“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23.4
We hear people refer quite often to “the valley of the shadow of death”. It doesn’t always mean a reference to death, but may be a reference to an experience that seems as horrible to them as death. Such an experience causes each one of us to struggle unless we realize the truth of the phrase: “thou art with me … ” A realization of God’s presence with us in any and every situation is a source of strength that we can find in nothing else.
I find strength and comfort in David’s words: “I will fear no evil … ” The moment we entertain the thought that the evil we face is greater than the God we serve, we will fear that evil. But David knew, and you and I must come to know, that nothing, absolutely nothing, is greater than our faithful God. God is not simply great. He is the greatest. He reminded Israel over and over in the Old Testament that He was God and beside Him there was none else.
When I read the words. “ … thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”, I need to remember that God has a purpose in every experience He brings into my life or that He permits to be a part of my life. Everything may not be good, but God can use that as a rod to teach me something I would not otherwise learn. Let’s live today in the light of David’s words that bring comfort and confidence. The valley may be dark, but we need not fear. Our God has said He will be with us. And His presence is enough. Just my thoughts …
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” James 3.13
My wife and I attended the funeral of a man in our church this morning and one of his grandsons used this verse to describe his grandfather. It was a great encouragement to me to hear this grandson speak of his grandfather in this way. I think all of us want to be wise and endued with knowledge. Sometimes we confuse much learning with wisdom. You and I have met people who had a great deal of knowledge but seemed to lack wisdom. Wisdom is leaning how to apply what we know.
How is this wisdom useful to others? The next phrase tells us: “? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” Consider this translation: “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” Conversation in this verse translates manner of living or good conduct. We have all heard someone say that we need to “walk the walk and not just talk the talk.” It is really easy to speak about a godly life and to want to tell others how they should live for God. But the truth of the matter is this: “what we are speaks so loud that the world can’t hear what we say.” Doesn’t this demand of us a life that is lived in such a manner that how we live drives other to listen to what we say. That seems to make good sense to me.
“meekness of wisdom … ”What is that? It is a life lived without the flashy trappings that say, “Look at me. I am great.” But rather they tell the one who is watching to look to Jesus. He is the reason we are what we are. Just my thoughts …
“Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.” Psalm 143.10
I find it interesting that the psalmist would pray, “Teach me to do thy will … ” All of us need to pray that prayer at some time or another. I like this rendering: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” The advantage that you and I have over the psalmist is that we have God’s complete revelation to man in the form of His Word. We can look at any time we choose into His Word and read to see what His will is for us. “But,” you say, “sometimes I have a really hard time figuring out what God’s will I for me.” Let me make what sounds like a really simple statement, but it has become profound for me. God will never show you what to do that is not revealed in His Word until you do what He has already shown you to do that is revealed in His Word. Does that sound confusing? Here is what I mean. I have talked to so many believers in my years of ministry who want God to somehow show them what He wants them to do, but when I ask, “Have you been reading His Word?” the answer is, “Well, no!” God’s love letter to you clear about what He wants in your life.
Look at this phrase: “Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” Level ground does not mean that there are no difficult paths. It means that we are on the path God wants and we trust Him to lead every step. Psalm 119.11says: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” When we listen for the Spirit’s whisper, we can take the right steps as God leads us on level ground. Just my thoughts …
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, (4) Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, (5) For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; (6) Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1.3-6
Paul had good memories of his time with the Philippian believers. I believe we all should remember the good times God gives us with fellow believers because those memories will sustain us in time of trial and distress. Paul was writing these words from a Roman prison, so being able to look back on his memories with his Philippian brothers and sisters in Christ was a real encouragement to him.
Let us focus on this last verse: “that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” God always finishes what He starts. Take a look at the opening verses of Genesis where He finishes the acts of creation. His crowning act was creating Adam and then Eve. Then after their sin, He laid out the plan of salvation in Genesis 3.15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The only person ever born of the seed of the woman was Jesus Christ. He was God’s fulfillment of His promise to provide redemption for man.
As we look at Paul’s words here to the Philippian believers, God had begun a good work in them when Paul went there to establish a church in the city of Philippi. Those early believers came together and formed this church at Philippi. Paul reminded them and us that whatever God begins He always finishes. He will not leave us to the devices and desires of this world. He will carry us through this life and take us on to heaven. We will get to be a great part of the day of Jesus Christ. I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to that day when God finishes what He started in my life. Just my thoughts …
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8.28
Most people love this verse for what they think it says: “all things work together for good … ” Somewhere in that phrase we want it to imply that all things are good, but that is not what it says. When we read these words closely, we get a different truth: “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God … ” The key truth here is that all things work together for good. That is different from all things are good. Is God going to allow some things into our lives that are not good? Just ask Joseph. Just ask David. Just ask Peter. Just ask Paul. (And there are many others.) each one of these servants of God experienced some things in their lives that could not be called good by any stretch of the imagination. But everyone of them would say to us today that “all things work together for good”. Our struggle comes with wanting to know why something is happening, at the moment it is happening, so we can try to make some sense of it to ourselves. Joseph’s brothers sold him off to a caravan of Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar. Joseph had to be thinking, “What is the world is going on? This isn’t consistent with my dream that God gave me.” It made no sense at the time, but in time it would all make perfect sense. All things would work together for good.
There are two caveats in this verse: (1) we must love God, and (2) we must be called according to His purpose. I believe we would all say that we love God. I think we would look at our lives and declare that God has called us to that which we are doing now, so that puts us in line for all things working together for good. Just don’t forget that God’s time and purpose are not the same as our time and purpose. Just my thoughts …
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7.25
Have you ever wondered about the totality of your salvation? How far does it reach? How much does it include? Is there anything God may have overlook or left out? I believe this verse provides the answer for all of those questions. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him … ” Once we have come to God, through Christ, for salvation, there is nothing that God does not cover with regard to our lives – past, present, and future. The idea of uttermost means the greatest so whatever it is that we have done, God has it covered.
