The Gift of God’s Smile

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. DANIEL 9:18 NIV

If only, when God smiles and says we are saved, we’d salute him, thank him, and live like those who have just received a gift from the commander in chief.

We seldom do that, though. We prefer to get salvation the old-fashioned way: We earn it. To accept grace is to admit failure, a step we are hesitant to take. We opt to impress God with how good we are rather than confessing how great he is. We dizzy ourselves with doctrine. Burden ourselves with rules. Think that God will smile on our efforts.

He doesn’t.

God’s smile is not for the healthy hiker who boasts that he made the journey alone. It is, instead, for the crippled leper who begs God for a back on which to ride.

In the Eye of the Storm

Levels of Faith in the Believer’s Life

Mark 9:14-24

The theme of faith permeated Christ’s ministry. Jesus highly esteemed complete trust like Abraham’s, and He commended strong confidence in God, such as the centurion’s. He also urged those with weak convictions to believe. Many of us fall into this last category—over and over, we wrestle with doubt and worry.

Five times in the book of Matthew, Jesus pointed out examples of little faith. First, He mentioned people who felt that their resources were insufficient (6:30). Like them, we can become anxious when we think we have too little time, energy, or money.

Then there was the terrible storm—Jesus slept through it, but the disciples were afraid (8:23-26). Constant fear shows lack of trust. Next, Peter allowed doubt to take over. At Jesus’ command, he started to walk on water but then sank when unbelief set in (14:31).

Another incident involved the disciples’ failure to reach a correct conclusion about Jesus’ teachings and actions (16:5-12).

In the fifth example, the disciples—who’d previously cast out demons—were unable to do so in the current situation (17:14-21). Because their faith was so small, they lacked the divine power to carry out a harder task.

In order to grow stronger spiritually, we must take our eyes off our circumstances and look to the Lord. By trusting in His character and believing in His promises, we can overcome anxiety and develop greater faith. On whom or what are your eyes fixed?

The Beauty of Holiness, Part 3

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

The beauty of God’s holy attributes should compel us to fall immediately before Him in ceaseless worship and delight. Do we? A close inspection of our behavior reveals the answer.

God’s beautiful nature is adored by sinful man . . . when it agrees with his self-interest. Man cries out to God’s omnipotence when he wants to be rescued from the consequences of sin, but he rails against God’s sovereignty when it takes the life of one he loves. Man comforts himself in God’s omniscience when it keeps track of his good deeds; he hates God’s knowledge when it holds him accountable for misbehavior. Man loves God’s omnipresence when he’s fearful; he rejects it when he’s engaged in immorality. Man delights in God’s freedom to do as He pleases—except when it crosses his plans. Man rejoices in God’s perfect justice because it punishes his evil adversaries; he spurns it when he’s committed the crime.

Some may object: “Aren’t there attributes of God that all people worship, like His mercy and love?” Yes—when it serves their purposes. Man receives God’s mercy when it’s extended to him; he scorns it when it’s extended to his rivals. Man relishes God’s love when it results in his salvation from hell; he repudiates God’s love when it results in salvation for his mother’s murderer. Man is pleased when God is patient with him; he can’t understand why God would be patient with his atheistic neighbor. It’s perfectly logical that God would be slow to anger with him; it’s unbelievable that God would be slow to anger with dictators.

Do you see the problem? Our self-seeking stands in the way of our worship. Hence our need for self-denial, as today’s verse so clearly articulates. NTJ

Know of a surety that thy seed shall be sojourners in a land that is not theirs

“Know of a surety that thy seed shall be sojourners in a land that is not theirs;… they shall afflict them four hundred years;… and afterward they shall come out with great substance.” (Gen. 15:12-14.)

AN assured part of God’s pledged blessing to us is delay and suffering. A delay in Abram’s own lifetime that seemed to put God’s pledge beyond fulfillment was followed by seemingly unendurable delay of Abram’s descendants. But it was only a delay: they “came out with great substance.” The pledge was redeemed.

