We are not loved because we are lovable, for we are not. It is true that some of us may be lovable to some others of us, but this is only when we look at the matter from a human perspective. From God's perspective there is nothing in us to make us even remotely desirable. He is holy; we are unholy. He is just; we are unjust. He is loving; we are filled with hatred and all forms of sin. In short, we are sinful and in willful rebellion against Him. Yet He loves us. In fact, so great a marvel is this that God even uses it to commend His love to us.
"While we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man-though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8
In creating us God created us with a vacuum that can only be filled by Himself. In other words, He created us, not to a meaningless existence, but to an existence that is the highest existence possible for any created object, namely, communion with the One Who created it. So it is as Augustine said, "For Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it comes to rest in Thee." 1 The fact that we can know God and are restless until we do know God is proof of His love.
"O God, thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is." Psalm 63:1
I do not know what you would consider to be the number one desire of most people today. But I suspect that if I were to conduct a poll, in one form or another the answer that would come highest on the list would be happiness.
The difficulty, however, is that happiness is not so easily attainable. We seek for it. Indeed, in this country the privilege of seeking for happiness is even declared to be one of our unalienable rights. But no one can guarantee happiness itself. So our founding fathers wrote wisely when they defined those rights as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Liberty can be guaranteed. So can life, up to a point. But not happiness. Only the right to pursue happiness can be guaranteed to any individual.
If you are one who desires to find happiness (as most of us do), and if you have not been able to find it, then you should be interested in the following words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ nearly two thousand years ago. Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:16-17 KJV).
"Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." John 13:16-17
Why do we cherish the Scriptures? Why do we memorize them? It is because these words, having come to us from God and therefore also bearing His nature, are eternal and so will not pass away. Anything else that we know will pass away, sometimes well within our lifetime. The ideas and viewpoints that your children are being taught today in grade school will be changed before they reach high school.
If you are a parent, have you ever thought that there is nothing that you can leave your children that will not pass away in time, except the truths that are found in this Book? Some parents think that they have served their children well if they have left money to them. But money can disappear overnight. Sometimes the children even reject it. Other parents think that their legacy to the children will be a fine education or perhaps their own values. But these change also, and even education is not valued as highly by many as it was formerly. Only the Word of God remains.
"All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever." Isaiah 40:6b-8
Some of us try to crowd too many things into our lives. We try to crowd in our own plans for our lives. We try to crowd in other people. Some of us crowd in our successes or the good opinion of our friends. Then we are disturbed when our lives seem cluttered and disorganized and when they seem to have no meaning. If that is so for you, you need to learn to let other things go. Let Jesus have His rightful place and learn to pray with true sincerity, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." It is rightly said that either Jesus is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all. So allow Him to be what He must be and certainly will be one day. The Bible says, "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25 KJV).
"Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end. The children of thy servants shall dwell secure; their posterity shall be established before thee." Psalm 102:25-28
What is God like? The answer is that God is like Jesus. Do you think that God is love? You know that God is love because Jesus Christ is love and showed it by dying for us. Do you think that God is holy and righteous and good? Do you want to know that God is filled with wisdom, that he understands you, that He is able to help you in any extremity? You know that because of Jesus. Therefore we, as Christians, are not left in the dark as to what God is; we do not find ourselves saying, "Oh, I wish I knew what He is like! If only I could know Him, that would certainly be satisfying!" We are not in the position of those who make that kind of statement. Rather we are those who turn our eyes to the Christ as we find Him in the Scriptures and say, "There is our God revealed." And we love Him and worship Him because of it.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." Colossians 1:15-20
The privilege of prayer should not lead us into a preoccupation with our own affairs, as though prayer were a blank check drawn on the bank of heaven given to us so that heaven's resources can be spent purely on our own needs or pleasure. Prayer implies responsibility, and part of that responsibility is intercession for others. Do others have needs? Then we should pray for them. The one who truly understands prayer and who prays according to the will of God will pray for others; when a believer is himself in the will of God and is therefore praying according to the will of God then he will pray for others.
"Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints..." Ephesians 6:18.
Christians often fail to love those who are in the world and so fail to win them to Christ. But it is also true, scandalously true, that Christians often fail to love Christians. They believe in brotherhood, no doubt. But they restrict it to their own particular company of believers. Sometimes this is a social division, as when Christians associate with and love only those in the upper-middle class or, by contrast, only those within a lower level of society. At other times the division is by denomination. At still other times, Christians will hold closely to those only within some rigid theological persuasion. Is this right? Can Christian brotherhood and the love that goes with it be so restricted?
