Strength for the Journey

Strength for the Journey

By Pat Knight

 Snowflakes or samples of DNA illustrate exceptional individuality. There are no repetitions with either. God created each person with specific physical attributes, personalities, emotions, and the desire to seek Him. Our Lord endows us with free wills, allowing us to make exclusive decisions. We are not puppets on a string merely doing the Lord’s bidding. Though it must break His heart, God permits us to ignore or resist Him, bumbling through life without His guidance.

During our struggles and trials, God offers His superior strength and power, without which we must depend solely on our temporary resources. God’s strength moves mountains of trouble and maintains the universe in perfect order. Extraordinary fortitude is available to each of us when we appropriate God’s immense strength. It is not bullish or intimidating, but comprised of quiet gentleness merged with power. God always uses His strength appropriately, combined with love and compassion to help us overcome obstacles.

Teaming our uniqueness with His strength, we possess the ability to accomplish great feats in God’s name. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians12:9). The Apostle Paul witnessed God supplanting his human frailty with almighty strength. Paul had a physical problem for which he sought God’s cure. Rather than heal him, God eclipsed Paul’s weakness with the promise of His sufficient strength. Paul admitted, “‘for when I am weak, then I am strong’” (v. 10). Paul knew the secret of dealing with his infirmity was to supplement with God’s endless supply of strength.

Humans are exceedingly shortsighted. Though God is acquainted with the future plans for our individual lives, we cannot see beyond this very minute. Our Lord knows whether we will benefit more from healing our physical disorders, or by lavishing us with His abundant strength to triumph beyond our afflictions. Paul placed his priorities and his full faith in God. Then he followed His Lord into a victorious life full of spiritual accomplishments, traveling over the known world as a missionary, preaching the Gospel until the end of his life.

“Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

God is immutable—incapable of compromise or change, no less powerful or loving than when Paul lived on earth. Our physical or emotional weakness may be for the purpose of encouraging others who hurt as we do, the individual work which God has chosen for us.  “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). The Apostle Paul demonstrates that contentment is learned behavior, a choice we make to depend on God’s guidance and the riches of Christ. We are surrounded with people willing to throw cold water on enthusiastic ideas. If those whom God chooses to endure illness or hardships were to transform into encouragers with heavenly strength, God’s love would be exponentially transported throughout the world in a contagious manner.

Each unique, spirit-filled Christian is enabled by God to develop and perpetuate a distinctive style of encouragement in order to disseminate God’s love. Those empowered by God and permeated with His strength, have the capacity to distribute joy and peace to a hurting world. We are challenged to exercise our gift of free will to project encouragement, enthusiasm, and ebullience. Only by experiencing the strength He provides, are we able to reach out to others in a way that is honoring to God, who created us as in His image to represent the holy and righteous characteristics of Jesus. 

“I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).  God and believers working together have the ability to affect change in this world, as we elevate God’s name and purpose. With such awesome, privileged life goals, our troubles pale. The more we perform God’s will for our lives, the less we concentrate on self and our temporary troubles.

Paul provides an example of how to focus less on our physical problems and gain victory by accessing God’s strength. God desires to demonstrate the fine art of victorious living. With great expectancy, request to be instilled with God’s strength and steadfastness. He will then intervene to provide “exceeding, abundantly beyond all we ask or think according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV). Jesus patiently awaits your trust and obedience. He delights to work in you and through you to shine the light of His splendor and supremacy into a dark world.

Mercy and Grace

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Mercy and Grace

By Pat Knight

We’ve all experienced life’s embarrassing, humiliating moments. It is unnerving how easily and frequently mistakes are made or sins committed. We verbalize or enact something affecting another person that turns out all wrong, not at all the way it was intended. Or, perhaps it was a blatantly insensitive, planned maneuver. Either way, the other party is hurt. When our personal involvement is revealed, we may experience white-hot molten guilt surging through our bodies, as despair simultaneously drenches our emotions. We feel crushed on all sides, reminding us of our desperate need of forgiveness.

We have sinned. Our integrity is threatened. The person we offended is often the first one to whom we apologize. Asking God’s forgiveness is frequently an after-thought. King David demonstrated the proper sequence of events once the prophet Nathan confronted him with his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband. David immediately poured out his heart to God.

