Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12
The Olympics began in ancient Greece. But the spirit of prowess and competition didn’t disappear when Rome replaced Greece as the dominant Mediterranean power. The Romans tested themselves with training and competition just as the Greeks had—all for the glory of winning a crown, a wreath of leaves to wear on one’s head.
Two prominent biblical themes have their roots in athletic competition: the idea of testing and the reward of a crown. Both passages in the New Testament where the “crown of life” is mentioned are in the context of testing, or temptation (James 1:2-12; Revelation 2:10-11). James 1 is the well-known section on joyfully facing spiritual tests, concluding with the promise of the “crown of life” for all who persevere. The same is true in Revelation 2:10-11. The church in Smyrna was about to undergo testing, after which the “crown of life” would be given to the faithful.
Even if tests lead to death, we have the promise of eternal life—a reward leading to praise of Christ (Revelation 4:10).
[Christ] went by the cross to the crown, and we must not think of going any other way.Matthew Henry
Temperatures where we live in Colorado can change quickly—sometimes within a few minutes. So my husband, Dan, was curious about the temperature differences in and around our home. As a fan of gadgets, he was excited to unpack his latest “toy”—a thermometer showing temperature readings from four “zones” around our house. Joking that it was a “silly” gadget, I was surprised to find myself frequently checking the temperatures too. The differences inside and out fascinated me.
Jesus used temperature to describe the “lukewarm” church in Laodicea, one of the richest of the seven cities cited in the book of Revelation. A bustling banking, clothing, and medical hub, the city was hampered by a poor water supply, so it needed an aqueduct to carry water from a hot spring. By the time the water arrived in Laodicea, however, it was neither hot nor cold.
The church was tepid too. Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15–16). As Christ explained, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent” (v. 19).
Our Savior’s plea remains urgent for us too. Are you spiritually neither hot nor cold? Accept His correction and ask Him to help you live an earnest, fired-up faith.
God lavishes His grace on us despite our sinful past—which should inspire us to live for Him
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
The apostle Paul had a mindset that Christians are wise to emulate (1 Corinthians 11:1). It included:
• Humility. Pride can’t exist in the heart of a believer who truly grasps God’s mercy. Paul spread the gospel because he believed in the sufficiency of God’s grace to save sinners like himself—and you and me.
• A sense of obligation. Paul understood how far God’s grace had brought him. He frequently reminded others of his role in persecuting the church (1 Timothy 1:13-15) and allowed his past to fuel his gratitude for salvation.
• A sense of dependence. Here is how the apostle described the source of his strength: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). He knew what it was to work at being religious by depending on his own efforts—and he wanted no part of it. Paul desired more of Jesus and none of himself (Philippians 3:4-8).
• A spirit of absolute confidence. Even at the end of Paul’s life, he remained confident in the Lord and looked forward to his eternal reward (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Do you see these attitudes in yourself? Praise the Lord for all that He’s done, and let it motivate you to work for His kingdom. May the grace He showers on you never be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:10).
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Philippians 4:23)
The basic form of today’s verse appears 13 times in the New Testament. In Scripture, repetition is not for lack of something to say but the Holy Spirit’s intentional emphasis on something.
God extends His grace to the very creation itself by merely keeping the universe together (2 Peter 3:7), intending thereby to “speak” and supply knowledge (Psalm 19:1-4) sufficient to display His very nature and power in such a way that there can be “no excuse” about His existence and care for humanity (Romans 1:20).
In seven of the 13 times, this “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is focused on “you.” God’s grace is very personal. Everything that He has done is because He loves you and me beyond any grasp of our earthly imagination. No one is beyond the touch of God’s grace: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Once, in contrast, God says some will turn “the grace of our God into lasciviousness” and deny Him who has bought and paid for all the horrible sin that they embraced to spite such grace (Jude 1:4). No wonder the apostle Paul calls such people “abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).
