God is indeed the God of mercy. Paul’s companion, Epaphroditus, almost died for the cause of Christ. He was evidently bringing Paul aid when his overtaxed body became sick to the point of death. At the last possible moment, God mercifully stepped in and spared his life.
The prophet Isaiah spoke eloquently of this merciful God. In speaking of His care for His people Israel, he said, “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years”
(Isaiah 63:9). God’s Holy Spirit brought the Israelites out of Egypt, and in their destitution, He fed them, provided for them, and even carried them when they could not walk.
We do our best to walk with God, but sometimes He simply must carry us. At those times when our human flesh is so frail that we feel we cannot go on, God’s mercy takes over. It is our source of strength and comfort in every situation.
Walk if you can, and run if you can. Most of the time your legs and your faith will be strong. But if your strength is gone, jump into His mighty arms of mercy and say, “Father, carry me!”
Is there a real, eternal, burning hell? In Philippians 3:18-21, Paul describes only two options for our final destination: destruction and heaven. How foolish it is for us to make our natural appetites—the temporary pleasures of food, drink, and creature comforts—the altar of our worship! We, as future citizens of the New Jerusalem, are only passing through this world. Paul, well aware of this truth, said this knowledge caused him to “strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven” (Philippians 3:14). What other goal is worthy of pursuing?
The tragic opposite of the heavenward call is the downward pull of hell. Isaiah said (and Jesus later quoted in Mark 9:48) that for those in hell “the worms that devour them will never die, and the fire that burns them will never go out” (Isaiah 66:24).
Hell is an eternal lake of fire. It is a fixed, immovable torment where death is not an option. Once a person is in hell, it is impossible for him to ever escape. The rich man, suffering the anguish of hell’s flames, begged Lazarus simply to dip his finger in water to cool his parched tongue (Luke 16:24), but it was not possible (v. 26).
Hell is indeed an awful place, but heaven is wonderful beyond measure. I have set my sights on heaven. How about you?
The peace of God comes from the God of peace. In the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul tells us how to walk in continual, perfect peace.
First, he pleads with us to reconcile our relationships to others. He addressed a division in the Philippian church, saying, “And now I want to plead with those two women, Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement” (v. 2). Strained, divisive relationships will always block the peace of God.
Next, Paul says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (v. 6). If you make every concern a matter of prayer, God’s peace will flood your heart and mind, even when your understanding is crying,
Finally, Paul challenges us to change our ways of daily meditation. Instead of thinking untrue, immoral, base, corrupt, and ugly thoughts from the enemy, he tells us to “fix [our] thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (v. 8). We must fill our minds with thoughts that are consistent with the heaven where we will one day live. Such thoughts will calm our hearts and bring the presence of the God of peace back into our lives. Then the peace of God will be ours until we see the God of peace face-to-face.
Looking at Colossians 1:13-20, we recognize that Jesus Christ deserves supremacy. In this passage, Paul describes the awesome spiritual dimensions of Christ as God sees Him. Verse 15 speaks of Him as the “visible image of the invisible God.” Then in verse 16, He is described as “the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth.” He is the actual Creator of anything that has ever been cre-ated—spiritual or physical.
Jesus is the invisible force that binds together even atoms and molecules. Through Him, all things “hold together” (v. 17 NIV). He is the Head of the Body, the Church (v. 18), and He was the first to rise from the dead as a firstfruit of all believers in the resurrection. Verse 19 reveals that all the fullness of God dwells in Him; that is, God’s character, energy, wisdom, and holiness are all contained within Him. Finally, His blood shed on the cross is the means by which fallen humanity is restored to God in peace (v. 20).
Jesus is everything to God, and He should have supremacy in our lives as well. Why should we be fascinated by anyone else? Who else or what else besides Jesus matters? God “has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and he has brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).
The mystery of all ages is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Just as we see Christ in all His glory, we also see how Christ in us is our hope of glory.
Paul’s challenge was to impart Christ into the lives of the believers. He wanted every person to be perfect, or mature, in Christ (Colossians 1:28). Maturity in Christ comes, first of all, from receiving correction when necessary. We need someone around us who will warn us of danger zones, blind spots, and areas that block the glory of Christ in our lives.