“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear” (Psalm 38:4). David was physically and emotionally ill from the exposure of his flagrant sin and the expression of his humble remorse. David knew he must admit his sins to God, appealing to his Lord’s forgiveness in order to restore peace in his life. “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin” (Psalm 38:18). 

David realized that God loathed his sin but he was also aware of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and boldly asked for both. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1, 2). Then, David requested purity, a cleansed heart, and reinstatement into God’s fellowship. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (v. 12).

During David’s lifetime, long before our Savior sacrificed His life for the sins of the world, David offered a perfect animal as a sacrifice, along with his penitent prayer. He was familiar with God’s priorities. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (v. 17). What pleases God more than sacrifice is a humble heart that turns to Him, pleading for mercy.

We may wonder the reason David’s legacy remains as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), in view of his egregious sins of adultery and murder. God is apprised of the heart intent of every person. He viewed David’s deep remorse, humility, request for forgiveness, and submission to the His will. What pleases God is a humility that seeks Him when troubles crush and that penitently plead for mercy and sovereign security. David suffered dire consequences for his sins, but evidence that God forgave him totally is illustrated in God’s future empowerment of David to accomplish His kingdom work.

As soon as the first offense was committed by Adam and Eve, God’s plan was in place to send a Messiah to earth who would save the world from sin. For centuries, the Israelite nation anticipated the promised Savior. God is faithful and always keeps His promises. Jesus was incarnated on earth for one distinct purpose: to redeem sin by ransoming His life for ours. Before He was nailed to the cross, he was physically beaten, spat upon, and humiliated by taunting Roman soldiers. A crown of thorns tore deeply through the skin of his brow. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, His pain escalated for the next six hours until His body could no longer sustain life.

The abuse to which Jesus submitted is inexpressible. If we pale under heavy guilt and shame for one of our sins, envision the incredible burden of emotional torture Christ suffered when He died to atone for the sins of the entire world–past, present, and future. The sinless Savior was willing to die a heinous death to redeem all of the sins for everyone who calls upon His name. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2b). 

The physical and mental anguish Jesus suffered for our sakes is His love gift to each individual. “He is Jesus Christ … Him who loved us and has freed us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5). Though God’s very nature is love, He also expresses wrath. Almighty God, holy and pure, hates sin. Animal sacrifice and a repentant heart allowed God’s people in Old Testament times to approach their perfect, sovereign God.  When Jesus hung on the cross, God’s wrath for the sins of the entire world descended upon His Son, extracting from the Perfect Lamb punishment for the sins of the multitudes.

Jesus died for the sinner, including you and me. Our Savior initiated the era of grace when He died and rose again, offering a substitute for our own penalty of death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The grace of God showers us with glory we cannot earn, withholding punishment Jesus bore for us that we do deserve. “Everyone who believes in Him {Jesus Christ} receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43).

Jesus, our intercessor, provided the bridge between sinners and a hallowed God by dying for us. When we act inappropriately, exposing selfish desires, we not only hurt other people and our own credibility, but we sin against God. Thankfully, God knows our propensity for wrong-doing and provides for our salvation, permitting us to approach Him and gain forgiveness. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

As sorrowful as we may feel about wrongs we commit, they represent a greater personal affront to our holy God. Showering His extensive love on His creation, God admits, “I am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sin no more” (Isaiah 43:25). What a gift! God’s offer isn’t automatic; it requires a reaction from us. “If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9b).

Our Savior is the only one capable of eradicating sin from our lives. Christ died for you! Claim and cherish His passionate gift.

Search for One

Search for One

By Pat Knight

Mink do not usually expose themselves to humans, especially during daylight hours. One splendid, warm, summer day there were seven of us engaged in activities near the lake. While our three young grandsons were captivated fishing, the adults glimpsed a sleek, black, lithe creature slithering its way around the children’s sandal-clad feet on the dock. Our son commanded his boys to stand motionless, using only their eyes to observe the bizarre oddity of nature. 