Membership in the family of God is not limited by anything other than confession of Jesus as the Christ. Consequently, the love of Christians for their brothers and sisters should extend to all who thereby give evidence of being God's true children."
"And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also." 1 John 4:21
To walk as Christ walked is to live, not only by rules, but by example. It is to follow Him, to be His disciple. Such a discipleship is personal, active, and costly. It is personal because it cannot be passed off to another. There was no escaping the call to a personal discipleship for Peter.
To walk as Christ walked is also active because the Lord Himself is active. To be inactive is to be left behind.
Finally, it is costly as well, because the path that Jesus walked is the path to crucifixion. It leads to glory, but before that it leads to the cross. Such a path can only be walked by the one who has died to self and who has quite deliberately taken up the cross of Christ to follow Him.
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2
In Jesus, love became new in "the lengths to which it would go." Here, you must look to the cross, for it is at the cross that the height and depth of God's love are seen, as they are not seen to the same degree elsewhere. To what length will the love of God go? To the length at which the very Son of God will take upon Himself a human form, die on a cross, and there bear the sin of a fallen race, so that in bearing the punishment for that sin He is actually alienated for a time from God the Father and thus cries out in deep agony, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34b). That is the extent to which the love of God goes. It is thus that love becomes an entirely new thing in Christ.
"and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19
I do not know why some people think that it is somehow meritorious to express doubt in matters of religion. We know such. They think that it is somehow vain or impolite to be certain and that it is humble and therefore desirable to say, "I do not know...I hope so...I would like to believe...I think God will help us." Nothing could be farther from the truth. The truly humble man is the man who bows before God's revelation and accepts it because of Who God is. It is the proud man who thinks that he knows enough about anything to doubt God. Besides, God says that it is the equivalent of calling Him a liar; for it is as much as to say that His word is untrustworthy (cf. 1 John 5:10).
Jesus lives! Then stand upon it. Believe it. Declare it. Act upon it. Say with Job: "I know that my Redeemer lives."
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether." Psalm 19:7-9
It is one of the greatest wonders of all time that Jesus became like us in order that we might become like Him. How was He like us? He became like us in temptations, for the author of Hebrews writes that He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15 KJV). Have you been tempted? Are you being tempted? So was He; yet He was victorious over it. Now He reigns with the Father in heaven so that you might turn to Him to find mercy and have grace to help in time of need.
Jesus also became like us in disappointments. A friend betrayed Him. Others let Him down. No one really understood Him. His own countrymen, whom He had tried to help, killed Him. Clearly, Jesus knew disappointments, but these did not defeat Him. They did not make Him bitter. Instead He triumphed over them.
"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16
How can it be that the One Who had existed with God the Father from eternity and Who was Himself God could become man and suffer even unto the point of spiritual death, so that He was actually made sin for us and was separated from His Father? I cannot understand it. Yet that is what the Scriptures teach, and I believe it. Moreover, I marvel at it. For to look to the cross of Jesus Christ is to marvel at the extent of His love for us. We see there the height and depth of His love. We see the length and breadth of it. Does Jesus love us? Yes, He does. The cross is the proof of His love. He, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, so great was His love for us.
"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:4-6
Will you play your part in Christ's miracles? You say, "What do you mean? No one can raise the dead but Jesus." Yes, that is true. But although it was Jesus alone who could bring the dead to life, He delighted to involve the bystanders in the miracle. First, they were told to move the stone. Then, after the miracle, they were told to unbind Lazarus. True, we cannot bring the dead to life. But we can bring the word of Christ to them. We can do preparatory work, and we can do work afterward. We can help to remove stones — stones of ignorance, error, prejudice, and despair. After the miracle we can help the new Christian by unwinding the grave clothes of doubt, fear, introspection, and discouragement.
The miracle is Christ's. But there is work for us to do if we will do it. Will you?
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building." 1 Corinthians 3:6-9
You must be planted if you are to bear fruit. What must be true of a seed if it is to sprout and be fruitful? Well, first it must be alive. A dead seed will not germinate. Consequently, if you are to bear fruit as a Christian, you must first of all be alive in Christ. But even this is not all that is necessary, for even a living seed will not produce fruit if it is simply left alone on a shelf or in a jar somewhere and is never inserted into the ground. It must be planted. In the same way, you will never bear fruit as a Christian if you merely sit on a pew. You must be planted somewhere in our society.
Another way of saying the same thing is to say that you must know and be with non-Christians. Do you know them?
"'You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.' " Matthew 5:13-16
We want to give God anything but ourselves. We will give Him our money, even though it sometimes hurts us to do so. We will give our children — sometimes. I know of some husbands who would even give their wives and wives who would gladly give their husbands. But we will not give ourselves!
