|Failure and Success: Greatness Has Its Price You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.—2 Timothy 2:3-4 The laws of success operate also in the higher field of the soul— spiritual greatness has its price. Eminence in the things of the Spirit demands a devotion to these things more complete than most of us are willing to give. But the law cannot be escaped. If we would be holy we know the way; the law of holy living is before us. The prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New and, more than all, the sublime teachings of Christ are there to tell us how to succeed…. The amount of loafing practiced by the average Christian in spiritual things would ruin a concert pianist if he allowed himself to do the same thing in the field of music. The idle puttering around that we see in church circles would end the career of a big league pitcher in one week. No scientist could solve his exacting problem if he took as little interest in it as the rank and file of Christians take in the art of being holy. The nation whose soldiers were as soft and undisciplined as the soldiers of the churches would be conquered by the first enemy that attacked it. Triumphs are not won by men in easy chairs. Success is costly. We Travel an Appointed Way, 26. “This success may be costly, Lord, but surely nothing in the light of the eternal perspective we looked at yesterday. Give me a willingness this morning to pay any cost which You may exact in my service for You. Amen.”|
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
There are so many reasons to seek comfort in this season of life. With unknowns lurking beyond every moment, and fear pressing in hard around all of us, it seems I find myself seeking comfort more than ever before. If you are anything like me, you know your go-to comforts. Sometimes it’s a warm brownie, a hot cup of coffee or tea, or a refreshing hot bath that helps you unwind and escape for a moment of time. What if I told you there is lasting comfort available right now?
Comfort on a physical level will never equal lasting, sustaining comfort or relief. There is grief that is too heavy for a momentary band-aid, and heartaches that seem too strong for a temporary fix like a cozy retreat or a chat with a best friend. Then there are all the things that stack up against us and it can feel like true comfort is hard to find. So we keep filling up on all the temporary fixes and buy the new outfit, fix up the house, purchase the latest trend, and look in the fridge again for something that will satisfy.
But true, lasting satisfaction can be found in only one place. Here are five comforts God offers you today.
1. Comfort Place
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2).
Have you ever just wanted to run away to a deserted island or win a free vacation anywhere in the world? I think we’ve probably all been there, seeking a destination that would offer a place of relief, security, and serenity. The good news for you and me today is that we have access to a place like that every single day.
Right where you are, whether you are at home, work, in your car, on a trip, taking a break, or just hanging out, you have access to the secret place of shelter, relief, and serenity.
When we choose to dwell with God, we choose to live under His shadow. The sweet comfort offered there brings relief from the raging worry and the unknowns that make life feel like it’s out of control or swirling beyond belief. Rather than wishing for the impossible, seek the promise of God and find comfort in His presence.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Joseph Gonzalez
2. Comfort Food
“But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).
I’m the first to admit that I reach too often for a bag of chips, a cold soda, a quick pick-me-up from the pantry or a donut in the drive through. Why food brings such satisfaction, I’ll never completely understand. But I think this is why the Bible compares God’s words to bread.
When we eat we get a sense of satisfaction, comfort, and relief. God’s words offer a similar resolve. While it won’t make the belly stop growling for food, it will make the soul stop searching for more.
If you find yourself constantly hungry for something that satisfies, try reaching for the words God offers in the Bible. Jesus himself was called “the Word” in John 1:1. Then we find “the word” compared to bread. Rather than more food, we truly need more of Jesus. Find comfort in the one who is truly the bread of life (John 6:35).
3. Comfort Drink
“But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
There nothing like a cold drink on a hot afternoon. I love the metaphor Jesus offers of living water. Choosing Jesus gives us exactly what we need for eternal life.
Sometimes current events and difficult circumstances make us forget the gift we have been offered. Jesus offers eternal life. It’s more than a cold drink on a blazing summer day. It’s forever. It’s comfort and assurance that outlasts any unknown circumstance.
If you’ve felt like life is about to make you dry up and you don’t see any hope in sight, turn to the One who offers water that will always offer sweet comfort and relief no matter how much life tries to burn you.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Nathan Dumlao
4. Comfort Person
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
The first thing I do when something bad happens and I need comfort is turn to my phone. I choose who to tell or call. Sometimes I even post to social media and wait for the responses to roll in. When we do this, we are looking for comfort. But the real comfort we want isn’t found in a conversation with our best friend, or in likes and comments on a social media post.
Real lasting comfort can be found in turning to the person of Jesus. When we do, even if we don’t have the words to say, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf and puts words to our prayer. This brings tremendous comfort that you can claim right now. If you feel like no one understands and you can’t seem to get anyone to notice how hard your life is, let the Holy Spirit pray on your behalf.
It’s not a possibility – it’s a promise and one that brings great comfort.
5. Comfort Rest
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Some days, weeks, and months we just need rest. Life hurries along, but doesn’t ever wait. We push ahead and try to keep going, but the pace won’t let up. In these seasons we deeply desire true rest, but it’s hard to know how to find it, get it, and catch up with real life.
