Last January, Patrick Martin was shopping for a computer at Best Buy, when he looked over and saw the famous basketball superstar, Shaquille O’Neal, doing the same. Patrick approached Shaq and told him how sorry he was to learn of the death of Shaq’s sister from cancer, and he also offered sympathy over the death of Shaq’s good friend, Kobe Bryant. Something about those simple condolences moved O’Neal. In a few moments he came back over to Martin and said, “I like y’all, so get the nicest [laptop] in here and I’ll pay for it.”
How strange! A simple heartfelt word of sympathy brought tremendous blessing to the one who uttered it.
In a far deeper way, we’re enriched when we feel sympathy for others. We’re blessed when we let ourselves identify with the pain of others, feeling their sorrow, praying for their needs, and lifting up their spirits. Hardened hearts are resistant to God’s blessings, but when our hearts are tender toward others, they are also receptive to God’s care and concern. Sympathizing with others helps us discover happiness.
To mourn is to sympathize. Happiness is discovered when we sympathize with those around us who suffer. David Jeremiah
Hosea 1-14 – The Bible from 30,000 Feet – Skip Heitzig – Flight HOS01
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. Psalm 116:15
“Your father is actively dying,” said the hospice nurse. “Actively dying” refers to the final phase of the dying process and was a new term to me, one that felt strangely like traveling down a lonely one-way street. On my dad’s last day, not knowing if he could still hear us, my sister and I sat by his bed. We kissed the top of his beautiful bald head. We whispered God’s promises to him. We sang “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and quoted the 23rd Psalm. We told him we loved him and thanked him for being our dad. We knew his heart longed to be with Jesus, and we told him he could go. Speaking those words was the first painful step in letting go. A few minutes later, our dad was joyously welcomed into his eternal home.
The final release of a loved one is painful. Even Jesus’ tears flowed when His good friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). But because of God’s promises, we have hope beyond physical death. Psalm 116:15 says that God’s “faithful servants”—those who belong to Him—are “precious” to Him. Though they die, they’ll be alive again.
Jesus promises, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25–26). What comfort it brings to know we’ll be in God’s presence forever.
1 Timothy 6:11-16
In today’s passage, Paul tells a young pastor named Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). But this command isn’t limited to pastors; every believer needs to be a faithful soldier of Christ. That’s because we’re all in a battle—not against people but against spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph. 6:12).
This war began when Satan and other angels rebelled against God. Then Satan tempted Eve to disobey the Lord as well. As a result of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, the earth was cursed, and the entire human race was corrupted by sin. Ever since that day, the battle for truth and righteousness has raged.
Although we may often feel overwhelmed by temptations and deceptions, Jesus modeled the path to victory when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). He used only one weapon to refute each enticement and falsehood—the Word of God.
This is the same powerful weapon our heavenly Father has given us to fight the good fight. When we view daily battles biblically with full reliance on the trustworthiness and authority of Scripture, we can flee sin, pursue righteousness, and stand firmly for the truths of the faith.
“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.” (1 Corinthians 9:19)
In his letter to the Ephesians (4:11-16), Paul noted that Christ had given specific gifts to the church—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Paul himself was all of these, however, and he wanted to win as many people as he could from all walks of life. He therefore sought to be “made all things to all men, that [he] might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
This, indeed, was a magnificent obsession, and every Christian should seek to emulate it as the Lord enables. Paul was not saying, however, that a man should become as a woman to win women to the Lord, or that a woman should become as a man to win men; neither should he become a humanist to win humanists. One should never dilute the doctrines of the faith or Christian standards of conduct in order to win commitments to the church.
Paul was not laying down guidelines for witnessing, either for the church or for individual Christians; he was giving his own personal testimony. Nevertheless, we should seek to be understanding and sympathetic to people of every background. “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32). We should try to “be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Remembering it is “God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7), we should never compromise truth in order to gain converts, but “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) beseech others to “be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). HMM
And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
We are twentieth-century Christians. Some of us are Christians only because it is convenient and pleasant and because it is not costing us anything. But here is the truth, whether we like it or not: the average evangelical Christian who claims to be born again and have eternal life is not doing as much to propagate his or her faith as the busy adherents of the cults handing out their papers on the street corners and visiting from house to house.
We are not willing to take the spit and the contempt and the abuses those cultists take as they knock on doors and try to persuade everyone to follow them in their mistaken beliefs. The cultists can teach us much about zeal and effort and sacrifice, but most of us do not want to get that serious about our faith—or our Savior. JIV114-115
Lord, let me have the spirit of the early saints. I pour myself out today as Your servant, no matter the cost. Amen.
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
The human heart can love the human Jesus as it can love the human Lincoln, but the spiritual love of Jesus is something altogether different from and infinitely superior to the purest love the human heart can know.
Indeed it is not possible to love Jesus rightly except by the Holy Spirit. Only the Third Person of the Trinity can love the Second Person in a manner pleasing to the Father. The spiritual love of Jesus is nothing else but the Spirit in us loving Christ the Eternal Son.
Christ, after the flesh, receives a great deal of fawning attention…, but love that is not the outflow of the indwelling Holy Spirit is not true spiritual love and cannot be acceptable to God. We do Christ no honor when we do no more than to give Him the best of our human love….He is not rightly loved until…the Spirit within us does the loving. NCA031-032
We are not love, and we never expect to love by our own impulses….But Jesus is the heart of love. Jesus is love itself, and Jesus is ours. His love is ours. We draw it in and give it out. CTAB060
1 John 3:6
Spiritual health, or daily victory over temptation, should be taken as the Christian norm. In one sense “normal” is a totally inadequate word. It is “super-normal,” one of the wonders of divine grace, that we should triumph at all over the sins which do so easily beset us. Yet we should not think of this life of daily victory as if it were reserved for the few who, by reason of disposition, could be described as naturally religious. The victorious life is not beyond the normal believer.
This does not mean that perfection in the final sense—nothing to learn, no further progress to be made—is for this life. To quote John Wesley: “There is no perfection which does not admit of continual increase.” As the Army Mother used to say: “Sanctification is not final growth.” It is not the same as complete attainment.
Glory will be required fully to crown what grace has begun below. But that does not mean that we cannot step out here and now on the highway of holiness.
With the Apostle Paul we do not think of ourselves as having already attained perfection or as being already perfect. It is no contradiction to say that part of the experience of Christian perfection is an awareness of one’s own imperfections. So the Apostle Paul could describe himself as the chief of sinners. This is why our Founder could confess: “My great sorrow is that I have served the Lord so imperfectly.”
The closer a believer’s communion with his Savior the more keenly does he realize how far he falls short of resembling that same Lord. His self-reproaches arise from his nearness to the Master. Were he not so aware of the beauty of Jesus the less conscious would he be of his own shortcomings.
The first word in the Christian vocabulary is not struggle—but surrender; not one more try—but to yield to the divine will; not one more effort and this time you will make it—but to submit to Another.
Frederick Coutts, The Splendor of Holiness