Guarded for Gentleness and Thanksgiving

Do you like fences? Do you have one around your house to keep your young children inside the yard, keep the dog confined, or the deer out? Some people like fences for privacy and some for security. Fences protect, restrict, reduce unwanted noises, warn against intrusion, define boundaries, and may provide a retreat. I appreciate barriers because I have found that there is usually a good reason for them, even if it’s just to keep me from intruding on some else’s space. I especially love the fences around dog parks because they allow my pooch to run and play off-leash while I can relax and enjoy myself. Spiritually, the Holy Spirit protects me from my sinful inclinations, as if standing guard at the threshold of my mind and my heart, helping me to enjoy life. “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12) In the same chapter of, two verses later, Paul instructs Timothy, and us to guard ourselves. “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (1:14) The process of sanctification, by which the fruits of the Spirit come to maturity in us, is one of cooperation with God’s Spirit. It is… “confidence in God that prevents Paul from being ashamed. His boldness arises not from self-confidence but from God-confidence.” (1) We are to define, protect, and secure our faith in Jesus Christ, our free inheritance, with confidence in the Lord. We guard against intruders and distractions from the world, Satan, and our old sin nature. By protecting our faith, we can maintain our peacefulness, humility, and gentleness. 

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul instructs his fellow believers and us to rejoice in the Lord. One aspect of spiritual joy is the peace we share with God and others. Let this passage encourage us as we consider the fruit of gentleness one more time: “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7) The peace of God is the cause of our reasonableness, translated gentleness, or moderation in some Bibles. We can be calm rather than anxious, able to take all our cares to God who guards us before we act. Yet, Paul reminds us that we have even greater protection in three ways, through our practice of reasonableness, calmness, and prayer. These three verses also contain three imperatives for believers: let your reasonableness be known; do not be anxious; and make your requests known to God (in prayer, supplication, thanksgiving). Finally, he gives three descriptions of the Spirit’s work in us: gentleness, relief from anxiety, and accord with him. The Lord is close, peaceful, and watchful. God’s loving and instructive imminence safeguards our gentleness, calmness, and desire to pray with thanksgiving. Won’t we put God’s peace to work through our gentleness, calm, and thankful prayers?

Although the first imperative sounds passive, we have to work at doing it in a high-strung, social media-driven culture. “Let your reasonableness [forbearance, moderation, gentleness] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand…” (v. 5) It is good news that God gives us reasonableness through the Spirit. Our challenge is to demonstrate it in our relationships. John Gill’s list of possibilities for this “modesty” include: “giving up strict and proper right…and not rigidly insisting on it; putting up with affronts and injuries, and bearing them with patience; and interpreting things in the best sense, and putting the best constructions on words and actions they will bear…exercised towards ‘all men’; not only to believers, the members of the church, by ruling with gentleness, by bearing the infirmities of the weak, and by forgiving offences.” (2) As with all our verbal and non-verbal witnessing, the effect sought is the glory of God, maturity in Christ, and salvation of the elect. “Reasonableness is crucial for maintaining community; it is the disposition that seeks what is best for everyone and not just for oneself. The Lord is at hand emphasizes the fact that Jesus will surely return as judge and will hold people responsible for their deeds (James 5:9).” (3)

I’m sure none of us object to Paul’s teaching. However, putting it into practice is another matter. But he offers the help we need in the next verse: “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (v. 6) “Paul echoes Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:25–34) that believers are not to be anxious but are to entrust themselves into the hands of their loving heavenly Father, whose peace will guard them in Christ Jesus.” (4) As we pray, we enter communion with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, who unite our wills with God’s. “[And] we must join thanksgivings with prayers and supplications; not only seek supplies of good, but own the mercies we have received. God needs not to be told our wants or desires; he knows them better than we do; but he will have us show that we value the mercy, and feel our dependence on him.” (5) Through our prayers, God’s peace can inhabit us so that gentleness and calmness reign where fear, doubts, fretting, worry, or anxiety were overtaking our minds and hearts. On our American Thanksgiving Holiday today, what could be more appropriate than focusing on thankfulness and prayers of thanksgiving to God.

Putting God’s peace to work through our thankful prayers for ourselves and in our intercession as a priority will yield remarkable gentleness and reasonableness. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (v. 7) “The peace of God, the comfortable sense of being reconciled to God, and having a part in his favor, and the hope of the heavenly blessedness, are a greater good than can be fully expressed. This peace will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; it will keep us from sinning under troubles, and from sinking under them; keep us calm with inward satisfaction.” (6) Our holiness is crucial to our witness, so we must not detach verse 7 from verse 5, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” As a result of our spiritual maturity, the fruit we bear should attract others who want to know more about us, and hopefully, our faith. The Lord did not redeem us for our comfort and relaxation. He saved us for his glory, best demonstrated in our witness for Christ.

If you’re like me, witnessing is one skill that takes constant improvement. Bridging the interests of others to that of Christ is a skill Jesus demonstrated frequently. He spoke of God’s presence when Nicodemus asked him how he knew God and instructed the Samaritan woman about living water at the well. (7) In this sense, Jesus “fenced” the conversations to focus on his divine nature gently before confronting their erroneous understanding of true religion. We need to learn how to do this since we tend to shrink, avoiding what might become uncomfortable. “When we are equipped by God’s word for every good work, the other people in our life get to enjoy the fruit…When the truth of the gospel is firmly entrenched in our minds, we’ll look for opportunities to share Christ with them.” (8) The more we practice calmly, trusting that God has given us the reasonableness and calmness that we need, the easier it will become. Do I have a teachable spirit, to become more gentle with unbelievers about Christ? Am I repentant of my fear and impatience that leads to harshness? Do I trust the Spirit to work in me to be considerate, generous, and fair in my dealings with others, or am I rigid, exacting, and demanding? Lord, help us to remember that your peace safeguards our gentleness, calmness, and thanksgiving. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick?…the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:13-16) May there be many prayers of thanksgiving today!

Related Scripture: Psalm 145:18; Proverbs 16:3; Isaiah 26:3-4; Matthew 6:25; John 14:27; Colossians 3:15;James 5:8-9.

  1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Timothy 1:12, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Philippians 4:5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/philippians-4.html
  3. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Philippians 4:5, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  4. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Philippians 4:6-7, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  5. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Philippians 4:2-9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/philippians-4.html
  6. Matthew Henry, Ibid.
  7. Arthur, Kay, “The Gospel of John, Part 1, Lesson 7,” Precepts Video Series, https://shop.precept.org/products/john-part-1-dvd-lectures-kay.
  8. Marshall, Glenna, “Everyday Faithfulness,” page 43, Crossway (TGC), 2020.

November 27, 2020

Unhurried, Thoughtful Gentleness

Speed—coveted by the young and ambitious, rejected by the elderly and meditative. One of the most significant challenges of aging is the inability to hurry, rush, or multitask—the body can’t do it. I used to practice a lot of multitasking at work and home; these days, I do one or two things at a time and love the simplicity. Our world has gone from a speedy race for information and activity to a grinding halt due to COVID. The faster you were going, the more dramatic the change. God interrupted life as we know it, and what Christian doubts that the Lord has a grand purpose for this plague-like slow-down, though we can’t discern it? “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” (Romans 11:33-34) Rather than trying to decipher the Lord’s desires for the world, our work is to slow down. It’s what he has forced us to do. (“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” Psalms 23:2). As we seek God’s wisdom for using these slower, quieter days, the Spirit gives counsels us with the Word of God. What an excellent time to think about biblical gentleness and sharing the gospel lovingly and humbly, letting the Spirit work in our relationships. 

