Snared by the Schemer

Satan’s primary goal is to alienate you from the love of God. If our enemy can manipulate you into focusing on your own desires, you will no longer see the Lord’s perspective.

We have seen this happen to people throughout the Bible. In Genesis, Eve wasn’t able to see all that God gave her, because she focused on one fruit (Gen. 3:1-6). In the book of Joshua, Achan was trapped by his desire for wealth, and he sinned against God (Josh. 7:20-25).

Even a man abundantly blessed by the Lord can lose sight of what’s important. King David went up to the palace roof, and he spotted a beautiful woman bathing (2 Samuel 11:2). This single action led to several tragic events in his life. By taking his eyes off God and all that He had provided, David ended up experiencing great heartache.

The same can happen to us, but there is good news: If you’ve committed yourself to the Lord, then you have died and been raised with Christ. He is now your life (Col. 3:1-4). When facing temptation, ask yourself, How will Christ regard the choice I make, and Will my decision have unwanted repercussions? Listen for the Holy Spirit, and He will send you in the right direction.

Why We Must Guard the Heart

We all have things we treasure, whether they are prize objects, activities, or experiences. And what we most value is what is closest to our heart.

Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us to keep watch over our heart because it holds our treasures, and in it is potential for good or evil. Originally, the heart is full of wickedness (Jer. 17:9), but when it is purified, we are able to see the very face of God (Matt. 5:8). With such possibilities within us, is it any wonder that we are exhorted to employ all diligence in guarding our heart?

So how do we remove the impurities and uncover those secrets of the heart spoken of in Psalm 44:21? The answer is through our omniscient Father. He knows what litters the landscape of our hearts. He tells us in Revelation 2:23 that “I am He who searches the minds and hearts” and again in Hebrews 4:13 that “all things are open and laid bare” to His eyes.

Our role in all of this is to ask the Lord for help. We may not know what sin lies within, but He does. Like David in today’s psalm, we too can say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart ... and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24).

How can you know God?

It all starts with accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ provides a relationship with the Father and eternal life through His death on the cross and resurrection, see Romans. 5:10.

Romans. 10:9 promises, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." If you have not yet begun your personal relationship with God, understand that the One who created you loves you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. He wants you to experience the profound depth of His care.

Therefore, tell God that you are willing to trust Him for salvation. You can tell Him in your own words or use this simple prayer:

Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you have just prayed this prayer, congratulations!

You have received Christ as your Savior and have made the best decision you will ever make—one that will change your life forever!

The Danger of a Hardening Heart

Most of us struggle with a hardened or apathetic heart from time to time, but there is an antidote: recognizing God at work and giving Him thanks.

This recipe for a tender heart was ignored in Exodus when Israel came to Rephidim and complained about the lack of water. They had just experienced the miracle of the manna and its comforting reminder that God was with them. A few days later, however, they were asking, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Ex. 17:7). Had they remembered God’s provision with the manna and expressed gratitude, they could have trusted in Him once more and held out hope for a water supply.

Another time, when God told Moses to speak before Pharaoh and display miraculous signs, the Egyptian ruler chose to ignore the obvious. Even his own magicians could see what was happening. They finally came to their senses, acknowledged God’s work and said, “This is the finger of God” (Ex. 8:19).

God speaks to us, but we won’t know that if we have a hardened heart. Are we listening? Are we giving thanks? Take a moment to reflect on the state of your heart, and trust where the Holy Spirit directs you.

Standing on Your Convictions

When we watch the news, whether domestic or international, we can sometimes detect initiatives to bring down the Christian faith. The church is constantly under attack by the enemy, who influences the world to fight against our beliefs. Therefore, we must be willing to stand for our biblical convictions.

Ideological threats are a very real part of the arsenal used against Christians. As believers, we are under the guidance of Jesus Christ, and the way we fight is not with physical weapons but with the Word of God. We are His representatives, and there isn’t room for compromise with a self-indulgent culture. Instead, we should live in obedience to God and His Word. Therefore, we must be careful not to get caught up in the widely accepted values of our culture and those around us.

We need to remain strong regarding God’s truth. Then we’ll know what’s true and what’s not and be willing to take a stand for Him, regardless of the consequences. Genuine convictions are unaffected by the times, the values of the culture, or the popularity of current ideas. Christian beliefs aren’t always popular, and defending them can be uncomfortable. But remember that the Lord promises to be with us.

