‘Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle.’ Hebrews 11:34 NLT
The word ‘metamorphosis’ means to be changed from one form into another. In Hebrews chapter eleven, we find famous people such as Moses and David.
Did they have weaknesses? Yes.
Did they sometimes struggle? Absolutely.
But: ‘Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle.’ Picture a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly. It starts out slow and slimy, and takes hours to crawl a meter or so. When it undergoes the process of metamorphosis, however, it becomes a beautiful butterfly that can fly long distances by simply riding the air currents. The butterfly’s wings developed as a result of struggling in the cocoon until it broke free. No fight, no flight! Getting the idea? Are you struggling with something today? Are you in a spiritual battle? It’s your struggles that develop your strength, and your battles that bring your victories.
Satan doesn’t want you to know that. He hopes the battle you are in will destroy you instead of develop you, so he keeps pouring on the pressure. When Paul’s life became so hard that he thought he couldn’t stand another day of it, God told him, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT) How did Paul respond? He writes: ‘Now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me… For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9–10 NLT)
‘Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you.’ John 15:4 AMPC
There’s an art to making good tea. You can dip your teabag up and down in the hot water and then pull it out. Or you can let it dwell there so that you can experience the tea’s full strength and flavor. Jesus said: ‘Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.’ (John 15:4–5 AMPC)
The secret of victorious Christian living is not ‘dipping’ in God’s presence once a week in church, but ‘dwelling’ in it every day. That’s why this devotional is a helpful tool for your spiritual growth; it causes you to get into God’s Word each day, meditate on it, and ask, ‘Lord, what are You saying to me?’ When you’re a dipper, you’ve got to ‘make things happen’ by your own effort. You’ve got to move the bag up and down, wrap the string around the spoon, then pull, etc. That’s effort—and that’s not how God wants you to live the Christian life. No, He wants you to be a ‘dweller’. It’s the depth and duration of your dwelling that determines the strength and richness of your spiritual life. So the word for you today is: don’t be a dipper, be a dweller.
‘Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world.’ James 1:7–8 NLT
The planet Mercury is hot, whereas the dwarf world Pluto is cold. That’s because Mercury is close to the sun and Pluto is a long way off. A planet’s temperature and climate are determined by its proximity to the sun. There’s an important spiritual principle here. As a redeemed child of God, your spiritual temperature is determined by how close you are to Jesus. You say, ‘I wish I were closer to the Lord.’ The truth is that you are as close to Him as you desire to be, decide to be, and discipline yourself to be. Your pursuit of God reveals your passion for God—or the lack of it. To experience true intimacy with someone, you must be willing to sacrifice other things and give yourself fully to that person. The psalmist wrote: ‘You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity].’ (Psalm 27:8 AMPC)
You’ll notice that the psalmist didn’t say you were to seek God’s gifts, but His face! Not the gifts, but the Giver of the gifts! And a wonderful thing happens when you do that: ‘Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.’ (Psalm 37:4–5AMPC)
‘Everyone who hears these words of Mine.’ Matthew 7:24 NIV
Certain products carry a label that says: ‘Warning! This can be hazardous to your health.’ Instead of helping you, certain kinds of Bible study can actually hurt you. The Bible says, ‘Knowledge puffs up.’ (1 Corinthians 8:1 NIV) The Greek word for puffs contains the idea of being inflated, like a hot air balloon. By the time a Pharisee completed his training, he could quote hours and hours of Old Testament law. Yet Jesus said the Pharisees were like beautifully painted gravestones: filled with dead men’s bones. Satan knows the Scriptures so well that he was able to quote them to Jesus in the wilderness temptation. And what is Satan’s chief quality? Pride. It’s the sin that got him thrown out of Heaven. The whole point in studying the Scriptures is to make you more dependent on God and give you the right approach to life.
People mainly read the Scriptures for three reasons:
(1) To find proof texts that support their views.
(2) To find promises that apply to their particular needs.
(3) To discover principles to live by.
If you’re wise you’ll be a member of this third group. Jesus said, ‘Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’ When the storms of life came, the wise man’s house stood firm while the foolish man’s—the one who didn’t practice what he knew—came crashing down. Added knowledge brings added responsibility. ‘Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge and to your knowledge self-control…’ (2 Peter 1:5–6 NIV) So in addition to acquiring knowledge through regular study, plan to apply that knowledge towards self-control.
‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.’ Psalm 119:18 NIV
Here are some helpful keys to getting more out of your Bible study time:
(1) Ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more you’ll get out of it. Who was this written to? What was the situation the writer was facing? What was the main message the author was trying to get through to them? As you ask these questions you’ll begin to discover things you’ve overlooked or never seen before. The psalmist was a meditator and an in-depth studier of God’s Word. That’s why he prayed, ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.’
(2) Write down the answers. The purpose of asking questions is to get answers. Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to say, ‘Thoughts disentangle themselves as they pass through the lips and fingertips.’ So have your notebook handy and write down the nuggets of truth God gives you. If you don’t, you’ll lose them.
(3) Don’t just discover it, do it! Evangelist DL Moody said, ‘The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.’ James wrote, ‘Do not merely listen to the word… Do what it says.’ (James 1:22 NIV) Ask yourself, ‘What attitudes do I need to change? What do I need to stop doing, or start doing? What do I need to believe, or stop believing? What relationships do I need to work on? What ministry should I be having to others?’ Don’t go to your Bible with the attitude of finding some truth nobody’s ever seen before, or something to impress others with. Find out what God is saying to you.
