Peace in Times of Discouragement
Read Genesis 40
A discouraged minister once dreamed that he was standing on top of a great granite rock, trying to break it with a pickaxe. Hour after hour he worked on with no result. At last he said; “It is useless; I will stop.”
Suddenly a man stood by him and asked, “Were you not allotted this task and if so, why are you going to abandon it?”
“My work is in vain; I can make no impression on the granite,” was the minister’s reply.
Then the stranger solemnly replied, “That is nothing to you; your duty is to pick, whether the rock yields or no. The work is yours, the results are in other hands; work on.”[i]
I know how it feels to be discouraged or frustrated. I forget the God whom I serve “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” In my despair and discouragement I lose focus on who is in charge. Sometimes I even begin to feel like God has let me down.
However, in our discouragement we can be reminded:
[i] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (337). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
Peace in Suffering
Read Romans 5:3 – 5
The Apostle Paul writes, “More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” He is saying since we are at peace with God, and since we have access into his grace, the end result will be hope.
Hope in the Bible is not the same as crossing your fingers and wishing for the best. The Bible defines hope as having absolute assurance that something will happen even though it is still in the future. It simply means being certain that a future event will happen. In the Christians case our hope is in the future glory that God has promised us. None of us here on earth have obtained our future glory; we have to wait. But we can live in certainty that God’s promise to those who trust in Jesus Christ alone will inherit an eternal glory that He has prepared for His children.
When we see our trials and sufferings through the lens of hope, then it all makes sense. Look throughout the Old and New Testament at the men and women of faith who endured hardships, trials, and suffering and were able to rejoice in these times. They were able to endure because their hope was in the promise of God’s future glory.
Are you facing a challenge in your life today? Rejoice, because your challenge will produce patience. Your patience will build character. Ultimately your patience and character will result in hope even amidst your trial.
Read Romans 5:1 – 5
I used to be an editor for an online review site and because of this I had a few perks. I would receive 100s of CDs, books and DVDs for free every month. Sometimes I would get free tickets to concerts; and, on a few occasions, I would get press passes with the tickets. Press passes were awesome because they gave you access to places where most people were not allowed to go. Sometimes I would access the photo pit, other times I had access to the backstage area with the road crew and bands, and occasionally I was granted access onto the tour bus of the band. I would wear this little sticker or laminate that said “All Access” with pride because I had access to special places that others could not go.
I share this information with you because I believe it fits well with today’s passage. In Romans 5:2 the Apostle Paul writes, “Through him (Jesus), we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Because of faith in Jesus Christ believers now have access to the glorious grace in which we stand. This is the perk of justification. Because of our position as sons and daughters of Christ, we now have the special privilege of standing firm in God’s presence and grace.
I love what Timothy Keller writes in his commentary of Romans, “Access to grace means we are given a favorable position from which to develop a personal relationship. In Christ, we are ushered into the royal throne room, and we stand – remain- there. Wherever we go in the world, we are always in the heavenly throne room.”[i] We have eternal access to God, wherever we are.
In these first two verses Paul tells us that faith in Jesus Christ does two specific things. First, it puts us at peace with God. Second, it gives us access to stand in the grace and glory of God. This means that we are secure in Christ. Jesus is our ally and he is our access to God’s glory.
What should our response to all of this be? Rejoicing! We may enter the presence of God whenever we desire and we have the certainty that one day we will share in God’s future redemption. This, my friends is cause to celebrate every day.
[i] Keller, Timothy: Romans 1 – 7 For You. Purcellville, VA: The Good Book Company, 2014, p. 110
Peace with God
Read Romans 5:1 – 5
Peace. It’s a word we hear often. John Lennon encourages us to “give peace a chance.” The hippies in the 60s were famous for giving the peace sign. We see the peace logo on T-shirts and posters. In the Christmas season we say (and sing), “peace on earth and goodwill towards men.”
Generally when people talk about peace they are talking about a state of quietness, harmony, or serenity. It usually refers to a feeling or a state of mind. It can be thought of as the absence of chaos, fighting and noise.
Paul writes in verse 1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ.” Did you catch that? If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you have peace with God. You are declared innocent in His eyes because of your faith in Jesus Christ. You have been acquitted of your charges of sin. You are now at peace with God. It is not the peace from God which results in a quiet and fulfilled heart. It is a declaration that the war I have been engaged in against God is over, and He and I are at peace with each other. I am no longer at war with God in my being. I am no longer fighting and resisting Him. Douglas Moo writes in his commentary of Romans, “While the word is not used again in this paragraph, the language of ‘reconciliation’ in vv. 10 -11 picks up this concept… we must recognize that Paul conceives this ‘peace with God’ or ‘reconciliation’ as created out of a situation of hostility; while it was while we were ‘enemies’ of God that he reconciled us. We were weak, ungodly, sinners when God in his love brought us into a new relationship of peace with him.”[i]
[i] Moo, Douglas: The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996, p. 297
Read Colossians 1:15 – 20
The opening question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Did you know you were created by God and for Him? All things were created by Him and for Him.
