DO I APPLAUD WHAT IS RIGHT?

Do I Applaud What Is Right?

The summer before my eighth-grade year I made friends with a guy named Larry. He was new to town, so I encouraged him to go out for our school football team. He could meet some guys, and being a stocky fellow, he might even make the squad. He agreed.

The result was a good news-bad news scenario. The good news? He made the cut. The bad news. He won my position. I was demoted to second string. I tried to be happy for him, but it was tough.

A few weeks into the season Larry fell off a motorcycle and broke a finger. I remember the day he stood at my front door holding up his bandaged hand. “Looks like you’re going to have to play.”

I tried to feel sorry for him, but it was hard. The passage was a lot easier for Paul to write than it was for me to practice. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15 NASB).

You want to plumb the depths of your love for someone? How do you feel when that person succeeds? Do you rejoice? Or are you jealous? And when he or she stumbles? Falls to misfortune? Are you really sorry? Or are you secretly pleased?

Love never celebrates misfortune. Never. I like the way Eugene Peterson translates the passage: “Love. . .doesn’t revel when others grovel, [but] takes pleasure in the flowering of truth” (MSG). J.B. Phillips is equally descriptive: “Love . . .does not gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it shares the joy of those who live by the truth.”

You know your love is real when you weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. You know your love is real when you feel for others what your heavenly Father feels for you. Remember, love “rejoices whenever the truth wins out” (1 Cor. 13:6 NLT).
Excerpted from A Love Worth Giving
W Publishing, 2002

Asking, Seeking, Knocking

TABLETALK SPROUL

Matthew 7:7–11 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (v. 11).

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson says, “Knowing God as judge has a sanctifying and restraining effect on our lives” (The Sermon on the Mount, p. 150). In other words, reflecting on God’s perfect holiness drives us to recognize our own sin and deal with it before we judge others (Matt. 7:1–5). We begin to see who we are — depraved men and women who cannot merit the Lord’s forgiveness. This helps us to be merciful. If our Father in His infinite goodness can pardon us, surely we sinners can forgive others.

However, we still often find it hard to show mercy even when we know the Lord’s character. We still need wisdom to distinguish between those who will mock the Gospel and those who will not trample upon the good news (v. 6). Moreover, we are in desperate need of God’s help in order that we might live up to the high calling throughout the Sermon on the Mount to be salt and light (5:13–16), obey the law of Christ in heart and deed (vv. 21–48), abstain from hypocrisy (6:1–18), and serve the Lord wholeheartedly (vv. 19–34).

This need is the reason why our Savior returns to the subject of prayer in today’s passage. Living in conformity to His way is impossible if we attempt to do it in our own power. But if we persevere in prayer, seeking to be empowered by the Spirit to obey Christ with gladness, God will enable us to be faithful to His call (7:7–8). Our Father is generous and kind. He will not trick us and give us a stone that looks like bread when it is bread that we need, and He will not give us a snake if we need fish (vv. 9–10, some Galilean fish look like serpents). Our Creator will give us all the spiritual and physical resources we need to serve Him if we ask Him in faith (Mark 11:22–24).

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:7–11 does not assure us that we will get everything we want, only whatever we need. We are often unable to tell the differences between these things, but God does not have this problem. If we do not get what we ask for, let us therefore not think He has forgotten us. As John Calvin writes: “We must not think that he takes no notice of us, when he does not answer our wishes: for he has a right to distinguish what we actually need.”

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

We persevere in prayer knowing that our Father in His goodness will never withhold from us what we really need. We also need to recall, Matthew Henry says, that “we often ask that of God which would do us harm if we had it; he knows this, and therefore does not give it to us.” When the Lord does not give us what we want, let us remember that it is probably because what we want would be harmful to us. Even God’s “no” to us is evidence of His great love for us.

For further study:

Genesis 18:22–33

The Bible in a year:

Deuteronomy 34

What We Fear Matters

 

Encouragement for today Proverbs 31

March 16, 2020
CRAIG GROESCHEL

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Our fears matter.

Years ago, I had a revelation about this that touched me in a very personal way. God showed me that what I feared the most revealed where I trusted God the least. After the birth of our third daughter, my wife, Amy, started having physical challenges. At first, we thought it was just fatigue, but when half her body went numb, we feared it was something much worse.

Doctors couldn’t provide answers. As her symptoms worsened, my trust in God started to weaken.

At night, my thoughts snowballed out of control. What if Amy is dangerously sick? What if I lose her? I won’t be able to raise our kids without her. I wouldn’t want to go on.

Then it hit me. The things that kept me awake were the things that I wasn’t trusting God to handle. I was holding onto them, trying to find a way to gain control over them, to solve all my problems. Thankfully, by the grace of God, Amy gradually improved back to full strength, but her challenges exposed one of my worst weaknesses. Fear had consumed me.

Our fears matter. Because ultimately, our fears show how we’re relying on our own efforts and not trusting in our Savior. The truth is we — you and I and everyone — are always inadequate. We’re never enough. We’re always weak. But here’s the incredible thing: When we’re weak, God’s power is made perfect. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Your greatest fear may point you to your best chance at making a difference in the world. You need God for every moment of every day. Everything you do of value is born out of His heart, His power, His grace.

To please God, to serve Him, to honor Him, to live for Him, you cannot be driven by fear. You must be led by faith. I’ve said many times the pathway to your greatest potential is often straight through your greatest fear. Faith will propel you forward. In fact, what God wants for you might be on the other side of what you fear the most. The Apostle Paul encouraged his protégé Timothy to cling to faith by reminding him, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

If you’re afraid of failing, it could be that your spiritual enemy is trying to talk you out of doing what God has created you to do. So pray and step into your fear. Let God propel you forward by faith. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. Remind yourself that you love pleasing God more than you fear failing.

As you pray and God reveals what is keeping you from fully following Him, don’t miss out on experiencing His love. Soak in His extravagant grace. Enjoy the unconditional goodness of God poured out for you in the life of Christ. Remember, “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18b, NIV).

As God reveals your fears, He will also build your faith. You need Him. You need His presence. You need His power. You need His Spirit guiding you. You need His Word strengthening you. Faith doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Faith means you don’t let fear stop you.

Dear Lord, help me to see my fears. Help me see the ways I’m relying on my own efforts — instead of trusting You. Build my faith, and help me to rely on Your presence and support no matter what I face. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 56:3-4, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise — in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (NIV)

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES: We are excited to dive into our next Online Bible Study: Dangerous Prayers by Craig Groeschel. Join us as we learn to break the cycle of praying the same things over and over again by adding three bold phrases to our prayer lives. We’ll learn how to stop getting easily distracted during prayer and start having conversations with God that will change everything. We’re in this together and can’t wait to get started on April 6! Register now for FREE!

CONNECT: Be the first to hear about new podcast episodes, books, speaking appearances and more at www.craiggroeschel.com.

REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are your anxious thoughts, and how do they affect your daily life?

What is God showing you through your prayers? How do you feel God is growing your prayer life?

Trust Him. And let us hear your thoughts about prayer in our comments section.

As the Senior Pastor of Life.Church, Craig provides teaching, leadership and guidance for the church as a whole. Following a vision God gave him and his wife Amy for a different kind of church, he and a handful of people launched Life.Church in 1996. Craig and Amy live in the Edmond, Okla. area and have six children, three sons-in-law, and two grandkids.

© 2020 by Craig Groeschel. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, for their support of P31 Online Bible Studies and Encouragement for Today devotions

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