The wet, glistening mink investigated the boy’s footgear and wet socks draped on a rock to dry. The mink’s nose never stopped sniffing, as it wove its body among every human foot firmly planted on the dock. Its conical snout, incessantly wriggling, was on a mission. What was bothering the mink so much that it would voluntarily wander among the enemy? We talked quietly. Then the mink slinked away as quickly as it had appeared. Our activity resumed in slow motion. The boys continued to fish, as they cast a wary eye in the direction of the intruder, wondering if it would return.

Soon, mother mink emerged, this time on a new quest. She had previously disappeared into the rocks near the shoreline, to the left of the dock, probably the location of her den. Now, with a limp kit helplessly dangling from her mouth, mama mink hastily scampered across the dock, without stopping to socialize, and plunged into the water, bound for the cribwork on the opposite side of the dock. There she remained with her kit, in an area her instincts told her would be much safer than their last home, far out of range of human activity. We weren’t privileged to see the mother mink or her kit again. Their short performance was astonishing, albeit, entertaining.

Jesus told a parable to His disciples: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:3-7).

Jesus taught truths using familiar objects his audience could understand. One hundred sheep comprised a typical modest flock for a shepherd of that day. Shepherds often worked in teams, so it would not be irresponsible for one shepherd to leave ninety-nine sheep safely in the open field for his companions to oversee. The shepherds would not take the remainder of their herd home until the lost lamb was found.

Throughout Scripture, Jesus is portrayed as the Good Shepherd; believers are His individual sheep or His collective flock. Sheep are without direction in life. They must be led to good grazing grounds and protected from danger. They are passive animals, unequipped to find their own food or to fight predators. A good shepherd supplies his sheep’s needs.

The picture we see in Jesus’ parable is one of the Good Shepherd protecting His own. He was willing to leave His glorious throne in heaven to search for the one who is lost. When that person is found, Jesus places His beloved on His shoulders—the place of strength—and rejoins the lost with the rest of His flock. Jesus always rejoices when His people turn to Him for salvation, safety, and guidance throughout life. 

The mother mink protected her one kit, going to great lengths and endangering her life by carrying her offspring past the enemy to safety. If need be, she was willing to fight fiercely for the security of her young. Though the scene of the kit dangling from its mother’s mouth looked pathetic to us, the instinctive submission and obedience of the kit saved its life. Though Jesus handles us much more gently, He requires our posture to be one of complete trust and reliance upon His care, submitting to His will for our lives. “‘I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,’ declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak … I will shepherd the flock with justice’” (Ezekiel 34:15-16).

When confronting danger, are we willing to put our lives in the hands of the Great Shepherd, who incessantly rescues His wayward children from harm, one individual life at a time? Trust Jesus explicitly, as He readily enfolds you beneath His protective arms and leads you to safety. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Jesus went further than risking His life for our protection. He came to earth with the express goal to die a heinous death of crucifixion: His one perfect life given for mankind, to redeem us from our sins, and to carry us on His shoulders to refuge in heaven for eternity.

“Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’” (John 10:11). Jesus’ mission on earth was unselfish. He sacrificed His pure, unblemished life to save His sinful children, one-by-one. The Good Shepherd came to secure eternal victory for His wayward ones. Submit to Him, for His plans are always perfect.

Live Happily Ever After

Live Happily Ever After

By Pat Knight

As young children, many sat cuddled with a person who read to them from a book of vividly illustrated fairy tales. Though a portion of the stories were frightening, the child snuggled with someone loved and trusted. Fairy tales encompass mystery and danger, the struggle of good and evil, and the triumph of right over wrong. The stories are fictional, interwoven with moral conflict. A hero or heroine is propelled into unsuspecting, treacherous situations, from where a rescuer mysteriously saves the day. The drama is typically summarized: and they all lived happily ever after.

Authors of children’s stories weren’t the first to introduce tales with happy endings. At creation, God embedded the capacity for eternity in every human heart. Each of us was created with the yearning of a future life in heaven. “He {God} has set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). For those who accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, the forgiveness and grace that He secured by His crucifixion and resurrection, our earthly lives will be a mere drop in the bucket of time compared with life everlasting. In that respect, “they lived happily ever after” is realistically and personally applied to those who know Jesus intimately.

