‘You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.’ 2 Timothy 2.1
Perhaps the most striking thing about this verse is the fact that it is in the present tense. It is all about ‘the grace that is in Christ Jesus’ right now, rather than what was in him or will be one day. The grace of God is here and now – so what is it exactly?
The grace of God is what we are unable to produce ourselves. It really is God’s life within us, bringing something beyond our own means into the situations facing us. What is also encouraging about this is that we are told to be strong in this grace; in other words to draw upon it and not to be anxious that we are calling upon it often. It is not that there is a limited quota of grace, and when it has been used up that’s the end of it. Instead, God’s desire is that we constantly draw upon what he has made available for us, so that we can live the life he wants us to live. The big question is whether we will remember to do it.
Jesus is with us at all times, always present wherever we are present, and so is his grace. We may need grace to love someone that we cannot do by ourselves or the grace to speak boldly when we feel timid. Whatever it is, his grace is there for the asking.
‘When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. Luke 17.14
It is very interesting to note the chronology of this verse, which is part of the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. They came to Jesus asking for healing, and he told them to go and show themselves to the priest (who was the only one with the authority to pronounce them clean). It is interesting that Jesus told them to do this before they were actually healed. It was only as they were on their way to the priest that their healing happened. By being obedient to Jesus, they actually ran quite a risk of standing before the priest asking to be pronounced clean while they still had leprosy! It is full credit to them that they set off on the way, trusting that something would happen as they walked along.
We, too, are called to share our faith in a similar way; to believe before we see the results. Just as the ten lepers were told to do something before they saw the evidence with their own eyes, so we are called to show love whether or not we feel loving; to remain in God’s love whether or not we feel his love; and to believe in the truth that we carry his presence with us wherever we go, no matter whether we have any evidence before we leave our front doors.
All too often we act in response to our feelings, whereas what brings God the greatest pleasure is when we act in response to what he says. Today you will carry his presence to every person you meet, so act on this whether you feel it or not!
He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. Nehemiah 6.13
When Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, it certainly wasn’t plain sailing! As he called the people to work he was constantly bombarded with the threats of those who sought to stop him. This verse outlines one of the attempts made to halt his work – an attempt to intimidate him and make him afraid.
You have probably experienced what it is to be afraid -perhaps about a specific situation, a particular person or just a general fear that something bad is going to happen to you. What did Nehemiah do with his fear? It is interesting that he didn’t fight back, nor seek to cast out the fear, but he put it to one side and got on with what he had been called to do.
There is a wonderful lesson in this. Fear often paralyses us, and it can stop us taking a step into the future. Nehemiah didn’t deny what he was feeling, but he simply walked forward into the day ahead regardless.
What is it that you fear today? Acknowledge your fears, but also acknowledge that you are called by God to be his co-worker. He needs you in the very situation that you fear. How would you act if your fears were not there? Take his hand and walk into the day ahead.
‘Making Every Day Count’
If you have been enjoying these daily ‘thoughts’, you might like to know that a book of them has just been published, priced £9.99. It looks lovely and makes an ideal Christmas present. Please go to www.healingmission.org for details.
‘Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.’ Proverbs 10.12
It is amazing how we all have the ability to stir up past conflicts. An event may be long passed, but it is still easy to re-visit the painful memories and sometimes have imaginery conversations saying all the things we would like to have said at the time. We really are stirring up something that would far better be left alone. The opposite is love.
Love, we are told, covers over all wrongs. There may indeed be wrongs in your past and whatever decision you may have made to forgive does not negate or rectify them. What choosing to forgive does mean is that you are no longer imprisoned by the past actions of others. When you re-visit these memories, you run the risk of getting back behind the bars yourself, but the opposite is love.
Forgiveness begins by receiving again the love of God for you. This is about consciously taking time to revel in his profound, personal attentiveness and care for you. It is also about pondering all that you have been forgiven, and just how merciful God is to you. Then you are in a better position to consider those for whom you still feel a certain resentment – can you entrust them into the hands of God? This is not about belittling the wrong they have done, but it is about trusting God with the outcome and continuing to do so.
‘Making Every Day Count’
If you have been enjoying these daily ‘thoughts’, you might like to know that a book of them has just been published, priced £9.99. Please go to www.healingmission.org for details.
Also, there will be a Book Launch at CHM in Hammersmith, London, on Monday 2nd December from 6.30 – 8.00 pm, to which you are very welcome. Please let us know if you would like to come.
‘…pursue . . . godliness’ 1 Timothy 6.11
Godliness can sound a bit boring! It often carries with it the connotation of giving up everything that might be pleasurable, or trying to walk through life with a saintly smile on your face. Perhaps a better definition of godliness is being like God; God as revealed by Jesus. Whatever else you say about Jesus, his life certainly was not boring. He went to parties with people most of us would disapprove of, courted controversy and saw the amazing power of God at work.
There is a well-known phrase – ‘What would Jesus do?’ In so many of the situations in which we find ourselves it is a wonderful question. So often we feel an emotion and react as a result of it, whether it be love, anger, fear or whatever else we might be feeling. As we read the stories of Jesus, we seem to be reading of someone who was not just reacting to what he was feeling, but rather was seeking to bring the purposes of God to those he met.
We have already looked at the notion that to pursue one path often necessitates turning our backs on another. To pursue godliness – to act like Jesus did – may well mean turning your back on what you would instinctively do or say, so that you bring his will, words and actions to a particular situation or person. Without wanting to put pressure on you, today you may be the only person that someone encounters who can bring the heart of Jesus to them.
The reason for you pursuing godliness is for the benefit of everyone you meet today and in the days ahead.
‘I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.”’ Ezra 8.22
This verse is so honest: Ezra is forced to confront what he really believes about God, and whether he is willing to act upon his conviction? Ezra certainly seems to be in a position where he could understandably ask for human protection, but given what he really believes – should he do this? Eventually he concludes that he should put his trust in God alone.
Perhaps the one area we all have in common that causes us to face this challenge is that of fear. Different things cause us anxiety, but given our faith – that we are loved by God and that he has promised to be with us wherever we go – why is it that we let anxiety and fear grip us so often? Their presence is actually like a ringing bell asking us what we really believe; are we certain that the loving God is actively with us?
When you next feel fearful, instead of giving in to it or pretending it doesn’t exist, try letting it draw you to a deeper truth, and make a decision to focus on this instead. What is it that brings you fear and anxiety? What is the truth that stands against these fears? Rejoice in these truths, celebrate them, and walk into this day with God’s presence with you.
‘…train yourself to be godly.’ 1 Timothy 4.7
This is such an encouraging phrase because it makes the immediate point that we are not godly already! All too often we can beat ourselves up with the memory of our failures, of how we think we ought to be a much better Christian, or how poorly we come fare in comparison with others. Discouragement and a sense of failure can so easily follow. So Paul’s encouragement is to ‘train yourself’.
No-one would wander into a gym for the first time, put the running machine onto the fastest setting and feel a failure if they couldn’t keep it up for an hour; nor would they select the heaviest weights in the building and walk out in disgust if they couldn’t lift them up 100 times! The sensible approach is to start at a lower level and reach a certain level of competence, before progressing steadily to new challenges. Just as we train ourselves in fitness, or in any number of other areas, so we are encouraged to train ourselves to be godly.
An excellent way of training yourself in godliness is to spend a few minutes reflecting on the past day – where did you get things wrong and where did you see God at work? In the light of this, where do you need his grace today so as not to repeat the mistakes of yesterday? This is not just introspection, but a process of honestly opening yourself up to the touch of God, and letting him change you for today.