Life-Giving Words – Matthew 4:4

“But [Jesus] answered,
‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’”

Matthew 4:4

These words stopped me in my tracks today. Even with as much as I’ve heard and read them over the years. God pulled back the curtain to reveal something more – and I love how He does that.

Every word that comes from the mouth of God is life-giving to us. Every word.

Even the things that are confusing. Things we can’t wrap our minds around. Things that don’t seem to fit with what we would expect or prefer, or with what society or others tell us should be.

This is what Jesus seems to be laying on my heart for us to focus on today. A reminder of where our life comes from. A reminder of how vital the words of God are to us, to our well-being. Assurance that even if it seems like following what He says might hinder us or go against what makes sense, even if we don’t understand why He says what He says, His words and commands – all of them – pour life, freedom, goodness, and hope into our soul.

I read a statement a few days ago by someone who had abandoned their faith in God. It seemed that they couldn’t grasp the concept of a good and sovereign God in the midst of a broken world where bad things happen, or a belief that people could go to hell and God could still be loving. They couldn’t see a connection between what they perceived of God in the Old Testament with what they perceived in the New Testament.

I understand the questions. These are solid theological considerations, and not ones to be passed over or bottled up simply because they can be complex. It just makes me sad that in this person’s searching, they weren’t satisfied with any answers they found. It’s like they just couldn’t see the truth of God’s love in our brokenness or the depravity in our sin, or perhaps rejected it because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. Because honestly, sometimes we don’t want to understand why something bad has happened; we just want it not to have happened. And anything less than taking it away is not acceptable. I know I’ve felt that way, and it took some honest wrestling (and a good dose of humility) to rest in the Lord and experience His peace again.

In our studying of the Word of God and our search for truth, particularly in the aspects that are difficult to understand, the perspective we come from makes a big difference.

Do we approach the Scriptures grounded in the belief of what God has declared about Himself? That He is good, righteous, sovereign, patient, kind, loving, just, and wise? That He is light and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5)? That He is God, and cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:17-18)?

This allows us to consider confusing things from the standpoint of what we know about God and His character. It’s like when someone we have a good relationship with does something that surprises us. Maybe they respond more harshly or more lenient in a situation than we think we would. Since we know them, we’ll likely filter that response through what we know about them and frame our reasoning as to why they responded that way according to those other details. We might try to find out more about the background of the situation. Or ask them and see if they can shed light on what went into their thought process. But in the end, if we trust this person and their character, we will trust their decision even if we don’t understand it.

God does not do anything, or command anything, outside of His character. But it is within all of His character. If all we want to see in Him is mercy, then we will object to anything He does out of justice. If all we want to see is justice and Him holding wrong-doers accountable, then we will object to anything He does out of mercy.

These words, all that is written in Scripture, are His. Chosen with purpose and wisdom to reveal who He is – with all the depth and complexity and glory and greatness of His being. Accounts of His faithfulness, wisdom, and justice. Unfathomable acts of a love that cost Him greatly – love that cost Him His life, to satisfy justice and the wrath we deserved for our rebellion.

So in coming to His Word, we make our foundation His character and truth, so we can understand it from His right perspective.

And we bring with us Jesus’ words from Matthew 4, that the words we read contain life. Whatever they are, there is abundant life to be found. Believing what He says, doing what He says to do, orienting our life around His way of thinking – it will bring life and nourishment to us that we cannot substitute elsewhere.

I feel like this post might come across as jumbled. Like two separate things mashed together. But my heart feels a connection.

Our God is good, and loving, and just, and His every word is life-giving. Period.

This is the truth with which we approach Scripture. So that no matter what we encounter in His Words, we know this is the foundation and we wrestle with them in that light. Laying down our expectations and preferences because we trust that His Word is life and light and freedom and hope and salvation. He is God and holds all truth. And He is good and desires life for us. So we can trust Him, whatever He commands. He will not lead us wrongly. He is not unrighteous in His actions, unkind in what He calls us to do, or unfeeling in how our story plays out. He weeps and aches with us. He understands. He hears. And He is faithful.

“You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.”

Psalm 119:68

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.”

Psalm 89:14

“The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing…
Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.”

Zephaniah 3:17, 19

“And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, ‘Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life”
Deuteronomy 32:45-47a

“The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.”

Psalm 19:7-11

Treasured – Deuteronomy 7:6

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.
The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession,
out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”

Deuteronomy 7:6

A people for His treasured possession.

