A MIND FIXED ON GOD

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
Isaiah 26:3

We know how important it is for us to control our thoughts. The mind can drift or be distracted to the wrong things many times each minute. What we think about will
influence how we feel and what we do. The challenge from the Scripture is to keep our mind “stayed on thee.” We want to keep God in our thoughts. Contrast this with the wicked man, of whom the Bible says, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm 10:4). The ungodly do not want to think about God.

In our case, we want our minds to be filled with thoughts of our Redeemer, but our minds can be drawn to many other subjects. It is important that we make Him the chief focus of our minds. Having a “God consciousness” is the goal of every sincere Christian. When we think more of Him, we will think less of lesser things. Charles Spurgeon once said, “It is when we think much of Christ, that we think little of our troubles, little of our doubts and fears that surround us.” One cannot worry when his mind is filled with thoughts of the Almighty. It is not practical to imagine thinking angry and bitter thoughts when our thoughts are concentrating on the Lord. We should purpose to make Jesus the central subject of our minds.

The result of a mind stayed on God will be “perfect peace.” This is the experience of peace that all men desire. It is the by-product of the Christ-filled mind. You will notice that this Scripture is not calling for our ability to maintain this peace. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.” God is the One that will keep us in peace, when our minds are stayed on Him. The more we can keep our minds occupied with God, the more He will keep our hearts filled with peace. When our minds are not on Him, they are more apt to fret and worry, and be filled with improper thoughts.

How is it that God blesses us with “perfect peace” as our minds dwell on Him? Our text tells us it is because this man “trusteth” in God. By faith, we make God the center of our concentration; and we rely on Him more than on our abilities, resting in His love and care. It is natural to allow our minds to be filled with the cares of this world. However, when we do so, we forfeit the peace that God has promised.

GIVE AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
Luke 6:38

One word that suitably describes much of the life of God’s people is give. Giving is central to the obedient Christian. We are to give love to those we care for, as well as to those who hate us. We give prayers for those in need and for those who curse us. In a few verses prior to our text Jesus said, “Give to every man that asketh of thee” (Luke 6:30). We are destined to be givers.

We give respect to all people and obedience to those in authority. We give praise to God. We give thanks to God and others. We give service and encouragement to those in need. We give our attention to God’s Word. We give advice to those who seek it. We give our money to God’s work. We give loyalty to those with whom we serve. We give leadership to the ones who follow us. We give time to causes that are important. We give honor to whom it is due. We give our testimony to those who will listen. We give forgiveness to those who have wronged us and comfort to those who hurt.

Some may think, “It sounds as though we are giving our lives away.” Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? After all, we are destined to become like the One who gave His all for us. To know God is to know the Great Giver. No one has ever given enough to compare with Him. According to the Bible, the only reason we are able to give is because He has first given to us. He loves us so much that He gave His Son to die for our sins. He gives us life and breath and all things to enjoy. He has given us purpose, peace, and joy in living. He gives eternal life to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. He gives His Holy Spirit to dwell within us and guide our lives. He gave us His Word that we might know Him and His will. He gives wisdom to those who ask. He gives strength to the weary. Since that is the way He is, we can expect Him to use us as channels of His giving. He will make us givers.

But then, what about our needs? If we are always giving our resources of energy, time, and treasure away, who will take care of us? Our text gives us the answer. As we give to others, God will see to it that our needs are met. “Give, and it shall be given unto you.”

YET WILL I REJOICE

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
Habakkuk 3:17, 18

The word happiness is defined as being “favored by luck or fortune.” In other words, happiness is understood as being dependent upon circumstances or happenings. We all enjoy and appreciate it when circumstances are favorable and things are happening which are in our favor. It is easy to be happy when we have our health, our needs are met, and things seem to be going our way. However, Habakkuk speaks of a place of joy that is not the result of these things. He speaks of trees failing to blossom, vines being barren, fields yielding no fruit, flocks being lost, and yet being able to rejoice.

I think we all long for a place of constant joy that is not affected by every problem of life. There is no question about this; God wants our lives to be filled with joy. However, our rejoicing must be in something that is constant, not constantly changing. For instance, if we can only rejoice when the sun is shining, what shall we do on rainy days? If we can only find joy when we are feeling well, what are we to do when we are in pain? Circumstances will change, but some things never change. Our rejoicing can be consistent if we are finding joy in things that remain the same. Habakkuk says, “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” We can always rejoice in the Lord because He never changes. His character and attributes never change. God’s love for us is constant. His promises to us are unchanging.

