Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it. Luke 11:28
Brian was scheduled to be an usher at his brother’s wedding, but he was a no-show. Understandably, family members were disappointed, including his sister Jasmine who was the Scripture reader for the occasion. At the ceremony she flawlessly read from the well-known Scripture passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13. But after the wedding when her father asked her to deliver a birthday gift to Brian, she hesitated. She found it harder to live the words about love than to read them. Before the evening was over, however, she had a change of mind and admitted, “I can’t stand and read Scripture about love and not practice it.”
Have you ever been convicted by Scripture that you read or heard but found it difficult to carry out? You’re not alone. It’s easier to read and listen to God’s Word than to obey it. That’s why James’s challenge is so fitting: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). His mirror illustration makes us smile because we know what it means to observe something about ourselves that needs attention. But we’re deceived if we think that observing alone is enough. When James nudges us to “[look] intently into” and “[continue] in” God’s truth (v. 25), he encourages us to do what Jasmine was compelled to do—live it. God’s Word calls for it, and He deserves nothing less.
Reflect & Pray
When did you make a change in your life after looking intently into the Scriptures? How was your life enriched?
Heavenly Father, help me to better understand what it means to look intently into Your Word and live out what I read.
1 Corinthians 2:9-16
Many people—including Christians—don’t read the Bible, and one reason is that they don’t understand it. We might expect this to be the case for someone who doesn’t know Christ, but why do so many of God’s own children fail to comprehend the truth of Scripture? Maybe it’s because they haven’t asked for help from their divine Teacher. One of the Holy Spirit’s chief responsibilities is to enable believers to understand the things of God.
When we look at fellow Christians who know more than we do, it’s easy to think, I will never be able to reach that level. The issue, however, isn’t how much knowledge we have right now, but whether we are growing in our understanding. The Spirit will teach each of us what we need to know, not necessarily what others know. Because He wants to us to become Christlike, He’ll give us truth and the wisdom to understand how it applies specifically in our own life.
The Spirit’s goal is not to fill our mind with information but to bring us to a deeper level in our relationship with the heavenly Father. He wants us to understand the truth so we can know the love of Jesus. The depth of Christ’s love motivates us to know Him better, spend time in His presence, and read His Word.
But all these treasures of God’s Word could remain out of reach if you never ask the Teacher for guidance. Each time you read your Bible, ask the Lord for understanding and wisdom. A genuine and intimate relationship with Christ awaits whoever listens and allows the Spirit to reveal the thoughts of God.
“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.” (Acts 12:1-2)
Verse 2 of our text rather casually records what may have been one of the lowest points of apostolic time. James was killed with the sword—James, one of the only three disciples in Christ’s inner circle. He was one of only three to witness the resurrection of the synagogue ruler’s daughter (Luke 8:51-55); one of three to catch a glimpse of Christ’s glory at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2); and one of only four to sit with Christ on the Mount of Olives and learn of the future (Mark 13:3-4). In Gethsemane, after their last supper together, Christ allowed him, along with Peter and John, to witness His agony in a special way (Mark 14:32-34).
He was highly trained by Christ Himself, and the fledgling church could ill afford to lose his leadership. But suddenly he was arrested and slain! A tragedy it would seem to lose such a leader. Think what James might have accomplished had he lived longer, much as Peter and John did. Could it be, however, that his martyrdom was a blessing in disguise? Certainly God allowed this to happen, but for what purpose?
The answer may be found in the verses following our text. Peter had been taken prisoner and was to be executed the next morning (Acts 12:6). However, the church had learned a lesson. No prayer for James is recorded, but for Peter, “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5), and Peter was miraculously freed by an angel and joined the prayer meeting.
What would have happened had the believers prayed for James as they did for Peter? Of course, that question has no definite answer, but prayer such as was offered for Peter followed the apostles and early church leaders in their work from that time on. JDM
And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
Faith is the least self-regarding of the virtues. It is by its very nature scarcely conscious of its own existence. Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves—blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do….
When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth. The sweet language of experience is “Thou God seest me” (Genesis 16:13). When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth. POG084-086
Keep my eyes fixed on You, Lord. Help me to stop tinkering and realize my total inability to change. I look to You to change me and give me victory as I focus on Your friendly eyes looking lovingly at me. Amen.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.—Psalm 37:7.
Is it the Lord that shuts me in?
Then I can bear to wait!
No place so dark, no place so poor,
So strong and fast no prisoning door,
Though walled by grievous fate,
But out of it goes fair and broad
An unseen pathway, straight to God,
By which I mount to Thee.
We cannot be useless while we are doing and suffering God’s will, whatever it may be found to be. And we can always do that. If we are bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit, we are not useless. And we can always do that. If we are increasing in the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, we are not useless. And we can always do that. While we pray we cannot be useless. And we can always do that. God will always find us a work to do, a niche to fill, a place to serve, nay, even a soul to save, when it is His will, and not ours, that we desire to do; and if it should please Him that we should sit still for the rest of our lives, doing nothing else but waiting on Him, and waiting for Him, why should we complain? Here is the patience of the saints.
Anthony W. Thurold
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13
Truth is like a vast cavern into which we desire to enter, but we are not able to traverse it alone. At the entrance it is clear and bright; but if we would go further and explore its innermost recesses, we must have a guide, or we shall lose ourselves. The Holy Spirit, who knows all truth perfectly, is the appointed guide of all true believers, and He conducts them as they are able to bear it, from one inner chamber to another, so that they behold the deep things of God, and His secret is made plain to them.
What a promise is this for the humbly inquiring mind! We desire to know the truth, and to enter into it. We are conscious of our own aptness to err, and we feel the urgent need of a guide. We rejoice that the Holy Spirit is come and abides among us. He condescends to act as a guide to us, and we gladly accept His leadership. “All truth” we wish to learn, that we may not be one-sided and out of balance. We would not be willingly ignorant of any part of revelation lest thereby we should miss blessing, or incur sin. The Spirit of God has come that He may guide us into all truth: let us with obedient hearts hearken to His words and follow His lead.