Recognizing God’s Voice
After years of research and analysis, scientists have learned that wolves have distinct voices that help them establish hierarchy and communicate with each other. Using a specific sound analysis code, one scientist realized the use of various volumes and pitches in a wolf’s howl enabled her to identify specific wolves with one-hundred percent accuracy.
The Bible provides many examples of God recognizing the distinct voices of His beloved creations. He called Moses by name and spoke to him directly (Exodus 3:4–6). The psalmist David proclaimed, “I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain” (Psalm 3:4). However, the apostle Paul also emphasizes the value of God’s people recognizing God’s voice.
When bidding farewell to the Ephesian elders, Paul said the Spirit had “compelled” him to head to Jerusalem. He confirmed his commitment to follow God’s voice, though he didn’t know what to expect upon his arrival (Acts 20:22). The apostle warned that “savage wolves” would “arise and distort the truth,” even from within the church (vv. 29–30). Then, he encouraged the elders to remain diligent in discerning God’s truth (v. 31).
All believers in Jesus have the privilege of knowing God hears and answers us. We also have the power of the Holy Spirit who helps us recognize God’s voice, which is always in alignment with the words He’s preserved in the Bible.
Weeding Out Sins
When I noticed a sprig budding next to the garden hose by our porch, I ignored the seemingly harmless eyesore. How could a little weed possibly hurt our lawn? But as the weeks passed, that nuisance grew to be the size of a small bush and began taking over our yard. Its stray stalks arched over a portion of our walkway and sprouted up in other areas. Admitting its destructive existence, I asked my husband to help me dig out the wild bushweed by the roots then protect our yard with weed killer.
When we ignore or deny its presence, sin can invade our lives like unwanted overgrowth and darken our personal space. Our sinless God has no darkness in Him . . . at all. As His children, we’re equipped and charged to face sins head-on so we can “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (vv. 5–7). Through confession and repentance, we experience forgiveness and freedom from sin (vv. 8–10) because we have a great Intercessor—Jesus (1 John 2:1). He willingly paid the ultimate price for our sins‒His lifeblood‒ and “not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (v. 2).
When our sin is brought to our attention by God, we can choose denial, avoidance, or deflection of responsibility. But when we confess and repent, He weeds out sins that harm our relationships with Him and others.
During a writing conference where I served as a faculty member, Tamy handed me a postcard with a handwritten prayer on the back. She explained that she read the faculty biographies, wrote specific prayers on each card, and prayed as she delivered them to us. In awe over the details in her personal message to me, I thanked God for encouraging me through Tamy’s gesture. Then I prayed for her in return. When I struggled with pain and fatigue during the conference, I pulled out the postcard. The Lord refreshed my spirit as I reread Tamy’s note.
The apostle Paul recognized the life-affirming impact of prayer for others. He urged believers to prepare for battle “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). He encouraged ongoing and specific prayers, while emphasizing the need to intervene for one another in what we call intercessory prayer. Paul also requested bold prayers on his behalf. “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly made known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains” (vv. 19–20).
As we pray for one another, the Holy Spirit comforts us and strengthens our resolve. He affirms that we need Him and one another, assuring us that He hears every prayer—silent, spoken, or scribbled on a prayer card—and He answers according to His perfect will.
I Can Only Imagine
I settled into the church pew behind a woman wearing a colorful scarf as the music team began playing “I Can Only Imagine.” Raising my hands, I praised God as the woman’s sweet soprano voice harmonized with mine. After service, we introduced ourselves. Louise told me about her health struggles, and we decided to read Scripture and pray together during her cancer treatment appointments.
A few months later, Louise told me she feared dying. Leaning onto her hospital bed, I rested my head next to hers, whispered a prayer, and quietly sang our song. I can only imagine what it was like for Louise when she worshiped Jesus face to face just a few days later.
The apostle Paul offered comforting assurance for his readers who were facing death (2 Corinthians 5:1). The suffering experienced on this side of eternity may cause groaning, but our hope remains anchored to our heavenly dwelling—our eternal existence with Jesus (vv. 2–4). Though God designed us to yearn for everlasting life with Him (vv. 5–6), His promises are meant to impact the way we live for Him now (vv. 7–10).
As we live to please Jesus while waiting for Him to return or call us home, we can rejoice in the peace of His constant presence. What will we experience that moment we leave our earthly bodies and join Jesus in eternity? We can only imagine!
More than Conquerors
When my husband coached our son’s Little League baseball team, he rewarded the players with an end-of-year party and acknowledged their improvement over the season. One of our youngest players, Dustin, approached me during the event. “Didn’t we lose the game today?”
“Yes,” I said. “But we’re proud of you for doing your best.”
“I know,” he said. “But we lost. Right?”
“Then why do I feel like a winner?” Dustin asked.
Smiling, I said, “Because you are a winner.”