The comfort we can cling to today in resting the soul is something that is important to God. We find in these verses that rest is for those who are weary, working, and carrying burdens. Does that sound like you? If so, there’s big hope for you today! The instruction from Jesus is simple, Come and receive rest. Walk with me. Learn from me and find rest.
The rest we find here is not a long nap, a good night’s sleep, or a meditative release of stress –although those could all be beneficial. The rest we see in these verses is rest for the soul. If you want it, you simply have to follow Jesus’ instruction to come and receive. That brings great comfort for the weary, working, and worn out soul.
If you have been seeking comfort and hoping one day you’ll finally get that dream vacation, or that long weekend with no plans, look no further. There is a greater comfort and satisfaction waiting for you when you uncover the secret to comfort found in Jesus. God isn’t keeping comfort from you. He has reserved it for you.
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Tackling Anxiety with the Peace of Christ
7 Ways to Find True Peace in the Unexpected
5 Comforting Psalms for When We Worryhttps://www.youtube.com/embed/yCKXZPcP854
Photo credit: Unsplash/Carolyn V
Micah Maddox is a women’s event speaker, Bible teacher, and author of Anchored In: Experience a Power-Full Life in a Problem-Filled World. She is passionate about helping women find purpose, peace, and calm in our chaotic world. Micah is on the Proverbs31 Ministries First5 Writing Team. As a pastor’s wife and mother of four, she contributes her time to her family and local church serving as a women’s ministry leader. Micah loves to give a voice to hurting hearts and writes and speaks to the one who needs encouragement. You can connect with her at micahmaddox.com or on YouTube. You can find her book here.
|TRAINING A COLONY OF ANTS For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1Timothy 4:8 Discipleship training is a significant part of the ministry of Open Doors. Today a report from one of those involved in receiving training in the house churches of Iran: “I am proud to be an Iranian, but I have to say that daily life has not become easier lately. Three weeks ago I had a small talk with a Muslim in a park near a main street splitting Tehran north and south. We talked in veiled terms about religion and politics. At the end, the Muslim told me, ‘It feels like a big prison, to be living here.’ I agreed, but didn’t dare to say so. I glanced away, thinking of my Christian friend arrested in December 2010 who is still in prison now. “I realized that I have more freedom than many of my Christian brothers and sisters who are in jail. But after talking with this Muslim, I also realized that since I became Christian, I have even more freedom than he does! Even the Christians in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison have more freedom than Muslims do. It filled me with a feeling of sympathy and I thought about the lessons we had been learning. It’s part of our discipleship training. “That training really helped our house group. Together with my wife, we are the leaders of this house church, and every week we get together for at least one meeting. We rotate places and days but it is always in the evening. We study parts of the Bible, talk about the paragraphs that we like or don’t understand, and then we try to apply this to our daily life. “This sounds good maybe, but I often wonder if this is the right way to do it. How should I know? I became a believer six years ago, when I was seventeen. I don’t feel qualified to call myself a leader. What do I know about the role of the Holy Spirit, about a Christian marriage, about explaining the Bible or studying the Bible in the right way? But others came to faith later, so I am the most ‘experienced’ of our group. “The training helps us enormously to grow in our own leadership roles, but also motivates us to hand down the important things we learned to others. Now we know we have to stay close to the Word of God. Because it is easy to ascribe our own thoughts to the Holy Spirit, we learned how to test them against the Bible. The training also helped us open up and discuss untouched topics, like relationships in marriage and being a servant leader like Jesus was. “Through this discipleship training, we’ve been so encouraged to know that people all over the world know about us and pray for us. This helps groups like ours to stay spiritually healthy, and grow in numbers, too. “Even though believers in house groups like ours have to stay hidden and face a lot of difficulties, I think the church of Iran is like a colony of ants: most of them you don’t see!” RESPONSE: Today I want to see new believers I know discipled in the scriptures. I will do everything possible to teach and model God’s Word. PRAYER: Pray for the discipleship training in Iran and other Islamic nations. Pray that house groups will continue to grow in their faith and reach out to others around them.|
Missionary Confidence in the Face of New Critics
Article by Tim Keesee
It was a few days after Christmas during the last winter of the war in Bosnia. I was sitting by the roadside at night in some bombed-out village, studying a map and listening to the Voice of America radio broadcast for whatever news might be relevant for my journey to Sarajevo the next day.
Snowflakes darted in the cars’ headlights, promising treacherous roads in the morning, just as news of fresh fighting promised its own kind of treachery ahead. Suddenly, at the newsbreak in one of those vividly ironic moments, Louis Armstrong’s voice cut through the radio’s crackle:
I see trees of green, red roses too;
I see them bloom for me and you.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.
What I had seen the past few days wasn’t bright and sacred — it was dark and hellish. Even now, I can see in my mind the gravediggers in Mostar taking advantage of a truce to dig extra graves in the city park. I can see the dozen blackened, bombed-out towns that were as lifeless as a moonscape.
But Satchmo’s rich voice continued,
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying, “I love you.”
Then I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.
