Reading: Judges 13 — 15
Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”
Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. Judges 15:18-19 NIV
Samson was a one-man army. Often, he is depicted as big and muscular, but if that were the case, why would people have asked him, “What is the source of your strength?” It would have been obvious. No, his strength was not natural — it was a “superhuman” strength given to him as the Spirit of God enabled him.
In the story in Judges 15, Samson had been doing the Lord's work. (Who would have thought that singlehandedly taking on a foreign army armed with nothing but the jawbone of a donkey constituted doing the Lord's work?!!)
Now Samson wasn't exactly the most noble of heroes, but God had chosen him even before he was conceived to be the means of rescuing his people from the Philistines. And it seems Samson's lack of maturity didn't put God off.
But doing the Lord's work — even when done in his strength — can be tiring, even exhausting. How did Samson respond in his moment of exhaustion? He cried out to God. And how did God respond? He opened up a spring of refreshment, and “When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived.”
Walking in obedience to God can be hard work, even though I be led by the Spirit. If I'm following Jesus, I should expect at times to feel tired, overwhelmed, maybe even exhausted. Even Jesus experienced the weariness of ministry.
But God knows what I am capable of. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.“ (Psalm 103:13-14).
Just as God chose Samson before he was even born to rescue his people, and gave him the strength required for the task, God has work for me to do — as an individual, and together with his people. “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). And when God calls, he also equips.
So in those moments when the cost of following Jesus weighs heavily, relief is to be found not in complaining, or in giving up, but in crying out to God. He is my source of refreshment. He is the one who “makes me lie down in green pastures; [who] leads me beside quiet waters, [who] restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3a). It is to him I must turn.
But I am not just blessed by God for my own benefit. I am “blessed to be a blessing”. God may call me to be a spring of refreshment for others — for those who are working hard for the Lord, in his strength, but are simply in need of rest and replenishment. What a privilege it would be to be the answer to someone else's prayer for help.
Thank you Lord that in you, I can find both strength and refreshment. Help me not to rely on my own feeble efforts, but to draw my strength from you. In my moments of weariness and exhaustion, I will turn to you. And may I also be a conduit for you, to provide blessing and refreshment to others.
See also, But Those Who Hope in the Lord…
Reading: Acts 16
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. Acts 16:6-7 (NIV)
A good thing is not necessarily the right thing to do. Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations, yet the Holy Spirit kept Paul from preaching the Word in the province of Asia, then later blocked his entry into Bithynia to do the same thing. Finally Paul has a vision from God which clarifies where he is to go to preach the Word. All three options were obeying Jesus, but only one of them was the right one.
Why did God not just show Paul and his friends in the first place where they were to go? Was there something he wanted to teach them on the way? Knowing with certainty what is happening next does bring a feeling of security and of being in control. But what if God takes this certainty away? Then, instead of trusting in our circumstances, all we can do is either worry, or trust in him.
I am sure the latter is what God really wants, and is the reason why he sometimes seems to leave us hanging. He is putting us in that place where all we can do is be patient, trust him for the next step, and rest in his hands knowing that he knows the next part of the road even though we don't.
So long as God is in control, I can relax. Then, rather than waiting for my circumstances to give me certainty, I can find certainty in the knowledge that God is good, and he has everything in hand. When options present themselves, I can pray, asking God for wisdom, and then tentatively step forward, trusting God to close some doors and open others. In the meantime, I need to relax and embrace the freedom of not knowing my next step, but knowing that God does.
Father, I thank you for this wonderful example to learn from. Help me to let go, and simply rest in your arms. And when it's time to move, please guide me into things that are not just good, but also within your purpose for me. Holy Spirit, open my ears to clearly hear your voice and help me to keep in step with you.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)
Reading: John 14
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. John 14:10 (NIV)
“Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work”. When Jesus walked on this earth, the relationship he had with his Father was in many ways like the relationship that I can now have with the Father. God (by means of the Holy Spirit) is living in me, and doing his work. That includes both his work in me and his work through me.