Dustin had thought that losing a game meant he was a failure even when he’d done his best. As believers in Jesus, our battle is not confined to a sports field. Still, it’s often tempting to view a tough season of life as a reflection of our worth.
The apostle Paul affirms the connection between our present suffering and our future glory as God’s children. Having given Himself for us, Jesus continues to work on our behalf during our ongoing battle with sin and transforms us to His likeness (Romans 8:31–32). Though we’ll all experience hardship and persecution, the Lord’s unwavering love helps us persevere (vv. 33–34).
As God’s children, we may be tempted to allow struggles to define our worth. However, our ultimate victory is guaranteed. We may stumble along the way, but we will always be more than conquerors in Christ (vv. 35–39).
Volunteers at a farm animal rescue organization in Australia found a wandering sheep weighed down by more than seventy-five pounds of filthy, matted wool. Rescuers suspected the sheep had been forgotten and lost in the bush for at least five years. Volunteers soothed him through the uncomfortable process of shearing away his heavy fleece. Once freed from his burden, Baarack ate. His legs grew stronger. He became more confident and content as he spent time with his rescuers and the other animals at the sanctuary.
The psalmist David understood the pain of being weighed down with heavy burdens, feeling forgotten and lost, and desperate for a rescue mission. In Psalm 38, David cried out to God. He had experienced isolation, betrayal, and helplessness (vv. 11–14). Still, he prayed with confidence: “Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God” (v. 15). David didn’t deny his predicament or minimize his inner turmoil and physical ailments (vv. 16–20). Instead, he trusted that God would be near and answer him at the right time and in the right way (vv. 21–22).
When we feel weighed down by physical, mental, or emotional burdens, God remains committed to the rescue mission He planned from the day He created us. We can count on His presence when we cry out to Him: “Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior” (v. 22).
The Power of God’s Word
On Christmas Eve 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts—Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders—became the first humans to enter lunar orbit. As they circled the moon ten times, they shared images of the moon and the earth. During a live broadcast, they took turns reading from Genesis 1. At the fortieth anniversary celebration, Borman said, “We were told that on Christmas Eve we would have the largest audience that had ever listened to a human voice. And the only instructions that we got from NASA was to do something appropriate.” The Bible verses spoken by the Apollo 8 astronauts still plant seeds of truth into the listening hearts of people who hear the historical recording.
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord says, “Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live” (Isaiah 55:3). Revealing His free offer of salvation, God invites us to turn from our sin and receive His mercy and forgiveness (vv. 6–7). He declares the divine authority of His thoughts and His actions, which are too vast for us to truly understand (vv. 8–9). Still, He gives us opportunity to share His life-transforming words of Scripture, which point to Jesus, and affirm that He is responsible for the spiritual growth of His people (vv. 10–13).
The Holy Spirit helps us share the gospel as the Father fulfills all His promises according to His perfect plan and pace.
After another week of being beaten down by more medical setbacks, I slumped onto the sofa. I didn’t want to think about anything. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I couldn’t even pray. Discouragement and doubt weighed me down as I turned on the television. I began watching a commercial showing a little girl talking to her younger brother. “You’re a champion,” she said. As she continued affirming him, his grin grew. So did mine.
God’s people have always struggled with discouragement and doubt. Quoting Psalm 95, which affirms that God’s voice can be heard through the Holy Spirit, the writer of Hebrews warned believers in Jesus to avoid the mistakes made by the Israelites while wandering in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:7–11). “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God,” he wrote. “But encourage each other daily” (vv. 12–13).
With our lifeline of hope secured in Christ, we can experience the power-packed fuel we need to persevere: mutual encouragement within the fellowship of believers (v. 13). When one believer doubts, other believers can offer affirmation and accountability. As God strengthens us, His people, we can offer the power of mutual encouragement to one another.
Doctors diagnosed four-year-old Solomon with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive muscle-degenerating disease that primarily affects boys. A year later, doctors discussed wheelchairs with the family. But Solomon protested that he didn’t want to have to use a wheelchair. Family and friends diligently prayed for him and raised funds for a professionally trained service dog to help keep him out of that wheelchair for as long as possible. Tails for Life, the organization that trained Callie as my service dog, is currently preparing Waffles to serve Solomon.
Though Solomon accepts his treatment with resilience, often bursting out in song to praise God, some days are harder. On one of those difficult days, Solomon hugged his mom and said, “I’m happy there is no Duchenne’s in heaven.”
The degenerating effects of sickness affect all people on this side of eternity. Like Solomon, however, we have an enduring hope that can strengthen our resolve on those inevitable tough days. God gives us the hope and promise of “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). Our Creator and Sustainer will “dwell” among us by making His home with us (v. 3). He will “wipe every tear” from our eyes (v. 4). “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will pass] away” (v. 4). When the wait feels “too hard” or “too long,” we can experience peace because God’s promise will be fulfilled.