Second, spiritual maturity comes from being taught. How desperately we Christians need instruction in engaging in spiritual warfare, raising our families, managing our finances, receiving guidance, developing the fruit of the Spirit, and learning about a host of other subjects relevant to godliness. Someone once said, “We need more information and not just more inspiration.”
Third, perfection, or maturity, comes when believers are “knit together by strong ties of love” (Colossians 2:2). Love is the highest attribute of perfection, and Christ in us desires to reach out to others in love.
If we follow these three guidelines—receiving correction, being taught, and walking in love—we will “have complete understanding of God’s secret plan, which is Christ himself” (v. 2).
The “old, godly way” is the path where we will find rest for our souls. This place is described in the New International Version of the Bible as the “ancient paths” and is called the “good way.” Israel’s journey through the wilderness as chronicled in Psalm 78 describes the path on which the people of God were instructed to walk.
First, the path was one of deliverance: “He divided the sea before them and led them through” (Psalm 78:13). The Lord knows how to deliver His people from all their enemies, even if the path leads in an unorthodox way!
Second, the path was one of guidance: “In the daytime he led them by a cloud, and at night by a pillar of fire” (v. 14). Because the Lord’s path is always better than our own, we should ask Him to show us where the “cloud” is moving in our lives.
Finally, the path was one of provision: “He split open the rocks in the wilderness to give them plenty of water, as from a gushing spring” (v. 15). If we keep walking in the paths of the Lord, there will be constant provision. We must remember the words of Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.”
With the promise of God’s deliverance, guidance, and provision, why would we ever say of the path of the Lord, “No, that’s not the road we want!” (Jeremiah 6:16)? Choose to walk in the godly way, and find rest for your soul.
Wisdom, strength, and riches are the three goals that the world passionately pursues. Anyone who achieves status in one of these three areas is celebrated as someone great by those in the world. Such pursuit, however, leads to three main areas of sin: intellectual pride, lustful passion, and greed.
Jeremiah warned that a wise man shouldn’t boast of his wisdom any more than a strong man should boast of his strength or a rich man of his wealth. Why? Because those wise, strong, and rich men produced none of those characteristics in their lives. It was God alone who gave them whatever wisdom, strength, or riches they possess.
Paul reminded the Colossians, “For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). We must put to death the proud mind of man that flatters and exalts himself in his own eyes. We must crucify the sinful desires of the flesh, such as “sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires” (v. 5). Furthermore, we cannot “be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry” (v. 5).
If we boast of anything in this world, it should only be the awesome fact that we understand and know the Lord personally. In everything else, let us put on humility, purity, and generosity. The world may not appreciate us when we do, but in God’s eyes we will be pursuing true wisdom, strength, and riches!
Prayer is our occupation. It is not meant to be a halfhearted, wishful endeavor, but rather it should be wholehearted, intense, fervent, and devoted. What a privilege it is for us to engage in the one thing that will change everything!
Epaphras was a mighty prayer warrior who wrestled in prayer for the Colossians (Colossians 4:12 NIV). The word wrestle means “to agonize,” or “to wrestle as in a wrestling match.” In Epaphras’s day, wrestling was the most intense athletic match in the Olympics, and for Paul to describe Epaphras’s prayer as “wrestling” shows the intensity with which this brother labored in prayer.
Epaphras’s fervent prayer was that the Colossians might be “strong and perfect, fully confident of the whole will of God” (v. 12). Satan is continually opposing the will of God in our lives, and only through wrestling, agonizing prayer can the will of God be accomplished. Epaphras was willing to agonize over the Colossian church.
God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Pray no more for these people, Jeremiah. Do not weep or pray for them, for I will not listen to them when they cry out to me in distress” (Jeremiah 11:14). We may wrestle in prayer on behalf of others, but they bear the responsibility of responding to God’s overtures. What a tragedy it is when people resist God so much that He will no longer hear prayer on their behalf!
Let us wrestle, watch, and agonize in prayer daily. Our families and friends are depending upon us.
Can you race on foot against horsemen? Jeremiah asks a pointed question about our level of commitment. The obvious implication is that if we grow tired and give up when dealing with relatively inconsequential problems, we will never be able to handle major problems. If we have problems dealing with grocery money, how will we be able to manage Kingdom finances? If we cannot keep our own house in order, how will we rule nations?
