Each summer when I was a child, I would travel two hundred miles to enjoy a week with my grandparents. I wasn’t aware until later how much wisdom I soaked up from those two people I loved. Their life experiences and walk with God had given them perspectives that my young mind couldn’t yet imagine. Conversations with them about the faithfulness of God assured me that God is trustworthy and fulfills every promise He makes.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a teenager when an angel visited her. The incredible news brought by Gabriel must have been overwhelming, yet she willingly accepted the task with grace (Luke 1:38). But perhaps her visit with her elderly relative Elizabeth—who was also in the midst of a miraculous pregnancy (some scholars believe she may have been sixty years old)—brought her comfort as Elizabeth enthusiastically confirmed Gabriel’s words that she was the mother of the promised Messiah (vv. 39–45).
As we grow and mature in Christ, as my grandparents did, we learn that He keeps his promises. He kept His promise of a child for Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah (vv. 57–58). And that son, John the Baptist, became the harbinger of a promise made hundreds of years before—one that would change the course of humanity’s future. The promised Messiah—the Savior of the world—was coming! (Matthew 1:21–23).
If you like peace and quiet, there’s a room in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that you’ll love. It absorbs 99.99 percent of all sound! The world-famous anechoic (echo-free) chamber of the Orfield Laboratories has been called the “quietest place on earth.” People who want to experience this soundless space are required to sit down to avoid getting disoriented by the lack of noise, and no one has ever been able to spend more than forty-five minutes in the room.
Few of us need that much silence. Yet we do sometimes long for a little quiet in a loud and busy world. Even the news we watch and the social media we ingest bring a kind of clamorous “noise” that competes for our attention. So much of it is infused with words and images that stir up negative emotions. Immersing ourselves in it can easily drown out the voice of God.
When the prophet Elijah went to meet God on the mountain of Horeb, he didn’t find Him in the loud, destructive wind or in the earthquake or in the fire (1 Kings 19:11–12). It wasn’t until Elijah heard a “gentle whisper” that he covered his face and ventured out of the cave to meet with “the
Your spirit may well be craving quiet but—even more so—it may be yearning to hear the voice of God. Find room for silence in your life so you’ll never miss God’s “gentle whisper” (v. 12).
When Jeff was fourteen, his mom took him to see a famous singer. Like many musicians of his era, B. J. Thomas had gotten caught up in a self-destructive lifestyle while on music tours. But that was before he and his wife were introduced to Jesus. Their lives were radically changed when they became believers in Christ.
On the night of the concert, the singer began to entertain the enthusiastic crowd. But after performing a few of his well-known songs, one guy yelled out from the audience, “Hey, sing one for Jesus!” Without any hesitation, B. J. responded, “I just sang four songs for Jesus.”
It’s been a few decades since then, but Jeff still remembers that moment when he realized that everything we do should be for Jesus—even things that some might consider to be “non-religious.”
We’re sometimes tempted to divvy up the things we do in life. Read the Bible. Share our story of coming to faith. Sing a hymn. Sacred stuff. Mow the lawn. Go for a run. Sing a country song. Secular stuff.
Colossians 3:16 reminds us that the message of Christ indwells us in activities like teaching, singing, and being thankful, but verse 17 goes even further. It emphasizes that as God’s children, “whatever [we] do, whether in word or deed, [we] do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
We do it all for Him.
When I was a kid, a decommissioned World War II tank was put on display in a park near my home. Multiple signs warned of the danger of climbing on the vehicle, but a couple of my friends immediately scrambled up. Some of us were a bit reluctant, but eventually we did the same. One boy refused, pointing to the posted signs. Another jumped down quickly as an adult approached. The temptation to have fun outweighed our desire to follow rules.
There’s a heart of childish rebellion lurking within all of us. We don’t like being told what to do or not to do. Yet we read in James that when we know what is right and don’t do it—it is sin (4:17). In Romans, the apostle Paul wrote: “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it’s no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (7:19–20).
As believers in Jesus, we may puzzle over our struggle with sin. But too often we depend solely on our own strength to do what is right. One day, when this life is over, we’ll be truly dead to sinful impulses. Until then, however, we can rely on the power of the One who’s death and resurrection won the victory over sin.
What sins are the biggest struggle for you? How can you rely more on God’s power to overcome their stronghold?
In the last few days of my dad’s life, one of the nurses dropped by his room and asked me if she could give him a shave. As Rachel gently pulled the razor across his face, she explained, “Older men of his generation like to have a neat shave every day.” Rachel had seen a need and acted on her instinct to show kindness, dignity, and respect to someone. The tender care she provided reminded me of my friend Julie who still paints her elderly mother’s nails because it’s important to her mom that she “look pretty.”
Acts 9 tells us about a disciple named Dorcas (also known as Tabitha) who showed kindness by providing handmade clothing for the poor (v. 39). When she died, her room was filled with friends who tearfully mourned this kind woman who loved helping others.
