While You Were Sleeping
“It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep”(Psalm 127:2, NASB).
Worry is a form of unbelief. When God assigns us a task to do, anxiety can set in as to whether we are up to accomplishing it. Where God guides, he always provides. I once learned that the sovereign Lord could provide for us even as we sleep.
My wife and I were leading a discipleship training school with Youth With A Mission. We had been training for several weeks, gearing up to do creative ministries (music, mime, and dance) to share the Gospel on the streets of Chile and Argentina.
How did I get here?
I found myself riding on our old gray bus, traveling from Virginia to Miami, Florida with a couple of dozen students. From there we would fly to Santiago, Chile and share the Gospel for two months in South America. As we drove down Interstate 95, my mind wandered back through the past several months. We assumed the leadership of the training school in an unexpected fashion, but we were sure that God had led us to this role. I had never led a school of this type. And, as a matter of fact, I had never even been on an evangelistic team outreach, other than a couple of days of isolated experience. I wondered if I should tell my students of my inexperience, but decided that what they didn’t know would not hurt them. Time would tell if this was true.
The bread of painful labors
I didn’t want the students to be fearful because I was nervous enough for all of us. All the way down to Miami I rehearsed in my head how I would lead my first street meeting. The more detailed the plans were in my thoughts, the less sure I was that I could enact those plans. My mind started to race. Each new strategy in my imagination never seemed to be quite right. Our scriptural reference refers to eating “the bread of painful labors.” When we plan our agenda in more detail than God has revealed to us, it always turns into a hard assignment.
My goodness, I’m the leader!
We arrived in Chile and boarded a bus for Argentina. Upon arriving at the border, we found a three-hour delay for buses going through customs. A few of the students asked if they could depart the bus. I noticed they took their instruments with them. I quickly fell asleep, probably due to a tired mind. Later, I’m not sure how long, I awakened to the sound of music. I peered through the bus window and saw the students who had left with instruments, surrounded by a crowd of people. I rapidly ran to the door and thought to myself, “I am the leader, I need to get out there.” Then it dawned on me that they were doing pretty well without me; maybe I should try and not mess it up. So I just watched them play music and share Christ in our first street meeting.
What is the takeaway from this little story? When the Lord gives us a task to do, He goes before us to make it happen. God had the time, the place, and the people necessary for our first experience in street evangelism prearranged. My worry was an exercise in futility. I think God must have chuckled a bit as he saw the expression on my face when I realized He had put everything together while I was sleeping. When I arrived back in Virginia I told other training leaders that I think I developed a new evangelism strategy. It’s called, “He gives to his beloved even in his sleep.”
Will They Know Us by Our Love?
By: Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.com
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and it not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
These two passages are arguably the most famous Bible verses about love. Love is a concept promoted by Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims. It is a thing acknowledged by atheists and agnostics. Something every man, woman, and child strives to obtain every day. Love is something we all know about and all desire. But so often it seems to be the most difficult thing for us to practice.
As Christians, we have no excuse for not knowing what love is. First Corinthians chapter 13 tells us in no uncertain terms. And Christ tells us in John 13 that the world will know that we belong to Jesus if we practice this love. But how often do we truly think of those two scriptures as one command? How often do we piece together the “how?” and the “what?” of love in our own lives?
The ramifications of doing so present a clearly defined, but difficult life. If we combine 1st Corinthians 13 and John 13, what would our lives look like? How would people come to recognize Christians?
Well, they would know us by our patience. They would know that we are Christians by our contentment, modesty, and humility. They would recognize us, for we would not be rude. We would seek the best for others, be difficult to make angry, and refuse to keep count of how many times we’ve been hurt. They would know us because evil makes us sad, and truth makes us happy. They would know us because we protect the defenseless and we do not live in suspicion of others.
They would know us by our hope. They would know us by our perseverance.
That is what love looks like. Those should be the marks of Christ’s disciples.
Oftentimes when the world hears “Christian” – they do not think of this love. They think Patriotic. They think of rules. They think of stingy, bad-tippers, who blindly vote Republican and will judge you if you drink beer or use four-letter words. And that might not be fair. That might not be you. But it’s still your responsibility to change what the world thinks of Christians. It’s still your responsibility to demonstrate that radical love Paul described to the Corinthians.
Because then, one by one, people might start to know Jesus a little better. Because then, one by one, we could really reach the world with this radical, biblical, Christ-like love.
“God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 NASB
How do we react to uncertain times and facing the unknown? Many react with fear and worry. Some panic. But God has a different perspective. We find His direction in the words Paul wrote to Timothy.
No matter what we face, we are not to be afraid. In every situation, God wants us to draw on the Spirit He has given us. Paul used three important words to define this spirit!
Power. As Christians, we are not weak or anemic. Because of Jesus, God, the Creator of all things, is our Father. We have access to the greatest power source in the universe. If we want to live in victory, we need to believe and exercise that power!
Love. No matter what we go through, God’s Spirit gives us a love that is beyond human understanding. We can love others, even those who don’t seem lovable.
Discipline. In uncertain times, it can be easy to feel unstable. But God gives us a spirit that enables us always to be confident. We do not need to fear but can be calm. But the Bible warns us not to be double-minded, for those who doubt are “like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). Instead, we need to exercise self-control.
Today, ask God to remove any fear. “Stir up the gift of God” (v. 6 NKJV). Allow His Spirit to give you His power, love, and discipline.
The Christian—a debtor
By: Charles Spurgeon
“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors.” Romans 8:12
Suggested Further Reading: Luke 7:36-50
Christian, stop and ponder for a moment! What a debtor thou art to divine sovereignty! Thou art not as some, who say, that thou didst choose thyself to be saved; but thou believest that God could have destroyed thee, if he had pleased, and that it is entirely of his own good pleasure that thou art made one of his, while others are suffered to perish. Consider, then, how much thou owest to his sovereignty! If he had willed it, thou wouldst have been among the damned; if he had not willed thy salvation, all thou couldst do would have been utterly powerless to deliver thee from perdition. Remember how much thou owest to his disinterested love, which rent his own Son from his bosom that he might die for thee! Let the cross and bloody sweat remind thee of thine obligation. Consider how much thou owest to his forgiving grace, that after ten thousand affronts he loves thee as infinitely as ever; and after a myriad sins, his Spirit still resides within thee. Consider what thou owest to his power; how he has raised thee from thy death in sin; how he has preserved thy spiritual life, how he has kept thee from falling, and how, though a thousand enemies have beset thy path, thou hast been able to hold on thy way! Consider what thou owest to his immutability. Though thou hast changed a thousand times, he has not changed once; though thou hast shifted thy intentions, and thy will, yet has he not once swerved from his eternal purpose, but still has held thee fast. Consider thou art as deep in debt as thou canst be to every attribute of God. To God thou owest thyself, and all thou hast. “Brethren, we are debtors.”
For meditation: The reasonable response to forgiven debt is love to God and to one another, but we will always be in debt (Romans 13:8).