PROVING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

 Bible Reading: Psalm 89:1-8

Today we will consider briefly three areas of our life where we can prove God’s faithfulness.

Firstly, God is faithful to forgive. “If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [1 John 1:9]. John’s letters are written to Christians who have been set free from a sinful nature but who are still are capable of doing sinful acts. The faithfulness of God means we can depend upon Him to forgive us at the moment we confess our sins. We don’t have to keep replaying the video of our failures!

Secondly, God is faithful to sanctify and keep us. Paul writes, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” [1 Thessalonians 5:23-24]. The faithful God promises to sanctify and preserve us.

Sanctification is God’s ongoing work in our lives to make us more conformed to the image of Jesus. God will never give up on us and will faithfully carry out His part in the building of our character. He promises to complete the work that He has begun [Philippians 1:6].

The refiner heats the furnace so that the dross may be removed from the silver or gold. It might be painful but it is necessary. The refiner knows when the work is done because he can see his face perfectly reflected as he looks at the refined metal. God is the refiner and His goal is to see a perfect image of His Son in us.

God is faithful in times of trial. Sometimes in life’s struggles everything becomes too much for us, and you may be tempted to wonder if God is really there at all. David experienced this and wrote, “You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore?” [Psalm 77:4]. But God is faithful! He promises that all our trials will be in proportion to our strength [1 Corinthians 10:13], and that He will never lay anything on us beyond our power to overcome. Even in times of trial He is there holding us, and inviting us to trust Him. Trust is so much easier when you can see, but so much more powerful when you cannot trace what God is doing. He is the dependable Rock that we can lean upon. David wrote, “When my spirit is overwhelmed within me, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I” [Psalm 61:2].

Questions:

Will you thank God today for His faithfulness [a] in forgiving you when you confess your sins [b] in working in your life to make you holy, and [c] for being with you and holding you firm in times of trial?

Why not write a prayer of thankfulness to God for His faithfulness to you and then use this prayer each day until thanking God for His faithfulness becomes a life-style?

BARNABAS – A GOOD MAN

 

Bible Reading: Acts 11:19-26

Billy Graham has beautifully defined goodness in the following way:

“The word good in the language of Scripture literally means ‘to be like God’, because He alone is the One who is perfectly good. It is one thing however, to have high ethical standards but quite another for the Holy Spirit to produce the goodness that has its depths in the Godhead. The meaning here is more than just ‘doing good’. Goodness goes far deeper. Goodness is love in action. It carries with it not only the idea of righteousness imputed, but righteousness demonstrated in everyday living by the Holy Spirit. It is doing good out of a good heart, to please God, without expecting medals and rewards. Christ wants this kind of goodness to be the way of life for every Christian.”

We read in the book of Acts about Barnabas. Barnabas was a member of the early Church in Jerusalem following the day of Pentecost. He was a man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and specifically called “a good man” [Acts 11:24]. Three qualities in the life of Barnabas help us to understand the meaning of goodness:

Firstly, he was a generous man. The Bible says that he sold a piece of land and brought the money to the apostles in order to bless those who were in need [Acts 4:37].

Secondly, he was a man of attractive holiness. A synonym of the Greek word “agathos” translated as “good” is the word “kalos” meaning “attractiveness” or “excellence”. Genuine holiness is attractive. The attractive goodness of Barnabas caused a great number of people to be added to the Lord. This kind of holy living is totally radical and in no way religious. It is based in reality – there is nothing artificial or superficial about it, and it is built on a relationship with God, not a set of rules.

Thirdly, he was a man who encouraged others. His name meant “son of consolation” or encouragement. His generosity extended far beyond giving money – he was generous with people. There might not have been a Paul if there hadn’t been a Barnabas [Acts 9:26-27]. It was Barnabas who went to look for Paul, then called Saul, and brought him to Antioch [Acts 11:25-26]. Barnabas recognised in Paul a gift that the church in Antioch needed! Even when John Mark had failed Barnabas did not reject him [Acts 15:37-39].