Jesus Is Alive and Active

Have you ever wondered what Jesus is doing, now that He’s in heaven? Today’s passage tells us that He is sitting at God’s right hand. It might make us wonder what He’s doing up there. Is He simply waiting for the time when He comes back to earth? No! He’s actually quite active on our behalf.

First, the Lord Jesus is within every believer, in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 15:26; Rom. 8:9-10). This means that from heaven, Christ is working to shape your character and empower your obedience.

Second, the Lord intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25). He makes requests on our behalf and brings our prayers to the Father.

Third, we see in 1 John 2:1-2 that Jesus is our Advocate when we sin. Positioned between us and the Father, He declares our righteous standing because of His sacrifice and our faith in Him.

Finally, Christ is preparing a place for us in heaven (John 14:1-3) and arranging all events necessary for His return.

Jesus is in heaven carrying out the Father’s will. And we should be doing the same thing here on earth. The Lord can save others through us when we reflect His life in our work, attitudes, words, and behavior. Let us, Christ’s body—His eyes, ears, voice, feet, and hands—point others to Him.

Does God Have Favorites?

God doesn’t play favorites. He makes choices and decrees, but Scripture repeatedly testifies to His impartiality (Deut. 10:17; Rom. 2:11; Col. 3:25). Sometimes, though, it doesn’t seem that way. Look at the nation of Israel—God even says that He chose them to be His people (Deut. 7:6).

So, what does this mean? Did God change His mind? No, actually it’s simply a way of saying that God selected Israel for a purpose within His divine plan. Look at Israel’s history. Consider her sorrows and setbacks. It certainly doesn’t appear that God is playing favorites with Israel. Rather, He has a specific plan for this chosen nation, just as He has a specific will and plan for each of us. 1 Peter 1:17 states: “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.”

Remember that “from everyone who has been given much, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). God’s judgment is righteous and perfect, and He knows exactly what should be given to each person. Take heart in knowing that God loves everybody in His creation equally. He doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and He has gone to the greatest lengths imaginable to prove it.

Favorites Versus Intimates

We learned yesterday that God doesn’t show favoritism. However, He does enjoy closeness with His own—throughout the Bible, God had an intimate relationship with His people. And today, all who have received Jesus Christ as Savior have become part of God’s family.

The heavenly Father desires to have an intimate relationship with each one of His children. We get to enjoy this closeness by engaging with Him in His Word and in prayer. Intimacy comes from a deepening fellowship that leads to our greater understanding of God, His Word, and His will for our life. As we spend time with Him and obey Him, He begins to conform us to His image. Then He works through us, and we reflect Him to those around us, like a light set on a lampstand (Matt. 5:14-16).

Don’t allow yourself to be satisfied just with being saved from wrath. The Lord desires that we know Him intimately, and He calls each of us to step out in faith and commitment. He wants us to be characterized like Abraham, who is tenderly described as a friend of God (2 Chron. 20:7).

Overwhelmed by Problems

Job described the human condition with these words: “Man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). This was certainly the situation for Timothy, a young pastor trying to protect the church from persecution and false doctrine. And as a result, he was becoming discouraged and found his passion waning.

Things are no different today, right? Overwhelming troubles can cause us to grow weak and lose our zeal for God, His Word, and prayer. The solution for us today is the same one Paul gave Timothy all those years ago. The apostle reminded his protégé that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

The path to spiritual revival is found in the very things we are sometimes reluctant to do—praying and reading the Word. When we read Scripture, our mind is renewed with God’s truth, and we draw comfort, strength, and courage from His promises and unfailing love. Through prayer and submission, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to endure afflictions with hope and joy in Christ. So instead of yielding to despair, let God use your troubles to rekindle your spiritual life.

Too Good for Salvation?

When Jesus walked this earth, one group of people consistently refused Him—the Pharisees. The most outwardly righteous people of that day couldn’t see themselves as sinners. These religious leaders assumed they had no need for Jesus, who said He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

Many people today think the same thing—that they’re good enough to get to heaven on their own. After all, they aren’t criminals, so surely their good deeds must surely outweigh their bad ones, right? Wrong. In God’s eyes, we’re all spiritually dead, enslaved to lusts, and are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:1-3).

