“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
The Holy Spirit gives us strength when we release all our needs into God’s hands and trust in his might. We see an example of this kind of trust in a Moabite woman named Ruth. After her husband died, Ruth traveled back to the land of Judah with her mother-in-law, Naomi, who was quite elderly and also a widow. The two women lived together in humble surroundings, and Naomi became concerned about Ruth’s welfare.
Ruth went to work in the fields of a wealthy man named Boaz who just happened to be a relative of her deceased husband. According to Jewish law, Boaz was suited to marry her and continue the husband’s lineage, and Naomi encouraged this. God orchestrated a wondrous plan for Boaz to take Ruth as his wife, give her a child, and provide for her and Naomi.
This fascinating story is detailed in the book of Ruth, and we see the beautiful way God brought about his plan. After working in the field all day, one night, Ruth said to Boaz, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative” (Ruth 3:9). In short, she was asking him, “Will you marry me?” Now, this was no manipulative scheme. Ruth and Naomi had done everything in divine order. We can be sure of this because Christ’s lineage came through Ruth (Matthew 1:5).
After Ruth asked this question of Boaz, she told her godly mother-in-law what happened; and Naomi advised, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out” (Ruth 3:18). She was confident that she and Ruth had done their part, and it was time to sit still and trust God to perform what he had promised.
Ruth and Naomi relaxed and praised the Lord as they watched God work out his divine plan in surprising ways. Likewise, when you put your complete trust in God in quietness and confidence, he will never fail you.
Throughout scripture, God dispenses his grace through revelations during our trials that we could never understand in our good times. God’s goodness comes to his people in times of trouble, calamity, isolation and hardship. For instance, the disciple John was “in Jesus’ bosom” for three years. It was a time of utter rest, peace and joy. Yet, in all that time, John received very little revelation. He knew Jesus only as the Son of Man. So, when did John receive his revelation of Christ in all his glory? It happened only after he was dragged from Ephesus in chains.
John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos where he was sentenced to hard labor. Isolated, with no fellowship, family or friends to comfort him, John endured a time of utter despair during the lowest point of his life. Yet that is when he received the revelation of his Lord that would become the final element of scripture: the book of Revelation. In the midst of that dark hour, the light of the Holy Spirit came to him, and he saw Jesus as he had never before seen him.
John had never received this revelation while he was with the other apostles or even during Jesus’ days on earth. Yet now, John saw Christ in all his glory, declaring, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18). This incredible revelation put John on his face, but Jesus lifted him up and showed him the set of keys that he held in his hand as he assured him, “Do not be afraid” (1:17).
This revelation comes to every praying, hurting servant in his or her time of need. The Holy Spirit says, “Jesus holds all the keys to life and death. Satan can never take you or any member of your family. Christ alone determines our eternal destiny. So, if he turns a key, there is a reason for it and that reason is known only to him, the Father and the Holy Spirit.”
Beloved, ask the Lord to enable you to envision Jesus standing before you, assuring you, “Be at peace. I hold all the keys and I will bring peace to your heart.”
We have all heard, “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7), and it usually is spoken with a negative connotation, but there is also a positive side to sowing: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (6:9).
A parable is a story that illustrates a truth and in the parable of the talents, Jesus focuses primarily on the good side of sowing, which is sowing to the Spirit to reap life everlasting.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them” (Matthew 25:14-19).
Briefly, the parable deals with a man who entrusted three servants with differing amounts of money to steward while he was on a trip. When he returned, he found that two of his servants had invested their money and made a profit while the third had merely buried his money for safekeeping. The master was pleased with the first two and very displeased with the third.
Jesus is “the man traveling to a far country” (25:14), and we are the servants with the talents representing our measure of grace and revelation of Jesus. We are commanded to go out and sow this revelation. This parable shows that God will have a fruitful, glorious harvest at the end. Two out of the three servants will come before the judgment loaded with fruit and full of joy — good and faithful servants — and the third will be banished.
Beloved, I encourage you to examine your heart and then become a part of God’s last-day army! He will have a last-day harvest, and only willing, faithful servants of the Lord will be part of this great gathering.
“Then He said to them, ‘Take heed that you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him’” (Mark 4:24-25).
Jesus knew his words would sound strange to nonspiritual ears so he prefaced the message by saying, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” (4:23). He was saying, in essence, “If your heart is open to God’s Spirit, you’ll understand what I have to say to you.” Jesus is speaking of the glory of God in our lives, Christ’s manifest presence. In short, the Lord measures out his glorious presence in various amounts, whether to churches or individuals.
Jesus alone was given the Holy Spirit without measure: “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure” (John 3:34). The Lord has already allotted to each of us a measure of his Spirit. Paul writes, “To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7) and “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
What is God’s goal in measuring out his Spirit, his glory and presence, to us in varying amounts? He has a single purpose, that “… we all come to the unity of the faith … to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Today, cry out to Jesus, “I don’t want to miss what you’re about to do in your church.” As you give to your Savior a greater measure of yourself, you will see evidence everywhere of his presence, glory and love. He has promised to pour out his Spirit on his people in these last days, and he will be faithful to come to you and give you more of himself.
In John 2, Jesus enters the temple for an act that would signal the beginning of his public ministry. What takes place next is quite dramatic:
“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:13-17).
What Jesus does here is more than radical. Tell me, if you wanted to announce your ministry, would you go into a megachurch and start turning over tables and driving people away? Jesus was up to more here than just showing his authority. He was demonstrating that he was about to turn things upside down in every way.
Yet when Jesus began this upheaval, he was overturning more than the moneychangers’ trade. He was overturning a religious system that for millennia had relied on animal sacrifices to please God. Christ was stating in essence, “Your relationship to the Father will no longer be based on sacrifices of sheep and goats and doves. It’s going to be based on my once-for-all-time sacrifice for you.”
That scene in the temple offers an analogy for our time. A lot of congregations today are filled with noise and activity. They have many programs in place, from overseas mission trips to local outreaches to dozens of small fellowship groups. The worship services can be full of bright lights, powerful sound and amazing energy. Yet sometimes amid all this lively activity something is missing at the center: Jesus himself.
I’m not suggesting we start turning over book tables in church foyers. But without Christ as the focus of our activities, our church is dead. No matter how hard we work to do things that serve and honor his name, none of our “sacrifices” in themselves can achieve true kingdom results. From the outside our fellowship may look righteous, but if we don’t maintain a focus on Jesus we’ll be a church full of dead men’s bones.
As Jesus overturned all those tables he cried out, “Take these things away!” (John 2:16). Likewise today, our temples are to be cleansed of anything that takes the place of his rightful lordship. God sends Jesus to rid us of those things, to prepare room for the things he wants to fill us with. He wants our temple to be once again a house of prayer, faith and kingdom victory.