After king Hezekiah was healed by God of a deathly sickness, he recorded a prayer including this portion:
Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you; those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness. The LORD will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the LORD.
I am so thankful for the grace of God that is healing me of this deathly sinful nature. In His love, He has delivered me from the pit of destruction and cast all my sins behind His back. This is the amazing news of the gospel: Christ in us, the hope of glory. He desires to have a living relationship with me. He has invited me to commune with Him in this life and the one to come, and I will forever praise His name. But I am only able to declare His name to others on this side of heaven. Only in this life can I proclaim His greatness to those who have not seen or heard. I am reminded and challenged to make use of every opportunity to bring glory to God’s name as long as I have breath.
There is a ironic paradox that is created when we exercise our free will in submission to the will of God. With any given list of options, one could imagine that they might be sorted in order from best to worst. Let us presume that some criterion exists which perfectly distinguishes any option as better or worse than any other. We often make choices based on what seems best in the moment or based on emotions or peer pressure or convenience, but seldom do we make the best choice because we can only see so far. In every decision, it would be ideal to pick the best option according to that perfect criterion. There are two ways to progress towards that ultimate state: 1) that the decision maker becomes familiar with that perfect criterion and selects the best option through reason or 2) that the list of options is narrowed by removing the inferior selections until only the best remains. If both of these happen simultaneously, then the decision maker fully embraces the best and only option. But does he really have a choice anymore? Do you have to have more than one option in order to make a choice? This paradox that can be really confusing in Christianity. As God transforms us into His likeness, we become familiar with what is best for us. We exercise our free will by choosing to submit to His will. This submission removes all other options so that the only choice left is God. You could argue that at this point, you have lost your ability to choose. In reality, this is choice brought to perfection.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings… As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalm 17:8,15)
Father, it is overwhelming to know that you consider me the apple of your eye. You desire to have a relationship with me. You shower me with love and grace. You gave everything for me, even Your very life. Thank you for forming me and calling me as your own. I come to you for comfort, protection and salvation. Never let me run away from you. Awaken my desire to see you face to face. I want to treasure you more than my own life. Nothing in this world can satisfy what I need and desire apart from you.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:2,7,11)
Father, you are reminding me that I have nothing good apart from You. I like to think that the successes I have are my own, but You are the own who has provided everything for me. You have given me the wisdom, strength, favor, and everything else that I need for my job, my relationships, and my ministry. Thank you for instructing me in Your ways. Help me to heed Your voice and be obedient to Your calling on my life. My own plans will ultimately lead to my own demise, but You lead me to abundant life. My joy is found in Your salvation. All of the pleasures of this world are only temporary, but Your eternal presence is overwhelming. Thank you for inviting me to spend time with You. I want to know you more and grow to be more like You every day. Please guide my steps today and reveal Your purposes for my life.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
1 Peter 5
It is not often that I think about resisting temptation as a fight that involves suffering. So often I succumb to my wrong desires with the excuse that it is just too difficult to resist, or somehow convincing myself that it is not harmful. When I give in to temptation, it shows a lack of faith. Jesus was victorious in every aspect in His walk on earth. With His help, I can also overcome temptation. There are also other Christians throughout the world that face far greater suffering than I do. I am without excuse. Father, you are victorious, and with you, I can also be victorious over sin and temptation. Please help me to attend firm, remembering the price that you paid to save me.
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11)
1 Peter 4
This morning when I was getting ready for the day, I was thinking about creating a network of talented and knowledgeable Christians who strive to glorify God through their abilities. The world constantly ridicules Christians as uneducated. I know that God often chooses to use our foolishness and simple faith, but I think that we as Christians need to do a better job of being a light to the world. One good way of accomplishing that is by demonstrating the gifts that God has given us for His glory. This passage also talks about being self-controlled and sober-minded. These attitudes affect our prayers, since God is eager to have our wills align with His. I am learning more about the value and necessity of prayer in my own life. Father, thank you for the life and talents that you have given me. I want to glorify you with everything that you have given me, especially my salvation. Thank you for inviting me to spend time with you in prayer.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:7-8)
1 Peter 3
One of the things that I am the most grateful for at the beginning of this year is my wonderful girlfriend. This chapter talks about how a wife should adorn themselves with a gentle spirit, and she has exemplified every trait of a godly woman. I also want to love her as Christ loved the church. I want to understand her deeply and fully. She is also my sister in Christ and deserves all of my respect and honor. As I demonstrate my love for her, I also must demonstrate my love for the rest of the body of Christ through sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and an open mind. These are all gentle qualities that God is all developing in me. He has provided many relationships and opportunities for me to learn those lessons. I just need to be open and obedient to His working in my life. Father, thank you so much for the girl you have brought into my life. Thank you for making me a part of the body of Christ. Please continue to develop the gentle qualities of love that are essential in my relationship and in my service in the church.
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:13)
1 Peter 2
Last night, I spent several hours talking about values, interests and a very difficult past situation with a good friend of mine. As we were talking, there was much sorrow at the consequences of certain decisions, but also rejoicing in the grace of God. Because of His grace and forgiveness, I am able to live in freedom. This is not a way of covering up my mistakes or ignoring consequences. God provides genuine freedom, not just from consequences, but from the bondage of sin. He has transformed me into His likeness so that I am able to live a holy life that is glorifying to Him. I am His servant, and I want to live a life of surrender to Him. Father, you extended your grace to me when I deserved your wrath. Thank you for the freedom found through transformative power of your love. May my life be one of service and gratitude to you.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)
1 Peter 1
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are saved from ourselves and are being sanctified through His spirit towards holiness. But we are still living in a world that refuses to believe in the existence of God and does not acknowledge His authority. Therefore, we need to be set apart from the world and lead holy lives. This can be very difficult in this life, but the future hope is that God will save us from this world by taking us to be with Him. In the meantime, I must be diligently waiting for Him and actively obeying Him. Father, thank you for saving me from myself. I know that you are going to take me out of this world to be with you. Please help me to prepare my mind for action and be sober minded that I may live a holy life in this world.