Life in heaven will be so incredibly opulent, we have no words in our vocabulary with which to describe it accurately. The Apostle John, personally viewed scenes of heaven, and was charged with recording the details in God’s Word. John often lacked the appropriate words to express sufficiently that which was revealed to him. However, the apostle recorded enough information to cause further longing for life in our heavenly home. God specifies there will be no sadness or suffering there. “He {God} will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). In heaven, there will be no hospitals, pharmacies, funeral homes, or homeless shelters; no need for 911 systems, governments, or police. Everyone will be whole and holy; goodness and purity will prevail.

Life in heaven will be so incredibly opulent, we have no words in our vocabulary with which to describe it accurately. The Apostle John, personally viewed scenes of heaven, and was charged with recording the details in God’s Word. John often lacked the appropriate words to express sufficiently that which was revealed to him. However, the apostle recorded enough information to cause further longing for life in our heavenly home. God specifies there is no sadness or suffering there. “He {God} will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). In heaven, there are no hospitals, pharmacies, funeral homes, or homeless shelters; no need for 911 systems, governments, or police. Everyone is whole and holy; goodness and purity prevail.

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, reigns in excellence, transcending all the glory, honor, and pageantry we’ve known on earth. “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you {God}” (1 Kings 8:27b). Our Lord is confined by neither time nor space. He shall rule supremely forevermore.

Heaven is free of hardship, disease, quarrels, or rivalry. There resides no competition for love or attention. Mankind co-exists in perfect peace. Neither floods nor natural disasters occur. ”The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm” (Isaiah 11:7-8). Previously poisonous snakes or ferocious, carnivorous animals, serving as playthings for young children, illustrate the tranquility and safety of our heavenly home.

Only in eternity is the finite capable of comprehending the scope of the infinite.

John heard a voice from the heavenly throne exclaiming, “‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among believers and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’” (Revelation 21:3). To dwell implies more than a residence. It indicates the permanence of settling down, the way God makes His home in the hearts of believers, and fills them with His purpose.

What God has created in heaven will endure forever. The same is true of our resurrected bodies. Even if we were able to discern John’s descriptions explicitly, our earthly vision of heaven would still be unclear. When I was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes, my vision gradually grew blurry and colors faded in intensity. Directly after one lens was implanted, I was astounded at the brilliance of the world around me. Even on a cloudy spring day, every object grabbed my visual attention. Birch trees were suddenly bright white instead of the washed-out color that had insidiously crept into my field of vision. Patches of sky were no longer gray, but dazzling blue. My vision had been transformed from barren and blurry to reveal a crisp world ablaze before me.

As believers in Jesus Christ, such will be our reaction to heaven after decades of living in a fallen, failing earth among mortals. Heaven is glorious because God is glorious! “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then we will know everything completely just as God now knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT). Our perception of heaven is at best cloudy, like blurry vision caused by deteriorating lenses. When we gaze upon King Jesus in our heavenly home, our spiritual vision will be amazingly clear, as if scales were peeled away from our eyes. Until that time, God views us through the lens of Christ’s righteousness; His characteristics infused in our lives through His redeeming sacrifice on the cross. In heaven we shall worship and praise our Savior face to face. What a magnificent promise, full of confident expectation, encouragement, and excitement!

We cherish the assurance of a grandiose and pure life in heaven. Only Christ offers everlasting intimacy and security. Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, assures, “‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go there to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be there where I am ’” (John 14:2-3). Jesus guarantees an eternity of permanence and glory with Him.

Reflect on one event in your life that created the most ecstasy, the one resplendent scenario you love to replay on your mental movie screen. Then multiply the irrepressible joy you experienced, and you will barely reveal heaven’s bliss. In eternity, there are pleasures forevermore, a paradise heretofore unexposed to humanity.

John teaches that there will be no need for artificial light in the holy city. “They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light” (Revelation 22:5). The Light of the World will be the consummate light of Heaven. God’s glory exclusively illuminates every corner.

The foundations of the city are inlaid with precious gems—turquoise, amethyst, emeralds, topaz, rubies, and sapphires. The streets are constructed of transparent gold, and each of the twelve gates of the city consist of singular pearls (Revelation 21:18-21), elegant and splendiferous!

Heaven will be the reward for believers who have faithfully followed Jesus on this earth, honoring the Lamb’s horrific sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, and His glorious resurrection from the dead, to redeem our sins. Our eternal benefits in heaven will far overshadow any hardships we have suffered on earth, for there we will live happily ever after!

