Some Said It Thundered

27 “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. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” (John 12:27-29 ESV)

The words of a man who is about to die can be some of the most profound that he will ever speak. Our Lord Jesus spoke many deep things about the nature of the kingdom of God, eternal life, and how his followers were to treat each other, yet the words spoken at this particular moment are among the most significant that our Lord and Savior ever uttered. And if their significance was initially unnoticed, God the Father himself echoed the steeled purpose behind the words of the Son of God.

There are only three instances in the life of Jesus in which the Father speaks from heaven. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father declares Jesus to be his beloved Son with whom he is well-pleased (Matt 3:17) and inaugurates his earth-shaking ministry. At the Transfiguration, the veil of human flesh is peeled back for a moment and the earthly eyes of the disciples looked upon the blinding glory of Jesus Christ that was his from before the foundation of the world. The Father then speaks for a second time, declaring Christ to be his beloved Son with whom he is well pleased once again, exhorting his disciples to “listen to him.” The final time that the Father speaks is here. As the Son pours out the anguish in his own soul but sets his face towards the cross with the knowledge that it was for this very purpose that the Lamb of God came into the world, the Father speaks one final time.

The mighty plan of salvation will require an immense sacrifice that has no parallel and will never have any parallel in human history. And the reason that Christ willingly went to the cross was to glorify the Father’s name. The living Word of the Father declared from the vault of the heavens was our omnipotent God’s confirmation of his infinitely glorious masterplan to redeem the human race from the eternal wages of sin and death in the fires of hell.

But despite how pivotal and magnificent of a moment the third and final utterance of the Father was in salvation history, there were many who heard but did not hear. Many heard the everlasting Father’s very own voice echo from the skies above, and yet many heard nothing but thunder. Many heard the words of the living God himself—words confirming the glorious purpose for which the Son of God came into the world—yet all they could hear was a loud, but otherwise ordinary boom of a thunderstorm.

How shocking this is! How unfathomable! To think that the God of the universe SPOKE in an intelligible, stentorian voice, from his royal dais in the heavens, to a large crowd about the grandest work to ever be accomplished and yet many did NOT hear him!

Jesus was absolutely right when he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father (Joh 6:65 ESV).”  And when Peter made his confession that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus also rightly exclaimed, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 16:17 ESV)

Brothers and sisters, let us never forget that the only reason we can hear the Word of God is because God gave us ears to hear. If he were not merciful to us, the reading of the Holy Scriptures would be no different from reading a fiction novel or a textbook. Instead of hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd speaking words of eternal life from the sacred writings, we would only hear the voice of some common mortal clamoring for our attention in an ordinary book. We would find no encouragement in our daily devotionals. We would never feel the comfort of God’s voice from his Word in the midst of the trials of life. We would find nothing for our souls to rejoice over if the Scriptures were only the common thunder of man and not the living oracles of God himself.

We have indeed been given a precious treasure in God’s Word, but we must also praise God that he gave us ears to HEAR his precious Word. What a great gift it is to have been given the knowledge of the secrets of heaven (Matt 13:11) and to hear the voice of the living God leading to eternal life. And for this undeserved gift of mercy, we give him the highest praise.

Advertisements

Because You Were Small

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, [8] but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut 7:7-8 ESV).

The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it is not for the proud and mighty, but for those who are willing to bow the knee and acknowledge their humility before God. The Christian life is full of reminders that God is great and magnificent, whereas we are small and insignificant. Yet, there is an incredible amount of joy to be had, knowing that God has chosen the foolish and small things of this world to shame the wise and the grand. For in man’s weakness, not his strength, God’s glory and kindness shines brighter.

If our Christianity were grounded in some sense of our worthiness before God we would live in a state of either constant pride or constant fear. If we believed that we were excellent Law-keepers like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus or the other Pharisees, we would snub those whom we deemed to be poor keepers of God’s Law. In our hearts, we would slowly begin to measure people according to our own sense of holiness rather than God’s and so steal glory from God by usurping his proper authority as Judge. If, however, we believed God loved us because of our own initial worthiness, this would not help us one bit. In fact, it would terrify us, for we would live in constant fear of losing that initial favor.