Pride often keeps us from understanding the extent of our guilt. Sin led to Satan’s downfall, and it has infected every human since Adam and Eve. We like to think there is something in us that’s good enough to please the Lord, but Scripture teaches we can be saved only by God’s grace.

Salvation is a gift received through faith in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:8). There’s nothing we can do to earn it, because any good thing we do is tainted by the sin that dwells within. Your only hope is to look to Christ to save you. Trust in His death as payment for your sins; then you’ll be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The Purpose of Life

Why am I here? Everyone wonders this at some point. Some theories suggest that we’re merely taking up space and will return to nothingness when we die. There are also people who say we are masters of our own destiny. Both are untrue! The Lord has placed you on earth to fulfill His purpose.

God has a unique plan for every person’s life, but Christians all share one goal: to be conformed to His image. This process begins here on earth and is finished when we reach heaven. Much of the work the Lord does in our earthly life centers on our character. He shows us how to be as loving, kind, and peaceful as Jesus.

We might think this is hard. But the truth is, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and then lives the life of Christ through him or her. We should be submissive to His guidance. That means we should respond to situations in life with this question: “How can You use this to make me more like Jesus?”

The Lord is behind everything that happens to you—either He directly instigates the situation, or He allows it to take place. Both trials and triumphs are engineered to fulfill God’s great purpose: crafting a life that reflects His love and glory to the world.

Where the Battle Is Won

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wrestled with the knowledge that He would die on the cross, bearing the weight of our sin and being spiritually separated from the Father.

Jesus got alone before the Father and cried out. And when He left that garden, He walked out with calm resolve. Jesus would still drink the cup of suffering and separation, but He knew that in the end, He would triumph (Heb. 12:2). That’s why He could face the cross, the beatings, and the humiliation. When Jesus went to confront the arresting party, He was ready—so much so that the Pharisees and soldiers “drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). He allowed them to arrest Him, determined to do His Father’s will.

We, too, can come to know God’s heart and mind when we’re in the habit of regularly spending time alone with Him. Then as difficult decisions come, we’ll be better prepared to discern His will.

When we fully surrender to the Father’s plan, we put our decision-making into the hands of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God, who holds the past, present, and future. Even in staggering trials, you can move forward with courage and power that will glorify Him.

Expanding the Horizons

The horizon is the farthest point of land or water that a person can see, where earth and sky meet. Yet the universe extends far beyond what the eye can behold. Similarly, the church’s vision can be limited. God said to bring the gospel to every nation, but we often confine our outreach to what we think is manageable.

Sometimes what holds us back from fulfilling God’s command is our limited experiences and understanding. We may act according to logic, but God calls us to obey in faith. For example, rational thought might lead people to avoid missions in a foreign country because it isn’t safe. Or perhaps there’s a language barrier. But Jesus said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). He is fully aware of our human limitations, so He provides guidance, wisdom, and strength to accomplish His will.

The church is to share the gospel, and God will call individuals to fulfill this commission in different ways. We’re all to participate through prayer and giving, and some are also called to action. Pray for direction and wisdom in communicating the good news of salvation to the world. The Holy Spirit will lead and empower you.

Advancing Through Adversity

One of the hardest things for Christians to understand is how to find joy in suffering. Yet we know it can be done, because James tells us, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2). And Peter says, “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing” (1 Peter 4:13). What’s more, with regard to persecution, Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (Matt. 5:12). But how is this possible?

Paul offers a clue in Philippians, where he talks about “the fellowship of [Jesus’] sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). In this part of the letter, the apostle’s objective is to know Christ and know Him thoroughly. If the Lord is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, then can we truly know Him while ignoring these attributes?

When we view hardships as windows into the heart of our Savior, our perspective changes: Suffering begins to feel more like an opportunity than a curse. It gives us access to intimate fellowship with Jesus that comes only through shared suffering.

Are you struggling in a trial today? I pray for your strength to endure so that you might discover more of who Jesus truly is.

Getting Our Attention Through Adversity

When facing adversity or hardship, some Christians ask, “Why is this happening to me?” Others think they are being really spiritual when they suffer in silence or say things like, “God knows what He is doing. He doesn’t have to explain anything to me.”