Out of all the people on the face of the earth, we are treasured as His.

It adds depth and wonder at the thought of being the Lord’s, does it not? Emphasizing the great love He has for us…He treasures us.

Oh, how deeply we don’t deserve this.

But, oh, how deeply we are loved.

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish…For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.” (Ephesians 5:25-27, 29)

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one would scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-9)

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:1, 4-7)

Immeasurable riches of His grace. Personal, loving care. Nourished and cherished in great love.

The God of heaven treasures us. Not for any merit of our own. There’s nothing we’ve done or could do to convince Him to love us; He simply chose to do so – and He does not love us lightly, but with steadfast, immovable, unchanging love. Love that came at great cost to Himself. Love that continues, every day, to strengthen, comfort, guard, guide, and fight for us.

If we have placed our faith and hope in Christ, through His cross we experience abundant life as His treasured possession. One whom He cares for with personal intentionality. Hearing us. Healing us. Guiding our steps. Showing us Himself and transforming us through His Spirit at our very core to see Him, love Him, and obey Him with faith and joy.

So as we go forward into each day, let us do so with the confidence of one who is treasured, nourished, cherished by the God who reigns over all. And may this spur us on to greater faith, that others may see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ as we live out our lives in faithful obedience and love.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
1 Peter 2:9-10

Watching Confidently – Psalm 5:3

“O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.”

Psalm 5:3

Before I opened my Bible this morning, I poured out some things in prayer before the Lord. Various aspects of life weighing on my heart. Then I turned here, to this passage that was already marked to read today.

What beautiful assurances and reminders are conveyed here, even in this one simple verse.

The Lord hears my voice. He hears my voice and He knows it is mine, because I am His. And He knows all my steps. All my details. All my cares. He knows all of this not just because He’s an all-knowing God, but because He loves me and is intentionally aware of my world.

He is near to me here, listening. With love and compassion and strength.

But this verse doesn’t stop with this truth. It goes beyond us voicing our cries.

There is also action.

Sacrifice is linked to the cry. Perhaps a sacrifice of praise even in the hardest of moments, because our God is worthy and the truth declared brings hope and peace to our soul. Perhaps it is a sacrifice involving repentance of sin or the throwing off of revealed hindrances to fellowship or obedience. Perhaps it is the laying down of our own expectations so we can open ourselves up to whatever our good, wise, and faithful God has planned. Perhaps it is sacrificing our purposes for His.

In it all, the sacrifice is given because we trust Him – because we see that He is trustworthy.

We cry out to Him and are heard.

We prepare our sacrifice.

And we watch.

We watch because we know He will come. There is anticipation here. There is eagerness. There is confident faith.

Because ours is the God who acts for those who wait for Him – and no one has seen another god like that, a god besides Him (Isaiah 64:4).

Our is the God who searches to and fro throughout the earth to give strong, ready support to those who fear Him (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Those who wait for the Lord, those who watch for Him with eager awareness of His power, character, and faithfulness, will never be ashamed (Isaiah 49:23).

Because our God will not fail us.

He is already on His way to bring strength, comfort, and peace, and to accomplish His every purpose as we look to Him.

We are greatly loved. Greatly loved, by the God of heaven who rules over all and who hears us as we cry out to Him, as we praise Him, as we seek His face. We can watch and wait and hope confidently because of this great, steadfast love and the great, powerful God who is our Shepherd, our Savior, our Strength, and our Joy.

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.”
Psalm 5:11-12

Still Sovereign – Daniel 6:4-9

“Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel in regard to the kingdom,
but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful…
Then these presidents and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, ‘O King Darius, live forever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O King, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O King, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.’
Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.”

Daniel 6:4-9

A decision was made here that could not be undone. Individuals driven by corrupt motivations, including hatred and a desire for power, pressed for this and accomplished their task.

But the ultimate outcome was not what they planned.

Because God was in control, and His purposes would win out.

In this circumstance, God protected the life of His servant and delivered him safely from the lions. That was one outcome. The wicked men perished in the manner they planned for Daniel. That was another.

But there was a greater purpose that everything in history drives toward, one that will always be guaranteed in God’s perfect timing and His orchestration of all details.

The Lord will be glorified.

“Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: ‘Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for He is the living God, enduring forever; His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and His dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, He who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions’” (Daniel 6:25-27).

I have been struggling with hope the past few days. Feeling heartbreak and deep discouragement build as more news comes in. It’s hard to even know what to think at times, because everything looks like a jumbled mess.

