“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” Isaiah 32.17
What is the “work of righteousness”? It is that which is accomplished as the direct result of righteous behavior. Righteous behavior is what God wants to accomplish in a person’s life, in the life of a people called after His name, in a nation that longs to honor God. God certainly wanted His people THEN, just as He does NOW, to exhibit the work of righteousness in their lives. In order for this to happen, someone other that us needs to be in charge of our lives – i. e. the Holy Spirit. While it seems that I address this point often in these blogs, it is because the secret to our pleasing God with our lives lies with Who is in charge.
So what is the effect of such day-to-day living for us and those around us? The answer is both simple and profound: (1) quietness and (2) assurance. The work of righteousness in our lives will produce a spirit of quietness that will enable us to live in this helter-skelter-world and not be affected by it. Our spirit will remain quiet because the object of our affection is not this world’s doing. On the contrary, it is the product of a confidence in the One Who controls it all.
Assurance is confidence produced by faith in the only One worthy of our faith. When I place confidence in mankind, more times than not I am disappointed in the outcome. But when I place my confidence is the One who always keeps His promises, I have never been disappointed. Maybe this is the day to start putting ABSOLUTE faith in God and see what that faith produces. I have never been disappointed and neither will you. Just my thoughts …
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5.16
I am a little fearful when I hear someone stand and say in a prayer meeting, “The Bible says confess your faults one to another, so here goes.” I’m about to hear some things that I don’t really need to know and that they don’t really want me to know. So what is James really saying here?
First, I believe he is saying that if you have wronged someone, go to them and confess that to them. The only one who needs to know about the offense is the one you offended and God. Next, we are to pray with and for those we have offended. If my confession is genuine, I can take that person by the hand and say, “Let’s pray together about this.” How does that bring healing? When my conscience is clear between the offended one and with God, my emotional state is on the way to being restored. Until I am right with them and with God, I cannot go on in my emotional recovery. To think I can is to deceive myself.
So where does this part fit in? “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” It may be the “righteous man” who committed the offense or against whom the offense was committed. Either way, God will hear the prayer of a righteous man – meaning there is nothing between that man and God. If all of God’s children would take this verse to heart, many of the issues with which we struggle every day would be solved. We would not ALLOW anything between God and us and between us and someone we have offended. Let’s just “do it!” Works for Nike. It will work for us! Just my thoughts …
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 5In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3.5-6
All of us long for this last phrase to be a reality in our lives: “he shall direct thy paths.” But I think we would all agree that we struggle with how we can bring this to pass in our lives. Solomon gives us the step-by-step process to insuring that God will direct our paths. Let’s look at them a little more in depth.
The first step is to trust in the Lord with all our hearts (whole-heartedly). Trust seems to appear in varying degrees in most of us. It may range anywhere from “Yeah, I trust a little” to “wow, if God doesn’t show up in this issue, I will fail miserably.” The kind of trust that Solomon is advising is the latter kind, i. e. ABSOLUTE TRUST. This kind of trust completely abandons self and casts everything on the Lord. There can be no other response to our God. Either He is trustworthy in all things or He cannot be trusted with anything.
Step number two is “lean not unto thine own understanding.” Sometimes we become so consumed with HOW God is going to do something that forget that the HOW doesn’t matter at all. God can do anything He wants any way He wants with whomever He wants whenever He wants. That is His sovereignty at work in all its glory. You and I don’t have to understand God’s process. We just need to stop leaning to our own understanding.
This may be the most difficult step of all: “In all thy ways acknowledge him … ” If God is capable of leading me in my next step, then He is certainly able to lead me in every step after that one. My inability to trust God is a direct reflection of my faith at its weakest point. It is a reflection on me and certainly not a reflection of God or His ability to “direct (my) path.” Just my thoughts …
“But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Hebrews 13.16
As the author of Hebrews nears the end of the book, it seems that there are two things he does not want to forget to mention: (1) doing good, and (2) communicating (sharing) what we have with others. One translation reads: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
Why would the Holy Spirit speak of these two things as sacrifices? Could it be that doing good to others is not something that we do easily? I think most of us have a heart for God and want to glorify Him with our actions but when He wants me to do something that is contrary to my inherent will, I really struggle. The struggle lasts until I WILLINGLY yield my spirit to God’s Spirit and obey what He wants.
