My grandmother was a talented seamstress who won contests in her native Texas. Throughout my life, she celebrated hallmark occasions with a hand-sewn gift. A burgundy mohair sweater for my high-school graduation. A turquoise quilt for my marriage. I’d fold over a corner of each custom-crafted item to discover her signature tag reading, “Handmade for you by Munna.” With every embroidered word, I sensed my grandmother’s love for me and received a powerful statement of her faith in my future.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians of their purpose in this world, describing them as “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (2:10). Here “handiwork” denotes a work of art or a masterpiece. Paul goes on to describe that God’s handiwork in creating us would result in our handiwork of creating good works—or expressions of our restored relationship with Jesus—for His glory in our world. We can never be saved by our own good works, but when God handmakes us for His purposes, He can use us to bring others toward His great love.
With her head bowed over her needle, my Munna handmade items to communicate her love for me and her passion that I discover my purpose on this planet. And with His fingers shaping the details of our days, God stitches His love and purposes in our hearts that we might experience Him for ourselves and demonstrate His handiwork to others.
Whenever she was unable to take my phone call, I’d hear my friend’s voicemail recording inviting me to leave her a message. The recording cheerfully concluded, “Make it a great day!” As I reflected on her words, I realized that while it’s not within our power to make every day “great”—some circumstances truly are devastating—a closer look might reveal something redeeming and beautiful in my day, whether things are going well or poorly.
Habakkuk wasn’t experiencing easy circumstances. As a prophet, God had shown him coming days when none of the crops or livestock—on which God’s people depended—would be fruitful (v. 17). It would take more than mere optimism to endure the coming hardships. As a people group, Israel would be in extreme poverty. Habakkuk experienced heart-pounding, lip-quivering, leg-trembling fear (v. 16).
Yet despite that, Habakkuk said he would “rejoice in the
Sometimes we go through seasons of deep pain and hardship. But no matter what we’ve lost, or wanted but never had, we can, like Habakkuk, rejoice in our relationship with a loving God. Even when it feels like we have nothing else, He will never fail or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). He, the One who “provide[s] for those who grieve,” is our ultimate reason for joy (Isaiah 61:3).
While most German church leaders gave in to Hitler, theologian and pastor Martin Niemöller was among the brave souls who resisted Nazi evil. I read a story describing how in the 1970s a group of older Germans stood outside a large hotel while what appeared to be a younger man bustled about with the group’s luggage. Someone asked who the group was. “German pastors,” came the answer. “And the younger man?” “That’s Martin Niemöller—he’s eighty. But he has stayed young because he is unafraid.”
Niemöller wasn’t able to resist fear because he possessed some super-human anti-fear gene, but because of God’s grace. In fact, he once held anti-Semitic views. But in the end, he repented and God restored him and helped him to speak and live out the truth.
Moses encouraged the Israelites to resist fear and follow God in truth. When they’d become fearful after learning Moses would soon be taken from them, the leader had an unflinching word for them: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified . . . for the LORD your God goes with you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). There was no reason to tremble before an uncertain future because of one reason: God was with them.
Whatever darkness looms for you, whatever terrors bombard you—God is with you. By God’s mercy, may you face your fears with the knowledge that God “will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 6).
On the verge of making team history, University of Iowa basketball star Jordan Bohannon intentionally missed the free throw that would have broken a twenty-five-year-old school record. Why? In 1993, days after Iowa’s Chris Street had made thirty-four free throws in a row, he lost his life in a car crash. Bohannon chose to honor Street’s memory by not breaking his record.
Bohannon showed a keen awareness of things more important than his own advancement. We see similar values in the life of the young warrior David. Hiding in a cave with his ragtag army, David longed for a drink from the well in his hometown of Bethlehem, but the dreaded Philistines occupied the area (2 Samuel 23:14–15).
In a stunning act of valor, three of David’s warriors “broke through the Philistine lines,” got the water, and brought it to David. But David couldn’t bring himself to drink it. Instead, he “poured it out before the
In a world that often rewards those who seize whatever they can grasp, how powerful acts of love and sacrifice can be! Such deeds are much more than mere symbols.
Working in the corporate world allowed me to interact with many talented and levelheaded people. However, one project led by an out-of-town supervisor was an exception. Regardless of our team’s progress, this manager harshly criticized our work and demanded more effort during each weekly status phone call. These run-ins left me discouraged and fearful. At times, I wanted to quit.