Our eyes were opened not because we were worthy of love, but because God chose to set his love on us. The foundation of our Christian lives is the concrete of grace not the sinking sand of fear. What a marvelous gift grace is! Grace is solid enough that we can stand on it through the trials of life, yet pliable enough that when we fall, we are not smashed but gently caught by its net. Grace is firm enough that we can leap from its platform into the ministry our Lord calls us into, yet grace is soft enough for us to rest on when we seek comfort and quiet from our sufferings.

How grateful we are for grace! God’s grace brought us out of spiritual slavery from our old taskmaster of sin, God’s grace sustains our frail bodies as we endure trials in this world, and God’s grace will ultimately bring us home to glory. The grace of God frees us from having to live a life of deception, claiming to be great, when we are nothing more than needy creatures who are in need of daily grace. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! May God’s grace be sufficient for you today and always. As the old hymn writer said,

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

God With Us

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Mat 1:23 ESV)

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s promise to be with his people was a great source of strength. God promised Isaac that he would be with him, to bless him and to establish the oath that he swore to Abraham (Gen 26:3). God promised a troubled Jacob that he would be with him if he left his uncle and returned to the land of his kindred (Gen 31:3). Moses and Joshua both received signs and words from God to encourage them to speak on behalf of God and to wage war (Ex 3:12, Josh 1:5).

But the coming of Jesus Christ into this world expanded the very phrase, “God with us,” beyond what anyone could ever have imagined. For God did not just grace the world with the care of his Presence, but his very Presence came into our world. How remarkable this is! As Charles Wesley wrote, “Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man.”

The God who crafted the entire universe condescended to enter into our world and added to his divinity the weakness and frailness of human flesh. The infinite God became an infant. The Creator whose breath forms ice (Job 37:10) would feel the chill of the evening wind. The Provider who feeds the beasts of the field would need to be fed at his mother’s breast. The eternal one would age into a man. The all-wise one would need to grow in wisdom. The immortal Lord would suffer death. The giver of joy would become a man of sorrows. The comforter of all would cry at the grave of Lazarus. The quencher of spiritual thirst who gives fountains of living water would himself thirst on the cross. What a paradox he is! Who can understand this great mystery?

He was fully God, yet fully human—and knew what it was to be human. And though he was tempted, he succeeded against sin where no human being had ever triumphed. He knew the maximum weight of human temptation in every aspect of life—more than anyone who has ever lived, yet he did not succumb for a moment and triumphed where Israel had failed!

And there is no path that we believers walk that he has not already walked before us! Are you abandoned and lonely? Then look to the one who had no place to lay his head. Are you crushed under the weight of grief? Look to the man of sorrows. Do you agonize over the crushing weight of your responsibilities? Look to him who bore the weight of Gethsemane. Truly he is a God who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he was made like us in every way but without sin (Heb 4:15). Christ has walked your path, and he walks with you now. Not just as the God who sees and ordains all things for your good, but as the God who walked our very world and walks with you now. And surely, he has promised, to be with you—to the very end of the age.

Why Death is Gain

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil 1:21 ESV)

The absolute joy of the Christian heart is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No one else is more precious to our souls than Him! He is the lily of the valley, the rose of Sharon, the bright, morning star—fairer than the fairest of ten thousand to our souls! Absolutely nothing in all of creation can compare with the infinite value of the Prince of peace who has reconciled us to God through his own blood.

The apostle Paul understood this as he declared, “For me to live is Christ and to die is GAIN!” What a strange thing to say by our world’s standards! Death for many is the great robber and thief. Death steals from us the work of our hands and forces us to leave the wealth we have gained to others. Death destroys the plans we have made for the future and empties our calendars of our hopes and dreams. Death divorces us from our dearest friends and family members on this earth, and leaves in its place a void that can never be filled by another human being. Death cuts more deeply than any sword because it cuts into our hearts and not our flesh!