It is true that our heavenly Father knows what He is doing and does not owe us any explanations, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss our hardship or avoid thinking about what He might want to accomplish through it. On the contrary, the Bible tells us to remember that God is sovereign, even over our adversities (Eccl. 7:14). This was the case in today’s reading, where Paul says God sent an affliction—which he describes as a “messenger of Satan”—to keep him from exalting himself (2 Corinthians 12:7). The apostle admits pride is a problem for him and acknowledges that God is justified in dealing with him to correct it.

Such a truthful confession does not eliminate suffering but sweetens it until we can say with Paul, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Worthy of Our Praise

In John’s vision, angels surround the throne in heaven and sing, “Worthy is the Lamb!” From the apostle’s glimpse into the heavenly realm, it was clear that the Lord rules over earthly kings—even over the emperor Domitian, who at the time was set on destroying followers of Christ. Like other Roman emperors, he wanted to be worshipped as god and felt threatened by the believers’ faith. Understandably, early Christians needed to be reminded that Jesus, the Lamb, reigns over all.

Throughout Scripture, the Lord has established that He alone is God. Consider King Nebuchadnezzar, who was warned that he would be humbled in order to recognize that “the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind” (Dan. 4:17). Indeed, Nebuchadnezzar, who had vast power, in time learned that the King of heaven is worthy, “for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Dan. 4:37).

One day, all creation will bow before Jesus and confess that He alone is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11). But we don’t have to wait; we can worship Him now. We can also pray that, like Nebuchadnezzar, those who have been given great power will receive revelation of who Jesus truly is.

Searching for Unforgiveness

Unforgiveness is like fertile soil for a crop of noxious weeds. It is the source of much that can go sour in personal relationships and, therefore, impacts our relationship with God. Sometimes it’s disguised—for instance, if people say in an angry tone that they have forgiven past offenses, their obvious bitterness betrays them. Unforgiveness can sink into your heart and hide from you; then it can hurt relationships without you ever being aware of it.

Consider these following questions to see if you need to forgive someone:

  •  Have you been hoping that a certain person will get what he or she deserves?
  •  Do you talk negatively about this individual to others?
  •  Do you indulge in fantasies of revenge—even mild ones?
  •  Do you mull over what someone did to you?
  •  How do you feel if a good thing happens to that individual?
  •  Do you blame him or her for how your life turned out?
  •  Do you find it hard to be open and trusting with people?
  •  Are you frequently angry, depressed, or bitter?
  •  Do you find it difficult or impossible to thank God for your offender?

Take a moment to let God examine your heart. Will He find any unforgiveness there?

The Gift of Forgiveness

How can you lift the debt from your debtors if you don’t comprehend your own indebtedness? How can you offer that freedom if you yourself have never received it? One of the biggest obstacles to forgiving others is our failure to understand the depth of God’s forgiveness for us. Not until you accept that God has paid the penalty on your account will you cease your efforts to collect from others.

When you take God at His word, this glorious freedom can start to sink in. Then you can then begin the process of offering your offenders full forgiveness. You must choose to leave all punishment or retaliation up to the Lord. It is essential that you surrender your so-called “rights,” whether it is your right to get even or to get justice. Remember, we can totally trust God to handle our injustices appropriately because He is the ultimate judge.

It may be helpful to write out a list of all the offenses against you that you can think of. Then bring them one by one before God and leave them at His feet. By doing this—and by asking for His help—you can release your offender to the One who says, “Vengeance is Mine” (Heb. 10:30).

When a Fellow Christian Stumbles

One of our responsibilities as part of God’s household is to come alongside a brother or sister who has stumbled. Paul specifies that those “who are spiritual” should restore the fallen, but the word spiritual doesn’t mean some elite group of pious leaders. It refers to Christians who are living under the Holy Spirit’s control and who have an attitude of ...

Gentleness. Restoration of a fellow believer doesn’t call for harshness, anger, judgment, or condemnation. Our goal is not to heap pain and guilt upon a hurting brother or sister but rather to show mercy and forgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).

Humility. Those who have a superior attitude look down on a fallen brother and think, I would never make those mistakes. But the humble know their own vulnerability and can easily put themselves in the other person’s shoes.

Love. When we love others, we will willingly share their burden. This requires an unselfish investment of our time, energy, and prayer on their behalf.

