 1 - 2
"All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath." Ecc 9:2
The Book of Ecclesiastes can be somewhat of a depressing read. I rather think that this was by design, for it examines all things “under the sun.” (A phrase that is found 29 times in the Book) It is the view of life on earth for mortals, with all of its challenges, successes and failures. The whole message of the Book is summed up in the last verses, where we read, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (12:13-14)
There is a misconception that is touted by some in the “Christian” ministry that teaches a right relationship with the Lord, and a right application of “faith” solves all problems and paves the way for painless success in all walks of life. These often use phrases such as “proclaim the word of faith,” or “demand this issue be resolved in the name of Jesus.” And, according to these hierlings, that “word of faith” will make one healthy, famous, wealthy and admired the world over. Interestingly enough, many of these “prosperity prophets” have truly profited from their philosophy of ministry and brand of the “Christian faith.” Judgment will prove someday the error of their way, and the payment that will be demanded for their spiritual deception.
Some Christians have prospered materially. It is certainly not sinful to be prosperous. Some of the people we read about in Scripture were people of means, of material prosperity. Others were not. Are we to think that the poor Christians in the Bible had less faith than the prosperous? Are we to think that God favored the wealthy over the poor? Absolutely not! The Apostle Paul spoke of experiencing both times of plenty and scarcity when he wrote, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:12) I came to the conclusion long ago that if God wanted me to be financially prosperous, He would bring that to pass. If not, He fully knew that I could not handle that, and that my best course of action was to endeavor to be obedient to Him and to trust Him for all things.
One thing is certain, as the writer of Ecclesiastes said, “All things come alike to all....” I read this past week of an extremely wealthy individual that died from the COVID virus. All of the money in the world could not prevent that terrible disease from taking its toll. All people face the same challenges, whether prosperous or not. All people face the same challenges, whether people of genuine faith or not. Remember what Paul taught us in Hebrews 11, that great Chapter of the Hall of Fame of the faithful; “...others had trial of cruel mocking and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Beloved, these were heroes of our faith! They did not thus suffer because they were unfaithful, they suffered through faith, and sometimes because of their faith, not because of the lack of it. This was their lot in life, and they faced it most victoriously through their faith. For our devotions this month, we will examine the Scriptural way we should face all of the challenges that life throws our way as followers of Christ. It is my prayer that we will learn from God’s Word how best to please Him in every thing we face as we follow Him.
March 3 - 4
Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 6:10-12; 31:9-10
The Lord knew that Israel’s greatest danger would be in the days of plenty, not the days of want. In days of want, Israel would be looking to the Lord, seeking His face for strength and blessings. It would be during the days of plenty that they would be more likely to be prayerless, for there would be no great pressing needs. During the times of invasions from their enemies, their hearts turned quickly to the Lord, but during times of peace they were prone to leave off praying.
Of all the things we face, Christian, that which poses the greatest danger to our walk with the Lord is that time which is blessed with plenty. In our devotions this month, we are examining the Scriptural way we should react to all situations which we will face in this pilgrimage, and a situation that many believers face in America is prosperity, of having an abundance of “things,” of possessions. By most of the world’s standards, we in America live as kings and queens, having more than more than enough. Some are more wealthy than others, but if you have ever traveled abroad, you have been made aware of the fact of just how blessed we are to live in America.
Having pastored for over 40 years, I have witnessed this happen more times than I would like to think. There is a family that struggles to make ends meet. They are faithful to church, ever seeking to please the Lord. The walk of faith is required, for they are just living from week to week, barely getting by. Then, a better job is found, or a promotion is given, and more money starts coming in. There is less of a struggle and the days of plenty have arrived. Then the unthinkable happens; faithfulness wanes, church attendances slides and the family that once struggled to make ends meet now have more than enough. Unfortunately, everything spiritual takes a back seat. There’s not enough time for church three times per week, or to attend the special services that have been planned. I actually had a man tell me that when his son asked if their family could start attending church on Wednesday evenings he said, “Son, I just don’t have time for that now. It’s all that I can do to come on Sunday mornings with my schedule as it is now. We just don’t have time.” I have to say I was pretty shocked to hear a father tell his son that he didn’t have time for the Lord because his business had been so blessed.
Like the warnings given to Israel, we are ever in danger of forgetting all that God has done for us in times of plenty. How can we keep this from happening in our lives. Well, one thing for sure is that we need to remember some things. See Ephesians 2:11; 2 Peter 3:1. It does one good to stop and look back on when salvation was given, when God met eternal needs that only He could meet. It helps to remember what Christ did and all that He endured to bring eternal salvation. What about all the times that the Lord made the ends meet with His special provisions. There should be a remembrance continually that “every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
In the parable for the rich fool found in Luke 12:13-21, one of the main problems with the man was that he failed to see where all of his blessings originated. He felt that his plenty was due to the fact of his ingenuity and hard work. No, his blessings had come from the Father of lights, and he failed to recognize that. Believer, we must ever be reminding ourselves that everything that we are, and all that we have are direct gifts from our Heavenly Father.
