BELIEVING AND SUFFERING IN CHRIST
Philippians 1:27-30"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." Phil. 1:29, NIV Our Monday’s devotion called our attention to the inviolable link between the Christian faith and suffering. This is the very nature of our calling as Christians – we are called to suffer for, with and in Christ! (v. 29; 1 Peter 2:21). What then should be our response to suffering? Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. In other words, remain a Christian, come what may (v. 27a). As the body of Christ, the Church must be united as we contend for the faith. Do not be frightened by suffering or persecution, being assured that your persecutors will eventually be destroyed if they don’t repent and you will be saved if you stand firm (v. 28). Are you suffering at present because of your faith? Do not be discouraged, remain steadfast. God will eventually save you. He will wipe away every tear from your eyes and usher you to His bosom where there will be no more death or mourning or crying and pain, for the old order (of this earthly suffering) will pass away (Rev. 21:3b-4). Be encouraged and keep on believing, God will surely provide a way for you. Encourage someone with these words today.
- Birthday Blessing: For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.
Acts 17:22-33In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. Acts 17:30 Religion - humans' desire to appeal to a force or realm higher than them - is as old as humanity. For instance, traditional Africans believe in a supreme God who is the Creator of all things. They believe that God is awesome and that He could not be approached directly but through lesser gods (divinities). The Greeks are just like Africans. Their capital, Athens, was full of idols (v.16). Having satisfied all the gods known to them, they went ahead to build an altar to an "unknown god," who may have been inadvertently left out (v. 23). What a religious people! Paul presented the true picture of God as one who does not live in man-made temples (v.24) and does not depend on humans for his existence (v.25a). He is the creator of all, who gives life, breath and everything else to man (vv. 25-26). He is the determiner of where and where humans are to live on earth (v. 26). In Him we live and move and have our being (v. 28). Repentance, not religion, leads to salvation, for all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and the only way to God is repentance. If you have truly repented of yours sins, you must produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt. 3:9).
- Birthday Blessing: Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee... Psalms 70:4
REJOICING IN STRUGGLING AND SUFFERING
Colossians 1:24-2:5Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Col 1:24-25 There are three important words in the title of our devotion today; they are: rejoicing, struggling and suffering. These three are part and parcel of Christian experience in all ages. Rejoicing (manifestation of joy) is a fruit of the Spirit which believers experience at conversion (Acts 8:39; 16:34). Struggling in this context means hardwork, which should characterise every Christian workmanship (1 Thess. 5:12; Jer. 48:10). Suffering (troubles, hardship) is part of the Christian pilgrimage (John 16:33; Acts 14:22). Every Christian is expected to have his or her fair share of the three experiences here on earth: “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” (Col. 2:4). Gleaning from the experiences of Paul, we must learn to rejoice when we suffer for the sake of the brethren, the Church, knowing that it is part of our calling (Col. 1:24). We must struggle to make the Word of God known to as many people as possible, whether through preaching, teaching or admonition (Col. 1:25-29). Our struggling and suffering should not be for personal fulfilment alone but also for the encouragement and edification of others (Col. 2:2-5). We can rejoice in suffering because our reward is great in heaven.
- Birthday Blessing: "With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation." Psalm 91:16
Acts 13:1-12…the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. Acts 13:2 One of the principles of evangelism we discovered in our devotion yesterday was that our discipleship must include leadership training. In the church at Antioch, there were those in leadership positions such as prophets, teachers, and the like. As they worshipped the Lord, the Holy Spirit instructed them to send Paul and Barnabas forth for ministry. There was no mistake about this because their consensus was neither political nor denominational, but purely Spirit-led. Through their discernment, the Gospel crossed the frontiers of Palestine to Europe and Asia through the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, and Paul and Silas. In the church today, we need leaders who are Spirit-filled, who can discern the move and works of the Holy Spirit. We need leaders who can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit clearly and act promptly (vv. 2-3). Whether in leadership position or not, every Christian should be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. The Holy Spirit knows it all; He is right all the time. Depend more on His leading and less on congregational consensus and political permutation. Leaders must work, pray and fellowship together for the Spirit to move and work freely within the fold. Let us learn from the men of old!
- Birthday Blessing: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance." Psalm 33:12
Acts 14:21-28And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. Acts 14:27 The negative attitude of the Jews towards the Gospel made way for the Gentiles. The Gentiles gladly received the Good News and many of them turned to the Lord. In today’s passage, we could discover some principles that would help us in our evangelistic endeavours. One, do not stay forever with those who are not ready for the Gospel, except God specifically instructs. Their unwillingness might translate to an open door of faith to other people somewhere (v. 21a). Two, those who believe must be discipled so they could remain true to the faith (v. 22a). Three, our discipleship must expose the other side of the Gospel to new believers, “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (v.22b). Four, believers must be nurtured to the point of taking leadership positions (v. 23). Five, evangelistic, missionary and discipleship ministries must be done under the umbrella of the church, and not against the church (vv. 26-28). Take time to pray for your evangelism targets today that the Lord will open the door of faith to them. That is what makes soul winning a God-human partnership.
