Our great and benevolent Lord wants all men to be delivered and come to a saving knowledge of the Truth. He takes no delight when the wicked die in their sin. But neither does God happily bring affliction or grief to the children of men. (Lamentations 3:33) That’s because we’re pretty good at doing it to ourselves and then being forced to live with the consequences of our bad choices. His real delight comes in those who fear Him and put their hope in His unfailing love. (Psalm 147:11)…for His deepest desire is to pardon, forgive, and save us from ourselves and spiritual death.
John 1:12, ” Yet to all who received Him, to those who believe in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God.” You’ve been adopted into the Family of God if you have acknowledged Jesus as the Lord of your life, received Him as your personal Savior, and have determined within yourself to follow Him with all your heart, soul, and mind. But don’t expect the world to understand your confession of faith…for the world-order is a man-centered spirit relying on self-reliance and total independence from God. The world doesn’t understand Christians because they don’t know God…and what the world doesn’t understand, they usually react negatively to. But the world can learn about God…it’s called the Good News of the Gospel Message…and more Christians need to be professing their faith and proclaiming Jesus to those who have never heard.
Habakkuk was a prophet during the time that Babylon was invading and crushing all other nations. His Book is a dialogue between God and him where Habakkuk asks God why the tyrant, Babylon, is allowed to flourish…causing deliberate and brutal infringement upon others. Habakkuk’s questions for the Lord are both piercing and compassionate…”How can the wicked prosper at the expense of the righteous? How can You just sit there and act indifferently while Your people suffer? How can You even tolerate watching all this wrong doing?” Fast forward to today and we could be asking God the very same questions. That’s because around us everywhere seems to be misery, violence, and oppression and we may think like Habakkuk that God doesn’t care…but He does! For God is completely wise and sovereign…seeing all and hearing all…and at the appointed time He will act on behalf of His people.
The writer Mark Twain once said, ” The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening bug.” We only have to look elsewhere in Proverbs to find many verses that talk about the wise person giving the proper word at the proper time. Proverbs 25:11 tells us that, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver…or that well chosen words can be compared to beautiful and costly objects of fine craftsmanship. But words spoken out of season can have detrimental effects on relationships as Proverbs 12:18 warns, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Giving the appropriate word at just the right time takes wisdom and listening to the Holy Spirit for guidance. And if you’re unsure what to say, do what my Grandma used to tell me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
There’s a difference between resistance & resignation when it comes to the world view, and temptation is lurking around every corner as we attempt to remain faithful to God’s Word. The world is concerned only with the present transitory dimension of life…the here and now. It ignores or outright denies anything to do with eternity. And it gauges our existence only on material standards and achievements. The world is full of selfishness, greed, lust, and ambition… all laser focused on human achievement and self. So as Christians, we have two choices…do we resist, or do we resign ourselves to the world? But the good news is Jesus has already done it for us! “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And because of His work on the Cross, we are more than conquerors and can claim victory over the world that opposes God by resisting temptation and remaining faithful to Him.
The job of the good shepherd and the role of His sheep are quite different. Jesus is the good Shepherd, (John 10:11) and His task is to carry out and fulfill His plan and purpose in each one of our lives. He guides, directs…always leading from the front as He moves us along to a beautiful dwelling place of nourishment and rest. There, we find the living water of eternal life that quenches our spiritual thirst. And as we follow & obey the good shepherd, He shows us the abundance of His love for us…His profound and never ending care and goodness to each one of His sheep.
As a Believer, you’re in process. And this process is called holiness. But there’s much more to this process…for within it is God’s purpose for our life. That’s because God’s “good work” in us should motivate our ongoing effort to “work out” our salvation….of becoming more Christ-like every day. But what does this look like? Well, it’s trusting that what God says is more important than what man says. It’s agreeing that what God thinks is more important than what man thinks. It’s believing that what God desires is more important than what man wants. Finally, it’s being convinced that God’s Will is more important than our own.
One of the greatest characteristics of a Christian is the inward joy that doesn’t depend upon the circumstances we may find ourselves facing. Whereas happiness is the agreeable result of what happens to us, joy springs from a much deeper place inside of us…a place that may confound the world as they look at our circumstances and wonder how we can find any joy within it. This rejoicing in the midst of suffering may confuse the world, but to the Believer, it’s the bedrock of our faith. For it’s when we take our eyes off our circumstances and onto the Lord we can truly rejoice in His salvation & blessing… all the while acknowledging our dependance on Him as our ever present source of strength.
The Greek word in the New Testament for prayer is most interesting. It literally means “to be like a dog” before someone. Now this sounds strange when speaking of a Child of God approaching his Heavenly Father…but if we remember that most people of that time worked in Agriculture – tending and herding flocks and herds, it makes sense. Dogs did much of the work for their masters tending the flocks of sheep, and herds of cattle. These well trained dogs were always at their master’s side, waiting for commands…depending on their master for all their needs, submitting to his authority, and obeying his words. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, they weren’t saying, “Teach us to say our prayers.” Instead, they were asking Him to “Teach us all that’s involved in depending on God as our Master in the same way a faithful dog depends on the shepherd…willfully submitting to Him and trusting in His wisdom to give us only the best.
Jesus was referring to the Pharisees as the hypocrites in these verses. Instead of praying in the quiet confines of the Temple in order to commune with God the Father, they would go out into the loud hubbub of the public market place. There, they would raise their hands to heaven, showcasing their piety, and pray…not addressing God, but attempting to attract attention of the people passing by. Their words were self-seeking, empty phrases that sought to impress others with their self-importance as they conspicuously stood on the street corner. Jesus said that their prayers were empty and nothing more would come from them…for prayer is meant to be sweet close fellowship between a Believer and God, not some spectacle to impress others with words.