Questions:

What is the difference between having high ethical standards and the Holy Spirit producing in us a goodness that has its depths in the Godhead?

How would you rate yourself in terms of the qualities of goodness, such as generosity, attractiveness and encouragement seen in Barnabas?

Would you ask the Holy Spirit to develop within you this fruit called goodness?

ONLY GOD IS GOOD

Bible Reading: Mark 10:17-22

A rich young ruler came to Jesus, asking a question about eternal life. The way he approached Jesus was to call Him “Good Master” [Mark 10:18]. Jesus immediately picked up on this and challenged him with a question. Jesus normally responded to people’s questions with a question. He asked the rich young ruler, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” Jesus then challenges him with a question about the commandments of the law and the young man’s response makes it clear that he may feel that he is good because he keeps the law, but actually he is deeply flawed.

Here is a fundamental principle: no one can become good simply by trying to live a good life! Some people live beautiful lives, characterised by generosity, kindness, moral uprightness and graciousness, but that does not make them good in the Biblical sense of the word. In the world’s eyes they might appear to be good and yet still not have the goodness of God. Our enemy, the devil, will do all that he can to deceive people into believing that their own good deeds justify them before God.

Isaiah sums up the whole issue with a simple statement, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6]. Paul concludes in his logic argument in Romans that, “There is none righteous, no not one” [Romans 3:9] and that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23]. Outside of Jesus Christ no one is justified or good. Sin is not just an issue of actions but of our nature, and only Jesus can change that and make it good.

Any goodness that might be in us is the work of Holy Spirit! The beginning of a good nature starts when we turn from sin to Jesus and are born again by the Spirit of God. We then become “partakers of the divine nature”. The book of Romans tells us over thirty times that our old self is dead, that it was crucified with Christ and that we should consider ourselves dead to sin. God’s Spirit in us has given us a new God-nature and that nature is good! As we now yield to the Holy Spirit we will increase in the beautiful fruit of goodness.

Tomorrow we will look at a man in the Bible who was called good, because he had allowed goodness as a fruit of the Spirit to grow and ripen in his life.

Questions:

Why did Jesus challenge the rich young ruler with the statement that only God is good?

All religions, except the Christian faith, expect people to live a good life in order to be accepted by God. In what way is the Christian faith different?

Read Galatians 2:20. What does Paul say in this verse about our old life and our new life in Christ?

 

WHAT IS GOODNESS?

Bible Reading: Psalm 136:1-26

The Greek word translated as goodness in Galatians 5:22 is “agathos” and means “being good and doing good”. About “agathos” Jack Hayford writes, “good in a physical and moral sense and which produces lasting benefits”.

It is therefore both a character trait and an action. It is intrinsic goodness producing generosity. It is a godlike state of being. Goodness has been defined as “the absence of defect or flaw, and the presence of complete wholesomeness”. We are therefore looking at the character of God Himself.

In this past few days, my wife and I have attended an amazing conference where someone made the statement, “The goodness of God is foundational to all understanding of Biblical truth”. Because He is good He is gracious, full of mercy, generous to us and patient towards us. James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” [James 1:17]. God can do nothing but good, because He is good!

When Moses asked God to show him His glory the Lord replied by showing Moses His goodness [Exodus 33:18-19]. These verses directly link together God’s glory and His goodness. They are inseparable.

Many times the people of Israel sang of God’s goodness using the words, “For He is good. For His mercy endures forever.” David sang this in his song of thanksgiving [1 Chron. 16:34]. It was the theme of the people of Israel when the Ark was brought to the temple [2 Chron. 5:13]. This was part of the their worship as the presence of God filled the temple [2 Chron. 7:3]. When worship was restored at the temple they sang these same words [Ezra 3:11], and as David looks back at God’s goodness to Israel these words are his response [Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1]. Psalm 136 verse 1 begins with the words, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever,” and the phrase, “For His mercy endures forever” is repeated 25 times in the next 26 verses as a response to the Lord in thankfulness for His goodness. YES – God is good!

