O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1, NKJV)
Yahweh (Jehovah) is the eternally-existing One, the great I AM (Exodus 3:14-15). He is Lord (sovereign) over heaven and earth, and so His name (His honor, authority and character) is renown in all the earth and above the heavens. Our concept of God, our attitudes toward God and our conduct toward God must reverence His supreme place of power and praise. Only then are we able to submit to Him fully, worship Him acceptability, and serve Him faithfully. Only then do we live by every word that comes from His mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). We are without excuse for being under His wrath when we choose to reject God and will not honor His majesty and respect His rule over us (Romans 1:18-20). We corrupt ourselves in unbelief if we spurn His majestic honor to serve gods after our own image (Romans 1:21-23). We must always recall that God, who reigns supreme, has crowned us with glory and honor (Psalm 8:3-8). We are not gods – He is the only God! He alone, by His great might, overwhelms silences every foe. How utterly disrespectful it is to disdain His name and refuse to live thankful, holy, and obedient lives. When we say we love God then our lives must show our love by obedient submission to His will and by faithful thanksgiving to Him for His abundant blessings.
5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:5–6, NKJV)
Wisdom is the application of known truth, at the right time and in the right measure. It is the use of spiritual discernment, in love and knowledge, to advance the excellent things of righteousness that glorify God and approve us in His sight (Philippians 1:9-11). When we flavor our words with graciousness we walk in wisdom by making the most of our opportunities toward the lost. Like food seasoned with salt, wisdom learns when and how to answer those who are outside of Christ (as well as fellow Christians) so that our opportunity to teach and persuade others is maximized. Put simply, we have an obligation to give gracious answers to others. Wisdom knows this, and helps us speak so as to enhance, not disrupt, our chance to communicate truth to others. Unless we season our words with grace we fail to redeem our opportunity to help someone follow Jesus.
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2–3, NKJV)
James continues to bring our focus to the driving motives behind conflicts and battles with others. Selfish cravings never satisfy one’s desire to be satisfied and fulfilled. Lust leads to fights and battles with those we believe are preventing us from acquiring our desire. Murder and greedy yearnings are never satisfied through hateful actions that deprive others of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When one’s motive is to “spend it on your pleasures,” others will be treated as disposable rather than with decency and respect. Asking God to help us achieve our goals when evil motives reside in our hearts is a hypocritical and futile approach toward God and toward life.
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? (James 4:1, NKJV)
Is your life defined by constant skirmishes with others? If so, there is a war taking place in you. Your desire for personal pleasure and satisfaction fuels these contentions and fights with others (which you deem necessary in order to obtain your self-defined happiness). Hedonism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life.” A good life, according to this philosophy, is fulfilling your personal pleasures, desires and sensual delights. Invariably, this leads to selfishness and ill treatment of others, instead of kindness and love. In contrast to the hedonistic pursuit of worldly fulfillment (by which one becomes an enemy of God, James 4:4), Christians “pursue peace with all people, and holiness” (Hebrews 12:14). James previously advised that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17). If you want to achieve peace with others and with God, then do not think and act like fulfilling your ambitions is the true course to happiness. A good dose of humility helps us win the battles in our war against the devil and be at peace with others (James 4:6-7). (Reprint, #920, edited)
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. (Acts 20:17, NKJV)
The church in Ephesus was much beloved by the apostle Paul. He had spent three years there, “serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials” (Acts 20:19). The 30-mile journey from Ephesus to Miletus would have involved at least a day of travel each way (probably more), plus the time the elders spent with the apostle. It would mean leaving their families and jobs to go to Miletus to meet Paul. He could have sent them a written message, but it was important for them to have a face-to-face meeting. Naturally, they made the journey to meet Paul without hesitation. In this age of text messaging we are tempted to forget the value of personal contact. Personal interaction establishes relationships, strengthens trust, enhances respect for others, and increases our ability to work well with others. God wants Christians to talk with each other – to teach, to encourage, to warn, to form and to strengthen the bonds of unity and commonality in Christ. We must not isolate ourselves from each other. We must make ourselves accessible to one another and responsive to the communication that is an essential part of our common faith, common hope, and common salvation. By doing so we are better able to help each other serve the Lord faithfully.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:46–48, NKJV)
The devil is delighted when Christians do not love one another. He also takes delight when Christians do not love their enemies. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). God is “perfect” in verse 48 because He does precisely that – He loves His enemies. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The word “perfect” in today’s passage (verse 48) conveys completeness, being of full age or maturity. Our love is not complete if we do not love our enemies. We love our enemies by showing them active goodwill, even though they are actively showing ill will toward us (see Matthew 5:44). Loving only those who love us is the world’s model of love. Loving your enemies is what God does toward the whole world. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven model themselves after God’s love, not the world’s incomplete, immature love.