But in this account from Daniel’s life, this real account of a man’s experience with God in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation, I am reminded:

The Lord is my hope.

We do not see despair in Daniel. There isn’t fear. There isn’t driving anger or bitterness. Just faith and a steady continuing of faithfulness. Because he knows his God, and he knows He is sovereign and faithful.

This same God, whom we can know in relationship through Jesus Christ, is still sovereign here. In this broken world we live in. A world with clear effects of our sin and rebellion – injustice, pain, sickness, violence, selfishness, greed, pride. These effects, and more, surround us. Spiritual forces of darkness employ great strength to stir hatred and division.

None of that darkness will win.

None of it.

Because ours is the living God. And however strong or unrelenting the storm feels, He sits enthroned over the flood (Psalm 29:10). His voice is full of majesty and unmatched power (Psalm 29:4).

The God of all heaven and earth is in control and all of this, no matter what motivations or understandings others hold, will lead to more glory for Him. How? I don’t know. But it will, because that’s what He does. He can take even the worst situations and use them for good and for salvation (Genesis 50:20). It isn’t even hard. It all fits perfectly into His entirely sovereign hands.

And as we walk this road, actively choosing faithfulness to Him and obedience to His commands in the smallest and biggest of ways, this God will be faithful in every step and every moment to each one of His people. Because He knows those who are His, and He will not lose one (2 Timothy 2:19; John 6:39; Revelation 3:12). So we have nothing to fear. And we have no need to despair, for ours is the living God who reigns over all and who has promised to never leave or forsake us.

He is with us. He is for us. And the world will see His glory.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day,
and having done all, to stand firm.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,
for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Ephesians 6:10-20

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness,
but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance…
But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these,
be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation…
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

2 Peter 3:9, 13-15, 18

Chosen – Ephesians 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
Ephesians 1:3-6

God the Father chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world, that I should be holy and blameless before Him. He predestined me in love to be adopted as a son through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace, blessing me in Christ with every spiritual blessing.

It’s a remarkable place of belonging. A place chosen for me – chosen for each one who is His – before the foundation of the world. And I am not just one of many, a faceless number to a distant God. No, “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). As Psalm 139 so beautifully details, I am seen and known and thought of by a God who intricately wove me together in the womb and has written all my days. A God who is here with me, leading me and holding me fast in His powerful hand, because He has declared I am His.

This is where we stand, the elect who believe in Jesus Christ and have taken refuge in His sacrifice on the cross and victorious resurrection. This is what others who don’t know Christ yet are missing – the fullness, the wholeness, the belonging that come in knowing Him. This is what I, as a witness, must convey: the opportunity to experience and live in a state of being fully known and fully, perfectly, unendingly loved; chosen not because of anything about you but because of everything about the God who freely chose to set His love on you and lavish the riches of His grace upon you forever, to the praise of His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:7-8). The glorious grace of this holy, all-powerful God of love and justice, who came to earth to die to save us from our sin and ourselves and who draws us to Himself in relationship as the Father who will never let us down and never let us go.

“Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.”
Deuteronomy 10:14-15

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
1 Peter 2:9-10

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Romans 8:14-16

“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’”
Acts 2:38-39

Powerful Healing, Compassionate Love – Isaiah 53:4-5

“Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows…
Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with His stripes we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5

I read these words by Charles Spurgeon this morning:
“What a mass of hideous sickness must have thrust itself under the eye of Jesus! Yet we read not that He was disgusted, but patiently waited on every case… Whatever my own case may be, the beloved Physician can heal me; and whatever may be the state of others whom I may remember at this moment in prayer, I may have hope in Jesus that He will be able to heal them of their sins.”

This is the example the disciples witnessed. Jesus, with compassion and care for all. Not repulsed. Not hesitant or intimidated. Instead, He was welcoming and patient. Demonstrating that there is no lost cause; He can heal all who come to Him. A powerful physical demonstration of His ability to heal, cleanse, and restore, pointing to His greater healing of the soul for all who believe in Him.

No sin is too great, too dark, too ongoing. He cleanses all.

That’s what He died for.

And He meets us with the same compassion regardless of how dirty, shameful, and unworthy we feel – just as He met the high priest in Zechariah’s vision, rebuking his accuser, removing his iniquity (taking it on Himself ultimately on the cross), and clothing him in pure garments (Zechariah 3:1-4).

