Incline Your ear, O LORD, and answer me; For I am afflicted and needy.—Psalm 86:1
When life is moving along smoothly, it’s easy to say, “God answers prayer.” But a crisis can bring doubt, especially if the Lord is not responding as quickly as we might like. That’s when we may be tempted to bargain with God as if He could be manipulated into acting on our behalf. However, the goal of prayer is not to get God to do what we want but to bring our concerns to Him, trusting that He will answer in His own way and time.
Waiting on the Lord is fairly easy when we’re not facing anything urgent. But difficulties and suffering tend to make us impatient. We may even begin to find fault with God, thinking that if He truly loved us, He would intervene and bring relief.
As we seek the Lord for help, David’s prayers in the Psalms provide wonderful patterns for us to follow. He faced many dire situations and continued to turn to God. He recounts God’s character—gracious, good, ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call on Him. These characteristics are the basis for trust.
Knowing who God is enables us to trust Him through the crises of life. Because He is faithful, we know that He will keep His promises. His holiness causes us to examine our life and repent of any sins that are hindering our prayers. And His mercy, grace, and love give us the comfort we need to endure hardship.
“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. … ‘Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand’” —Jeremiah 18:3–4, 6
What an accurate portrayal of men and women this is! The Prophet Jeremiah portrays God as the divine Potter and a man or woman as the clay that the Master Artist seeks to make into a vessel of usefulness. But in the process, the vessel becomes marred—a flaw appears in the work—and tenderly the skilled Craftsman of life refashions it to His own liking.
We humans, in our vaunted pride and self-styled wisdom, would claim that we are self-created. We would wrest ourselves from the skillful hands of the Potter, and cry, “I evolved, and I am the product of natural law; I am self-created!”
But the only true record and the only true evidence indicates that it was otherwise.
God made us in His own image and likeness: creatures with whom He could commune, companion and fellowship. You were made for God’s fellowship, and to fulfill any other purpose is to fail to fulfill your destiny.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
— Psalm 19:14 NLT
David prayed earlier in Psalm 19 that the Lord would keep him from sinful deeds of all kinds. In the verse above, he takes the issue deeper by asking that the Lord would also keep him from speaking words that are sinful. From David’s point of view, the things that we say are just as capable of being sinful as the deeds we do and we need the help of the Lord to keep from speaking them just as much as we do to keep from doing sinful deeds.
If our words and meditations are free from sin, then they will be pleasing to the Lord. The word translated as “pleasing” is borrowed from the language of the sacrificial system of the old covenant. The animal sacrifices that were brought before the Lord were required to be without defect, so likewise the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts should be without defect. The idea here is that everything we say and think is done before the Lord and should be pleasing to Him as a consequence.
The Lord wants us to be pleasing before Him. He is concerned not only with the deeds we do, but also with the words we say and the thoughts we think.
Today, then, let us ask the Lord to cleanse us, inside and out.
In the 1990s many Christians joined the trend of wearing small wristbands bearing the letters W.W.J.D., which stood for the question “What Would Jesus Do?” Although the fad has passed, the question is still valid. It’s designed to prompt us to consider whether our words, actions, and attitudes are an accurate reflection of the life of our Savior.
However, before we can accurately assess whether we are doing what Jesus would, we need to have a comprehensive understanding of what He said and did, as recorded in Scripture. It’s easy to take a few verses and come away with a simplistic view of the Lord. Most people are tempted to make Jesus into an image of what they want Him to be instead of trying to see the whole picture. Yes, He responded to people with love and compassion, but He also told them to stop sinning and warned them about the dangers of hell.
If we truly want to respond like Christ, it will take more than a reminder from a bracelet. We must yearn to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” Rom. 13:14. This means we must learn who Christ is through daily Scripture reading and pray for Him to transform our heart. That will help purify our life from sin and align our thoughts and desires with His.
Then, as we not only show His compassion and concern for the lost but also warn them of the danger they face by rejecting Him, some may be drawn to our Savior. And since “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” Luke 19:10, we know our actions are in line with what He would do.
If someone asked if your life is centered on Christ, how would you respond? Oftentimes a Christ-centered life is equated with going to church, giving, praying, reading the Bible, and talking to other people about Jesus. However, did you know that even if you do every one of these things, it’s still possible to live a life that is controlled by self rather than Christ?
A Christ-centered life is fueled by love for the Savior, which flows from increasing knowledge of Him. And we learn to know Jesus more intimately through reading, praying, and quietly abiding in His presence. As Christ increases in our mind and heart, we’ll discover that our self-focus decreases and He becomes the delight of our lives.
In one of his letters the Apostle Paul told the church at Philippi that he was rejoicing greatly because they had revived their concern for his material well-being. He told them that although he had learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need, and although he had learned how to do all things through Christ who strengthens him, he was still grateful for their support (Philippians 4:10-13).
Paul was thankful that by supporting him, the church had shared with him and fellowshipped with him in all his troubles on the mission field. The Philippian church was the only church that had supplied Paul’s needs when he had left Macedonia, and they had supplied his needs time and again when he was in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:14-16). Obviously, the church at Philippi was a church that gave freely of their resources and Paul was thankful for their continuing help.
Paul did not regard the Philippian church as only donors and supporters of his missionary endeavors, however, but as full-fledged partners in the spread of the gospel. As partners, Paul was not primarily seeking gifts of support for the ministry from them, but was primarily seeking “the fruit that increases to your credit” (Philippians 4:17). That is, Paul was not primarily seeking the gifts he received from them, but primarily the benefit they would receive for having supported him.
Perhaps Paul was thinking of the Old Testament story of the widow of Zarephath in I Kings 17 and the story of the wealthy Shunammite woman in II Kings 4, both of whom had supported prophets and had received benefits for doing so. Paul was less concerned with his own needs than he was with the benefit the Philippian church would receive.
It is in this context that our verse for today is found. Paul is saying to the Philippian church that God will supply their every need because they have partnered with him and supported him in the spread of the gospel.
Not everyone is called to go out on the mission field or to pastor a church, but everyone can partner with those who do and support them in the ministry. Paul’s message is that we can expect to be blessed for having done so.
When you wake up on Sunday morning what do you do? Do you lie in bed, drink coffee and read the paper? Or do you do nothing and just laze around for the day? Good news. Sunday mornings can be more than that.
Sunday is the beginning of a new week. It is a time which can be used to prepare for those things that will happen during the week. It’s also a day that can be used to spend time with family and reconnect with loved ones.
And, Sunday can be used as a day to worship our Lord, Jesus Christ. Going to church and listening to a sermon is part of the process for praising and worshiping God. It is more than singing songs and making contributions to the offering, however. Church is also a time to reconnect with our Lord and Savior and to bless His holy name through personal and joint prayer.
How you approach Sunday and what you do in church will make a big difference in your day and your life. By listening to God’s word and fellow shipping with others in the congregation, you expose yourself to positive and godly influences. Church becomes like an extended family with people who genuinely care about you.
So, how about today setting aside all of the world’s trappings and worries and go to church instead. If you go with the right frame of mind I guarantee you will be blessed in more ways than you thought possible.