For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ.1 Corinthians 4:17
Earlier this year a hiker died of apparently natural causes at an obscure spot in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. When his remains were found two weeks later, his faithful dog, King, was still standing guard over his master. King, a golden retriever, was hungry and emaciated; but he had done his duty.1
The Bible often tells us we can learn things from animals—the hardworking ant, the soaring eagle, the panting deer, the dependent lamb. We can also learn a lesson from King. Sometimes troubles beset us, and grief dismays us. But we can always be faithful. Timothy was faithful to Paul in all circumstances, even as Paul was faithful to Christ—and Christ was faithful to them both. Faithfulness provided the trust that bound all things together with the cords of stability and strength.
It may be no more than standing beside someone in need, but faithfulness here on earth will receive heaven’s badge of honor.
The level of trust requisite to a fruitful working partnership with a dog guide is analogous to a genuine relationship with a generative God. Neither is easy, yet both are simple.Dallas A. Brauninger
Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.Proverbs 15:31
“Unfortunately, we had a pretty hard conversation recently,” said Shellie. “I don’t think either of us enjoyed it, but I really felt her attitude and actions needed to be addressed in order to keep from hurting those around her.” Shellie was talking about the young woman she mentors. Although uncomfortable, their conversation was fruitful and actually strengthened their relationship. Just a few weeks later, the two women led a church-wide prayer time with the theme of humility.
Even outside of a formal mentoring relationship, we’ll face a tough conversation or two with a brother or sister in Christ. In Proverbs, a book full of timeless wisdom, the importance of humility in giving and receiving correction is a repeated theme. In fact, constructive criticism is called “life-giving” and leads to true wisdom (Proverbs 15:31). Proverbs 15:5 says a fool spurns discipline, while those who heed correction show good judgment. Put plainly, “the one who hates correction will die” (v. 10). As Shellie witnessed, truth spoken in love can bring new life to a relationship.
Is there someone in your life to whom a word of loving, life-giving correction should be spoken? Or perhaps you have recently received wise admonition and been tempted to respond with anger or indifference. To disregard discipline is to despise oneself, but to heed correction is to gain understanding (v. 32). Let’s ask God to help us give and receive correction with humility today.
The Lord has a grand plan for the life of every believer, and it can be summed up in the term we looked at yesterday: sanctification. This refers to the process by which something is made holy—in other words, separated from its former common usage and dedicated to God for His purposes.
Every person is born spiritually dead and an enemy of God (Ephesians 2:1; Romans 5:10). But the moment we trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, our sins are wiped away, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, and we’re adopted into God’s family. From that moment on, we are set apart as God’s children for His sacred purposes.
This means we are here on earth not to chase after pleasure and personal gain but to serve and obey the Lord. And in so doing, we bring Him honor and glory. As members of God’s family, we are called to reflect Christ’s character. The Lord now calls us saints—a term that shares its root with sanctification—not because we live sinlessly, but because that’s our position in Christ and should be our practice as well. No longer are we to give ourselves to sin; instead, we should present ourselves to God as slaves of obedience.
“Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:20)
This fascinating phrase (actually, the Greek simply says “in the heavenlies”) is found only in the Ephesian epistle, where it occurs five times. That it does mean heavenly places, rather than “heavenly things,” is evident from our text. Christ in His physical resurrection body is now in a particular place, and that place is where He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
In principle now—and ultimately in actuality—we also have been made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). In the meantime, however, we must also struggle with the demonic powers who still, like Satan, have access to God’s presence to accuse us of sin when we yield to their inducements. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places [actually the same phrase, ‘heavenly places’]” (6:12).
And when, by the grace of God and the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit, we are victorious in this conflict, it becomes a glorious demonstration throughout heaven, to fallen and unfallen angels alike, that Christ’s salvation is genuine and truly works in our lives. All of this is “to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (3:10).
No wonder, with all these glorious events taking place in heaven, the apostle Paul introduces this epistle with a doxology! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (1:3). HMM
The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians may tell us what Christ is like, but let us not forget that it also tells us what we must be like to avoid spiritual tragedy. Let us not turn our back on this critically important teaching.
Without love, the kind described by Paul, my whole Christian life is a barren fig tree. It’s a neat trick to apply Paul’s words to Christ only; but it isn’t honest, and it is dangerous.
It is the Holy Spirit who sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts (Romans 5:5) and love is declared to be a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). But if our daily lives reveal that the fruit is not there we dare not assume that it is—”because the Bible says so.”
The absence of love as described in First Corinthians 13 is proof of the absence of the Spirit, or at least that He is inoperative within us. That’s the only honest conclusion. We can’t afford to be less than candid about the whole thing. PON129
[The] gospel breathes the spirit of love. Love is the fulfilling of its precepts, the pledge of its joy, and the evidence of its power. DTC165
Do not be afraid or discouraged … for the battle is not yours, but God’s.—2 Chronicles 20:15
The spiritual application of the helmet of salvation is not so much the enjoyment of our present salvation (though it includes that) as it is the assurance that a sure salvation is coming—and is even now at work.
This is what we need to know if we are to prevent the Devil from bringing us into a state of mental distress—not merely that things will finally end right, but that God’s plan is being worked out now. “History,” writes Ray Stedman, an American Bible teacher, “is not a meaningless jumble but a controlled pattern, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the one who is directing these events.”
The attack of Satan on the mind proceeds differently. He says to us: “Just look around you at the state of the world. God seems powerless to put things right. He has given lots of promises that things will one day get better, but none has come to pass. Hadn’t you better give up this foolish idea that it’s all going to work out right?”
If you were to let your mind dwell on that kind of satanic argument, you would soon find yourself in distress. The answer is to put on the helmet, the hope of salvation. You must remind yourself that things are not as they appear. The battle is not ours, but the Lord’s. We may be individual soldiers fighting in the army of God, but the ultimate cause is sure and the end is certain. We need not be unduly troubled by what is happening in the world, for our commander is not just winning—He has already won!
Lord Jesus, I am grateful that the Cross is the guarantee that neither sin nor Satan will ever defeat You. Your victory at Calvary has settled forever the question of who has the final word in the universe. I am so deeply, deeply thankful. Amen.
The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for I have handed them over to you. Not one of them will be able to stand against you.”—Joshua 10:8
No greater confidence will ever come to you or to any other Christian than the confidence of knowing you are doing God’s will. God will not commission you to do anything without ensuring your success. God assured Joshua that there was no reason to fear as he prepared to battle the Canaanites. God would allow the Israelites to fight the battle, but the outcome was settled before they ever picked up their weapons. What confidence this gave them as they fought! Even though their enemies fought relentlessly, Joshua’s army was certain of eventual victory.
God does not promise you victory in every task you devise, but He does promise that you will be successful whenever you follow His will (Deut. 28:7, 25).
Does it appear that people are keeping you from obeying God’s will? Rest assured that God will not allow anyone or anything to prevent His children from accomplishing His purposes.
Be careful to evaluate success in the way that God does. Perhaps He is working to produce His peace in your heart as you face troubling times. Perhaps He is working to develop a forgiving spirit in you when others mistreat you. Perhaps He is working to eliminate a particular sin in your life. If you accept the world’s understanding of victory, you may feel defeated. If you look to see what God is accomplishing through your situation, you will find that He is succeeding. When you face opposition but know you are doing what God has asked, have confidence that He will accomplish everything that He desires.