When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Psalm 32:3
In his book The Call, Os Guinness describes a moment when Winston Churchill, on holiday with friends in the south of France, sat by the fireplace to warm himself on a cold night. Gazing at the fire, the former prime minister saw pine logs “crackling, hissing, and spitting as they burned. Suddenly, his familiar voice growled, ‘I know why logs spit. I know what it is to be consumed.’”
Difficulties, despair, dangers, distress, and the results of our own wrongdoings can all feel consuming. Circumstances slowly drain our hearts of joy and peace. When David experienced the consuming consequences of his own sinful choices, he wrote, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. . . . My strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3–4).
In such difficult times, where do we turn for help? For hope? Paul, whose experiences were filled with ministry burdens and brokenness, wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).
How does that work? As we rest in Jesus, the Good Shepherd restores our souls (Psalm 23:3) and strengthens us for the next step of our journey. He promises to walk that journey with us every step of the way (Hebrews 13:5).
What are some of the consuming struggles you’ve experienced? How did you respond? How did God meet you in those difficult times?
The garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives was one of the many places our Lord prayed throughout His earthly ministry (Luke 22:39). But believers remember it best as the site of a great spiritual battle. The story of Jesus pleading with His Father is extremely meaningful to Christians, in large part because His humanity is so evident. From the description in today’s passage, we can see that Jesus, the God-man, experienced fear, anxiety, and dread as He prayed. In other words, He reacted to His imminent ordeal with feelings we can relate to and understand.
Satan taunts believers by telling them they can’t be like Jesus because He is God. But He was God cloaked in human flesh, which means that He experienced the world as we do. Yet He won every spiritual battle he faced. The secret to His success is what He did at Gethsemane. He secluded Himself and prayed until His will was fully surrendered to the Father. The battle was won on His knees.
Jesus left the garden a prisoner, but at the same time He walked out victorious. He accepted God’s will for His life, even though pain was a certainty. Our Savior had been called to die, and He knew that the potential blessings and consequences were all in His Father’s hands.
As believers, we confront some fearsome trials too, and God uses these hardships to conform us to His Son’s image (1 Peter 4:12-13). If we are to be like Jesus, we must learn from His actions. In the face of difficulty, we should seek God’s will and leave the consequences in His almighty hands.
“Woe unto them! for they . . . ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward.” (Jude 1:11)
Balaam is a very complex character recorded in Numbers 22–24. He is cited for an ability to communicate with “the LORD” and had a reputation for accurate prophecy (Numbers 22:6-8). As the new nation of Israel traveled northward into the Sinai Peninsula, Balak the king of Moab became worried that Israel would subjugate his nation and recruited Balaam to curse them.
Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:15) but was astute enough to know that he could not talk God into doing anything God did not want to do! But even though Balaam was aware of the dangers of getting involved on the wrong side of God’s work, he wormed and squirmed through several interchanges with God until he was finally allowed to go. “God’s anger was kindled” at the stubbornness of this man, and the famous interchange with the donkey took place (Numbers 22:22-31).
Still Balaam persisted with his venture for Balak of Moab and “ran greedily” after the reward that he had been promised. When he arrived at the place where he planned to curse Israel, Balaam knew enough about the correct sacrifices to build the right kind of altars and sacrifice the right kind of animals, then proceeded to seek God’s “word” for Israel. Three times God “put a word” in Balaam’s mouth to bless Israel, and three times Balak insisted that he try again to curse them.
Instead of repenting of his foolishness, Balaam bragged about his ability to know what God wanted and “taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel” (Revelation 2:14). Those who prostitute the gifts of God for their own profit will come under a “greater condemnation” (James 3:1). May God protect us from the Balaams among the churches. HMM III
I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
I think that some of the greatest prayer is prayer where you don’t say one single word or ask for anything. Now God does answer and He does give us what we ask for. That’s plain; nobody can deny that unless he denies the Scriptures. But that’s only one aspect of prayer, and it’s not even the important aspect. Sometimes I go to God and say, “God, if Thou dost never answer another prayer while I live on this earth I will still worship Thee as long as I live and in the ages to come for what Thou hast done already.” God’s already put me so far in debt that if I were to live one million millenniums I couldn’t pay Him for what He’s done for me.
We go to God as we send a boy to a grocery store with a long written list. “God, give me this, give me this, and give me this,” and our gracious God often does give us what we want. But I think God is disappointed because we make Him to be no more than a source of what we want. Even our Lord Jesus is presented too often much as “Someone who will meet your need.” That’s the throbbing heart of modern evangelism. You’re in need and Jesus will meet your need. He’s the Need-meeter. Well, He is that indeed; but, ah, He’s infinitely more than that. WMJ024-025
Father, forgive me for so often just coming to You with my grocery list. You’ve been so faithful; You’ve given me so much; You’ve blessed so richly. I realize my incredible debt to You, and I simply worship at Your feet. Amen.
Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.—Revelation 1:18 (R. V.).
Let all things seen and unseen,
Their notes of gladness blend,
For Christ the Lord is risen,
Our Joy that hath no end.
St. John of Damascus. a.d. 760.
The time of the singing of birds is come,”—the time when nature calls aloud to us and bids us awaken out of the deadness of personal grief, and rejoice in the new manifestation of His beauty that God is making to the world. “Behold, I am alive for evermore, and the dead live to Me.” Was not this the secret saying which the new verdure was writing all over the hills, and which the young pattering leaves and singing-birds were repeating in music? It must be well to have ears to hear and a heart that could respond with a little flutter of returning joy and thankfulness.
The return of Easter should be to the Christian life the call of a trumpet. It is the news of a great victory. It is the solution of a great perplexity. It is the assurance of a great triumph.
“For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer. 31:34
When we know the Lord, we receive the forgiveness of sins. We know Him as the God of Grace, passing by our transgressions. What a joyful discovery is this!
But how divinely is this promise worded: the Lord promises no more to remember our sins! Can God forget? He says He will, and He means what He says. He will regard us as though we had never sinned. The great atonement so effectually removed all sin, that it is to the mind of God no more in existence. The believer is now in Christ Jesus, as accepted as Adam in his innocence; yea, more so, for he wears a divine righteousness, and that of Adam was but human.
The Great Lord will not remember our sins so as to punish them, or so as to love us one atom the less because of them. As a debt when paid ceases to be a debt, even so doth the Lord make a complete obliteration of the iniquity of His people.
When we are mourning over our transgressions and shortcomings, and this is our duty as long as we live, let us at the same time rejoice that they will never be mentioned against us. This makes us hate sin. God’s free pardon makes us anxious never again to grieve Him by disobedience.