We are like Jacob at the brook Jabbok. Jacob had been gone from his homeland for many years because of fear of his brother Esau whom he had cheated out of his birthright. But he had come back with all of the herds and servants and family with which the Lord had blessed him during the intervening years. He had started out boldly, but the closer he came to Esau’s territory the more frightened he became.
And we are like Jacob. We go to church and sing, "I surrender all...the sheep; I surrender all...the camels." But we do not give ourselves. That night the angel came and wrestled with Jacob, and he was wounded in the thigh and was changed, so that later he became deeply spiritual and was used by God to give Israel some of the greatest revelations in the Old Testament about their future and the coming of the Messiah. At what period of Jacob's life are you, before Jabbok or after Jabbok? If you are still before Jabbok, when is it that the angel is going to come and wrestle with you?
"And he said to all, 'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.' " Luke 9:23-24
Do you spend time with Jesus? Nothing can be a substitute for that. We know that this is true even in secular terms, for there is not a judge in the country who will accept "hearsay evidence" in his court. Hearsay evidence is secondhand evidence, the kind that begins, "Well, I was not there, but I heard Mr. Smith say that...." No judge in the country will accept such evidence. And neither will the unbeliever, if you are attempting to provide hearsay evidence in place of your own personal witness to Jesus Christ. However, if you have been spending time with Jesus, then you will be able to say, "He has spoken to me. He has ordered my life. He satisfies my longings. Won't you allow Him to do the same things for you?" If you can do that, then you will be a witness as well as giving one. And the one who is not yet a Christian will know that it rings true.
"...that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." 1 John 1:3
Have you ever noticed that the first real episode in the adult life of Moses ends in total failure? This is remarkable in itself. But it is unusually remarkable because, as far as we can tell, throughout the incident Moses acted with the highest of motives and in perfect confidence that he was performing the will of God. He expected to deliver the Israelites from slavery. He began by defending one of them against unjust oppression. And yet he failed. He ended up by fleeing from Egypt as an outlaw. It was only after Moses had spent the next 40 years as a shepherd on the far side of the desert in Midian, so that now he was eighty years old, that God appeared to him and called him to the work of bringing the oppressed Israelites out of Egypt.
Why did this happen? I believe that God allowed Moses' plans to go astray (among other reasons) so that we might be encouraged when the same thing happens to us. For if the man who humanly speaking was the greatest law-giver who ever lived, whose name is mentioned over 700 times in the Bible, who was used by God in greater ways than any other Old Testament character — if such a man could begin his life in abject failure and then rise to new heights of obedience and surrender to God, then we can also rise from our failures, from the ruin of our plans to seek God's. If we do not, if we remain grieving over plans that seemed good and even spiritual to us but which failed, then we do not understand God's sovereignty. And we need to take our minds off our plans for a while and seek God.
"Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:3,9
The first thing God teaches us through failure is that no matter how talented we are (or may think ourselves to be), without Him we can do nothing. John 15:5 says, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." Unfortunately, most of us do not think this way. If we acknowledge this truth at all, we acknowledge it with a partial qualification that really means, "Without me ye cannot do very much (just a little bit)." And most of the time we are like Moses who thought that his talents and training were in themselves entirely adequate for the job. When we think like this, God will often allow us to fail in order that we might come to see that all that is worthwhile is done "not by might, nor by power, but my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6 KJV).
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5
Perhaps the greatest lesson that God can teach us through the failure of our own plans is that He is capable of working for us and in us in spite of our failure. However, it is only after our own failures that we become aware that it is God and not ourselves Who is working. God's plans will be done. Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established." This truth Moses came to know, and we must learn it also. Someone has said, "Moses was 40 years in Egypt learning something; he was 40 years in the desert learning to be nothing; and he was 40 years in the wilderness proving God to be everything."
Have you proved God to be everything? You are a long way toward learning those lessons if you have come to pursue, not your own plans, but God's.
"The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; thy steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever..." Psalm 138:8.
Each of us has ways of measuring the importance of things in this world. Often we measure things by success. We look at this world and we consider those with power and wealth and extra intelligence to be important. God never measures things in this way. God tells us that the principle characters on the great world stage are generally not those whom the world thinks prominent, but rather those who have surrendered whatever they have been given into His hands.
Will you do that? You may be looking only at your littleness, instead of looking at God's greatness. You may be complaining that your talents or opportunities are not great. You may be discouraged because your talents do not seem up to the tasks set before you. If any of these things are true, you need to remember that God used a little slave girl to bring the leper Naaman in touch with His healing powers. He used a widow to provide the necessities of life for the prophet Elisha. Joseph was only a slave, but He used him to save both Egypt and Israel. God used the woman of Samaria, a prostitute, to save a whole town.