Most of us don’t take the time to prepare ourselves spiritually as we should, despite the Bible’s frequent admonitions to do so. Today we will consider 1 Peter 3:15-16. “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” Whenever God brings a crisis, we can either wait for it to be over, praying for minimal discomfort, or use the time to glorify God in it. It takes time and quietness to be prepared to share about Christ gently and with respect in a culture of adamant opinion-sharing, criticism, fear, illness, and death. “It is a bitter season. And God ordained it. God governs it. He will end it. No part of it is outside his sway. Life and death are in his hand…In the presence of God, no one has a right to life. Every breath we take is a gift of grace. Every heartbeat, undeserved. Life and death are finally in the hands of God…” (1) This counter-cultural viewpoint on life and God’s mercy should lead us to want to defend our faith gently. 

1 Peter 3:15 is weighty. Peter tells us to honor Christ in our hearts as the holy Lord, to be prepared to defend our faith gently and respectfully—with whoever asks. But we cannot do this perfunctorily; it is a work of the Spirit in our hearts and minds. “Sinners must not grasp the means of grace as if conversion could be produced mechanically by human power. Nor should the preacher think that he can induce conversion…the word of law and gospel does not have this power in itself, nor from the preacher, but only from the “glorious sovereignty” of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is sovereign over the word, the soul, and the times of conviction and conversion.” (2) Honoring Christ the Lord as holy in our hearts takes time and deep fellowship with him, receiving his truth with our limitations to expand our view of Christ. It also takes living a life that evidences our love and devotion to Him. We must be fully convinced that Christ’s Lordship is unquestionable to attract others who are overcome with distress about the COVID pandemic’s increasing reach, and respond gently and respectfully, “That person is in a sad condition on whom sin and suffering meet: sin makes suffering extreme, comfortless, and destructive.” (3) If we want others to know Christ, the source of our hope, we must prepare ourselves to gently offer the comfort only God can give through his grace and mercy—a balm to the soul. 

We’re instructed to have “a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:16) Have you ever been maligned? Has anyone ever slandered or insulted you, attacking your reputation? The more open and proactive we are about our faith in Jesus Christ, the more likely we will be reviled and mocked. But having a good conscience allows us to stay calm, steady, and objective, rather than reacting emotionally and vindictively. “Two features of the method of self-defense are stressed. It must be done with gentleness and respect. Peter seems particularly anxious to restrain them from the sharp retort. Further, their answer is to be backed by a good conscience, so that the accusers rather than the accused may be put to shame.” (4) Paul gave similar advice to Timothy. “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” (2 Timothy 2:24) Some years ago, after being blamed for many problems in a particular program over which I had no control as the administrator, I adopted a new practice of responding with the gospel, instead of trying to defend myself or listening to professing Christians ranting with nonsensical criticisms. I started telling my critic that I was much worse than they could know; the evil and sin in my heart and mind goes deep, which is why I need Christ and his forgiveness. I recommend this, reminding others why we need a Savior. Isn’t that what God wants, for us to run to the cross in all our trials? Proclaiming the gospel gently, with myself in view, shows respect for the other person’s stated beliefs. At the very least, he or she may walk away confused by the unemotional tone and truth of our reply, considering it further.

During these rocky, anxious days of COVID, we need Christ’s steadiness, peace, reasonableness, and love. If we are to be prepared to defend our faith gently in a culture of mockery, then we must cooperate with God’s sanctification. (5) In his book, “Coronavirus and Christ,” John Piper gives us six things God is definitely doing through the pandemic. But first, he states, “God is not silent about what he is doing in this world. He has given us the Scriptures.” So what is God doing that will prepare us to respond gently to people? “God is giving the world…a physical picture of the moral horror and spiritual ugliness of God-belittling sin…Some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions…The coronavirus is a God-given wake-up call to be ready for the second coming of Christ…The coronavirus is God’s thunderclap call for all of us to repent and realign our lives with the infinite worth of Christ…The coronavirus is God’s call to his people to overcome self-pity and fear, and with courageous joy, to do the good works of love that glorify God…[Finally] God is loosening the roots of settled Christians, all over the world, to make them free for something new and radical and to send them with the gospel of Christ to the unreached peoples of the world.” (6) Thanks to my friend for recommending this book and for Piper, who dedicated his pandemic time to help us prepare to answer our hope in Christ. We’ll look back and probably think of many ways we could have used our time more productively and more worshipfully for the cause of Christ during the COVID outbreak. But God’s Word says to us as God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) May God’s gentleness be ours to give to others.

Related Scripture: Romans 12:18-21; 2 Corinthians 10:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:19-23; 3:9.

  1. Piper, John, “Coronavirus and Christ,” Crossway, Kindle Edition, 2020.
  2. “A Puritan Theology, Chapter 28—Puritan Preparatory Grace,” Beeke, Joel R. and Jones, Mark, Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2012.
  3. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible,” 1 Peter 3:14-22, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/1-peter-3.html.
  4. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce, General Editor, 1 Peter 3:15-16, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
  5. Piper, John, Ibid.
  6. Piper, Ibid. (There is a separate chapter for each one of these six reasons.)

November 20, 2020

The Truth About Gentleness

My 2020 devotions are about understanding, embracing, and applying the fruits of the Spirit to our daily lives. But our world has a very different view of living out what you believe. An internet search for applying what we believe in our daily lives generated a website that states: “There’s something magical that happens when you live in alignment with the Truth. Most of us live for ourselves—lying to ourselves and/or others in order to satisfy our immediate needs and assuage our petty fears. But when you dedicate yourself to the Truth, you synchronize yourself with something more expansive—a force that is greater than yourself, existed before you were born, and will continue after you pass away.” (1) Here is the insidious integration of New Age philosophy in modern thinking. New Age philosophy should alarm us; it is just another of Satan’s tools to keep people opposed to God and his Word. Is this useful in a time of such heated, verbal, and judgmental controversy? We instead are to look to the Bible for the real Truth about all things. And I think we have much to learn about true gentleness. Knowing that the Holy Spirit’s gentleness is powerful in our relationships when we humble ourselves will lead us to embrace humility through his power. We do not need to work at “unleashing our full potential,” since we have none of our own but all of God’s grace in Christ applied to our hearts through the Spirit.

Jesus Christ is the prime example of humility and gentleness yielding greatness. His willingness to submit to his incarnation and crucifixion resulted in the world’s most powerful event in all history for all time. Many others have imitated his meekness in the power of the Spirit. Today we will consider how David expressed gentleness toward Saul, living out the truth that Paul expounds in the New Testament. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) Hundreds of years before that, David wrote, “For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great.” (2 Samuel 22:32-35; Psalm 18:31-35)

After David had been anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel, while Saul was still king, Saul became jealous of David and hunted him down. Saul’s murderous behavior was a clear violation of God’s commandments and will. But David consistently refused to kill Saul when given the opportunity. “‘ The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.’ So David took the spear and the jar of water from Saul’s head, and they went away. No man saw it or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.” (1 Samuel 26:11-12) God’s gentleness had made David merciful. Gentleness from the Spirit makes us able to do more than resist temptations; we will do great acts of mercy and righteousness if we humble ourselves. 

When we read Paul’s admonition in Galatians 6:1, we mistakenly assume that it only refers to a direct confrontation with anyone who is sinning habitually. Let’s reconsider how much more Galatians 6:1 teaches as we apply the “spirit of gentleness” after our self-examination. “The absence of self-centeredness, of pre-occupation with my own dignity and standing, is to be balanced by that true concern which places myself in the position of another, and acts to that other as I would then wish others to act towards myself. Yet this forgetfulness of self, this unselfconscious thought for others, can be expected only of one who has learned to live with himself; to accept his own abilities and calling, and the niche in which his own inherent gifts must place him. Only in this way can a man attain the quiet assurance and confidence of a responsibility taken and conscientiously fulfilled.” (2) We have a tender-hearted guide who knows how to transform us into gentler people.