In John 5:19-20, Jesus reveals how the “through me” part worked for him: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”
When praying for others, I often just begin praying without giving thought to what God might have in mind for the situation. I suspect things would go a lot better if first I stopped to focus my thoughts on God. “Lord, what are you wanting to do here? What would you like me to do?” I could do this at the time, and even before hand. “Father, what jobs do you have for me today?” For upcoming events or opportunities, I may even choose to fast and pray as I seek to know God's plans for the situation.
Although I don't always find it easy to hear clearly from God, making the effort to listen and to “see” what my Father is doing will surely help. Then I will be able to say with Jesus, “I can do nothing by myself, but only what I see my Father doing, because whatever the Father does, I do too.”
Father God, please open my eyes to see what you are doing. I don't want to work on my own, separated from what you are doing. I belong to you, and I offer myself for your work, to do whatsoever you have in mind – for this moment, for this day, and for the times ahead.
See also, Apart From You, I Shall Do Nothing
Reading: John 13:18-38
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
They were possibly the most influential three years in the history of mankind – those years that Jesus spent with the twelve men he had gathered around him. It was a time full of surprises, an opportunity to live with God on earth and discover first hand exactly how he wanted them (and all the rest of us) to live together. And how was that? Like him. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Love was to define them. So much so that when others “looked in” and saw that love, they would automatically assume, “Oh yes, those people must be followers of Jesus.”
When it all boils down, to “Love God” and to “Love others” are the two ultimate purposes of my life. And how much do I have to love? For God, I am to love with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. For others, Jesus simply says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” On a scale of one to ten, that's a ten on both counts.
It's clear to me that I fall woefully short of what Jesus has asked me to do. He must have known that would be the case. And yet, he asked me anyway…
I find myself suddenly taken surprise by the thought that my capacity to love both God and others, whilst still walking on this planet, may be enormously greater than I have previously dared to dream possible. Because ultimately, love is from God. There is no end to his love, but if it is to flow through me, I need to be a willing and open channel, like a wide open artery not blocked up with deposits of “gunk” but open and free.
It's really the work of the Holy Spirit in me and through me that will increase my capacity to love. What's required from me is simply the willingness to say, “Holy Spirit, let's go!”
Jesus, I confess that fear of what might be required of me makes me hesitate. And yet I love the thought of being an open channel for your love. I want to reach the potential that you see in me to love you, and to love others. Please will you deal with the obstructions in me and dismantle all my silly objections. I submit them to you, and offer you my whole self. Holy Spirit, let's go!
See also Perfecting Me
“Holy Spirit, let's go!” was a favourite prayer of the late Ray Edmonds who, I believe, prayed this every morning, and took every opportunity that came his way to share Jesus with those he met.
Reading: Joshua 14
So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. Joshua 14:9 (NIV)
The land on which Caleb's feet had walked was the very land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants hundreds of years earlier. Twelve men were sent out by Moses to spy out that land – Caleb, Joshua and ten others. Two of them had seen a land of opportunity, “flowing with milk and honey”. But the other ten had seen men like giants living in fortified cities, and their report made the hearts of the people “melt with fear”.
Whereas Joshua and Caleb viewed everything in the light of God's promise, their colleagues' eyes were darkened by fear and doubt. Perhaps they just didn't know God well enough to trust him. Perhaps they hadn't truly yielded themselves to God despite the amazing miracles they had seen him perform.
Nonetheless, the same promise of God was made to them all. Joshua and Caleb took the promise to heart, and prepared to take it in hand. They acted on their wholehearted belief that God was faithful, and their faith was richly rewarded. But the half-hearted were left empty-handed.
What a difference it makes to view the world in the light of God's promises! It changes my perspective completely, like a new pair of glasses, bringing a confidence and hope that draws me out of my comfort zone, out beyond what I can achieve in my own strength, and into all the plans and purposes that God has for my life.
