by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
Once upon a time, there lived a wise and righteous king who cared deeply for his people. In order to ensure that his kingdom prospered, the king summoned one of his servants and gave him this decree,
“Go and stand at the door of the palace. If someone comes and asks to see me, open the door and allow them in so I may speak with them.”
So the servant went and did as the king commanded. People came from far and wide to see the king. Some were rich men, some were great scholars, others were from noble families, and when they asked to see the king the doorman gave them entry. Then one day a poor beggar came to the palace door and asked to see the king. The doorman looked him over and frowned.
The beggar’s clothes were dirty and torn, he wore no shoes and was unpleasant to look at.
“Surely my king would not wish to meet with such a man as this,” the doorman said to himself, and turned the beggar away. Soon the doorman began turning others away; people he deemed too poor, or too sick, or too strange. When the king discovered what was being done he summoned the doorman to him.
“Why have you been turning people away from the palace?” the king demanded angrily. The doorman was surprised and replied meekly, “My king, I was only performing the duty you gave me.”
“Your duty was to open the door for those who would see me,” said the king, “not decide if they were worthy to do so.”
It’s unfortunate when we behave like the doorman in this story. We style ourselves the “Watchmen on the Wall,” and if we see someone who doesn’t quite fit our definition of worthy, we slam the door in his or her face. But God’s grace is not ours to give away, and true forgiveness belongs to Christ alone. Our job is to open the door that leads to Christ, through prayer, through friendship, and through service. Remember, we all stand on equal footing at the door of Christ’s mercy.
Nehemiah 2:17-18 17Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
Nehemiah went in to serve the king his wine with a sad face. The king had never seen him like that, so he asked what was wrong. Nehemiah shot a quick prayer to God, and though he was afraid, he made the request that the Lord had put on his heart. He could have lost his job and even his head, but the gracious hand of God was upon him. The king gave him orders to return and rebuild the wall, soldiers to protect him on the journey, and orders for timber from the forests. The king just wanted to know when he would be back. That shows you how trusted and liked Nehemiah was.
When Nehemiah arrived, he secretly surveyed the damage. Then he gathered all the officials and told them why he had come and the testimony of how God had given him favor before the king. The people responded to the vision and wanted to get started.
God puts a burden on the heart of an individual for what He wants to do through him or her. He inspires leaders to get support. God is the one that gives favor. We will often fear our situation, but when we commit it to God in prayer, we will see God touch hearts. Finally, we need to share the testimony to encourage others to see God at work. Soon after an inspiring beginning, opposition often shows up. Leaders of surrounding people groups came to claim that Nehemiah was rebelling against the king. It was an old trick that had some success in the past, but not this time. Nehemiah focused on what God wanted done, not on the enemy’s taunts.
Consider: Nehemiah’s testimony stirred the people to share the vision. Do you have a testimony to share of how God has been leading you?
Sin, Suffering, and Salvation
Scripture Reading — Psalm 38:1-22
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. — 2 Corinthians 5:21
King David in the Old Testament had his share of suffering. That’s clear from Psalm 38, described as “a psalm of David.” He speaks of being wounded and filled with pain. Friends and neighbors abandon him. Enemies hate him and accuse him. Some want to kill him. It’s “because of my sin,” he says. And he’s right.
Not every sin leads to a particular suffering. And not all suffering is from particular sins. But rebellion against God’s ways does unleash suffering into our human experience. So David the sinner suffers, and from his suffering he cries out to God. Maybe you know what that’s like.
Jesus certainly knows. It’s there in Psalm 38. Yes, this psalm is about sin. And no, Jesus himself never sinned. But he did suffer. He suffered because the sins of the world, including my sins and yours, were laid on him. He carried that immense burden to the cross. The silent anguish, the pounding heart, the failing strength, the cry of forsakenness—it’s all there in Psalm 38, and it was all there on the cross.
But that was not the end. From his own suffering, Jesus cried out to God. And his cry was heard. On the third day, God raised him from the dead. Jesus had won the ultimate victory over sin. Yes, we still sin. And we still suffer. But sin no longer has the power to separate us from God. Jesus saw to that.
Streams in the Desert – September 2
- 20212 Sep
Unto you it is given… to suffer (Philippians 1:29).
God keeps a costly school. Many of its lessons are spelled out through tears. Richard Baxter said, “O God, I thank Thee for a bodily discipline of eight and fifty years”; and he is not the only man who has turned a trouble into triumph.
This school of our Heavenly Father will soon close for us; the term time is shortening every day. Let us not shrink from a hard lesson or wince under any rod of chastisement. The richer will be the crown, and the sweeter will be Heaven, if we endure cheerfully to the end and graduate in glory.
–Theodore L. Cuyler
The finest china in the world is burned at least three times, some of it more than three times. Dresden china is always burned three times. Why does it go through that intense fire? Once ought to be enough; twice ought to be enough. No, three times are necessary to burn that china so that the gold and the crimson are brought out more beautiful and then fastened there to stay.
We are fashioned after the same principle in human life. Our trials are burned into us once, twice, thrice; and by God’s grace these beautiful colors are there and they are there to stay forever.