‘Your commands are boundless.’ Psalm 119:96 NIV
The psalmist wrote, ‘To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.’ What does that mean? It means each time you read a Scripture you’ll see something different in it. It’s like shining light on a diamond. Each time you turn it slightly, you see another facet of its beauty. That’s why the Bible is different from any other book you’ll ever read. You’ll learn things about God from personal experience and from listening to the thoughts and experiences of others, but you’ll get to know Him better through the reading of His Word than any other way. You can study the same Scripture over and over again, dig into it, leave it for three or four months, and when you come back to it there is much more to find.
The key is this: stick with it! There’s no limit to the number of questions you can ask, no limit to the observations you can make, and no limit to the applications you can make. So don’t give up! The best attitude to have in Bible study is the one Jacob had when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord: ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’ (Genesis 32:26 NKJV) As a result God gave him a new name, a new nature, a new walk, and a new future. Bible study has no shortcuts; it takes effort. But if you’re diligent and patient you’ll reap great rewards. Once you’ve felt the joy and satisfaction that comes from finding a great spiritual truth on your own, and applying it to your life, you’ll never approach Bible study the same way again.
‘Remember, each of us will stand personally before the Judgment Seat of God.’ Romans 14:10 TLB
Judgment Day will be characterized by two things: rewards and regrets! Jesus highlights this in the story of three servants who were given talents to invest on behalf of their master. The first two invested well and were rewarded, while the third one buried his talent and was judged accordingly. The first two considered their options, crunched the numbers, took the plunge, and were willing to risk failure. As a result their boss said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ (Matthew 25:21 NKJV) Now, God doesn’t reward foolishness. So before you make a move, talk it over with Him (see Proverbs 3:5–6). The third servant, however, said, ‘I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.’ (Matthew 25:25 NKJV) He made the most common and tragic mistake when it comes to giftedness: he failed to benefit his Master with his talent.
Some invest their talents and give God credit, while others misuse theirs and give Him grief. Some honor Him with ‘fruit’, while others insult Him with excuses. And how does God feel about the latter? ‘Take the money away from him and give it to the one who invested.’ (Matthew 25:28 GNT) Fear is the opposite of faith, and ‘without faith it is impossible to please [God].’ (Hebrews 11:6 KJV) So step out in faith; God won’t let you down. Take a risk; He won’t fail you. Even if you stumble on your way to success, He encourages you to envision the day when you’ll feel His hand on your shoulder and hear the words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’
‘So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.’ Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT
Incredible though it may seem, when Israel encountered difficulties in the wilderness, they wanted to return to their old life of slavery in Egypt. The security of the known was less threatening to them than the challenges of the unknown. So the Lord said to them, not once, but twice, ‘So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.’ Why did He say that? Because it’s in taking action that you overcome your fear! When you challenge your fears, you master them. When you wrestle with your problems, they lose their grip on you. When you dare to confront the things that scare you, you open the door to the future.
A wise man once said, ‘Take the bull by the horns until you have him screaming for mercy.’ Almost without exception every man and woman in the Bible whom God called to do great things felt inadequate, and told Him so. And how did God respond to them? ‘I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10 NLT) Author John Mason writes: ‘The desire for safety stands against every great and virtuous dream. Security, many times, is the first step towards stagnation. Boldness in vision is the first, second, and third most important thing. If you dare nothing, you should expect nothing.’ So whatever opportunity or obstacle you’re facing today, factor God in. With Him on your side, what you have is always greater than whatever you lack.
‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.’ Isaiah 41:10 NLT
Two of our biggest fears are—failure and criticism. And they never completely go away. You can overcome them, but they’ll show up when you face your next challenge. It’s in accepting fear as part of life’s journey instead of running from it, that you learn to conquer it. Indeed, as you look back at what you’ve already overcome, you realize that most times failure doesn’t do permanent damage—you actually grow stronger through it. If you’re anxious today, God is saying to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.’ So trust Him, and get out of your comfort zone!
An unknown poet wrote: ‘I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I couldn’t fail; the same four walls of busywork were really more like jail. I longed so much to do the things I’d never done before, but stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor. I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much; I said I didn’t care for things like dreams and goals and such. I claimed to be so busy with the things inside my zone, but deep inside I longed for something special of my own. I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win; I held my breath and stepped outside and let the change begin. I took a step, and with new strength I’d never felt before, I kissed my comfort zone goodbye, then closed and locked the door. If you are in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out, remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.’
The word for you today is: get out of your comfort zone.
‘We could only conclude that God was sending us to preach the Good News there.’ Acts 16:10 TLB
The Bible says, ‘Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.’ (Acts 16:6–10 NLT)
God has an ‘open-door policy’. When He opens a door, you’re supposed to walk through it. Note, however, that when God kept Paul from going into Asia, he didn’t hang around asking, ‘Why, Lord?’ He kept moving. For Paul, trying something and having it not work out was no big deal. He believed that his gift to God was his willing heart and his mobility, and God’s gift to him was that He’d always guide him to where he needed to be. What God prevents is as much divine guidance as what He permits. Every door that didn’t open, every opportunity you didn’t get, and every call that didn’t come were as much God’s leadings as those that did. So knowing you can’t stay where you are right now may be the starting point for God’s leadings in your life. And such leadings often begin with a stirring and restlessness in your soul.