Christians possess riches unknown to the world. Our heavenly treasures abound, and we praise God for the spiritual bounty He gives us in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We do not measure our wealth in dollars, land holdings, stocks, bonds, commodities, or other material possessions. All these riches are fleeting and attended by sorrow (Eccl. 5:10-17). Spiritual blessings are beyond the reach of moth and rust and thieves (Matt. 6:19-20). Here are just some of them: (1) Redemption from sin by God’s grace (Eph. 1:4-14). We are chosen, adopted, accepted, forgiven, saved, given an inheritance, and sealed. (2) Full assurance of understanding in Christ (Col. 2:2-3). His disciples abide in His word, know the truth, and are freed from sin (John 8:31-32). (3) Prayer (Phil. 4:6). Our Father hears the prayers of His children, so we continue earnestly in prayer (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). (4) The church (Eph. 1:22-23). We are members of Christ’s body and, therefore, “members of one another” (Acts 2:47; Rom. 12:4-5). What a rich blessing to be brothers and sisters together in Christ (Matt. 12:46-50). (5) An eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:18). Peter assures us it is incorruptible, undefiled, and reserved in heaven for us (1 Pet. 1:4). (6) A living hope (Eph. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3). Our hope secures our souls because Christ arose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:19-20; Acts 24:15). (7) Joy (Phil. 4:4). We rejoice in the Lord always, in good and troubled times (James 1:2-4). God does not add sorrow to those He enriches (Prov. 10:22). The world tries to do so, but we are of good cheer because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
“God is in control.” We hear that a lot, but what does that mean? The Scriptures help us understand God’s control over the world. (1) God’s sovereign will prevails on earth (Psa. 135:6; Dan. 4:34-35). “He rules and works according to His eternal purpose even through events that seem to contradict or oppose His rule” (Holman, 1523). (2) God did not create the world and then walk away from it. The false theology that only nature’s laws operate in this world is called Deism. It rejects God’s interaction with His creation whether by revelation, by miracles, or by answering prayers (Eph. 3:3-5; Heb. 2:4; Matt. 7:7-11; Acts 14:17). (3) God does not control every event in your life. Free will means we can choose between good and evil, and our choices have consequences (Deut. 30:19; Gal. 6:7-8). Conversely, fatalism is the “doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them” (Merriam-Webster). Calvinism’s doctrine of predestination is false since God gave us free will (Josh. 24:15). (4) God’s plan for us is that we fear Him and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). His will and purposes prevail in heaven and earth, and human redemption in Christ is the centerpiece (Rom. 8:28-30). Through the gospel, God is calling us to believe and obey Him to be saved and walk with Him in life and eternity (Mark 16:15-16; 1 John 1:5-10; Matt. 7:21-23).
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. 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 4:2–6, NKJV)
Paul urged Christians to rely on the power of prayer and divine providence to spread the gospel. Thankful hearts are alert to blessings from God’s hand (v. 2). Trusting in God’s foresight and provisions, we pray for open doors (access, opportunity) for God’s word to reach hearts and lives. We pray for those who walk through those doors and teach others (3). Paul relied on brethren praying for him. Although in prison, he yearned for their prayers so that he (and they) would use wisdom in speaking the gospel to the lost. While God opens doors for the gospel, we must be wise, prudent, and gracious in choosing our words. Time is precious, so use it properly. Doors of spiritual opportunity are too often closed by impulsive words and unwise actions. So, let us work on aligning our motive (“to answer each one”) with well-placed, gracious words of truth. When we do, we trust God will work through us for His glory (Phil. 2:12-13).
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. (2 Timothy 1:3–5, NKJV)
Tears and joy. Timothy shed tears as his beloved father in the faith was imprisoned in Rome. Death was near (2 Tim. 4:6, 17-18). Would Timothy arrive in time to see Paul one last time (2 Tim. 4:9)? We do not know. Yet, Paul did not dwell on his departure except to say it was near, he was ready, and the Lord would deliver him (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18). He focused on the joy of seeing Timothy’s face again and on the deep faith that sustained his companion, brother, and friend. Comforted by knowing Paul prayed continually for him, we are sure Timothy went to Rome as quickly as possible (2 Tim. 4:9, 21). Life brings times of sadness, pain, loss, and sorrow. Prayers and memories of lives lived faithfully see us through the vale of tears and sustain us with a joy no one can take from us (Jno. 16:22). Remembering the faith of Timothy, Eunice, and Lois comforted Paul. No doubt, Timothy remembered Paul’s pure conscience and faithful service. So it is between fellow-Christians when life fades and eternity’s light grows brighter. Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 with tears and joy. “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psa. 126:5). As when God restored the captivity of Zion, so it will be when He gathers His faithful ones to glory (Psa. 126:1-4). Tears will be replaced with joy forevermore.
David had enemies who terrorized him and wanted him dead. King Saul was chief among this number (1 Sam. 18:25, 28; 19:1; 20:30-33). Psalm 109 is David’s plea to the Lord to hold his enemies accountable for their sins against him. They had spoken deceit and lies against David (109:2). Hatred consumed them, driving them to fight against him unjustly (109:3). They had rewarded his love and prayers with hateful accusations and threats (109:4-5). David’s prayer calls for divine retribution against these evildoers (109:6-20). Without context, it sounds harsh. In truth, it is his earnest supplication for God to bring judgment upon them for their evil works. God’s judgments are according to truth. They are righteous and applied impartially according to our conduct (Rom. 2:1-11). David did not repay their evil with revenge. He left the matter in God’s hands, who saved him from trouble (2 Sam. 24:6-7, 9-12). David was confident God in mercy would save him (Psa. 138:7). David was sure his enemies would be able to see God’s power at work in the deliverance he would receive from God’s hand. God worked to deliver David in answer to his prayers. God still works in our lives to answer prayers when we depend on His presence, power, mercy, and deliverance (1 Jno. 3:21-22; 5:14-15).
