There had never been a man like Elijah. Elijah had raised the dead, called down fire from heaven, and revealed God’s plans for a devastating drought. The Israelites must have felt certain there would never be another prophet like Elijah, until Elisha came along. Moses was arguably the mightiest leader the Hebrews had ever followed, yet God prepared Joshua to accomplish what not even Moses had achieved. David’s reign marked a high point for the nation of Israel, yet it was Solomon who carried out the task that was denied his father, by building the spectacular temple.
We can be tempted to put more trust in the leaders God gives us than in God Himself. History teaches that, as wonderful as these godly people are, God always has another Moses, Elijah, or David. Often the successor will come with a double portion of their predecessors’ spirits.
God’s purposes do not depend on us. He has limitless ways to accomplish His will. The same God who led Moses could also use Joshua. If no one were willing to serve Him, the Lord would accomplish His work by His own divine power. We are not irreplaceable to the Lord. He will achieve His purposes. The question is this: Will we be a part of God’s activity, or will He find someone else? We deceive ourselves if we think we are indispensable to God. Service to the Lord is an honor God bestows on us, not a favor we do for God.
There may be times when God seems far away. You may feel as if your prayers go unheard. James said there is a simple reason for this and a solution. If you are far from God, it is because your sin has separated you from Him.
God is unchanging. His character stays absolutely holy. His faithfulness remains constant; it is we who change. We allow sin into our lives. We choose our own direction. We spend less and less time with Him in Bible study and prayer. Then one day we realize that we have gradually grown distant from God. The solution, according to James, is straightforward. We are to draw near to God. As we realize our need to be closer to the Father and we begin to return to Him, He meets us even as the father hurried to greet his prodigal son (Luke 15:20).
Drawing near to God requires you to take two actions. First, you must cleanse your hands (Isa. 1:15). You must cleanse your way of living. If you have been actively engaged in sin, you must renounce it. If you have done anything to offend or hurt someone, you must make it right. Second, you are to purify your heart (Ps. 51:10). You must make certain your attitudes, thoughts, and motives are right in God’s eyes and are in harmony with God’s word. Jesus warned that you cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). It is impossible to love anything else as much as you love God and still please Him.
If God seems distant, do what is necessary to cleanse your hands, purify your heart, and draw near to Him.
Because you are a Christian, your life ought to be permeated with truth. When you were born again, God put the Spirit of truth in you (John 16:13). The Spirit’s role is to guide you into all truth. The Spirit wants to fill your mind with whatever is true (Phil. 4:8). If you allow the Spirit to fill you with God’s truth, you will be truthful in your actions and in your relationships. According to Jesus, this means that your yes will always be yes, and your no will always mean no (Matt. 5:33–37).
The world considers truth optional. Deception permeates every corner of society because the prince of this world is the author and father of lies (John 8:44). From his first contact with people, Satan has been lying to them and persuading them to live in falsehood rather than in truth.
The world will tempt you to compromise the truth. You may be fooled into thinking that you can accomplish greater good by withholding the truth. That is a demonic deception. You cannot use deception to build the kingdom of God! God refuses to use sinful means to accomplish His holy purposes. You may be tempted to live a lie by projecting a false image of yourself. Jesus condemned this as hypocrisy (Luke 12:56). When you sin, you will be tempted to conceal the truth; yet only as you confess the truth will you be forgiven and set free (James 5:16).
What you say reflects what is in your heart (Matt. 12:34). If your heart is filled with deception, your mouth will speak falsehood. Ask God to permeate you with His truth so that you find falsehood, in any form, abhorrent.
Even before we call on Him, the Father has already begun to provide all that we need (Isa. 65:24). Jesus wanted His disciples to learn how intimately God knew and loved each of them. That is why He told them to pray. He assured them that even before they prayed, God knew all about their situation.
Prayer is not designed for us to inform God of our needs, for He already knows them. Why, then, should we pray? Prayer enables us to experience God more intimately. The more a child experiences the loving provision of a parent, the more convinced he becomes of his parent’s unrelenting love. Often a parent will anticipate a child’s need before the child recognizes it and be prepared in advance to provide for that need. Our heavenly Father knows exactly what we will face today and next week. He is eager for us to experience Him as He provides for us.