Notice also that the prophet speaks of rejoicing in the “God of my salvation.” We can always rejoice in our salvation because this is also something that does not change. We can be joyful because our sins are forgiven and Heaven is our future home. Nothing can alter that. We can rejoice every day that God is our Father and Jesus is our Lord. The kind of rejoicing that we find in our text is not based on feelings or fortune, but it is the result of Bible faith. By faith, we can rejoice because of the blessings that are ours in Jesus Christ. Even when the way becomes difficult, through faith we are able to find reasons to rejoice.

IN DUE SEASON

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Galatians 6:9

Perseverance and faithfulness are essential qualities in the Christian life. Many have quit the fight or left the narrow path because of discouragement or disappointment. Because they did not see the evidence or results of their efforts, they decided to give in to defeat. God encourages us not to grow “weary in well doing.” How can we insure that we will not one day “faint”? One thing we are taught to remember is that “in due season we shall reap.” The day of harvest will come for those who are faithful.

A common reason people quit doing what is right is because they begin to doubt if their toil will be rewarded. The phrase “we shall reap” is such a positive and emphatic declaration. In an earlier verse from the same chapter, it says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). The devil wants to deceive us. He wants to convince us that we can sow, yet not reap. This simply is not so. “We shall reap.” Our giving, going, serving, and praying are not in vain. Our investment in the lives of others is not wasted. The time and energy we have poured into people and ministries are not a mistake. It is always too early to quit. We should continue with “well doing.” It is always right to do right. We should not allow our minds to entertain the notion that our labor might somehow be in vain.

But, when will we reap? The Bible says that “in due season” we will reap, if we do not faint. We know we will reap, but we do not know when that will be. We do know that it will be IN DUE SEASON. It will be when God ordains. We will reap when the time is right. Quite frankly, there are many things that we have done in service to the Savior that we may not know the results of until we get to Heaven.

Some may say, “That is not soon enough. I need to see the fruit of my labor now.” We need to leave the timing of our reward in God’s hands. He will make sure that we reap IN DUE SEASON. Our responsibility is not to determine nor dictate the time of the harvest. It is not wise to give God deadlines concerning such things. We leave the final results to God. Our duty is to remain faithful at our post. We are to keep doing what is right, and believe that God will bring the harvest IN DUE SEASON.

A SPIRIT LIKE CALEB

“But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.”
Numbers 14:24

It would be a wonderful world if everyone had the right kind of spirit. Obviously, that is not the case; and it certainly wasn’t in Moses’ day. Numbers 13 records how Moses sent spies into the Promised Land to search the land and report back to the congregation. Unfortunately, only two of those spies came back with a positive report — Joshua and Caleb. Ten of the men were pessimistic and unbelieving, urging the people not to obey God. But our text tells us that Caleb had “another spirit with him.” He had a spirit of faith.

We should all work to have A SPIRIT LIKE CALEB. Caleb’s spirit was different from the majority of his brethren. When they were negative, he was positive. When they were doubtful, he believed. When they were hesitant, he was ready. Where they were discouraging, he was encouraging. Where they were fearful, he was courageous. We need more Christians with A SPIRIT LIKE CALEB. The unbelief of the other spies brought great consequences to the Israelites and cost the nation dearly. God judged their disobedience by delaying their entrance into the Promised Land for forty years. The older generation would die in the wilderness because they listened to and believed those who had a spirit unlike Caleb.

The kind of spirit Caleb had is greatly needed in every generation. There will always be those who procrastinate about doing what needs to be done. There will always be people who are doubters when it comes to spiritual progress, and their pessimism can be contagious. Their unbelief has the power to infect the rest of the congregation. We want to be people of faith.

It was not a difficult matter for Caleb. For him, it was reasonable. He was not simply guided by his optimism or gifted with a positive attitude. He knew that it was God’s will that they occupy the land, and anything less than that would be rebellion. He also knew that God would be with them. With these beliefs firmly in his heart, Caleb was absolutely certain that the mission could be accomplished. Having the same confidence that God has made His will known in His Word, and that He has promised to be with us, let us go forward with A SPIRIT LIKE CALEB.

