Reflections on the Mystery of “Unanswered” Prayer

Today I’m sharing from The NIV Bible blog.

Reflections on the Mystery of “Unanswered” Prayer

By Dr. Bill Mounce

If you’re like most people, you are somewhat mystified with the whole topic of answered and unanswered prayer. That describes me too. When my infant daughter died (her name is Rachel), the next time I taught Sunday school I started by listing all the verses that unequivocally promise that God answers prayer. Of course, all my friends in the class jumped to God’s defense and basically tried to explain that these verses didn’t really mean what they said. At least that was my take on their response, and I understood why.

I certainly understand the need to interpret Scripture in light of Scripture, but what so often happens is that we downplay the tremendous privilege the Lord has given his children to ask of him whatever we want. As a result our prayers tend to be anemic, which means we generally don’t have to face the issue of unanswered prayer. (I also understand that theologically there is no such thing as an unanswered prayer, but that’s a topic for another article.)

I am thinking of verses such as John 15:7: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” And I am thinking of qualifications like Matthew 26:39, which is Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane: “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

I have no answer for this dilemma, but I do have a few observations that have helped me.

How to Pray

1. Pray with boldness.

Jesus told us to ask. He wants us to ask. And he promises to hear us. That’s pretty amazing in and of itself. I know that when we experience what appears to be unanswered prayer time after time, we can give up. But re-read Matthew 7:7–11: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” These words have to mean something, and despite the Lucan parallel that says he gives the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), Matthew’s version is much more broad.

2. Pray expectantly.

What actually raised this topic for me was a sermon I just listened to by Alistair Begg through his ministry, Truth for Life. He said that we believe that God will answer because we know he can answer. That is a wonderful balance.

Read the rest here.

Is It Possible to Be Happy in Christ Despite Suffering?

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

Is It Possible to Be Happy in Christ Despite Suffering?

By Randy Alcorn

God never guarantees that the Christian life will be smooth or easy. In fact, he promises the opposite: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, NKJV). We’re not to be surprised when we face great difficulties (see 1 Peter 4:12).

All the psalms of lament, the book of Lamentations, and many other Scripture passages reveal the importance of realism and sorrow in the Christian life. No treatment of joy and happiness should deny or minimize such texts.

Indeed, a truly biblical worldview and an authentic doctrine of joy and happiness fully recognize and embrace the realities of suffering in this present age.

The happiness described in Scripture is all the richer because it doesn’t involve denial or pretense and can be experienced amid severe difficulty. Christ-followers don’t preach the flimsy kind of happiness that’s built on wishful thinking. Instead, our basis for happiness remains true—and sometimes becomes clearer—in suffering.

Rejoicing Is Rooted in Our God, Not Our Circumstances

Rejoicing always in the Lord (see Philippians 4:4) may seem unrealistic at times. But we must remember that this rejoicing is centered not in a passing circumstance but in a constant reality—God Himself, and His Son, Jesus, who died for us and rose again.

On the one hand, we might suppose that Scripture doesn’t command us to rejoice in our nation’s condition, our culture’s trajectory, our spouse’s attitude, our child’s struggle, our church’s conflicts, our job loss, or our poor health. On the other hand, we’re told to “always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV). Likewise, Scripture tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

I don’t think this means that we are to rejoice in evil, per se, since God hates evil (Zechariah 8:17Proverbs 6:16-19) and commands us to hate it (Psalm 97:10Proverbs 8:13Romans 12:9). I do think it means that we should believe Romans 8:28, which tells us God will work all things together for our good, including evil things that happen to us.

Believing this frees us to thank God in the middle of difficult and even evil circumstances, knowing that in His sovereign grace, He is accomplishing great, eternal purposes in us through these things.

We’re told to rejoice in the Lord and to “consider it all joy” when we face hardship (James 1:2, NASB). Choosing to rejoice, by rehearsing reasons to be happy and grateful while suffering, affirms trust in God. We walk by faith, believing in what God has done, is doing, and will do to bring a good end to all that troubles us.

