Zhang was raised with, in his words, “no God, no religion, nothing.” In 1989, seeking democracy and freedom for his people, he helped lead students in peaceful protests. But the protests tragically led to the government’s intervention and hundreds of lives lost. For his part in the event, Zhang was placed on his country’s most-wanted list. After a short imprisonment, he fled to an outlying village where he met an elderly farmer who introduced him to Christianity. She had only a handwritten copy of the gospel of John but couldn’t read, so she asked Zhang to read it to her. As he did, she explained it to him—and a year later he became a believer in Jesus.
Through all he endured, Zhang sees that God was powerfully leading him to the cross, where he experienced firsthand what the apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians, “The message of the cross is . . . the power of God” (1:18). What many considered foolishness, a weakness, became Zhang’s strength. For some of us, this too was our thinking before we came to Christ. But through the Spirit, we felt the power and wisdom of God breaking into our lives and leading us to Christ. Today Zhang serves as a pastor spreading the truth of the cross to all who will hear.
Jesus has the power to change even the hardest of hearts. Who needs His powerful touch today?
When Jen was young, her well-intentioned Sunday school teacher instructed the class in evangelism training, which included memorizing a series of verses and a formula for sharing the gospel. She and a friend nervously tried this out on another friend, fearful they’d forget an important verse or step. Jen doesn’t “remember if the evening ended in conversion [but guesses] it did not.” The approach seemed to be more about the formula than the person.
Now, years later, Jen and her husband are modeling for their own children a love for God and sharing their faith in a more inviting way. They understand the importance of teaching their children about God, the Bible, and a personal relationship with Jesus, but they’re doing so through a living, daily example of a love for God and the Scriptures. They’re demonstrating what it means to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and to reach out to others through kindness and hospitable words. Jen says, “We cannot impart words of life to others if we don’t possess them ourselves.” As she and her husband show kindness in their own lifestyle, they’re preparing their children “to invite others into their faith.”
We don’t need a formula to lead others to Jesus—what matters most is that a love for God compels and shines through us. As we live in and share His love, God draws others to know Him too.
An accomplished acrobat and aerialist, Jen was born without legs and abandoned at the hospital. Yet she says being put up for adoption was a blessing. “I am here because of the people who poured into me.” Her adoptive family helped her to see she was “born like this for a reason.” They raised her to “never say ‘can’t’ ” and encouraged her in all her pursuits. She meets challenges with an attitude of “How can I tackle this?” and motivates others to do the same.
The Bible tells the stories of many people God used who seemed incapable or unsuited for their calling—but God used them anyway. Moses is a classic example. When God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he balked (Exodus 3:11; 4:1) and protested, “I am slow of speech and tongue.” God replied, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? . . . Is it not I, the
Like Jen and like Moses, all of us are here for a reason—and God graciously helps us along the way. He supplies people to help us and provides what we need to live for Him.
As I sat in the courtroom, I witnessed several examples of the brokenness of our world: a daughter estranged from her mother; a husband and wife who’d lost the love they once had and now shared only bitterness; a husband yearning for reconciliation with his wife and to be reunited with his children. They were in desperate need of changed hearts, healing of wounds, and for God’s love to prevail.
Sometimes when the world around us seems to hold only darkness and despair, it’s easy to give in to despair. But then the Spirit, who lives inside believers in Christ (John 14:26), reminded me that Jesus died for that brokenness and pain. When Jesus came into the world as a human, He brought light into the darkness (John 1:4; 8:12). We see this in His conversation with Nicodemus, who furtively came to Jesus in the cover of darkness, but left impacted by the Light (3:1–2; 19:38–40).
Jesus taught Nicodemus that “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” (3:16).
Yet even though Jesus brought light and love into the world, many remain lost in the darkness of their sin (vv. 19–20). If we’re His followers, we have the light that dispels darkness. In gratitude, let’s pray that God make us beacons of His love (Matthew 5:14–16).
Diet Eman was an ordinary, shy young woman in the Netherlands—in love, working, and enjoying time with family and friends—when the Germans invaded in 1940. As Diet (pronounced Deet) later wrote, “When there is danger on your doorstep, you want to act almost like an ostrich burying its head in the sand.” Yet Diet felt God calling her to resist the German oppressors, which included risking her life to find hiding places for Jews and other pursued people. This unassuming young woman became a warrior for God.