The Lord twice focuses His grace on our spirits, indicating God’s intimate knowledge of our innermost thoughts (Romans 8:26). Paul noted that God’s grace is “exceeding abundant with faith and love” (1 Timothy 1:14), and he insisted that His grace is designed to be “glorified in you” (2 Thessalonians 1:12). Like today’s verse, most of the prayers for us end in “Amen.” And that’s the way it should be. HMM III
Ye that love the Lord, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints. —Psalm 97:10
Sometimes we Christians are opposed and persecuted for reasons other than our godliness. We like to think it is our spirituality that irritates people, when in reality, it may be our personality.
True, the spirit of this world is opposed to the Spirit of God; he that is born after the flesh will persecute him that is born of the Spirit. But making all allowances, it is still true that some Christians get into trouble through their faults instead of through their likeness to the character of Christ. We may as well admit this and do something about it. No good can come from trying to hide our unpleasant and annoying dispositional traits behind a verse of Scripture.
It is one of the strange facts of life that gross sins are often less offensive and always more attractive than spiritual ones. The world can tolerate a drunkard or a glutton or a smiling braggart but will turn in savage fury against the man of outwardly righteous life who is guilty of those refined sins, which he does not recognize as sins, but which may be more exceeding sinful than the sins of the flesh. WTA036
In the sanctified heart, the hatred of sin is supreme. DTC094
The more I consider “praying in the Spirit,” the more convinced I am that the majority of Christians do not know what it means to pray in this particular way. Many are content to recite prayers and know nothing of the thrill of entering a dimension of prayer in which the Holy Spirit has full control.
Not that there is anything wrong with liturgical or written prayers—they can be a wonderful primer for one’s spiritual pump. Many people tell me that the prayers I frame at the end of each devotion in Every Day with Jesus have sometimes helped them more than the actual notes I have written. Using written prayers can be helpful, but we must heed the apostle’s exhortation to move on into that dimension which he calls “praying in the Spirit.” The best description of this I have ever heard is that given by some of the old Welsh preachers, like Daniel Rowlands, Christmas Evans, and others. They describe it as “praying with unusual liberty and freedom.”
There is hardly anything more wonderful in the Christian life than to experience this “liberty and freedom” in prayer. I can remember the minister and elders of the church in which I was converted in South Wales saying after a prayer meeting in which there had been great liberty and power: “Tonight we have prayed in the Spirit.”
Have you not experienced moments when, after struggling and halting in prayer, you were suddenly taken out of yourself and words just poured out of you? At that moment, you were “praying in the Spirit.”
O Father, forgive me that I try to do so much in my own strength instead of learning how to let You do it in me. Teach me how to let go and let You take over in everything—particularly my praying. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”—Matthew 11:11
John the Baptist’s role was to decrease in prominence while Jesus’ ministry increased (John 3:30). John allowed his disciples to leave him in order to follow Jesus. His ministry lasted only about six months before he was wrongfully imprisoned and executed on the whim of a cruel monarch. Yet Jesus said that no one who had come before John was any greater in the kingdom of heaven. Moses had parted the Red Sea; Elijah had raised the dead and brought down fire from heaven; Isaiah had written a revered book of Scripture; yet in the brief time of service granted to John, he had matched them all for greatness in the kingdom of heaven!
Incredibly, Jesus said that we have the opportunity to be even greater in the kingdom of heaven than John the Baptist. He announced the coming of Christ, but we, as Christians, have Christ living within us. We must remember that service to God is the greatest privilege we can receive in life. To serve God in even the most menial way is an honor far greater than we deserve. John was given less than a year to complete his assignment, and he did so with all that he had. We have the opportunity to allow Jesus to carry out His work through our lives, so that greater things are done through us than were ever accomplished through John the Baptist. Our mandate is the same as John’s: to lift up Jesus while denying ourselves. Oh, that we would do so with the same fervor as John the Baptist!