Tax Time

Tax Time

By Pat Knight

Soon we will be preoccupied calculating our annual Federal income tax returns, begrudgingly sending our sums to the IRS. Since most of us attempt to spend our personal funds wisely, it is baffling to accept that the big machinery of government may be using our funds inefficiently and with impunity.

Taxes have been demanded of workers for centuries. King “Solomon had twelve governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and his royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year”(1 Kings 4:7) Lest you think that a small task, the following list provides the daily requirements for feeding King Solomon’s court, totaling  thousands of people:

185 bushels of flour
375 bushels of meal
10 head of stall-fed cattle
20 pasture-fed cattle
100 sheep
100 goats
Deer, gazelle, roebucks and choice fowl (1 Kings 4:22). 

In Nehemiah’s day there was a loud outcry from the people due to their astronomically high tax rates. The Jewish people were paying as much as one half of their harvest produce and a portion of their income in tithes to support the temple. Taxes placed such an extreme financial burden on some families, they were forced to mortgage their fertile fields to pay their assessment. Others in desperate situations sold their own sons and daughters into slavery. Bondservants were common during hard times when the poor, unable to pay their debts, sold themselves into slavery (Nehemiah 5:1-5). A slave could buy his freedom or another could do it for him. Such is the redemption of Christ, when He bought our sins by granting our freedom from slavery to sin.  

It is estimated that during Jesus’ time the Jews were paying thirty to forty percent of their income for taxes and temple dues. No wonder the position of tax collector was so despised and the official himself deplored for padding his pockets by collecting more taxes than were actually due.

One day the Pharisees, the religious, political leaders among the Israelite people, deliberately attempted to trap Jesus by asking Him an ambiguous question. It was a verbal snare designed to destroy Jesus’ credibility, no matter how He answered. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “‘is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”(Matthew 22:17).

 Jesus responded, “‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax’” (Matthew 22:18). Jesus then asked the men to describe whose image and inscription was engraved on the coin. When the Pharisees replied to Jesus that both sides of the coin focused on Caesar, Jesus emphatically responded, “‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’” (Matthew 22:21).  

Jesus instructed that all people have obligations to the government as long as those demands do not conflict with their allegiance to God. The Pharisees were amazed by Jesus’ answer and left in utter defeat. They failed to acknowledge that they were daily reaping the benefits of their taxes paid to Rome by gaining access to Caesar’s currency for monetary exchange, traveling on Rome’s government subsidized highways, and enjoying of a degree of military protection and peace.

In our current culture, there are many requirements of our government that do not conflict with our obligations to God. The apostle Paul taught that the people’s main priority is dedication to God: “‘everyone should submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted’” (Romans 13:1-3). 

Christians are instructed to obey laws and to respect elected officials, as a matter of civil obedience, but also for conscience’s sake (Romans 13:5). We are instructed to pay taxes and to show respect for authority, even if we are aware of corruption. Injustice and fraud likely exist in all governments, yet God rules over them all. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors (1 Peter 2:13).

Let us readily participate in any democratic process to lessen the bureaucratic burden of tax laws. Consistent prayer, in which we ask God to advocate for change, will unleash power and potential for revision beyond any strategy man can employ.

An old adage says that two absolutes in life are death and taxes. It may seem like taxes have existed forever, but a Christian defines forever as eternal life in heaven.

The imperfection of justice in this life is the strongest proof that in the next world justice and vengeance will be fulfilled to the utmost. —David Augsburger

Let us adopt Jesus’ attitude when He was apprehended at the temple at age twelve, instructing the teachers of religious law. When questioned about His educational endeavor, Jesus responded, “‘I must be about my Father’s business’” (Luke 2:49). Who among us has the time or energy to complain about tax rates if we prioritize our life’s activities to conform to our Savior’s objectives?

Distracted Allegiance

Distracted Allegiance

By Pat Knight

Some winters in the northeast are longer and harsher than others. At the beginning of April, we watch for signs of thinning ice. When there is a winter-long depth of more than three feet of solid ice, melting takes considerable time. One morning the sunrise illuminated the sky just enough to expose ripples on the lake water. Water? The previous night there was still ice jammed into the cove. Now, there were only a few slivers leisurely floating.  

