“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point…A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful until it became risky,” C.S. Lewis
What will you undertake this coming year that will require courage?
God's people have always been called to bravery. Obeying God, especially when it's to our own disadvantage, is the crux of the Christian life. Scripture tells multiple stories of those who demonstrated true bravery in the context of their times.
In Joshua 1:1-9, God instructed Joshua to lead His people into the Promised Land, their inheritance as His people. In this passage God directed them to “be strong and courageous” three times, promising that He would never leave them. The Israelites had a daunting challenge – going to war with the inhabitants of the land who were fierce adversaries. They were terrified these enemies (see Numbers 13) yet God promised them (and many others throughout scripture) repeatedly to not be afraid because He would be with them. Courage is faith and fearlessness.
Due to their repeated disobedience and wickedness, God allowed the Babylonians and Assyrians to take the Israelites into captivity for approximately seventy years (Jeremiah 29:4). Psalm 137 was the national lament in response to such a devastating disaster. “How can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?” Yet many of the Jews defied their captors and persevered in their worship of Yahweh, still believing in His goodness and His promises, even in the most hostile of cultures. The stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego testify to their dogged faithfulness and God's miraculous provision. Courage demonstrates trust.
First century believers also answered the call to live as “aliens and strangers” in the land, risking their very lives for the Gospel (1 Peter 2:11-12). Followers of Jesus faced intense persecution and often death due to their insistence that there was One Lord. Jesus had repeatedly taught that the Kingdom of God was not a political or even religious system. He said to the Pharisees, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst...” (Luke 17:20-21). This conflict is a dominant theme in the New Testament and we are repeatedly exhorted to persevere and be courageous, echoing numerous Old Testament passages with similar language. Courage takes risks.
But there is even another layer to the call to be brave. We all have private battles that the Spirit nudges us to confront as we seek to be conformed to the image of Christ.
It takes courage to do the hard work in breaking a generational chain of family dysfunction.
It takes courage to admit deep seated jealousies and resentments.
It takes courage to genuinely forgive and let go of the past. It's much easier to leave wounds festering, rather than seeking healing. But if we truly desire God's best, then our bravery will require perseverance and time.
Yes, there are places much more comfortable for believer to live than others, where the culture is fairly friendly to our faith. But authentic Christianity will always push against the flow of the world. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus turned the world order upside down. Humility, meekness, justice, mercy, purity, peace – these are qualities of the Spirit that can be bravely demonstrated in even the most unwelcoming of circumstances, whether in a third world culture, or in the southern USA. And as Lewis pointed out, Kingdom minded lives require us to be courageous in living ALL biblical principles. May God give us the grace to do so.
Why do we torment ourselves by playing The Comparison Game?
It's part of human nature — evaluating the looks or accomplishments of others and comparing them with our own. We may not even realize we are doing this, until the dark emotions of discouragement and discontentment begin to churn within us. As someone once said, “To compare is to despair.” We can quickly determine how we measure up with another in importance, our giftings, accomplishments or the Cute Outfit Quotient. It's been called the “sidelong glance” – instantly sizing up someone out of the corner of our eye, or being sized up ourselves. Social media doesn't help us here – the status of friends and coworkers boasting of or “sharing” their successes are in our faces 24/7.
This is especially true in ministry, if we are honest enough to admit it. We look at others' successes, number of followers or celebrity status and invariably end up feeling like losers. We all know better, but still have to fight the impulse to join in The Game.
If our need for validation depends on how we measure up with others, we will inevitably lose. Why? First, while we may come out a winner temporarily, it is just a matter of time before someone younger, more successful, or smarter walks into the room or posts on our feed and totally ruins our day. Secondly, the resulting feelings of inadequacy quickly throw the door open to more grievous sins such as envy and jealousy, which are devastating to our spiritual lives and relationships. Third, feeling superior leads to becoming smug, self- satisfied or self- righteous, none of which are spiritually profitable. In the end, we must see that The Comparison Game is one that is rigged. It can't be won in the long term. There may be the occasional victory lap, but the outcome of the game has already been fixed, and we lose.
There is a small story in John 21:18-23 that specifically speaks to The Comparison Game. Peter has professed his love for Jesus three times, with Jesus' exhortation to “Feed my sheep”. However, in verse 18, Jesus prophesies about Peter's future, indicating the kind of death Peter would suffer. Peter, as if suddenly realizing this conversation was not going so well, casts a “sidelong glance” at John and asks Jesus, “What will happen to him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to live until I come again, what is that to you? You follow me.” (John adds a tidbit of info, that it was this comment that fueled the rumors that John would not die until Christ returned). Jesus bluntly calls Peter out, to not compare his path to John's, but to keep his eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and follow Him. We must do the same. The only way to win at The Comparison Game is to refuse to play it.
"Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”
There are a number of skills that lead to success in life. Self-awareness is one of them, although it is not often seen as a critical trait. However, understanding who we are, how we think, and how we operate is vital to knowing who we are and who God has called us to be.
What exactly is self-awareness? Self-awareness has been defined as the ability to make an accurate assessment of your own personality, strengths and weaknesses. It is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, emotions, desires, and motivations. The better we know ourselves and our tendencies toward certain sins, the clearer we can see where we need to grow as followers of Christ. A healthy self-awareness benefits our relationships as well because it also enables us to understand others and how they see us. A ministry leader with self-awareness will have an accurate read on how she is perceived and react accordingly.
Note that self-awareness differs from self-absorption, which only focuses on inward - aka “navel-gazing”. Self-awareness does not cause us to fixate on ourselves but to better understand how uniquely God created us.
What are some benefits of self-awareness, especially in ministry?
- Self-awareness gives us the ability to discern others’ emotions and reactions.
- Self-awareness helps us identify our own weaknesses or blind spots yet not be threatened or intimidated by them.
- Self-awareness enables us to look back at painful or shameful episodes of our lives and see them accurately, rather than inventing our own narrative. It avoids making excuse for poor behavior.
- Self-awareness is the polar opposite of denial, which is a refusal to see life as it truly is.