In times of plenty, let’s ever remember where our “plenty” came from, and that we owe Him more than an hour or so every week of attending church. We owe Him all of our commitment, all of our devotion and all of our faithfulness. Job said, “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) Learn how to deal with success, child of God, lest it rob you of your walk with Christ.
Scripture Reading: Job 3:20-26; Genesis 15:1; 26:24; 46:2-4; Isaiah 41:13-14
It is obvious that fear is a problem for the people of God, for a phrase that is repeated often in God’s Word is “fear not.” And, in all honesty, there are many things that can cause fear. When Job spoke of the thing that he feared coming upon him, he was speaking things that he had endured in just a short time. He had lost all of his possessions, all of his children and he had suffered great loss in his personal health. Even his wife encouraged him to “curse God and die.” When his three friends came to see him, they all accused him of hypocrisy and sinfulness, which, according to them, was the cause of his troubles. Although Job “maintained his integrity,” he did speak of the thing which he had feared coming upon him. The thing was the loss of his material possessions, his children, his health and his feeling of assurance and confidence in his relationship with God. Evidently this was something that Job had “feared” would happen to him in this life.
There are many things that can cause us fear. It can be a diagnosis of a medical condition, the loss of a secure financial standing, an uncontrollable situation in family or friends, or a host of other things can fill our hearts with fear. In Job 22:10 and Proverbs 3:25, the Bible speaks of “sudden fear.” This is fear that comes upon us without warning, popping up suddenly in our hearts, terrifying us and filling us with dread. Everyone reading these words has been stricken with sudden fear at some time in their lives. It is almost unavoidable. Perhaps you have said this, or you have heard another say, “I was so afraid this would happen.” Sudden fear would be that fear that seems to sneak up on us unawares, it is just there and there suddenly.
What are we to do as Christians when faced with the reality of fear? The first thing that comes to my mind as an antidote for fear is faith. The Psalmist said, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Psalms 56:3) One thing that helps me when something comes my way that stirs those feelings of fear is the reality that my Lord knows all things, and that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) If God knows all things, and ordains all things in my life for my good and His glory, then when something comes that causes my heart to fear, I must remind myself that I can trust in Him. I can know that nothing will come my way that He does not know about and, in essence, has allowed. Charles Spurgeon said, “When I cannot trace His hand, I can trust His heart.” That is faith! It is believing Him and trusting Him when I cannot see Him, and it feels in my life that He is nowhere to be found. I know He is with me for His promise is clear on that, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5) When fear comes, I must have faith, and I must remember that we “walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Corinthian s 5:7)
When faced with things in our lives that cause fear, we continue to walk by faith and to claim the promises of our Lord, like the ones mentioned above. Then, there is the promise that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) All temptation is not to commit some great evil, it may simply be a temptation to be moved with sudden fear. If that is true, God will make a way to escape that also. Just stay in His Word and on your knees, the way to escape may just be around the corner.
When fear comes, Christian, and it will, just snuggle up closer to your Lord. Depend upon Him. Look to Him. Trust in Him. He will bring you through this “valley of the shadow of death,” and bring you peace in your heart.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:43-48; 1 Peter 3:8-11; Romans 12:19-21
In our devotions for March, we are considering how the Lord would have us to repond to various situations we find ourselves in as followers of Christ. One thing is certain, we all face the very same things at different times. We have looked thus far at how we should react to success. Then we looked at how God would have us respond to fear that comes to all. Our next thoughts cover a subject with which we are all far too familiar; mistreatment from others, real or perceived. The reason I made that clarification that sometimes our mistreatment is perceived rather than real is that often perceived mistreatment is simply misunderstanding. More times than we like to think a misunderstanding has caused us deep hurt when that was really never the intention. I think one of the curses of the ministry has been being misunderstood. It is amazing the things that I have been said to have preached or to have said in counseling sessions. “The preacher said....” “Right in his message, he said that....” “The preacher sat in my living room and told me that....” Unfortunately I may not have made myself clear, or the adversary twisted the reception of the words, or the perseption of their meaning and someone was hurt, disgusted or disenfranchised. Our adversary is a master at causing misunderstanding.
Back to the original question, how do we as followers of Christ deal with being mistreated? It is inevitable, it is going to happen, Christian. You will be mistreated. Some fabricated story will be spread, some misunderstanding of your words or meanings. You will get snubbed, overlooked, forgotten or remembered for something you did not do or say. When that happens, how should Christ’s followers respond?
