Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” 2 Peter 3:3-4
Most of us rarely encounter scoffers—those who berate and ridicule Christians openly for their faith. But those involved in front-line evangelism encounter scoffers regularly and they are gifted in responding to such attacks. Peter, in the first century, prepared his readers to be challenged about the Lord’s Second Coming.
Even if we are not openly challenged about the tenets of our faith, non-Christians keep a close eye on believers as they go through times of darkness and suffering. While they may offer sympathy and comfort on one hand, on the other they may be thinking to themselves, “Where is the promise of God’s help for His people when they are suffering?” Even if we can’t answer in specifics about our circumstances, we can answer in specifics by our life. When we manifest hope and faith and endurance in the midst of suffering, it is evidence of a power working in and through us.
Faith is “evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). And when others see our faith, they are able to understand our reasons for faith (1 Peter 3:15-16).
[A Christian’s] faith upholds him under all trials, by assuring him that every dispensation is under the direction of his Lord. John Newton
The End of the Universe, Part 3 (2 Peter 3)
See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. John 20:27
The butterfly flitted in and out of my mother’s panda-faced pansies. As a child, I longed to catch it. I raced from our backyard into our kitchen and grabbed a glass jar, but on my hasty return, I tripped and hit the concrete patio hard. The jar smashed under my wrist and left an ugly slash that would require eighteen stitches to close. Today the scar crawls like a caterpillar across my wrist, telling the story of both wounding and healing.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His death, He brought His scars. John reports Thomas wanting to see “the nail marks in his hands” and Jesus inviting Thomas to “put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side” (John 20:25, 27). In order to demonstrate He was the same Jesus, He rose from the dead with the scars of His suffering still visible.
The scars of Jesus prove Him to be the Savior and tell the story of our salvation. The pierced marks through His hands and feet and the hollow in His side reveal a story of pain inflicted, endured, and then healed—for us. He did it so that we might be restored to Him and made whole.
Have you ever considered the story told by Christ’s scars?
Reflect & Pray
How do the Savior’s scars promise healing for the wounds you’ve endured? What wounds will you bring to Him today?
Jesus, how I love the story Your scars tell to me—and to our world. May I learn to love You more and more through the story of Your scars.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
At the moment of salvation, a person becomes a new creature in Christ. Some of us may have felt the change as the burden of sin was lifted and replaced with forgiveness and hope. But what if we didn’t feel anything? Are we still saved?
Salvation is a result of hearing the gospel and responding in repentance and faith. Emotion may accompany the transformation but doesn’t determine its validity. Becoming a new creation involves much more than our emotions:
A New Position. Before salvation, we were enemies of God, but through Christ’s death on our behalf, we have been reconciled to Him and have become His beloved children. With His death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins. And what’s more, His righteousness was then credited to us in a legal transaction the Bible calls justification.
A New Presence. At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit took up residence within us. He works to transform us in a process called sanctification, whereby we become increasingly righteous in practice.
A New Power. Because we still struggle with sin and selfishness, living up to God’s standard is beyond our own abilities. But when the Holy Spirit came into our life, He brought with Him the power of almighty God, which enables us to become and do whatever He desires.
What we have now is the seed of what we will eventually become. Although at present it’s difficult to discern the changed life of a Christian, it will be evident when Jesus returns and brings our bodies into conformity with His glorious body (Phil. 3:21).
“The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:16-17)
The 74th Psalm is a sad lamentation over the apparent triumph of the enemies of God, but its central verse is a beautiful statement of faith: “For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth” (Psalm 74:12). Then, in support of his faith, the psalmist remembers the mighty creative acts of God in ancient times, giving assurance that He could, indeed, work salvation in these present times.
Those who believe that man is the measure of all things, sufficient unto himself, ignore how dependent all people are on God’s provisions. The very rotation of the earth, with its cycle of day and night, has set the basic rhythm of biological life, and it was God—not man—who “divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:4).
There is even the testimony in Genesis that God “prepared the light” before He prepared the sun (Genesis 1:3, 14), thus rebuking all those who later would worship the sun as the source of the earth and life.
God also “set all the borders [or ‘boundaries’] of the earth.” This refers both to the emergence of the continental land masses after the Flood and then also to the enforced scattering of the peoples from Babel into all the world, when He “determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
He has even made “summer and winter, and day and night [that] shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). God did all this—not man! Evolutionary humanism is futile foolishness, and one day soon God will answer the cry of the psalmist: “Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily” (Psalm 74:22). HMM
So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
—1 Corinthians 3:7-8
Dear Lord, I refuse henceforth to compete with any of Thy servants. They have congregations larger than mine. So be it. I rejoice in their success. They have greater gifts. Very well. That is not in their power nor in mine. I am humbly grateful for their greater gifts and my smaller ones. I only pray that I may use to Thy glory such modest gifts as I possess. I will not compare myself with any, nor try to build up my self-esteem by noting where I may excel one or another in Thy holy work. I herewith make a blanket disavowal of all intrinsic worth. I am but an unprofitable servant. I gladly go to the foot of the class and own myself the least of Thy people. If I err in my self judgment and actually underestimate myself I do not want to know it. I purpose to pray for others and to rejoice in their prosperity as if it were my own. And indeed it is my own if it is Thine own, for what is Thine is mine, and while one plants and another waters it is Thou alone that giveth the increase.” PON104-105
Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee.—Deuteronomy 8:2.