People often blame God when bad things happen, but He is not the author of anything that is bad. The devil sows that lie into people’s minds to steer them away from the truth. Let’s worship God today and focus on His goodness.

Questions:

In Psalm136, David wrote of different things that show God’s goodness and for which He is to be praised. Would you write a psalm today that emphasises the good things that God has done in your life and after each statement add the response “For His mercy endures forever”?

Why do you think it is that we tend to focus on the bad things that we experience and not on the good things? What effect does this kind of thinking have on us?

How can we glorify God in suffering or when bad things happen to us?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – KINDNESS (2)

Bible Reading: Acts 9:36-42

One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door. Instead of a meal, he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry so brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and then asked, “How much do I owe you?”

You don’t owe me anything, she replied. “Mother has taught us never to accept payment for a kindness.” He thanked her from his heart.

Howard Kelly had been ready to give up and quit, but as he left that house he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was stronger also.

Many years later, that same young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled! They finally sent her to the city hospital, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.  Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town that she came from, a strange light filled his eyes.

Immediately he rose and went to her hospital to room. Dressed in his doctor’s gown he went in to see her, and recognised her at once. He returned to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day, he gave special attention to her case. After a long struggle, the battle was won.

Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, and then wrote something in the margin before the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words…. “Paid in full with one glass of milk” (Signed) Dr. Howard Kelly.

Tears of joy flooded her eyes as her happy heart prayed and thanked God for his love shown to her through the kindness of the doctor.

The kindness you show today may benefit you or someone you love at the least expected time. If you never see the deed again, at least you will have made the world a better place!

Questions:

In our reading today we read about Dorcas who was known for her kind deeds. How do you think that people will remember you?

Why do you think that acts of kindness are so special and so rewarded by God?

Would you make a decision to seek to do at least one act of kindness for someone every day?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – KINDNESS (1)

 

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 13:4; 2 Samuel 9:1-13;

“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily” [1 Corinthians 13:4 Amplified Bible]

Paul says that love is both patient and kind. The first word, “patience” is passive and does not retaliate. The second word, “kindness” is active and bestowing benefits on others. Kindness is both an expression of love and an aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Max Lucado wrote in one of his books that the first gesture of kindness is mercy. Let’s see how David showed kindness by being merciful.

David’s close friend was Jonathan, the son of King Saul. Saul hated David, but David wanted to show kindness to any living relative of Saul for Jonathan’s sake. Twenty-five years had passed since Saul had died. Imagine his cringing fear when Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, stood before King David [verse 6-7]. He was only five years old when his grandfather died [2 Samuel 4:4], but when he was brought to David he was already the father of a young son. He was lame in both feet [verse 13], and had such a low self-esteem that he called himself “a dead dog” [verse 8], and yet because of David’s kindness Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table for the remainder of his life. That is kindness! Here is generosity, and a desire to bless other people, but at the same time not looking for personal gain or having any hidden motive.

In the New Testament the word kind, or kindness, has a similar meaning.

Writing to the Ephesian Christians Paul says, “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” [Ephesians 4:32]. The Greek word translated as kind is “chrestotes” which comes from a root word meaning ‘useful’. A kind person desires to be helpful, seeks out needs and looks for opportunities to meet those needs without expecting repayment. It is tender hearted and forgiving. The Greek word was also used of mellow wine, suggesting a person who is gentle, and who has an ability to soothe hurt feeling, to calm an upset person and to quietly help in practical ways. It is kindness that lifts people up when they are down, and gives them a hope and future.

Questions:

On a scale of one to five, how would you rate your level of kindness? How do you think that other people would rate you?

In what ways can you personally show kindness to others so that they feel loved?