As I write this, I am aware of how quickly I jumped to condemn the ten fearful men, from the comfort of my armchair… Would I have acted differently? How am I responding myself to the promises of God as revealed in his Word? I suspect there is much “promise land” I have yet to walk on. And yet my strong desire is to walk there. Lead me on, Lord!
Yes Lord, lead me on! Cut me loose from my fears and insecurity, and help me to live my life on the strength of your promises. Thank you for your written Word the Bible, and for all the promises it contains. Infuse my heart with the truth those promises contain, and may they be fulfilled in my life.
“The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance…”
Reading: Jeremiah 1
“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 1:17-19
When young Jeremiah looked at himself in the mirror that evening, after having received the above calling from God, what did he see? A fortified city? An iron pillar? A bronze wall? I suspect that rather, he saw a stunned young man, one who was more than just a little afraid, and who would gladly have run away from this terrifying assignment.
But fortified cities don't run away. Iron pillars and bronze walls don't quietly sneak off to hide. And today, God had said it himself: “I have made you a fortified city…” It seems Jeremiah was given no choice, no chance to think about it, and no opportunity to wait until he was a bit older and wiser. It would be Jeremiah and God vs everyone else, starting now.
God isn't afraid of throwing me in the deep end, because nothing is too deep for him. So long as he is with me, it doesn't matter if the whole world would seem to be against me. It doesn't matter how daunting the task before me seems. Nothing is daunting to God. If God appoints me, mine is simply to trust and obey.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Thank you for the opportunities that lie before me, Lord. I choose to trust you, and when the time comes that I find myself out of my depth (no doubt that feeling will come again!), help me to trust you then too, and to find my strength in you. I ask for wisdom to know your will, and that you would open my ears, so that like Jeremiah, I might hear your voice clearly.
Reading: Exodus 29-30
Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.
Then use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony, the table and all its articles, the lamp stand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand.
You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. Exodus 30:25-29 (NIV)
Everything in the Tent of Meeting had an aroma, a unique aroma that was not allowed to be used anywhere else. The recipe was given directly by God, and it was to be considered holy.
I wonder what it would have been like to be the perfumer, the man who carefully followed the recipe from God to prepare this sacred anointing oil, the “aroma of God”. How careful he must have been, how diligent to ensure that all was done according to God's prescription. Though he wasn't a priest, he enjoyed an immense privilege, and was one of the team of people God chose to help represent his presence in a physical tangible way, in what people could see, hear, smell, touch and even taste.
God still chooses people – men, women and children, to represent himself to mankind. God gives us the privilege of ushering others into his presence in many different ways, often according to the gifts he has given us, our personality, or the situation in which he has placed us. More than that, we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the aroma of Christ is in us.
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 .
Sharing God with others, and ushering them into his presence in whatever ways I can is worthy of my time, my careful thought, and my best efforts. These are my offering and my privilege.
Jesus, please cleanse me of anything that would distract from the purity of your aroma in me. As one who is made holy, may I be a workman who is approved by you and available for any task that you would have me do.
Reading: Philippians 1
For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. Philippians 1:29 (NLT)
The “privilege of suffering.” The phrase could easily have been penned by poet Rupert Brooke who, during WW1, wrote idealistically of the 'glory of war'. But whereas Brooke died from infection en route to the battlefield before having faced a single day of active combat, Paul was certainly a man familiar with suffering, and even as he wrote was chained up in a Roman prison because of his faith.
Unlike Brooke, Paul doesn't speak of the 'glory' of suffering for Jesus, but rather the privilege of suffering. Elsewhere he speaks of “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Phil 3:10), and Peter speaks of “participating in Christ's sufferings”. (1Peter 4:13)
But Paul does say that if we share in his sufferings, we will “also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17), and Peter says, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1Peter 4:13)
Paul even goes so far as to say that he wants to know the fellowship of sharing in Christ's sufferings! (Phil 3:10). He has reached such a level of trust in Jesus and love for him that his greatest, most heart-felt desire is that “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21)
When Jesus suffered for me at the Cross, his work was complete. There is nothing left still to be done to put me right with God. He died on the Cross “as me”, and I now live forever under the favour of God, a “co-heir with Christ.” But until the day when God puts all things right, I can expect to encounter suffering for being a Christian. In a sense, I am suffering “as Christ”, as his ambassador.