One day Dwight L. Moody overheard a man say, "The world has yet to see what God will do through one man who is fully surrendered to Him." Moody answered — will you say it also? — "By the grace of God I am going to be that man."2
"...but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
Do we have brotherhood in the Church of Jesus Christ today? If it exists, can men and women see it as they saw the brotherhood of the earliest Christians? Can they see that there is a unity among people who profess Christ but who, from the world's point of view, should be divided because of their various backgrounds? I am sure such a brotherhood exists. But I am not sure that it exists as much as it ought or is as visible as it should be.
We live, too, in a world of imitations. And there are imitations of the brotherhood which came through Christianity. Communism is one of them. Racial exclusiveness, whether black or white, is another. Blacks speak of a brotherhood of soul. Whites talk of their Anglo-Saxon heritage. But these things are substitutes for Christianity. And their defenders achieve a fellowship by throwing up barriers instead of tearing them down. Paul says that Christ has "broken down the middle wall of partition between us" (Ephesians 2:14 KJV).
"He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling." 1 John 2:9-10
Some people have taught that health is a birthright of Christians and that sickness is the result of sin or of a lack of strong faith. Others, like Job's comforters, have said that sickness is always a sign of God's chastening. These thoughts are not true, and the case of Epaphroditus refutes them. Epaphroditus was a man who Paul says was to be held in the highest honor. Yet he grew sick in the midst of the most unselfish Christian service. Moreover, he was sick for some time. And even though he was with Paul, the apostle had no indications from the Lord to heal him. If the case of Epaphroditus is to teach us anything, it must teach us that sickness is often a badge of honor for God's children.
"But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful creator." 1 Peter 4:13,19
Very little is ever accomplished in this life without a firm purpose. Caesar would never have conquered Gaul, Einstein would never have discovered relativity, the United States of America would never have landed men on the moon, nor would many thousands of other great accomplishments ever have been achieved without a firm purpose. Moreover, just as this is true in secular matters, so is it true spiritually. The only difficulty is that many Christians seem to live more by whim than by a firm determination to pursue the will of the Lord, and so in many Christian circles such a firm purpose is lacking. We know what this means personally when we begin a work but soon drop it, when we determine to study the Bible every day but end up doing so only for about a week, when we get fired up to witness but then stop at the first real sign of hostility.
Why do so many Christians seem to live like this? Why do we lack perseverance? There may be many answers, of course, but there are two main reasons at least — hostility and the dangers of success.
How are we to avoid these two dangers? There is only one answer. It is by keeping our eyes upon the Lord Jesus. John Bunyan pictured it graphically in a scene from Pilgrim's Progress in which Pilgrim escapes death from two ferocious beasts, who are chained to either side of a path, by walking directly toward a light that is held before him. Christ is our light. His light shines on the path that we are to follow.
"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
Isn't it wonderful to know that at the heart of God's nature there is love? How do we know that the nature of God is love? We know that God is love only because of the nature and actions of the Lord Jesus Christ who is both God and love. Someone will point to the beauty of creation. But if you do that, you are only proving that God is a God of order. The creation reveals nothing about love. Love has to do with a personality. It is a characteristic of persons. So how do we know that God has a personality and that His personality is characterized by love? Only through Christ. Jesus Christ loved us and gave Himself for us.
"Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins." 1 John 4:7-10
The Christian need never fear to stand upon the Word of God, recognizing its full authority, as the Lord Jesus Christ did. At times there will be critical theories that run against it. The arguments may seem unanswerable, so much so that the one who tries to stand against them may well be dismissed as an obscurantist. The wise of this world will say, "You can believe that if you want to, but the results of scientific criticism teach us better." These things have happened before and will happen again. But the Christian who will stand upon Scripture will find even within his lifetime that, as the so-called "assured results" begin to crumble about the scholars, the view of the Bible held by the Lord Jesus Christ, the historical view of the church, will prevail.
A number of years ago a former leader of the Church of England, Bishop Ryle of Liverpool, wrote wisely, "Give me the plenary, verbal theory of biblical inspiration with all its difficulties, rather than the doubt. I accept the difficulties and humbly wait for their solution. But while I wait, I am standing on the rock."3
"Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you, and you be found a liar." Proverbs 30:5-6
There are three great openings — the opening of the Scriptures, the opening of the eyes, and the opening of the mind. All three need to be reproduced in the life of every growing Christian. To have the Scriptures opened in the right way is to open the eyes to Christ. And this in turn opens our eyes in a new way to the Scriptures.