Later that morning, I noticed the cove nearly filled with large, flat, chunks of floating ice. Earlier the lake was exposed and moving, like pieces of a shattered mirror. Now the impression was one of mini-icebergs. We were familiar with the phenomenon: ice in the larger part of the lake breaks up, and the wind blows it into the cove, where it is trapped. When I first noticed the cove devoid of ice, the timing was perfect. I had peered out the window a mere moment after the ice collapsed beneath the surface. Then later, more ice floated into the cove from the large, open lake.

Our relationship with our heavenly Father is comparable to the shattered ice floes that blow into the cove. Some days we walk closely by His side, and other days we withdraw, preferring self-reliance, slowly replacing dependence on our Lord. God never moves. It is His desire to be an integral part of our lives, guiding and directing. If anyone moves, God is not the one to depart. It is our spiritual wanderlust that pulls us away from a consistent walk with our Lord.

God created us for communion with Him. “And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Just imagine! The supreme God of the whole universe desires to walk and talk with us. We serve a loving, patient God, who “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9b).

If you have ever been in the presence of someone who has lost a contact lens, you know instinctively that all activity stops abruptly. Feet remain glued to the floor, as eyes scour the surrounding area for the tiny disc. With far more intensity, God searches for the soul distracted from His care. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). God pours His love and strength into the person completely yielded to Him, who forsakes self-reliance to fully rely on God.

Historically and repeatedly, the children of God ignored Him. He punished His rebellious people who disobeyed covenantal laws by worshiping false gods in the form of idols. God is merciful. “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). God loves us and extends mercy just as lavishly as He did the wandering, rebellious Israelites of centuries ago. 

We tend to blindly follow other people, whereas, we are commanded to imitate God, not man. He sets the standard. “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6). We are assured God’s promises will apply forever, perpetually affirming our importance to Him. “Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me, will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’” (John 14:23). God not only abides within our hearts, He knows us more completely than we are familiar with ourselves.

We are nothing apart from our status in God. He elevates us as His children, showering us with an eternal gift as joint heirs with Christ. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now, if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17). All things belong to Jesus, but He graciously shares His inheritance with believers.

If you were notified by an estate attorney that you have been designated to inherit a glorious kingdom, what reaction would you display? I am assuming you would be excited and incredulous. And yet, as joint heirs with Christ, we are assured of an inheritance in heaven forever and ever. Now, those are the kind of riches about which we kick up our heels and celebrate. But, do we? What will it take to convince us, that in God’s eyes, we are so loved and our company so desired, that He plans to spend an eternity with us?

In view of our value to God, He sent His pure, sinless Son to earth to ultimately die for us. “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7). There have been isolated recorded instances in history where one person substituted his life for another, but “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One—is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). God’s forgiveness through Christ’s atoning sacrifice is impartial, with worldwide application for those who receive Him by faith. No sin or crime is too egregious for Him to forgive, substituting eternal death for life everlasting in heaven with Him.

Jesus was not only physically tortured during crucifixion, but He suffered an unprecedented emotional burden, carrying the sins of the entire world on His shoulders—past, present, and future. Jesus Christ substituted His perfect life for our sinful ones. You were redeemed with “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). If crucifixion were required for each of us to atone for our personal sins, there would be few crosses dotting the horizon. Let us not minimize the gift of life bought with the blood of Jesus.

Can we exclaim with the psalmist, “‘the Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’” (Psalm 126:3)? Because God loves us with immeasurable love and sacrifice, why do we, like the ice in the cove that moves on a whim, act so inconsistently in our relationship to our Lord? The cove ice is blown by the wind, producing an unsettled surface. “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). Let us be reminded of the source of our power and saving grace. God craves our nearness, so why do we resist?  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, NKJV).

Victorious Living

Victorious Living

By Pat Knight

I have always known that as a child of God, I have the ability to lead a victorious life. When I was young, I naively believed spiritual victory was instinctive. Now I understand that in order for victory to be won, a battle must be overcome. How will any of us achieve triumph without previously encountering conflict? How else do we experience trust unless we practice the art? During hardships, we are commanded to persevere, but we are incapable of acquiring perseverance without habitually practicing it. There is no healing without sickness; no power without weakness; no success without failure. Trials offer the opportunity to grow in faith, and as a result, we mature in our walk with Christ himself.