All of Creation is part of God’s grand design. His big picture displays that He is the Creator of all things, and He has invited us to be part of His story. He has not chosen us to be the main characters, but he has chosen us to play a big part in His story. This is something that should stir up excitement in your heart and soul! The infinite God who created all things and is bigger than all of creation has chosen you and me to be part of His grand plan!
Consider the words of Job 10: 9 – 12
“Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.”
God has taken great care in creating you. He has made you unique. He has not given up on you. He does not want us to give up on Him! He did not cast us away, but found value in each one of us and He has poured His love down on us by sending His beloved Son to dwell among us, to die for us and to give life to all who believe.
As we conclude the first week of Advent take to heart the words of Pastor Timothy Keller, “You are so bad that Jesus had to die for you, but you are so loved by Him that Jesus had to die for you.”
You may be a sinner. You are certainly not perfect, but our Creator is and He loves you so much and He has given everything for you. Can you give Him all of you this Advent season?
Read Romans 1:16 – 17
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel…” Why do you think the Apostle Paul declares this so boldly? He was in some ways prideful or boastful of the Gospel, but not because of anything he had accomplished in his life. The cross of Jesus Christ and the Gospel were considered by many outsiders to be foolishness. It was considered a crutch, a superstition, or a fairy tale. People who followed the way of the cross were considered fools. Paul does not shy away from preaching the Gospel nor was he going to hide or try to act like it didn’t impact his life.
The word Gospel is derived from the Greek word Euaggeleion (Yoo-ang-ghel-ee-on) which means good tidings or good news. It is the glad tidings of the kingdom of God that is still to come and of the good news of Jesus the Messiah. The Gospel is the news of salvation through faith in the work of Jesus Christ. It is preaching the death of Jesus Christ for justification to those who believe. It is preaching the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ. It is declaring the return of Jesus Christ in majesty and His coming Kingdom.
The Gospel message is a declaration of the mighty work of God who has delivered, preserved and kept safe those who believe in Jesus. It is the redemption we will all receive when we pass from this life to eternity. A.W. Pink wrote, “We are saved from the penalty of sin, saved from the power of sin, and the pleasure of sin”.
Many Christians have the idea of salvation wrong. Some think of the Gospel as a “get out of hell free” card or a “fire protection” policy. Salvation is more than being saved from eternal death. It is the guarantee of a fruitful and abundant life on earth and the inheritance of eternal life.
The Gospel message declares salvation is for everyone who believes. It is the saving faith through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, his resurrection and ascension.
Read Romans 5:1 – 10
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is good news! This is the Gospel! Yes, we are sinful failures deserving death and punishment, BUT God loves us so much that He remedied the problem. Take a moment and let that sink in. God loves you! How can we truly know He loves us? Because of the Christmas message. "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” He made a way for us, so we would not have to face death and eternal punishment, through his only son Jesus. God has provided an escape clause for our condemnation. Jesus died in the place of the powerless (“feeble,” v. 6), the ungodly (v. 6; 4:5), sinners (5:8), and even His enemies! (v. 10).[i] Through Jesus Christ we have the ability to inherit eternal life. There are conditions though.
Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Public pronouncement and inner faith are the two conditions. You must first confess publicly your commitment and belief in Jesus Christ and secondly you must believe with all your heart. The two should be synonymous as we have seen in the Bible that the words we speak are a reflection of our heart. Salvation comes through acknowledging to God that Christ is God and believing in Him.[ii]
Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The war is over! The price has been paid, death has been transformed to life. Through the work of Christ all causes of enmity between our souls and God have been removed. We have been changed from foes to friends by a miracle of grace.[iii]
[i] Ibid (2:457)
[ii] Ibid (2:481)
[iii] MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Ro 5:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Read Ephesians 2:1 – 3
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This is a truth that immediately levels the playing field for all humanity. Every single person reading this devotional is a sinful person. I know this sounds a bit harsh and may not be good for our self-esteem. Regardless, this is what the Bible teaches. We are sinners and we have failed to meet up to God’s glory. In reality we will never measure up to the glory of God in our sinful state.
God’s glory is His splendor; it is his outward manifestation of His attributes. God desires that humans share in this splendor, that we become like Him, that is, Christ-like. Yet our sin keeps us from sharing it.[i] Since we are sinners and the wages of sin is death, then the natural conclusion is hopelessness.