How do you react when a fellow Christian stumbles? One of the ugliest human traits is the tendency to feel better about ourselves when another person misses the mark. Let’s pray that our heart will be filled with compassion instead, and that we’ll come alongside to love and help believers who are distanced from the Lord.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

Some Christians don’t realize the Holy Spirit came at the moment of salvation to live permanently within them. And some who do realize this don’t understand who the Spirit is, how He works, or why His indwelling presence is so significant.

The Holy Spirit is a person—not simply a power or force—and He, along with the other two members of the Trinity, was involved in creation. We know this because when God created mankind, He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). The plural pronouns in this passage refer to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus told the disciples that the Father would send them a Helper who would be with them and in them forever (John 14:16-17). Even though the Lord would no longer be physically present, He wasn’t going to leave them to fend for themselves like orphans. Instead, He promised to come to them through the presence of His Spirit (John 14:18). 

Because of the crucifixion, today the Spirit is our leader, guide, teacher, and comforter. His presence in us means that we are God’s children and that God has upheld His promise to always be with us.

The Need for Spiritual Discernment

John tells us that the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One (1 John 5:19). For this reason, spiritual discernment is of utmost importance. Thankfully, Hebrews 5:11-14 reminds us of believers “who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong” (NLT). In other words, we can get better at distinguishing between truth and error through practice.

In today’s passage, Paul mentions he was dealing with false apostles disguising themselves as servants of righteousness. The same thing happens today: Such servants are all around, “peddling their wares.” It’s their attempt to carry away those who are always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7).

We may find it challenging to match wits with false apostles, but we can subject them to the obedience test found in 1 John 2:4: “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” However, this test works only if we ourselves know the truth. Dive into Scripture today so that you can “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Knowing God’s Word is what will help our quest for godly wisdom.

The Cross: The Heart of Christianity

The cross has become the symbol of Christianity, but it’s so much more than a mere piece of jewelry worn around the neck. The crucifixion of Christ is a central doctrine of our faith, and understanding it correctly is essential for eternal life. In fact, Paul was convinced the cross was the most vital subject he could address.

It’s important for us as believers to understand what happened on the cross—then we too can be thoroughly convinced of its supreme significance. It was not simply the execution of a Jewish man. What transpired in that event was the solution to mankind’s biggest problem: sin and our resulting alienation from God. The crucifixion is the divine transaction that saves us. Only the blood of Christ can cleanse us from sin and reconcile us to the Father. Although the Jews and the Romans viewed the crucifixion as the execution of a criminal, God saw the death of His Son as the perfect atoning sacrifice, which allowed for the justification of sinful mankind.

Nothing else is required to pay for our salvation. To be saved, all we must do is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins.

God’s Plan of Crucifixion

Who was responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion? Though both the Jews and the Romans played a role in putting Him on the cross, God was the one who had already planned His Son’s death as atonement for mankind’s sin.

Peter made this very clear in his first sermon, and he also affirmed it many years later in his first epistle, saying of Christ, “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God” (Acts 1:20-21). Even before creation and the entrance of sin into the world, God already had a plan in place for the redemption of those who would believe in Him.

The Father’s plan for the crucifixion of His Son was motivated by the sinful, hopeless condition of mankind, His love for us, and His justice. God could neither ignore our sin nor simply decide to forgive us, because those options would be unjust, and He cannot act contrary to His nature. The cross was God’s way of fulfilling His predestined plan of salvation. Now all who trust in Christ can be forgiven and receive eternal life. Have you done this?

Where Love and Justice Meet

The Lord can’t have a dilemma, but if He could, it would be this: How can a loving God justly forgive sinners? Although God loves the people He created, He can’t ignore, excuse, or arbitrarily forgive their transgressions, since His justice demands that sin’s penalty be paid.

The solution was the cross, where divine love and justice met. Because God loves us, He sent His Son to earth to shed His precious blood on the cross in payment for our sin debt (Rom. 6:23). Since only a sacrifice without defect was acceptable (Lev. 22:20), Jesus alone qualified: As God in human flesh, He was the only person who ever lived a sinless life. At the cross, our sin was laid on Him, and He died in our place. This satisfied the Father’s justice “so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

From our perspective, salvation is a free gift offered to everyone who confesses Jesus as Savior and Lord. However, for the Son and the heavenly Father, it was a very costly transaction. Therefore, we should never take our salvation for granted or think lightly of it. This gift is our most precious possession. 

