“Thanks for dinner, Dad,” I said as I set my napkin on the restaurant table. I was home on a break from college and, after being gone for a while, it felt strange to have my parents pay for me. “You’re welcome, Julie,” my dad replied, “but you don’t have to thank me for everything all the time. I know you’ve been off on your own, but you’re still my daughter and a part of the family.” I smiled. “Thanks, Dad.”
In my family, I haven’t done anything to earn my parents’ love or what they do for me. But my dad’s comment reminds me that I haven’t done anything to deserve to be a part of God’s family either.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells his readers that God chose them “to be holy and blameless in his sight” (1:4), or to stand without blemish before God (5:25–27). But this is only possible through Jesus, in whom “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (1:7). We don’t have to earn God’s grace, forgiveness, or entrance into His family. We just have to accept His free gift.
When we turn our lives over to Jesus, we become a child of God, which means we receive eternal life and have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. Praise God for offering such a wonderful gift!
I dropped my forehead to my hand with a sigh, “I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.” My friend’s voice crackled through the phone: “You have to give yourself some credit. You’re doing a lot.” He then listed the things I was trying to do—maintain a healthy lifestyle, work, do well in graduate school, write, and attend a Bible study. I wanted to do all these things for God, but instead I was more focused on what I was doing than how I was doing it—or that perhaps I was trying to do too much.
Paul reminded the church in Colossae that they were to live their lives in a way that glorified God. Ultimately, what they specifically did on a day-to-day basis was not as important as how they did it. They were to do their work with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12), to be forgiving, and above all to love (vv. 13–14) and to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 17). Their work was not to be separated from Christlike living.
What we do does matter, but how we do it, why, and who we do it for matters more. Each day we can choose to work stressed-out or in a way that honors God and seeks out the meaning Christ adds to our work. When we pursue the latter, we find satisfaction.
“Emotionally, we’ve sometimes worked a full day in one hour,” Zack Eswine writes in his book The Imperfect Pastor. Although he was referring specifically to the burdens pastors frequently carry, this is true for any of us. Weighty emotions and responsibilities can leave us physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. And all we want to do is sleep.
In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah found himself in a situation where he was depleted in every way. We read that Queen Jezebel threatened to put him to death (vv. 1–2) after she discovered he had the prophets of Baal killed (see 1 Kings 18:16–40). Elijah was so afraid he ran away and prayed he would die (19:3–4).
In his distress, he lay down. An angel touched him twice and told him to “get up and eat” (vv. 5, 7). After the second time, Elijah was strengthened by the food God provided, and he “traveled forty days and forty nights” until he came to a cave (vv. 8–9). There, the Lord appeared to him and recommissioned him (see vv. 9–18)—and he was spiritually refreshed.
Sometimes we too need to be refreshed in the Lord. This may come in the form of a conversation with another believer, a worship song, or time in prayer and God’s Word.
Feeling exhausted? Give your burdens to the Lord today and be refreshed!
“It’s amazing to look at a tree and see the individual leaves instead of just a blur of green!” my dad said. I couldn’t have said it better. I was eighteen at the time and not a fan of my new need to wear glasses, but they changed the way I saw everything, making the blurry beautiful!
When reading Scripture, I view certain books like I do when I look at trees without my glasses. There doesn’t seem to be much to see. But noticing details can reveal the beauty in a boring passage.
This happened to me when I was reading Exodus. God’s directions for building the tabernacle—His temporary dwelling place among the Israelites—can seem like a blur of boring details. But I paused at the end of chapter 25 where God gave directions for the lampstand. It was to be hammered out “of pure gold,” including its base and shaft and its flowerlike cups, buds, and blossoms (v. 31). The cups were to be “shaped like almond flowers” (vv. 33–36).
Almond trees are breathtaking. And God chose to incorporate that same natural beauty into His tabernacle!
According to Paul in the book of Romans, “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” are seen and understood in creation (1:20). Sometimes we have to look at creation, and uninteresting passages in the Bible, differently, through a new lens, to see God’s beauty.
My anxiety increased throughout the summer between my undergraduate and graduate programs. I love to have everything planned out, and the idea of going out of state and entering graduate school without a job made me uncomfortable. However, a few days before I left my summer job, I was asked to continue working for the company remotely. I accepted and had peace that God was taking care of me.
God provided, but it was in His timing, not mine. Abraham went through a far more difficult situation with his son Isaac. He was asked to take his son and sacrifice him in the mountains (Genesis 22:1–2). Without hesitation, Abraham obeyed and took Isaac to the mountains. This three-day journey gave Abraham plenty of time to change his mind, but he didn’t (vv. 3–4).
