During times of calamity, we might wonder, “Where is the Lord’s eye focused in all this?” We can be sure that God is not focused on the wild plans of deranged leaders, no matter how powerful they are. “He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless … When He will also blow on them, and they will wither, and the whirlwind will take them away like stubble” (Isaiah 40:23-24).
Isaiah tells us, “No sooner are these ‘seeds’ planted and take root in the ground than God blows on them, and they wither. The wicked rulers of the earth are caught up in his whirlwind and swept away as chaff. He reduces them to nothing.” To prove this to us, Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Even in the midst of great world turmoil, God’s primary focus isn’t on the tyrants; his focus is on every circumstance, every detail, in his children’s lives. Christ says in the very next verse, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (10:29).
In Christ’s day, sparrows were the meat of the poor and sold two for a penny. On the streets, bird catchers could be seen carrying baskets full of snared sparrows. Yet, Jesus said, “Not one of these small creatures falls to the ground without your Father knowing it.” According to Bible commentator William Barclay, Jesus’ word “fall” in the above verse signifies more than the bird’s death. The Aramaic meaning is “to light upon the ground.” In other words, “fall” here indicates every little wounded hop a tiny bird makes.
Christ is telling us, in essence, “Your Father’s eye is on the sparrow, not just when it dies but even when it lights upon the ground. God sees its every little struggle, and he is concerned over every detail of its life.”
Jesus then says, “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (10:31). Simply put, the one who made and counted all the stars, who keeps the galaxies in their orbits, has his eye fixed on you. So find rest and assurance in him!
James said, “If you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth” (James 3:14).
As messengers of Christ’s gospel, we simply cannot hold onto jealousy or envy. James makes it clear that this will hinder us from having a testimony with spiritual authority because we are living a lie.
In plain terms, the sin of jealousy or envy is a bitter poison. King Saul provides the clearest example of this in all of scripture. In 1 Samuel 18, we find David returning from a battle in which he slaughtered the Philistines. As he and King Saul rode into Jerusalem, the women of Israel came out to celebrate David’s victories, dancing and singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7).
Saul was wounded by this joyous celebration, thinking to himself, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” (18:8). Immediately, Saul was consumed by a spirit of jealousy. In the very next verse, we read the deadly effect it had on him. “Saul eyed [envied] David from that day forward” (18:9).
Saul seethed, pouting in self-pity. He probably thought, “I’ve worked so hard, giving up everything to serve these people, and now they turn on me. They’re singing the praises of my assistant minister while they ignore me.”
Tragically, after this, “Saul became David’s enemy continually” (18:29). The truth of this story is that, no matter how loudly the people cheered for David, God’s Spirit was still upon Saul and Israel still loved him. The Lord’s promise to build him an everlasting house was clearly still in place. Had Saul acknowledged his envy and drawn near to the Lord, God would have heaped honors on him; and David, his loyal captain, would have gladly secured the kingdom for Saul with his military skills. But Saul would not humble himself; and as a result, the Spirit of the Lord departed from him (see 18:12).
In these troubling days, our first priority should be to draw near to Jesus. Spend time in prayer, make him the most important work in your life, and he will show you his heart. By his Spirit, he will remove from you all that is unlike Christ, and he will pour out his spiritual anointing on you.
Our trust in God pleases him, and we are counted as righteous like Abraham because we heed the call to entrust all our tomorrows into his hands (see Romans 4:3). Jesus also calls us to this way of living. “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).
Jesus then adds, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (6:34). Jesus doesn’t mean that we are not to plan ahead. Rather, he is simply saying, “Don’t be anxious or troubled about tomorrow.” When we think about it, most of our anxieties are about what might happen tomorrow. We are constantly harassed by two little words: What if?
What if the economy fails and I lose my job? How will our family survive? What if I lose my health insurance? What if my faith fails me in trying times? We all have many “what if” anxieties.