Sometimes we twenty-first-century Christians feel as though we have it rough. The early Church, however, had it much rougher. They were indeed running with the horsemen! Paul commended the Thessalonians’ faith and perseverance, saying, “You received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
The presence of greater challenges in our lives doesn’t mean that God has left us, but it does mean He trusts our ability to run with the horses. With the help of God, you can outrun any challenge in your life, as Elijah did when he outran Ahab’s horses all the way to Jezreel (1 Kings 18:46).
Get ready for a new level of commitment. The foot race is over— the horses are coming!
Silver must be purified seven times before it is perfectly pure. Dross and impurities lie hidden within the silver, and only heat can drive them out.
God knows that our imperfections, too, can only be removed by heat. Paul prayed that none of the Thessalonians would be unsettled by such trials. He told them, “But, of course, you know that such troubles are going to happen to us Christians” (1 Thessalonians 3:3).
Satan, our eternal enemy, seeks to stop us (1 Thessalonians 2:18) and tempt us (3:5) in an effort to steal our faith. But our faith is like the silver being refined. It is that precious thing that keeps us close to God during a trial and keeps us moving forward when Satan is trying to drive us backward.
Timothy’s return and good report led Paul to say, “We have been greatly comforted, dear brothers and sisters, in all of our own crushing troubles and suffering, because you have remained strong in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:7). Every trial you encounter and walk through successfully only purifies your faith and refines it to a higher quality.
Stay in the fire, Christian. God knows that one day you will be “strong, blameless and holy when you stand before God our Father on that day when our Lord Jesus comes with all those who belong to him” (v. 13).
Cursed is the one who trusts in man, but blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. These are lifetime statements that give a broad overview of the difference between two directions in life.
The first statement depicts people who continually look to others to solve their problems. Getting help from others is not wrong, but the Lord says, “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, on the salty flats where no one lives” (Jeremiah 17:5). To such people, trusting in God and His Word is foolishness. They feel their best option in any circumstance is to follow the way of the world.
The second statement describes those who trust in the Lord. In every circumstance, they know they are planted beside a continual stream of refreshment under which their roots lie. Though drought, famine, and heat may sear everything around them, their roots draw strength from the unchangeable nature of God. People expect them to wither, dry up, and crack, but those who trust in the Lord remain ever green and fruitful through all circumstances.
Trust God. He will “subdue [your] enemies” and “feed you with the best of foods” (Psalm 81:14, 16)!
How easy it is for us to hear a word from the Lord and decide that it does not apply to our lives or that it is not for today!
Pashhur, the priest in charge of the temple of the Lord, despised Jeremiah’s prophecies against the detestable practice of sacrificing children to Baal in the valley of Topheth (Jeremiah 20:1-2). This horrible ritual took place with the heathen priests of Baal beating drums to drown out the screams of little babies being burned alive. Jeremiah said that performing such atrocities never entered God’s mind (19:5).
Humankind can stoop to some terrible deeds when there is no voice of reason. Jeremiah saw this dreadful scene of infant sacrifice and prophesied the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. When Pashhur threatened him, Jeremiah said, “I can’t stop! If I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am weary of holding it in!” (20:9).
We should not despise prophecy, but invite it. We should pray for God to give us voices in our nation to proclaim the truth before it is too late. The lives we save may be our own.
The prophet Jeremiah could foresee Jesus’ first coming. Though he lived hundreds of years before Christ’s birth, Jeremiah saw by the Spirit of God that One was coming from the line of David who would blaze a trail that would ultimately touch every person in history. He would restore total justice and wisdom to a sin-gripped land. Jeremiah saw a time when Judah would be saved, and Israel would live in safety. Most importantly, he saw the name of the One who would accomplish this: The Lord Is Our Righteousness. What name could better describe Jesus?
Paul saw ahead in time to the second coming of Jesus. He saw the Lord coming back from heaven “with his mighty angels, in flaming fire” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Like Jeremiah, he saw ahead to the time when Jesus will set everything right on earth again—a time when He will eternally punish the wicked and they will be “forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power” (v. 9).
When Jesus returns, He will assume all the glory on earth and be worshiped by both the Church and the Jewish converts. “In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety” (Jeremiah 23:6).