Although God is pleased with my sacrifice, how much better would my actions be if they were simply a manifestation of God’s love at work in me? Is it possible that you and I value OUR feelings about things over what God says about our responsibility to others? More time than not that is precisely the situation.
“share what you have …” Are you thinking, “That’s all I’ve got”? No, that’s all you have in hand. God has a whole lot more in reserve … just for you. When we look at only what we can see with the naked eye, we fail to acknowledge that our God owns it all. THAT is shortsighted. If what God asks me to do is PLEASING to Him, WHY would I want to do ANYTHING else? Don’t ever stack your fears up against God’s greatness – those fears lose every time. Let go … and let God be God! Just my thoughts …
“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Proverbs 17.28
Have you ever thought about the fact that we have two eyes and two ears, but only one mouth? I wonder if the Creator was saying to us that we should watch and listen twice as much as we speak? I know that is purely a hypothetical question. But the issue that Solomon addresses in this verse is very real.
How many times, when you are listening to someone describe a problem or issue they are dealing with, have you already been trying to find an answer to their problem? Have you ever caught yourself interrupting someone as they were talking because you were already ready to fix their problem? Only a fool tries to fix a problem without really knowing what the problem is. THAT is precisely Solomon’s point.
Sometimes my wife will say to me, “Can we talk?” My first thought is, “Am I in trouble?” So I will ask her, “Am I in trouble?” and then, “Do you want me to fix it or just listen?” After reaching this age in my life (77), I am NOW learning that when I am a better listener, I am a better friend, and a better counselor. Many times the greatest need that someone may have is to simply “empty their emotional tank.” If they don’t, they are going to explode.
How different would things be for us in our relationships if we began the practice of “listening”? We would then know better how to pray for the one to whom we are listening. We would get a better grasp of life and it daily struggles for them. Both of these things make us a better friend and a better helper. And isn’t that really our goal for all of our relationships? Just my thoughts …
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6.4-5
These words are not just good for Israel. They are good for us also. One day the Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus so they asked Him this question: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” And Jesus responded: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 39This the first and great commandment.” God didn’t suddenly change His mind somewhere between Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22. I recently read a book by Mark Batterson entitled: “All In.” If you and I are able to love the Lord with ALL our heart, soul, and might, you could say, “I’m all in!”
Consider for a moment the ramifications of loving God in this way. What would change in my life? My view of the world would be different because I would see the world through God’s eyes. My view of my fellow man would change. I would see every man as a soul for whom Christ died. And I would realize that EVERY person is in one of two families: the family of Satan or the family of God. I would view myself differently, because I would see my life through God’s eyes. I would see sin as God sees it and stop making excuses for my sin. I would see God differently. I would see Him for Who He REALLY is and not just who I want Him to be.
Is it really worth the effort to sacrifice what I want in order to love God as He wants me to love Him? I must make that decision for myself – today, and tomorrow, and the next day, etc. And you must make the same decision for yourself – today, tomorrow, and the next day, etc. These again are Just My Thoughts …
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10.9
The simple instructions given here regarding salvation should remove all doubt from anyone’s mind about HOW to be saved. Either we HAVE confessed with our mouth and BELIEVED in our hearts that God has raised His Son Jesus from the dead or we have not. There is no mention here of a particular brand of church, or water baptism, or any other requirement – just confess and believe.
What does it mean to “confess” with the mouth? You would think everyone would understand that word. Instead, when I have asked people over these years of my ministry if they have received Christ as personal savior, that I would get a simple “yes” or “no.” instead, I hear, “I joined the church once,” or “I was baptized as a baby,” or “My parents were church-goers,” or “My granddad helped build that church.” NONE of those things, as good as they may be, is an answer to the question of receiving Christ. Let’s make a simple observation here … confession is an active verb. I must actually say something in order to confess. If a judge asks a defendant if he is guilty or not of the things with which he is charged, the judge is looking for some kind of confession, either “yes” or “no.” He will not accept a nod of the head. He must HEAR something from the defendant.