The natural man gets mad, or deeply hurt to the point of withdrawing into a cocoon of hiding, or of planning an elaborate scheme to get even. How many poems, plays or movies have been made on the topic of revenge? “I’ll get even if its the last thing I ever do.” “Payback is sweet!” These are worldly words of (un) wisdom. These are not words from the Lord! In fact, the Lord instructs us, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:9) Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you....” Now that is definitely not the stuff revenge movies are made of!
How then should we respond to mistreatment? First, bring your case to God in prayer. Bring your mistreatment, real or perceived, to the throne of grace. Remember, it is there that we “obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) The Lord has a way of calming the nerves and causing the frustration and even anger to dissipate. I must admit that there have been times that I have gone to the Lord praying about something that someone did that hurt me, and before my prayer time had ended He had brought some sense of clarity in my own mind as to the situation. I have gone to Him mad about something or someone, and had Him turn my madness into burden and concern. God is good! Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Another way I should face mistreatment is to realize that as a follower of Jesus Christ, a certain amount of mistreatment is going to be my lot. Look at the following warnings: 1 John 3:13; Matthew 5:11; 18:7; 1 Peter 3:16. And, to be honest, these are just a few of the many passages telling us that we are going to be mistreated and offended because of our faith in Christ and our association with Him and His Word. Having said that, and knowing that my association with the Lord invites this, one of my responses to mistreatment should be rejoicing. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12) The next time a mistreatment is endured, just praise the Lord and thank him for counting you worthy to suffer for His Name’s sake. (See Acts 5:41)
Finally, like so many other things we can say when it comes to Christ-like responses, face mistreatment in faith, believing in the Lord. Just remember that His grace is sufficient for every need. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Remember that the path of obedience to the Lord and His will for your life will often lead you through adversity and difficulty. Keep following! Keep looking to the Shepherd! Keep your eyes on Him, not on your circumstances. He will pull you through this! Amen!
March 10 - 12
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 36-37
Opposition. Insurmountable obstacles. Impossibilities we face that cause us anxiety, fear, dread and a host of other emotions that flood our souls. These are all things that we, as children of God, face at some time in our lives. Hezekiah faced just such a time. He was a good man, a good king. He loved the Lord and sought to serve Him. He did not ask for this invasion from Sennacherib and the hordes of soldiers from Assyria. O, Hezekiah knew of this army. He had heard of the devastation they had wrought through the region. The 10 Northern Tribes had already fallen to Assyria and Hezekiah knew that Judah was no match for this army. It is hard to imagine the emotions that went through his mind, and the minds of the people of Jerusalem when they heard the rumbling sounds of the armies of Assyria and the rantings of Rabshakeh. Surely their hearts were filled with fear. I just read today the words of David, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalms 20:7) That is not an easy thing to do when the armies of your enemy are camping just outside the gate.
I truly hope that you and I never have such an awful situation here in America, with her enemies breathing out threats that we know are real and fraught with danger. Hopefully we will not, but surely you and I are going to face challenges, obstacles and events in our lives that cause us dread and fear. How should followers of Christ respond to such seasons?
By the way, being a Christian does not exempt one from such seasons of stress and difficulty. Even dedicated children of God have their Rabshakehs, their Sennacheribs and their armies of mad, opposing forces camping outside their gates at times. There will be those insurmountable obstacles Christians have to face, those challenges that are simply beyond their capacity to handle or overcome. Child of God, when you gave your heart to Jesus He saved your eternal soul, took up His abode in you through the Person of the Holy Spirit, pardoned you and wrote your name in His book in heaven. But, He did not deliver you from all the struggles of humanity living in a sinful world. We still have to deal with the ramifications of sin and suffering brought on by the curse. Thankfully, we do have an edge over the rest of humanity, for we have the Lord to guide, to strengthen and even to fight our battles for us if needs be. (And, He will fight the battles for you that you simply cannot handle.)
What are we to do when we face our Sennacheribs and Rabshakehs? Just like he stood outside the gates of the city and screamed his warnings and mockings, our spiritual Rabshakehs will do the same to us. “You are way in over your head!” “You can’t handle this one!” “Now what are you going to do?” “You’re no match for this, and it seems as though the Lord has forsaken you in your time of need!” You may have heard those rantings coming from just outside the gate of your place of safety, and it ran chills of fear and dread through your soul. Again, the question is, What do you do now?
Hezekiah provides an excellent answer to this question. What did he do? Well, he did not ignore it and act as if it were not happening. He humbled himself. He “rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth....” That signified his brokenness, his refusal to trust in his own strength. It screamed, “I can’t handle this, it is simply too big for me.” He examined all of his options and concluded that Jerusalem was in trouble and that there was nothing he could do about it. It was way over his head, so he humbled that head and “went into the house of the Lord.”
Hezekiah taught us a valuable lesson when faced with the impossible, he ran to God, and did so in humility. He sent for the man of God, seeking help from him in his seeking of the Lord. Beloved, don’t be too proud or to shy to reach out for help from other brothers and sisters in Christ when you are in need. We are in this together. I really love our “Prayer Chain.” It is such a comfort to be able to call out to our Christian family and seek their help in prayer. And, we have watched God answer prayers in a most amazing and thrilling way. Hezekiah sent for Isaiah so that they together might seek God’s face for help and strength.