But as mighty as this great enemy of our souls is, death can NEVER sever us from our eternal joy! The keen, knife-edge of death has no ability to slash the eternal cord that binds us to Christ! The bonds of divine love are stronger than steel and tempered in the blood of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world! And no force in heaven or on earth, whether angels or demons, or death itself, can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

For us believers, the carriage of death may bear us away from our earthly loved ones, but it delivers us into the presence of the One whom our soul loves, Jesus Christ. And this is why the apostle can call death GAIN! Not because there is no giving up of things we hold dear, but because we count it all as LOSS, compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord! Death for us believers has no sting, but instead does us the courtesy of smashing the earthly mirror so that we do not see dimly anymore, but face to face!

Ah, what a comfort it is to know that when our time here on earth comes to an end, we will look into the glorious face of our Lord Jesus Christ! Take heart, believer. For though the ups and downs of life may leave you weary and fatigued, know that the end of our days is incomparable, unending and unfading joy in the King’s land. To him be the glory forever and ever, Amen!

The Prince of Peace and the Price of Peace

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:1 ESV)

Our Lord Jesus was prophesied by Isaiah to be the Prince of Peace, a most remarkable title. Princes are unlike most of us in that they are royalty. They come from noble blood and they are given rulership over a particular state or peoples. Whether this is the prince of Wales, the prince of Tyre, or the prince of the sons of Judah, the limits and boundaries of their rule are well defined. But Jesus Christ is a far superior prince in that he isn’t just a ruler over a group of people, but he is a ruler over a quality of existence—peace! What is staggering about this statement is that it is a declaration regarding the guaranteed atmosphere of his kingdom. How powerful and magnificent must Jesus be to be declared as a ruler whose very reign will be characterized by peace? How many rulers have tried hard to keep the peace in their kingdoms but ultimately failed? Yet, Jesus’ kingdom is prophesied to be a kingdom of absolute, eternal peace for his subjects.

Furthermore, the peace that Jesus brings isn’t just simply the end of wars and the cessation of conflict in our homes, but peace between God and man. In our natural state, we are sinners before an Almighty God who are deserving of his wrath. The only thing we accomplish in our brief lives, apart from grace, is to make war with God everyday. But Jesus Christ came into the world, so that we who believe in him, might by justified before God and know ultimate peace.

And although the gift of reconciliation with God was given to us freely, it was not freely acquired. It was purchased, not with gold and silver, but with the precious blood of a spotless Lamb. The Christ who came into the world as a humble baby only accomplished the work of reconciliation by living out his days with unwavering holiness and dying for our sins on the cross. We are God’s people because of what Jesus has accomplished and we must never forget that we were bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19).

Christmas cannot truly be celebrated unless we first understand that naturally, we are wicked, enemies of God. Only then will we crave and passionately rejoice at the incredible reconciliation that God has given us through Christ. Christmas can only be Good News, if we first understand that it begins with bad news. Victory means nothing if there is no war. And the gift of peace is meaningless, if there is no strife. And the Good News of Christmas is not just that we have received a gift, but that we have received a gift of infinite, inestimable, and unsurpassed value—eternal peace with God. And all of this comes through Jesus Christ who is our Prince of Peace. So, let us give thanks this Christmas to the Prince of Peace who came into the world to pay the price of peace, so that we might have eternal peace with God.

Black Hole Destroying Hope in Jesus

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2)

God, through the prophet Isaiah, declared that the children of Israel would suffer terribly for their sins. “And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness” (Isaiah 8:22). And in accordance with God’s Word, Israel was carried away into exile in Babylon. But despite the magnitude of their sins, God in his mercy promised his people light! Though our sins are black spots against his glory and we deserve to be kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the day of judgment, God promised hope and light to an undeserving people!

But what is remarkable here is that the prophet does not just speak about hope and light, but that he does so in the past and not the future tense—as if tomorrow’s newspaper had already been printed. For God, the future is never uncertain. The future is but the coming fulfillment of his sovereign will. Therefore, God’s plan of salvation for the world cannot be thwarted or derailed. It is unchangeable, immutable, and fixed in a world that is everchanging, uncertain and full of darkness. God promised long ago, that the dark night of sin that has blinded every single human being on earth, would one day be dispelled by a light—a great light so bright that it would penetrate the land of deep darkness. How glorious it is to know that Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy. He is the great light of the world who banishes the horrors of the sin of night with his inescapable, brilliant rays of light and life!

