You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1, NKJV).
Paul’s deep love for Timothy is evident in his affectionate endearment for his young companion, “a beloved son” in the gospel (2 Tim. 1:2). As Paul’s death drew near, he encouraged Timothy to be strong in the grace of Christ. He would need this, as Paul did when “all those in Asia” and others turned away from him (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:10). Christians stand in grace, having accessed its salvation by faith (Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 2:8-9). Like Timothy, we need to be strong in grace. Consider some applications for disciples of Christ. (1) Be strong in grace by teaching the gospel of grace. The gospel is the “word of His grace” (Acts 20:32, 24). Grace is forfeited when the gospel is perverted (Gal. 1:6-9; 5:4). Therefore, our gospel teaching must be accurate, in harmony with the grace of Christ and the teaching His word reveals (Titus 2:11-12). (2) Be strong in grace by living in Christ instead of sin. Being strong in grace means no longer living in sin (Rom. 6:1-2). It is no longer our habit. God’s grace fortifies us to serve God instead of sin (Rom. 6:11-16). (3) Be strong in grace by speaking what is needful. Our speech should “always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6). Take care to speak with grace and mercy toward others (cf. 2 Tim. 1:16-18). As Solomon said, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness” (Prov. 15:1-2). “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (1 Thess. 5:28).
Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (1 Samuel 30:6, NKJV).
Enemies attacked Ziklag, the Philistine city where David and his cohorts found refuge from king Saul’s attempts to kill him (1 Sam. 27:1-7). The invading Amalekites plundered and burned the city, taking captive the women and children, including David’s wives (1 Sam. 30:1-5). Sorrow consumed the people “until they had no more power to weep” (1 Sam. 30:4). Grief turned to retribution, and their leader David was in their crosshairs. Theirs was not an uncommon response, though unfair and unjust. David was innocent in the matter. He too was grieved, but not to despair. David knew he needed God’s help in this moment of crisis. The Lord was not a stranger to him; the Lord was his shepherd (Ps. 23:1). Sadly, many only turn to God in a crisis. But David could say, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence” (2 Sam. 22:2-3; Ps. 18:1-3). The Lord was his God, not the false idols of the Philistines. By the Lord’s strength, they recovered all (1 Sam. 30:8, 18-19). Turn to the Lord every day for your strength. Then, when a crisis comes, there will be no doubt the Lord is your God who will deliver you from the calamity (2 Tim. 4:16-18).
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:10–13, NKJV)
We need the Lord’s strength to “stand against the wiles of the devil.” We are in a battle over our souls. This fight calls for faith in the Lord’s power instead of ourselves as we struggle “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” And so, let us equip ourselves with “the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:13-18). The Lord’s armor is tried and true, powerful to defeat our foe. But beware. Our adversary, the devil, will try to use our sense of self-reliance against us, tempting us to believe we can overcome the devil on our own. Do not attempt to go into this battle alone. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him” (Psa. 28:7).
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23–24, NKJV)
This stern warning against pride in personal wisdom, power, and wealth is set against the backdrop of God’s wisdom, power, and richness. Paul wrote, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Human insight is nothing before the Almighty’s wisdom. Only the boastful would make such a foolish claim. Concerning human power, “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). Pride moves people to think they are stronger than God. Riches are temporary, and “perish through misfortune” (Eccl. 5:14). Pride in material abundance can lead to neglecting eternal riches (Lk. 12:15-21). By contrast, we can “understand and know” the Lord (Jer. 9:24). We understand He is sovereign (Lord), and accomplishes what is gracious, just, and righteous in the earth. Humility glories in God’s accomplishments, not ours. By doing so, God assures us of His favor (delight).
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1–3, NKJV)
Fear has gripped many. Fear of disease, civil unrest, enemies, the future, and more has settled into countless hearts, filling souls with uncertainty, anxiety, and doubt. The psalmist David turned to the Lord in moments of fear and dread. We can and must do the same. With eyes of faith, David saw the Lord God as his light, his salvation, and the strength of his life (v. 1). David put his confidence in the Lord in the face of wicked enemies. While darkness drives many to be uncertain and fearful of life’s path, Jesus Christ continues to be the light of the world (Jno. 8:12). As many trust wealth, political parties, and even violence as a means of deliverance, true salvation from evil is only found in Jesus Christ (Lk. 19:10; Acts 4:12). Pride leads us to trust in our strength and power, even when experience shows us trusting in the flesh ultimately fails (Jer. 17:5-10). God gives power to the weak who live by faith (Isa. 40:29-31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Whatever evil forces arise in your life, the answer to enduring them and being victorious over them is in the Lord. Put your faith in God, love Him, and keep His commandments (1 Jno. 5:3-5).