Isaiah’s words of assurance surely helped Hezekiah, but when he received additional threats through a letter from Rabshakeh, Hezekiah took that letter and laid it out before the Lord and said, “O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only.”
Then, a most amazing thing happened. “Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and four score and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” Did you get that? The angel of the LORD smote 185,000 Assyrian soldiers! The remainder of the soldiers awoke the next day to find that the biggest portion of their invading army lay dead. Beloved, this is not some exaggerated fish tale, this is from the inerrant Word of God. God did for Judah and Hezekiah what they could never have done for themselves. He took care of the insurmountable, the impossible. He fought the battle for them that they could not fight for themselves.
What do you do as a Christian when you face that which you cannot overcome? You lay your case out humbly before God, and then simply trust Him. Hold on to Him. Don’t try to work this out through your own wisdom and strength. Something may come up today that you can handle, and if you can then do it. But tomorrow, that “bigger than you” thing might come up, and if it does, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” Let your panic drive you to your knees and look up to heaven “...from whence cometh my help.” (Psalms 121:1) God knows, and He can where you cannot!
March 13 - 16
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:26-32; Psalms 37:8; Proverbs 14:29; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Matthew 5:22; Romans 12:19-21; Titus 1:7; James 1:19
Our devotions are concerned with the way believers should respond to various situations they face in this world. Our thoughts are now dealing with a topic that every person, saved and unsaved, is familiar with; anger. Everyone gets mad, or has gotten mad in in the past. All have had to deal with the subject of anger.
Is all anger wrong? No, all anger is not wrong. In fact, some anger is justified and, when channeled correctly, can be very productive. The Perfect Man, Christ Jesus our Lord, was angered at times during His earthly ministry. He entered into a synagogue once, and in the building was a man with a withered hand. There were some in the room that looked on anxiously, awaiting to see if Jesus would heal the man. The question was not whether or not Jesus could heal the man, but if He would heal the man on the Sabbath day. They had no feelings at all for the man with the withered hand, but were simply using him as a pawn in their cruel game of hatred for Christ. We read that Jesus was angered for the “hardness of their hearts.” “And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” It made Jesus mad to know that these men had no feeling of sympathy for the handicapped man, but only used him in their evil plot against the Savior.
There can be some positive results of anger when that emotion is handled in a Scriptural way. For instance, Paul wrote, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” All anger is not sinful. It is what we do with our anger that can cause it to be sinful. Proverbs 14:17 says, “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly....” Anger can mar judgment and result in foolish actions, actions that were not well thought out before being executed. Ecclesiastes 7:9 declares, “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” You may recall that Jonah got mad when God did not follow through with His warnings to destroy the city of Nineveh, even though the people of the city both small and great had repented of sin and were diligently seeking God’s face. Then, the prophet got mad when a plant which had been providing him with shade withered and died. “And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.” The prophet’s sense of reasoning was all messed up. Resulting in unwarranted anger, not only at the gourd, but at the Lord also.
Look carefully at Ephesians 4:26-32. Here, the Apostle Paul is speaking of the “things” that must be “put off” in our lives concerning the “old man.” If you will notice in these verses, the thought of anger is brought up more than once. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour...be put away from you, with all malice....” All of the above is associated with anger, which can be a real enemy of spiritual growth, peace and joy. This is an area in which Satan can and does work tirelessly to rob the believer of that which the Lord has intended. Notice what Paul wrote, “Neither give place to the devil.” So, obviously, this is an area where Satan works to defeat God’s children. There are a lot of things that can cause anger; perceived mistreatment or abuse, the actions of others, frustration with unfulfilled expectations, and a host of others things can cause anger to well up inside. If anger is not dealt with properly, the result can be devastating to one’s spiritual life.
Can the believer conquer anger? Yes! If not, why would the Holy Spirit have inspired the Apostle to deal with the subject. Of course, this in not the only place where the subject is dealt with. Jesus spoke of being angry with one’s brother. James warned us to be “slow to wrath,” and Paul dealt with the subject in other writings, such as in Romans and in Titus. The Holy Spirit had these instructions placed in His Word because there is a need to deal with anger, and through His help and through His Word we can do so.
