Fear ruled the man’s life for thirty-two years. Afraid of being caught for his crimes, he hid at his sister’s farmhouse, going nowhere and visiting no one, even missing his mother’s funeral. When he was sixty-four, he was discovered and learned that no charges had ever been filed against him. The man was free to resume a normal life. Yes, the threat of punishment was real, but he allowed the fear of it to control him.
Likewise, fear ruled the Israelites’ heart when the Philistines challenged them at the Valley of Elah. The threat was real. Their enemy Goliath was 9 feet 9 inches tall and his body armor alone weighed 125 pounds (1 Samuel 17:4–5). For forty days, every morning and evening, Goliath challenged the Israelite army to fight him one on one. But no one dared come forward. No one until David visited the battle lines. He heard and saw the taunting, and volunteered to fight Goliath.
While everyone in the Israelite army thought Goliath was too big to fight, David the shepherd boy knew he was not too big for God. He said, “the
When we’re gripped by fear, we can follow David’s example and fix our eyes on God to gain a right perspective of the problem. The threat may be real, but the One who is with us and for us is bigger than that which is against us.
In Japan, food products are immaculately prepared and packed. Not only must they taste good but they must look good too. Often I wonder if I am purchasing the food or the packaging! Because of the Japanese emphasis on good quality, products with slight defects are often discarded. However, in recent years, wakeari products have gained popularity. Wakeari means “there is a reason” in Japanese. These products are not thrown away but are sold at a cheap price “for a reason”—for example a crack in a rice cracker.
My friend who lives in Japan tells me that wakeari is also a catchphrase for people who are obviously less than perfect.
Jesus loves all people—including the wakeari who society casts aside. When a woman who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at a Pharisee’s house, she went there and knelt behind Jesus at His feet, weeping (Luke 7:37-38). The Pharisee labeled her “a sinner” (v. 39); but Jesus accepted her. He spoke gently to her, assuring her that her sins were forgiven (v. 48).
Jesus loves imperfect, wakeari people—which includes you and me. And the greatest demonstration of His love for us is that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). As recipients of His love, may we be conduits of His love to the flawed people around us so they too may know that they can receive God’s love despite their perfections.
Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie, China, is considered one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. To view its towering cliffs in all their glorious splendor, you must take the Tianmen Shan cable car, which covers a distance of 7,455 meters (4.5 miles). It’s amazing how this cable car can travel such long distances and scale such steep mountains without any motor on the car itself. Yet it moves safely up these spectacular heights by keeping a strong grip on a cable that is moved by a powerful motor.
In our journey of faith, how can we finish the race well and “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus”? (Phil. 3:14). Like the cable car, we keep a strong grip on Christ, which is what Paul meant when he said “stand firm in the Lord” (4:1). We have no resources of our own. We depend fully on Christ to keep us moving forward. He will take us through the greatest challenges and lead us safely home.
Toward the end of his earthly life, the apostle Paul declared, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). You can too. Simply keep a strong grip on Christ.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and then to shepherds with good news for the world (Luke 1:26-27; 2:10), was it good news to this teenage girl? Perhaps Mary was thinking: How do I explain my pregnancy to my family? Will my fiancé Joseph call off the betrothal? What will the townspeople say? Even if my life is spared, how will I survive as a mother all alone?
When Joseph learned about Mary’s pregnancy, he was troubled. He had three options. Go ahead with the marriage, divorce her publicly and allow her to be publicly scorned, or break off the engagement quietly. Joseph chose option three, but God intervened. He told Joseph in a dream, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20).
For Mary and Joseph, Christmas began with submitting themselves to God in spite of the unthinkable emotional challenges before them. They entrusted themselves to God and in doing so demonstrated for us the promise of 1 John 2:5: “If anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.”
May God’s love fill our hearts this Christmas season—and every day—as we walk with Him.
In her autobiography, Corrie ten Boom described her and her sister Betsie’s horrific time in a Nazi concentration camp in the early 1940s. On one occasion they were forced to take off their clothes during an inspection. Corrie stood in line feeling defiled and forsaken. Suddenly, she remembered that Jesus had hung naked on the cross. Struck with wonder and worship, Corrie whispered to her sister, “Betsie, they took His clothes too.” Betsie gasped and said, “Oh, Corrie, . . . and I never thanked Him.”
It is easy for us to live thanklessly in a world that is full of trouble, struggles, and woes. On any given day we can find many reasons to complain. However, Psalm 100 exhorts God’s people to be glad, joyful, and thankful for “it is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3). As we remember who we are, we can respond in thanksgiving. For even in the worst of times, we can remember Christ’s love and sacrifice for us.
Don’t let the brutality of the world take away your thankful heart. Remember you are God’s child, and He has shown you His goodness and mercy through His work on the cross.
In the book of Mark we read about a terrible storm. The disciples were with Jesus on a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. When a “furious squall came up,” the disciples—among them some seasoned fishermen—were afraid for their lives (4:37-38). Did God not care? Weren’t they handpicked by Jesus and closest to Him? Weren’t they obeying Jesus who told them to “go over to the other side”? (v. 35). Why, then, were they going through such a turbulent time?
No one is exempt from the storms of life. But just as the disciples who initially feared the storm later came to revere Christ more, so the storms we face can bring us to a deeper knowledge of God. “Who is this,” the disciples pondered, “even the wind and the waves obey him!” (v. 41). Through our trials we can learn that no storm is big enough to prevent God from accomplishing His will (5:1).
While we may not understand why God allows trials to enter our lives, we thank Him that through them we can come to know who He is. We live to serve Him because He has preserved our lives.
The story is told that in the late 1800s a group of European pastors attended D. L. Moody’s Bible conference in Massachusetts. Following their custom, they put their shoes outside their room before they slept, expecting them to be cleaned by hotel workers. When Moody saw the shoes, he mentioned the need to others because he knew their custom. But he was met with silence. Moody collected all the shoes and cleaned them himself. A friend who made an unexpected visit to his room revealed what Moody had done. The word spread, and the next few nights others took turns doing the cleaning.
A man stranded by himself on an island was finally discovered. His rescuers asked him about the three huts they saw there. He pointed and said, “This one is my home and that one is my church.” He then pointed to the third hut: “That was my former church.” Though we may laugh at the silliness of this story, it does highlight a concern about unity among believers.