How do we grow in self-awareness? Here are a few suggestions:
- Process your thoughts and prayers through journaling. I recently flipped through an old prayer notebook. As I read back on a particular struggle I had forgotten about, I saw so clearly how I had skimmed over my own pettiness and put myself in the best light - even in my prayers! Eventually, I had become so discouraged that I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to me in this situation, and if I could possibly be slightly at fault? It wasn’t long until I saw that I had missed the glaring problem - my own pride, due to a huge blind spot and unwillingness to admit I was wrong. Self-awareness enables us to see ourselves as we truly are, but that may take some time and effort, but persevere.
- Listen to yourself. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). What do you talk about? I recently sat at a dinner engagement where one person completely dominated the conversation, talking about his vast accomplishments and how brilliant his own influence was on the elite in his city. I’m sure I was not the only one thinking, “Is he ever going to stop? Does he not realize he has talked nonstop for thirty minutes about himself?” Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but the rest of us sure did. No self-awareness.
- Don't be afraid to ask the Spirit to give you a healthy perspective on yourself. Then don’t get defensive when He does! Wrestling with our sinful nature, weaknesses, strengths, temptations, and emotions grow our self-awareness and help us better serve in the Kingdom.
The end goal of our walk with Christ, however, is not self-awareness. As Tim Keller has said, “Self-awareness is never the destination, it is only a step on the way to transformation.” A healthy self-awareness should put us on (and keep us on) the road to sanctification. Surely this is exactly what King David was striving for when he prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
There is no opportunity for ministry as powerful and as necessary as ministering to the broken hearted. As ministry wives, we all know this is part of the calling we have in caring for the people with whom God has entrusted us. Yet this kind of ministry can come with considerable personal distress. To weep with those who are mourning and comfort those who are afflicted can have a powerful effect on our emotional and spiritual lives. Frequently those who are the comforters need comforting themselves! Watching the suffering of those we love is not an easy road. Yet I am convinced, this is by far one of the most vital things we can do for others.
I know of a church with a beloved staff member who was greatly admired and respected. He served faithfully for many years, working and ministering alongside members of the church. Yet, tragically, past transgressions came to light, and he was forced to resign his position. The church was in an uproar: some arguing the “grace case” and others believing he was now disqualified for ministry. If that wasn’t enough, a new pastor had just arrived on the scene a few weeks before this came down and he was prayerfully seeking to make the right decisions for all parties involved. His wife was a friend of mine and I asked her one day how things were going. She said, “This is too hard. I just closed the blinds in my house and quit answering my phone for three days. I’m not talking to anybody!” I was taken aback and hardly knew how to respond. But I thought, “You just missed the greatest opportunity you may ever have to truly minister to these people.” Bearing the burdens of others is not easy ? it’s usually depressing and painful. Yet, if we are to be like Christ, we must do so (Gal. 6:2).
Sometimes we hesitate to go to the hurting because we don’t know what to say. And it’s true there are some definite things NOT to say, such as quoting Romans 8:28 or glibly throwing out clichés like “God’s got that” (see Prov. 25:20). All people really need is someone to be with them, weep with them and assure them of God’s presence. Maybe Job’s friends should have just sat with him and kept their comments to themselves!
This prayer has provided me with words when I could not find any of my own:
Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer,
Hear the cry of those in misery and need, in their afflictions show them Your mercy.
And give us, we pray, the strength to serve them for the sake of Him who suffered for us, Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)
Prov. 27: 17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another"
In reflection on our many years in ministry, I am drawn to the truth of this proverb. I have seen it play out in my own life more times than I can remember.
We usually think of ministry as investing our lives through serving others, as we hopefully "sharpen" them through discipleship, worship and community. However, I have recently given some thought as to how often others have sharpened me in the past, when I didn't even realize it.
What does this proverb mean, exactly? Most commentators see it as a statement of how people affect, or influence, one another. The essential picture is this: two things of the same nature fashion each other in a way that benefits them both. The word "sharpen" is used several times in other passages, referring to swords that are sharpened for increased usefulness. Additional definitions of "sharpen" in Hebrew are "to be alert or keen". When we place this principle in the context of a Christian community, our relationships will naturally affect each other, hopefully for the good. Our lives are generally shaped in our daily interaction with others, not just upon hearing great sermons or Bible studies. It's often the thousands of smaller moments that sharpen us in profound ways. Most of the wisdom I've received from other women came out of meaningful conversations held in a kitchen or the women's restroom!
- For several years I taught a women's Bible study and college age Bible study with a good friend who was a gifted teacher. She was a true Bible student and her lessons had strong illustrations, solid doctrinal content and very practical application. When it was my turn to teach, I was determined to continue that trajectory and worked hard to match her standard. She sharpened me.
- I have a friend who is an older woman, a faithful prayer partner. One day we were discussing a mutual friend who was having family difficulties. She said, "Honey, she doesn't know what she doesn't know." I was puzzled, I had never heard that phrase before. After she explained, I instantly took that saying to heart and determined from that point on I would seek to "know what I don't know". I have used that bit of wisdom time and time again. For example, I don't know the Black Lives Matter experience, I haven't lived that story. I don't know the life perspective of a lonely millennial, or the desperate fears of a refugee mother. I need to stop and listen to their stories before making judgments or presumptions. This phrase continues to prod me into seeking knowledge and admitting what I don’t know .
- Sometimes sharpening comes from an awkward or negative experience. I once sat at a lovely dinner when one of the guests suddenly began to make rude accusations against the person seated directly across the table.The rest of us sat in stunned silence until the diatribe was over and the recipient abruptly left the table (who could blame her?) Needless to say, the remainder of the dinner was very uncomfortable. I later reflected on this very unfortunate event and asked God to please never ever let me say anything to another person that was as appallingly rude and hurtful as those comments, not to mention completely unchristian. I will never forget the pain and humiliation on the face of the accused. That experience sharpened me in that I want to always be fully aware of how my comments and conversations make others feel.