A HOUSE OF PRAYER

“And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
Luke 19:45, 46

What does God want His house to be? Quoting from Isaiah, Jesus said, “My house is the house of prayer.” As He visited the temple in Jerusalem, our Lord was displeased with what He found. It was not “the house of prayer” that He intended for it to be. God’s house should be a place of spiritual activity, a place to meet with and converse with God, a place free from worldly and carnal distractions. After all, it was God’s house. It was the place where He chose to dwell and manifest His presence. It was where He would meet with His people.

God dwells today in the heart of every one of His born-again children. The Bible says, “his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11). What a wonderful truth! The heart of the Christian is God’s dwelling place. His Spirit lives within us.

The Word of God also teaches that God calls His churches His house. I Timothy 3:15 declares, “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” He dwells in the assembly of His churches, and calls it His house. Could we not assume that God still desires that His house be a “house of prayer”? All churches will not be the same, but one thing should be true of every congregation and its services. It should be a place of genuine spiritual activity. The services of the church should be distinctly Christian and sacred as opposed to secular.

A great transition has been occurring in recent years, and it is quite troubling. In the name of “church growth” and with the aim of making sinners more comfortable, churches are changing. Deliberate attempts are made to entertain those who attend the services of the church. Other activities are taking the place of preaching and teaching. The music of worship is becoming worldlier. Dress is more informal. The time allotted for the services is abbreviated.

The question that needs to be asked is this, “Whose house is it?” The Biblical answer is, “It is God’s house.” He never intended that it be a house of entertainment, but a “house of prayer.” When God visits His house, may He find us being and doing what pleases Him, rather than what pleases the carnal person.

ICHABOD

“And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.”
I Samuel 4:21, 22

This was a devastating day for Israel. It was a time of great spiritual decline. The priesthood, as far as the sons of Eli were concerned, was corrupt. The Philistines defeated Israel, killing thirty thousand of their men. In addition to this, the two sons of Eli were killed and the Philistines captured the ark of God. When Eli heard this news, he fell from his seat, broke his neck, and died. When his daughter-in-law heard of these events, she went into labor and died giving birth to a son. The child was named “Ichabod,” which means, “the glory is departed from Israel.” The ark of God was gone. What a sad testimony. The glory of God was gone. Without God’s presence, things could hardly be worse.

This account from the Scripture reminds us that God can remove His glory from a place and from a people. One has to wonder how many churches there are in our world where God no longer visits. Like the Laodicean congregation, Jesus is on the outside seeking entrance. This is the way it was with Samson. He went out, assuming that God was with him, only to discover that the Lord had departed from him. Paul wrote to Timothy that in the last days it would be common to find those with “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:5).

God wants to empower His churches. To the church at Ephesus, Paul said, “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Ephesians 3:21). He wants to manifest His power and glory in His churches. We are thankful that we can never lose our eternal salvation, but we can lose His power. We can lose His glory. What caused Israel to lose the glory in the days of Eli? It was their compromise and disobedience. Sin was not repented of. God will not give His glory to a sinful people.

The reason we see so little of God’s powerful presence manifested is because there is too much sin and worldliness, and too little hunger for righteousness and holiness. We need His power and blessing. We ought to set our hearts to seeking Him wholly and begging Him for His power and glory to shine forth in our dark world.

AT THE SAME TIME

“Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them. At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?”
Ezra 5:2, 3

In the Book of Haggai, it is recorded that God, in very strong language, reprimanded His people for their neglect in rebuilding the temple. To their credit, the people responded to the message of Haggai and resumed work on the Lord’s house. Our text in Ezra tells us that “at the same time” that Zerubbabel and Jeshua “began to build the house of God,” they were visited by Tatnai and others who questioned their authority to build.

Tatnai and his companions were not as antagonistic as some of the adversaries that resisted this work of rebuilding, but they were a good illustration of something we also experience. It seems more than coincidental that “at the same time” God’s people get stirred up to do something that He wants, a voice of division or difficulty is raised. How is it that an inspiration to reform or change in some positive way is often accompanied by an attempt to discourage or hinder? I have seen this personally or heard others speak of it many times. When one decides to make noble steps to obey God, he should be prepared for some form of difficulty to be introduced.