“How do you do? . . . I love you”? I was sitting in the middle of a vast killing field in which the ethnic cleansing among Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians had left one hundred thousand dead in the previous four years — and an additional two million displaced — all in a region the size of the state of Wyoming. And this war was just the latest in a centuries-long list of ethnic, religious, and political bloodlettings. As has often been said of the Balkans, “Too much history, too little geography.”
Then I went into the house where a Croatian pastor was discipling two newborn brothers. One was a Serb, and the other was a Bosnian.
Over supper, they shared their stories of God’s transforming grace and of a cross-centered forgiveness so complete that, having been reconciled to God, they now were reconciled to each other as well. Each of them had family and friends killed or homes destroyed by militias of the ethnic groups represented in each of the others around the table, but now they were brothers in Christ. They were still Croat, Serb, and Bosnian, but somehow — strangely, supernaturally — they also were family.
Their wives were there too, and their children were playing together. And they all worshiped together in the same church. I was witnessing a living, breathing Balkan version of Ephesians 2:
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. (Ephesians 2:13–14)
There was indeed in Louis Armstrong’s ironic benediction over that bomb-cratered country a reminder of another world — of a gathering kingdom — made wonderful by the power of the gospel that crosses every kind of barrier, even those stained with blood. The world’s best diplomats could not come close to bringing about the peace that I witnessed that night.
This gospel that redeems and reconciles us is my North Star to navigate these times of the growing Balkanization of my own country. The fracturing of American society is also reaching far into the church, as Christians are shaken by these tectonic shifts.
It’s good for us to remember, though, that Christians have always been caught in the cultural and political complexities of their little span of time. Believers living in Boston in 1775 lined up on different sides of the issue of independence for all sorts of reasons: the neighborhood they lived in, their profession, their pastor’s opinions, or perhaps whether their daughter was engaged to a redcoat or a minuteman. These kinds of scenarios have played out in every century and in every place.
But in our here and now, how will these days shape our thinking, our fellowship, our voices, and our pursuit of God’s mission here and to the ends of the earth? To pick up on Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, race-based ideology can trigger a kind of Christian fragility as it shakes our confidence in the gospel’s work and shames us into silence because we do not know our family’s Story — the church’s history.
To be clear, the church has never been in better hands, and God will lose none of his people. Our Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11), and he did not die in vain. God’s mission is not jeopardized by our country’s current situation. Christians have been through far worse times in the past, and Christians are in far worse situations in other parts of the world today (think of almost any band of believers from North Africa to North Korea).
It should come as no surprise that those who would seek to rewrite history to fit one comprehensive, race-based narrative of oppression would also rewrite the history of the church and especially of Christian missions. Yet it is a smear to paint the long line of pioneer missionaries as agents of colonialism, imperialism, and racism who presented a “White Jesus” to bolster their superior race and religion.
Of course, there were missionaries caught up in the politics, prejudices, and cultural attitudes of their day — just as there are in our day. Perhaps a few were false, but the vast majority were not. In his patience and mercy, Christ has long sent out imperfect messengers, and it has been that way since Peter’s forced meeting with Cornelius. And the cultural baggage lugged into missions isn’t a white problem only. My experiences with Han Chinese missionaries in Central Asia, Korean missionaries in the Middle East, and Ethiopian missionaries in Somalia all underscore that this is a common problem.
The vast company of missionaries past and present, though they struggle and stumble with their ignorance and arrogance, have sought to “become all things to all people” for the sake of Christ and out of love for their people (1 Corinthians 9:22–23). These missionaries’ greatest legacy is as Light-bearers, giving and preaching and teaching God’s word. They would gladly say with John Piper, “Because of Jesus, I care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.”
And so William Carey, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, John Paton, Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor, Samuel and Amy Zwemer, and thousands of unknown others built hospitals, devised written languages, established schools, fought human trafficking, protected the most marginalized, and made economic opportunity possible. And these pioneers of the kingdom often marked the trails they blazed for Christ with their own graves.
It is not surprising that people who have rejected Christ would reject his messengers and dishonor them, but it is surprising when Christians who don’t know or value their family’s story join in.
In these quick, crowded years of our vapor-life, we dare not glory in ourselves, our skin color, our group, or our political party. Rather, we glory in the cross-centered message of the gospel, through which Jesus takes hopeless, lost sinners bound in all the superlatives of despair — blind, thirsty, deaf, and dying — and extends to them a stunning offer of life, freedom, peace, and a place at the King’s table forever.
To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)
This gospel saves and binds together all sorts of unlikely people with the cords of unbroken and unbreakable grace. In Christ Jesus, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Neither Croat nor Bosnian, neither Serb nor American, neither Black nor White nor Hispanic, neither Republican nor Democrat.
When I think of that world, the world our risen, returning King is preparing — one filled with his people redeemed from every race and every place — I hear echoes of Louis Armstrong singing in that winter war zone long ago: “Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”Tim Keesee is the founder and executive director of Frontline Missions International. He has traveled to more than ninety countries, reporting on the church. He is the executive producer of Dispatches from the Front and author of A Company of Heroes.