As Jesus reached out His hand to touch the leper (Luke 5:11-13), He reaches out His hand to touch and cleanse us. To pull us out of the mire and give us a new song to sing (Psalm 40:1-3). To change our lives because we are delivered into His kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14), freed to know Him in relationship and experience His grace in obedience. Freed to love and serve Him, walking in the newness of abundant life. With strength and peace, joy and steadfast hope.

When we are freed, may we never forget the greatness of His salvation, the depth and depravity of sin He saves us from, or our continual need of His mercy and grace – and His ability and ready willingness to meet that need (Hebrews 4:16).

May we never look at others’ chains and sicknesses with disgust, but as our Savior does – with compassion. With love. Reaching out to meet them where they are, and gently sharing our experience of a God who loves them enough to die for them, a God who will not shame them, a God who stands with ready open arms to assure them, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zechariah 3:4).

Fellow believers, let us not be repulsed.

Let us not shame.

Let us not cast down.

Rather, let us reach out to love.

Let us listen.

Let us share of the Father’s great love and mercy, manifested on the cross of Jesus and extended very personally to those He puts in our path.

Let us share this not to change them, but to introduce them to the living God of love, hope, peace, and freedom. For each precious one who believes in Him, He will draw them out of the mire into His light. He will free them from their sin. We bring others to Jesus in love and compassion; His Spirit does the rest, just as He continues His work to free us from our sin. A work that He will bring to completion for all who are His (Philippians 1:6).

Because His healing work is that powerful and His love for us is that great.

“I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.”
Psalm 40:1-3

Only Love – Romans 5:8

“God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

Today’s devotion in Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, focused on the scourging that carved lacerations on Jesus’ back, contained this quote that stirred my heart: “Sinners have bound the Almighty’s hands, and spit in their Creator’s face.”

A strong, powerful statement. Emphasizing that to save us required great sacrifice. That my sin required the high, unfathomable cost of the blood and very life of the Son of God.

Yet the Almighty is not seen begrudgingly putting salvation in place for humanity.

He does not pour on additional feelings of guilt.

He is not angrily sacrificing Himself.

No, in His sacrifice, we only see love.

Love, compassion, and outright determination.

When Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), He was setting it firmly in place like a flint (Isaiah 50:7), determined to fulfill the purpose for which He came: to save us through the sacrifice of Himself. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name…And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:27-28a, 32).

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, not in frustration, but in love and welcome (Luke 19:10). He came to heal the spiritually sick, to awaken them from death, in compassion and overwhelming grace (Luke 5:31).

When Jesus rose from the grave, He was satisfied to see us counted righteous and our iniquities removed (Isaiah 53:11). We, who were among the sinners who spat in our Creator’s face, as the devotion quoted this morning.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

“In this the love of God was made manifest in us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [turning wrath to favor] for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10

“See, what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.” 1 John 3:1a

What great love is this.

Had we not sinned, Jesus would not have had to die.

Yet God does not hang this over our heads – He beckons us to come and take refuge in Him.

Out of pure, perfect love He sent His Son as the Lamb to take our place, and He offers us salvation if we will trust in Him and return – return to the God of glory, the God of hope, the God of our salvation.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
John 3:14-17

He is Trustworthy – Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

A question was asked this morning in the book I’ve been going through for personal Bible study: “Why does giving your concerns over to God give you peace?”

The response came into my mind quickly and clearly. It’s because He is trustworthy.

At this, my heart stirred. Our God is trustworthy. That is why we can experience peace. Because we can trust Him. And when we know that, when we trust Him – that is how we experience His peace.

Our God knows we will feel anxious at times. That’s why He tells us not to allow those thoughts and fears to remain. It’s why He seeks to convey that we don’t need to be anxious. Look at how Jesus communicated this in Matthew 6:25-33. He didn’t just say, “Don’t be anxious” and leave it at that. He took the time to highlight the Lord’s intentional care over birds and flowers, then emphasized how much more we will be cared for as the chosen and precious children of God.

Our God cares about those things that concern us. The pieces of life that break our hearts. The disappointments, the unknowns, the confusion. He doesn’t ask us to cover them up or brush them aside. He wants us to bring them fully to Him. “Let your requests be made known to God.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 captures this as well: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”

He cares for you. He is not unfeeling. He does not lack understanding. The God of heaven hears you. He sees it all. He knows your hurts, questions, and fears before you even speak them, and He draws near to you in that space. Your safety, the One who understands it all and who desires to assure you He is here, hurting with you; He knows what He is doing; and He will be faithful and good to the end. Our God who is light and in whom is no darkness (1 John 1:5).