There is New Testament counterpart to this proverb, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Heb. 10:24.) This can't happen if we aren't sharing our lives in community with others. And something interesting happens along the way - as you invest in others by seeking to sharpen them, you discover how they have done the same for you. Sharpened knives increase their usefulness, and sharpened Christians do as well.
Who has sharpened you?
Easter season is upon us, and I have written these devotionals for us to use during this time. Each day’s devotional contains a Scripture passage and a main thought, as we look at Jesus and the dramatic events of Passion Week. Each day recounts what most likely happened that very day of the week in Jerusalem. In those events, we see different aspects of the pain Christ suffered prior to His crucifixion. May this be a time of reflection for each of us, as we try to grasp what was happening in Jerusalem and in the greater unfolding of God’s eternal plan. I truly pray that each one of us will come to a deeper understanding of what happened that week, and what it means to us individually. May the Lord Jesus bless you and may His presence be so very real to each of us, as we seek Him during this season. As you begin, maybe you would like to pray the prayer I have been praying, from Henri Nouwen in Show Me the Way: Readings for each Day of Lent.
God, You have told us
To listen to Your Beloved Son
Nourish us with Your word and cleanse the eyes of our spirit
So that we may know Your glory.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
April 2, 2001 (revised March 16, 2008, 2018)
What a beginning to the Passover season in Jerusalem! The week began with the entry of Jesus into the city on the back of a donkey, amid the cries of hosanna and praises to God. But there was also great tension and fear in this particular year….tension between the Pharisees and the followers of Jesus, as well as political tensions between the Jews and the hated Romans. And in the mix was also the religious fervor of the Jews, celebrating their most holy season, the Passover feast. You can imagine the narrow streets overflowing with visiting Jews, planning their excursions to the Temple Mount, children squealing, merchants loudly bartering their wares - all amid noise, confusion, anticipation and a degree of fear.
It is in that atmosphere that Jesus begins His last week on this earth, entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He was crucified on Friday (according to tradition) and resurrected on Sunday. Philip Yancey says of that time, “The might of the world, the most sophisticated religious system of its time allied with the most powerful political empire, arrays itself against a solitary figure, the only perfect man who has ever lived.”
Sunday: The Triumphal Entry
The Pain of Rejection
In these passages we read the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Note vs. 5 of Matt. 21, as he quotes the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah – their prophesy of the coming Messiah into Jerusalem. Here Jesus is greeted by cries of “hosanna”, which in Hebrew means “save now”. Jesus’ entry into the city in this way showed His true messiahship – a suffering Messiah, not in a political or military role, for which the Jews were desperately hoping. The clothes and branches spread on the road indicate the reception Jesus received, an honor reserved for kings and royalty, similar to “rolling out the red carpet” today.
Of course Jesus knew what this week would hold – suffering and eventually death. He had alluded to it frequently in the months and weeks leading up to this time. He spoke of it with His disciples and followers, but few (if any) seemed to truly understand what He was saying. The Bible tells us that Jesus is “touched by the feelings of our infirmities” (Heb). Just as we often feel a foreboding or dread of some event, so Jesus must have felt. And yet He did not adjust God’s plan to His human desires or emotions. He had been born for this very thing, becoming the sacrificial Lamb of God.
The end of the Luke passage records Jesus’ words as He approached the holy city of Jerusalem…the gleaming Temple Mount, the crowds of people flowing toward the gates, and the place of His death. As He took in the view of the city, he wept for His people, who were so spiritually blind and unbelieving. Once again we see the compassion of Christ on frail humanity! Surely we see the heart of God, reaching out in love to those who had so cruelly rejected Him. Jesus was willing to experience indescribable pain and suffering, and His mercy extended to those who were unbelieving and antagonistic.
Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and rejected by men...” John 1:11, “He came unto His own and His own did not receive Him.”
Prayer for Today: Lord, I receive You. I welcome all that You are into my life. I so want Your presence in my life and anew yield my heart to you, the King of Kings. I pray that today I might grasp a better understanding of what You did for me on the cross. I ask that You help me identify any rejection of Your word or Your ways that are in my heart. Thank You for Your mercies that are new every morning and poured out so graciously on Your children.
Monday: Cleansing of the Temple
The Pain of Injustice (Exploitation of the Innocent)
This is one of the most dramatic events in Jesus’ short ministry. The Temple was the center of the Jews’ religious tradition, history and worship, known for its beauty across the ancient world. When Jews came to Jerusalem to observe the Passover celebration, they would purchase an animal for the sacrifice. The poorer the family, the simpler the sacrifice would be, such as a small bird (see Luke 2:24, Mary and Joseph in the Temple with baby Jesus). The religious establishment sold these doves at exorbitant prices, shrewdly cheating the poor who were forced to buy from them. They had devised a system of deceitful money exchanging, since it was unlawful to purchase the sacrifice with Roman coins. Of course, their “system” was of great monetary benefit to them, but an enormous expense for the common people. This, then, was the sin that so angered Jesus. In verse 13, “You have made (My house) a den of thieves!”
Their sin was not in the selling of sacrificial animals, it was the fraud willingly perpetuated on God’s people by their own religious leaders. Jesus once again revealed the heart of God, Who hates deceit, corruption and greed. This incident should remind us of a sober truth: many evils have been done in the name of Christianity….the medieval Crusades, the Inquisition, religious pogroms, etc. These events may have been done by men claiming to do them in His name, but we can be sure that God had nothing to do with them. Always God’s people have been exhorted to protect the needy and oppressed, the alien and the unloved. Jesus did that consistently in His interaction with men and women, showing us His love of justice and His care for those who are wounded, ignored or exploited.
Prayer for Today: Lord Jesus, I pray that my heart would be Your temple, cleansed from its sin by Your presence. Purify my motives and my desires.