In what way has a kindness shown to you made you feel loved and wanted?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – PATIENCE (5)

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” [Luke 6:38]

I love this verse, but sometimes feel that I want to add “but it may not happen immediately, and it may even be in the life that is to come!”

I have a real desire today to share with you a testimony of something that happened to my wife and I. My wife loves music and had sacrificed something of that love to work as a missionary in the villages of Indonesia. There was no piano or quality sound system to relax with good music. When we returned to the UK in 1982, I decided to say thank you to her by buying her a really good sound system that used the “new fangled” cassettes, so that she could enjoy good music. We had very little money and the sound system that I wanted to buy would cost £2,000. I know it was over the top but the best quality available!

We legalised the adoption in the UK of our Indonesian daughter, and then applied for child benefit. Imagine our surprise when we received a cheque for £2000. The Government department had surely made a mistake because she had only been a British citizen for one month but they had dated the child benefit back to her birth. When we offered to return the money, I was told that it was too complicated and to keep it. I then planned to go to Nottingham to buy the sound system the next day.

That evening a missionary called and asked me if I knew where he could get a reliable, second-hand car. I knew a car sales outlet in Nottingham where he could get a good deal and invited him to go with me the next day. As we journeyed, I asked him how much money he had for the car, and my heart sank when he said £500! My car dealer friend had good cars but the starting price was around £2,000. When we reached the car sales outlet his heart sank because the one that he most liked was priced at £2,500.

The Holy Spirit clearly spoke to me but it was very painful and £2,000 was a huge amount of money in 1982. I quietly went into the office, paid the £2,000 that was in my pocket and asked the salesman not to tell my friend but to only ask him to pay just £500 for the car. That missionary never knew this, but went all over the country testifying of how God had given him this wonderful car for £500. I went home disappointed and without my wife’s sound system!

Seven years later, a church in the North of England rang me to say that they wanted to bless us at Christmas time with the gift of an expensive, high quality sound system. Seven years had passed before my wife received her sound system, but it was even better than the one that I had wanted to purchase years earlier!

A Question:

What does this testimony tell you about God’s timing, and our obedience and patience?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – PATIENCE (4)

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvellous glory and excellence.  And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are short sighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.” [2 Peter 1:5-9 NLT]

Today I felt that I should include the whole text of 2 Peter 1:3-9 from the New Living Translation. God has given us wonderful promises so that we can share His divine nature and escape the effects and judgment of sin. We are to respond positively to God’s promises and then grow in various godly qualities. These are moral virtue, knowledge, self-control, patient endurance, godliness and brotherly affection. Notice that in the middle of this list is patient endurance.

Paul makes it clear that patience is a vital quality that we need to possess if we are to live an effective and fruitful Christian life. We are commanded to show patience towards other people [1 Thess. 5:14]. These include those madly fast drivers who flash their lights at me to get out of their way!!

We need to be patient with non-Christians. In one of his writings Thomas Trask says, “Your patience will make you seem different to those who do not know Christ. Non-Christians will want to know how you developed this quality”. The way we live our life should be a challenge to those who do not know Jesus!

We need patience with our fellow Christians. It is helpful to recognise that every Christian is a work in progress and we are all at different stages in our walk with God. Years ago someone who I was critical of said to me, “Be patient with me – God’s not finished with me yet!” In the section of his letter where James speaks particularly about patience he says, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door.” [James 5:9]. Are patience and grumbling compatible?

A Question:

Ruth Graham once said that it is impossible to regularly and sincerely pray for someone and your heart not be changed. Would you take time to regularly pray for the people that you find it difficult to be patient with and let God change your heart?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – PATIENCE (3)

Bible Reading: Hebrews 6:11-15

“Patience shows that Christians are following God’s plan and timetable rather than their own and that they have abandoned their own ideas about how the world should work” [ESV Study Bible].