Has much of the Word of God been a mystery to you? Have you failed to see its purpose? If this has been the case, try reading the Bible to find Christ. Find Him as the seed of the woman and of Abraham. Discover Him prefigured in the life of Joseph. Recognize Him as the Passover lamb. See Him as the rock in the wilderness. Learn about Him as the cloud who guides His people in the years of their wondering. Perceive that he is the Righteous One of Deuteronomy. Carry through the pages of the Old Testament to Malachi where He is portrayed as the Son of Righteousness risen with healing in His wings. If this happens for you, the Bible will cease to be a book to be handled only and instead will become a tool to be looked through. It will become a telescope which will bring you close to the Lord Jesus.
"He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God." Revelation 19:13
This matter of eating assumed a far greater importance in an ancient culture than it does for most of us who are living today. When we want something we merely go to the store for it, and it is rare when we cannot buy all that we want. In ancient times it was different. Harvests were uncertain. There was not always enough to eat. As a result, to have enough food was considered a great blessing, and food itself became a symbol of prosperity.
David wrote, "The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him" (Psalm 22:26a KJV). We can see that this was also an important idea in Christ's time, for later on in this same chapter the Lord declared to His hearers, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst" (John 6:35 KJV).
Men and women find their real spiritual prosperity in God. We cannot find it on the human level. We cannot find the abundant life by indulging ourselves in all that life has to offer. We cannot find happiness by pursuing it. We cannot create satisfaction. All of these great blessings come from God. So we must feed on God as He is presented to us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you feed upon Him? Do you come to Him expecting to be fed?
"Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant..." Isaiah 55:1-3.
What is as insignificant as dust? Nothing! You can't even plant crops in it. Yet the dust became man when molded by the hands of the Creator. The jawbone of an ass is insignificant. But God used a jawbone in the hands of Samson to kill one thousand of the enemies of Israel. A shepherd's rod is insignificant, but it became powerful when God placed it in the hands of Moses. A sling is unimportant, but God used it in the hands of David to kill Goliath. And what is as insignificant as a poor girl, a virgin, in a distant town of the Roman Empire? Yet God took one such girl, a girl named Mary, and used her to bring forth the Redeemer.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that what you have is insignificant and therefore useless. You may compare your gift with all of the great talents of this world — at least, those you think to be great — and imagine that your gift is worthless. But if you do that you are forgetting to figure on God and God's desires. What is it after all that makes a gift great in God's service? It is not the magnitude of the gift. It is into Whose hands it is given. If you will take what you have, no matter how small or how great it may be, and place it in the hands of the Master, you will find that it is more than sufficient for whatever task He sets before you.
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us." 2 Corinthians 4:7
I know of a small group Bible study in which the people involved think mainly of their problems. It is a kind of therapy group in which each one listens to the problems of the others so that the others will listen to him. There is almost a competition in problems. Who has the worst problem? Who should get the most sympathy? I don't want to be too harsh at this point, for I believe that it is always good (in a relative way) to get things out in the open. Nevertheless, the solutions are in Christ and not in our ability to articulate the problems.
May I say it even more strongly? I am convinced that one of the major steps to achieving good spiritual mental health is getting your mind off yourself entirely and instead on the Lord. The author of an old English classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, was aware of this. He wrote in his volume, "Lift up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love; and mean Himself, and none of His goods. And thereto, look the loath to think on aught but [God] Himself. So that nought work in thy wit, nor in thy will, but only [God] Himself.... This is the work of the soul that most pleaseth God."4
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Colossians 3:1-3
1 Augustine, Saint. Confessions and Enchiridion, translated and edited by Albert C. Outler. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955. Also available at http://www.ccel.org/a/augustine/confessions/confessions.html
2 "The World Has Yet to See. . ." Christian History & Biography, issue 25, January 1, 1990. Also available at http://ctlibrary.com/3690
3 "February 1, 1990-John Charles Ryle Writes His Farewell Message." Christian History Institute, Worcester, PA 19490. Available at http://chi.gospelcom.net./DAILYF/2003/02/daily-02-01-2003.shtml
4 Anonymous, Cloud of Unknowing. Third chapter. Public domain, 14th century English. Available at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/anonymous2/cloud.ix.html
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On this Event Friday, the Alliance is preparing for another virtual conference event: the 2020 Quakertown Conference on Reformed Theology, LIVE November 13th and 14th! Visit AllianceNet.org for more info. In celebration, we’re giving another listen to the 2016 Quakertown Conference, which focused on the Doctrines of Grace. Today’s plenary features Joel Beeke on Irresistable Grace.All Sermons by Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Inc