‘Who am I…that you have brought me this far?’ 2 Samuel 7:18 NIV
A member of parliament took his little daughter to visit Westminster Abbey. As she stood looking up at its magnificent columns, her father asked, ‘What do you think, sweetheart?’ With childlike candour she replied, ‘I was thinking how big you look at home, Daddy, and how small you look in here.’ God’s presence has a way of humbling us. In the Old Testament, King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, ‘Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?’ The Bible’s filled with examples of people who humbled themselves before God. In Matthew’s Gospel he mentions his own name only twice, and both times he calls himself a tax collector. And John doesn’t even mention his own name in his Gospel. The name ‘John’ that appears throughout his Gospel refers to John the Baptist. John simply calls himself ‘the other disciple’, or ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’. Luke wrote two of the most important books in the Bible without ever once mentioning his own name. And Paul, the Bible’s most prolific author, referred to himself as ‘a fool.’ (2 Corinthians 12:11 NIV) He described himself as ‘the least of the apostles’ (1 Corinthians 15:9 NIV), and later claimed to be ‘less than the least of all saints.’ (Ephesians 3:8 KJV) In fact, as Paul grew older his ego grew smaller, and in one of his final Epistles he referred to himself as ‘the chief of sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15). King David wrote no psalm celebrating his victory over Goliath, but he wrote a psalm of penitence confessing his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51). So, always be humble!
‘God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.’ Romans 5:20 NLT
Why did God establish a new covenant with His people through Jesus instead of continuing with the covenant He’d given to Moses? Because while the law had the power to let people know how far short they fell, it didn’t have the power to make them want to obey it. Let’s suppose you have a tendency to eat too much chocolate. You want to be free from the habit, so you make a law for yourself: ‘I must not eat chocolate. I cannot eat chocolate. I will never eat chocolate again.’ You even convince yourself that for you it’s a sin to eat chocolate. But this self-made law doesn’t set you free from the desire for chocolate; it actually seems to increase your problem! Now all you can think about is chocolate; it’s on your mind day and night. Eventually you find yourself sneaking around to eat chocolate because you told everybody you were never going to eat it again. You can’t eat chocolate in front of people so you hide when you eat it, and end up feeling really guilty because now you’ve become a ‘sneaky’ sinner. Now you understand the pain that comes from being ‘under the law’ instead of free in Christ. New believers often focus their attention on God’s laws in order to control their passions, but it doesn’t work. As they mature, however, they learn to direct their attention to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and discover that He can set you free from the desire to sin. The law requires living in perfect obedience, which we cannot fulfil; living by grace is relying on Christ and His perfect life of obedience, drawing each day on the power of God’s Spirit.
‘His father…filled with love…ran to his son.’ Luke 15:20 NLT
Canoeing specialist Bill Havens was almost guaranteed to win a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. But a few months before the games he learned that his wife would likely give birth to their first child while he was away. She told him that she could make it on her own, but this was a milestone Bill didn’t want to miss. So he surprised everyone and stayed home. He greeted his infant son, Frank, into the world on 1 August 1924. Though he always wondered what might have been, he said he never regretted his decision. He poured his life into that little lad, and shared with him a love for the rapids. Twenty-four years passed, and the Olympic Games were held in Finland. This time his son Frank was chosen to compete in the canoeing event. The day after the competition, Bill received a telegram from Frank that read: ‘Dear Dad, thanks for waiting around for me to be born. I’m coming home with the gold medal that you should have won.’ It was signed ‘Your loving son, Frank.’ Bill Havens wanted his family to know they always came first, no matter what. And that made him a hero to a little boy named Frank. Bill understood that medals tarnish, records are broken, and achievements are soon forgotten. These things don’t satisfy. What does? The love you have for your children, and the love they have for you. Jesus pointed out that even when a child is wayward, a parent’s love can restore them. Are you neglecting your family today? If so, take action immediately!