An aspect of humility is required to fully trust our Lord. Recognition that we can’t see it all but He can – every facet, every detail, affecting not only us but all who will be impacted by His work in our lives. Realization that we don’t understand but He does. Surrendering in faith, in every area of concern, rather than thinking we know better than He does or that we need to figure it out to make sure things work out as they need to.

Jesus didn’t tell us to combat anxiety by figuring it out. He wants us to trust the Father without holding back, to look at His provision in so many ways and realize how greatly He cares for us as His own. He wants us to know the faithfulness of God to look out for us: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

Jesus doesn’t tell us to figure it out. He tells us to seek the Lord. Because He already has it figured out. We let our requests be made known, by prayer and supplication and thanksgiving. So we give voice to those fears and pour out our hearts before Him, while also giving voice to who we know our God to be and the great things He has done. And in doing so, we give it over to the God who loves us. Our God who is sovereign over all. Our God who is good and faithful and true, to us personally and in all things.

We give it over and we experience peace because we trust Him.

And we can do all of this because He is trustworthy.

Everyone else might let us down, but our God never will. He never will. He will never fail to see you, hear you, or fulfill His every purpose in your life as you surrender to Him.

We don’t know what that will look like. But we know Him. And that changes everything.

A Life Lived By Faith – Galatians 2:20-21

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave Himself for me.
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law,
then Christ died for no purpose.”

Galatians 2:20-21

This morning, in the study I am going through by Charles Stanley, my attention was brought to the last portion of Galatians 2:20: “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”

Evidence that I am truly saved is seen in my life being lived by faith in the Son of God.

Not faith in myself – my strength, my feelings, my perceptions.

Not faith in others’ words.

Not faith in doing the right things.

Faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

A life that is lived, day in and day out, in every circumstance, by faith in Him.

Faith in His salvation – complete, finished, to the uttermost (John 19:30; Hebrews 7:24-25).

Faith in His strength to be content in each situation, to rejoice in my sovereign Lord always, and to not complain but instead shine as stars in the universe in the midst of a broken world searching for hope (Philippians 4:11-13, 4:4, 2:14-15).

Faith in His bringing me into relationship with the God of all comfort, all hope, all peace (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Romans 15:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:16). The God who sees me and will never leave or forsake me (Genesis 16:13; Hebrews 13:5-6). The God who fulfills His purposes for me (Psalm 138:8).

A life that is lived by faith in the Son of God who said my joy and my bearing much fruit comes naturally from my abiding in Him – that these aren’t the result of my efforts or my pursuit of them, but rather are the result of my time and intentionality to pursue Him in relationship. To dwell, to rest in His presence. Abide in His Word and His love. The rest of it comes out of that. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). The joy, the fruit, the abundant life flow into us from Him and through us to others as we humble ourselves before Him, as we listen, surrender, trust, and obey out of our love for Him (John 15:1-11).

A life that is lived by faith in the Son of God who, through His cross, has broken down any wall of hostility or division between us and other believers – the One who is our peace and unites us all through His Spirit, who teaches us and enables us to love each other with His love for us and extends that love for us to care for and pray for even our enemies (Ephesians 2:14-22; Romans 12:9-10,14; Matthew 5:44).

A life lived by faith in Him, knowing His work in us is not in vain, though we see clearly our own frailty and failures. He will complete His work in us and accomplish His work through us (Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 1:6).

A life lived by faith in the One who promised He would be with us always, to the very end, so we can obediently share His gospel and follow His example without fear and without the burden of thinking we are walking in our own power or authority (Matthew 28:18-20).

May our life be one that is lived by faith in this Jesus who saves us. This Jesus whose sacrifice and resurrection gives us a way – the only way – to be grafted into the family of God, through whom we receive every spiritual blessing and the hope of all the promises of God (2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 3:1; Ephesians 1:3). They are ours because we are His. A place we could not earn and a place, in Christ, we cannot lose. And we get Him forever, our greatest treasure and the One who satisfies all in all.

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,
for He who promised is faithful.”
Hebrews 10:22-23

To Be Near God – Psalm 73:28

“But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.”

Psalm 73:28

This is where I want to be this morning. Near to my God. With Him as my refuge. That I may see and know His works, to shine them through my life and speak of them out of rejoicing and passion.