How then do we deal with anger? First, the believer is never to give place to the devil by giving in to the impulses that can be caused by anger. This is definitely one area where “temperance” is needed. In Galatians 5:22-24, we read of the “fruit of the Spirit,” the outgrowth of “walking in the Spirit,” (See Galatians 5:16) of living a life of obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit. One of the fruits mentioned is “temperance,” which simply means “self control.” While self control can be quite a challenge, it is possible through the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit. He can give us the wisdom and strength to overcome the impulses that can arise caused by anger. When anger begins to boil, STOP, seek the Lord’s guidance and strength, rather than doing what might come naturally. If you “blow your top,” you will also most likely blow your testimony with those around you. You don’t have to stop and say, “Excuse me just a minute. I need to pray before I let loose and punch you in the nose.” Do you remember reading in Nehemiah about when he was standing before King Artaxerxes? He was saddened by what he had heard from the Jews that had returned to Israel from the captivity. When he was confronted about this by the king, Scripture declares that he was “sore afraid.” Being sad in the presence of the king was a real “no no” in that day. When Nehemiah informed the king of the cause of his sadness, Artaxerxes said, “For what dost thou make request?” It is here we read, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Now, you know he didn’t say, “Excuse me, my King,” and then bowed down in the throne room so that he might enter the throne room of heaven in prayer. No, he lifted his heart to God in prayer silently, without changing the expression on his face, and received from God the wisdom and strength he needed to address the most powerful man on earth at that time, King Artaxerxes. Step one, therefore, is taking that anger and it’s cause instantly to God in prayer. It is a quick, “Help me, Father, in dealing with this situation in a way that would be honoring to You.” It is a quick weighing of your choices and seeking God’s guidance in making the correct one.
Another thing Scripture notes about dealing with anger is that ignoring it doesn’t help. That is why Paul warned, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” In other words, deal with it so you can get it behind you. Your anger may just be a misunderstanding, but that will not be known if it is not dealt with. In fact, unresolved anger can fester, and get worse and worse until it explodes. That is never helpful. Deal with anger issues, and get them behind you. See them as temporary obstacles, and issues that need to be handled Scripturally so that they don’t become insurmountable. A good illustration of this is found in Leviticus 10:15-20. In this passage, Moses was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons, because they had not eaten the part of the goat meat of the sin offering that was to be eaten by the priests. He addressed the question immediately stating, “Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place...ye should indeed have eaten it in the holy place, as I commanded.” Aaron answered Moses by saying, “...they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord; and such things have befallen me: and if I had eaten the sin offering to day, should it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord?” The “things” that had befallen him was the deaths of his two sons, Nadab and Abihu. (See Leviticus 10:1-7) Aaron was saying, “We have endured great grief, and yet have continue to do our jobs as priests. We just didn’t feel it would be right in our condition of grief to partake of the gracious gift God had provided through these offerings. We did not feel right about partaking of this feast in our current emotional condition.” Moses’ anger was abated. He understood and the Bible said, “...when Moses heard that, he was content.” He did not ignore the anger, but went to the source of his anger for a better understanding. With that understanding, the issue was resolved and the anger removed. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”
With God’s help and guidance, and with the wisdom we can receive through His Word, we can overcome the negative aspects of anger, and not allow it to become a place where our adversary can defeat us. May He help us to do so. Amen!
Scripture Reading: Job 21:7-15
Have you ever felt like Job in the above passage? Job looked around and was filled with questions on the seeming prosperity and peace being enjoyed by those who simply did not have time for God, nor any inclination to make time. Their thoughts about God were, “Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” But, everything that these unregenerate souls did prospered; “their seed is established…their houses are safe from fear…they spend their days in wealth….” It didn’t make sense to Job.
Have those kinds of thoughts ever crossed your mind?” Think about the words of the old song;
Tempted and tried we're oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus, all the day long
While there are others, living about us
Never molested though in the wrong.
When death has come and taken our love ones
It leaves our homes so lonely and drear
And then do we wonder, why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year.
Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all by and by.
Obviously the author of this song had thought of such things, and many that have sung it through the years have understood completely the questions raised.
Turn to Psalms 73:3-12. Asaph struggled with these questions concerning the prospering and seeming success of those who were “wicked…corrupt,” with their mouths “set…against the heavens….” Jeremiah had similar issues as did Asaph. Look at the following words, “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins. But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.” (Jeremiah 12:1-3) Jeremiah wondered why it seemed that God had blessed these so, when he was having a difficult time, even though he had been trying to faithfully serve the Lord. And, by the way, this is not the only time Jeremiah brought such things up to the Lord in prayer.
The Psalmist David wrote, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.” (Psalms 37:35) Many of God’s own have wondered over these same questions. Maybe you have. You may have thought, “Lord, I have tried to be faithful and obedient. I have sought to know and to do your will, and I seem to ever be struggling. Then, I look at that fellow over there and he seems to have it made. He lives wickedly, and everything he does seems to prosper. I just don’t understand.” If those kinds of thoughts have crossed your mind, you are not alone. Job wondered about such things, as did Asaph, David and Jeremiah. Asaph even acknowledged that he had been “envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalms 73:3) We must at times sound like children saying, “I wish I had one of those. All the kids at school have one.”