But Dorcas’ story didn’t end there. When Peter was brought to where her body lay, he knelt and prayed. In God’s power, he called her by name, saying, “Tabitha, get up” (v. 40). Amazingly, Dorcas opened her eyes and rose to her feet. When her friends realized she was alive, word spread quickly through the town and “many people believed in the Lord” (v. 42).
And how did Dorcas spend the next day of her life? Probably exactly as she had before—seeing the needs of people and filling them.
I was very young when I peered through a hospital nursery window and saw a newborn for the first time. In my ignorance, I was dismayed to see a tiny, wrinkly child with a hairless, cone-shaped head. The baby’s mother standing near us, however, couldn’t stop asking everyone, “Isn’t he gorgeous?” I was reminded of that moment when I saw a video of a young dad tenderly singing the song, “You Are So Beautiful” to his baby girl. To her enraptured daddy—the little girl was the most beautiful thing ever created.
Is that how God looks at us? Ephesians 2:10 says that we’re His “handiwork”—His masterpiece. Aware of our own failings, it may be hard for us to accept how much He loves us or to believe that we could ever be of value to Him. But God doesn’t love us because we deserve love (vv. 3-4); He loves us because He is love (1 John 4:8). His love is one of grace and He showed the depth of it when, through Jesus’ sacrifice, He made us alive in Him when we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:5, 8).
God’s love isn’t fickle—it’s constant. He loves the imperfect, the broken, those who are weak and those who mess up. When we fall, He’s there to lift us up. We’re His treasure, and we’re so beautiful to Him.
When I saw the massive volume of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace on my friend’s bookshelf, I confessed, “I’ve never actually made it all the way through that.” “Well,” Marty chuckled, “When I retired from teaching, I got it as a gift from a friend who told me, ‘Now you’ll finally have time to read it.’ ”
The first eight verses of Ecclesiastes 3 state a familiar, natural rhythm of the activities of life with some arbitrary choices. No matter what stage of life we find ourselves in, it’s often difficult to find time to do everything we want to do. And to make wise decisions about managing our time, it’s helpful to have a plan (Psalm 90:12).
Time spent with God each day is a priority for our spiritual health. Doing productive work is satisfying to our spirit (Ecclesiastes 3:13). Serving God and helping other people is essential to fulfilling God’s purpose for us (Ephesians 2:10). And times of rest or leisure are not wasted, but refreshing for body and spirit.
Of course, it’s easy to become too focused on the here and now—finding time for the things that matter most to us. But Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has “set eternity” in our hearts—reminding us to make a priority of things that are eternal. That can bring us face to face with something of the greatest importance—God’s eternal perspective “from beginning to end.”
Oliver Cromwell, known as the “Protector of England,” was a military commander in the seventeenth century. It was common practice during those days for people of importance to have their portraits painted. And it wasn’t unusual for an artist to avoid depicting the less attractive aspects of a person’s face. Cromwell, however, wanted nothing to do with a likeness that would flatter him. He cautioned the artist, “You must paint me just as I am—warts and all—or I won’t pay you.”
Apparently, the artist complied. The finished portrait of Cromwell displays a couple of prominent facial warts that in the present day would surely be filtered or airbrushed before being posted on social media.
The expression “warts and all” has come to mean that people should be accepted just as they are—with all their annoying faults, attitudes, and issues. In some cases, we feel that’s too difficult a task. Yet, when we take a hard inward look, we might find some pretty unattractive aspects of our own character.
We’re grateful that God forgives our “warts.” And in Colossians 3, we’re taught to extend grace to others. The apostle Paul encourages us to be more patient, kind, and compassionate—even to those who aren’t easy to love. He urges us to have a forgiving spirit because of the way God forgives us (vv. 12–13). By His example, we’re taught to love others the way God loves us—warts and all.
When my friend Floss lies awake at night, she thinks about the lyrics of the hymn “My Jesus I Love Thee.” She calls it her “middle-of-the-night” song because it helps her to remember God’s promises and the many reasons that she loves Him.
Sleep is a necessary—but sometimes elusive—part of life. At times we may sense the voice of the Holy Spirit bringing unconfessed sin to our mind. Or we begin worrying about our job, our relationships, our finances, our health, or our children. Soon a full-scale dystopian future starts running on a loop in our brain. We assume we nodded off for a bit, but when we look at the clock, we realize it’s been only moments since we last checked.
In Proverbs 3:19–24, King Solomon suggested that we can receive sleep benefits when we embrace God’s wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. In fact, he claimed, “They will be life for you . . . . When you lie down, you will not be afraid [and] your sleep will be sweet” (vv. 22, 24).
Maybe we all need a “middle-of-the-night” song, a prayer, or Bible verse to softly whisper to help us shift our jumbled-up thoughts to a mind fully focused on God and His character. A clear conscience and a heart full of gratitude for God’s faithfulness and love can bring us sleep that’s sweet.