“Search me O God and know my heart. Try me and know my anxieties; see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way (Ps. 139:23-24)
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14)
Tuesday: Questioning His Authority
The Pain of Unbelief
In this text we see two events: the withered fig tree, and the authority of Jesus being questioned by the chief priests and scribes. In the first, Peter points out the dead fig tree that Jesus had cursed the previous day (vss. 12-14). This appears to be a strange story, until the reader grasps the truth that Jesus was communicating to His disciples. As the disciples and Jesus are passing by the withered tree the next day, Peter points it out to Jesus, who responds with a short explanation of faith. Most scholars believe that Jesus was using the fig tree as a metaphor of the nation of Israel. It looked good from a distance, or on the outside. Yet, upon closer inspection, it was fruitless and devoid of its purpose for existing. The rejection of the Messiah and the coming destruction of Jerusalem were obviously weighing heavily on Jesus’ heart (vss 22-24). The illustration of a large mountain being cast into the sea demonstrated His point: that simple, genuine faith in God can accomplish the impossible. Interesting that included in this short teaching on faith, Jesus includes a reminder in verse 25 – that we must forgive others if we want God to forgive us. Clearly this is a condition for the prayer of faith.
At this time, the religious leaders were already plotting Jesus’ death (Mark 11:18). The questioned Him in this passage regarding the nature and source of His authority (referring to His teaching and cleansing of the Temple). Mark notes several disputes brewing between Jesus and the Pharisees in His account, this being one of them. Jesus refuses to answer their question and instead brings up the controversial John the Baptist, thus exposing the true motive of their question. Their only desire was to entrap Jesus, thereby finding a way to condemn Him by Jewish law.
In both of these passages Jesus confronts unbelief. Of course He always knew men were not naturally bent toward believing God, and He taught on the topic frequently. Surely this pain was sharper on this day than at any other time of His earthly ministry…God had come to His people and they not only did not believe, but they vilified Him!
Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 11th century believed that simple faith was the foundation for any spiritual growth and understanding. He said, “I do not seek to understand that I may believe; but I believe that I may understand. For this also I believe, that unless I believe, I will not understand.”
Prayer for Today: Lord, I echo the prayer of the desperate father in Mark 9:24; “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” What a starkly honest prayer, and it reminds me that I have such little true faith. I pray that You, by the power of Your Spirit, would increase my faith, and fill me with a simple trust in You and Your goodness. Help me not look so much for answers to my questions, but to simply believe in You – that You are the only begotten Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, the one and only Jesus Christ.
Wednesday: Privately Worshipped, Publicly Denied
The Pain of Secret Discipleship
In this passage John tells us that despite Jesus’ many miracles, people did not believe His message. Here is a hard truth: we often think that if unbelievers could just experience a true miracle, then they would believe. However, Scripture tells us otherwise…even though there were men that saw Lazarus raised from the dead, they still did not believe, but rather began to plot His death more earnestly! This unbelief fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53. The note in the Nelson Study Bible says, “The consequence of repeated rejection is loss of the capacity to believe. Isaiah taught that some could not believe because God hardened their hearts after they repeatedly rejected the truth.”
On the other hand, in this passage, we see those who DID believe, but would not openly confess their faith. “Rulers” in this passage refers to the members of the council, the Jewish religious leaders. There were some that believed in Him, but only secretly. The reason for their secrecy is revealed in verse 43 – “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”’ Their position in the religious community, and the acceptance of their peers was far more important to them. We may be quick to condemn them, but which of us have not done the same? Philip Yancey, a respected and highly successful Christian writer, in Reaching for the Invisible God explores this same thought when he says, “’I am not ashamed of the gospel’, Paul told the Romans. Why do I speak in generalities when strangers ask me what I do for a living and then try to pin down what kind of books I write? Why do I mention the secular schools I attended before the Christian ones?” (One of the reasons I read everything he writes, is that I am gripped by his honesty and willingness to explore issues that we Christians find difficult to admit, much less discuss.) Many times, I must painfully admit, I have loved the praise of others, rather than the praise of God.
In John 19:38-40, we read that Joseph of Arimethea (a secret disciple of Christ) and Nicodemus (who came to see Jesus at night) were the men who took Jesus’ body from the cross and quickly buried Him according to Jewish law and custom. I am so grateful that John included this bit of information in his gospel. Despite the public denial of their faith in Jesus, they were the ones who were willing to go to Pilate for permission to care for His body (where were the disciples?) They were the last ones to see His wounds. The challenge in our reading today is this: Am I a secret disciple? Too fearful to confess Christ because of what others think? The reader can’t help but wonder how Joseph and Nicodemus felt on Sunday!
Prayer for Today: Lord, please forgive me for being a secret disciple at times. It is my wretched pride that wants to glory in myself rather than in You. Help me to never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation. May I be so filled with love for You, that I only care what You think of me.
Thursday: Passover, Gethsemane and Betrayal
The Pain of Betrayal
Matt. 26:17-25, 46-56
Thursday was a very eventful day. The disciples were busy preparing the Passover meal, purchasing the food and other supplies, as well as securing a room where they would share their last meal together. They were participating in the Passover celebration, commemorating the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, by way of the final plague, the killing of the first born. At that supper, several things happened that are significant. Jesus gave them His parting words, washed their feet, and instituted the Lord’s Supper, the new covenant of His blood. As the reader begins to follow these events of Jesus and His disciples, we can feel a sense of foreboding. In the parallel passage in John 13, Jesus tells the disciples that He is “troubled in spirit”.
From there, they sang a hymn and left, walking to the Garden of Gethsemane where they often went to pray. There we see Jesus praying in true agony, asking His disciples to pray with Him, as He was assaulted by every demon in hell! Oh, how they wanted Him to refuse that “cup”. That cup held every sin mankind has ever committed – it was filthy, unrighteous, everything Jesus was not. To drink that cup was revolting to Him. And, it would cause His Father to turn away from Him, which is beyond our comprehension.