Get ready and stay ready, for The Lord Our Righteousness is on His way. He’s coming for you!
Just as Christ is returning to the earth, the Antichrist is also coming. Paul reminded the Thessalonians of several facts regarding the mysterious person he referred to as the “man of lawlessness.”
First, Paul said, “He will exalt himself and defy every god there is and tear down every object of adoration and worship. He will position himself in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). His spirit will be that of a proud, boastful, arrogant beast.
Second, Paul pointed out that the Antichrist could not be revealed yet because something was holding him back (v. 6). Many believe that this “something” is the Church, inhabited by the Holy Spirit. When the Church is removed, however, the Antichrist will manifest.
Finally, Paul said that incredible signs and wonders that will deceive all humankind will accompany Antichrist’s coming (vv. 9-10). The people who refuse the simple truth of the Christ will be deceived by Antichrist’s lies, and they will eternally perish.
So stand firm, believer. You may pass through the “Valley of Weeping” (Psalm 84:6), but you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!
The source of our peace is our right standing with God. When we get out of sorts with God’s purpose and will, peace departs. The psalmist, understanding this relationship between righteousness and peace, declared, “Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed!” (Psalm 85:10).
Paul prayed that “the Lord of peace himself always give you his peace no matter what happens” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). Our actions determine our peace. We should spend our lives, therefore, in productive, focused labor.
The Bible clearly states that “whoever does not work should not eat”
(v. 10). To be “busy,” but not “busybodies,” means that we know our jobs, vocations, and callings and are working hard every day to accomplish them. Many people chase idle dreams and foolish talk but never produce anything. Consequently, they grow frustrated and lose their peace. If we will work hard and “never get tired of doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13), however, then the Lord of peace will give us peace.
Have you lost your peace? Find your work, and you will find your peace.
These sobering words were delivered to a false prophet named Hananiah, who had prophesied that the Jewish people would be restored from Babylon within two years. This prophecy contradicted Jeremiah’s clear teaching that they would be captives in Babylon for seventy years, not two.
Satan has always had his prophets who look right and sound right. They are like Hymenaeus and Alexander, who shipwrecked their own faith by teaching that the resurrection was past (1 Timothy 1:19-20).
False doctrine works its way into churches as well as into individuals. It misleads and steers away from faith and a good conscience. All true teaching will produce “love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith” (v. 5).
Judge all teaching. The teaching may look good and sound right, but does it lead to godly actions? Does it lead people away from “talking foolishness” (v. 6) and cause them to focus on saving sinners?
Keep your doctrinal ship steered down the center of the channel. Beware of the shorelines, no matter how appealing. The rocks of destruction lurk just beneath the surface!
Prayer is the foundation of a godly society. Paul admonished us to offer prayers for kings and all those in authority. When we pray for our rulers, they become softened to the purposes of God, respectful to the Church, and honest and just in their lawmaking.
A peaceful and quiet society is the best environment in which the lost may be saved. When Satan is influencing government, wicked laws are passed, anarchy rules, and the Church is persecuted. Preaching the Word, printing Bibles, and establishing churches are forbidden in that environment.
God our Savior “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2: 4). He sent His Son as a ransom for all men and women (v. 6), and thus He desires nations to be open to the preaching of the Gospel. Whenever we come together with other believers, we should pray specifically for each nation and ruler “with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy” (v. 8).
A praying church, an open government, a perfect sacrifice, and an obedient preacher will bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth and usher in Jesus’ return to reap the harvest!
God can do a new thing! He told Jeremiah that He would make a new covenant in the future that would far surpass the old one. Today we are living under that new covenant. God has put His law in our minds and written it on our hearts. He has forgiven our wickedness and will remember our sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34).
At a time when the nation of Israel was being invaded, God directed Jeremiah to buy a piece of property. Jeremiah purchased the land, placed the deed in a jar, and buried it. The Lord promised that once again Israel would return to the land, and the deed would then be worth something. Jeremiah responded to the Lord and to this incredible promise by saying, “Nothing is too hard for you!” (Jeremiah 32:17). God agreed with this assessment, saying, “I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?” (v. 27).
Have you lost all hope? God can and will do the impossible. If He can forgive your sins forever, He can fix your problems right now. Place your confidence in His strong covenant. Absolutely nothing is too difficult for God!