Jesus interrupts our “what ifs” and tells us, “Your heavenly Father knows how to take care of you. You don’t need to worry because your Father knows you need all these things, and he is faithful to feed you, clothe you and supply all your needs.”
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? … Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:26-29).
We gladly give all our yesterdays to the Lord, turning over to him our past sins, failures, doubts and fears. So why don’t we do the same with our tomorrows?
Paul says, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13). I urge you to trust the Lord with all your tomorrows and let your present trial preach the message of his faithfulness.
“Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2 Corinthians 7:6).
Paul took a ministry trip to Troas where he was to be joined by his spiritual son Titus. He longed to see his godly son in Christ and knew his spirits would be lifted by his presence. Yet after Paul arrived in Troas, Titus didn’t show up.
Doors of ministry opened for Paul in Troas, but the apostle’s heart had grown heavy as he waited for the arrival of Titus. Paul wrote of the experience, “When I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit because I did not find Titus my brother … [so] I departed for Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 2:12-13).
Paul did something he had never done in his life, something that was contrary to everything he preached; he walked away and wandered restlessly to Macedonia. What a picture of a wounded soldier of the cross. The great apostle was beaten down in mind, body and spirit. Why? What had brought Paul to such a point? The apostle himself explains it. “I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother.” He was alone, and he desperately needed fellowship.
Satan always comes to attack us when we are weary from battle. That is when we are most vulnerable to his lies, and the enemy might have buffeted Paul with two vicious ones: “Titus hasn’t come because he has rejected you” or “Titus isn’t here because you are no longer effective, Paul. Your ministry is simply not bearing fruit.”
If you have walked in intimacy with the Lord, you know very well what Paul was facing. Satan is the father of lies, and right now he may be sending you similar lies. “Everyone has rejected you. You have no place in God’s kingdom work. You’re just taking up space.”
Titus made it to Macedonia, and he arrived with a refreshing spirit. Paul’s heart was uplifted as the two men fellowshipped, and he wrote, “I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all [my] tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4).
God uses people to refresh people! Today, look for an opportunity to be a Titus to someone who is downcast in spirit. Perhaps a simple phone call will bring consolation and refreshing to a brother or sister in Christ and result in healing of spirit.
“With my whole heart I have sought You … Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You … I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways” (Psalm 119:10-11, 15).
As a ministry leader, I occasionally ask myself and my co-laborers, “Why are we here? Why do we do what we do? What is our purpose?” The short answer on the surface is that we conduct a worldwide ministry to build up the body of Christ, reach the lost and minister loving care to the needy. The real answer to the core question of why we are here is the same for both the youngest disciples of Christ and the most experienced, wise ministry leader. The answer is we’re here to minister to Jesus.
It is impossible to minister to our Savior and Lord unless we begin in his presence. No Christian will ever be misdirected, misguided or get off base if he or she starts out in Christ’s presence and never leaves it.
King David is an example of the importance of this practice. He faced enemy armies that required quick, purposeful thinking in the midst of life-or-death situations. And he had to rule a divided kingdom between Israel and Judah. So how did David accomplish his purposes to bring glory to God and end up as Israel’s most renowned king?
David moved in victory because his heart was to minister to the Lord in every situation. The Bible makes this clear in his actions and in all the worshipful, yearning psalms he wrote. Ministering to the Lord was always at the forefront as David pursued the words God set before him.
Another example is Samuel. He was known as a great prophet in Israel but not because of his strategic relationships to kings and leaders. Scripture makes it clear that Samuel had a heart to minister to the Lord from a very young age. Even as a boy, Samuel was continually in the temple seeking God’s presence, and that relationship above all gave Samuel influence with people from the lowest rung of life to the highest offices in the land.
David and Samuel show us that to achieve the works of God, we have to know his presence. The same holds true for every believer today. Following the Lord means being Jesus-focused, Jesus-centered and Jesus-empowered. The Bible calls Christ the Alpha and the Omega — the beginning and the end of all things — and that applies to our lives. He has to be everything to us!