1 Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, give to the Lord glory and strength. 2 Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. 9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. (Psalm 96:7–9, NKJV)
Psalm 96 is a call to worship the Lord God because “He is coming to judge the earth” (Psa. 96:13). He is sovereign over every kingdom of earth and over every family of people who inhabit it. People of every nation are called on to attribute to the one true God the glory and strength by which He reigns, provides, and judges us all. Worship is about honoring God, not ourselves (v. 8). We must bring our offerings into His presence with holiness and reverence. Jesus teaches us to worship God “in spirit and truth” (Jno. 4:24). His gospel reveals the offerings of praise that God accepts (Acts 2:42). These offerings consist of the Lord’s Supper, praying, singing, giving, and teaching God’s word (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:15, 26; 16:1-2; Eph. 5:19). The Old Testament repeatedly teaches us God will not accept whatever we decide to give Him as worship, but that which He instructs us to give Him in worship. From Cain and Abel to Nadab and Abihu, from King Saul to King Uzziah and more, we learn God only accepts worship from hearts that reverently give His commanded worship. Let us give God the homage He is due. May we ever come before God with praise and adoration from hearts that fear Him and with lives devoted to holiness.
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah” (Psalm 46:1–3, NKJV)
We live in days of uncertainty. A new strain of coronavirus has encircled the globe, bringing illness, death, fear, and panic in its wake. Questions abound: “What can be done to halt its advance?” “What will the future bring?” “Am I and my loved ones at risk?” “How will it affect me and those I love?” Lessons resurface for our learning – if we will listen and heed them – including these: Life is a vapor, soon gone. Life is uncertain, and some things are beyond our control. Illness and death are great equalizers, whether rich or poor. Wealth cannot protect against death, which reaches out and touches us all. Trouble will continue to come in this life. When they do, to whom do you turn? God is our shelter and security when adversity, distress, trials, and anxiety are afoot. But beware. God is not a fire escape to we forget until the moment of crisis. He is the constant Helper of those who put their trust in Him (Heb. 13:5-6). Our confidence is in the Creator, who made the earth and the sea. Should our world crumble around us, we will still rely on the One who calmed the sea (Mark 4:35-41).
1 Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! 2 For You are the God of my strength; Why do You cast me off? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? (Psalm 43:1–2, NKJV)
The psalmist’s heart was tempted by doubt as he faced evil pressures from an ungodly nation. He pleaded to God for deliverance from the deceit and injustices that surrounded him, and that were directed at him. If David is the author of this psalm, we recall his son Absalom’s treason, and the betrayal of Ahithophel, David’s once trusted adviser, as illustrations of overwhelming moments of temptation for David (2 Sam. 14-18). Had God cast him aside? No, by no means! As we live in a nation that increasingly denies God and refuses to be ruled by godly principles, we must remember that “God is my strength” (v. 2). We must keep our hope and trust in Almighty God, who “rules in the kingdoms of men,” vindicating the upright and punishing evil (Dan. 4:25-26, 34-35; Rom. 12:17-19). Instead of mourning the oppressive tactics of the enemies of truth and goodness, let us keep faith in God. His will is that we are not overcome by evil, but that we “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:20-21).
67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: 68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David,” (Luke 1:67–69, NKJV)
With words of inspiration, the father of the forerunner of the Messiah, spoke forth praise unto God for His wonderful provisions of redemption. God’s plan of redemption for Israel (as well as the nations) was always spiritual in nature. In Christ Jesus, this plan is fully realized and accomplished, as salvation from sins is provided through Him (Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 2:11-18). Note the threefold aspect of Israel’s redemption, as proclaimed by Zacharias: 1) Its Source is supernatural. The Lord Himself visited and redeemed His people. Jesus Christ is this supernatural visitor and Redeemer (John 1:11-13); 2) Its Strength is salvation. God’s might against sin is magnified in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world (Acts 4:12); 3) Its Sovereign reigns. The Messiah sits on the throne of His father, David, ruling the kingdom of God (Luke 1:32-33; Psalm 110:1-2; Acts 2:32-36). God has sent His salvation. His name is Jesus. He calls us out of sin and into the warmth of His love and forgiveness. Come to Jesus; He will save you (Matthew 11:28-30).
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7–8, NKJV)
In contrast to the one who trusts in man (verses 5-6), the person who trusts and hopes in the Lord, is as a mighty tree, planted by the waters. Its roots grow deep and wide, nourished by the water and strengthened by its refreshment. It survives seasons of heat and drought, flourishing and bearing its good fruit. So are those who put their faith and hope in God. God is our Life-giver, who also sustains us through life’s trials and difficulties. And, more than physical sustenance, the Lord has prepared for us a better place than this world of shadows and sorrow. A heavenly dwelling place awaits all who put their trust and confident expectation in Jesus (John 14:1-6). Far from having blind faith, our eyes are wide open as we see from afar the heavenly country (Hebrews 11:13-16). Walk by faith. Trust the Lord, and rest your hope in Him.