How should we deal with these feelings like those that Job, Asaph and others had when they observed the prosperity of the wicked? Turn to Psalms 37. In Verse 1, David wrote, “Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” He then tells us one reason for this; “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” We read of the wealthiest people dying from cancer, or heart disease, or some other ailment. All of their riches could not prevent the inevitable. And if God’s Word is true, and it is on every subject, those riches meant nothing at all to those departed souls. They were not able to reserve a spot in heaven through their riches, any more than they could prolong their lives and prevent their deaths. The richest people without Christ should not be envied, but pitied. Their short lives of pleasure and plenty will be nothing compared to their endless eternity separated from God in that terrible place that was prepared for the devil and his angels. (See Matthew 25:41) Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has a net worth estimated at 187 billion dollars. Elon Musk is said to be worth 167 billion, and Bill Gates around 131 billion. As wealthy as these men are, they are facing a long eternity in which their vast revenues will be absolutely meaningless. Child of God, the next time there is a twinge of envy when you see the rich living in their unbelievable world, remember the eternity that awaits them and pray for their souls.
The Apostle Paul addressed this issue when he wrote, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5) In 1 Timothy 6:6 we read, “But godliness with contentment is much gain.” Let the unsaved rich have their day of glory. Your day is coming, child of God.
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 29:4-13; Philippians 1:6
Our government is about to begin distribution of a 1.9 trillion dollar relief fund, the vast majority of which will not be for the purpose of providing relief at all. It is filled with “pork-barrel” spending items, guaranteeing that corrupt politicians will please the people in their districts and assure their continued presence in the US government. The new administration is making changes in our country that are alarming. The saber rattling between the US and certain European nations and China are not very comforting. The US debt currently stands at 28 trillion dollars and rising at an alarming rate. To say the least, our future as a nation does not look very bright. What are we to do as followers of Christ? How are we to respond to these things?
One of the things I feel we need to do is to seek discernment from our Heavenly Father. Believers must be informed as to what is going on in the world and in our country. Ignorance is not bliss, and we still currently have the opportunity and the responsibility to go to the polls and vote. True Christians must be active in the political process, even if at times it is a most distasteful activity. This is where we need to be in tune with our Lord and His Word, for followers of Christ cannot and must not support politicians that stand opposed to Scriptural principles and values.
The question remains, how are true Christians to respond to things going on in our government, public institutions and throughout the world over which we have absolutely no control? While this may seem overly simplistic, it is not; we must pray. The promise given in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is still relevant in our world today; “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land.” There is an important key; “my people.” What do you suppose could happen in our country if all true followers of Jesus Christ began earnestly praying for our country, for our elected officials and for the rest of the population? This is not just a possibility, it is a promise. And, its not just a promise, it is a pressing need. The True Church of the Lord Jesus must quit playing church and sincerely, earnestly draw close to our Lord, repent of sin and seek the face of our God in prayer. The future of our nation is at stake. The future of our children, grandchildren and future generations are at stake, and those stakes are simply to high to ignore.
Actually, the purpose of this section of our devotions was to challenge all of us to take hope in what could seem a very hopeless era of time. I got a bit sidetracked. The days are uncertain, and can be very unnerving. In fact, if we are not careful, the things going on about us could cause us to despair, to become fearful and uncertain about our future to the point of losing the joy and peace that our Lord intended for us through His grace. We cannot let that happen. In Jeremiah’s day, the days of the Babylonian captivity, false prophets were sending the wrong messages out to the people of Israel. Jeremiah tried to counter that with truth. The Lord was encouraging the people to surrender to Babylon, and allow themselves to be carried back to that foreign land. The Lord promised that He would keep them there, and would allow a remnant of them to return to the land after the seventy years captivity was ended. Look at Jeremiah 29:11-12. He said to the people through the prophet, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.” God was assuring Israel that, although their future looked bleak, He still had His eye upon them and would care for them.
Paul said something similar in Philippians 1:6; “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ….” How should we respond to uncertain days, to times when the future looks questionable at best? We should know that our Lord is still in control, and will do all that is needed to complete His great work of redemption in us. Just keep looking up, child of God! And while you are looking up, PRAY with all your heart for God to work in the lives of the leaders of our country.
Scripture Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Our devotions for March are dealings with the Christian’s response to the various things that are faced in life. Every era of the Church has faced its challenges. The early Church faced the challenge of leaving its first love. (Read Revelation 2:1-7). The era of the Church represented by the Church in Smyrna faced bitter persecution, (See Revelation 2:8) while the Church in Pergamos faced the curse of erroneous doctrine taught in an era of imperial favor. (See Revelation 2:12-17) Every era of the Christian Church has faced its challenges. We currently are living in the Laodicean era, a time of spiritual lukewarmness and carnality in the body of professing Christendom. (See Revelation 3:24-22) Note what was said over and again to the seven churches, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” I pray that He will give us a hearing ear and a sensitive heart.