Few believers have been tested by God more intensely than Abraham. The patriarchs’ only son was a direct gift from God, through whom God would complete His promise to Abraham, with “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17).

Abraham, commanded by God to sacrifice his covenant son as a burnt offering, was poised with knife in hand, ready to plunge it into Isaac, who was strapped to the sacrificial altar. On their three-day journey to the mountaintop, Isaac questioned his father as to where they would find the lamb for the altar. Abraham answered, “‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son’” (v. 8).

God was testing Abraham’s obedience. The best Abraham hoped for was that God might raise his son from the dead. He never questioned God, nor did his resolve falter. Just as the father was positioned to slay his son, “the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham, Abraham! … Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’”

“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son” (vv. 11-13).

As we know, obedience is a difficult discipline, especially when the investment is so costly. However, our Lord accepts full responsibility for the consequence of our obedience. Not only did Abraham experience God’s faithfulness, but he also learned the measure of his own trust—the extent to which he followed and obeyed his heavenly Father.

Words are easily dispensed and often insignificant, but submissive actions require commitment, determination, and tenacious faith. Abraham could hardly have understood God’s reasons for providing a son in his old age, only to take him away. In spite of his lack of comprehension, Abraham believed in God so passionately, that His faith overwhelmed his doubt. He was willing to place all of his confidence in the Lord’s plans, for Abraham had witnessed His glory and faithfulness previously. He believed in Almighty God without reservation.

God already knew Abraham would react courageously that day, for He is omniscient (all-knowing). God tested Abraham so he would learn about His God and himself. Abraham’s personal, adamant faith and steadfast obedience were reinforced in the face of huge consequences. Most importantly, Abraham ascertained the unlimited extent to which he could trust the living God; His faithfulness, loving kindness, protection, and promises; God’s desire and ability to provide all of his needs (Philippians 4:19).

Abraham’s test of faith is included in God’s Word to stimulate in believers’ hearts a similar love of our heavenly Father. Satan tempts us to fail. God never tempts; He tests us to illustrate His love and mercy. It is important for every believer to acquire knowledge of self-motivation and priorities; any limits that might inhibit our growth in faith. Obedience is evidence of genuine faith. Questions are raised during a test of faith. To what extent do my actions reflect my love for God? Am I willing to yield to His will? How much of my life am I capable of surrendering in light of Jesus’ humiliating, heinous suffering on the cross to secure my redemption? Like Jesus, may we pray that God’s will be accomplished in all of life’s circumstances.

There can be no victory when there is no submission to the will of God. ─J. Vernon McGee

Some of our most important lessons are mastered while struggling with unrelenting trials. The apostle, Paul, admitted, “‘that is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul accessed God’s power, transforming his afflictions into spiritual victory. Hardships of any kind are best approached with confidence, acknowledging that God’s perfect plans, in His precise timing, are sovereign components to victory.

To navigate adversity, call on your heavenly Father, for “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). God is always in control of His creation. We need never fear when He is directing our lives, a comforting declaration of his mighty, sustaining presence.

The apostle James instructs us how to react to the variety of adversities that assail us: “‘Consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything’” (James 1:2-4). Joy results from recognizing that God has included our welfare in His plans, for He loves and cares for His own.

Christian maturity is an impossible journey without God’s abiding presence and assistance. When faced with hardship or grief, we learn to run straight into the arms of Jesus, trading our weakness for His incredible power, trusting Him unconditionally. The happy outcome is that we draw closer to our Lord, producing Christlikeness in our lives.

Experiencing joy amidst trials is an avenue to spiritual victory. We gain Christian maturity by navigating life’s trials with perseverance and steadfastness, obeying God in all situations. Our Lord’s mercy, grace, and compassion encourage us to navigate afflictions as we resolve to develop wholehearted faith. We are commanded to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). There are no exceptions to God’s directive. His plans for our lives are perfectly designed and authenticated, with higher purposes than we fully understand. Our responsibility, then, is to acknowledge that God has chosen wisely for each of His followers. Such knowledge produces joy. Therein is the victory!