When God makes a covenant, He means eternal business. In biblical times, a covenant was sealed between two parties by their cutting an animal in half and walking between the pieces in a figure-eight movement. Israel had entered into that kind of covenant with God, yet failed to keep it. God was forced to respond with these words:
“Because you have refused the terms of our covenant, I will cut you apart just as you cut apart the calf when you walked between its halves to solemnize your vows” (Jeremiah 34:18).
It is human nature to make and then break covenants. God, however, cannot break a covenant. He promised Jeremiah that if he could break God’s “covenant with the day and the night so that they do not come on their usual schedule, only then will my covenant with David, my servant, be broken. Only then will he no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne” (Jeremiah 33:20-21). The chances of David not having an heir as king on Israel’s throne are less than the chances of the sun not shining anymore! That’s how faithful God is!
With a God who is that unchangeable and faithful, we must also be true to Him—the faithful God who keeps His covenant forever.
Jehonadab, son of Recab, was quite a man. He was an upstanding man of iron principle who taught his children and grandchildren the precepts of righteousness. His biblical career started when he joined Jehu in destroying the prophets of Baal (2 Kings 10:15-17). Jehu saw in Jehonadab a man who would not compromise with Jezebel and her wicked prophets, but would follow through in delivering judgment against them.
Jehonadab commanded his children and grandchildren to live by certain standards and principles, and these principles were still being upheld centuries later during Jeremiah’s day. In Jeremiah 35:5-6, Jeremiah offered Jehonadab’s family huge bowls full of wine, which they refused. They strictly maintained the principles of purity they had received from their ancestor many years before. Jeremiah used the family of Jehonadab as a perfect example of a family who consistently put principles ahead of personal choice.
It’s easy to change your convictions because they don’t feel good. King Josiah just took a knife and cut out the parts of the Bible he did-n’t like (Jeremiah 36:23)! Don’t change your Bible to fit your lifestyle— change your lifestyle to fit your Bible. In the end, you’ll be glad you did!
Paul taught Timothy three vital truths about finances. First, he taught him that the love of money can be dangerous to one’s spiritual health. Money itself is not evil, but the love of money is a dangerous deception that can lead even to being drawn away from the faith. The proper attitude toward money must be one of contentment. As we live our lives, we must be thankful for what we have, not always wanting what we don’t have.
The second truth is that God desires to bless us. He “richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). God is not a taker— He’s a giver! He longs to bless us for our enjoyment.
The third truth Paul shared regarding money is the principle of giving. He urged Timothy to instruct the rich to remember to use their earthly wealth for doing good, thus laying up an eternal reward in heaven (vv. 18-19).
The finances we invest in others and in God’s work will be multiplied back to us in the life to come. Let’s use our money as a tool for eternal investment, and one day we will see it again.
Fear can oppress and mask wonderful talents. In his youth, Timothy was naturally timid and fearful. He thus tended to hide his gifts for fear of rejection. Paul exhorted him “to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you” (2 Timothy 1:6).
God gave you unique gifts and talents to use in His service, and “you must never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8). Fear causes those special gifts to lie smoldering inside you, smothered by intimidation and dying for lack of encouragement. When you begin to pray in the Holy Spirit, however, the latent gifts within you begin to burn brightly and become visible.
The Holy Spirit’s power came upon Timothy through the laying on of hands, a method used throughout the Bible to impart blessing and release giftings. This was also the way Moses imparted the spirit of wisdom to Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:9).
David refused to let fear control and smother his life. Instead, he stated, “Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor fear the dangers of the day” (Psalm 91:5).
Rise up, stir up, and speak up. Release your gifts, and be not ashamed!
Long-term success is achieved only if there is a successor. Paul knew this and thus instructed Timothy to impart everything he had learned from him to other reliable people. In 2 Timothy 2, Paul used three images of a reliable, faithful person.
First, he said a faithful person is like a soldier (2:3), who will endure hardship as part of his calling. Good soldiers do not get involved in things that distract them from following their commanders; no matter what, they maintain their focus. In order to be faithful to Jesus, our total focus must be on fighting the battle of faith with Him, not on gaining worldly position.
