Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 16 March 2023:
Job 5:17 — Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.
Compare this verse with Proverbs 3:11 – “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof….” Eliphaz responded to Job with sound Biblical doctrine. However, it was misapplied because Eliphaz was using it in a judgmental fashion, assuming that God was punishing Job for an unspoken sin. We can judge whether a person’s actions are consistent with God’s word, but we can never presume to know what God is doing in someone’s life. We must be very careful to handle God’s words carefully as if handling a rose which is very beautiful but potentially hurtful if misapplied – “Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” (Proverbs 26:9)
Acts 26:16 – But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you….
“God was working in your life long before you began working with Him. The Lord knew you before time began, and He knew what He wanted to do with your life (Jer. 1:5; Ps. 139:13). Before the apostle Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus, Jesus already knew Paul and had a specific assignment for him. But Jesus only revealed this assignment after Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:15). So misguided was Paul that in his sincere efforts to serve God, he had actually been waging war against Christians! Although God knew what He wanted for Paul, He waited to reveal it to him until He gained his attention and became his Lord.
Our Lord does not come to us to discover what we would like to accomplish for Him. He encounters us in order to reveal His activity and invite us to become involved in His work. An encounter with God requires us to adjust ourselves to the activity of God that has been revealed. God never communicates with us merely to give us a warm devotional thought for that day. He never speaks to us simply to increase our biblical knowledge. Our Lord has far more significant things to reveal to us than that! When God shows us what He is doing, He invites us to join Him in the work He is doing.
Are you prepared to meet God today? Don’t seek to hear from God unless you are ready to ask, as Paul did, ‘What shall I do Lord?’” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Acts 26:17-20 – I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me…. that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
The Bible is clear we are saved by faith, not by works or deeds – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9) However, the Bible is also clear that saving faith results in sanctification and the produce or fruit of good works – “deeds in keeping with their repentance.” As Ephesians 2 continues to state, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Our deeds are not the means to salvation but rather the evidence of our salvation, the natural result of salvation. Martin Luther said, because of our faith, we “freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, [and] love and praise the God who has shown [us] such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!”
Paul reminds us we are justified by faith, but we are also sanctified by faith as we progressively learn to step out in faith and obedience – “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) As the Father conforms us to the image of His Son, Jesus, He calls us to do many things that don’t make sense from the world’s point of view, and this takes faith, faith which is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but which we must employ. Certainly, Paul is a good example for us. Compelled by the love of Christ to spread the Gospel to as many as possible at all cost, his actions were baffling to most – “Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.’ …And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’” (Acts 26:24, 32)
How far are you willing to go in your faith to love God and others? “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) Are you ready to empty yourself, completely humble yourself, take up the form of a servant, take up your cross, and become obedient unto death? What did Jesus say? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Why was Paul so bold before those who could take his life? He had already died – “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) What about you?
- Hebrews 10:38 – “But my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
“God does everything for a reason. God met Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road for a purpose (Acts 9:1-9). Saul had planned to persecute Christians, but his encounter with Christ changed him forever. God did more in that encounter than save Saul from his sin. God began to reveal His will for Paul’s life. God’s assignment for Paul was clear: ‘He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake’ (Acts 9:15-16).
God’s plan for Paul, revealed through a vision, involved both testifying before kings and suffering persecution. Paul was to enjoy the thrill of performing miracles, preaching to large crowds, and starting churches. But Paul was also to be stoned, shipwrecked, whipped, mocked, conspired against, and imprisoned (2 Cor. 11:23-28). Would we accept this part of his assignment as readily as the first? We never hear of Paul complaining about his commission from God. He never asked that he be given a role like Peter’s, or James’s, or John’s (Gal. 2:9-10). It was enough for Paul that he be given any task in the kingdom of God. As he neared the end of his ministry, Paul could boldly state Agrippa, ‘I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.’
Oh, to have Paul’s tenacity and devotion to the Father’s will! What joy there is not only to begin well in our Christian faith, but also to end faithfully! It is God’s desire that each of us could say at the end of our lives, ‘I was not disobedient.’
” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 16 March 2023: With full assurance of your salvation in Christ, ‘perform deeds in keeping with their repentance,’ while proclaiming Christ to as many as possible.