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.
Radamenes was just a kitten when his owner dropped him off at an animal shelter, thinking he was too ill to recover. The kitten was nursed back to health and adopted by the vet. He then became a fulltime resident at the shelter and now spends his days “comforting” cats and dogs—just out of surgery or recovering from an illness—through his warm presence and gentle purr.
That story is a small picture of what our loving God does for us—and what we can do for others in return. He cares for us in our sickness and struggles, and He soothes us with His presence. The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians calls our Lord, “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1:3). When we are discouraged, depressed, or mistreated, God is there for us. When we turn to Him in prayer, He “comforts us in all our troubles” (v. 4).
But verse 4 doesn’t end there. Paul, who had experienced intense suffering, continues, “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Our Father comforts us; and when we have experienced His comfort, we are enabled to comfort others.
Our compassionate Savior, who suffered for us, is more than able to comfort us in our suffering and distress (v. 5). He helps us through our pain and equips us to do the same for others.
My dad loved to sing the old hymns. One of his favorites was “In the Garden.” A few years back, we sang it at his funeral. The chorus is simple: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.” That song brought joy to my dad—as it does to me.
Hymn writer author C. Austin Miles says he wrote this song in spring 1912 after reading chapter 20 of the gospel of John. “As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life when she knelt before her Lord and cried, ‘Rabboni [Teacher].’ ”
In John 20, we find Mary Magdalene weeping near Jesus’ empty tomb. There she met a man who asked why she was crying. Thinking it was the gardener, she spoke with the risen Savior—Jesus! Her sorrow turned to joy, and she ran to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” (v. 18).
We too have the assurance that Jesus is risen! He’s now in heaven with the Father— but He hasn’t left us on our own. Believers in Christ have His Spirit inside us, and through Him we have the assurance and joy of knowing He’s with us, and we are “His own.”
“Watch my fairy princess dance, Grandma!” my three-year-old granddaughter gleefully called as she raced around the yard of our cabin, a big grin on her face. Her “dancing” brought a smile; and her big brother’s glum, “She’s not dancing, just running,” didn’t staunch her joy at being on vacation with family.
The first Palm Sunday was a day of highs and lows. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowds enthusiastically shouted, “Hosanna . . . blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:6–9). Yet many in the crowd were expecting a Messiah to free them from Rome, not a Savior who would die for their sins that same week.
Later that day, despite the anger of the chief priests who questioned Jesus’s authority, children in the temple expressed their joy by shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (vv. 14–15), perhaps leaping and waving palm branches as they ran around the courtyard. They couldn’t help but worship Him, Jesus told the indignant leaders, for “from the lips of children and infants [God has] called forth [His] praise” (vv. 15–16). They were in the presence of the Savior!
Jesus invites us to also see Him for who He is. When we do, like a child overflowing with joy, we cannot help but revel in His presence.