God is going to test me with delays; and with the delays will come suffering, but through it all stands God’s pledge: His new covenant with me in Christ, and His inviolable promise of every lesser blessing that I need. The delay and the suffering are part of the promised blessing; let me praise Him for them today; and let me wait on the Lord and be of good courage and He will strengthen my heart. —C. G. Trumbull.

Unanswered yet the prayer your lips have pleaded
In agony of heart these many years?
Does faith begin to fail? Is hope departing?
And think you all in vain those falling tears?
Say not the Father hath not heard your prayer;
You shall have your desire sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Nay do not say ungranted;
Perhaps your work is not yet wholly done.
The work began when first your prayer was uttered,
And God will finish what He has begun.
If you will keep the incense burning there,
His glory you shall see sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be unanswered,
Her feet are firmly planted on the Rock;
Amid the wildest storms she stands undaunted,
Nor quails before the loudest thunder shock.
She knows Omnipotence has heard her prayer,
And cries, “It shall be done”—sometime, somewhere.
—Miss Ophelia G. Browning.

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” 1 Samuel 15:22

Paul had been commanded to slay utterly all the Amalekites and their cattle. Instead of doing so, he preserved the king, and suffered his people to take the best of the oxen and of the sheep. When called to account for this, he declared that he did it with a view of offering sacrifice to God; but Samuel met him at once with the assurance that sacrifices were no excuse for an act of direct rebellion. The sentence before us is worthy to be printed in letters of gold, and to be hung up before the eyes of the present idolatrous generation, who are very fond of the fineries of willworship, but utterly neglect the laws of God.

Be it ever in your remembrance, that to keep strictly in the path of your Saviour’s command is better than any outward form of religion; and to hearken to His precept with an attentive ear is better than to bring the fat of rams, or any other precious thing to lay upon His altar. If you are failing to keep the least of Christ’s commands to His disciples, I pray you be disobedient no longer. All the pretensions you make of attachment to your Master, and all the devout actions which you may perform, are no recompense for disobedience. “To obey,” even in the slightest and smallest thing, “is better than sacrifice,” however pompous.

Talk not of Gregorian chants, sumptuous robes, incense, and banners; the first thing which God requires of His child is obedience; and though you should give your body to be burned, and all your goods to feed the poor, yet if you do not hearken to the Lord’s precepts, all your formalities shall profit you nothing. It is a blessed thing to be teachable as a little child, but it is a much more blessed thing when one has been taught the lesson, to carry it out to the letter. How many adorn their temples and decorate their priests, but refuse to obey the word of the Lord! My soul, come not thou into their secret.

Thy paths drop fatness

“Thy paths drop fatness.” Psalm 65:11

Many are “the paths of the Lord” which “drop fatness,” but an especial one is the path of prayer. No believer, who is much in the closet, will have need to cry, “My leanness, my leanness; woe unto me.” Starving souls live at a distance from the mercy- seat, and become like the parched fields in times of drought. Prevalence with God in wrestling prayer is sure to make the believer strong—if not happy. The nearest place to the gate of heaven is the throne of the heavenly grace.

Much alone, and you will have much assurance; little alone with Jesus, your religion will be shallow, polluted with many doubts and fears, and not sparkling with the joy of the Lord. Since the soul-enriching path of prayer is open to the very weakest saint; since no high attainments are required; since you are not bidden to come because you are an advanced saint, but freely invited if you be a saint at all; see to it, dear reader, that you are often in the way of private devotion. Be much on your knees, for so Elijah drew the rain upon famished Israel’s fields.

There is another especial path dropping with fatness to those who walk therein, it is the secret walk of communion. Oh! the delights of fellowship with Jesus! Earth hath no words which can set forth the holy calm of a soul leaning on Jesus’ bosom. Few Christians understand it, they live in the lowlands and seldom climb to the top of Nebo: they live in the outer court, they enter not the holy place, they take not up the privilege of priesthood. At a distance they see the sacrifice, but they sit not down with the priest to eat thereof, and to enjoy the fat of the burnt offering. But, reader, sit thou ever under the shadow of Jesus; come up to that palm tree, and take hold of the branches thereof; let thy beloved be unto thee as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, and thou shalt be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.

O Jesus, visit us with Thy salvation!