Haralan Popov had no idea what turn his life would take when the doorbell rang early one morning in 1948. Just a year earlier Bulgarian Christians started being persecuted. Without any warning, the police took Harlan away to prison. He spent the next thirteen years behind bars, praying for strength and courage. Despite the horrible treatment he received, he knew that God was with Him, and he shared the good news of Jesus with fellow prisoners—and many believed.
In the account from Genesis 27, Joseph had no idea what would happen to him after he was mercilessly sold by his angry brothers to merchants who took him to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, an Egyptian official. He found himself in a culture surrounded by people who believed in thousands of gods. To make things worse, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph. When Joseph refused repeatedly, she falsely accused him, leading to his being sent to prison (39:16–20). Yet Joseph’s God did not abandon him. Not only was He with Joseph, but He also “gave him success in everything he did” and even “showed him kindness and granted him favor” with those in authority (39:3, 21).
Imagine the fear Joseph must have felt. But he remained faithful and kept his integrity. God was with Joseph in his difficult journey and had a master plan for him. He has a plan in mind for you too. Take heart and walk in faith, trusting He sees and He knows.
“Oh, it’s only a gypsy boy,” someone whispered with disgust when Rodney Smith walked to the front of the chapel to receive Christ during a service in 1877. Nobody thought much of this teenager, the son of uneducated gypsy parents. Yet, Rodney didn’t listen to those voices. He was certain that God had a purpose for his life so he bought himself a Bible and an English dictionary and taught himself how to read and write. He once said, “The way to Jesus is not by Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, or the poets. It is . . . an old-fashioned hill called Calvary.” Against all odds, Rodney became an evangelist who God used to bring many to Jesus in the UK and US.
Peter too was just a simple man—untrained in the religious rabbinic schools (Acts 4:13), a fisherman from Galilee—when Jesus called him with two simple words: “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). Yet the same Peter, despite his upbringing and the failures he experienced along the way, later affirmed that those who follow Jesus are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
Through Jesus Christ all people—whatever their education, upbringing, gender, or ethnicity, can be a part of the family of God and be used by Him. Becoming God’s “special possession” is for all who believe in Jesus.
Who do you think of when you hear the word mentor? For me, it is Pastor Rich. He saw potential in me and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. He challenged me to expect great things from God as I obey Him. He modeled for me how to lead by serving in humility and love. As a result of his mentoring, I am now serving God by mentoring others.
The prophet Elijah played a critical role in Elisha’s growth as a leader. Elijah found him plowing a field and invited him to be his protégé after God had told him to anoint him as his successor as prophet (1 Kings 19:16, 19). The young mentee watched his mentor perform incredible miracles and obey God no matter what. God used Elijah to prepare Elisha for a lifetime of ministry. Toward the end of Elijah’s life, Elisha had the opportunity to leave. Instead, he chose to renew his commitment to his mentor. Three times Elijah offered to release Elisha from his duties, yet each time he refused, saying, “As surely as the
We all need someone who models for us what it means to follow Jesus. May God give us godly men and women who would help us grow spiritually. And may we, by the power of His Spirit, invest our lives in others as well.
“What’s your name?” asked Arman, an Iranian student. After telling him my name is Estera, he lit up and exclaimed, “We have a similar name in Farsi, it’s Setare!” That small connection opened up an amazing conversation. I told him I was named after a Bible character, “Esther,” a Jewish queen in Persia (present-day Iran). Starting with her story, I shared with him the good news of Jesus. As a result of our conversation, Arman started attending a weekly Bible study to learn more about Jesus.
One of Jesus’s disciples, Philip, guided by the Holy Spirit, asked a question that opened up a conversation with an Ethiopian official traveling in his chariot: “Do you understand what you are reading?” inquired Philip (Acts 8:30). The Ethiopian man was reading a passage from the book of Isaiah and seeking spiritual insight. So Philip’s question came at the right time. He invited Philip to sit next to him and in humility listened. Philip, realizing what an amazing opportunity this was, “began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (v. 35).
Like Philip, we too have good news to tell. Let’s seize the daily occasions we encounter in our workplace, at the grocery store, or in our neighborhood. May we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our steps and to give us the words to share our hope and joy in Jesus.
Keith Wasserman has chosen to be homeless for a few days every year since 1989 in order to grow in love and compassion. “I go to live on the streets to expand my perspective and understanding” of people who have no homes to live in, says Keith, executive editor of Good Works.
I’m wondering whether Keith’s approach to become one with those he’s serving might be a small picture of what Jesus did for us. God Himself, the Creator of the universe, chose to confine Himself to the vulnerable state of a baby, to live as a human, to experience what we all experience, and to ultimately die at the hand of humans in order for humans to have a relationship with God.
The writer of the book of Hebrews stated that Jesus “shared in [our] humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil” (2:14). Jesus was made lower than the angels, even though He is their Creator (v. 9). He became human and died, even though He is immortal. And He suffered for us, even though He is the all-powerful God. Why would He do this? So that He could help us when we go through temptations and bring reconciliation between humans and God (vv. 17–18).
May we experience His love today, knowing He understands our humanity and has already provided the way for us to be cleansed from our sins.
“Estera, you got a present from our friend Helen!” my mom told me when she got home from work. Growing up we didn’t have much, so receiving a present in the mail was like a second Christmas. I felt loved, remembered, and valued by God through this wonderful woman.
The poor widows Tabitha (Dorcas) made clothes for must have felt the same way. She was a disciple of Jesus living in Joppa who was well known in the community for her acts of kindness. She was “always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). Then she got sick and passed away. At the time Peter was visiting a nearby city, so two believers went after him and begged him to come to Joppa.
When Peter arrived, the widows Tabitha had helped showed him the evidence of her kindness—“the robes and other clothing that [she] had made” (v. 39). We don’t know if they asked him to intervene, but led by the Holy Spirit Peter prayed and God brought her back to life! The result of God’s kindness was that “this became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (v. 42).
As we are kind to those around us, may they think of God and feel valued by Him.
William Carey was a sickly boy, born to a humble family nearby Northampton, England. His future did not look too bright. But God had plans for him. Against all odds, he moved to India, where he brought incredible social reforms and translated the Bible in several Indian languages. He loved God and people, and accomplished many things for God.
David, son of Jesse, was an ordinary young man, the youngest in his family. He was seemingly an insignificant shepherd on the hills of Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:11–12). Yet God saw David’s heart and had a plan for him. King Saul had been rejected by God for disobedience. While the prophet Samuel mourned Saul’s choices, God called Samuel to anoint a different king, one of Jesse’s sons.
When Samuel saw the handsome, tall Eliab, he naturally thought, “surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord” (v. 6). However, God’s strategy to select a king was much different than Samuel’s. In fact, God said no to each of Jesse’s sons, except the youngest one. Selecting David as king was definitely not a strategic move from God’s part, or so it seemed at first glance. What would a young shepherd have to offer his community, let alone his country?
How comforting to know that the Lord knows our hearts and has His plans for us.