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:37–41, NKJV)
Christians can yield to the temptation to throw out sober-minded faithfulness at moments of uncertainty, difficulty and disagreement. Fear and doubt can motivate unwholesome and ungodly words and actions. We must exercise self-control in all things (1 Corinthians 9:25; Titus 2:1-8). The abiding presence of the Savior is a calming influence over the fear of uncertainty and the passion of over-heated emotions. Jesus is watching, and this should temper unwise and sinful words and deeds. The promises we have in Jesus soothe our souls, invigorate our hope and help us patiently endure moments of trial (Hebrews 6:13-20). Christ’s power overcomes the storms of life with peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). The assurance of peace we have in Christ frames and fashions faithful conduct in the midst of doubt.
9 Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them. (Ezekiel 6:9–10, NKJV)
Israel was unfaithful to God by committing adultery with idols. The Lord was crushed by their adulterous heart as their eyes pursued harlotry. Clearly, the rebellion of His people grieves the Lord (Psalm 78:40-42). So, He understands the pain caused when a spouse is unfaithful. He knows the crushing grief of a child rebelling against parental rule and God’s will. Experiencing such pain causes some to compromise God’s will to avoid the emotional trauma of such rejection. But, a temporary “peace, peace” when there is no peace is not a winning spiritual strategy (Jeremiah 6:14-16). Though crushed, God punished Israel for her sins while leaving a remnant to escape and reclaim their faith (Ezekiel 6:1-8). Our sin crushes the heart of God, but He will not abandon truth to win us back. Instead He calls on us to repent and to return to faithfulness, warning us of eternal punishment if we persist in our sin. May we quickly sorrow over what our sin does to the heart of God and to the hearts of our loved ones, and repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. 24 Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 25 But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king. (1 Samuel 12:23–25, NKJV)
Israel had demanded a king to be like the nations around her. With stern warnings against their hard hearts and disobedience to God’s law, Samuel anointed Saul to be king of Israel at God’s direction. The prophet would continue to do his work even though many were abandoning God and His law. In verse 23 Samuel reminds us we cannot allow the sins of others to lead us into sin and its carelessness toward our spiritual duty. Like Samuel, we must continue to pray and teach God’s will. As hearers of God’s word, we must fear Him and serve Him in truth with hearts given fully to Him (verse 24). The great things God has done for us compels our earnest, faithful service. Samuel’s warning in verse 25 remains relevant today. If we disobey God and persist in wickedness we will be punished. Israel was punished for her sins. When God’s people do wickedly and refuse to repent, punishment from God is just and sure (Romans 2:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
1 Then Job answered and said: 2 “Even today my complaint is bitter; My hand is listless because of my groaning. 3 Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat! 4 I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments.” (Job 23:1–4, NKJV)
Have you ever complained against God? Like Job, most of us at one time or the other have found ourselves in a place that was not of our own choosing – someplace we never thought we would be. “Why this trial?” “Why this pain?” “Why this loneliness?” As such times we are tempted to blame God, to long for a chance to explain things to God about why we are being treated so unfairly. We are tempted to think we know more than God. We may even find ourselves arguing against God by opposing and rejecting His word, the inspired Scriptures. We think we know better. But, the truth is, we don’t. The truth is, our eyes need to be opened to God’s power and purposes, as Job’s were when God explained things to him (Job 38-41). Then, Job understood God is sovereign and that we never counsel God (Job 42:1-2). Job confessed, “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3). Don’t blame God. Don’t argue with God. Trust Him, believe His word and follow His truth. Come what may, He does all things well (Mark 7:37; Romans 8:35-39). Instead of asking, “Why me?” ask, “Why not me?”