This response requires faith that God lovingly superintends our challenges. Viewing our sufferings as random or obsessing over someone else’s bad choices that caused our sufferings robs us of happiness. A weak, small, or faulty view of God always poisons the well of our contentment.

The more we grow in our understanding of God’s attributes, the happier we become.

We Have a Sovereign and Loving God

The deeper our knowledge of God’s character, the deeper our reservoir of strength, perspective, and happiness in hard times. Who is this God we are to trust? What is He really like?

As we have dealt with her cancer over the past two years, Nanci and I have spent time meditating on the attributes of God, rereading and listening to audiobooks such as The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer and Knowing God by J. I. Packer and Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. Our hearts are lifted in praise as we contemplate His holiness, grace, justice, mercy, and every facet of His being revealed to us in Scripture.

Scripture teaches that we have a God who loves us and is sovereign over the universe, including all evil. We can’t be happy, and remain happy, without believing in the sovereignty of a loving God. The beauty of the Christian worldview is that while we’re encouraged to take initiative and control what’s within our power, we also know that the enormous part of life we can’t control is under God’s governance.

Scripture tells us, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). It assures us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). And since God is eternally wise and good and happy, and we’re not, we’re far better off with Him, not us, in control.

Read the rest here.

Five Reminders for the Stressed, Weary, Busy, and Burdened Soul

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

Five Reminders for the Stressed, Weary, Busy, and Burdened Soul

By

Do you ever feel like you just aren’t enough? Like there isn’t enough of you to go around and no matter how much effort you pour out, there is always something lacking? I do. Some days I wonder why I am feeling so overwhelmed and anxious, and then it hits me. It’s this nagging sense of guilt that I forgot to do something, I didn’t do something well enough, or I have so much on my plate that I’ll crack under the weight of it. Some days, it’s seeing all that’s before me with a body and circumstances that make it feel utterly impossible.

Many of us are living in the fast lane and even if we don’t want to, it seems there is no other option. There is this sense that if you aren’t completely maxed out, then you must be lazy, an underachiever, or not goal-oriented. But at some point, most of us will drop the ball and realize that we just can’t be enough to meet every demand, need, or expectation. And sometimes, although we may have been managing fine for a time, we suddenly find ourselves facing circumstances or illness that stop us in our tracks and throw everything into chaos.

Recently, I’ve found myself struggling to juggle all that’s on my plate, which has been intensified by multiple health and family issues. Sometimes the revolving door of meal planning, caring for my family, keeping up with ministry responsibilities, taking care of the house, laundry, shopping, being there for friends, serving, or simply making it to church on time, along with all the other pressures of life, is enough to make me curl up in a ball and cry.

Whether you are a mom at home with kids, a husband trying to provide for his family, or someone juggling the pressures of school, work, and countless other “to do’s,” life can leave you feeling depleted, weary, and stressed. We often try to be enough when Christ never asked us to be. We try to carry burdens he never asked us to carry.

Instead of trying to put off our to-do lists or try to push through in our own strength, let’s remind ourselves today of these five truths:

1. Christ is the source of our rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Why are we so heavy laden? It’s not just because we have a lot to do, but because our hearts are bent towards trying to save ourselves. We ultimately want to be able to juggle everything on our own. But what Christ reminds us is that we aren’t able to save ourselves, and we will never find rest trying to carry the burdens of life on our own shoulders. Christ died to take the weight of our sin on himself, so that we could find rest for our souls in him. However, when we walk in our own self-sufficiency, we walk outside of the rest he bought for us with his very own blood.

We find this rest by spending time with him. Literal, physical time with him. As busy as life is, if we don’t carve out time to spend in his Word, there will always be something else to fill that time. If we don’t fill up our tanks each day, we will run out of gas at some point. We can pray, “Lord forgive the pride in me that says, ‘I can save myself’, and help me learn from you and find rest for my soul.”