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2, NKJV)
The effectiveness of prayer was not an afterthought to Christians of the New Testament age (Jas. 5:16). The apostle Paul often asked brethren to pray for him, and he repeatedly prayed for his fellow Christians (1 Thess. 3:10; Eph. 6:18-19; Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:3, 9; 4:3). In today’s passage, Paul asked for specific prayers, something we ought to do, too. First, he asked for prayers that God’s word would triumph in its purposes (saving the lost and strengthening the saved, v. 1). The gospel was achieving these purposes in their lives (1 Thess. 1:2-9; 2 Thess. 1:3-4). We are confident they joined Paul in praying the gospel would win the race and be honored as other souls believed and obeyed Jesus (Rom. 1:16-17). Second, Paul asked them to pray for mutual deliverance from faithless, unreasonable, and wicked people (v. 2). Like the currents of a flowing river, forces of evil try to sweep us away and drown us in error and sin’s corruption. The Lord is active and faithful to rescue us and guard us against the evil one and his cohorts as we do what His apostles command (2 Thess. 3:3-4). May we offer such prayers daily.
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6–7, NKJV)
Every day has its share of cares and troubles (Matt. 6:34). How do we handle them? Do they discourage us unto despair? Do they weaken our faith in God? Do they immobilize our walk with Christ? Peter said to cast all our care (anxiety, distractions) on God because He cares for us. But how? How do Christians cast our cares upon a caring God? 1) By replacing our pride with humility (v. 6). God “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). As long as we rebel against God’s help, we will grope helplessly in the dark for relief that never satisfies our soul. 2) By patiently waiting on the Lord (v. 6). Humility prompts faithful endurance in the face of life’s distractions and obstacles (1 Pet. 2:20; 4:12-13). God works on His timetable. It is good for us that He does (2 Pet. 3:9, 14-15). We cast our care on Him by obeying His will as our way of life. 3) By resisting the devil with sober vigilance (1 Pet. 5:8-9). Our adversary tempts us to make mountains out of molehills and forget the mighty hand of God that protects us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1). We must flee to His refuge, rely on His strength, resist the devil, and remain “steadfast in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:9). 4) Pray without ceasing (Phil. 4:6-7). God’s peace protects the heart and lives of those who trust Him and follow His way of truth. These are just some of the ways we throw all our care on Almighty God. “Have faith in God” (Mk. 11:22).
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1–5, NKJV)
David calls upon his soul to kneel before the Lord God with thankful praise and salutation of His holiness and His merciful treatment. God’s benefits (His treatment) toward Israel foreshadowed His unceasing care for His church. His benefits toward us are boundless, deserving our grateful acknowledgment with all that is within us. He gives us the “every spiritual blessing” in Christ, beginning with the forgiveness of our iniquities (Eph. 1:3, 7; 2:1-7). God also cares about our physical welfare, providing healing and comfort for the ailing and weak (Jas. 5:14). God protects us from many dangers as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:31-33; Rom. 8:31-39). Even as He feeds the birds, He certainly provides our daily bread (Matt. 6:26, 11). May we be strengthened daily by the calm assurance that our heavenly Father rules His world. His providence enriches our lives, calling for our undivided allegiance, gratitude, and praise.
Without partiality, every lost soul who “fears God” is told to do the same righteous works to be accepted by God. We hear preachers on radio and TV inviting lost sinners to pray to God with faith in Jesus to be saved. If prayer is the way sinners access the saving blood of Jesus, then the Scriptures will plainly teach it. Yet, without exception, when lost sinners were told what to do to be saved in the New Testament, they were never told to pray what is often called “the sinner’s prayer” (Acts 2:37-38; 9:6; 16:30-34). What were sinners told to do to be saved? Jesus told lost souls to hear His gospel to be saved (Jno. 5:25; 6:45). Jesus told lost souls to believe He is the Son of God to be saved (Jno. 8:24). Jesus told lost souls to confess their faith in Him to be saved (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10). Jesus told lost souls to repent to be saved (Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30). Jesus told lost souls to be baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:37-38). God expects lost souls to do some things to be saved. But, praying a sinner’s prayer is not one of them. Otherwise, we could read about it in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us be content with the gospel plan of salvation, believe in its power to save, and teach it to lost souls (Rom. 1:16-17).
9 And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered him out of all his troubles, 10 and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. (Acts 7:9–10, NKJV)
The providence of God unfolds before our eyes in the life of Joseph (Gen. 37-50). God did not create the world and then lay it up in a display case to watch what would happen next. While God has undoubtedly intervened in the affairs of this world with miracles by suspending natural processes and occurrences, He has also arranged His world in such a way that He operates in it through the course of natural events. The life of Joseph is an example of God’s providence. God was actively involved in Joseph’s life through its day to day events. In today’s passage, Stephen said God was with Joseph and delivered him, gave him favor and wisdom, and made him governor over Egypt and Pharaoh’s house. These verbs (delivered, gave, made) show God was at work, not against the free will of men and women, but through their choices and actions. God used the envy of Joseph’s brother to bring about good (Gen. 50:20). He used natural, cyclical seasons of bounty and famine to execute His plan to elevate Joseph and to save Israel. Even now, God hears and answers the prayers of the righteous, not by injecting miracles into the natural world, but by carrying out His purposes through the operation of the world according to His design and sovereign care (Jas. 5:16-18; 1:17).