The second image of a faithful Christian is that of an athlete (2:5). An athlete must follow all the rules if he wants to win the game. To break the rules means instant disqualification. The image of the athlete reflects the need for character in the life of the Christian. Only those who live pure lives within the constraints of God’s commands will win the prize.
The last image of a faithful Christian is that of a farmer (2:6). Diligent, hardworking farmers are models of patience. The seeds they sow into the soil must gradually grow into crops. If the farmer wants to reap a harvest, he cannot become impatient and dig up the seed to see if it is growing yet! Similarly, we must be patient with our growth and that of others in the Lord. Patiently we must wait for the harvest of spiritual growth.
If you find a focused, pure, patient servant of the Lord, invest your time in that person. One day he will do the same for someone else, and your life will have counted for something great.
Although the word discipline may create a negative connotation in our minds, it is actually quite a positive principle. In our flesh, we are content to do as we please, say what we want, and live how we feel. Discipline, however, gets our flesh in order. It is like putting a train on its track. The train has far more freedom on the track than it would have if it were trying to be free off the track!
How it offends us to be in public with someone whose child is totally unruly and undisciplined! It is an embarrassment to the family and to the child. Conversely, when children know their places, their boundaries, and their limitations, they experience real freedom and security. Disciplined children are a blessing both to themselves and everybody else.
God, as our Father, wants to train us. He is willing to confront us and help us change areas of our lives that bring shame upon the Kingdom of God. Because of His concern and love for us, He says, “But I must discipline you; I cannot let you go unpunished” (Jeremiah 46:28).
Discipline is a blessing! Put yourself in the hands of the Lord, and remember that His discipline is not rejection, but genuine acceptance.
Do you feel called into ministry? In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul outlined four sequential steps that should occur for entering the ministry. It is important information for anyone who is called to minister.
First, he said to “keep a clear mind in every situation.” Learning to observe carefully what is going on around you will begin your ministry training. Watch and learn from seasoned pastors, missionaries, and teachers to see how they minister.
Second, Paul said, “Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.” After a season of watching and being under the care of your ministry mentor, you will enter a season of flying solo. Your flight may be rough at first, but all of us have to encounter a little hardship in order to test our mettle!
The third stage of entering ministry is to do the work of an evangelist, “bringing others to Christ.” Every minister should be a soul winner. Timothy was a pastor, not an evangelist, but Paul told him to throw himself into personal evangelism anyway.
Finally, Paul said to “complete the ministry God has given you.” The day will come when you will put on your ministry like a custom-fitted jacket. The preparation will be over, the ministry will fit you, and you will enjoy your calling for the rest of your life!
Paul challenged those who love the Lord not to be “arrogant or quick-tempered . . . a heavy drinker, violent, or greedy for money” (Titus 1:7). He expected those who loved God to live exemplary lives.
The challenge of controlling evil emotions, appetites, and greed is not an easy one. To serve in the position of an elder, a person “must enjoy having guests in his home and must love all that is good. He must live wisely and be fair. He must live a devout and disciplined life” (v. 8). The lives and characters of godly people must show that they hate evil and are committed to doing everything within their conscious power to remove it from their lives.
The opposite of such a person is the one who tolerates evil. “For there are many who rebel against right teaching; they engage in useless talk and deceive people” (v. 10). These types of people teach wrong doctrine, love money, lie, and turn others away from the truth (vv. 11-13). They so tolerate evil that “their minds and consciences are defiled” (v. 15).
These two kinds of people represent two different paths in life. If you intend to see God one day, remember that “righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne” (Psalm 97:2). Follow the upward path, for God “protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked” (v. 10).
Babylon was destined to fall. Even though Babylon’s final demise was years in the future, Jeremiah could see through his prophetic eye that the time for Babylon’s fall had come (Jeremiah 51:13).
God had used Babylon to destroy Jerusalem, and for many years the Babylonians ruled over the Jews to the glory of their false god. Now the time had arrived for the Medes to be stirred up to attack the seemingly invincible city of Babylon. History records that the Medes diverted the Euphrates River, which ran through the city of Babylon, and were able to penetrate the massive city walls in one night. When God gets ready to judge a proud nation, the curtain of history has closed for them!