2. Christ will be faithful to provide what we need; yet we must discern how and where we are spending our time and energy.

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:8-9)

This is hard to do with so many things that truly need to get done. But we need to always be praying for wisdom and discernment to be aware of ways we are seeking to satisfy our fleshly desires over what Christ desires or exhausting ourselves in areas that he hasn’t called us to invest our time and energy during our current season. We will not find true rest while seeking things apart from Christ or trying to do and be everything.

Read the rest here.

Fragile Bubbles

Fragile Bubbles

By Pat Knight

Bubbles fizz and burst in a bath. Iridescent bubbles sparkle from a waterfall. Opalescent bubbles blown from a child’s bubble blowing solution shimmer in sunlight. Pure enchantment, the kind that transports us to younger years, allures us to the most simplistic, unadorned entertainer of all—the lowly bubble. 

Most toddlers are fascinated with the fine art of bubble blowing. Mastering blowing bubbles from an open-ended wand submerged in a colorful bottle of bubble solution may seem like only child’s play. It is not as easy as it initially appears.

Fanatic enthusiasm caused our grandsons to puff more air than necessary to create a perfectly formed bubble. Rather than blowing hard with the strength to inflate a balloon, only a delicate, measured whisper of exhaled breath will suffice to release the perfect bubble, teaching the children the value of gentleness, patience, and self-control. It is surprising how little practice and how much patience is required to learn the technique.

The major lesson to be learned from bubble blowing is that some things in life cannot be forced. Easy goes the bubble blowing. Puffing with vigor only causes the soapy, slippery film to drip off the wand. Too much pressure defeats the purpose and destroys that which we were trying to preserve. To advance peacefully, deliberately, and gently throughout life is an admirable goal. We can always add more pressure. However, if we begin with force, there is no room for adjustment, and irreparable damage may be done in the process. The bubble may be lost. Is it possible we were imposing too much force, producing an unwanted, imperfect outcome? As a result, our impatience ruined the bubble. Gentleness and patience is required to sustain the beautiful and the fragile in life.

Whenever one of us gently breathed on the soapy solution, a bubble slowly stretched out until it separated from the wand, propelled into mid-air. Then, chasing and bursting the iridescent bubbles extended the game. Bubbles are elusive. When coerced or captured, delicate touch pops the orb. Chasing and popping floating bubbles is as challenging as blowing them into shape. Beware of someone who wants to burst your bubble!

Once the art of bubble-blowing is mastered, the game continues as long as the toddler’s attention span endures. Sometimes after a gentle infusion of air, the squirming sphere stretches out from the wand until it looks as if it will spontaneously pop. But, if smooth, steady breath is maintained, the bubble eventually slides off in an elongated shape and perches on a surface nearby.

Playing bubble games is not so far from a real life enactment of problem-solving. If we were in a position of authority, as Jesus was on earth, would we exhibit His gentleness? Or, would we, inadvertently or purposefully burst bubbles with an inappropriate show of arrogance, aggression, or authority?

Jesus was preaching in a home in Capernaum. Crowds of people gathered and swelled the house with more listeners lining up outside. Today we would describe the situation as standing room only. To many, the possibility of placing a stretcher carrying a paralytic close enough for Jesus to interact with the man would have looked bleak. When one is paralyzed, it is imperative to have innovative friends who will anticipate needs and assist with daily care.

Not to be deterred, the paralytic’s friends confidently carried his pallet up the outside stairs of the house. Once on the roof, all four men began digging until they successfully removed a large section of roof, opening an area sufficient to lower their friend on the mat down into the room directly in front of Jesus. “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’”(Mark 2:5). Jesus healed his spiritual paralysis first, then addressed his physical needs. “‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God” (vv. 11-12).