- Birthday Blessings: Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 John 1:2
Romans 1:8-12, 16-17For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 The word of the Lord, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown” (Luke 4:24) is valid for all ages. Nevertheless, the prophet must not keep quiet even in his hometown. Jesus went to his hometown, and his people took offence out of familiarity and lack of faith. Consequently, he could not perform many miracles among them (Mark 6:15). Although, Apostle Paul was commissioned to carry the gospel “before the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15), he started with the Jews, his own people. But when “they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against him," Paul said, "since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13: 45-46 cf. Romans 1:16). God’s strategy is Paul’s strategy - from Jerusalem to all Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Why Jews first? “Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and promises….” (Romans 9:4-5). Your family, relatives, friends and neighbours are your first mission field. Jesus gave the same instruction to the mad man at Gadara (Mark 5:19). Don’t you forget, the prophet must not keep quiet in his or her hometown.
- Birthday Blessing: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Jude 2
BLIND MAN DISCERNS JESUS AS PROPHET
John 9:13-17Finally they turned again to the blind man, "What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened." The man replied, "He is a prophet." John 9:17, NIV The popular soul-inspiring hymn "Amazing Grace" was borne out of John Newton's encounter with the Lord Jesus. In a line of the song, "I once was lost but now I'm found; was blind but now I see", Newton shared the experience of the blind man in today's text. The Pharisees verdict was: “This man [Jesus] is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath” (v.16). They finally turned to the blind man, “What have you to say about him?” The man replied, “He is a prophet.” (v. 17). A personal encounter with Jesus always brings a revelation of who He is. Who do you say Jesus is? A good man? A sound moral and ethical teacher? One of the prophets? These are true revelations, but are not the complete truth about Jesus Christ. The revelation of Jesus Christ has gone beyond that of a prophet to the Messiah, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world. Peter had this revelation when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Have you had an encounter with Him? Can you assuredly say to Him, "You are the Saviour and Lord of my life?"
- Birthday Blessing: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen." Philippians 4:3
TEST THE SPIRITS
1 John 4:1-6Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 Jordan has worked as a cashier in a bank for ten years. Within this period, he said he had caught two people with fake currency in the bank. When asked how he knew the notes were not genuine, he said "I have gotten so used to original notes that once I spotted counterfeit ones, I knew immediately that they were not original." Apostle John enjoins believers to test all spirits, whether they are of God, because many fake prophets have gone into the world. To test means to examine or prove the quality or genuineness of a thing. One occupation of the devil is that he tries to produce counterfeits of things originally created by God. He has fake word, fake prophecy, fake lifestyle, and fake spirits too. Fake prophets and prophecies are in the world today, and it takes a discerning and wise Christian to prove every spirit behind every prophetic word. According to the passage, the instrument to test all spirits is the nature and person of Jesus Christ. When we are used to the original, the counterfeit becomes easy to identify. "Test all spirits, because many prophets are gone into the world."
- Birthday Blessing: "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him."
ELI SENSES GOD’S CALL TO SAMUEL
1 Samuel 3:1-9So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'" 1 Samuel 3:9, NIV Every genuine ministry begins from a call from God, for “no one takes this honour upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was." (Hebrews 5:4) This was the case with Samuel. Though his mother had covenanted him to God (1 Samuel 1:11, 24-28) and he had been ministering before the Lord under Eli (1 Samuel 3:1); God had to call Him to ministry as His prophet (vv. 4-9). Samuel heard God's audible voice, Saul had a dramatic encounter with the Light of the world on Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-19), while the seven deacons were prayerfully chosen by the church (Acts 5:1-7). The most important factor is that God called his people to specific assignments. How can you discern God's call on your life? God does not call anyone that has no relationship with Him. Therefore, you must have known Jesus, and be walking in His footsteps before you can know what He has called you to be. Through your time of fellowship in prayer, Bible study, meditation, quiet time, and through other mature believers, God confirms His call for your life. May you hear clearly and respond appropriately to His call.
- Birthday Blessing: The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing. Psalm 23:1
JOSHUA DISCERNED AS A NEW LEADER
Deuteronomy 31:14-15, 23; 34:9The Lord said to Moses, "Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the Tent of Meeting, where I will commission him." Deuteronomy 31:14, NIV Moses had led Israel for 40 years and had served the Lord to the best of his ability. He would have continued, but God had found him wanting, and he had to step aside for Joshua to come in. Joshua had been tested and proven over time. He proved his worth both as one of the leaders of Israel's army that partook in the defeat of Jericho and as one of the twelve sent to spy the Promised Land. God commissioned Joshua as He said to him, "Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you" (v. 23). God knows the best people He has prepared to handle certain responsibilities and He is therefore interested in how leadership transition is managed. He gave opportunity for Joshua to understudy Moses, so that he could take up the responsibility of leading Israel. Joshua showed himself dependable, and God empowered him. God wants to use you, but you need to present yourself as a diligent workman who He can approve. Make yourself a vessel of honour, separate yourself to God and devote your time to developing your inner man. The strength for leadership comes from a renewed spirit, where God is given preeminence.
- Birthday Blessing: "I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me." Psalm 120:1