One source of this opposition can surely be attributed to the devil. He hates to see the work of God go forward. When a child of God gets stirred up about living for the Lord, the devil will get stirred up about trying to prevent it. Let it not surprise us. If one has not been informed about this possibility, the opposition he faces can be discouraging. To the natural mind, it would seem that a step in a Biblical direction would be so blessed of God that He would not allow anything to hinder. However, the Bible teaches us otherwise. After Jesus was baptized and ready to initiate His preaching ministry, Satan immediately tempted Him sorely.

The enemy will always seek to distract God’s people. We should not let that deter us. If anything, we ought to allow this testing to be used to strengthen our resolve to serve God.

HIS LOVE PERFECTED IN US

“No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”
I John 4:12

What a miracle Biblical salvation is! It is not an effort or endeavor on our part to achieve some spiritual state. It is the divine work of God. The moment we turn from our sin and receive Christ by faith, He regenerates us by His power, saves us by His grace, and permanently indwells us by His Spirit. This Scripture speaks of the reality and power of the indwelling presence of God. The statement of John the beloved is, “God dwelleth in us.” Because He lives in us, His life will be manifested in us and through us. Our text concludes with this truth, “his love is perfected in us.” It is not our ability to imitate His love, it is His unconditional, supernatural, unexplainable love being “perfected in us.”

There are many verses in the Bible that are directed to the subject of our responsibility to love others. We are to love our friends and family. We are to love our husbands or wives. We are to love one another as Christians. We are to love God. We are even commanded to love our enemies. Where will all this love come from? Is it possible for mortal and sinful men to produce this kind of love? The answer is found in our Bible passage. God wants to channel His love through us.

We would all agree that He loves in ways that we cannot love, and He loves people that we find it difficult to love. As He was hanging on the cross, He forgave His executioners. His love supersedes any natural love that we might have. In order for us to obey His commandment to love others, we need for His love to be directed through us. Most of us have been frustrated and disappointed with ourselves at some time when we have found ourselves failing in this area. Where we knew there should be love, there was anger or bitterness. Instead of forgiving in love, we have harbored resentment.

God wants to love people through us. Our natural love will definitely have limits of endurance. But, God’s love never fails. How is it that God’s love will be expressed through us? We know, if we are born again, that He lives in us. The fruit of His Spirit will be manifested in us. The “fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22). The more He controls us and the more we trust Him to live His life of love through us, the more His love will be “perfected in us.”

THE GOOD SHEPHERD

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
John 10:11

God, in His wisdom and grace, reveals Himself to us in ways that enhance our understanding of His nature and thus edify us. He declares Himself to be “the door,” “the way,” “the truth,” “the life,” “the living bread,” “the light,” etc. Our text describes His watch care metaphorically as “the good shepherd.” What better way to see Him than as the One watching over our souls, and over us as members of His protected flock?

As our Shepherd, He cares for us. None need ever wonder if He has our best interest in mind. Actually, He cares so much for us that He “giveth his life for the sheep.” He loves us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His life on the cruel cross of Calvary that we might be saved and be part of His flock. As our Shepherd, He cares so much for us that He feeds us in nourishing pastures and provides refreshing drink. Fulfilling the role of the Shepherd, He leads us in paths that are good for us. He protects us from danger and has promised that He will always be with us. He will not allow us to stray far from His will and will lovingly correct us.

God would have us to recognize and appreciate our relationship to our Shepherd. It is a personal relationship. He knows His sheep individually. We love Him because of the unexplainable way that He loves us. We are comforted in His care. We feel safe in His flock. We need not be afraid, for our Shepherd is always on guard. Jesus is not just our Shepherd; He is our “good shepherd.” We may not always understand the things that He allows into our lives, but we can be confident that our Shepherd is in perfect control and only does what is good. We are the sheep of His pasture.

Just as we benefit from seeing Jesus as our Shepherd, we can better understand our place by realizing we are His sheep. The wise sheep knows that his safest place is near the Shepherd. We do not want to be distant from Him; but to the contrary, we want to stay close by His side. We should follow the paths that He leads us in. There are dangers and problems for the sheep that resist the direction and diet of the Shepherd. You never see sheep leading a Shepherd, only the opposite. As His faithful sheep, we want His will more than ours. We will then gladly submit to His plan and purpose for our lives.