We find many stories in the Bible similar to Diet’s, stories of God using seemingly unlikely characters to serve Him. For instance, when the angel of the Lord approached Gideon, he proclaimed, “The
God saw Gideon as “mighty.” And just as God was with and equipping Gideon, so God is with us, His “dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1)—supplying all we need to live for and serve Him in little and big ways.
Teenage gang leader Casey and his followers broke into homes and cars, robbed convenience stores, and fought other gangs. Eventually, Casey was arrested and sentenced. In prison, he became a “shot caller,” someone who handed out homemade knives during riots.
Sometime later, he was placed in solitary confinement. While daydreaming in his cell, Casey experienced a “movie” of sorts replaying key events of his life—and of Jesus, being led to and nailed to the cross and telling him, “I’m doing this for you.” Casey fell to the floor weeping and confessed his sins. Later, he shared his experience with a chaplain, who explained more about Jesus and gave him a Bible. “That was the start of my journey of faith,” Casey said. Eventually, he was released into the mainline prison population, where he was mistreated for his faith. But he felt at peace, because “[he] had found a new calling: telling other inmates about Jesus.”
In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul talks about the power of Christ to change lives: God calls us from lives of wrongdoing to follow and serve Jesus (2 Timothy 1:9). When we receive Him by faith, we desire to be a living witness of Christ’s love. The Holy Spirit enables us to do so, even when suffering, in our quest to share the good news (v. 8). Like Casey, let’s live out our new calling.
During Scottish missionary Alexander Duff’s first voyage to India in 1830, he was shipwrecked in a storm off the coast of South Africa. He and his fellow passengers made it to a small, desolate island; and a short time later, one of the crew found a copy of a Bible belonging to Duff washed ashore on the beach. When the book dried, Duff read Psalm 107 to his fellow survivors, and they took courage. Finally, after a rescue and yet another shipwreck, Duff arrived in India.
Psalm 107 lists some of the ways God delivered the Israelites. Duff and his shipmates no doubt identified with and took comfort in the words: “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven” (vv. 29–30). And, like the Israelites, they too “[gave] thanks to the
We see a parallel to Psalm 107:28–30 in the New Testament (Matthew 8:23–27; Mark 4:35–41). Jesus and His disciples were in a boat at sea when a violent storm began. His disciples cried out in fear, and Jesus—God in flesh—calmed the sea. We too can take courage! Our powerful God and Savior hears and responds to our cries and comforts us in the midst of our storms.
The English preacher Charles H. Spurgeon (1834–1892) lived life “full throttle.” He became a pastor at age 19—and soon was preaching to large crowds. He personally edited all of his sermons, which eventually filled sixty-three volumes, and wrote many commentaries, books on prayer, and other works. And he typically read six books a week! In one of his sermons, Spurgeon said, “The sin of doing nothing is about the biggest of all sins, for it involves most of the others. . . . Horrible idleness! God save us from it!”
Spurgeon lived with diligence, which meant he “[made] every effort” (2 Peter 1:5) to grow in God’s grace and to live for Him. If we are Christ’s followers, God can instill in us that same desire and capacity to grow more like Jesus, to “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge . . . self-control, perseverance . . . godliness” (vv. 3, 5–7)
We each have different motivations, abilities, and energy levels—not all of us can, or should, live at Spurgeon’s pace! But when we understand all Jesus has done for us, we have the greatest motivation for diligent, faithful living. And we find our strength through the resources God has given us to live for and serve Him. God through His Spirit can empower us in our efforts—big and small—to do so.
When two firefighters, weary and sooty, stopped at a restaurant for breakfast, the waitress recognized the men from the news and realized they’d spent the night battling a warehouse fire. To show her appreciation, she wrote a note on their bill, “Your breakfast is on me today. Thank you . . . for serving others and for running into the places everyone else runs away from. . . . Fueled by fire and driven by courage, what an example you are.”
In the Old Testament, we see an example of courage in the actions of three young men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3). Instead of obeying the mandate to bow down to a statue of the Babylonian king, these young men courageously showed their love for God through their refusal. Their penalty was to be thrown into a blazing furnace. Yet the men did not back down: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not . . . we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold” (3:17–18).
God did rescue them and even walked with them in the fire (vv. 25–27). In our fiery trials and troubles today, we too have the assurance that God is with us. He is able.