The Apostle Paul was writing to the Church of Philippi from a Roman prison…a deep, dark, dank place filled with hopelessness and misery, yet he was exhorting his fellow Believers to live a life worthy of the Gospel…worthy of the calling they had received. Jude 3 calls it contending for the faith. Of taking the truth of the Gospel Message we’ve received and studying it, learning from it, believing in it, and finally, defending it. When we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel we are fulfilling our duty to stand firm against those who may attempt to alter/ or change the grace of God into some man-made Religion. For the next verse goes on to say, “Stand firm in one Spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Philippians 1:28)
If you’re shaking your head at this idea, hear me out. Maybe you accepted the gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins in the past, but guilt and shame keep bringing them back up in your face. That’s not God reminding you of your past shortcomings, that’s Satan. For Psalm 103:12 tells us that, “As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” God has thrown your sins into the Lake of Forgiveness and placed a ” No Fishing” sign on the bank. The past is the past and none of us can change a moment of what has happened…let it go, accept God’s forgiveness, and move forward. Or maybe your saying to yourself that your sins are just too bad to be forgiven…too horrific for God to pardon. The Lord doesn’t place sin in different categories, classes, or degrees of severity. All of us have sinned, there is no one righteous, not even one. (Psalm 14:3) And where sin increased, God’s grace increased all the more. (Romans 5:20) All you need to do today is accept the gift of forgiveness God is offering you.
If I asked you what you were afraid of today, what would you say? I’m not talking about things like spiders, snakes, or mice, but things that have your stomach tied up in a knot. For me it’s COVID 19 and everything related to it. It’s being fearful about my kids and grand-kids coming down with it, or my elderly Dad, or my health-compromised family-members succumbing to the virus. But II Timothy 1:7 tells me, “God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” Fear tells me that I can’t, while faith tells me it’s already been done. For Romans 8:15 says, “You didn’t receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of son-ship.” And this son-ship tells me that through Jesus Christ, God has adopted me and you as His son or daughter thus making us a heir to His promised salvation. Thus we have nothing to fear, for the fear of death is gone…and if you really think about it, fear of death is the origin of all other fears.
Within the Beatitudes we find this: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) And this is shown to be so true in Lamentations 3:22-23 when we read, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning.” We can show compassion to our fellow man because of God’s compassion continually being poured into us… anew and fresh every morning. So to be full of mercy is to exhibit the same grace and kindness that God daily extends to us.
Over the landscape of the Bible, God’s words echo over twenty times…”Be strong and courageous!” and “Take courage!” But like the Lost and Found Dept., our courage can become absent only to be obtained again. Psalm 107:26 says, “In their peril their courage melted away.” But in II Samuel 7:27 it tells us, “So Your servant has found courage.” Courage can momentarily wane in the face of tragedy and disaster, but it can readily be found again when we look to God, for it tells us in I Corinthians 16:13. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” And Hebrews 3:6 also reminds us, “Hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” You are strong and courageous…established and determined by the God who arms you with everything you need.
Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope.” Eight years ago today I started writing this Devotional. Eight years ago today I took a giant leap of faith and said yes to something God had been pressuring me to do for at least a year prior. What I thought may last maybe 6 months is now eight years old. What I figured could become fifty devotionals are now over 2,700. Has it been easy? Have I wondered many times if it’s worth it? The answer to both is yes. But the greatest lesson I’ve learned these eight years is waiting patiently for the Lord. Of learning to suffer well with hopeful expectation in faith and duty…which is entirely a learned quality of my mind…a gained understanding to bear up under things with a tranquil mind. And so I would encourage you today…waiting patiently for the Lord involves strength and courage…it develops your faith and perseverance as you wait on the Lord…for patience is a cultivated fruit of the Spirit.
Now before you start to dispute this idea, let me tell you a little story out of the Bible. Numbers 22:27-28 tells us about Balaam and his little donkey who came upon the angel of the Lord guarding the path they were traveling. Three times the donkey saw the angel with his sword and three times she veered off the path. Finally, she just laid down. And when Balaam became angry, the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth and she spoke. So I ask you, if God can use a donkey, why in the world couldn’t He use you? And before you start with excuses why you can’t…let me tell you about a few well-known prophets from the Old Testament. Jeremiah argued with God that he was too young to be used…it says that Ezekiel was so sad and angry that God had to put His hand in the middle of his back and push him into service…Amos was a humble country-boy with no education when God called him…and then there was the reluctant missionary to Nineveh, Jonah, who ran far away from God’s call at first…and we all know where that landed him! We can all be used of God. For we all have been given gifts, talents, and passions that are unique to us. Couple this with our unique character traits, personalities, and bents and God has very special plans for each one of us. The only thing we have to do is be obedient.
Jeremiah 17:7, ” Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in Him.” Where does our hope come from? It comes from the Lord. And this hopeful expectation is rooted firmly in God alone. And as Hebrews 6:19 shows us, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” But not only do we possess hope, but we are to pass it along, for Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” God wants you to know that you are filled with hope in order to fill others with His hope.
Nothing good happens after midnight, or so the saying goes. And Ephesians 5:11 warns us, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness.” Darkness and wickedness go hand and hand…and they like it that way. For evil is more comfortable in the dark…because it naively thinks no one can see. That’s why men love darkness instead of light…it shines forth brightly with truth and all their deception, lies, and falsehoods are laid bare for all to see. The penetrating beacon of God’s truth is absolute, transcendent, and divinely revealed to those who willingly come into the light.
The meaning of the Hebrew names for these four men all affirmed God’s sovereignty, mercy, and grace for His people. But the new names they were given by the Babylonian chief official sought to undermine and degrade this. For their new names were deliberately drawn from the Babylonian false religions, gods and idols, and erased any trace of God from them. Even today we have the challenge of believing what God calls us vs what the world calls us. The world will call us fat, dumb, ugly, stupid and old….while the Lord will call us loved, free, healed, whole, and His. The world is all about demeaning and humiliating…while God is all about lifting us up. So just remember this…no matter what the world calls you…the Lord named you first, and that name is all that matters.