Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 25 May 2023:
Isaiah 18:4, 5 — “I will quietly look from my dwelling like clear heat in sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.” For before the harvest, when the blossom is over, and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he cuts off the shoots with pruning hooks, and the spreading branches he lops off and clears away.
God waits quietly until He is ready to bring judgment on earthly powers who never see it coming. Many mistake his quietness for a lack of presence or awareness. As the student knows, during an exam, the professor remains silent.
Isaiah 19:2-4 – And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will fight, each against another and each against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom; and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out, and I will confound their counsel; and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers, and the mediums and the necromancers; and I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master, and a fierce king will rule over them, declares the Lord God of hosts.
God rouses the hearts of people and uses them to accomplish His purposes. God also uses the unbeliever for His purposes, but not to their merit. God controls what man cannot control, and nothing happens outside of His control. God punishes nations and people through events, circumstances, and people controlled by Him, though the unbeliever does not see His hand in it. God also orchestrates circumstances for the good of His children, though we often don’t understand what He is doing. We must learn to walk in faith, hope, love, obedience, joy, and confidence through all circumstances, patiently awaiting the final glory.
- Romans 8:18-25 — For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience.
1 Corinthians 16:9 – For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
Comments from Henry T. Blackaby: “Open doors of service may also let in adversaries. Paul had many of both. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Ephesus, he was trying to determine where to go next. He chose to remain longer in Ephesus because of the open doors of service God granted him. Knowing that God had opened the doors of ministry, Paul was not going to leave, regardless of how many enemies he faced. We might assume that Paul would reach the opposite conclusion. In light of the opposition he faced, he could have concluded that it was best to serve in less hostile regions. Instead, Paul based his decisions on God’s activity rather than on what people were doing. As you respond to God’s invitations, don’t be caught by surprise when adversaries try to thwart what you are doing. If you concentrate on your opponents, you will be sidetracked from God’s activity. Don’t base your decisions on what people are doing. They cannot prevent you from carrying out God’s will (Rom. 8:31). Many times the most rewarding spiritual work is done in the crucible of persecution and opposition. While Paul was in Ephesus, a riot broke out in reaction to his ministry. The city theater resounded with an angry mob who shouted for two hours in support of their god, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:23-41). Despite this fierce rejection of the gospel, Ephesus became one of the chief cities from which the gospel spread throughout Asia. It takes spiritual discernment to see beyond human activity to God’s will. As you seek places of service, look beyond what people are saying to find what God is doing.”
1 Corinthians 16:13, 14 — Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
If someone were to ask you to give an example of heroic strength and courage, what would your example be? The Bible says ultimate strength and courage is revealed by genuine love. Genuine love trumps everything else.
Paul said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing…. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13)
As we discussed on Monday, genuine love is more amazing than prophetic powers, the ability to do miraculous things, or the willingness to sacrifice everything for a cause. Genuine love is truly incredible, even miraculous. It is not natural; it is supernatural, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), the power of God revealed. The Bible says, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit…. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:12, 13, 16)
God’s greatest command for you is love. And to be clear, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48) God calls you to a radical love which unconditionally loves those who are unloving so that God would be glorified and that you would have the opportunity to fellowship with Christ in his sufferings of love. (Philippians 3:10)
When Jesus commanded you to this radical love for those who don’t “deserve” it, don’t appreciate it, and who will likely continue to hurt you, He certainly understood the cost of that daily sacrifice –
- Romans 5:8 — …but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- John 13:14-15 — If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
- Luke 23:34 — And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
- Luke 9:23 — If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
- Luke 10:3 — Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.
- Matthew 5:39 — But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
- 1 Peter 3:9 — Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
- Romans 12:21 — Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
- Matthew 5:10 — Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Romans 12:14 — Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them….
- 2 Timothy 3:12 — Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
God has indwelt you with His Spirit and empowered you supernaturally with the strength to love with genuine love; and you can have courage in the love and promises of God – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35) Do you have the strength and courage to obey God’s greatest command for you of love? “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) What does the Bible say? “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 May 2023: Love those you know who are hardest to love, make it your aim. Don’t try to do this in your own strength. Pray and rely on the Holy Spirit. Remember, that person who is so offensive to you is so valuable to The Father, He sent His one and only Son to be crucified on the cross that he might believe and have eternal life.