Several years ago I received a letter from an Our Daily Bread reader after I had written about a family tragedy. “When you told about your tragedy,” this person wrote, “I realized that the writers were real people with real problems.” How true that is! I look across the list of men and women who pen these articles, and I see cancer and wayward children and unfulfilled dreams and many other kinds of loss. We are indeed just regular, real people writing about a real God who understands our real problems.
The apostle Paul stands out in the Real People Hall of Fame. He had physical problems. He had legal issues. He had interpersonal relationship struggles to deal with. And in all of this messy reality, he was setting an example for us. In Philippians 3:17, he said, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”
Those around us who need the gospel—who need Jesus—are looking for believable people who can point them to our perfect Savior. And that means we must be real.
Sometimes it feels as if God isn’t listening to me.” Those words, from a woman who tried to stay strong in her walk with God while coping with an alcoholic husband, echo the heartcry of many believers. For many years, she asked God to change her husband. Yet it never happened.
What are we to think when we repeatedly ask God for something good—something that could easily glorify Him—but the answer doesn’t come? Is He listening or not?
Let’s look at the life of the Savior. In the garden of Gethsemane, He agonized for hours in prayer, pouring out His heart and pleading, “Let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39 nkjv). But the Father’s answer was clearly “No.” To provide salvation, God had to send Jesus to die on the cross. Even though Jesus felt as if His Father had forsaken Him, He prayed intensely and passionately because He trusted that God was listening.
When we pray, we may not see how God is working or understand how He will bring good through it all. So we have to trust Him. We relinquish our rights and let God do what is best.
We must leave the unknowable to the all-knowing One. He is listening and working things out His way.
During a bitterly frigid winter in our part of Michigan, there were many mixed emotions about the weather. As the snowy winter season pressed on into March, most people had long before fallen out of love with snow and were bemoaning long-range forecasts of low temperatures.
Yet the majestic beauty of the snow continued to amaze me. Even as I threw endless shovelsful of it from my driveway onto the over-my-head snowbanks, I was enthralled with the white stuff. One particular day, ice crystals filtered down from the sky to fall atop old snow. As my wife and I took a walk through this sparkling scene, it looked as if diamond dust had been sprinkled across the landscape.
In Scripture, snow seems to have varied purposes. God sends it as an indicator of His creative greatness (Job 37:6; 38:22-23). Snow-capped mountains irrigate the arid valleys below. But more significantly, God gives snow as a picture of our forgiveness. The gospel of Jesus provides a way for us to be cleansed of our sins and for our hearts to be made much “whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:7; Isa. 1:18).
The next time you see snow—in life or in photos—thank God for the forgiveness and the freedom from sin’s penalties that this beautiful, natural gift pictures for all who have put their trust in our Savior.
Trying to stay aware of current events has its downside because bad news sells better than good news. It’s easy to become overly concerned about the criminal acts of individuals, crowds, or governments over whom we have no control.
Psalm 37 gives perspective to the daily news. David begins by saying, “Do not fret because of those who are evil” (v. 1). Then he proceeds to outline for us some alternatives to becoming overly anxious. In essence, David suggests a better way of thinking about negative news in our world.
What would happen if, instead of worrying about events beyond our control, we chose to trust in the Lord? (v. 3). Wouldn’t we be better off to “take delight in the Lord” (v. 4) rather than fret without limits? Imagine the freedom from worry we could have if we would “commit [our] way to the Lord” (v. 5). And how calm we could be by learning to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him”! (v. 7).
News of trouble we cannot change offers us an opportunity to set boundaries for our concerns. As we trust God, commit our ways to Him, and rest in Him, our outlook brightens. The struggles and trials may not disappear, but we will discover that He gives us His peace in the midst of them.
As Dave Mueller reached down and turned the handle, water rushed from the spigot into a blue bucket. Around him people applauded. They celebrated as they saw fresh, clean water flowing in their community for the first time. Having a clean source of water was about to change the lives of this group of people in Kenya.
Dave and his wife, Joy, work hard to meet people’s needs by bringing them water. But they don’t stop with H2O. As they help bring people clean water, they also tell them about Jesus Christ.
Two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus stood at a Samaritan well and talked with a woman who was there to get clean drinking water for her physical health. But Jesus told her that what she needed even more than that was living water for her spiritual health.
As history has marched on and humanity has become more sophisticated, life still filters down to two truths: Without clean water, we will die. More important, without Jesus Christ, the source of living water, we are already dead in our sins.
Water is essential to our existence—both physically with H2O and spiritually with Jesus. Have you tasted of the water of life that Jesus, the Savior, provides?
It was time to fix the trim on the windows of our house. So I scraped, sanded, and applied wood filler to get the aging trim ready for paint. After all of my efforts—including a coat of primer and some too-expensive paint—the trim looks, well, pretty good. But it doesn’t look new. The only way to make the trim look new would be to replace the old wood.
It’s okay to have weather-damaged window trim that looks “pretty good” to our eye. But when it comes to our sin-damaged hearts, it’s not enough to try to fix things up. From God’s point of view, we need all things to become new (2 Cor. 5:17).
That is the beauty of salvation through faith in Jesus. He died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin and rose from the dead to display His power over sin and death. The result is that in God’s eyes, faith in Christ’s work makes us a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) and replaces the old with a “new life” (Acts 5:20). Looking through Jesus and His work on the cross for us, our heavenly Father sees everyone who has put his or her faith in Him as new and unblemished.
Sin has caused great damage. We can’t fix it ourselves. We must trust Jesus as Savior and let Him give us a brand-new life.
The year was 1780, and Robert Raikes had a burden for the poor, illiterate children in his London neighborhood. He noticed that nothing was being done to help these children, so he set out to make a difference.
He hired some women to set up schools for them on Sunday. Using the Bible as their textbook, the teachers taught the poorest children of London to read and introduced them to the wisdom of the Bible. Soon about 100 children were attending these classes and enjoying lunch in a safe, clean environment. These “Sunday schools,” as they were soon called, eventually touched the lives of thousands of boys and girls. By 1831, Sunday schools in Great Britain reached more than a million children—all because one man understood this truth: “The righteous considers the cause of the poor” (Prov. 29:7 nkjv).
It’s no secret that Jesus cares greatly for those who struggle. In Matthew 25, He suggests that followers of Christ show a readiness for the Lord’s return by helping the hungry to get food, helping the thirsty to get a drink, helping the homeless to find a home, helping the naked to get clothes, and helping the sick or imprisoned to receive comfort (vv. 35-36).
As we bear witness that Christ is in our hearts, we honor our compassionate Savior by considering those on God’s heart.
The email from the student in my college writing class expressed urgency. It was the end of the semester, and he realized he needed a better grade to participate in sports. What could he do? He had missed some assignments, so I gave him two days to complete those papers and improve his grade. His response: “Thank you. I’ll do it.”
Two days—and the deadline—passed, and no papers appeared. He didn’t back up his words with action.
Jesus told about a young man who did something similar. The boy’s dad asked him to do some work in the vineyard. The son said, “I will, sir” (Matt. 21:30). But he was all talk and no action.
In commenting on this parable, Matthew Henry concluded: “Buds and blossoms are not fruit.” The buds and blossoms of our words, which breed anticipation of what we might do, are empty without the fruit of our follow-through. Jesus’ main application was to religious leaders who spoke of obedience yet refused to follow through with repentance. But the words apply to us as well. It is in following God “with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18)—not in making empty promises—that we honor our Lord and Savior.
Our actions in obeying God show Him more love, honor, and praise than any empty words we might say to try to appear good.