Tenderness is a demonstration of love. Biblical gentleness is an outflow of God’s love, resulting in submission to him and appropriate submission to others—a balance possible only with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are usually gentle with people and valuable possessions: a newborn baby, someone who is very ill, or a frail, older person or a little animal, even an antique vase or a treasured old photograph. Not only do we not want to cause harm, but we want to preserve or add value. Gospel kind-heartedness like David’s is possible with people who oppose us and those we might consider enemies of Christ. Jesus modeled this behavior with the Jewish and Roman leaders; and with Judas, treating him like a brother, with love and respect despite his betrayal. During Jesus’s ministry, some came to faith, leaving their habitually sinful rebellious ways behind them. Others were confronted to the point of wanting to kill Jesus, as Saul wanted to kill David because righteous conduct exposed (confronted) their sinfulness. 

There are times when we do need to be more direct. But, “If someone is caught in a sin,” conceited superiority would drive us to look down on them, be glad we are not like them, and feel righteous in ourselves. Pointing out their sin would merely be to underline how good we look by comparison. Conceited inferiority would cause us either to envy the life they are leading, however sinful; or to crave their approval so much that we won’t risk pointing out their failure to live in line with the gospel. What will a ‘brother’, who knows they are a son of God, do? Paul says we will not ignore a situation when we see someone “caught” in a sin. This does not mean that we are to confront anyone we see sinning in any way. ‘Love covers over a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4:8)—we are not to be quick to criticize and tell people about their faults (see also 1 Corinthians 13:5, 7). But we must not overlook someone’ caught’—overtaken—by a sin…Christians need to be neither quick to criticize nor afraid to confront…This responsibility belongs to anyone who is trying to live a Christian life at all. What will our aim be? To ‘restore him gently.'” The Greek translated ‘restore’ here is katartizdo. This was the term used for setting a dislocated bone back into place. A dislocated bone is extremely painful, because it is not in its designed, natural relationship to the other parts of the body. To put a bone back in place will inevitably inflict pain, but it is a healing pain.” (3) The Holy Spirit is our great physician whose gentleness is powerful. 

“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless…You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great.” (2 Samuel 22:32-35; Psalm 18:31-35) David was a little shepherd boy whom God raised to the throne of Israel. His humility showed up many times while he struggled with Saul and was on the throne. The psalms prove that he was consciously aware of God’s providential goodness, which here he calls gentleness that made him “great.” Later in his life, David’s failings do not diminish God’s righteousness, compassion, or patience, just as our weaknesses and failings do not decrease the Lord’s gentleness with us. Like David, when we embrace the humility of our origins and God’s goodness, we are more able to express the Spirit’s gentleness in our relationships through his power. We might ask ourselves, Am I becoming increasingly compassionate and kind, or crusty and inflexible as I mature in Christ? Am I becoming more or less patient with those who seem to oppose God or me? The psalms have much to offer us in the way of instruction, but Jesus’s tenderness and love is the greatest source of gentleness for all time. Isaiah expressed it well. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Related Scripture: Psalm 141:5; Habakkuk 3:17-19; Romans 15:1-3; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Corinthians 2:5-8; Galatians 5:25-26; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; James 5:19-20

  1. ”The Tools,” An excerpt from “Coming Alive,” https://www.thetoolsbook.com/blog/3-principles-for-living-the-truth
  2. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, Galatians 5:26-6:10, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
  3. Keller, Timothy, “Galatians For You, Helping our Brothers,” Galatians 6:1, ebook Edition, The Good Book Company, 2013.

November 13, 2020

Christ’s Gentleness

“On August 18, 1988, George H. W. Bush received his party’s nomination for president of the United States. In his acceptance speech, he calls for a ‘kinder, gentler nation.’” Today, some people may wonder if the American public and the electoral college are voting between a hot-headed president who enjoys controversy and a quieter, more diplomatic president. Of course, there are many political, social, and economic issues and platforms, but the candidates personalities are in view. On a more personal level, I find that the more unexpected things pop up in my day or complex issues that surface, the less gentle and peaceful I am, even if they are small or meant by God to redirect my attention. Fortunately, our King of kings who reigns above all presidents and rulers is both gentle and victorious, above all questioning, doubts, and criticism. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the Lion of Judah, and the Lamb of God. He is the Messiah who gently and victoriously ministers to the world through the gospel. As we begin to consider the spiritual fruit of gentleness from Galatians 5:23, the Lord’s humility comes first, since he is the source and picture of gentleness that we receive through the Spirit, for all circumstances in this life. Matthew recognized Jesus as the promised humble servant described by Isaiah after a controversial healing on the Sabbath. “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.” (Isaiah 42:1-4; Matthew 12:18-21)

“The Jews of Christ’s day wanted a Messiah who would drive out the Romans and establish a revived Jewish state. The disciples themselves had such thoughts even after the resurrection (see Acts 1:6). Jesus went about his work quietly, teaching and at last dying for his people. ‘What is pictured is a ministry so gentle and compassionate that the weak are not trampled on and crushed till justice, the full righteousness of God, triumphs,’ as it certainly will in the end.” (1) “[Isaiah 42] begins with a prophecy concerning the Messiah, under the character of the servant of the Lord, and his elect, whom he supported, and was well pleased with; whose work is pointed at, and for which he was well qualified with the Spirit without measure, and is described by his humility and meekness, by his tenderness to weak and ignorant persons, and by his courage and resolution…[having the Holy Spirit] not on him as a divine Person, as such he needed him not; but as man, with which he was filled without measure at his incarnation, and which rested upon him, and qualified him for his work and office, as Prophet, Priest, and King.” (2) Isaiah, through the Spirit, states that Jesus brings justice to victory on the earth to all people three times in these four verses. He “…will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. (v. 1); “…brings justice to victory…” (v. 3); and will establish “…justice in the earth; and the coastlands [that] wait for his law.” (v. 4)Christ does this is through His humility and submission to crucifixion.The Savior gently and victoriously ministers to the world through the gospel. He calls us to submit to the gospel gently in response to others’ felt and real needs—whether for justice, comfort, spiritual or physical needs. 

Also significant is what the Messiah won’t do through the work of the Spirit. “He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench…” (vs. 2-3). There are five significant ways that Christ humbled himself as he ministered on earth. “He shall not cry…he shall bring no complaints, or enter an action against any, but rather suffer wrong, as he advises his followers. [Matthew 5:41 “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”]…he sometimes preached in the street, as in many other public places, but not in a clamorous contentious way; not in an opprobrious and menacing manner; nor in a way of ostentation, boasting of himself, his doctrines, and miracles, but behaved with great humility and meekness; his kingdom was without pomp and noise.” (3) Concerning those who are weak in faith, Matthew Henry comments, “He is tender of those oppressed with doubts and fears, as a bruised reed; those who are as smoking flax, as the wick of a lamp newly lighted, which is ready to go out again. He will not despise them, nor lay upon them more work or more suffering than they can bear…Let us with cheerful confidence commit our souls to so kind and faithful a Friend. Far from breaking, he will strengthen the bruised reed; far from quenching the smoking flax, or wick nearly out, he will rather blow it up into a flame. Let us lay aside contentious and angry debates; let us receive one another as Christ receives us. And while encouraged by the gracious kindness of our Lord, we should pray that his Spirit may rest upon us, and make us able to copy his example.” (4) This is the gentleness that we all need and is readily available through the Spirit’s application of God’s Word in our hearts, minds, and lives, for ourselves and others with whom we engage. 