When Isaac questioned his father, Abraham replied, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering” (v. 8). I wonder if Abraham’s anxiety grew with each knot he tied as he bound Isaac to the altar and with every inch he raised his knife (vv. 9–10). What a relief it must have been when the angel stopped him! (vv. 10–12). God did indeed provide a sacrifice, a ram, caught in the thicket (v. 13). God tested Abraham’s faith, and he proved to be faithful. And at the right time, to the very second, God provided (v. 14).
My friend’s father received the dreaded diagnosis: cancer. Yet, during the chemo treatment process, he became a follower of Jesus and eventually went into remission. He was cancer free for a wonderful eighteen months, but it returned—worse than before. He and his wife faced the reality of the returned cancer with concern and questions but also with a faithful trust in God because of how He saw them through the first time.
We won’t always understand why we’re going through trials. This was certainly the case for Job, who faced horrendous and unexplainable suffering and loss. Yet despite his many questions, in Job 12 he declares that God is mighty: “What he tears down cannot be rebuilt” (v. 14) and “to him belong strength and victory” (v. 16). “He makes nations great, and destroys them” (v. 23). Throughout this extensive list, Job doesn’t mention God’s motives or why He allows pain and suffering. Job doesn’t have the answers. But still despite everything, he confidently says, “to God belong wisdom and power, counsel and understanding” (v. 13).
We may not understand why God allows certain struggles in our lives, but like my friend’s parents, we can put our trust in Him. The Lord loves us and has us in His hands (v. 10; 1 Peter 5:7). Wisdom, power, and understanding are His!
A friend and I went for a walk with her grandkids. While pushing the stroller, she commented that her steps were being wasted—they weren’t being counted on the activity tracker she wore on her wrist because she wasn’t swinging her arm. I reminded her that those steps were still helping her physical health. “Yeah,” she laughed. “But I really want that electronic gold star!”
I understand how she feels! Working toward something without immediate results is disheartening. But rewards aren’t always immediate or immediately visible.
When that’s the case, it’s easy to feel that the good things we do are useless, even helping a friend or being kind to a stranger. However, Paul explained to the church in Galatia that “a man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). But we must “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest” (v. 9). Doing good isn’t the way to gain salvation, and the text doesn’t specify whether what we reap will be now or in heaven, but we can be assured that there will be a harvest of blessing (6:9
Doing good is difficult, especially when we don’t see or know what the “harvest” will be. But as with my friend who still gained the physical benefit from walking, it’s worth continuing to do good because the blessing is coming!
“What’s a diatom?” I asked my friend. I was leaning over her shoulder looking at pictures on her cell phone she had taken through a microscope. “Oh, it’s like algae, but it’s harder to see. Sometimes you need a drop of oil on the lens or they have to be dead to see them,” she explained. I sat amazed as she scrolled through the pictures. I couldn’t stop thinking about the intricate detail God put into life that we can only see with a microscope!
God’s creation and works are endless. In the book of Job, one of Job’s friends, Elihu, points this out to Job as he struggles through his loss. Elihu challenges his friend, “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:14–16). We, as humans, can’t begin to understand the complexity of God and His creation.
Even the parts of creation we can’t see reflect God’s glory and power. His glory surrounds us. No matter what we’re going through, God is working, even when we can’t see it and don’t understand. Let’s praise Him today, for “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (Job 5:9).
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Sometimes life gets busy—classes are hard, work is exhausting, the bathroom needs to be cleaned, and a coffee date is on the day’s schedule. It gets to the point where I force myself to read the Bible for a few minutes a day and tell myself I’ll spend more time with God next week. But it doesn’t take long before I’m distracted, drowning in the day’s tasks, and forget to ask God for help of any kind.
When Peter was walking on water toward Jesus, he quickly became distracted by the wind and waves. Like me, he began to sink (Matthew 14:29–30). But as soon as Peter cried out, Jesus “immediately reached out his hand and caught him” (vv. 30–31).
I often feel as if I have to make it up to God after being so busy and distracted that I lose sight of Him. But that’s not how God works. As soon as we turn to Him for help, Jesus reaches out without hesitation (vv. 30–31).
When we’re distracted by the chaos of life, it’s easy to forget that God is standing in the middle of the storm with us. Jesus asked Peter, “Why did you doubt?” (v. 31). No matter what we’re going through, He is there. He is here. Next to us at that moment, in this moment, ready to reach out and rescue us.