The apostle Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians contains clear and powerful exhortations concerning the will of God for believers. These exhortations express the specific will of God in relationships with others, with ourselves, and with the Lord. Packed into these short verses are patterns of life and behavior which receive His blessing in all these relationships.
As I continue this series of devotionals on "understanding the will of God", I'd like to talk about a story which is told in all the synoptic gospels, except that Luke's account gives a significant nuance. (Many skeptical Bible "critics" point out differences in the gospels to argue that they can't be reliable — yet it's actually the differences which support the validity of these accounts because they reveal that the events recorded were simply experienced and told from slightly different viewpoints, a very common circumstance when people are telling a story.)
Writing daily devotions throughout the years I've often been asked the question, "How do I find the will of God?" There are probably many good scriptural approaches to answering this question; but I want to offer something very basic as you think about understanding the will of God. That is, simply, that you'll know His will when you come to know the heart of God.
An estimated 500,000 tons of water go over Niagara Falls every minute. On March 29, 1948, the falls suddenly stopped. Those who lived near enough heard the overwhelming silence, and immediately they thought it was a sign – the end of the world had come! However, after thirty hours had passed – the flow of water resumed.
A careful reading through the life of the Apostle Paul will yield insight concerning those who surrounded him. In this brief devotion, I want to focus on two of Paul's friends — Luke and Demas.
David's faith and courage in volunteering to fight Goliath was an embarrassment to his big brother Eliab, an officer in King Saul's army. I imagine his thinking went something like this; “If my little brother wins everybody will ask, 'How come you didn't go out and fight him?'” The Bible records that Eliab “burned with anger at David and asked, 'Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is…'” These are devastating words from an older brother. Before David could defeat Goliath he first had to overcome the attitudes, accusations and words, of those close around him.
Just about every Hebrew prayer begins by saying, “Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha Olam” which, translated, means, Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the Universe. Now think about it, King of the Universe! Wikipedia defines "universe" as, "the composition of all the planets, stars, galaxies, the contents of intergalactic space, and all matter and energy". Hmm…that’s a lot to be king over!
David is called a “man after God’s own heart.” Considering that he lusted after his neighbor's wife, committed adultery with her, and had her husband murdered, the Lord's description of him is remarkable. How could a man who was convicted a murderer and an adulterer also be called one after God’s own heart?
An interesting parallel exists between these two passages of scripture: Isaiah 53:9 and Acts 3:15. Isaiah renders the "death" of the messiah in the plural form, "deaths" ("motav"). Acts renders the life of the Prince of Life as "lives" ("chaim"). Some scholars suggest that the plurality of the word death indicates a violent death this servant would suffer, and that making the noun plural is a way of emphasizing the terrible intensity of his experience. Jewish counter-missionaries suggest that the "death" in plural shows that the suffering servant is not an individual man, but a group of people, specifically the nation of Israel, thus denying that the passage refers to an individual messianic figure.
"Exhausted but still in pursuit…" Well, now we know why the angel of YHVH addressed Gideon the way he did. With his small three hundred man army he had just decimated the army of Midian — but the victory wasn’t complete, and so the Jewish general and his small, exhausted, hungry, band were determined to cross the Jordan and take care of 15,000 additional Midanite enemies and their leaders, Zebah and Zalmunna.
When I was younger I used to take an ax and cut up firewood from the woods behind our house. The one thing I always did was sharpen my axe! A dull axe meant harder work chopping through fallen trees. The sharper the ax the less effort and energy required for the task. So I learned early on to sharpen my ax before venturing into the woods, and I saved myself a lot of time and energy. (Besides I was a small kid, growing up, so I needed all the help I could get! ;) )
Returning from their 'mission' trip, the 72 disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) were filled with joy. "Even the devils are subject to us through your name", they exulted. Yeshua responded that He saw Satan fall like lightening from Heaven and that He had given them authority to trample snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy.
Nature provides us with an illustration that closely parallels the insidious tactics employed by our adversary. According to scientists, Arctic polar bears feed almost entirely on seals. To enjoy such a meal, they sometimes resort to a cunning bit of trickery.
One of my favorite heroes of the faith is Hudson Taylor. For those who are unfamiliar with him, Hudson Taylor led a great awakening in China which continues to this day.
In Israel, couples are married beneath a "huppah", which is a beautiful canopy under which the ceremony takes place. The word "huppah" means "covering" but also, a "chamber" or "marriage room". So the canopy is a reminder that the marriage chamber is the most important room in the house for a husband and wife because it's the most intimate room. The huppah emphasizes marital intimacy and reminds us that even if we have the most luxurious mansion in the world, neglecting the place of intimacy spells deep trouble for our marriage.
One minister tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. "I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even! Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has hurt me!"
The legendary preacher, Charles Spurgeon once said, "Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right."
In Matthew, we read that Judas betrayed Yeshua (Jesus) to the Sanhedrin for thirty pieces of silver, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah. Zechariah foretold that the Messiah's price would be measured at a pittance; thirty pieces of silver. Can we imagine valuing a human life in terms of silver? Unthinkable enough…but then this is no ordinary life; it's the life of God's only Son.
When Paul wrote to the Philippian church he spoke of pressing forward for the prize of the high calling. Though he was physically content whether rich or poor, [Philippians 4:11] the apostle was not content with his spiritual condition, but constantly seeking a deeper, more intimate and fruitful walk with the Lord…
Failure is never a pleasant feeling. It isn’t enjoyable to lose a job, see a relationship falter, or fail a test. But the disappointment we feel when we face defeat can be turned to joy if we look at it the right way!