It was there that Jesus met His betrayer, Judas, who approached Him with a mob armed with swords and clubs. Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss, calling him “Rabbi”, a term of affection. Amazingly, Jesus called him “friend”. Judas, one of the twelve disciples, was the one that objected to Mary of Bethany’s extravagant worship in John 12, when she poured perfumed oil on Jesus’ feet. John records Judas’ snippy words, “Shouldn’t that money have been given to the poor?” (John 12:6). John also parenthetically mentions that Judas, who was the treasurer, often pilfered money out of the money box. Nevertheless, at the Passover meal, it doesn’t appear to be obvious to the disciples that Judas would be the one to betray Jesus. He must have seemed no different than the rest of them. And what was Judas’ motivation? Thirty pieces of silver had more value to him than the life of Jesus, which is consistent with John’s comments about Judas. Jesus experienced betrayal with Judas that night, as well as later by His beloved disciple, Simon Peter. Peter, when confronted by a housemaid, vehemently denied that he even knew Jesus.
Here is our focus today: have you ever experienced the sting of betrayal? Then you have a tiny idea of this pain. Scholars believe that Psalm 55:12-14 is a prophetic expression of the future thoughts of Jesus, “For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together and walked to the house of God in the throng.” To be attacked by an enemy is expected…the betrayed by a close friend is infinitely worse. Here Christ was delivered, literally “handed over” into the hands of His enemies, by one of His own.
Prayer for Today: Lord Jesus, I must admit that I have no right to condemn Judas or Peter, I’m no better than they. I have not betrayed you for thirty pieces of silver, but I am so quick to turn from my loyalty to You. The words of this hymn are my prayer today,
“Oh, to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter; bind my wandering heart to Thee,
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love,
Here’s my heart
Oh take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above!”
“With Shame Weighed Down”
As we read the account of the crucifixion of Jesus, we can only imagine the agony of Jesus, His mother and His followers. Surely every dream they ever had was dying a slow death, and the sorrow and grief recorded in this passage is just unbearable. There are so many things to note in this text, but we will concentrate on just one: the shame of Calvary.
What a dreadful emotion shame is. Jesus was physically stripped naked, and nailed to the cross, place of death for common criminals. He endured the physical shame, emotional shame, and most of all spiritual shame, as His Father turned His face from the vile sinfulness Jesus bore on the cross. Jesus, the beloved and only begotten Son of God, who enjoyed such love and intimacy with His righteous Father, had to suffer the guilt of the sin of the entire world. Have you ever thought about that phrase, “the sin of the whole world”? No wonder Jesus was repulsed at the “cup” in the Garden as He prayed. That cup was for all men’s sin….for murderers, child molesters, all perverse immoralities, cruel oppression of the poor and needy – it contained all of the wicked sins of mankind.
What utter humiliation, shame and disgrace, for Jesus, the perfect Son of God, to hang on a cross, suspended between heaven and earth. As He was dying, people passed by insulting and scorning Him, believing that He was getting what He truly deserved (see Psalm 44:15). Hebrews 12:2 says that “Jesus…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the SHAME, has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Isaiah 50:6 speaks the prophetic words, “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out My beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.”
Bernard of Clairvaux, a monk in 12th century France penned the words that are set to music in the hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”. This verse so poetically expressed his musings on Jesus’ death:
“O sacred head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down
Now scornfully surrounded, with thorns, Thy only crown;
How art Thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!
(So often in Baptist or evangelical churches, we hesitate to stop here in the crucifixion story. It seems so “Catholic” to concentrate on Christ’s death, rather than hurry on to the Resurrection. I challenge you to ‘stay here’ today. His death deserves serious reflection on our part since it was for us that He died. It would do all of us good to soberly ponder this today.)
Prayer for Today: Lord Jesus, to say “thank You” for the cross is so pitifully inadequate. We truly have no way to express our gratefulness for Your sacrifice. I am trying to understand what You did for me, I see Your sorrow and shame, knowing that You willingly took my place. Your life was not taken, but freely given. What else is there to say but thank You for your unfathomable love and mercy.
The Pain of Disappointment
Matt. 27: 57-66
Saturday. The disciples and followers of Jesus must have been beyond exhaustion and numbed with sorrow and disappointment. What did it all mean? It was the Jewish Sabbath, the day of rest from labor. It was over, they thought. When we experience tragedy, we often relive it repeatedly in our minds, turning it over and over, searching for meaning. They must have been haunted by the memory of Jesus on the cross – the Passover, betrayal in the Garden, the denials, and finally Jesus’ gruesome death. Pilate had posted guards, should anyone come and try to steal His body. The two Marys had stayed with Jesus’ body, watching as Joseph and Nicodemus buried Him. I love those 2 Marys, I love that about them. Despite their pain and disillusionment, they were devoted followers of their Lord. I want to talk to them someday about all of this.
The thoughts and feelings of Jesus’ many disciples were succinctly spoken by two people on the Emmaus road (Luke 24) to their unrecognized Visitor; “We had so hoped that He was the one…” Their tone must have been wistful, pained with disappointment and sorrow. The death of a dream is not an easy one to endure.
Reflect on these words today, which so profoundly express the greatest truth: what can we do except willingly give our life to Him?
“Alas, and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred Head for a sinner such as I?
Was it for sins that I have done, He suffered on the tree? Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
But drops of grief can never repay the debt of love I owe…
Here, Lord…I give myself away,
It’s all that I can do.”
Sunday: Resurrection Day
He is Risen, Indeed!
I Cor. 15:13-27, 55
These are the numbers of the divisions of the armed troops who came to David in Hebron to turn the kingdom of Saul over to him, according to the word of the Lord....Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” 1 Chronicles 12:23, 32 (ESV)
Truly we live in a day where believers should seek to be like the sons of Issachar - to understand the times and act accordingly. In this passage, the tribes of Israel are coming to David, to establish him as the rightful king of Israel. Saul's reign was over and now the time had come for David, God's anointed, to ascend to the throne. The tribes were meeting together to begin the protocols and process of ending one reign and beginning the new one under King David. Each tribe brought their own strengths to the nation, but only Issachar is described as “understanding the times and knowing what to do.” They were men of discernment.
What is discernment exactly? The Hebrew word biynah, used in this passage, is translated as “understanding, knowledge, meaning, or wisdom”. In Greek, aisthesis and diakrisis are translated as discernment and its various synonyms. It is linked with and carries the nuances of wisdom, good judgment, understanding and distinguishing good from evil. And, it is vital for strong and effective leadership.
