Deborah is a beautiful example of a woman whose faith in God shined as a light to Israel. She loved the Lord and served Him faithfully. When others faltered, Deborah courageously obeyed God and insisted that His will, not hers be done. And because she followed God’s direction, the armies of Canaan were defeated and their king destroyed. The Lord rewarded Deborah by giving her the honor for the Israelites win. Even better, because of her service to the Lord, “the land was undisturbed for forty years.” (v. 5:31) And after the victory instead of patting herself on the back, Deborah sang a song giving God all the glory. No matter who we are, male or female, great or small, when we are open and willing to be used by God, great things can be accomplished in His name and for His glory!
When the king of Aram found out that the prophet Elisha was informing the Israelite army of his every move, he sent a great army of his own to surround the city where Elisha and his servant were staying. Filled with despair the servant asked Elisha, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15) But Elisha wasn’t afraid. Because through eyes of faith, he saw what God saw. A mountain full of horses and chariots of fire. Often when we look at the troubles facing us, our first response is worry, fear, and despair. We fail to see past our problems to what God sees. And what He sees is victory that comes only from trusting in His power, protection, and provision. The Lord will always provide the resources we need to get through any challenge. Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened. We too need to pray for open eyes of faith. Eyes that allows us to rest in the knowledge that even if we can’t see them, we are surrounded by a mountain full of horses and chariots of fire.
Throughout the ages people have asked how a loving God could allow suffering in the world. And in the depths of my despair I too have asked that same question. How could my Father let me, His child, become broken, in pain, and filled with sorrow? But time, hindsight, and prayer have taught me that instead of asking why, I simply need to trust. Trust that no matter the suffering I endure, God always has a purpose for my pain. As long as there is sin, there will be suffering. And whether or not we know the reason behind God letting it in our lives, of this we can be certain. He will never make us suffer alone. For, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart” (Ps. 34:18) Not a single tear we cry goes unnoticed by our Father in heaven, who collects each and every one in His bottle. (Ps. 56:8) And if we let Him, He will be there each step of the way. Lovingly God will see us through the pain, ready, willing, and able to fill our aching hearts with peace and gladness.
My childhood home had a small crab apple tree that grew in the backyard. It had thick, bushy leaves which provided perfect shade from the summer heat. And at the end of each branch dangled the most inviting apples. I’ll never forget the first time I twisted one of those apples from its stem and took a bite. Far from sweet juiciness, the taste was so sour and bitter, I spit the apple out and threw the remainder on the ground to rot. That day I learned not all trees bear good fruit. Jesus says that each of us is a fruit bearing tree. And the way in which we live our lives, meaning the decisions we make, the words we speak, and our actions towards others, determine the goodness of our fruit. A tree that produces the sweetest and most choicest of fruit, is the one whose roots run deep in God’s Word. And whose branches bravely follow the example of Jesus, reaching out in love to a starving world.
Have you ever felt disheartened when someone shuts you down while you’re sharing the Gospel? Or been discouraged when the works you do for God don’t produce the fruit you want? If so, you’re not alone. The Bible is filled with stories of the disheartening, discouraging, rejection of God’s prophets and messengers. And one of these is Stephen, the church’s first martyr. Falsely accused and brought before the Jewish leaders, Stephen faced a sentence of death. Yet instead of giving a defense for himself, he gave a condemning testimony about the sins of Israel. Far from afraid, Stephen was so full of faith that as he spoke, all who looked upon him saw the glory of God. I want to be like Stephen. To be that full of faith. Boldly obeying God’s call no matter the consequences. Joyfully and courageously sharing with others how the Lord has worked in my life, why I place my faith in Him and how they too can know Jesus as their Savior.
Rachel nibbled on a long piece of grass as she drove her father’s herd to drink. The animals knew the path, so only once or twice did the young shepherdess have to swat a wayward lamb back into line. As the flock neared the watering well, Rachel saw the figure of a strange man standing among the shepherds waiting to water their sheep. Upon getting close enough for his face to come into full view, their eyes locked, and it was love at first sight. And so began the tormented triangle between Rachel, her sister Leah, and Jacob, the man they both loved.