The house was filled with curious people that day. Through tenacity of the paralytic’s friends, the man on his stretcher was placed in front of Jesus. Christ admired the men’s perseverance, daring, and sense of urgency. Another bubble was preserved to announce God’s love and forgiveness to the gathering of people when He presented a new life of physical freedom to the paralytic man. Though the man had never before experienced mobility, when Jesus gave the command for him to walk, the man did not hesitate, nor did he whimper that he didn’t know how. He trusted His Lord and took one step at a time. A bubble was suspended over the house that day, riding air currents to deliver the message of the Gospel to the lost.

Most children love to blow bubbles. Sometimes the bubbles are created with ease and at other times, we must corral the child’s aggression. An iridescent sphere is produced using the slightest puff of breath. Its beauty is simple, its message complex. When a strong blast of breath is propelled toward the open wand, the sloppy, soapy solution quickly drips down an arm, the bubble lost. Bubble-making requires practice to produce perfectly formed orbs every time. Such is life.

Jesus said, “‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). Though Christians are anxious for non-believers to know the personal love and saving grace of Jesus as we do, we cannot force the relationship. If we do, the bubble merely disintegrates into a sticky, gooey mess. We tried too hard. The higher the stakes, the harder we blow. For best results, we must relax, take a deep breath and exhale with deliberate intent. As the bubble begins to bulge outward, we persist with short, easy puffs. The outcome is too important to lose to impatience. It is always worth relaxing and waiting for valuable results. We cannot force love or respect. Jesus will only be seen in our lives through humility, kindness, and compassion. Like unpretentious bubbles, our goodness and gentleness will exalt Christ.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). To project the attributes of Christ, we must develop a delicate, tender approach, just as He acted on earth, honoring and loving all people. The one character from the pages of the Bible known for gentle forbearance was Jesus. He reacted to everyone with the manner in which He would like to be treated. “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).

During the process of attempting to perfect their bubble blowing skills, children learn the importance of breathing lightly for success or blowing frantically, leading to disappointment. It appears that gentleness and the bubbles that stay afloat prevail, carrying with them the message of patient endurance and perseverance. What splendid lessons from inconsequential bubbles, elevated to tutors of life lessons!

The Heart of God’s Character

Today I’m sharing from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

The Heart of God’s Character

by John MacArthur

God is love.

That statement doesn’t only reflect popular modern sentiment. It is actually a direct quote from God’s Word—1 John 4:8, to be precise. But in what sense is it true?

There are many ways to misunderstand John’s meaning. In fact, 1 John 4:8 seems a particular favorite of cultists. All kinds of false sects from Christian Science to the Children of God have misapplied this verse to support wildly heretical notions—the former using it to portray “God as divine Principle, Love, rather than personality” [1]; and the latter using it to justify sexual promiscuity. [2] It is important that we understand and reject not only those doctrines, but also the false ideas on which they are based, lest we be led astray in our own thinking.

First, the expression “God is love” is not meant to depersonalize God or portray Him as a force, a sensation, a principle, or some sort of cosmic energy. He is a personal being with all the attributes of personality—volition, feeling, and intellect. In fact, what the apostle is saying is that God’s love is the highest expression of His person. Therefore, to use this text to attempt to depersonalize God is to do great violence to the clear meaning of Scripture. Such an interpretation actually turns this text on its head.

Second, this verse by no means identifies God with everything our society labels love. Gordon Clark wrote, “John is not saying that all sorts of emotions called love are from God. The romanticism of Goethe, and much more the present sexual debauchery, are not from God.” [3] In fact, those who cite this verse to attempt to legitimize illicit forms of “love” are about as far from the apostle’s intent as it is possible to get. The love of which he speaks is a pure and holy love, consistent with all the divine attributes.

Third, this is not meant to be a definition of God or a summary of His attributes. Divine love in no way minimizes or nullifies God’s other attributes—His omniscience, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His immutability, His lordship, His righteousness, His wrath against sin, or any of His glorious perfections. Deny any one of them, and you have denied the God of Scripture.