Discernment should be sought and cultivated by believers who seek to apply God's truth to a circumstance as well as having a clear understanding of biblical principles. For example, God was pleased with Solomon's prayer in 1 Kings 3, as he prayed for “an understanding mind to govern Your people, that I may discern between good and evil...” (Sometimes the difference between good and evil is not as obvious as we might expect.) In the story of the two mothers and the baby (1 Kings 3:16-28,) Solomon wisely perceived the legitimate mother and gave the child to her, demonstrating how true discernment should lead to true justice. In the New Testament, Paul prayed for all believers to be characterized by discernment in Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV), “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness...”. And the author of Hebrews agrees, in 5:14, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
But Charles Spurgeon took it a step further, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” God's people should be characterized by this kind of wisdom. Listening to wise counselors, searching the scriptures, praying for the Spirit to guide us, and genuinely seeking truth (rather than our own agenda) are a few of the processes that develop discernment. Understanding these times require wise judgments. We have never walked this way before. Making sense of a global pandemic through a well- researched and faithful biblical worldview will enable us to know how to react to these days, as it did the Men of Issachar. Understanding the times will lead us to an appropriate course of action. One of the most crucial responsibilities we have as believers is to wisely answer the multitude of questions our world is asking right now. Peter tell us to “...always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;” (1 Peter 3:15.) How can we best answer the questions regarding God and faith that are such a large part of our national conversation right now? By seeking godly discernment and answering these questions accordingly.
Lord, grant us sound judgment and wisdom, that we might discern our times and point our hurting, frightened world to You.
1 Cor. 5:9: “We make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
Everyone loved Terri. An attractive young woman who was active in her church and eager to serve, Terri was unusually generous with her time and energy. She always managed to give extensive help to friends and acquaintances who asked for it, despite the stresses of her own job and family life. Anyone who needed an extra set of hands could depend on Terri to help, from church people to work colleagues to family members – everyone knew that she would never refuse their appeal. Terri was like an ATM machine– key in your request, and out would come the help you needed. She prided herself on being a faithful friend, one who would never say “no”, and was always available when needed. Not surprisingly, Terri eventually found herself in a crisis, physically and emotionally exhausted. While in counseling (at the advice of her pastor), Terri learned something about herself: on the surface she appeared to be a “super –saint”, always sacrificing for others. However, Terri soon discovered that her motivation for doing so was truthfully not that honorable – she was desperately seeking approval from others, not necessarily from God. Suffering from feelings of unworthiness and insecurity, Terri was craving respect and admiration from others. The complimentary words filled her “emotional tank” temporarily, but it never lasted. While she always received appreciation for her good deeds, she reluctantly admitted to her counselor that it was “never enough”. One complaint or slight criticism would throw her into the depths of despair, and begin the pleasing cycle all over again.
Terri, unfortunately, has a lot of company in the Christian community. Whether many of us wish to admit it or not, our feelings of worth are often based on an emotional state. We feel significant and loved as long as people like us and agree with us or support what we are doing. However, if criticism or rejection comes our way, we often follow in Terri’s footsteps, believing that our perceived failures by others simply prove our inherent unworthiness. Perhaps women are more prone to this tendency than men, due to their relational nature. While most men might shrug off a friend’s disapproval, it is likely that a woman will analyze it, brood over it or confront it, in order to resolve the conflict.
It is essential that believers in Christ understand the concept of approval. We all need and want the love, support and respect of our church, friends and community. However, it is the mature Christian who will honestly examine her own heart and determine whose approval she is actually seeking in this life – God’s or man’s. This is not an easy challenge and usually requires another party, such as a wise counselor, to provide Biblical guidance, balance, and wisdom.
When God fashioned man, He designed him with a powerful need for relationships, such as marriage and family. In God’s creation, this community was good. It is natural and healthy to want to belong to a group, living together and working in harmony. However, this desire can become harmful when one becomes unusually afraid of disappointing people and is unable to balance or handle others’ dissatisfaction. It is likely that those that struggle with this are afraid that not pleasing others will result in their no longer being a part of that particular group.
In 2 Cor. 5:9, the apostle Paul expressed a very important principle in regard to this topic: “We make it our aim, whether present or absent to be well pleasing to Him.”
The context of this Scripture is Paul’s explanation of the judgment seat of Christ. Someday we will each appear before Him and give an account of our lives. Therefore, we must always remember that our highest calling is to please God, not others. With this concept firmly in mind, it is helpful to observe a few other points from Scripture that reinforce this principle.
First, we must acknowledge that people are fickle – one minute they can be roaring approval and the next shouting condemnation. The most obvious example is Jesus, entering the city of Jerusalem, on the week of the Passover. He was greeted with cries of “Hosanna” and the waving of palm branches, which indicated His royalty. However it was only a few days later that the same crowd was swayed by those who were conspiring to put Him to death. In Pilate’s courtyard, those that had shouted “Hosanna” now shouted “Crucify him!” In light of human nature, it is clear that man’s approval can be very tenuous as well as temporary. Parenthetically, this example also indicates that seeking approval from others can lead to some very poor decisions, as Pilate eventually realized. It is dangerous to base one’s actions on the whims of public opinion – due to man’s capricious nature, those opinions can change drastically in a moment.
Another point Scripture makes in regard to man’s approval versus God’s approval is found in John 12: 42-43: “Even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” This is a sobering explanation, given by the apostle John. Many of the religious leaders were devout servants of God, truly loving Him according to the commandments. However, their reluctance to identify with Jesus was due to their greater desire to please man rather than God. Proverbs 29:25 states this truth succinctly, “The fear of man brings a snare...”