You and I have lived to see the Laodicean era in full swing. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you mayest be rich; and white raiment, that you mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do no appear; and anoint thy eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.” Beloved, we are in the Laodicean era, a time when, at least according to the Spirit’s message in Revelation, many in the professing church are lost and in need of Christ’s salvation.
How should true believers face these days, days in which it is “cool” to be a Christian, as long as you don’t go overboard. It’s not so cool to be a Christian that believes in a literal interpretation and application of God’s Holy Word. Neither is it cool to be a Christian that believes in holiness and godliness. It just isn’t. In fact, you and I have lived to see a day when real, Bible believing, Christ honoring Christians are considered to be much of the problem in the world. The liberal media wants to label us as homophobic, Bible thumpers. What should we do?
We are living in a day when there is a renewed and resounding call for followers of Christ to be sold out to their Lord, giving all that they are to Him and to His cause. There is a call for dedication, as there perhaps has never been before. Our Lord has promised, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” Christian, now is the time to let your true colors shine through for Christ, to carry His banner high without apology. Now is the time to seek His face as never before, and to become most serious about your relationship with Him and with His Church. It is quite possible that the true Church of the Lord Jesus will be called upon to suffer for her Lord in the last days. May God help us to be prepared and willing to suffer for His name’s sake if that be His sovereign will. We must face these challenging days with our faith anchored steadfastly in our Lord, and with a firm resolve to live for Him until the day He comes for us. May He help us to do just that!
Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 12:15-23; Acts 9:36-39; Job 1:13-22
Of all the things we face in life that are difficult to deal with, there is perhaps nothing more challenging than the loss of one dear. This is a subject that is dealt with extensively in God’s Word. From the first man Adam, all humanity has had to face that inevitable hardship, the loss of someone special. With Adam and Eve, that challenge came all too soon with the death of their son, Abel. And, to make that heartache even harder to bear, he died at the hand of his brother, their oldest son. Think about this, they lost both their sons at the same time. Abel was slain, and Cain left and “dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” (Read Genesis 4:1-16) Serving our church as pastor for forty years has brought me into the center of grieving families more times than I like to think. I remember vividly waking three young children up in the middle of the night to tell them that their father had died. That is an event I hope never to repeat.
Studying recently on the Wilderness Journey of the Childern of Israel, I did some quick math on the number of funerals Israel had during the years between their rebellion at Kadeshbarnea and their entering into Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. During that period of over thirty eight years, they averaged over eighty funerals per day. The Wilderness Journey was a journey of heartbreak.
None are exempt. All humanity faces this. As noted earlier, Adam and Eve faced this. Abraham faced this time of grief and sorrow, (See Genesis 23:2) as did Aaron, the brother of Moses. (See Leviticus 10:1-2) We often forget that Mary, the mother of our Lord, was there when her Son, our Savior, was crucified for the sins of the world. We cannot begin to imagine the pain she endured in her heart until after the resurrection. The question is, How should followers of Christ face this ultimate challenge? First, although this goes with saying, it must be noted that all face this kind of loss. Being saved and serving God faithfully does not exempt God’s children from feeling the pain of the death of a spouse, a parent or a child. I had two first cousins, both under 45 years of age, that died eleven months apart. My uncle and I were talking during the time of the funeral service for the second son. He said, “This is not the way it’s suppose to be. They should have been burying me. A parent shouldn’t have to bury his children.” Because of the introduction of sin into the world, “man is born to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7) Being saved does not exempt one from this truth, but it does give hope, peace and strength. It also gives meaning and purpose, even during times of grief.
The question again is, “How should followers of Christ face this ultimate challenge? At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, it must be said that this challenge, like all others faced by Christ’s followers, must be met in faith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) When David learned of the death of his newborn infant, he faced that in faith by saying, “...can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23) His faith enabled him to look beyond his day of heartache to a day when there will be no more parting. That faith helped him to trust in the God he served. It was Abraham that asked the question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25) In reality, it was not a question at all, but an affirmation of Abraham’s faith that God always did “right,” making no mistakes ever.
Beloved, faith does not make everything joyful and happy. We cannot eliminate grief in our lives through faith. When Jesus heard of John the Baptist’s death, He withdrew from the crowd that had been following Him, seeking a place of solitude. (See Matthew 14:6-14) Now, I cannot begin to know all that was going through the mind of our Savior at that time, but because He was “tempted in all points like as we are,” (Hebrews 4:15) I cannot help but feel that He was enduring a time of sorrow and hurt from the loss of John. Faith, nor faithfulness for that matter, does not make everything wonderful, but it gives us stability, peace, and hope in all situations we face, even during this terrible challenge of loss.
