At the age of fifty-four I entered the Milwaukee marathon with two goals—to finish the race and to do it under five hours. My time would have been amazing if the second 13.1 miles went as well as the first. But the race was grueling, and the second-wind strength I’d hope for never came. By the time I made it to the finish line, my steady stride had morphed into a painful walk.
Footraces aren’t the only thing that require second-wind strength—life’s race does too. To endure, tired, weary people need God’s help. Isaiah 40:27–31 beautifully weds poetry and prophecy to comfort and motivate people who need strength to keep going. Timeless words remind fatigued and discouraged people that the Lord is not detached or uncaring (v. 27), that our plight doesn’t escape His notice. These words breathe comfort and assurance, and remind us of God’s limitless power and bottomless knowledge (v. 28).
The second-wind strength described in verses 29–31 is just right for us—whether we’re in the throes of raising and providing for our families, struggling through life under the weight of physical or financial burdens, or discouraged by relational tensions or spiritual challenges. Such is the strength that awaits those who—through meditating on the Scriptures and prayer—wait upon the Lord.
In the summer of 2015, a group from our church was sobered by what we saw in Mathare, one of the slums in Nairobi, Kenya. We visited a school with dirt floors, rusting metal walls, and wooden benches. But against the backdrop of extremely humble surroundings, one person stood out.
Her name was Brilliant and the name couldn’t have fit her better. She was an elementary school teacher who possessed joy and determination that matched her mission. Colorfully dressed, her appearance and the joy with which she instructed and encouraged the children were stunning.
The bright light Brilliant brought to her surroundings resembles the way Christians in Philippi were to be positioned in their world when Paul wrote to them in the first century. Against the background of a spiritually needy world, believers in the Lord Jesus were to shine “like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:15). Our assignment hasn’t changed. Bright lights are needed everywhere! How encouraging it is to know that through the One “who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (v. 13) believers in Jesus can sparkle in ways that fit Jesus’s description of those who follow Him. To us He still says, “You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).
Her name was long but her years were even longer. Madeline Harriet Orr Jackson Williams lived to be 101 years old, outliving two husbands. Both were preachers. Madeline was my grandmother and we knew her as Momma. My siblings and I got to know her well; we lived in her home until her second husband whisked her away. Even then she was less than 50 miles away from us. Our grandmother was a hymn-singing, catechism-reciting, piano-playing, God-fearing woman and my siblings and I have been marked by her faith.
According to 2 Timothy 1:3–7, Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice had a huge impact on his life. Their living and teaching were rooted in soil of Scripture (v. 5 and 2 Timothy 3:14–16) and eventually their faith blossomed in Timothy’s heart. His biblically based upbringing was not only foundational for his relationship with God but it was also vital to his usefulness in the Lord’s service (vv. 6–7).
Today as well as in Timothy’s time, the Lord uses faithful women and men to mark future generations. Our prayers, words, actions, and service can be powerfully used by the Lord while we live and after we are gone. That’s why my siblings and I still rehearse things that were passed on to us from Momma. My prayer is that Momma’s markings will not stop with us.
The little girl who navigated the stairway one Sunday at church was cute, spunky, and independent. One by one the child—who appeared to be not much older than two years old—took the steps down to the lower level. Descending the stairs was her mission and she accomplished it. I smiled to myself as I pondered the daring independence of this courageous toddler. The child wasn’t afraid because she knew her caring mother’s watchful eye was always on her and her loving hand was extended to help her. This aptly pictures the Lord’s readiness to help His children as they make their way through life with its varied uncertainties.
Today’s Scripture includes two “hand” references. After cautioning His ancient people not to fear or be dismayed, the Lord told them, “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Many anxious and fearful children have been steadied by the strength of a parent. Here God’s power comes into view. In the second “hand” reference, once again it’s the Lord who acted to secure the safety of His own. “For I am the
A work assignment had taken my coworker and me on a 250-mile journey, and it was late when we began our trip home. An aging body with aging eyes makes me a bit uneasy about nighttime driving; nevertheless, I opted to drive first. My hands gripped the steering wheel and my eyes gazed intently at dimly lit roads. While driving I found I could see better when lights from vehicles behind me beamed on the highway before me. I was much relieved when my friend eventually took the wheel of his vehicle. That’s when he discovered that I had been driving with “fog lights” and not the headlights!