Christ supplies the justice we long for, unavailable from anyone on earth, and does so with great loving-kindness and gentleness. He will continue to work quietly and with determination beyond our comprehension. “He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.” (Isaiah 42:1-4) We rarely speak of determination and gentleness in the same sentence or regarding the same person. Resolve calls up pictures of assertiveness, skillful speech, and charisma. Gentleness probably makes us think of an easy-going, uncontroversial person who avoids conflict. However, God makes it clear in this passage that these characteristics are not in opposition but complement each other. Most importantly, “The servant is unweakened by the demands of his mission.” (5) I confess that sometimes I think I have to be a different kind of person to accomplish some things in my ministry—more proactive, more challenging, or more assertive—even when I am submitting to the Lord for his direction. But, this may be in direct opposition to Jesus’s call to the gospel in Matthew 11:28-30, where he describes himself and his person and gospel as restful, gentle, humble in heart, easy, and light. What will it take to gently submit to Christ’s gospel in response to others’ felt and real needs? Even the need for political stability or change?

Paul writes in Galatians, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:22-26) God’s Word is always relevant and is needed during this tumultuous time in America and all over the world. Coupled with Jesus’s own words, we are assured that the gospel’s quiet, gentle, victorious work in us will produce the fruit of the Spirit. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44) “The product of a true, growing, gospel-centered nature is often gentleness.” (6)

Related Passages: Isaiah 49:8–10; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12; 61:1; Matthew 5:41; 11:28-30

  1. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Matthew 12:1-22, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Isaiah 42:1-4,  https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-42.html
  3. Gill, Ibid.
  4. Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Isaiah 42:1-4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/isaiah-42.html
  5. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Isaiah 42:1-4, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  6. Keller, Timothy, Tweet on 11/4/20–@timkellernyc 

November 6, 2020   

God’s Tests for More Faithfulness

How has the Covid pandemic tested you? Are you someone who loves being at home and has gotten so comfortable there that you have stopped visiting with your friends, even on your phone? Or, has staying home caused you anxiety and stress, interrupting your sleep and affecting your relationships? One way or the other, we have all been tested for far longer than we imagined. But some of us have been weathered longer periods in different ways, with chronic pain, relationship conflicts, work issues, or economic difficulties, to name a few problems. For us, an eight-month pandemic may add to our challenges or stimulate us to invoke familiar coping mechanisms. But, tests of faithfulness in Christ are different, in that the only coping strategy is to lean on him, trusting his plans and the Spirit’s guidance. For this last devotion on the spiritual fruit of faithfulness, I will concentrate on the way God tests our faithfulness to strengthen it, bring others to faith, and glorify himself. May we willingly submit to God’s trials to strengthen our faith in Christ, for his glory and the benefit of others.

The passage today is very familiar to Christians and many who have only skimmed the Bible. However, the story of Jesus’s raising of Lazarus can be confusing for those who do not know the heart of God in Jesus Christ. After receiving the message that Lazarus was seriously ill from women that he loved dearly, Jesus chose to remain in Bethany for two days. Let’s focus on the three elements in the account: when Jesus received a message but chose to wait, when he spoke to his disciples about waiting, and when he told Martha to move the stone from Lazarus’s tomb. Jesus received a message that Lazarus was very ill. “But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was… Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him…Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb…Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’” (John 11:4-6, 14-15, 38-40) “[Jesus] was glad because he knew that he would raise Lazarus. He was glad because he knew that the resurrection would result in a strengthening of the faith of many…The faith of the disciples was to be strengthened…The faith of Martha and Mary was to be strengthened…Indeed, many who at that time did not even have faith were to come to it as a result of this dramatic resurrection.” (1)

“…when Jesus…said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it…’” we would expect him to find Lazarus recovering. But instead, Lazarus was dead and buried in his tomb by the time Jesus met Mary and Martha. However, we who know the end of the story know that Lazarus was dead for only a short period. By his supernatural physical resurrection, Jesus was most certainly glorified. (2) Then he made this bold statement to his disciples, apparently after the two-day wait, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.” And it seems that he may have waited to tell them this after the two-day wait (see v. 14). What a test of faith this must have been for his disciples! They questioned him and seemed to believe that Lazarus was in a coma of some type. (See vs. 12-13.) Wouldn’t we think the same if our mentor said the man wouldn’t die and then said he did die? (And how did Jesus know that he died? Did he receive a message or use his omniscience?) Putting ourselves in the disciples’ place, wouldn’t we also question Jesus’s love for Lazarus, Mary, and Martha? 

James Boice brings us a biblical viewpoint on Jesus’s delay. “Christ’s delays are the delays of love, then they are not the delays of indifference. He does not delay because he does not care…they are [also] not the product of a preoccupation on Christ’s part. That is, he does not delay his answer because he is too busy to deal with our problem…His delays are purposeful. Love has a purpose. Therefore, we are right to seek purposes in God’s delays…For instance, one of the goals reached by God through his delays is that of molding our errant wills to conform to his perfect will. When God answers us immediately, it often is the case that we then rush on to formulate our own plans for whatever comes next. When God delays, by contrast, we are forced to ask, ‘Am I right in what I am trying to do? Do I have the will of the Lord on this matter? Does he have more to teach or tell me than I have heard?’…Another of God’s purposes in delays is to strengthen faith. Our faith does not grow much if we always get an immediate response…rather, our faith grows when we are forced to wait, trusting that God knows what he is doing and that he will fulfill his promises toward us eventually and in the proper time.” (3)

Having all of Scripture in our arsenal, we can appreciate Boice’s comments that “Death could not exist in the presence of Jesus. There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that Jesus ever met a dead person and failed to raise him…Jesus never met a funeral that he did not stop. In fact, I would be willing to state that he never came across an illness of any kind without making the situation right. So he was always glad. As here, he could rejoice at the outcome.” (4) But, that was when Jesus was proving his identity as the Son of God through these signs, so we cannot assume that Jesus will continue to heal everyone physically today. However, he does heal spiritually, through reconciliation with God, when he calls us to have faith in him. Our faithfulness is the fruit of this regeneration and grows as we mature. God tests us to strengthen it and bring others to faith, as he did with his disciples, Martha, Mary, most certainly Lazarus, along with “Many of the Jews…who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, [and] believed in him.” (John 11:45) When we submit to God’s trials and tests, when our faith is strengthened to trust him in unfamiliar circumstances, he is glorified, and others are spiritually affected. 

Perhaps we have serious doubts about God doing the impossible. Maybe we are like Martha, who  said, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” (John 11:39) Although we know Christ as the sovereign God of all creation, our trust in him is shaky. Oswald Chambers wrote: “Every time you venture out in your life of faith, you will find something in your circumstances that, from a commonsense standpoint, will flatly contradict your faith. But common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense. In fact, they are as different as the natural life and the spiritual. Can you trust Jesus Christ where your common sense cannot trust Him?…When my strength runs dry and my vision is blinded, will I endure this trial of my faith victoriously or will I turn back in defeat? Faith must be tested, because it can only become your intimate possession through conflict. What is challenging your faith right now? The test will either prove your faith right, or it will kill it…There is continual testing in the life of faith up to the point of our physical death, which is the last great test.” (5) “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’” (Hebrews 3:14-15)

  1. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, John 11:38-44, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  2. Boice, Ibid—For further study of how Jesus was glorified through Lazarus’s resurrection, see Boice’s commentary on John 11:4, titled “A Sickness Not Unto Death.”
  3. Boice, Ibid.
  4. Boice, Ibid.
  5. Chambers, Oswald, “My Utmost for His Highest: The Unsurpassed Intimacy of Tested Faith,” 8/29, https://utmost.org

October 30, 2020     

Faithfully Persevering

Many modern-day movies, especially those with an implied moral aspect, have biblical elements from the most unlikely characters. In the “Hunger Games 2012,” President Snow, the main antagonist, whose demeanor hides a sadistic and psychopathic mind, and claims he only kills for a purpose, promises Katniss he will always tell her the truth. He says to her, “Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear.” But then he goes on to add: “A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.” (1) While the first part of his statement may be right, about hope overcoming fear (especially regarding our hope in Christ), the rest is garbage. For Christians, having a lot of hope in Christ is our assurance of salvation and the ability to persevere for a lifetime on earth. God’s promise of our acquittal from final judgment stimulates our hope. It reminds us that with his help, we will persevere faithfully and patiently until Christ’s return or our death because of Christ’s propitiation and the Spirit’s power. So let’s consider Revelation 3:10-11 today for our encouragement. “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” The key idea is the Philadelphia church’s ability to keep God’s commands and God’s preserving them to gain their crown. When we think of a crown, we might consult these three other NT passages: 2 Timothy 4:8—the crown of righteousness; James 1:12—the crown of life; and 1 Peter 5:4—the unfading crown of glory. All speak of the glorious future we have with Christ after persevering this life, on the other side of physical death. “The Hunger Games” and other secular, futuristic stories are usually the fruit of a deceived mind. We do well to avoid ingesting their rubbish and turn to the true, hopeful, encouraging Word of God to stimulate our faithful perseverance. 