When a person has reached the place of believing that Jesus Christ actually arose from the dead, that demonstration of faith is enough to move him to CONFESS with his mouth the Lord Jesus. Salvation is the result of an active faith that results in an active confession that leads to a completed act, which is salvation. It SEEMS so simple, but some want to make it so complex. God made it simple. Let’s don’t mess it up. Just my thoughts …
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2.13
I entered Bible College in 1957 and met a lot of new friends. I was challenged by a fellow student to adopt a life verse. So, one day I heard someone quote the verse above, and I thought, “That’s it! That’s my life verse.” I have never forgotten the verse and my commitment to govern my life by it.
The thing that amazes me day after day is that the God of this universe chooses every day to care about MY life. I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered, “Why me, Lord?” I have so little to offer God. The only thing I have to give God is “me.” And yet, I have discovered over and over since that day early in 1957 that every time I allow God to be in control, my life goes so much easier. God actually WANTS to work in me. He can take my nothing and make it into a usable vessel. And that is all God wants, to be able to use me for His glory. I recall the words of Dr. Bob Jones Sr. who said, “The greatest ability is availability.” Are YOU available to God? Have you told Him that?
God wants to do two things through His children: (1) to exercise His will through us, and (2) to do of His good pleasure. I wonder if we can embrace the idea of God doing His pleasure in us? Have you ever thought that you could bring pleasure to God? The only way that can happen in any of us is for us to take our hands completely off our lives and give God total control. That is not a once-for-all decision. It requires of us that we do it every day. That may seem monotonous to you, but it is very pleasing to God. Go ahead! Try it! I think you will like it! Just my thoughts …
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11.28
When I awoke this morning and read this verse, it was like God was saying to me, “This is for you, Jerry.” And you know what dear friend this is for you too. How many times have we started a day, only to discover that it is going to be one of “those” days when nothing goes right, everything requires a do-over, and we are at wit’s end before the day ever gets started? That’s when this verse cries out to us.
It is important to notice who is saying these thing. It is the Son of God Himself. He says to you and me, “Come unto me … ” How personally fulfilling to realize that the God of the universe wants to take time today to spend with me? Don’t think for a moment that God does not know what you are going through. He hears the faintest cry of desperation. He knows when Satan is trying to defeat us. And He cares. Just to know that He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities brings a sense of peace that can come from no other source.
“all ye that labour and are heavy laden … ” it doesn’t matter what kind of labour or what kind of burden we are dealing with, God says, “Come unto me … ” When a child is hurt or fearful, their first response is to find the nearest place of safety. God is saying, “I am here. Just run to me.” He doesn’t qualify the labor or the burden; He simply says, “Give it to me.” There is no so big that God can’t handle it and there is no burden that He cannot carry.
“I will give you rest.” This is a resolute promise, “I WILL give you rest.” Has God ever not kept a promise He made to you? Just as surely, He will keep this one too! Just my thoughts …
“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” Proverbs 29.25
We believers often get this backwards. We fear the Lord and put our trust in man. We have every reason not to trust man, but we do it anyway. We have every reason to trust the Lord, but seem to falter when it comes to absolute trust. When you and I fear man, what does that mean? It means we value the thoughts and opinions of man over the truths of God, and allow that to sidetrack us in trusting the Lord. The only thing man knows how to do is sin, even the believer. Our minds are subject to the attacks of Satan and that will cloud our thinking.
So what does it mean to put our trust in the Lord? It means we trust Him with our thought life. It means we trust Him with the attitudes we embrace. It means we trust Him before we react to a situation – whether positive or negative. It means we roll over onto Him all of our burdens as 1 Peter 5.7 declares we should do: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
So what is your plan for the rest of today? Is it your desire to TRUST the Lord in ALL things? Then do it without trying to figure out whether God is right or not. Solomon says that a proper view of God will bring us wisdom and wisdom is taking what we know and applying it to the present situation. Since God is able to exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask of Him or even think of asking Him, let’s allow Him the right to do that because we trust Him. Just my thoughts …