I want to be in a place where, regardless of circumstances, I can rejoice that my God is near to me. Surrounding me as the mountains surround Jerusalem (Psalm 125:2). Filling me with His Spirit so that my cup overflows, even if enemies are present (Psalm 23:5).

Reality is, these promises are mine. I am His, and “feelings” don’t change that. The truth of His presence stands firm. The promise of His surrounding me and His Spirit within me is firm and unchanging. And I am so very thankful for that.

It’s just my experience of it that has been hindered. Contemplating this, and why there seems to be a barrier, Psalm 73:1 revealed perhaps a glimpse of it: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” I read these words this morning and felt the ache in my spirit.

Not anger, not doubt, just an aching. Stemming from confusion and discouragement from a situation that is unresolved and feels unending.

My heart feels discouraged. And as much as I try to focus on other things, on the good and lovely things around me, on God’s faithfulness, on His countless affirmations – and as much as that does help, and is biblical, and does bring peace – there remains a quiet hurt that comes through in moments like this.

And even in those times of refocusing, if I’m being completely honest, my recent experience of His peace and presence has not been entirely full.

There is a hindrance to my experience of the abundant life my God wants for me. And it isn’t because He’s withholding something. It isn’t because of my circumstances. Jesus, who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” and who “upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3), promised that we would have trouble in this life (John 16:33). It’s the nature of living in a broken world, and also the method by which His Spirit frees us from sin and other things holding us back and heals us of our own inner sicknesses.

So it isn’t my circumstances.

John 10:10 records Jesus’ words of abundant life: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” In 1 John 1:5, the apostle who wrote down those words also declared, “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” This God who is light and in whom is no darkness, this God who upholds the whole universe with a mere word, is the God who came that we might have life – and have it abundantly, in every circumstance. His purpose is not to destroy us. He is not unfeeling or uncompassionate. And He certainly does not leave us on our own, shifting His attention away so that He is unaware of our situation or our experience in it. While we might not understand it, we can hold fast to the knowledge that He is light, and in Him is no darkness.

My thoughts keep drawing to John 15. In verse 11, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Not “more full.”

“Full.”

Entire, complete fullness of joy. Which is also referenced in Psalm 16:11: “in Your presence there is fullness of joy.”

The psalmist was right. Because all through the first 10 verses of John 15 leading to that statement, Jesus beckoned His disciples to abide, rest, dwell in Him. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept the Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:4-11).

When I think of abundant life, it brings a picture of a life that is flourishing and joy-filled. Is this not what Jesus describes here? Flourishing by bearing much fruit. Joy that is full. Experienced by pressing into Jesus and staying there with intentionality and heartfelt obedience. Like anything else in this life, our experience will likely shift and sway. Perhaps because our intentionality has dropped off. Perhaps because there is a sin or an idol we’re clinging to (or don’t even see yet). Perhaps because God wants to further strengthen us, or remind us of our desperate need for Him, or emphasize the wonder of feeling His presence and seeing His glory.

Whatever the reason and whatever His purposes, may we recall that our God is light and in Him is no darkness and that He is a compassionate Father (Psalm 103:13-14). And may we keep pressing in. Because there are great promises to take hold of in Jesus’ words. And He will not fail to fulfill them. We will bear much fruit, bringing glory to God our Father and displaying His salvation of us. And we will know fullness of joy, because as we abide in Jesus, He abides in us, and in His presence is fullness of joy.

It is good to be near God and to make Him our refuge. This God who is ours. This God who, in Christ, has made us His own. So I will leave you today with these words, which declare both a challenge and our steadfast hope:

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
His going out is sure as the dawn;
He will come to us as the spring showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

O Lord, may we press on to know You. That whatever our circumstances, we would come to know You more. Experiencing more of Your faithfulness, Your steadfastness, Your love, Your strength, Your power, Your heart. Jesus, may we come to abide in You more fully as situations connect us with Your own experience of brokenness, betrayal, grief, hurt, and struggle. You are a perfect Savior and great High Priest because You understand all of our afflictions. You lived them. Teach us how to abide in You. Abide with us as we walk this road. Draw us closer to Yourself in grace. Father, may we know that we can approach Your throne at all times and find grace there. We so easily complicate the concept of coming into Your presence and abiding there; may the breath of Your Spirit cause those perceived complications to fall away, that we would experience the beautiful simplicity of resting in relationship with You. Because You tore the veil at Jesus’ words, “It is finished,” and destroyed every barrier to Yourself through the cross. As Your Son beckoned those around Him, draw us near with these words of Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”