Meeting Our Need…

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2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (KJV)

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

I thought the Christian life was going to be easier than this. Have these words ever entered your mind?

Sometimes we come before our heavenly Father, thinking that He will fix all of our problems and devote Himself to our happiness and comfort.

However, that is not the reality portrayed in Scripture.

The apostle Paul was a man whom the Lord used greatly, and yet his life was anything but easy.

In fact, at one point Paul thought his pain was too much to bear, and he begged God to remove it.

There’s nothing wrong with asking the Lord to relieve our suffering, but what should our response be if He doesn’t?

The apostle probably had no idea that His experience would find its way into the Bible, to comfort and guide believers throughout the ages.

The promise God gave him applies to us as well: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God’s grace could be defined as His provision for us at the point of our need.

The problem is, there may be times when it doesn’t seem the Lord is truly meeting our need.

But He frequently sees deficiencies, outcomes, and complications that we don’t.

His goals for us involve spiritual growth, the development of Christlike character, and strong faith.

And trials play a vital role in achieving such things.

The important issue is how we respond. If all you want is relief, you could descend into anger and doubt.

But if your desire is to become the person God wants you to be, you’ll see each trial as an opportunity for Christ to display His character and strength in you.

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Our Own Comfort and Personal Ambition…

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Psalm 1:1-6 (KJV)

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.ungodly: or, wicked
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.wither: Heb. fade
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Scripture proclaims God’s great power and majesty while also revealing His deep mercy and love.

He is worthy of wholehearted, passionate submission but doesn’t often get it.

Are you among the few who offer themselves to Him without reservation?

Complete obedience is a choice to follow God regardless of the consequences.

This means that we obey the Lord even if our friends choose a different path or when suffering and embarrassment are guaranteed. Seeing His will done is more important than our own comfort or personal ambition.

We commit the consequences to God and cling to His promises: He will never leave us (Deut. 31:6), and He makes good out of every situation (Rom. 8:28).

Notice the word commitment in the title of today’s devotion.

I’m not writing about obedience that is born of the moment (as in, I choose to follow God in this instance) but about total submission as a way of life.

Setting restrictions on compliance is so tempting—we want to be able to change our mind when obeying upsets our lifestyle, the final result is unclear, or we’re just plain scared. But let me ask you this one sobering question:

If Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, what right do you have to limit how and when you’ll do His will?

Believers have no right to set their own limits; their one criterion for making decisions should be,

What does God want me to do? 

The answer at times may cause suffering, but obedience is always right.

And following God in all things is the surest path to favor and spiritual growth.

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No Condemnation…

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Romans 8:1-4 (KJV)

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Some believers are plagued by feelings of condemnation.

Either they think they’ll never live up to God’s expectations for them or they’re nearly drowning in guilt over past sins.

These men and women cannot seem to shake the sense that God is displeased with their puny efforts at being Christlike.

The book of Romans confronts this lie head-on: “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

When the Savior went to the cross on our behalf, He lifted the blame from our shoulders and made us righteous before God.

Those feelings of condemnation do not belong to us; they are from Satan.

He amplifies our guilt and feelings of inadequacy and then suggests that’s how the Lord feels about His “wayward child.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Our sins are wiped clean, and we are chosen and loved by God.

Condemnation is reserved for those who reject the Lord (John 3:36).

Sin is a death sentence (Rom. 6:23).

Anyone who chooses to cling to sin instead of seeking divine forgiveness must pay the penalty, which is an eternity separated from God.

Two synonyms of condemn are ‘denounce’ and ‘revile.’ Those words certainly describe Jesus’ statement to unbelievers in Matthew 25:41: “Depart from me, accursed ones.”

There is no condemnation for those who receive Jesus Christ as their Savior.

The believer’s penalty for sin is paid, and he can stand blameless before God.

Trust in the Lord’s love and let go of Satan’s lie. God’s beloved children are covered by His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

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Through His Mercy…

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Lamentations 3:22-25 (KJV)

22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
25 The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

Imagine someone asking you if God has been good to you.

What ideas pop into your head?

Do you think about material possessions like a luxury car or a big house?

Those things are nice, but even if you do not have any external signs of His blessing, you can still say that God has been good.

God’s goodness is expressed through His mercy.

We usually talk about the Lord’s mercy in relation to His salvation plan, which provides for our rescue from slavery to sin. However, God is also concerned when we are suffering. The blind beggar Bartimaeus called out to Jesus for mercy, and the Lord responded by healing the man’s eyes (Mark 10:46-52).

Nothing in Bartimaeus deserved mercy, but it is God’s nature to respond to the needs of His beloved children.

God’s goodness is expressed through His grace.

None of us, no matter how well behaved we might be, deserve God’s favor. Yet because we are helpless to save ourselves, the Lord in His goodness took our guilt upon Himself and suffered the death penalty in our place. Upon salvation, we are invited to live by God’s grace and thereby constantly receive His support and help.

God’s goodness is expressed through His love.

The Pacific Ocean, as vast as it is, seems like barely a drop compared to the Lord’s boundless love. No sin we can commit could ever place us beyond the reach of His faithfulness.

Think of all that the Father has done for you!