To our surprise, we often discover that God knows far better than we do what is best for us. At times we assume that we know what would benefit us. We can even be foolish enough to assume that we don’t require anything of God. Yet God wants us to go to Him in our need (Matt. 7:7). He is ready to show His strength through our weakness. Our heavenly Father knows exactly what is best for us, and He is prepared to provide for every need, if we will but ask (Phil. 4:13).
Paul never lost his wonder at having been called by God. He understood that the way he lived ought to be worthy of the King who had chosen him. He knew that the mystery of the gospel had been hidden for generations and had only been revealed in his day through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:26–27). Paul also understood that until people accept the gospel, they are spiritually dead and therefore without hope (Col. 2:13). As a result of God’s plan of salvation, those who trust in Jesus are not only made alive in Christ but are also adopted as the Father’s children (Rom. 8:16–17). Paul recognized that though the Gospel sounds like foolishness to the world, it is the power of God that brings eternal life to those who accept it.
Because Paul’s life had been radically transformed by the gospel, he was intent on living to honor the gospel that gave him life. It would have been tragic to receive the riches of the gospel and then to live as a spiritual pauper. It would have been disgraceful to be saved from death by the blood of Christ and then show no reverence for that sacrifice. It would have been foolish to accept such love from Christ and then to resent what He asked in return.
The way you live your life ought to be a tribute to the matchless grace that your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has bestowed upon you.
One of the Christian’s greatest deterrents from sin is the life of another Christian. Some Christians maintain that it is none of their business if another chooses to sin. They are convinced that they are being judgmental if they respond to someone in sin. The world persuades them not to get involved, but this inaction prevents them from being an effective intercessor.
As Christians we are aware that sin brings death (Rom. 6:23). Sin kills relationships, dismantles marriages, stifles joy, and destroys peace. When we see someone wander from the truth into error, how should we respond? When Jesus saw sin it broke His heart. He wept over entire cities as He saw them rejecting the truth (Matt. 23:37–39). He prayed fervently for His disciples to be strong when they were tempted (John 17). He warned those who were heading toward spiritual failure (Matt. 26:20–25, 34). Jesus was even willing to die to save people from their sins because He knew the devastation that sin causes. Jesus never stood idle as those around Him were led astray by their sin. He always took an active role in turning them back to God.
“Minding your own business” will save you some discomfort, but it will not help a brother or sister who needs to return to the Lord. If you are truly aware of the grave consequences for those who continue in sin, you will be moved to weep even as Jesus wept. Pray fervently for your friend. That will safeguard your motives and prepare you to minister to him. Be alert, in the event that God asks you to confront your friend. If you do so, be loving and gentle lest you, too, be tempted (Gal. 6:1). —Experiencing God Day by Day
Salvation is not an event; it is a process. Salvation is God’s gift, for there is nothing we can do to save ourselves (Eph. 2:8–9). Yet with salvation comes the responsibility to work out our salvation. Once we have been saved, we must claim all that has become ours.
Through salvation, God gave you victory over sin. That victory applies not only to past sins but also to every sin you will ever commit. When you became a Christian, God made you a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). God wants to continually build new things into your life as you walk with Him. God gave you His joy when He saved you, and He wants to fill you with His joy daily. When you first repented of your sin, you relinquished your right to your life. God continues to ask you to yield your will to Him and to follow His leading rather than setting your own direction for your life. When you were converted, God made everything available to you; how you implement what He has given you is your choice (2 Pet. 1:3–9).
This is the great paradox of the Christian life. We are to work diligently on our faith, yet always with the awareness that only God can bring about lasting change in our lives. As we see God at work in us, we are motivated to work even more diligently. God will not force His changes upon us; neither can we bring about lasting change in our lives apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.
When you sense God developing an area of your life, join Him in His activity so that His salvation will be demonstrated fully.