We living in an “I want it and I want it now” generation, but not everything can be like that. Sometimes we want to rush into some service for God before we are truly prepared and we would far more honour God if we would wait until He has properly prepared us. God allowed Joseph to be thrown into a pit, become a slave and then be imprisoned between the ages of 17 and 30. Joseph would never have become prime minister of Egypt without those 13 years of painful preparation! God is not in a hurry!

God often takes a long time to heal our damaged emotions. He has taken many years to heal me of the effects of rejection in childhood. The only time I will ever go from imperfect to perfect in a moment is when I see Jesus face to face. Remember that God waited 25 years to change the wheeler-dealing Jacob at Peniel.

Have you ever wondered why God seems to take His time? David puts this into context when he wrote, “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry” [Psalm 40:1 NLT]. Some years ago, I heard John Wimber speak of how God challenged him and the Vineyard Church to see sick people healed. They prayed for every sick person who asked for prayer, but not one was able to testify of being healed. Finally, after 18 months someone was healed, and that was the beginning of many remarkable healings. Why did God challenge them and then make them wait for so long?

To enjoy the promises of God, we need patience in the time between receiving God’s promise and its fulfilment. The write of Hebrews made this clear when he wrote, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised” [Hebrews 10:36 NLT].

We see this same principle of patience in the farmer as he sows his seed, and then waters it, and then patiently waits, knowing that there will be a harvest [see James 5:7,8]

Questions:

Why do you think that God waits and doesn’t always do things according to our time scale?

Has God given you a promise that has not yet been fulfilled? He always keeps His promises. Will you continue to patiently wait until you see His promise fulfilled?

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT – PATIENCE (2)

 

Bible Reading: Nehemiah 9:6-31

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” [Psalm 103:8 NKJV]

The work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian is called sanctification – it is the transformation that the Holy Spirit works in our lives to make us more like Jesus and to form a god-like character within us. This is why it is called the fruit of the Spirit. Every aspect of the fruit of the Spirit mirrors the character of God Himself.

The aspect of the fruit of the Spirit that we are considering today is patience. God is patient. God showed His patience in dealing with Moses when he kept making excuses not to obey God’s call. God may have been angry with him [Exodus 4:14] but he did not give up on him.

Israel was blessed in so many ways by God and yet they rebelled against Him. The story is remarkably documented in Nehemiah 9:6-31 – God is good, and yet the words that describe Israel are proud, hard-hearted, disobedient, rebellious. Listen to what Nehemiah says about God’s response to Israel, “Yet for many years You had patience with them, and testified against them by Your Spirit in your prophets. Yet they would not listen…. Nevertheless in your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them: For You are God, gracious and merciful” [Nehemiah 9:30-31]. Notice the phrase, “slow to anger” [Nehemiah 9:17].

“The Lord is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9]. We see the same patience in the picture of the father waiting for His wayward son to return home [Luke 15:20].

Many of us can testify, like Paul, of God’s unlimited patience [1 Timothy 1:16]. Writing to the Roman Christians, Paul said of God that He is “the God of patience and comfort” [Romans 15:5 NKJV].

I love the patience that Jesus showed toward His disciples. He never gave up on Peter, or the overly ambitious James and John, and said to Philip, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been with you such a long time?” [John 14:9]. Remember that it was Philip who served in the Jerusalem Church and saw revival in Samaria [Acts 6:5; 8:4-8]. In Acts 21:8-9 that same Philip was called the evangelist, entertained the apostle Paul, and had four daughters who prophesied. Jesus never gave up on Philip!

Many years ago, I saw a man drowning in the sea. The lifeguard stripped off his clothes but waited a while before diving in to save the man. I later asked him why he took his time, and he answered by saying that he had to wait until the man stopped struggling to save himself. God, similarly, waits patiently for us.

Questions:

What experience can you recall in your life of how God has been patient with you? Will you take time today to thank Him for His patience?