There is certainly more to God than love. Similar expressions elsewhere in Scripture demonstrate this. For example, the same apostle who penned these words also wrote, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). Scripture also says, “God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29). And Psalm 7:11 says, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.” The simple statement “God is love” obviously does not convey everything that can be known about God. We know from Scripture that He is also holy and righteous and true to His Word. God’s love does not contradict His holiness; instead, it complements and magnifies it and gives it its deepest meaning. So we cannot isolate this one phrase from the rest of Scripture and attempt to make love represent the sum of what we know about God.

Notice, by the way, that this phrase “God is love” is not even the only such statement in John’s first epistle.

Read the rest here.

What It Means to Pray “Your Kingdom Come”

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

What It Means to Pray
“Your Kingdom Come”

By Stacey Salsbery

When I think of the word “kingdom,” I think of grandeur and royalty—a place where lords and ladies walk about. There is, of course, a castle and beautiful gardens. There are well-behaved children running around in pristine white clothing. There is a monarchy that loves both the people and the land in hopes of championing both. Oh, and there’s evil, but good always triumphs.

Okay, basically, when I think of the word kingdom, I think of my daughter’s favorite movie, The Princess Diaries, and Genovia, the fictional kingdom in that movie, is quite lovely. But is that what God intends for us to think when we read verses like “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33)? 

And is that what Jesus had in mind when He told the disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10)? Are we asking God to bring upon us His glorious kingdom where righteousness is the scepter (Ps. 45:6) and tears are gone forever and life is perfect and lovely all the time? Well actually, the answer is both yes and no. 

The Kingdom of God Is Both Now and Not Yet

The Scriptures tell us there is a physical, earthbound kingdom still to come in which Christ will rule as King. In John 14:2–3 Jesus tells the disciples, “If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” 

Therefore, with confidence we can say as Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:18, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” An everlasting kingdom is coming where Christ reigns eternally—and righteousness and justice and peace are equal partners in a society forever set on bringing glory to God. 

And it will be amazing. Like nothing we can even fathom (1 Cor. 2:9). Though now we suffer for a little while, it’s “not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). So we wait with eager expectation, longing for the day Christ will make things right, praying with confidence in our faithful God, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). 

The Physical Kingdom of God Is Coming

So then Jesus encourages us to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10) that we might not lose hope. That our focus would stay on the eternal instead of the temporary, laying up treasure in heaven instead of filling our houses or closets or pocketbooks. 

But if we focus on only the future physical kingdom of God, we miss out on the present spiritual kingdom of God. 

In the gospels Jesus spoke often of the kingdom of heaven, declaring from the start of his ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). It’s the same message John the Baptist declared. Paul lived in Rome two years, “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30–31). Because in Christ, the kingdom of God is also right now.

Read the rest here.

Quack Attack

Quack Attack

By Pat Knight

From the shoreline, we witnessed the erratic, audacious activity of three mallard ducks involved in a physical scuffle. They were aggressively flapping into each other, first in the water, then in the air. There must have been a distinct reason for the unusual behavior among a group of birds that is normally a peaceable species.

God observes similar harassing behavior, as Christians interact during disagreement, criticism, or quarreling. At such times it is difficult to distinguish between Christian and non-Christian conduct. What a shame! “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3). 

We are commanded to love one another. “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other … God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever!” (1 Peter 4:8, 10-11, NLT). Love and serve with the capabilities God provides; with all the strength He infuses to glorify His name and to encourage others.

Occasionally heard are comments such as, “I would never have guessed he is a Christian from the way he acts at work.” Or, “she is so involved in gossiping and backbiting, how can she claim to be a believer?” God is unhappy with the person and abhors such behavior. Incriminating words, off-color jokes, or unkind remarks place God’s stamp of disapproval on a Christian’s testimony.

Because God commands us to love one another and to be peacemakers, extending kindness and patience in all circumstances, how can we possibly rationalize inappropriate words? “We speak as those approved by God, who are to be entrusted with His Gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Sanctified by Jesus, we are set apart for holy purposes, taking our directions solely from God. He is the one who specifies conduct and speech. We are instructed to “imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2, NLT). 