John the Revelator foretold the same collapse for the future economic empire called Babylon: “How terrible, how terrible for Babylon, that great city! In one single moment God’s judgment came on her” (Revelation 18:10).
It doesn’t matter how great, lofty, and mighty the world’s empires are—they will all fall before Jehovah God. His awesome power is described this way: “The Lord is king! Let the nations tremble! He sits on his throne between the cherubim. Let the whole earth quake!” (Psalm 99:1). We, too, should tremble, remembering what happened to the great Babylon.
Even before we become Christians, many of us think we are “good.” The Word of God, however, clearly states the contrary. At one time, all of us “were foolish and disobedient. We were misled by others and became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated others, and they hated us” (Titus 3:3).
In His kindness and love, God saved us, washed us in His blood, and renewed us in the Holy Spirit. His goodness to us made us good. Now, because of that goodness living in us, we devote our lives to doing what is good (v. 8).
Doing good includes submitting to those in authority, and living an obedient, gentle, humble, and peaceable life (v. 2). As we follow these guidelines, we will live productive lives, devoting ourselves to providing for daily necessities and the needs of others (v. 14).
The central theme of the Psalms is the goodness of the Lord. Psalm 100:5 puts it this way: “For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”
Let us enjoy His goodness today and rejoice that He has changed us into someone “good.” God is good all the time, and so should we be!
What we look at shapes our lives. David said he would not set before his eyes any vile thing. In this world we live in, our minds are bombarded daily with vile and vulgar images. From television, magazines, movies, and even the daily lives of others comes the constant portrayal of the perverse, proud, deceptive, profane, and slanderous.
What can we do about it? We can do as David did and be totally intolerant of filth. Whenever something from the enemy came before David’s eyes, he immediately cast it from his mind. We cannot afford to meditate passively on unclean and worthless things that our minds conceive. Rather, we must follow Paul’s instructions to “take captive every thought” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV) and David’s admonishment to “stay away from every evil” (Psalm 101:4).
Analyze your environment. Conduct spiritual housecleaning, if necessary, and do not let evil enter your presence (Psalm 101:7). Your mind will clear, temptation will lift, and you will dwell in safety.
Isn’t it easy during times of weariness and bitterness to forget the Lord’s faithfulness? But Jeremiah, in his most desperate time, remembered that God’s compassion never fails. Because “He doesn’t enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow” (Lamentations 3:33), we are assured that no matter what trial we are walking through, God still loves us and is not the cause of our problems. Whether a “clear” day or a “cloudy” day dawns, His mercies truly “begin afresh each day” (v. 23). Great is His faithfulness!
Our job in the midst of difficulty is to stop being so restless and fitful. We must learn “to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord” (v. 26), never doubting that He loves us and will deliver us.
Both David and Paul understood the faithfulness and mercy inherent to the Lord’s nature. In Psalm 102:27, David said, “But you are always the same; your years never end.” In Hebrews 1:12, Paul expressed the same thought: “But you are always the same; you will never grow old.” Everything around us may change—even the world itself—but God never changes.
Are you feeling bitter toward God? Hang on, and remember that He will always be there to hang on to you. The “appointed time has come” (Psalm 102:13 NIV) for your miracle!
Rejoice in your spiritual benefits! According to Psalm 103, your benefit package includes five specific blessings.
First and most importantly, God forgives all your sins. Nothing is more valuable than having your sins removed from you, “as far as the east is from the west” (v. 12).
Second, He heals all your diseases (v. 3). The root of disease sprang from the cesspool of sin in the Garden of Eden. But if the root is cut, the fruit (the disease) is also rendered powerless!
Third, He ransoms, or redeems, you from death (v. 4). Satan’s power over your life is broken, for just as God redeemed Israel from the hand of Egypt, so Jesus redeemed you with the shedding of His blood.
Fourth, He surrounds (“crowns” in the New International Version) you with “love and tender mercies” (v. 4). The Holy Spirit has come to rest upon your head like the anointing oil rested upon, or crowned, the Old Testament high priest. That presence will surround you with God’s mercy every day of your life.
Fifth, your life will be filled with “good things” (v. 5) and your strength renewed. Your temporal and physical needs will all be supplied from God’s abundance.
These are your benefits: forgiveness, healing, deliverance, anointing, and provision. Rise up today and claim your inheritance!