A Compassionate Father
After eight-year-old Gabriel underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his brain, it left a noticeable scar on the side of his head. When the boy said he felt like a monster, his dad, Josh, had an idea: demonstrate how much he loved his son by getting a tattoo on the side of his head with the same shape as Gabriel’s scar.
According to the psalmist, this is the kind of empathic and compassionate love God has for “his children” (Psalms 103:13). Using a metaphor drawn from human life, David illustrated God’s love. He said it’s as tender as a good father’s care for his children (v. 17). Just as a human father shows compassion to his children, so God, our heavenly Father, shows love and care toward those who fear Him. He's a compassionate father, who empathizes with His people.
When we’re weak and feel like we’re unlovable because of the scars of life, may we receive, by faith, our heavenly Father’s love toward us. He demonstrated His compassion by sending his Son to lay “down his life for us” (1 John 3:16)—for our salvation. With this one act, not only can we experience God’s love for us, but we can look to the cross and see it. Aren’t you glad that we have a High Priest who can “empathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15)? He has the scars to prove it.
Kyle and Allison had a wonderful honeymoon in an exotic location. When they returned home, however, they discovered that Kyle’s feet had developed a strange, itchy rash. The couple was referred to an infectious disease specialist. He informed them that small parasites had burrowed their way into Kyle’s feet through blisters caused by his new flip flops. What started out as a dream vacation ended in a challenging battle with unwanted “guests.”
David knew that if he didn’t ask God for help to fight sin, his dream of living a pleasing life before Him would turn into a battle with the unwanted guests of sin and rebellion. After declaring how God is revealed in the natural world (Psalm 19:1–6) and His wisdom found in His instruction (vv. 7–10), David asked God to protect him from inadvertent, arrogant, and deliberate disobedience. “Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins,” he wrote (vv. 12–13). He recognized that he didn’t have the human resources to keep the infectious disease of sin from affecting him. So, he wisely asked God for help.
How can we make sure our dream of a living in a way that honors God doesn’t become hijacked by sin? Let’s keep our eyes on Him, confess and repent of our sin, and seek divine help in keeping unwanted spiritual parasites from burrowing into our lives.
You Can Do It!
Encouragement is like oxygen—we can’t live without it. This was true for nine-year-old James Savage. The boy swam more than two miles from the San Francisco shoreline to Alcatraz Island and back, breaking the record for the youngest person to accomplish the feat. But thirty minutes into the swim, the choppy, frigid waters made James want to quit. However, a fleet of paddlers called out, “You can do it!” The words gave him the boost he needed to finish his goal.
When the choppy, frigid waters of tribulation made believers in Jesus want to give up, Paul and Barnabas encouraged them to continue their journey. After the apostles preached the gospel in the city of Derbe, they “returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:21–22). They helped the believers to remain firm in their faith in Jesus. Troubles had weakened them, but words of encouragement strengthened their resolve to live for Christ. In God’s strength, they realized they could keep pressing on. Finally, Paul and Barnabas helped them understand that they would “go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 22).
Living for Jesus can be a challenging, difficult “swim.” We’re sometimes tempted to give up. Fortunately, Jesus and fellow believers in Him can provide the encouragement we need to press on. With Him, we can do it!
God Fights for Us
A Colorado mother proved she would stop at nothing to protect her child. Her five-year-old son was playing outside when she heard him screaming. She rushed outside and, to her horror, saw that her son had an unexpected “playmate”—a mountain lion. The large cat was on top of her son, with his head in its mouth. The mother summoned her inner mamma grizzly to fight off the lion and pry open its jaws to rescue her son. This mother’s heroic actions remind us of how motherhood is used in Scripture to illustrate God’s tenacious love and protection for His children.
God tenderly cared for and comforted His people as a mother eagle cares for her young (Deuteronomy 32:10–11; Isaiah 66:13). Also, like a mother who could never forget a nursing child with whom she had built an inseparable bond, God would never forget His people nor forever withhold compassion from them (Isaiah 54:7–8). Finally, like a mother bird offering protective cover under her wings for baby birds, God would “cover [His people] with his feathers” and “his faithfulness [would] be [their] shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).
Sometimes we feel alone, forgotten, and trapped in the grip of all kinds of spiritual predators. May God help us remember that He compassionately cares, comforts, remembers, and will fight for us.
Why is it that when we say: “This is the last potato chip I’m going to eat,” five minutes later we we’re looking for more? Michael Moss answers that question in his book, “Salt Sugar Fat.” He describes how America’s largest snack producers knows how to “help” people crave junk food. In fact, one popular company spent $30 million a year and hired “crave consultants” to determine the bliss point for consumers so it could exploit our food cravings.
Unlike that company, Jesus helps us to long for real food—spiritual food—that brings satisfaction to our souls. He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). By making this claim, He communicated two important things: First, the bread of which He spoke is a Person, not a commodity (v. 32). Second, when people put their trust in Jesus for forgiveness of sin, they enter into a right relationship with Him and find fulfillment for every craving of their soul. This Bread is everlasting, spiritual food that leads to satisfaction and life.