Momentary Pleasure

Decisions have consequences. That can be a good thing, but at times we end up dealing with lifelong repercussions. Then we look back and wish our decision had been wiser.

For example, in exchange for a bowl of stew, Esau sacrificed his birthright. In other words, he gave up not only his wealth, inheritance, position, and prominence but also power and the right to lead the entire family.

Is there a “bowl of stew” in your life—something you want badly that’s right in front of you, there for the taking? At the moment, it may seem like the right decision, but later you could find you’ve traded something valuable for something with little or no worth.

Whenever we’re ruled by anything besides the Holy Spirit, we are more prone to sacrifice our future for immediate gratification. Appetites are God-given, but they aren’t designed to dominate us. That’s what caused Esau to lose his future. He wanted to satisfy his appetite right then and, at the time, was willing to pay the price.

We can endanger our future when we focus on the temporary instead of the eternal. What are you doing right now that could have lifelong consequences? Is it worth it? Ask God to help you see your situation from His perspective.

Don’t Neglect Your Spiritual Gift

Every Christian is given a spiritual gift with which to serve and build up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7). Sadly, though, many believers neglect theirs. Timothy actually had some good reasons to forsake his calling, but Paul urged him not to “neglect [his] spiritual gift” (1 Timothy 4:14). We can learn from Timothy’s situation by asking ourselves if the following situations might be hindering us from fully serving God.

Age: Whatever our age, the Lord wants us to use our spiritual gifts. Because of his youth, Timothy could’ve been intimidated by those with more experience. Others think they’re too old to serve God, but we’re never called into spiritual retirement.

Inadequacy: Have you ever avoided a service opportunity simply because you felt totally unqualified? That’s probably how Timothy felt about leading the church at Ephesus. Our spiritual gifts rarely come to us fully developed. God often requires that we step out in faith and trust Him to work in and through us. Over time, as we obey and learn how to use our gifts, they become more effective for God’s kingdom.

Is anything keeping you from using your spiritual gifts? Though given to us, these abilities aren’t for us; they’re for the church. To neglect them not only deprives fellow believers; we ourselves are also robbed. We’ll find both joy and blessing by serving others and doing the work God has designated for us.

Why Does God Allow Storms in Our Life?

No one likes turbulent times, but until we reach heaven, they will be a part of our life. The underlying foundation for understanding the storms we encounter is found in Psalm 103:19. No matter what the apparent source is, God ultimately directs every situation, because His sovereignty rules over all.

He uses storms to …

Bring us to repentance. Sometimes we create chaotic conditions with our own sinful choices. Yet like Jonah, we’ll discover that the Lord is always with us—even in our disobedience—drawing us back to Himself.

Grow us spiritually. Trials force us to rely on God’s strength rather than our own. We learn to endure, persevere, and submit to the Father so He can make us more like Christ.

Reveal Himself to us. Turbulent times give us a more accurate perspective of God and the way He works. Sometimes this understanding comes when we look back on a storm and see how He brought us through. Then we realize His strength was sufficient and His purpose was good.

Take comfort in knowing that God controls your storms, and His mighty power and unfailing love govern whatever comes your way.

The Storms of Life

Why is this happening to me? We’ve probably all asked that question at some point in our life. Perhaps our world was turned upside down by a medical diagnosis, a seemingly insurmountable financial crisis, a relationship that fell apart after starting out well, or a loss of some kind.

It’s natural to want to know why a storm has occurred, but how we choose to handle it is also important. Will our trust in the Lord increase as we watch Him use our suffering to make us more Christlike, or will we become bitter and resentful toward Him? In other words, will we rage against God or humbly submit?

Sometimes we bring trouble on ourselves with willful disobedience; other times, storms come through no fault of our own. In either case, difficulties are common to all of us. And Peter tells us not to be surprised at fiery ordeals as if something strange is happening to us. Whatever the cause, God uses trials to purify and refine us. Therefore, as we aim to continually do what is right in the Creator’s eyes, let’s keep on rejoicing in the Lord, with our hope firmly set on Christ’s return.