See what great love the Father has lavished on us. 1 John 3:1
Recently, several people within our church—those who had experienced poor relationships with their fathers—asked me to stand in as a loving, father figure and offer a blessing over them. The blessing asked forgiveness for the ways a father can hurt his children by setting expectations that are too high or being distant or failing to offer tender presence and affirmation. It also pronounced delight, admiration, and abundant love. As I shared the blessing, I wept. I realized how I still needed to receive such words, and how much my children need them too.
The Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as our Father, a reality reshaping the distorted father images we might have. God, our eternal Father, has “lavished on us” perfect love, making us “children of God” (1 John 3:1). Our identity as God’s sons and daughters grounds us in an uncertain, fear-inducing world. “We are children of God,” John says, even though “what we will be has not yet been made known” (v. 2). Facing ever-present challenges, all we can truly count on is that our Father loves and provides for us and never stops. When everything is said and done, God says through the inspired words of John, we can be certain we’ll be like Him (v. 2).
In the midst of our anxieties, wounds, and failures, our good Father speaks a blessing of inexhaustible love. God insists we belong, for He’s made us His children.
Reflect & Pray
What comes to mind when you ponder the word father? How does God’s lavish love reshape the father image for you?
God, teach me more about how You are my Father. May I experience and know Your care.
I wonder if thoughts of Stephen’s murder entered Paul’s mind while he was defending himself before the Roman tribunal. Although the apostle’s friends, disciples, and converts had not come to support him, he didn’t want the heavenly Father to discipline any of them (2 Timothy 4:16). Paul offered a prayer of forgiveness, just as Stephen forgave all of the men who were involved in stoning him to death.
Believers need to accept that forgiveness is the right response when others cause hurt. Grace is not only the Lord’s mercy toward us; it is also His mercy flowing through us. Pardoning others is an aspect of becoming more Christlike—holding a grudge does not fit the new Spirit-filled person we became at salvation.
What’s more, we must remember that Jesus Christ paid the sin debt of those who harm us, whether they accept His free gift of grace or not. Even so, no one claims that forgiving an offense is easy to do. Some people inflict such terrible evil on others that they seem undeserving of clemency. But it’s important to understand that offering mercy is far better than living with the alternatives: Bitterness, revenge, and anger can gnaw at the spirit until good will is consumed, health is depleted, and thinking is clouded.
The Holy Spirit will help us forgive. He gently draws out our hurt, betrayal, and anger—and then refills our heart with mercy. Only when we are fully yielded to Him can we say with Stephen, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60).
“I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.” (Genesis 46:4)
Imagine the turmoil Jacob must have felt when he heard the news that Joseph was alive and wanted him to move to Egypt. His son, whom he had thought dead for many years, was not only alive but governor of Egypt! As difficult as this was for him to believe, Jacob no doubt had myriad other emotions crowding in on him. God had directed him to Canaan, as with his fathers Abraham and Isaac. This was the land of promise, and yet circumstances seemed to indicate that God was leading him away. In the past, God had always spoken to him directly before each important move, and Jacob must have had that in mind as they traveled.
The company stopped at Beersheba, the southern boundary of the promised land. Here Jacob had lived with his parents (Genesis 28:10). Here God had repeated His covenant to Isaac (Genesis 26:24), and here Jacob decided to build an altar to ask God for clear leading before leaving the land (Genesis 46:1), and God graciously answered: “I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation” (Genesis 46:3). Furthermore, God assured Jacob, in our text, that when His purposes in Egypt were accomplished, He would “bring thee up again” into the land of promise. Many details were as yet unknown to Jacob, but he gladly obeyed.
This pattern is applicable to us. As we endeavor to follow God’s leading, we should proceed as best we can discern the situation (assuming there is no scriptural teaching to the contrary), all the while praying for wisdom and clarification. He may shut the door and redirect, or He may confirm our decision. We can proceed in the confidence that He will go with us, and when the time is right, He will lead us on. JDM
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
From the trials and triumphs of Paul, we gather, too, that happiness is really not indispensable to a Christian. There are many ills worse than heartaches. It is scarcely too much to say that prolonged happiness may actually weaken us, especially if we insist upon being happy as the Jews insisted upon flesh in the wilderness. In so doing, we may try to avoid those spiritual responsibilities which would in the nature of them bring a certain measure of heaviness and affliction to the soul.
The best thing is neither to seek nor seek to avoid troubles but to follow Christ and take the bitter with the sweet as it may come. Whether we are happy or unhappy at any given time is not important. That we be in the will of God is all that matters. We may safely leave with Him the incident of heartache or happiness. He will know how much we need of either or both. WTA080
Lord, may I indeed be “in the will of God” today. I’ll “leave with [You] the incident of heartache or happiness.” I can trust You to decide wisely. Amen.
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.—Psalm 91:1.
The upright shall dwell in Thy presence.—Psalm 140:13.
My soul and all its powers
Thine, wholly Thine shall be,
All, all my happy hours
I consecrate to Thee.
Me to Thine image now restore,
And I shall praise Thee evermore.
If the wish is wakened in our soul to be ever in His presence, let us go to Him this moment, and ask Him what to do, and how to feel, believing that He is more ready to hear than we to pray. He will give us realization of His Jove, and convictions of duty. Let us follow those convictions implicitly; let us ask Him every day to teach us more, and help us more, and we shall soon say, with Paul, “Thanks be, unto God, for His unspeakable gift!”
William R. Huntington.
The all-important thing is not to live apart from God, but as far as possible to be consciously with Him. It must needs be that those who look much into His face will become like Him.
Charles H. Brent.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Ps. 46:1
A help that is not present when we need it is of small value. The anchor which is left at home is of no use to the seaman in the hour of storm; the money which he used to have is of no worth to the debtor when a writ is out against him. Very few earthly helps could be called “very present”: they are usually far in the seeking, far in the using, and farther still when once used. But as for the Lord our God, He is present when we seek Him, present when we need Him, and present when we have already enjoyed His aid.
He is more than “present,” He is very present. More present than the nearest friend can be, for He is in us in our trouble; more present than we are to ourselves, for sometimes we lack presence of mind. He is always present, effectually present, sympathetically present, altogether present. He is present now if this is a gloomy season. Let us rest ourselves upon Him. He is our refuge, let us hide in Him; He is our strength, let us array ourselves with Him; He is our help, let us lean upon Him; He is our very present help, let us repose in Him now. We need not have a moment’s care, or an instant’s fear. “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”