When we place our trust in Jesus, the true bread from heaven, we’ll crave Him, and He will strengthen and transform our lives.
Age Is Just a Number
Youthfulness shouldn’t stop anyone from achievement. It certainly didn’t stop eleven-year-old Mikaila. Instead of putting up a lemonade stand, Mikaila opened a lemonade business. Me & the Bees Lemonade started with her grandmother’s recipe and eventually earned a $60,000 investment from investors on the television show Shark Tank. She also signed a contract with a major grocer to sell her lemonade at fifty-five of the chain’s stores.
Mikaila’s drive and dreams point us back to Paul’s words to Timothy: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Timothy, though not a child like Mikaila, was likely considerably younger than most in his congregation. And he had concerns about people treating him with contempt. Also, even after interning with the apostle Paul, some thought that Timothy wasn’t mature enough to lead them. Instead of proving himself by showing his credentials, Paul encouraged Timothy to demonstrate his spiritual maturity by the way he used his words, lived his life, loved his parishioners, exercised his faith, and remained sexually pure (v. 12). No one could discredit him as a teacher and pastor if he backed it up with a godly example.
Regardless of our age, we can impact the world. We do it by setting a godly example for others as God provides what we need. May He shape our lives with the gospel, so whether we’re seventeen or seventy, we’ll be worthy to teach and share it with others.
God Cleans the Stains
What if our clothes were more functional, having the ability to clean themselves after we dropped ketchup or mustard or spilled a drink on them? Well, according to the BBC, engineers in China have developed a special “coating which causes cotton to clean itself of stains and odors when exposed to ultraviolet lights.” Can you imagine the implications of having self-cleaning clothes?
A self-cleaning coating might work for stained clothing, but only God can clean a stained soul. In ancient Judah, God was angry with His people because they had “turned their backs on” Him, given themselves to corruption and evil, and were worshiping false gods (Isaiah 1:2–4). But to make matters worse, they tried to clean themselves by offering sacrifices, burning incense, saying many prayers, and gathering together in solemn assemblies. Yet their hypocritical and sinful hearts remained (vv. 12–13). The remedy was for them to come to their senses and with a repentant heart to bring the stains on their souls to a holy and loving God. His grace would cleanse them and make them spiritually “white as snow” (v. 18).
When we sin, there’s no self-cleaning solution. With a humble and repentant heart, we must acknowledge our sins and place them under the cleansing light of God’s holiness. We must turn from them and return to Him. And He, the only One who cleans the stains of the soul, will offer us complete forgiveness and renewed fellowship.
Willing to Wait
Waiting can be a culprit in stealing our peace. According to computer scientist Ramesh Sitaraman, few things “inspire universal frustration and ire” in internet users as waiting for a sluggish web browser to load. His research says that we’re willing to wait an average of two seconds for an online video to load. After five seconds, the abandonment rate is about twenty-five percent, and after ten seconds, half of the users desert their efforts. We’re certainly an impatient bunch!
James encouraged believers in Jesus to not abandon Jesus while they were waiting for “the video” of his second coming to load. Christ’s return would motivate them to stand firm in the face of suffering and to love and honor one another (James 5:7–10). James used the example of the farmer to make his point. Like the farmer, who waited patiently for “autumn and spring rains” (v. 7) and for the land to yield its valuable crop, James encouraged believers to be patient under oppression until Jesus returned. And when He returned, He would right every wrong and bring shalom.
Sometimes, we are tempted to forsake Jesus while we wait for Him. But as we wait, let’s “keep watch” (Matthew 24:41–42), remain faithful (Matthew 25:14–30), and live out His character and ways (Colossians 3:12). Though we don’t know when the full video of Jesus’ return will load, let’s be willing to wait for Him as long as it takes.
Not for Our Comfort
Dan was riding his motorcycle when a car swerved into his lane and pushed him into oncoming traffic. When he woke up two weeks later in the trauma center, he was “a mess.” Worst of all, he suffered a spinal cord injury that left him a paraplegic. Dan prayed for healing, but it never came. Instead, he believes God has compassionately taught him that “the purpose of this life is that we become conformed to the image of Christ. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen when everything is unicorns and rainbows. It . . . happens when life is tough. When we’re forced to rely upon God through prayer just to make it through the day.”
The apostle Paul explained two benefits of right standing with God: persevering and rejoicing in suffering (Romans 5:3–4). These two benefits weren’t a call to endure sufferings with stoic fortitude or to find pleasure in pain. It was an invitation to unshakeable confidence in God. Suffering plus Christ cultivates “perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (vv. 3–4). This all flows from a faith that the Father wouldn’t abandon them but walk with them through the fire and into the future.
God meets us in our suffering and helps us grow in Him. Rather than viewing afflictions as His disfavor, may we look for ways that He’s using them to sharpen and build our character and to experience His love “poured out into our hearts” (v. 5).