‘Let us run…the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus.’ Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
At the Good Will Games in Edmonton, Canada, the Jamaican team was participating in the 4 x 100-metre relay. Those in the third leg of the race had a friend competing in another event nearby. While the sprinter was waiting for the baton, he looked up for a moment to try and see how their friend was doing in his event. Big mistake! In the next moment, the guy running the second leg of the race came up to him with the baton—and crashed into him. Needless to say, the Jamaicans lost because one of their runners was looking at the wrong thing. Instead of focusing on his own race, he was looking at someone else’s. Who are you looking at—Christ, or other Christians? The Church is like a spiritual hospital: its members are in various stages of treatment, with the aim of becoming whole. So when you look to Christians you’ll sometimes be disappointed—but not when you look to Christ. One day Jesus told Peter what type of death He would suffer, and Peter questioned Him about what sort of death John would face. ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘…what is that to you? You follow Me.’ (John 21:21–22 NKJV) Have you ever watched a team rowing in the Olympic Games? They can’t see the finish line because their backs are towards it, so they keep their eyes on the captain. He guides them. He motivates them. He shouts, ‘Row, row, row!’ He gives them a cadence and keeps them on track. So the word for you today is—keep your eyes on Jesus.
‘Teach us to realise the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.’ Psalm 90:12 NLT
The story’s told of a guy who went to Heaven and met St Peter. Peter said, ‘Tell me what good things you did in your lifetime.’ The guy replied, ‘Well, a gang of Hell’s Angels was beating up an old lady and stealing her purse, so I rushed in and saved her.’ Peter said, ‘When did this happen?’ The guy answered, ‘About one minute ago.’ Seriously, unless Jesus comes back, you are going to die. The psalmist wrote, ‘Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty.’ (Psalm 90:10 NLT) Let’s say you’re sixty, and you live to be eighty. That’s two hundred and forty months! When you begin to think that way, time becomes a precious commodity and a limited resource, and you get serious about making every day count. Each time you say, ‘I’ll take care of that tomorrow,’ you’ve lost another day you can never get back. Here are some questions you need to think about. Have you discovered God’s will for your life and devoted yourself to fulfilling it? If not, why not? Understand these three things: (1) God scheduled the date of your arrival on earth. ‘You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.’ (Psalm 139:16 NLT) (2) God has laid out a track for you to run on. ‘Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.’ (Hebrews 12:1 NLT) (3) God will reward you for how you’ve lived (See 1 Corinthians 3:11–15). So make every day count!
‘The Lord make His face shine on you.’ Numbers 6:25 NIV
When you study the life of Christ you realise that for Him prayer wasn’t an energy drainer, but an energy giver. And it can be the same for you when you come to see God’s face shining upon you as you talk with Him in prayer. When you’re with a critic who wants to argue, you lose energy. But when you meet with your best friend, you gain energy, and Jesus said, ‘I have called you friends.’ (John 15:15 NIV) Have you ever noticed how people in love sometimes speak to each other in baby talk? It’s immensely intimate and private—and it’s off-putting to a third party. But we do it because it is the most tender language we know. Jesus’ prayer life demonstrated this intimacy. He called God ‘Abba’, an Aramaic word much like ‘dada’ or ‘mama’. (Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and some portions of the New Testament are written in Aramaic rather than Greek.) ‘Abba’ was a Jewish child’s first word, because it was so easy to say. Somehow when Jesus was with God, the tender love that an adult offers to a child to give him strength is what He received from His Father. And you can have that same experience. It’s why Paul wrote: ‘You have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.” For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are His children, we are His heirs.’ (Romans 8:15–17 NLT) Your highest goal in prayer should be intimacy with God.
‘Your face, Lord, I will seek.’ Psalm 27:8 NKJV
We get a remarkable picture of what can happen in prayer when we watch a parent and a little child. Imagine a one-year-old who looks at you and holds his gaze. You’re charmed. He looks shyly at first, tilting his head away and looking out of the corner of his eye. You do the same. It’s fun. He turns his face to look directly at you. You mirror the turn. Then there’s a sudden noise behind him, and he looks startled—you mirror his surprised look. He’s so startled that he’s getting ready to cry, so you shift to a smile. He does the same, and he’s soon gurgling with joy. When a child makes eye contact like this, when someone lets him know that they understand what he’s feeling, his brain and nervous system make crucial connections inside his body. He is experiencing what’s called ‘neural integration’. By playing the face game, you’re literally giving the child peace. It heals him. He finds delight in your presence. And prayer works like that too. In the Old Testament God instructed Moses to give the Israelites the following blessing: ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face towards you and give you peace.’ (Numbers 6:24–26) In prayer we speak about ‘seeking God’s face’. That means sometimes prayer is about speaking, other times it’s about listening. But there’s a third ingredient. It’s the security that comes from sensing God’s smile of love and approval.