This next phrase is most encouraging: “seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for (us).” Now that the plan of salvation has been completed, and you and I have received Christ as savior, what is His responsibility to us now? Here it is … He ever lives to make intercession for us. When you and I intercede for someone else, we are praying for them. We are praying for some specific need that we may know exists in their lives. When Christ intercedes for us, He really knows every need that exists in our lives and He talks to His Father about those needs for us. He not only knows, but He cares enough to take my needs and your needs to His Father. This dimension of love is so great that it is unexplainable – incomprehensible – but so very real. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit recorded these words so that you and I could have a small grasp of how very much the Father and the Son love us. Let’s walk in the light of that truth today! Just my thoughts …
“I wait for the LORD my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.” Psalm 130.5
There are two interesting words in this verse: (1) wait and (2) hope. The only reason one would be able to wait is because he has hope. When the psalmist says: “I wait for the LORD my soul doth wait … ”, I want to ask him why he waits. What has brought him to the place where he is willing to wait? I suspect he would have a number of reasons why he is willing to wait. No doubt they are some of the same ones that you and I have. (1) The willingness to wait means we realize that it is not God’s time yet. (2) The willingness to wait also means to me that God has never failed me in the past when I was willing to wait. I believe there is yet another reason to wait. (3) What God has in store for me is better than what I may be wanting right now, so waiting for His timing is all important.
Hope is the opposite of despair. We find ourselves in despair when we do not know the outcome of a situation or we believe it will be something other than what we want. The psalmist says to us: “in his word do I hope.” Hope in God’s Word is a hope that is not misplaced. God has always done exactly what He said He would do. If God has made a promise but it has not yet come to pass, just remember that He is a promise-keeping God and he will not begin to be otherwise now. The only way that you and I can hope in the Lord now is because every time we have waited in the past, He has done exactly what we needed to have done. So if you are waiting now, just remember to hope in His Word. Just my thoughts …
“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1.6-7
I love the phrase: “accepted in the beloved”. You and I are accepted by God because of His beloved Son, Jesus. This is made possible because of the truth found in v. 7 we have “redemption through his blood … ” How is that possible? It is possible because of His sacrificial death on the cross. In the Old Testament the high priest offered a sacrifice once a year for the sins of the people, but that sacrifice did not take away their sins, it merely pushed their sins forward for one more year, in anticipation of the death of Christ on the cross. In John 19.30 we read the words from the lips of Jesus: “It is finished!” What was finished? The once-for-all sacrifice for sin was complete. Everything that God the Father required as a sacrifice was provided by God the Son. Nothing more needed to be done. Nothing more could be done to add to what Jesus had already done.
These words are significant: “the forgiveness of sins … ” It is through God’s grace that you and I receive acceptance into God’s family. As the words of the song tell us: “Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.” This phrase “riches of his grace” tells us that you and I will never leave God with less grace because He gives us freely of His grace. It is an inexhaustible supply. Praise His holy name. We are accepted and we are redeemed because of His grace. These truths will encourage us today! Just my thoughts …
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: but I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it ore abundantly.” John 10.10
Someone very close to me asked me once, “If God wants me to have the abundant life, where is it?” This was a genuine question from someone whom I considered to be a godly person, but to this one the abundant life was still a mystery. The thing that had happened in this person’s life is what Jesus describes in the opening phrase of this verse: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy … ” Satan’s only goal for us is that he might steal our joy, kill any sense of God’s love and presence in our life, and kill any desire to serve Him. After all, if God’s doesn’t love me enough to give me the abundant life, why should I do anything for Him? And sadly this is where many of God’s children are today.
So what is this abundant life of which Jesus speaks here? Is it something that He must give us or is it something that is available and we must simply appropriate? I submit to you that it is the latter – we must simply appropriate it. If you could experience the abundant life right now, what would that look like? Would all of your problems disappear? As a parent, would your children suddenly begin being to be perfect angels? As a pastor, would your church members all be perfect representatives of Christ in your community? As a missionary, would every witness result in a salvation experience and would you be able now to get along with every other missionary on your field? This list could be endless, but the answer to each question is a resounding no!
If none of this, then what? May I submit a simple truth: “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Does this seem too simple? Try it! If God is everywhere (and He is), then you and I can have joy no matter where we are or what is going on in our lives. May this truth energize you today as you walk with Him! Just my thoughts …
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” 1 Peter 4.16
Suffering – everyone is familiar with it. No one likes it. At some point in time in our lives, we will all experience it. As a follower of Christ, I must never assume that because I am God’s child, I will never have to deal with suffering. In this verse Peter assumes that every one of us will suffer. So the issue is not, will I suffer, but how will I handle suffering?
“let him not be ashamed … ” There is no shame in suffering. Suffering is not always a punishment by God because we have done something that displeased Him. I believe far too many of God’s children assume that if they are experiencing suffering, they must have done something wrong and God is punishing them. This was the same assumption that Job’s friends made. Job must have done something wrong or God wouldn’t let all these bad things happen to him. You and I simply need to remember that we have no way of knowing what God is doing in our lives behind the scenes and when suffering comes we can trust Him.
“ … but let him glorify God on this behalf.” Can we give God glory in the midst of our suffering? The apostle Paul wrote: “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.” Paul wanted his “thorn in the flesh” to go away, but God said, “No”. So Paul said, I will “glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Can you and I make that kind of statement? I certainly want to. That is my prayer in suffering. Just my thoughts …