This truth should be explored a step further. Due to our sinful nature, we are all vulnerable to this temptation. It is easy for us at this point in time to criticize the Pharisees or those who rejected Christ, but Scripture also points out that even the most mature believers can fall into this “snare”. In Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, he addressed a very serious division that had developed in the early church. “Judaizers” had arisen, advocating a doctrine which said that one had to keep the Jewish law (circumcision, observing the Mosaic Law, etc) in order to become a Christian. They had accused Paul of watering down the gospel, making it too simple. He, then, accused them of compromising the purity of the gospel message by erroneously emphasizing the law. He begins his argument in Galatians 1:10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Here Paul clearly indicates the choice one has to make in order to fully follow Jesus – to please Him or to please men. This is further illustrated in Gal. 2: 11-16, in the account of the serious confrontation at Antioch between Peter and Paul, the two great leaders of the early church. Paul publicly rebuked Peter, blaming him for succumbing to “peer pressure” or desiring the approval of men rather than standing for the truth of the gospel. Peter had shared meals with the gentile Christians, clearly approving of their authentic conversion, due to his vision and experience at the home of Cornelius. However, when men from James (or Jerusalem, meaning the Judaizers) arrived at the same meeting, Peter separated himself from the gentile Christians, “fearing those who were of the circumcision”. If that wasn’t bad enough, Peter’s influence on the other believers was so strong that even Barnabas and the others “played the hypocrite” (vs. 13). Paul challenged Peter with a stinging criticism for his duplicity, following it up with a magnificent summary of justification by faith (vs. 14-21).
This incident illustrates that no believer, no matter how mature or how strong in the faith, is beyond this temptation – all are vulnerable, and all are probably guilty at some point. So we see that our friend Terri fell into the same trap that many believers have struggled with through the years. She, too, sought the approval of man and was inevitably disappointed. While Terri genuinely wanted to please God, she discovered that what she really craved was approval that fed her own ego and soothed her feelings of insecurity, at least temporarily. What do we do about this conflict? There are three thoughts in conclusion that will help us think Biblically about this topic, using Paul’s challenge in 2 Cor. 5:9.
First, we must be sure that we are aiming for the right target. What does this mean for the Christian? What is our target? It is the goal of ordering our lives according Biblical standards, our lives being characterized by God’s Word. This is surely easier said than done. We live in a day of such complex lifestyle choices and multiple distractions. Nevertheless, the target we aim for is a life focus - our goals, our decisions, all of these must be in the context of obedience to Scriptural principles and admonitions. In an honest evaluation, we must look what our actual lives reveal, not just what we profess to believe. In other words, where do we spend our money? Our time? Our energy? These are the true measurements of what we claim to believe and value. Paul expressed this principle in Phil. 3:14, where he said, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” To fulfill the call of God on his life was his goal – his decisions, his preaching, everything he did validated that call.
We also should understand that this aim to please God encompasses all aspects of our life. It is not only found in tithing, church attendance, charitable giving and all the other “spiritual” things in which we participate. Rather, all of our life is to characterize our desire to honor God and please Him. 1 Cor. 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” There is no division between the sacred and the secular to the true follower of Christ. All aspects of our life are to reflect our obedience to God’s Word. A believer who truly grasps this finds much greater joy in God receiving glory than herself.
Finally, we must all understand that we can not do this in ourselves. Let the weary soul rejoice! We can only accomplish this lofty goal through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Col. 1:10, Paul prays for his fellow believers at the church in Colosse, that the Spirit would enable them to be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding: that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God…” According to this Scripture, one is able to fully please God, when filled with the knowledge of His will due to wisdom and spiritual understanding.
This, then, is the “bulls-eye” of the target, the object of our aim – to fully please God in every good work, bringing honor and glory to Him, not to ourselves.
Susie Hawkins has served in various aspects of women’s ministry for over thirty years. She is a ministry wife, as well as a Bible study teacher. She holds a MA in theology from The Criswell College, Dallas, Texas.
In preparing for Christmas, like most of you, I have read and re-read the story of Elizabeth and Mary the last few weeks. I am pondering the mystery and beauty of this part of the Christmas story.
Once again, I am struck by how the whole narrative centers on a mother and her baby. The King of the Universe, Creator, Redeemer, Miracle Working, Healing God came into a WOMB. I loved having a newborn in our family at Christmas. Two of our granddaughters were born in Dec and I remember holding them and staring at those little faces, wondering what Mary must have been feeling - is there anything more vulnerable than a newborn?
We do an impromptu Christmas drama on Christmas eve with our grandkids for the parents. One year when Julia and Halle were around 4 and 5, they both wanted to be Mary. Make no mistake about it: Baby Jesus may be the star from Christmas Day on, but its all about Mary on Christmas Eve. I should have foreseen this dilemma, and so the only solution to avoiding a total meltdown before the presentation was for Joseph to have 2 Mary's that year. Yes, friends, we had a polygamous Christmas story. And actually we had it for a couple or years until I was able to come up with a fancy angel ensemble that much prettier than Mary's drab robe and scarf. We are under grace and I was counting on that!
Simeon prophesied to Mary that "a sword would pierce her soul" and how true that proved to be. From her perspective all of Jesus' earthly life was a progression of separation from her - from his remaining in Jerusalem at age 12, being "about My Father's business", to declaring that His true family were those who believed in Him, even to relinquishing the care of His mother to John while He was on the cross. The scripture says that Mary "pondered these things in her heart". Thinking, remembering, trying to make sense of all of it, and wondering about His future - like all mothers.
In Gen 3, after the fall, God spoke of Eve's (and all other mothers') pain in childbirth. The longer I live, the more I see this prophesy demonstrated not just in childbirth but all through a child's life. Mothers agonize over a baby's sickness, a preschoolers tantrums, a school age child's struggles, a teen's sullenness, a young adult's relationships, a married child's choices and then she moves into grandmother-hood! And the cycle begins again, except it's both generations to rejoice or worry over. "A mother is only as happy as her least happy child" - I'm pretty sure that saying should be in the Bible, it must have been accidentally deleted.
Motherhood is at the crux of Christmas - a barren old woman, Elizabeth, giving birth to a son, who will prepare the way for the Lord. Mary, birthing the Son of God, who through His sacrifice would purchase salvation for men and women of every tribe and tongue. These 2 women stand at the crossroads of the Biblical story of redemption, bridging the Old and New Testaments. Motherhood. Childbirth. Family. Just so amazing.