Not mindless of the growing years
Of care and loss and pain,
My eyes are wet with thankful tears
For blessings that remain.
J. G. Whittier.
The years of available and happy life, which have been already enjoyed, ought to be the cause of thankfulness, even if “the days of darkness” were many. “The sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things,” says Tennyson. Surely, in the sphere of Faith, at least, there is some mistake here. “For what we have received the Lord make us truly thankful.”
A bright, happy soul, rejoicing in all God’s gifts, seeing cause for thankfulness and gladness in everything, counting up mercies rather than trials, looking at the bright side, even of sickness, bereavement, and death -what a very fountain of goodness and love of Christ such an one is! I remember one who, worn with sickness! and sleepless nights, answered to the question if the nights did not seem interminable: “Oh no, I lie still, and count up my blessings!”
H.L. Sidney Lear.
“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” Ps. 118:17
A fair assurance this! It was no doubt based upon a promise, inwardly whispered in the Psalmist’s heart, which he seized upon and enjoyed. Is my case like that of David? Am I depressed because the enemy affronts me? Are there multitudes against me, and few on my side? Does unbelief bid me lie down and die in despair — a defeated, dishonored man? Do my enemies begin to dig my grave?
What then? Shall I yield to the whisper of fear, and give up the battle, and with it give up all hope? Far from it. There is life in me yet: “I shall not die.” Vigor will return and remove my weakness: “I shall live.” The Lord lives, and I shall live also. My mouth shall again be opened: “I shall declare the works of Jehovah.” Yes, and I shall speak of the present trouble as another instance of the wonder-working faithfulness and love of the Lord my God. Those who would gladly measure me for my coffin had better wait a bit; for “the Lord hath chastened me sore, but he hath not given me over unto death.” Glory be to His name for ever! I am immortal till my work is done. Till the Lord wills it no vault can close upon me.
Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. Matthew 14:25
Darkness is the absence of visible light, in which humans are unable to distinguish shapes or forms. Those who have experienced total darkness know what a disconcerting feeling it is.
In the “fourth watch of the night”—3:00–6:00 a.m.—on the Sea of Galilee it would have been dark enough for the disciples to be afraid of a form they saw moving toward them across the water. Indeed, they thought it was a spirit of some kind: “And they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:26). But it wasn’t a spirit, it was Jesus coming to help them as they battled against the rough waves of the sea. While this is an event unique to the disciples, there is a principle imbedded for us: Jesus sees as clearly in our darkness as He does in our light. Our vision may be limited in times of darkness, but His is not.
If you find yourself in a dark place where it is hard to see Jesus, do not worry. He sees you in your moment of need and He will come and comfort you.
I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light. Mary Gardiner Brainard
Faithfulness, Matthew 25:14-30 – Pastor Chuck Smith – Topical Bible Study
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
In These Are the Generations, Mr. Bae describes God’s faithfulness and the power of the gospel to penetrate the darkness. His grandfather, parents, and his own family were all persecuted for sharing their faith in Christ. But an interesting thing happened when Mr. Bae was imprisoned for telling a friend about God: his faith grew. The same was true for his parents when they were sentenced to a concentration camp—they continued to share Christ’s love even there. Mr. Bae found the promise of John 1:5 to be true: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus warned His disciples about the trouble they’d face. They would be rejected by people who “will do such things because they have not known the Father or me” (16:3). But Jesus offered words of comfort: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (v. 33).
While many believers in Jesus haven’t experienced persecution on the level of that endured by the family of Mr. Bae, we can expect to face trouble. But we don’t have to give in to discouragement or resentment. We have a Helper—the Holy Spirit Jesus promised to send. We can turn to Him for guidance and comfort (v. 7). The power of God’s presence can hold us steady in dark times.
Reflect & Pray
What trouble have you experienced as a believer in Christ or witnessed others experiencing? What is your first reaction during hard times?
Heavenly Father, please protect Your children who are experiencing persecution.
As you read today’s passage, did you see the conflict presented in it? The apostle Paul is explaining that even though believers struggle with sin, we are no longer “in the flesh,” because God’s Spirit dwells in us (Rom. 8:9). The word flesh signifies the natural part of each person that desires to operate in opposition to God. That’s why Paul says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8).
Even though Christians have been freed from the domination of the flesh and now have the Holy Spirit, the conflict is not over—that’s because our old fleshly patterns have not been eradicated. However, we don’t have to succumb to living by them. In fact, we are “under obligation” to put the deeds of the flesh to death by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:12-13).
To fight this battle, we need powerful spiritual weapons, and that’s exactly what the Lord has given us. In Ephesians 6:10-17, we find the full armor of God, which helps us stand firm and guards our mind and heart with truth. We have the shield of faith to extinguish Satan’s lies and the Word of God as our weapon against temptation.
Romans 13:14 tells us, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lust.” Are you using the resources that the Lord has provided to help you put to death those sinful desires and deeds of the flesh? Since the battle begins in the mind, that’s the place to start. As you reprogram your thoughts with God’s Word, your desires and deeds will follow suit.