Psalm 119 is the masterful composition of one who understood that God’s Word provides us with light for everyday living (v. 105). Yet, how often do we find ourselves in situations similar to my uncomfortable night on the highway? We needlessly strain to see, and we sometimes stray from the best paths because we forget to use the light of God’s Word. Psalm 119 encourages us to be intentional about “hitting the light switch.” What happens when we do? We find wisdom for purity (vv. 9–11); we discover fresh motivation and encouragement for avoiding detours (vv. 101–102). And when we live with the lights on the psalmist’s praise is likely to become our praise: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97).
It’s not uncommon during a long (or short!) trip for someone in a group of travelers to ask, “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer?” Who hasn’t heard these universal queries coming from the lips of children and adults eager to arrive at their destination? But people of all ages are also prone to ask similar questions when wearied because of life challenges that never seem to cease.
Such was the case with David in Psalm 13. Four times in two verses, David—who felt forgotten, forsaken, and defeated—lamented “How long?” “How long,
Worship need not stop when we have questions. The sovereign God of heaven welcomes us to bring our angst-filled questions to Him. And perhaps like David, in due time our questions will be transformed into petitions and expressions of trust and praise to the Lord (vv. 3–6).
It doesn’t take much to notice that getting “inked” is very popular these days. Some tattoos are so small that one barely notices them. Others—from athletes to actors to everyday people—have opted to cover much of their bodies with multi-colored inks, words and designs. The trend seems like it’s here to stay, a trend that netted $3 billion in revenue in 2014—and an additional $66 million for tattoo removal.
Regardless of how you may feel about tattoos, Isaiah 44 speaks metaphorically about people writing something on their hands: “The L
Those who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ join can confidently say of themselves, “The Lord’s!” We are His people, His sheep, His offspring, His inheritance, His dwelling. These are the things we cling to in the varied seasons of life. While there may be no external mark or brand or tattoo, we can take heart that we have the witness of God’s Spirit in our hearts that we belong to Him (see Romans 8:16–17).
The weather outside was threatening, and the alert on my cell phone warned about the possibility of flash floods. An unusual number of cars were parked in my neighborhood as parents and others gathered to pick up children at the school bus drop-off point. By the time the bus arrived, it had started to rain. That’s when I observed a woman exit her car and retrieve an umbrella from the trunk. She walked towards a little girl and made sure the child was shielded from the rain until they returned to the vehicle. What a beautiful “real time” picture of parental, protective care that reminded me of the care of our heavenly Father.
The prophet Isaiah forecast punishment for disobedience followed by brighter days for God’s people (Isaiah 40:1–8). The heavenly dispatch from the mountain (v. 9) assured the Israelites of God’s mighty presence and tender care. The good news, then and now, is that because of God’s power and ruling authority, anxious hearts need not fear (vv. 9–10). Included in the announcement was news about the Lord’s protection, the kind of protection shepherds provide (v. 11): vulnerable young sheep would find safety in the Shepherd’s arms; nursing ewes would be led gently.
In a world where circumstances aren’t always easy, such images of safety and care compel us to look confidently to the Lord. Those who trust wholeheartedly in the Lord find security and renewed strength in Him (v. 31).
“You need to listen to me, I’m your brother!” The plea came from a concerned older brother in my neighborhood and was directed to a younger sibling who was moving farther away and faster than the older child was comfortable with. Clearly the older child was better able to judge what was best in the situation.
How many of us have resisted the wise counsel of a brother or sister? If you have had to face the consequences of resisting the good advice of someone more mature, you are not alone.
One of the greatest resources we can have as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is a family—those who are spiritually related because of a common faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. This family includes mature men and women who love the Lord and each other. Like the little brother in my neighborhood, we sometimes need a word of caution or correction to get us back on track. This is particularly true when we offend someone or someone offends us. Doing what’s right can be difficult. Yet Jesus’s words in Matthew 18:15–20 show us what to do when offenses happen within our spiritual family.
Thankfully, our gracious heavenly Father places in our lives people who are prepared to help us honor the Lord and others. And when we listen, things go better in the family (vv. 15–16).