It’s that time of the year when parents whose kids are college-bound are busy preparing them for dorm or apartment life. It's a never-ending list of needs - purchase bedding, clothing, new electronics, update computers, phones, and a hundred other items that are necessary.
The shopping will eventually be completed and all the arrangements made, but most parents are also fervently praying that their children have been prepared spiritually for what lies ahead. College years can bring spiritual challenges. Can she withstand the inevitable temptations? Will she be faithful to church and/or a campus ministry? Will there be a strong Christian community to encourage her spiritually? These are all valid questions and deserve thoughtful answers. And I add - these promises are not just for students who are headed to college but certainly also for those whose immediate plans don’t include leaving home. These issues generally surface at young adult age, no matter where they are.
The Bible is full of promises for believers. Here are four that are especially relevant to young adults, as they move into the university culture.
- God will be faithful to deliver from temptations:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Everyone is subject to temptation, it is the common human experience. Even Jesus had to overcome it, alone in the wilderness. Like us, He was tempted to fill a legitimate human need in an illegitimate way. How can we pray for this generation and encourage them as they face these tests? In light of this promise, there are two things to note. First, God is faithful. His nature is faithfulness and we see His faithfulness demonstrated repeatedly throughout scripture. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). Because of that faithfulness, he will provide a “way of escape”, due to the threat of being “overtaken” by temptation. The word picture here is of a battle with an army surrounded by enemies. Suddenly the army sees an escape route through a mountain pass. The way of escape is provided, but the army (or person) being tempted, must take it. God is ready to help us, but we must be looking for His provision. There is another nuance to the “escape clause” in this verse. The “way of escape” may be the ability to “endure” and not give in to it. In this case, the way of escape happens due to the Spirit-empowered endurance of the believer, as in 2 Tim. 2:17, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me...”. Peter adds “”... the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations...” (2 Peter 2:9). We pray that God would make the way of escape clear and give our children the strength to choose it. God will be faithful to deliver from temptation.
- God will be faithful to those who struggle with their faith.
Do questions always indicate a loss of faith? Not necessarily. If a Christian has never been confused or asked serious questions, then I wonder how much he has even thought seriously about it. Seeking answers to spiritual questions is a crucial factor in spiritual growth, and often surfaces during the college years, as we all know. Those of us raised in the church were usually admonished, “Don’t doubt, just believe.” But for many, there comes a time when simple answers don’t satisfy and they walk through what Daniel Silliman calls “The Valley of the Shadow of Doubt”. In his article in Christian Higher Education, Silliman says it is very common for students to go through a period of spiritual instability during the college years. These questions may be existential in nature, or just exploring how to live out one’s faith. The key to working through it is found in having mentors, small groups, resources and campus ministries that can come alongside the student to thoughtfully answer his questions with respect, a sound knowledge of scripture and sensitivity. Students must eventually own their own faith by knowing what they believe and why they believe it. Periods of doubt where one is honestly seeking answers to valid questions can lead to a much more robust faith - although the process distresses parents to no end. J.A. Block, in his helpful blog, says “We shouldn’t view their questions and doubt as a crisis, but merely as the new normal in an epistemologically unsteady age” (www.thegospelcoalition.org “My Christian High School Students Have Doubts. Here’s How I Respond”.)
In Jude’s succinct epistle, he urges followers of Christ to “contend earnestly for the faith” (3) and to “have mercy on those who doubt” (22). As we pray for our skeptics, we can pray with confidence that God will walk with them through their season of doubt. And remember, “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness!” (Lam. 3:21-23). God is big enough for their questions. He is faithful.
- God will be faithful in times of uncertainty. If we have ever lived in a time of unpredictability, it is now. Pandemic, racial tension, political divisions, financial crises - it is impossible to predict how things are going to play out in the near future. In this confusing season, young adults are especially vulnerable when it comes to making wrong choices. They face making the most influential decisions in their life, such as choosing a college, a vocation, or finding a marriage partner, and all in the context of unparalleled uncertainly regarding the future.
I recently read an article that speaks to this very issue. Author Daniel Henderson, who was in a season of searching, traveled to Calcutta to work at Mother Teresa’s “House of the Dying”. One day he met Mother Teresa, who asked him what she could do for him. He replied that he was looking for direction in his life and asked her to “pray that I have clarity”. She laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
The truth is, we all want details of how our choices will affect us. We want to see ahead and have assurances that we made the right call. But Scripture is full of people who followed the call of God, without knowing what was going to happen. For example, in Hebrews 11 we are presented with examples of those who trusted God, who had no idea of what their future would be. Abraham “went out, not knowing where he was going”. Moses, Sarah, and many other Old Testament saints listed in this passage had no “clarity”, except for the promise of God. In the New Testament, Jesus says to His disciples, “Follow Me.” Each one’s path would be unique and would take them to places they could never have even imagined. Daniel Henderson says, “Faith flourishes when we are trusting God at the deepest level with a willingness to let go of our insistence for clarity.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct Your path” (Psalm God will be faithful in times of uncertainty.
- God will be faithful to fulfill your child’s destiny. Psalm 20:4, a prayer from the Psalmist, puts it so succinctly, “May God grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans”.
Young adulthood often brings the questions of “Who am I? Why am I here? What should I do with my life?” In seeking God’s will, this verse gives sure guidance. The key here is that our desires would be what God’s desires for us, meaning that we would desire His will above our own.
This angst is perfectly expressed in Michael W. Smith’s song, “My Place in This World”:
The wind is moving
But I am standing still
A life of pages
Waiting to be filled
A heart that's hopeful
A head that's full of dreams
But this becoming
Is harder than it seems
Feels like I'm
Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world
In a world that demands immediate gratification and success, finding one’s place can be overwhelming. There will be faltering steps and maybe an unwise decision here and there, but overall, God will give your child the guidance he or she needs. As a parent, our part is to wait, pray, and be ready with words of encouragement and wisdom.
Parents, you have prepared your children for their college experience, and you will continue to pray them through their young adult years. God is faithful!