He sent His son Jesus to die for your sins. Now He offers you mercy and grace to live by.

The heavenly Father is indeed good.

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Freedom From Limitation…

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John 4:19-24 (KJV)

19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

While talking with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus explained an important attribute of God’s nature: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

The Father is not confined to a body in the way that human beings are.

The fact that God is spirit means He is not bound to time or space.

He is with every believer during every moment of life.

When we sense His presence in corporate worship at church or during personal prayer time at home, that is His Spirit interacting with our own.

God’s freedom from limitation means that we are never without Him.

The heavenly Father is too awesome to be confined by physical boundaries. When the Israelites begged for a golden calf to worship (Ex. 32:1), they showed that they did not understand His boundless nature.

Idolatry tries to confine an infinite Lord to a finite form so that He fits human perceptions and desires.

But if He could be restricted to some animal or person, then He simply would not be worthy of worship.

The Father is infinite in His being and also, therefore, in every one of His attributes.

His love has no restrictions, and His mercy is without end. We cannot sin enough or fall so far that we are beyond the reach of His loving grace.

Though we may sometimes wish we could hide our deeds or our face from the heavenly Father, we are always in His presence.

Take comfort in the knowledge that no matter where you go or what you do, your Father is with you.

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Our Eagerness To Act…

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Psalm 27:13-14 (KJV)

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

Waiting is one of the most difficult disciplines Christians are called to practice.

This is especially true when a heart’s desire is within reach and we feel sure God is about to come through with that blessing.

But the Lord always has a good purpose when He asks us to wait, even when we cannot discern His motive for months or even years.

Although difficult, waiting is essential to living a successful Christian life of obedience and reaped blessing.

One of the main reasons believers step out of God’s will—and consequently out of fellowship with Him—is over eagerness to act on their own, without first receiving divine guidance.

Too often, we make this mistake while trying to do something we believe will bring pleasure to the Lord.

But the way to please our Father is by following the Bible’s frequent exhortations to wait.

It is possible, however, for us to confuse waiting with idleness.

Pausing for further instructions from God requires a determined stillness—a decision not to act until He provides clear direction.

His plan for our life requires no guesswork on our part; He will give instructions when the time is right, so we must be in prayer and in the Word if we are to receive His directives.

God works in this way because His plans are interconnected: What we do affects others as well as ourselves, both now and in the future.

Waiting is hard. We don’t want to stand still when our natural inclination says, “Grasp the prize before it slips away!” But wise believers wait until they have heard from God.

Only then can we step out with confidence that we are walking in His will.

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The Standard For Our Conduct…

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Proverbs 2

Although the temptation to compromise threatens every believer, we don’t have to give in.

If we’re aware of the danger and understand the downward progression and ultimate consequences, we can determine to be vigilant in obedience to the Lord.

The first step in learning how to avoid compromise is understanding why it is so tempting.

When others pressure us to take part in in what we know God has forbidden, it’s easy to give in because we don’t want to feel rejected.

But anyone who’s committed to living a godly life must be willing to stand alone and face ridicule or even persecution (2 Tim. 3:12).

At other times, we consent to activities that violate our conscience just to avoid conflict, but peace at any price means we have to sacrifice obedience to God.

However, the temptation to compromise doesn’t always originate with others.

In fact, James 1:14 says we are tempted when we’re carried away by our own lusts.

How many Christians have fallen into sexual immorality or pornography by desiring a second look?

Greed is another motivation that drives us to compromise.

If you fudge on your income tax or take a few things home from the office, you’ve stepped over the line of obedience to God.

Our choices should be based on scriptural truth, not on our feelings and desires.

In order to stand firm against compromise, we must make God’s Word the standard for our conduct. If you begin each day with the Lord in His Word, He will guide your way.

Then when the Spirit gives a warning, obey immediately, because giving consideration to the temptation opens a door for Satan.

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The Refining Process…

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Galatians 2:20 (KJV)

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

There’s a goal to the Christian life, which God expresses this way: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).

This refining process is called sanctification.

And there are several identifiable stages in route to this goal, but sadly, most believers are unfamiliar with them.

Let me offer some definitions so you can identify where you are on the journey and understand what to expect.

Salvation is the first stage of the Christian life.

This describes our redemption from sinfulness through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. What results is forgiveness of sin, which lets us have a relationship with Almighty God.

Next, God gives us opportunity to serve (Eph. 2:10).

We were created to do good works in Jesus’ name.

But at some point, we notice something isn’t working.

This is the start to stage three: frustrated inadequacy.

This unpleasant but necessary part of the journey can last varying amounts of time. Without it, we’d undoubtedly experience self-sufficiency and pride.

But we should recognize this difficult phase as beautiful because it leads us into the best part of our spiritual lives: total dependency upon Jesus as Lord of our life.

And we will be fulfilling our ultimate goal: becoming a reflection of Christ.

Sadly, many Christians don’t reach a point of complete reliance on the Lord.

Pride, discouragement, and distraction can ruin focus and perseverance. Paul reminds us to fix our eyes on the goal of maturity in Christ (Phil. 3:14).

Learning to die to self is painful, but ironically, it’s the only true way to life.

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