Death is like a black hole. Nothing that nears the horizon of a black hole can escape it. Not even a beam of light, traveling at the highest speed in the universe—can escape the gravitational pull of a black hole. And nothing that passes into a black hole ever returns. And from the inescapable black hole of death, none has ever returned—except one, Jesus Christ. At the command of God our Father, Christ rose to life. The laws of physics were violated and the black hole of death shuddered and exploded as the Son of God tore through the darkness and destroyed it’s inescapable power forever. And amidst the black ruins of death, Jesus Christ the Son stands triumphant and glorious, beckoning all who would be saved to come to him for the forgiveness of their sins.

Christian, there is no land of deep darkness or impenetrable blackness anymore for those of us who are in Jesus Christ. Our sins have been removed from us and we have been transferred out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son! Whether we experience the darkness of famine, war, sickness, or poverty, the great light of Christ is brighter still. And even if our last days might feel dark as we walk through cold, clammy valley of the shadow of death—there is hope. For beyond the dark horizon is the glorious and ever-shining land of the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. He alone is our hope.

There is only hope for a life of unending joy in an everlasting world, because hope came for us, and entered into our world as a little baby. Praise be to God who gives us this brilliant, glorious, unshakeable, black hole destroying hope!

God Knows His Sheep By Name

“…The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:3-5 ESV)

Sheep milling about in a sheep pen look remarkably the same and it is extremely difficult for the untrained eye to distinguish them from one another even after careful scrutiny. Yet, good shepherds who love their own sheep can distinguish them from one another with a mere glance. They are so familiar with their individual movements, the manner in which they toss their head, and the subtle differences in weight and figure, that they do not hesitate in identifying their very own.

But just as shepherds know each of their very own sheep by name, so also does the Good Shepherd know his own. And the implication here is not just that Christ knows the name of the sheep and nothing else about them, but rather that he has intimate knowledge of them. Christ does not know the sheep of his pasture in just some general sense, but they are individually known to him and each are precious in his sight. As a good shepherd would know if a single lamb has wandered away from the other ninety-nine, so also does Christ Jesus know when we are wandering away into the wilderness of our own sin. Nothing in our lives—no tragic circumstances, trials, or snares—escapes the notice of our Good Shepherd who knows us by name.

But, though he knows his sheep, but they know him as well. They recognize him even if they cannot see him because they hear his voice calling out to them. The sheep of his pasture know the Good Shepherd’s voice, and those that belong to their Master will not listen to a stranger’s voice. What a blessing it is to be one of God’s sheep! To be marked as his very own and to be lovingly taken care of by the Good Shepherd who gives his life for his sheep! How familiar we are with the sweet voice of the shepherd of Israel!

Believer, do you not remember the numerous times that the Lord has spoken to you throughout your life? Do you remember when the Lord first called you with the message of your own depravity and how you received it in brokenness and humility? Do you remember how our Lord Jesus searched for you and called your name when you fell into the mires of depression and the deserts of sin? Do you remember the days when you were overwhelmed by your own sense of unworthiness, how the Good Shepherd spoke to you and reminded you of his steadfast love that cast your sin from you as far as the east is from the west?

What a joy it is to serve a God who cares for the individual needs of every single one of his precious lambs! How quickly the Good Shepherd rushes to the side of his crying lambs! So, when you are tempted this week to think that you are alone or that the difficulties you face are insurmountable, remember that the Good Shepherd knows your name. Do not fear, little sheep. For it is your Master’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. And if our Father gave his very own, precious, and spotless Lamb to die on the cross for our sins, how much does he love and care for you, little lamb?

You are NOT Alone!

“Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18 ESV)

Despair and loneliness are merciless fraternal twins who have chased God’s faithful—great and small—for thousands of years. Even the great prophets and mighty kings of old were not spared from their relentless onslaughts and assaults. Elijah was used by God to bring about a great victory against the prophets of Baal as the Lord God answered his pleas and sent fire from heaven on his offering on Mount Carmel. Subsequently, four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal were executed by the people of Israel and rain miraculously fell from the heavens after three and a half years of drought. But despite these powerful victories and the very visible manifestations of the unmatched power of God, the mighty prophet trembled at Jezebel’s threats against his life and ran away into the desert. Though he was a firsthand witness to the awesome hand of God at work through him, he found himself despairing of life itself.