“[Our] patience…bears a resemblance to [Christ’s], in enduring afflictions, reproaches, persecutions, desertions, and temptations, and in waiting for his kingdom and glory…professors of the word have need of patience, and should exercise it in like manner as Christ did…and will believe the promise of Christ’s personal coming, and patiently wait for it.” (2) When the Bible speaks of “waiting” for the return of Christ, God never intends that we become lazy, like the church in Sardis, described as being dead and is exhorted to “wake up” (Revelation 3:1-3). But our gracious, kind-hearted, omniscient God doesn’t want us to treat his commands like dutiful rules. He wants us to love him so much that his advice takes root deep in our souls, resulting in affectionate, covenantal devotion. Before giving the Philadelphia believers an exhortation, the Spirit through John provides a primary reason why they will persevere. “I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon” (Rev. 3:10b-11a). Most commentators that I consult view this hour of trial for Philadelphia as their last struggle against the Roman empire, which Daniel also mentions. Of course, as with all prophecy, there is also a future “hour of trial.” It will come for all people when Christ returns, linking verse 10 with verse 11. “Christ will now have his fan in his hand, and purge his floor of all his formal professors and hypocrites; and it will be known who are his true churches, and pure members; and these he will keep close to himself, and preserve safe amidst all the distress and confusion the world will be in.” (3) The ESV Study Bible notes, “Jesus does not promise to spare believers from suffering or martyrdom but to shield them from his wrath and to transform martyrdom into triumph (Rev. 6:10–11; 12:11).” (4) Nothing in this world, no philosophies, ideas, or charismatic movie characters can transform suffering into triumph. But God’s Word and his specific promise of acquittal from the final judgment can stimulate our spiritual perseverance in trials.

Unfortunately, we often hold onto ideas, mindsets, and false beliefs without even realizing it. We have traditions and superstitions that are deeply rooted in our subconscious from our upbringing or cultural influences. I admit that I have a weakness for movies, especially those with a theme of good vs. evil, where the good wins. It has taken me decades to train myself to resist popular movies that include so much other ungodly dialogue, scenes, or plots. The Spirit tells us and the Philadelphia believers, “Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (v. 11b). What they had, to hold fast to, was “either her grace in the exercise of it, as her faith, patience, &c. or rather the doctrines of the Gospel, and the ordinances of it, which she had received, as delivered by Christ and his apostles: and which she had held in the truth and purity of them, and is now exhorted to hold them fast, since this hour of temptation would be a trying time to her faith, patience, integrity, and constancy.” (5) “One way in which Christ would empower the gospel in the midst of rebellion and judgment is by keeping his faithful people safe…Notice that it is Christ who keeps his people safe, and that this safety takes place through a living and persevering faith. Christians are kept eternally secure by God’s sovereign will and power, yet this security is experienced by an active, striving faith by which Christ’s people conquer in this world (see 1 Peter 1:4-5).” (6)

Oswald Chambers describes the enduring faith of the Philadelphians and all Christians. “Perseverance means more than endurance— more than simply holding on until the end. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while the saint says, ‘I can’t take any more.’ Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him’ (Job 13:15)…There are areas in our lives where that faith has not worked in us as yet— places still untouched by the life of God.” (7)

In Job 13:15, some believe Job expects to die very soon and wants to argue his case rather than die (“yet I will argue my ways to his face”). Others interpret it to mean that Job will trust in God, live, and have his day in court with the Lord to justify himself, as if God is accusing him of sin. But we know that God is testing Job as a righteous man. Yet, he needs to widen and deepen his knowledge and perception of God. (See Job 38:1-40:2.) I venture to say that Job’s faith and hope will increase as his view of God becomes more accurate.  We also become impatient and should take the advice of Matthew Henry, commenting on the verse. “We should be well pleased with God as a Friend, even when he seems against us as an enemy. We must believe that all shall work for good to us, even when all seems to make against us. We must cleave to God, yea, though we cannot for the present find comfort in him. In a dying hour, we must derive from him living comforts; and this is to trust in him, though he slay us.” (8) Perhaps, like Job later declares, we should also say, “If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come. You would call, and I would answer you; you would long for the work of your hands” (Job 14:14-15). Did Job’s hope of acquittal from final judgment stimulate his perseverance? I would think so. May we also persevere faithfully and patiently until Christ’s return or our death. “Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star.” (Revelation 2:25-28)

Related Scripture Passages: Genesis 26:4-5; Joshua 22:1-6; 2 Samuel 22:21-25; 2 Kings 18:1-8; Job 14:14-15; 38:1-40:2; Psalm 66:8-9; John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:4; 5:4; 2 Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 2:10; 6:10; 7:14; 8:13; 13:7-8; 22:7; 12, 19-20

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hunger_Games_(film)
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Revelation 3:10, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-3.html
  3. Gill, Ibid.
  4. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Revelation 3:10, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  5. Gill, Ibid (Rev. 3:11)
  6. Phillips, Richard D., Revelation—Reformed Expository Commentary, Revelation 3:11, P & R Publishing, 2017.
  7. Chambers, Oswald, “The Faith to Persevere,” My Utmost for His Highesthttps://utmost.org/the-faith-to-persevere/
  8. Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Job 13:15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/job-13.html

October 23, 2020

Faithfully Growing and Risking

The fruit of the Spirit does not bloom overnight. It takes a lot longer than edible fruit. Unless we are farmers, we forget that the apple, grapes, or oranges we purchase at the store have needed time and a lot of attention to reach that stage. One of my favorite tropical fruits, pawpaw, takes five to seven years to bear fruit on the tree. Pears take four to six years to produce from seedling trees. Unlike faith, mature fruit is easy to envision—it’s pretty much the same for every tree. God designed physical fruit to be predictable, unlike the fruit people yield, which might differ in the various seasons of life. If you have a young child, your idea of who your child is and how he or she will contribute to society will change as he or she grows. If you continue to think of your son or daughter as an infant, your relationship will suffer, and you might grow apart. Christian faithfulness is like a child who changes, develops, and matures in ways that we may not have imagined. If we don’t renew and enlarge our ideas of what our faith in Christ can accomplish, we may get stuck in the past without seeing Jesus’s real power and provision for our lives with him.

Today we will focus on the well-known report from Matthew when Jesus came to the disciples on the sea in a storm after the feeding of the five thousand. At first, Peter and the other disciples were frightened by Jesus’s walking on water. But when Jesus identified himself, “Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:28-33). Perhaps Peter made a connection with something “he knew from Job 9:8, which says, ‘[God] alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.’ Again, when Jesus calms the disciples’ fear, using the words ‘It is I,’ what he utters is actually the personal name of God, Jehovah, which means ‘I am,’ the literal rendering of Matthew’s quotation.” (1) It should be the same for us as we remember God’s Word to grow in our faithfulness rather than getting stuck in a limited version of our immature faith. Christ, the Son of God, gives us faith in crises; he answers with power when we cry out to him. Should we not desire to know Christ more intimately, faithfully take more significant risks, cry out to him more quickly, and worship him biblically?

