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Devotions

A Song of Grief and Praise

Gary Wilkerson

In the introduction to Psalm 9, David wrote that this song was for the death of a son. That's pretty sad. We don’t know which son he was referencing. Maybe it was about the loss of his infant son with Bathsheba. Maybe it was Absalom’s murder. It could have even been for Jonathan after he was killed in battle. We don't know exactly what David was thinking of when he titled this song; but when we read it, we can clearly see that God had done something miraculous in his life.

Even though David said this song was about the death of a son, the first two lines read, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2, ESV). A few lines later, he adds, “But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness” (Psalm 9:7-8).

When I was reading that, it didn't make any sense to me. How many people lose a child and are able to say, “God has seen me through the battle that I've been in. He's helped me process my grief. He's helped me understand how I can survive when my child has died. Praise the Lord. I offer thanks with my whole heart.”

How do we learn to sing that kind of song? The songs some of us are singing right now are more lament than anything else. If you need to sing a song of grief and sorrow right now, sing! Know that God hears you, and scripture promises, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

I know that in the Lord’s timing and in his presence, I will walk through his healing process. Then I will be able to take my grief and sing it in a new way. Because we’ve all been hurt and lost loved ones, that gracious promise should give us great hope.

The Command “Follow Me”

John Bailey

The world is filled with a lot of brokenness. People are looking for answers and purpose in their lives. This generation has so many fears and doubts, trying to figure out who God is and what he wants from us.

One of the gospel writers in particular would’ve understood this well. Matthew probably grew up in a traditional Jewish home; he’d heard all the Old Testament stories and seen all the religion. Something had gone wrong, though; he’d become a tax collector for the Roman Empire, and they were put in the same category as harlots, traitors and sinners. In his gospel, Matthew gives a bit of his testimony. “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ So he arose and followed him” (Matthew 9:9, ESV).

Matthew would’ve had all the money and religious know-how, and yet on the inside, he was so broken and empty. Then he had a revelation of Jesus. He would’ve lost his job in order to follow after Christ. He probably gave up his wealth and perhaps even lost relationships with his family. He would’ve faced persecution from the religious leaders of his day. According to church history, he became a missionary to North Africa and was ultimately martyred for the gospel.

I’m certain that if you could ask Matthew, “Would you do it all again? Would you follow Christ out of that tax booth, knowing how your life would change, what it would cost you?” he would answer, “Yes. A hundred times over.”

There’s something so defining about the authority, power and love of God when we really encounter it. I think God is calling us to rise up because the church and the world desperately needs to see God’s heart lived out for them. Just as Jesus wanted to heal in Matthew’s generation, God wants to move again in this generation. This is the expression of Christ’s compassion that Matthew witnessed and wrote about: “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).

We exist for the purpose of bringing the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit to broken spaces. Just like with Matthew, Christ says to us, “Follow me.” If you obey, your life will never be the same.

John Bailey is the COO of World Challenge Inc. and the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church in Jacksonville, Florida. John has been serving the Lord in pastoral ministry for 35 years, ministering the gospel in over 50 nations, particularly as a pastor and evangelist in Cork, Ireland.

What Satisfies His Hunger?

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Many Christians are troubled by the humility required of true faith. Consider the scriptures where Christ told his disciples, “Which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Luke 17:7-10, NKJV).

Christ is speaking here of us, his servants, and of God, our Master. He’s telling us we’re to feed God. You may wonder, “What kind of food are we supposed to bring to the Lord? What satisfies his hunger?” The Bible tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Simply put, God’s most delectable dish is faith. That’s the food that pleases him.

We see this illustrated throughout the scriptures. When a centurion asked Jesus to heal his sick servant, he honored Jesus’s high authority. He knew the Savior could accomplish this miraculous feat by merely speaking a word, and Christ feasted on the man’s vibrant faith. We’re told, “When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’” (Matthew 8:10). Jesus was saying, “Here’s a Gentile, an outsider, who’s feeding my spirit. What a nourishing meal this man’s faith is giving me.”

I notice in Jesus’ words a blunt statement: “You don’t eat first. I do.” In others words, we are not to consume our faith on our own interests and needs. Rather, our faith is meant to satisfy our Lord’s hunger.

To Be a Wise Virgin

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Jesus warned his disciples, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish” (Matthew 25:1-2, NKJV). If you are honest, you’ll admit, “Yes, this parable describes me. I’ve grown lazy, but I don’t want to become a foolish virgin and drift away. I want to be ready as the day of the Lord approaches.”

If you want to be a wise virgin, there are two steps you must take. They’re simple, but they can’t be overlooked.

First, make Christ the center of your thought life. Let the Lord be in all your thoughts. When you wake up in the morning, whisper his name. At night as you’re going to bed, call out to him in thought and on your knees. Scripture commands us, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Let this verse be the basis of a simple prayer you murmur throughout the day: “Jesus, you are true, honest, just, pure and lovely. You are my Good News.”

We too often let ourselves become consumed with worries or plans. Paul wrote, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile” (1 Corinthians 3:20). God records all your thoughts. He knows every time you think of him, so give him all your “thank you” thoughts.

Second, pray throughout the day, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner.” This simple prayer is the oil for your lamp. Praying it daily is how you begin to prepare to meet the Lord. You’re telling God, “Father, I’m not worthy to be called by your name. I need your mercy. I realize I’m not what I thought I was. I thought I was a pretty good person, yet whatever meager goodness I may possess gains me nothing. It’s all as filthy rags in your sight. I know I can’t be saved by my good works. I need your grace. I humble myself before you now. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Ever Increasing Faith

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

The men who comprised of Christ’s closest circle decided to ask something important of their Master. “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’” (Luke 17:5, NKJV). They wanted a greater understanding of the meaning and workings of faith. They were saying, “Lord, what sort of faith do you desire from us? Give us a revelation of the kind that pleases you. We want to grasp faith in its fullest meaning.”

On the surface, their request seems commendable. However, I believe the disciples asked this of Jesus because they were confused. In the previous chapter, Christ had baffled them by saying, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12).

Jesus knew his followers’ flesh wanted to avoid what they considered to be the lesser matters of faith. So he told them, “If you’re faithful in the little things, the foundational matters of faith, you’ll be faithful in the greater things too. So, prove yourself trustworthy in the basic requirements of faith. Otherwise, how can you be trusted with a deeper measure?”

If we are honest, we’ll admit we’re much like Jesus’ disciples. We also want to proceed straight to the larger matters of faith, to obtain the kind of faith that moves mountains. Like the disciples, we often judge faith by visible results.

True faith, in God’s eyes, has nothing to do with the size or amount of a work you aim to accomplish. Rather, it has to do with the focus and direction of your life. You see, God isn’t as concerned with your grand vision of how you plan to serve him as he is with who you’re becoming. God is more interested in winning all of me than in me winning all the world for him.