Brother and sisters, is this not our human condition? Too often we think to ourselves when we are pursuing the things of God with zeal, “Lord, the godly have perished from the face of the earth (Micah 7:2)! God, I am the only one left!” We look around us and can see only those who seek to lay snares for our lives while our closest friends stand far off (Ps 38:11-12). And even though God has worked for us such a great salvation by delivering us from slavery in the Egypt of our sin, we are prone to grumble when we are walking through wildernesses of life. We forget the power that parted the Red Sea and we long to return to slavery.

But how grateful we are that our God is a gracious and powerful God! For when the prophet was at his lowest, the still small voice spoke the truth with the gentleness of a father speaking to his young child. There on the mountain, God dealt kindly with his discouraged heart and reminded him he was not alone. For God had preserved for himself a remnant, chosen by grace, of 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (Rom 11:5).

Christian do you feel alone? Do you feel despair in your home, or at your workplace, or even in your church, because you think that you are alone in your struggle to be a faithful follower of God? Do you find yourself so overwhelmed by the trials of your daily life that when you look to the horizon, you see only unending days of lonely work and despair?

Take heart Christian! Though we might feel alone in our sufferings, let us remember that the Lord God sees us in our afflictions. Though it may seem like his church is on the defensive or disappearing where we live, he has promised us that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church. When we are unable to lift our heads and perceive ourselves to be alone in the midst of our enemies, let us remember that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself. Though the Philistine giants of despair and loneliness might beat you with their brutal clubs, they are no match for the keen edge of the sword of the Spirit—that is the Word of God. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and he has purchased for us a family of co-labourers and co-sufferers. We are not alone. God always has his 7,000. And nothing in all creation can ever rob us of the immeasurable joy that we have in Christ Jesus who died on the cross for our sins so that we might live in relationship and joy with him—forever, and together.

God’s Delight in the One Who Delights in God

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Gen 5:24 ESV)

In the Scriptures, we read of only two saints who did not cross through the river of death: Elijah and Enoch. Of the first, we read about his mighty deeds against the prophets of Baal and how he prayed fervently that it would not rain and for three years and six months there was a drought in the land of Israel. But of Enoch, little is said of him. He performed no miracles, led no armies to victory, and wrote no books of the Bible. Yet, the writer of Hebrews wrote that by faith he was taken up into the presence of God and that he had pleased God.

What an incredible statement this is! Of all those early men who lived over 900 years, Enoch made it to only 365 (Gen 5:23). But his earthly days ended early—not because he was killed or struck down for wickedness, but rather because God was delighted in him. And God’s pleasure with him was such that he was ushered straight into the presence of God. What immense satisfaction God must have had in this man for him to have done such a remarkable thing! In the genealogy of Genesis 5, every other individual has the years of their life listed and then a note that “he died.” But Enoch alone has the unique privilege of being the only individual in that list to have be “taken” by God. Truly God knows how to reward his faithful servants and Enoch was no exception as he gained the ultimate prize of seeing the one whom his soul panted and thirsted after.

We must never think that righteous living by faith in this world goes unnoticed by the Lord. As the world around him descended into greater and greater sin that resulted in the judgment of the Flood, Enoch lived by faith in the God who had made all things. Enoch’s life was not characterized by scattered acts of righteousness here and there, but rather of one living so well before the Lord that it written of him, “he walked with God.” How comforting to our hearts it is to know that God looks at his children with pleasure when they live according to his rules! Too many erroneously believe that God simply watches us from the heavenly sidelines, gleefully waiting to pound us with his hammer of judgment when we sin.

Although God hates sin, he takes no delight in the death of the wicked. And our Father in heaven’s delight is not in thumping us, but rather in seeing his children struggle to live a life by faith according to his rules rather than the visible laws and culture of this world. And when our days are complete, it will be the Father’s good pleasure to welcome his good and faithful servants into the joy—the JOY, not indifference—of their Master.