“I know when the instructions have come from God because of their quiet persistence. But when I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God. This will only result in my concluding that His instructions to me were not right. Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything…faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.” (2) “These chapters record the disciples’ first feeble attempts to understand and trust Jesus…[Peter’s] faith faltered at this point. But it is important to recognize that Peter’s faith did not fail utterly. He had lost faith in Jesus’ ability to keep him above the water, but he still trusted Jesus at some level since he immediately called out to him for help. ‘Lord, save me,’ he said…The fact that he cried out is proof that he really did trust Jesus…When Jesus rebuked him, it was not for having no faith at all but for having little faith…If Peter had no true faith at all, his act of getting out of the boat would have been mere foolishness or bravado, and when he began to sink, he would have started to flail his arms about, desperately trying to get back into the boat. He would not have cried out to Jesus.” (3) 

Like Peter, we should not be satisfied to stay at a comfortable level of faith, but rise to maturity even when we are overwhelmed. Peter was overcome with fear on the night of Jesus’s arrest, even denying his friendship with Christ three times. But he repented, and his faith continued to grow. On the day of Pentecost, he spoke powerfully and boldly to the Jerusalem crowd about the deity and messiahship of Jesus Christ. Peter fixed his eyes more clearly on Jesus that day than when his Lord stood right in front of him on the sea. “We will only grow strong in faith when we keep our eyes on Jesus, the source of our faith, and do not turn aside to fret over threatening circumstances.” (4) We may merely be fretting about our situation, but Peter was in danger of drowning in the sea. Jesus did two things to help Peter’s faith. “Christ bade Peter come, not only that he might walk upon the water, and so know his Lord’s power, but that he might know his own weakness. And the Lord often lets his servants have their choice, to humble and prove them, and to show the greatness of his power and grace…Could we but believe more, we should suffer less. The weakness of faith, and the prevailing of our doubts, displease our Lord Jesus, for there is no good reason why Christ’s disciples should be of a doubtful mind. Even in a stormy day he is to them a very present help.” (5) Jesus rescued Peter from his fears and reproved him for doubting His power to keep his head and his entire body above water. I wonder if James thought of the incident when he wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)

“The climax [of this story] is the disciples’ confession of faith in Jesus and their worship of Jesus in verse 33: ‘Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ This is the first time Jesus is called the Son of God by the disciples, and the words build on what they had said earlier.” (6) Their faith was growing, as was their understanding of God’s character and greatness. “In chapter 8 they had asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him’ (v. 27). Here they say, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ [While] they still have a long way to go…it was a step on the way. They were growing in their faith and understanding, knowing him now as the Son of God.” (6) Not only does Jesus Christ give us faith in our crises and answer our prayers with power, but he brings us to know him with greater understanding. As our faith in him increases, we are ready to take more risks and worship him more fully. 

Oswald Chambers asks,“Are you faithful to Jesus, or faithful to your ideas about Him? Are you faithful to what He says, or are you trying to compromise His words with thoughts that never came from Him?” (7)How grows your fruit of faithfulness to the biblical Jesus of the gospel? Are you ready to take a new risk in faith with him? I pray that you may be “…according to the riches of [God’s] glory…strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Related Passages: Deuteronomy 31:6; Isaiah 41:13;      Matthew 8:23-27; 16:16-18; 17:6-8; Mark 6:45-52; Luke 24:37-43; John 1:49; 6:14; 11:27; 20:31; 21:4-7

  1. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Matthew 14:22-30, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  2. Chambers, Oswald, Find the entire devotion, “Isn’t There Some Misunderstanding?” at https://utmost.org/isn’t-there-some-misunderstanding/
  3. Boice, Ibid.
  4. Boice, Ibid.
  5. Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Matthew 14:22-34, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/matthew-14.html
  6. Boice, Ibid.
  7. Chambers, Ibid.

October 16, 2020                  

God’s Sovereignty Inspires Our Loyalty to Him

My first thought about loyalty runs to the military, who place a high value on it. “Each service [in American] focuses on distinct values to be the foundation of how each service member serves; whether it is selfless service, integrity, or honor one of the common virtues that bind all service members together, and that is loyalty. Upon entering the military, a person must first be administered the oath of enlistment or the oath of a commissioned officer. The candidate for service is required to state: I, _____…do solemnly swear (or affirm)…that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God.” (1) Don’t you love the “So help me God?” Loyalty to people and causes is risky because, at some point, we will be disappointed, since no one and nothing is perfect, except God. But we still knowingly or unknowingly put people, ideas, or works on pedestals. How often have you been disappointed by a leader, a friend, or someone in a service industry who didn’t deliver on a promise? In mid-October, just six weeks ahead of the US Presidential elections, many people are discussing their disappointments in the candidates. For some, their experience has made them trust someone less, or change their political loyalty. We all have been through disappointing experiences, which is why we are so comforted and encouraged by God’s perfection, faithfulness, and omnipotence. But when we think of our faithfulness it’s a whole different story. 

What is biblical faithfulness if it is not loyalty to God and all his promises? Over the next few weeks, I will be using devotions from “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers as the starting place for meditations on Christian faithfulness. Today’s devotion focuses on God’s sovereignty, a crucial doctrine of the Christian faith. (2) “Those who see the Lord in His sovereign glory have an inward compulsion to serve this God. Serving God is the glory of their lives. Their service is measured not so much in what they achieve–or what God achieves through them–but rather in the sheer wonder of the God they serve. Like little boys dividing up into teams on the playground, being picked to play on this team is the greatest joy imaginable, especially for those who are so unworthy…Relying on God’s sovereign purpose, knowing that there is a decree of marvelous grace behind everything that happens, we can face difficult circumstances without wavering from God’s law. We can face the hostility of the world or even the apostasy of the church without faltering in our ministry. We can trust the wisdom and obey the commands of a sovereign God who works all things out according to the purpose of His holy will.” (3) “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

There are two primary truths in Romans 8:28. The first has to do with who knows God. Who is “we” and who are “those?”These two different people groups; they are the same people. Only those “called” to know Christ love God, through the power of the Spirit who has worked and continues to work in us. Saved, regenerated, or redeemed might all be substituted for “called” in a general sense, although each has a precise role in our conversion doctrinally. (4) Only believers are called by God to love Him and understand that He is sovereign in all things. “[Romans 8:28] is not a promise that all things work together for the good of all people.” (5) For Christians, knowing that God is sovereignly working all things for good should inspire our greater loyalty and faithfulness to Him.

James Boice continues, [the good spoken of here] “is for Christians only…is not our idea of the good but God’s idea and that it is to be made like Jesus Christ…the things God uses for this supremely good end are not necessarily good in themselves; and…we can “know” this even though we may not feel or see it.” (6) This glorious six-word phrase is “…all things work together for good…” may have such a powerful effect on our spirits! Oswald Chambers wrote: 

“It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances. We take such liberty with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men. To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, and that is to our Lord. Suddenly God breaks up a particular set of circumstances, and the realisation comes that we have been disloyal to Him by not recognising that He had organised them…If we learn to worship God in the trying circumstances, He will alter them in two seconds when He chooses.”

“Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the thing that we “stick at” to-day. We will be loyal to work, to service, to anything, but do not ask us to be loyal to Jesus Christ. Many Christians are intensely impatient of talking about loyalty to Jesus. Our Lord is dethroned more emphatically by Christian workers than by the world. God is made a machine for blessing men, and Jesus Christ is made a Worker among workers. The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us — ‘I reckon on you for extreme service, with no complaining on your part and no explanation on mine.’ God wants to use us as He used His own Son.” (7)

I have an elderly friend who has fallen recently, can’t remember quite when to take her medication, and finds herself confused or forgetting things. I’m sure that if I ever reach the age of 96, I won’t be in such good shape. Lately, the Lord had her tenants move out of her previous home, next door to her family caregiver, a former registered nurse. Her long-time friend of 97 had to leave the facility where she currently resides. It seems so clear to me that the Lord has orchestrated her circumstances to move “back home,” but she is having a hard time accepting the idea. I sometimes find myself in the same doubting posture, which is Chambers’ rebuke. And, as Proverbs reminds us, “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool…Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 17:10; 27:5-6)

[Paul] “does not say that we ‘feel’ all things to be good. Often we do not feel that God is doing good at all. We feel exactly the opposite. We feel that we are being ground down or destroyed. And it is not even that we “see” the good. Most of the time we do not perceive the good things God is doing or how he might be bringing good out of the evil. Paul did not go around saying how wonderful the world was or how pleasant his missionary endeavors had been…The Christian doctrine of perseverance does not lead to a false assurance or presumption, though some who claim to be saved do presume on God by their sinful lifestyles and willful disobedience. Perseverance does not make us lazy. Perseverance does not make us proud. No, the real doctrine of perseverance is precisely what Paul declares it to be in Romans 8: that those whom God has foreknown and predestinated to be conformed to the likeness of his Son will indeed come to that great consummation.” (8)

Our sovereign God exalts the humble and brings down the prideful merely by his Word.  The Holy Spirit works in us to draw closer to our Most High God. In Daniel Chapter 4, where Nebuchadnezzar uses God’s title of “Most High God.” “It is not referring to God’s role as Redeemer or to his wisdom. It relates to God’s sovereignty. ‘The Most High God’ is the God who rules, not only in heaven but on earth.”(9) Richard Phillips notes, “The first reason that the Christians of Smyrna should not fear the tribulation before them is that Jesus is the ‘first and the last’ (Rev. 2:8). [The] ‘first and the last’ signifies God’s sovereignty over all things, so Christ’s meaning is also that his people should not fear in light of his sovereign control of all that they face.” (10) All political and military events, history, pandemics, and every situation is under God’s rule. Does this knowledge increase your faith? “…he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35) 

Related Scriptures: Psalm 37:11; Proverbs 1:33; Ecclesiastes 8:12; Daniel 4; Matthew 25:34-36; 1 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 2:8-9; 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:8-10

  1. Gipson, Isaac, “Loyalty and The Military Profession,” for the entire statement see: https://www.airman.af.mil/Portals/17/002%20All%20Products/001%20Book%20Reviews/Research/LoyaltyAU_Paper.pdf?ver=2017-07-10-095310-147
  2. Chambers, Oswald, “My Utmost for His Highest—The Test of Loyalty,” https://utmost.org/classic/the-test-of-loyalty-classic/
  3. Phillips, Richard, “What’s So Great About the Sovereignty of God?,” Ligonier article, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/whats-so-great-about-sovereignty-god/
  4. See commentary on Romans 8:29-30. There are many aspects of God’s work in our salvation including those mentioned in the passage as well as regeneration, redemption, adoption, atonement, rebirth, repentance, and positional sanctification. 
  5. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Romans 8:28, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  6. Boice, Ibid.
  7. Chambers, Ibid.
  8. Boice, Ibid, Romans 8:29-30.
  9. Boice, Ibid, Daniel 4.
  10. Phillips, Richard, “Revelation—Reformed Expository Commentary,” Revelation 2:8-11, R & R Publishing, 2017.

October 9, 2020       

The Lord Rewards Our Faithfulness

Do you work out or play sports regularly? If so, you probably do it because you enjoy it. Athletes have a built-in reward—their enjoyment and pleasure in the sport. But some of us don’t enjoy these physical activities and seek a reward in a toned body, rehab, less weight, or good health. When we don’t enjoy athletic activities but do them anyway, they become burdensome duties or routines. It can be the same with mental exercises that some do because they like crosswords or Sudoku, but others do to keep their brains active. Just as exercising our bodies or brains takes work and yields results, putting our faith to work takes intentional effort, and results in its bolstering. Why does God give us the fruit of faith when we are regenerated? Well, it’s obviously something we should and do demonstrate and use, along with all the other fruits of the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22-23. 

The Lord rewards us with joy when we are faithful to Jesus Christ in our service to him. God is the source of our saving faith in Christ, and his Spirit supplies all the resulting fruit from that point forward. Christ rewards us for the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that is all from God. It’s as if we are rewarded for our salvation, which was not our doing. Exercising the fruits of the Spirit has the most significant reward—joy through intimacy with Jesus Christ. What a glorious, continuous, blessed circle: Christ calls us with faith to believe, which leads to faithfulness through him, which leads to even more devotion to him. I have chosen four passages from Scripture to consider today—from David and Jesus. “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness…” (1 Samuel 26:23a) “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.” (Psalms 18:20) “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions…Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 24:45-47; 25:21a)

In 1 Samuel, David refused to harm Saul despite Saul’s trying to hunt him down to kill him. Here is the verse in its context: “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.” 1 Samuel 26:23-24) David was certainly not perfect, but as John Gill points out, “this was a prayer of faith; for David doubted not that, though Saul might fail, yet God could not.” (1) David expected to be rewarded because he knew God to be forgiving and patient, and demonstrated that faith later when he confessed his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. I wonder if David’s loyalty to God with Saul helped him to trust God when he so tragically offended the Lord in his later sin. In Psalm 18, David celebrated God’s deliverance from Saul’s attacks. “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me” (v. 20). “God rewarded [David] by delivering him out of [Saul’s] hands, and setting him upon the throne, and causing his kingdom to flourish and prosper.” (2) “In these verses David claims that he has faithfully kept the ways of the Lord, and thus God has rewarded him. This could be taken as absurdly self-righteous if it were not for two obvious facts: first, this song comes from 2 Samuel, which is plain about David’s sins; and second, the ways, rules, and statutes of the Lord include provisions for receiving forgiveness of sins. Thus the claim…I…have not wickedly departed from my God, clarifies it all by saying that he has held fast to the life of faith.” (3) What an encouragement this should be for us; although we continue to sin but desire to be faithful and useful to the Lord through our fruit! And even more than that, he will reward us with joy through our relationship with Jesus—this is our greatest, eternal reward and the promise of the gospel.

The Lord called David to the biggest, most responsible role in the world as King. He did not shy away from his calling or refuse in, having faith that God would be with him. (See 1 Samuel 17.) However, many of us are overwhelmed and try to wiggle out from a promotion or challenging job. I am guilty of doing so more than once on the mission field because I feared that I would fail God and all the people under my care. But I had to repent since Christ promises that he will give the faithful greater responsibility; he obviously wants us to embrace his assignments. Here is what Jesus said about the parable in Matthew 24, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” (vs. 45-47) Later he repeats the blessing in Matthew 25, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (v. 21) 

The rewards of faithfulness are probably more than we can imagine. In the Matthew passages, I am impressed with the truth that longing for Christ’s return is not only a characteristic of our faithfulness but perhaps also a reward of it. I know that the longer I am a Christian, the more I seek the return of our Savior. James Boice comments, “This picture provides an explanation of what being ready means. Being ready means loving, trusting, and waiting for Jesus Christ, of course. The faithful servant is faithful because he is expecting his Lord’s return. But it also has to do with faithful service, that is, continuing to carry out what Jesus has left us in this world to do.” (4)  Our faithfulness leads to spiritual rewards and the ability to handle more extensive responsibilities by God’s grace, without being overwhelmed by them.