It’s possible that Moses felt like quitting when he encountered Pharaoh during the plague of darkness. God had hurled eight other epic disasters at Egypt, and Pharaoh finally exploded, “[Moses,] get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again. The day you see my face you will die” (Exodus 10:28).
Despite this threat, Moses eventually was used by God to free the Israelites from Pharaoh’s control. “[By faith] Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27 nlt). Moses overcame Pharaoh by believing that God would keep his promise of deliverance (Exodus 3:17).
Today, we can rely on the promise that God is with us in every situation, supporting us through His Holy Spirit. He helps us resist the pressure of intimidation and wrong responses to it by granting us supernatural power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). The Spirit provides the courage we need to keep right on going and follow God’s leading in our lives.
Are you kidding me? I was already late. But the road sign ahead instructed me to adjust my expectations: “Expect Delays," it announced. Traffic was slowing down.
I had to laugh: I expect things to work on my ideal timeline; I don’t expect road construction.
On a spiritual level, few of us plan for crises that slow us down or reroute our lives. Yet, if I’m paying attention, I can recall many times when circumstances redirected me—in big ways and small. Delays happen.
Solomon never saw a sign that said, “Expect Delays.” But in Proverbs 16, he does contrast our plans with God's providential guidance. The Message paraphrases verse one as follows: “Mortals make elaborate plans, but
How do I lose track of this spiritual truth? I make my plans, sometimes forgetting to ask God what His plans are. I get frustrated when interruptions interfere.
But in place of that fretting, we could, as Solomon teaches, grow in simply trusting that God guides us, step by step, as we seek prayerfully Him, await His leading, and—yes—allow Him to continually redirect us.
When my friends lived in Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, they were overwhelmed by the welcome they received there, especially from other Christians. Once they took some clothes and provisions to a couple from their church who were very poor, yet who were fostering several children. The couple treated my friends like honored guests, giving them sweet tea and, despite their protests, something to eat. As my friends left with gifts of watermelons and other fruits and vegetables, they marveled at the hospitality they experienced.
These Christians embody the welcome that God commanded His people, the Israelites, to exhibit. He instructed them “to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the
Our circumstances might differ from the Moldovans or the Israelites, but we too can live out our love for God through our welcome to others. Whether through opening our homes or smiling a greeting to those we meet, we can extend God’s care and hospitality in a lonely, hurting world.
Several years ago, the president of a college suggested that students join her in "powering down" for an evening. Although the students agreed, it was with great reluctance that they laid aside their cell phones and entered the chapel. For the next hour, they sat quietly in a service of music and prayer. Afterward, one participant described the experience as "a wonderful opportunity to calm down . . . a place to just tune out all of the extra noise."
Sometimes, it's difficult to escape "extra noise." The clamor of both our external and internal worlds can be deafening. But when we are willing to "power down," we begin to understand the psalmist's reminder of the necessity to be still so we can know God (Psalm 46:10). In 1 Kings 19, we discover as well that when the prophet Elijah looked for the Lord, he did not find Him in the pandemonium of the wind or the earthquake or the fire (vv. 9-13). Instead, Elijah heard God's gentle whisper (v. 12).
Extra noise is practically guaranteed through holiday celebrations. When families and friends come together, it's likely a time of animated conversations, excess food, boisterous laughter, and sweet expressions of love. But when we quietly open our hearts, we find that time with God is even sweeter. Like Elijah, we are more likely to encounter God in the stillness. And sometimes, if we listen, we too will hear that gentle whisper.
In 1995 US stock market investors received record-high returns-on average, a whopping 37.6 percent return on their dollars. Then in 2008 investors lost almost exactly as much: a negative 37.0 percent. The years between had varying returns, causing those with money in the market to wonder-sometimes with fear-what would become of their investment.
Jesus assured His followers they would have an incredible return on investing their lives in Him. They "left everything to follow [Him]"-leaving their homes, jobs, status, and families to put their lives on deposit (v. 28). But they grew concerned their investment might not pay off after watching a wealthy man struggle with the grip worldly goods had on him. But Jesus replied that anyone willing to sacrifice for Him would "receive a hundred times as much in this present age . . . and in the age to come eternal life" (v. 30). That's a far better outcome than any stock market could ever match.
We don't have to be concerned about the "interest rate" on our spiritual investment-with God, it's an unmatched certainty. With money, our aim is to maximize the financial gain from our investment. With God, what we get back isn't measured in dollars and cents, but in the joy that comes from knowing Him now and forever-and sharing that with others!