We are quick to dismiss bad language as a slip of the tongue. God expects us to be personally responsible for every word we utter. Do your words uplift or degrade?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

Our words carry the ability to slice through a person, bringing him to his knees, and crippling his spirit. Positive, loving speech enhances our Christian testimony. Cruel words cast doubt on our relationship with Christ.

There are times when Christians are guilty of spiritual cannibalism. We have all seen it happen: cutting words disfigure and disable, ingesting God’s children alive. We witness jealousy, egotistical comments, and hurtful, tactless responses. Irascible words produce deep wounds that seldom heal.

Like large mammals who hunt their prey, people also stalk the unsuspecting with criticism and gossip. As the animal moves in for a quick, decisive kill, we characteristically destroy with anger, untruths, slander, judgment, or accusations, until we have devoured one of God’s beloved creatures. We claim to be more advanced intellectually than the animal world, but such actions prove us wrong. If we’ve circulated in Christian circles very long, we’ve observed variations of this scenario, completely contrary to God’s teachings to love and treat others as we want to be treated.

Does it provide self-satisfaction to watch a fellow Christian squirm and suffer? If we notice a person physically in harm’s way, we likely intervene to prevent injury or to save a life. So, why do we hesitate to get involved when emotional or spiritual health are threatened? We are specifically commanded, “All of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8).

At the time the Israelites escaped their Egyptian slave masters and were traveling toward the Promised Land, Miriam questioned Moses’ authority as their leader, expressing jealousy of her brother’s assignment as God’s prophet. She challenged God’s decision by exposing and criticizing Moses’ marriage to a foreign-born woman, attempting to undermine his authority. Miriam demanded to know why God had spoken solely through Moses and not through her or her other brother, Aaron.

God answered Miriam by confirming that He chooses His prophets and that Moses was greater than all the others (Numbers 12:4-9). As severe judgment for Miriam’s rebellion, God inflicted her with leprosy. Her skin instantly turned white as snow. Her gracious, forgiving brother, Moses, prayed for her healing. God promised to heal Miriam, but first required that she remain quarantined outside the camp alone for seven days, holding up the journey for all the people until her punishment was fulfilled. She was designated an outcast until she could resume contact with the rest of the community.

Learning from Miriam and Aaron’s rebellion, it is necessary that we trust God to choose His appropriate followers for specific ministries. He lavishes each believer with distinct spiritual gifts. If we tirelessly use our own gifts to serve Jesus, we will have neither time nor energy to monitor how others are occupied with their individual assignment from God. 

Steaming jealousy, escalating anger, and a contorted sense of self-worth apparently motivated Miriam. She was not different from people today; only the circumstances vary. God was displeased with her. “The anger of the Lord burned against them and he left them” (Numbers 12:9). When our Lord views similar tendencies in His children today, He displays equal displeasure and disciplines His own. Jealousy is a trait that insidiously consumes our emotions. Priorities change. Apathy replaces faith. Destruction of spiritual relationships is inevitable. Any prolonged jealousy leaves victims in its path. A good dose of repentance, strengthened with personal, fervent prayers for forgiveness is the antidote God honors.

Deception erodes trust. Where there is no trust, there arises doubt and suspicion. Then, relations with God and people degenerate; we have sinned against both. We need not look far to find examples of the damage lying and deceit cause in the world around us. Betrayal among friends is often irreversible, unresponsive to human efforts of repair. “But with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26b). Our heavenly Father is able to reinstate our broken relationships just as he did for Miriam and Moses. Jesus taught, “‘For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled; and those who humble themselves will be exalted’” (Luke 18:14b). 

The flailing ducks couldn’t resist pecking at one another until feathers flew. God urges us to employ Jesus’ attribute of a gentle spirit. “No one should seek his own good but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24). Leave squawking and aggression to the avian species.