As Rachel adjusted her bridal veil, she could hardly wait for the ceremony. Finally after agreeing to work seven years for Laban, Rachel and Jacob were to be wed. Her father was holding a great feast, and after would bring her to her new husband so they could consummate their marriage. But as the time passed, and with no one coming to get her, Rachel began to worry. And when Laban finally did come to her tent, her expectant joy soon turned to sorrow. For her father broke the news that her beloved had instead married her older sister Leah. Feelings of confusion, devastation, and betrayal filled Rachel, and she crumpled to the ground in a pile of tears.
How could her father do this? How could her sister betray her? And how could the man who had pledged his love for her marry another? The next morning, with Laban’s deception revealed, Jacob agreed to work yet another seven years for the hand of Rachel. But the wedding wouldn’t happen for another week. And each day that passed, Rachel watched the celebrations held in Leah’s bridal tent. And each day that passed, the heart of Rachel seethed with jealousy.
The wedding came and went without much fanfare. There was no feast, or celebration, yet at least Jacob and Rachel were married. But instead of beaming with honeymoon happiness, Rachel was sullen. Yes it was true that she was able to marry for love. But she had waited 14 years. And yes she was beautiful, and cherished by Jacob. But she had to share her beloved husband. And yes she didn’t need to worry about her sister, because she too was well taken care of. But that came about as a result of her father’s deception. Because of her bitterness and jealousy, Rachel was blind to all of her many blessings.
Rachel spent the rest of her life bitterly competing with her sister. And even though she knew the pain deception can cause, she too many times, practiced the art. God had blessed Rachel with much, but all she could see was what she didn’t have. And it was that blindness which eventually cost Rachel her life. Being barren, God had opened her womb and blessed her with her precious son Joseph. But Rachel wasn’t satisfied, for her sister Leah had more sons. And so her first words after the birth of her baby were, “May the Lord give me another son.” The Lord did give her another son, Benjamin. But Rachel died giving birth, leaving her beloved Joseph, Benjamin, and Jacob behind and broken-hearted.
Jealousy made Rachel blind to her blessings, and it can do the same to us. Sin, an ungrateful heart, and bitterness, all cloud our vision to the blessings God so generously gives. But when we start each day with gratitude, praise, and rejoicing, not only are our eyes opened, but so is our heart. And we can joyfully sing to the Lord, “amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see.”
We as Christians are in a battle for our very souls. The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12 that there is a great spiritual war waging around us even as we speak. As such, we are commanded to be courageous warriors in God’s army. Soldiers armed against the Enemy’s attacks, and at the ready with our spiritual weapons. And some of the greatest ammunition we have is prayer. Prayer is an unbreakable bond between us and God. There is no special formula, ritual, or words that have to be said. All God wants is for us to come to Him in complete and humble faith. Through the blood of Jesus Christ we have unlimited access to the Father and His throne. And He wants to hear from us! James 4:2 tells us we don’t have, because we don’t ask. So today I challenge you to ask! Go to God in prayer. Give to Him your heart and all it holds. And have unshakable faith that if it is His will, He will see it done!
Throughout history people have denied the existence of God, and scoffed at His Word. They reject His gift of salvation calling it folly, and ridicule those who follow Him. His holy name should be spoken with reverence, fear, and love. Yet even by Christians, it’s used as a form of cursing and thrown around like just another word. And when warned of the soon return of Jesus, many fearlessly mock the message. But those who dare scoff at God and profane His name would do well to not mistake His patience for weakness. A patience stemming from His perfect love and desire that everyone would receive the chance to accept His gift of salvation. (2 Pet. 3:9 ) But make no mistake. God will not wait forever. The day of the Lord will come, and on that day all will bow before Him. (Phil. 2:10–11) Jesus is returning soon. Upon His glorious appearance, the truth will no longer be denied, scoffers will forever be silenced, and all will say, “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name!” (Mat. 6:9)
In Luke 18:8 Jesus asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Why is faith so important to God? Hebrews 11:6 gives us the answer. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” In order to please God we not only need to believe that He is who He says He is, but also trust in His promise to reward our faithfulness. …
Many times my heart has felt faint, consumed by discouragement and fear. And it’s during those times when praying and drawing nearer to God is a necessity. Because the Lord is our “higher Rock”, our unshakable foundation that will never fail. No matter what is going on in this fallen world, God goes before us and makes our paths straight. Deut. 33:26 reminds us that, “There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Satan loves to fill our minds with “what if” scenarios that all result in defeat. But God promises those who trust in Him and not the world, can live in peace and joy. King David who was protected by a mighty army knew better then to place his security in chariots and soldiers. He understood that it was only God who could lead him to victory!