Jesus, thank you that you did not turn away from suffering, but instead you let love and obedience determine your path. For the joy set before you, you “endured the Cross, scorning its shame…” I also want to walk a path of love and obedience. Please grant me courage to be your ambassador, to share you with others, to carry your love and grace to the world in which I live.
Help me Lord to be bold without being obnoxious, and sensitive without being timid. Like you did, Jesus, help me to look beyond any suffering I might face to the joy that is before me, and even now to live in that joy as I serve you, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NIV)
See also, To Him Who Overcomes
Reading: Matthew 28
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
Jesus had come to the end of three years with those who had followed him. He had taught them, discipled them, modelled behaviour for them, and brought about in them the gradual transformation of their hearts and minds. Now, Jesus reveals his master plan for all the people who were yet to come: Disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
We are the plan! But not just us standing alone. We go with and under the authority of Jesus, the highest authority of all. We go with the presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. We go in the power of the Holy Spirit who is with us and in us. We are to make disciples of every kind of person, from all walks of life. The word used in verse 19 for nations, ethnos, is also translated 'Gentiles'. Jesus is giving instructions that this new covenant is not just for the Jews, but for everyone.
“Go and make disciples“, from the Greek 'matheteuo': to become a pupil; to disciple; enrol as scholar; instruct, teach. Jesus instructs me not to “convert” people but to teach them and instruct them. Baptism may be an event, but to make disciples is a process that begins even before a conscious decision has been made to make Jesus lord.
As a teacher therefore, I can start teaching people who are not yet committed Christians. Discipleship is incremental; even small packets of “teaching”, in whatever form that comes, may help people to come closer to obeying everything Jesus has commanded us. No matter what my gifting, my life can provide opportunities for others to learn about what it means to obey the commands of Jesus. I can disciple people by the way I live.
Thank you Lord for calling me to yourself, for choosing me, and for those people who discipled me, especially my parents. Holy Spirit, please guide me into every opportunity to disciple others, whether by word or deed, whether formal or informal. Use me and my gifts to bring people closer in their everyday walk with you.
Reading: Ephesians 6:10-24
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood… Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIV)
Every so often, we all need a good pep talk to sharpen us up and renew our confidence. Here Paul is doing exactly that. He focuses on two things:
Firstly, he urges me to stand firm with my eyes wide open. I'm in a battle! I have an adversary, and need to be ready and alert to his schemes. Secondly, Paul does everything he can to instil confidence in me by reminding me that I already have everything I need to fight this battle. I can stand firm because I know the truth. I have been saved and made righteous by what Jesus has done for me. My faith allows me to fend off Satan's attacks whilst at the same time sharing the good news with others not yet saved.
The Word of God is not only transforming my own heart and mind, but is a weapon I can use myself in my struggle against evil, to attack and to defend. And, I have been given state of the art communication capabilities now that the Holy Spirit is living in me. I can truly get things done through prayer because of my position in Christ.
It's really about confidence, and knowing who I am in Christ. Everything is there. God's incomparably great power is at work in me (Eph 1:19 ), and all the things I need to help me stand firm and strong in my faith have been given to me already.
It's as I stand in this position of confidence and God-given strength that I am truly able to love, to be joyful always, to enjoy peace that surpasses all understanding, to be patient and kind and good, to be gentle with others and trustworthy, and to enjoy the security of having self control. These aren't the sort of things I imagined on a battlefield, but the Spirit of the Lord isn't here to bring death and destruction, but rather, life and freedom. No wonder Paul urges me elsewhere, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
Thank you Jesus for the victory you won at the cross. Help me now to stand firm, in confidence, and to bring your love to the world in which I live. And for all those who face persecution and hardship as they serve you, please strengthen them, fill them anew with confidence, and release joy in their spirits as they hold fast to you.