‘I have betrothed you to…Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 11:2 NKJV
In Bible days betrothal meant much more than engagement: it was part of the marriage ritual. As soon as a couple was betrothed, they were considered to be one. But the marriage wasn’t consummated for a year or more. During that time the groom would build their new home, continue courting his bride, getting to know her and allowing her to know him. And the bride would prepare herself by learning everything she could about her future husband so that she could please him in all respects. Finally the groom brought his bride to their new home and they began to live as husband and wife. So what’s the point of this illustration? Simply this: the Church is the bride of Christ, and we should be longing for the time when our union with Him will be consummated and we’ll partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb in Heaven (See Revelation 19:7). Until then Jesus is fulfilling His part by preparing a place for us, praying and interceding on our behalf, continuing to woo us, to lavish His love upon us, and to bring us into ‘the knowledge of [Him].’ (Ephesians 4:13 KJV) And what’s our part? Remembering that how we live our lives reflects on Him. No man wants his wife running around writing bad cheques, engaging in lewd conversation, getting drunk in public or flirting with other men. He wants her to refrain from those behaviours because he loves her and wants her reputation to be good. He wants his wife to be a good reflection on him and their family. In other words, your betrothal to Christ demands that you no longer live for yourself—but for Him!
‘I myself always strive to have a conscience without offence toward God and men.’ Acts 24:16 NKJV
When you go through a metal detector in an airport you are required by law to take everything out of your pockets. If you don’t, you set off a beeper. And if you try to hide a gun or a knife, you will probably end up in prison. Your conscience works the same way. When you knowingly do wrong, the Holy Spirit who lives within you will trigger your conscience and an alarm will go off inside you. If you’re wise, you’ll repent of your sin and make things right. Why? Because your alternatives aren’t good! ‘Having faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.’ (1 Timothy 1:19 NKJV) Think of the word ‘shipwreck’, then picture the word ‘Titanic’. Getting the picture? When God says no, He’s not trying to be hard to get along with; He’s trying to protect you from the iceberg you’re sailing towards. Many of us have security systems in our homes. When we open the door we have thirty seconds before the alarm goes off and the police are called. God has given you an alarm system that works the same way; it’s called your conscience. And there are three things you can do with it: (1) Turn it off. (2) Tune it out. (3) Allow it to guide you and walk in the blessing of God. The writer to the Hebrews said, ‘Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honourably in everything we do.’ (Hebrews 13:18 NLT) That should be your prayer today, and every day!
‘Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits.’ Psalm 68:19 NKJV
The story is told of a twelve-year-old boy who had never spoken a word in his life. As a result, his parents thought he couldn’t speak. Then one day his mother placed a bowl of soup in front of him and he took a spoonful. He pushed it away and said, ‘This is awful; I won’t eat it!’ The family was ecstatic. His father said, ‘Why haven’t you ever talked to us before?’ The boy replied, ‘Because up until now everything’s been ok.’ The only time some of us speak is to complain! You say, ‘But I’ve got nothing to be grateful for.’ Really? If you slept eight hours last night, there are millions of insomniacs who would gladly switch places with you. If you have a job, a roof over your head, and three square meals a day, there are millions of unemployed people who would like to have your problem. If you were able to get out of bed this morning and move through the day pain free, you’re blessed with the gift of health. Without it you would truly have something to complain about! And what about your salvation? What price would you put on that? Your sins have been forgiven, you have peace with God, and when you die you have a home in Heaven. Sure, we all have trials and tough days. But don’t insult God and belittle His blessings by saying you don’t have anything to be grateful for. It’s time you started talking to yourself, as David the psalmist did: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.’ (Psalm 103:2 KJV)