There is a story that in 75 bc a young Roman nobleman named Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates and held for ransom. When they demanded 20 talents of silver in ransom (about $600,000 today), Caesar laughed and said they obviously had no idea who he was. He insisted they raise the ransom to 50 talents! Why? Because he believed he was worth far more than 20 talents.
What a difference we see between Caesar’s arrogant measure of his own worth and the value God places on each of us. Our worth is not measured in terms of monetary value but by what our heavenly Father has done on our behalf.
What ransom did He pay to save us? Through the death of His only Son on the cross, the Father paid the price to rescue us from our sin. “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18–19).
God loved us so much that He gave up His Son to die on the cross and rise from the dead to ransom and rescue us. That is what you are worth to Him.
Jacob Davis was a tailor with a problem. It was the height of the Gold Rush in the 1800s American West and the gold miners’ work pants kept wearing out. His solution? Davis went to a local dry goods company owned by Levi Strauss, purchased tent cloth, and made work pants from that heavy, sturdy material—and blue jeans were born. Today, denim jeans in a variety of forms (including Levi’s) are among the most popular clothing items in the world, and all because tent material was given a new purpose.
Simon and his friends were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Then Jesus arrived and called them to follow Him. He gave them a new purpose. No longer would they fish for fish. As Jesus told them, “Come, follow me, . . . and I will send you out to fish for people” (Mark 1:17).
With this new purpose set for their lives, these men were taught and trained by Jesus so that, after His ascension, they could be used by God to capture the hearts of people with the message of the cross and resurrection of Christ. Today, we follow in their steps as we share the good news of Christ’s love and salvation.
May our lives both declare and exhibit this love that can change the lives, purposes, and eternal destinies of others.
I grew up in the rebellious 1960s and turned my back on religion. I had attended church all my life but didn’t come to faith until my early twenties after a terrible accident. Since that time, I have spent my adult years telling others of Jesus’ love for us. It has been a journey.
Certainly “a journey” fittingly describes life in this broken world. On the way we encounter mountains and valleys, rivers and plains, crowded highways and lonely roads—highs and lows, joys and sorrows, conflict and loss, heartache and solitude. We can’t see the road ahead, so we must take it as it comes, not as we wish it would be.
The follower of Christ, however, never faces this journey alone. The Scriptures remind us of the constant presence of God. There is nowhere we can go that He is not there (Ps. 139:7-12). He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5). Jesus, after promising to send the Holy Spirit, told His disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).
The challenges and opportunities we face on our journey can be met confidently, for God has promised us His never-failing presence.
When my wife and I visited the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force near Savannah, Georgia, we were especially moved by the prisoner-of-war exhibit, with its re-creation of a German prisoner-of-war camp’s barracks. Marlene’s dad, Jim, served in the Eighth Air Force, the “Mighty Eighth,” as they flew missions over Europe during World War II. During the war, the Eighth Air Force suffered over 47,000 injuries and more than 26,000 deaths. Jim was one of those shot down and held as a prisoner of war. As we walked through the exhibit, we recalled Jim telling about the absolute joy he and his fellow prisoners felt the day they were set free.
God’s care for the oppressed and liberation of the imprisoned are declared in Psalm 146. The psalmist describes the one “who upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry,” who “sets prisoners free” (v. 7). All of this is cause for celebration and praise. But the greatest freedom of all is freedom from our guilt and shame. No wonder Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Through Christ’s sacrifice, we are set free from the prison of sin to know His joy and love and the freedom that only forgiveness can bring.
Fire can be one of the worst enemies of trees. But it can also be helpful. Experts say that small, frequent fires called “cool” fires clean the forest floor of dead leaves and branches but don’t destroy the trees. They leave behind ashes, which are perfect for seeds to grow in. Surprisingly, low-intensity fires are necessary for healthy growth of trees.
Similarly, trials—pictured as fire in the Bible—are necessary for our spiritual health and growth (1 Peter 1:7; 4:12). James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
It is in the season of trial that God’s purposes are often realized, for there the conditions are right for us to grow into spiritual maturity. This growth not only equips us for living, but it also enables us to more accurately reflect Jesus to a world that desperately needs Him.
In the hands of our Father, our trials can achieve His purposes for our good and for His honor. They can shape us into the likeness of His Son.
As Jesus’s beloved disciple John grew older, his teaching became increasingly narrowed, focusing entirely on the love of God in his three letters. In the book Knowing the Truth of God’s Love, Peter Kreeft cites an old legend which says that one of John’s young disciples once came to him complaining, “Why don’t you talk about anything else?” John replied, “Because there isn’t anything else.”
God’s love is certainly at the heart of the mission and message of Jesus. In his earlier gospel account, John recorded the words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The apostle Paul tells us that God’s love is at the core of how we live, and he reminds us that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).
God’s love is so strong, available, and stabilizing that we can confidently step into each day knowing that the good things are gifts from His hand and the challenges can be faced in His strength. For all of life, His love is what matters most.
Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745–1796) was only 11 years old when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He made the harrowing journey from West Africa to the West Indies, then to the colony of Virgina, and then to England. By the age of 20 he purchased his own freedom, still bearing the emotional and physical scars of the inhumane treatment he had experienced.
Unable to enjoy his own freedom while others were still enslaved, Equiano became active in the movement to abolish slavery in England. He wrote his autobiography (an unheard of achievement for a former slave in that era) in which he described the horrific treatment of the enslaved.
When Jesus came, He fought a battle for all of us who are enslaved and unable to fight for ourselves. Our slavery is not one of outward chains. We are held by our own brokenness and sin. Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34–36).
Wherever such a freedom seems unheard of, His words need to be declared. We can be liberated from our guilt, shame, and hopelessness. By trusting Jesus, we can be free indeed!
Although I depend on technology every day to get my job done, I don’t understand much about how it works. I turn my computer on, bring up a Word document, and get to work on my writing. Yet my inability to comprehend how microchips, hard drives, Wi-Fi connections, and full-color displays actually function doesn’t get in the way of my benefiting from technology.
In a sense, this mirrors our relationship with God. Isaiah 55:8–9 reminds us that God is far beyond us: “’My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the
Even though we don’t understand everything about God that doesn’t prevent us from trusting Him. He has proven His love for us. The apostle Paul wrote, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Trusting that love, we can walk with Him even when life doesn’t make sense.
A test match in the game of cricket can be grueling. Competitors play from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with lunch and tea breaks, but the games can last up to 5 days. It’s a test of endurance as well as skill.
The tests we face in life are sometimes intensified for a similar reason. They feel unending. The long search for a job, an unbroken season of loneliness, or a lengthy battle with cancer is made even more difficult by the fact that you wonder if it will ever end.
Perhaps that is why the psalmist cried out, “How long,
Yet, in the end, David sang, “The