“When the master returns for their accounting and the faithful servants tell what they have done, their words do not merely report that they have doubled the amount they were given. The man who was given five talents seems to have come with two bags, each containing five talents, and what he literally says is, ‘Master, five talents you placed in my hands; look, an additional five talents I have gained.’ You can almost feel his proper pride in the achievement. Hendriksen comments, ‘The man’s eyes are sparkling. He is bubbling over with enthusiasm, is thoroughly thrilled, and, as it were, invites his master to start counting.’ The man has been waiting for this moment and is pleased at having done so well. The master is equally delighted. ‘Well done,’ he says. We might almost translate his reply as, ‘Excellent!’ ‘Great!’ or ‘Wonderful!’” (5) John Gill adds, “[They had] the joy of our Lord; not their own, or what was of their own procuring, but their Lord’s; which Jehovah the Father has prepared for his people, and gives unto them; which the son possesses for them, and will bestow on them; and which the Holy Spirit makes them meet for…which will be full and perfect, and without any interruption or mixture; will be unspeakable and glorious, and continue for ever; for when the saints shall enter into it, as into an house or mansion, they shall take possession of it, and abide in it for ever.” (6) Is this not the encouragement we need to put our faithfulness to work?

The Lord often gives us pleasure through the people, pets, and experiences of this life, but he is the First Cause of our real joy—we should never mistake the person, creature, creation, or things as the source of our blessedness. The more intimacy and dependence we have upon Jesus Christ and the gospel, the greater our joy and the more pleasure we have with him. And the greatest reward is that Jesus finds joy in our faithfulness, and his joy is ours. What could be more profitable? “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them…Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17:10-13) 

Related Scripture Passages: Nehemiah 8:11-12; Psalms 4:5b-8; 16:11; John 3:29; 15:8-11; Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 John 1:4

  1. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 1 Samuel 26:24, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1samuel-26.html
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalms 18:20-30, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 18:21, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-18.html
  4. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Matthew 24:45-47, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  5. Boice, Ibid. 
  6. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 25:21, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-25.html

October 2, 2020       

Faithful Disciples are Good Stewards

Have you ever purchased or thought of buying a boat? Are the stories true, that the best days of boat ownership are the day you buy it and sell it? I’ve never owned one or been tempted to buy a boat of any kind. But I’ve owned cars since I was a teenager, and I know how much maintenance is required. The older the vehicle, the more money, time, and inconvenience are involved. Whether it’s a boat, car, truck, house, or any other material possession, it will be sold, used up, or junked one day. Hopefully, the time between our acquisition and its end is what we remember the most. Were we happy to have it? Did we take care of it, so it was useful and good value when we sold it? Did we use it to help or give enjoyment to others? The Bible teaches good stewardship of the earth, including all the things that we own and all aspects of nature. And, if these things are good, how much better is “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places?” (Ephesians 1:3) God’s grace and spiritual blessings are given to us freely through Christ for all eternity and are our most important possessions. We will never lose or sell them because they are our treasure, that only grows more valuable (See Related Scripture Passages.) Our faithful stewardship of them is the focus of today’s devotion. Faithfulness with integrity for little, inconsequential things and worldly possessions is evidence of our ability to be faithful with the great truths of God’s Word. Our faithfulness in earthly things reflects our stewardship of God’s truths and love for us. Hopefully, we will prove our desire to be faithful to God by our faithfulness with the world’s goods, be they little, significant, ours, or others’.

In Luke 16:1-9, Jesus tells a parable of a trusted manager responsible for the affairs of his owner’s estate. As the owner’s agent, he had all authority to conduct trade on behalf of his master. But the manager’s dishonesty about wasting his boss’s possessions became known, and knew he would be fired. So he contrived a way to safeguard his financial future. “The point of this parable is not to give us a lesson in stewardship, but it does serve to remind us that every human being is a steward on this earth. God owns the world. He owns us, and what we do with our lives, our money and the earth are matters of stewardship. We have an indication here of divine displeasure when stewards waste the goods in their trust.” (1) What does Jesus have to say about the parable? “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:10-13)

Jesus’s audience was his disciples, but the Pharisees also heard him speaking and ridiculed him. We, who are in Christ, would never denigrate the words of our Savior, but do we disrespect his blessings by our carelessness with his revealed Word? Do we prove our faithfulness with the “little,” temporary things of this world? If I’m not careful, attentive, and generous with my time, money, possessions, and energy, what does that say about my stewardship of God’s mercy, love, holiness, and spiritual fruit? We Christians like to say everything we have is from God and belongs to God, but the has given us some things to possess as our own. Among those is an inheritance in Christ—eternal life, with all its accompanying blessings. And, a gift is a gift. But how we use our gift matters, especially if it involves others. For example, giving someone a gift of stationery, greeting cards, a phone, or a computer enables them to communicate with others. Viewing a boat or a car as a gift from God may encourage us to use it differently, more faithfully. Even more, God’s love is ours, as is his peace and spiritual well-being, and righteousness. “The one who can be trusted with the little things can also be trusted with the big things. But the converse is also true; Jesus said: ‘So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?’ If you are a bad steward of material things, don’t expect God to trust you with spiritual things.” (2) “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” (v. 11) “Unrighteous wealth probably refers to…unrighteous means in acquiring wealth by taking advantage of others; unrighteous desires in the use of wealth for personal gratification and selfish purposes, rather than for the care and well-being of others; and the corrupting influence of wealth that often leads people into unrighteousness.” (3) If we deceive, excuse, or justify ourselves regarding poor fiscal management, we are guilty of being unfaithful with our “unrighteous wealth.” If we hoard or use our means to promote our welfare exclusively, ungenerous and stingy with our worldly goods, and we will handle God’s grace correspondingly. Practicing faithfulness with integrity for little, inconsequential things and material possessions is evidence of our ability to be faithful with the great truths of God’s Word and spiritual gifts.

Luke 16:12 seems to serve as a transition to the principle that our Lord wishes us to embrace—the impossibility of serving (worshipping) both God and money. Once again, we are reminded that we either put our hope in the gift or the giver. “And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (vs. 12-13)” I appreciate the note in the ESV Study Bible: “Jesus does not say ‘should not serve’ but ‘cannot serve.’Those who are Jesus’ true disciples must make an either/or choice between serving God and serving money…The way to serve God rather than money is to put one’s resources to the service of others and the work of the kingdom.” (4) The Pharisees and Scribes had received the Law through their birth into the Jewish religion. But they used it dishonestly and legalistically, as a burden for those who would believe in God. Jesus rebuked them, “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath. You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (Matthew 23:4, 16-19) “Although these words were obviously aimed at the Pharisees, there is also a broader application. What God is looking for from his people is not success, but fidelity. He doesn’t measure us by our bank balance or the degree of our authority. Maybe your task seems insignificant, but God has given it to you and wants to see that you are faithful in it, before he will promote you in his kingdom.” (5) 

Practicing faithfulness with integrity for little, inconsequential things and worldly possessions is evidence of our ability to be faithful with the gospel. Will we prove our desire to be devoted to God by our fidelity with the world’s goods, be they little, big, ours, or others’? Is our commitment to Christ proved by our faithfulness to be generous with our earthly and spiritual blessings? Do we use our resources (even boats and cars) for the Kingdom of God, the gospel, and those who are serving Christ? Will you pray with me, as I have been doing this week, to be a generous, faithful owner of God’s grace and the riches of his indwelling Spirit, bearing fruit through these gifts? Does the gospel influence your faithful stewardship? “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) 

Related Scripture PassagesMatthew 6:19–21, 24; 13:44, 52; Luke 12:32-34; 18:22-25; 19:17-19 ; Romans 6:16; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10; 2 Timothy 2:21-20; James 4:4-5, 13-16.

  1. Sproul, R. C., “A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel,” Luke 16:1-18, Electronic Book, 2016.
  2. Sproul, Ibid.
  3. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Luke 16:9, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  4. ESV, Ibid (Luke 16:13)
  5. Sproul, Ibid.

September 25, 2020