Christian, is it difficult for you to live according to God’s righteous rules? Do you find yourself tempted to compromise what you know to be right and bow to the pressures of man? Do you think about the fact that the Father watches your life and takes great pleasure in your longing and striving to walk with him? Do you find incomparable delight in communing with him through prayer and reading his Word? Do you know that the Master is pleased to share his joy with you when you are finished running your race?

No one longs to run into the arms of one who is indifferent towards them. But there is no joy that is comparable to running into our great Father’s loving arms. The ultimate joy of the Christian is to be able to walk with God in the cool of his garden. To see his face, to speak with him, and to enjoy the richness of fellowship and his presence for all eternity. Nothing else in this world is as sweet as this. If Jesus Christ should delay his coming, we will not walk the road of Enoch, but the road of Adam and pass through death’s waters. But because of Jesus Christ, we have no need to fear death. Death has lost its sting and we are victors because of our Lord’s work on the cross!

So then, let us take our eyes off what is temporal and seen and lift our gaze to heaven, knowing that our Father watches us with keen interest even as we run now. And when our lives are complete and the Lord calls us home, may our lives too be summarized just like Enoch’s. “He walked with God and was not, for God took him.” And let us say as the Psalmist said, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” (Ps 17:15).

No Civilians—only Soldiers for Christ

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Tim 2:3-4 ESV)

The Christian life is not a calling to live life safely aboard the comfort of a cruise ship that is basking in the warm waters of the Caribbean, but rather to serve on the deck of a battleship that is being inundated with cannon fire in the waters of battle. Here the apostle reminds us that we are to act and think like soldiers and not civilians. We do not march to our own beat, but answer to the trumpet calls of our captain Jesus. Some of us will be ordered to the front lines where the fighting is thickest and fall in battle, whereas others of us will serve as support, bringing supplies to others as David did at his father’s request. Whatever our roles, we are all enlisted in the King’s service and not our own. How dangerous our deceitful hearts are! How tempting it is to want to choose a life of ease and call it Christian. Sin in our hearts drives us to mould God into our own image, rather than allowing him to mould us into his own image. Just like the Israelites who crafted the golden calves and declared them to be the gods who brought them out of the land of Egypt, so too do we have a natural tendency for crafting God into our own image—to make him fit our desires and our requests. But if we do so, we are not followers of Christ, but of our own religion.

Everything we do must not be put through the grid of what we want and prefer, but whether or not it aligns with our commanding officer’s desires. And the Scriptures are nothing less than the King’s orders for his soldiers. Christian soldiers have only one goal in mind, and that is to please our commander and Lord. Nothing else will do. Do not grow weary in doing good. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Go and make disciples of all nations. We are called to evaluate every single decision we make in light of whether it pleases our Lord Jesus and not our own desire to avoid suffering.

What an example our Lord Jesus was to us! In his life, he shied away from comfort and wealth, and instead chose the road of suffering, single-mindedly devoted to his Father’s will. Though his flesh recoiled at the sight of the cup of the wrath of God as he interceded in the garden of Gethsemane, he was obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Our Lord certainly participated in what we would consider normal in life, such as a wedding at Cana and dinners with those who wished to speak to him, yet, he was a man of sorrows, acquainted with much grief. But because of his suffering and grief, you and I have been set free from the curse of eternal death through his work on the cross. Words are simply inadequate to express our infinite gratitude for this immeasurable sacrifice that was purchased for us on the crucible of suffering! Praise be to God!

Christian, are you aware that you live during a time of war in which eternal lives hang in the balance? Do you arm yourself each with the armor of God, sharpening the sword of the Spirit in your times with the Lord each day? Do you think about your shopping habits, what you watch on TV, and how you spend your time outside of work? Do you make your decisions around what will please your commanding officer the most?

Never forget that there are no civilians in the kingdom of God—only soldiers. Soldiers who endure suffering and advance against the gates of hell through laying down their lives as their Lord and Saviour did for them. Do not be distracted by the civilian affairs of this world! And when we have completed our mission assignments on this earth, we shall be blessed with the victor’s crown.