What does faith do for the child of God during seasons of grief caused by loss? First, it reminds Christ’s followers that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) “All things” is a broad stroke with a very wide brush. It literally means “all things” collectively, and individually. Does Romans 8:28 mean that we will always understand everything the God does or allows to happen in our lives? Absolutely not! There are things we endure in this life that we may never fully understand until we get to the other side, and then it probably won’t matter. What Romans 8:28 does is it assures us that our Father in heaven is in control, that He has our best interest in mind in all that He does, and that He does it for our good and His glory. Faith reminds us of this truth and helps us to look at our season of grief through a different lens.
Scripture Reading: Proverbs 11:7; 14:32; Jeremiah 17:7; Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 15:12-22; 1 Thessalonians 4:13
Faith helps the believer deal with the difficult challenge of the death of a loved one, and so does hope. More than once in my ministry I have had a funeral home contact me to see if I would conduct a funeral for a family that had no church affiliation and did not know a pastor. While church affiliation and knowing a pastor is not synonymous with salvation, as a general rule the truly saved do have connection with a local church and with men of God. I remember one specific case many years ago when I conducted such a funeral. The thing that really has stayed in my mind since that day was utter hopelessness that seemed to permeate the chapel that day.
Paul addressed that thought when he wrote the following words to the Thessalonian Church, “…that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Note that he did not say, “sorrow not….” No, he spoke of sorrowing “not as others which have no hope.” As believers, are we expected to have no sorrow when a loved one or a close friend dies? Absolutely not! Of course there is sorrow. There is the sorrow of separation, of knowing that things are changing permanently. There is the sorrow associated with unfinished projects, unfulfilled plans and incomplete or unrealized goals. My mom lived ten years after the passing of my dad, and I have wondered if she was ever really happy after his death. Yes, there is sorrow, and it is not a demonstration of a lack of faith when there is. As mentioned earlier, Jesus showed signs of sorrow when hearing of the death of John the Baptist. The Church at Jerusalem was sorrowful when James, the brother of John, was murdered at the hand of Herod. The widows of Joppa were saddened at the passing of Dorcas, remembering her love and sweet deeds of service that she had done for them. (See Acts 9:36-39) We do sorrow, and rightly so, but “not as others which have no hope.”
A major difference between believers and non-believers is “hope.” In its simplest meaning, hope speaks of an expectation of good. When it comes to the parting of a loved one, an unbearable pain comes from the reality that that loved one will never be seen, touched, hugged or confided in ever again. Beloved, that is not the case when that loved one is a follower of the Lord Jesus. When preaching the funeral of a person I truly believe was saved, I will often challenge the family and friends with the following words, “If you hope to ever see this dear saint again, you must make sure that you are saved, that you have placed your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.” David expressed that hope when learning of the death of his child, saying, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23) David’s hope was in another day, a time off in the future when he would be reunited with those he loved that had gone on before him. The night before my dad died, his last words to me were, “I’ll see you in the morning, son.” Those were the first words I thought when I was told that he had died. “I’ll see you in the morning, son.” And, because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, that is a reality.
How should God’s children face that inevitable challenge of the death of a loved one? We face that in hope. We face it in sorrow, yes! But not as others which have no hope.
My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the vale.
His oath His covenant His blood
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 13
We are dealing with how believers should face that ultimate challenge, and that being the death of a loved one. Some who are reading these words have faced this challenge much more than I have. Both my parents have passed, and Lynn’s father died some years back. However, I still have my dear wife, and all of my children and grandchildren. Some of you have lost a husband, a wife, a child or both. You have known the hurt of which we have been speaking. Having pastored Good News for forty years, I have been involved with many families in this church going through the pain of death. In all honesty, it is during these times that I feel the most inadequate in my service for Christ and His Church.
Thus far, we have noted that we face this ultimate challenge through faith and through hope. Look with me in Verse 13 of this great Chapter written to the Corinthian Church; “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” “Charity” means “love.” Look back over this thirteenth chapter and see all that is attributed to love. It “never fails,” it “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” “Charity suffereth long….”
Child of God, this most difficult of all challenges in our lives must be faced in love; love for that dear one that has passed, love for the Blessed Word of God, and love for the Lord. It must be faced in love for our Church family, for all the family of Christ, and all of the family of Christ must help one another deal with this hard and grievous challenge through love. If ever one of our own must be surrounded and cared for in love it is when death has stricken a home with sorrow.
This might be done through a card, a call or a visit. It can come through a, “Please know that we are praying for you. We love you and want to help you in any way that we can.” And, beloved, when death comes to your home or your close circle of friends, allow others to minister to your heart through their love for you and for our Lord.
Being saved does not exempt us from facing things in this life that are difficult and challenging, but our faith in Christ and His Word, our hope in Him and His love for us and our love one for another, will enable us to meet these challenges of life. The day will come, beloved, when the days of testing and trial will be passed forever. As we are told in Revelation, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Until that blessed day comes, child of God, keeping looking up to our Lord and faithfully serving Him throughout all the challenges of life.