Since we are sinners, then we are in bondage to sin. We only care about one thing… Ourselves. When I look back on my life I remember how I lived only for myself and my selfish desires. I didn’t care about the ways of God, nor did I care about His people. I had no moral boundaries, I had no sense of right or wrong; I only did what felt right to me and I only cared about the things that brought pleasure to me. I was dead and in bondage to my sins.
We are reminded in today’s passage that we ALL once lived according to this way. Maybe some of you are still living according to the flesh. This creates a problem. If one is sinful, he is dead in his wickedness and selfish ways. How can one ever know and experience the hope and reality of redemption? If our life story ended here it would be a sad and hopeless story indeed. There would be no “and he lived happily ever after.” It would be a purposeless story. Without purpose, there is no hope.
There is hope though. The truth that has been hidden has now been revealed to us through Jesus Christ.
[i] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:451). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Read Romans 8:19 - 23
The Bible is God’s message of hope. It is hope for today and for all eternity. Our hope is firmly rooted in the reality and anticipation of our future redemption. The Bible speaks to the fact that a person who believes in Jesus Christ has a future that is greater than anything he could possibly fathom or even experience in his lifetime here on earth.
The New Testament book Romans speaks about all of creation longing for redemption or liberation. The author speaks about how humanity groans inwardly and outwardly to be redeemed and renewed.
Author and Pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City, Timothy Keller, writes, “We are told (in Genesis) that we were created to live in the Garden of God. That was the world we were built for, a place in which there is no parting from love, no decay or disease. It was all these things because it was life before the face of God, in his presence. There we were to adore and serve his infinite majesty, and to know, enjoy, and reflect his infinite beauty. That is our original home, the true country we were made for… (and presently) we have been living in a world that no longer fits our deepest longings.”
We are like square pegs trying to fit into a round hole. We were not created for death, decay and destruction, we were created for life, multiplication and fellowship with God. Our hope is in the truth that one day we will be free from this earthly body and redeemed to eternal glory. Until then, we eagerly wait for that future event. Our bodies may be getting older and for some of us our parts don’t work as well as they used to; so, we continue to long day after day for the newly restored body and eternal fellowship with God.
Advent is taken from the Latin word Adventus which means "coming". It is the Latin translation of the Greek word parousia, which the New Testament most often referred to Jesus’ second coming.[i]
It is believed that Advent began sometime after the 4th century. It was observed as a time of preparation for Epiphany also known as Three Kings Day. Epiphany is a celebration of the manifestation of Jesus by observing the visit of the Magi and as a time to observe the baptism of Jesus. Epiphany was the time new Christians were baptized and received into the faith. It was during this time the early church instituted a 40-day period of fasting and repentance.
Originally, Advent was not a celebration of the coming of the Christ-child, but rather, it was a time of anticipation and preparation for the Second Coming of Christ.
By the 8th Century, the church adopted what western Christianity today observes as Advent. Since the 8th century, Advent has become the celebration of the Christ’s coming through his birth in Bethlehem, the anticipation of his future appearance at the end of time, and the remembrance of his presence among us through the Holy Spirit.[ii]
Meaning of the Advent Wreath
Advent begins on the first Sunday closest to November 30th and continues through Christmas Eve. The Catholic and Western Churches traditionally display an Advent wreath on the first Sunday of Advent.
The wreath symbolizes the eternity of God. It is a circle, thus symbolizes no beginning and no end. The use of evergreens symbolizes eternal life through Jesus Christ. According to Catholic tradition, each of the four candles represents 1,000 years, thus the four candles signify the four thousand years humanity has waited for the Savior of the world to come. The white center candle is called the Christ candle and represents the presence of Jesus Christ. The lighting of the candles reminds believers that Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
Traditionally there are three purple candles, one pink candle and one white candle. The purple candles represent repentance, and fasting; but, it also is the color of royalty. The pink symbolizes joy and rejoicing and represents the shift of the season from repentance to joy. The white candle represents the purity of Christ and his cleansing power over sin.
What Each Advent Candle Represents
Week One – The Prophecy Candle. Precept One - Hope
Week Two – The Bethlehem Candle. Precept Two - Preparation/Peace
Week Three – The Shepherd Candle. Precept Three - Joy
Week Four – The Angel Candle. Precept Four - Love
Christmas Eve – The Christ Candle. Christ is come, He is present.
[i] Eric Metaxas – “Don't Let Black Friday Tarnish the Meaning of Advent” http://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/breakpoint/don-t-let-black-friday-tarnish-the-meaning-of-advent.html
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