The way to truly be free is to surrender everything to Christ. That can be difficult to do. Sometimes, we may think we’ve surrendered it all, but we really haven’t. Maybe we’re holding on to some worry or trying to control some aspect of our lives ourselves. Only when we turn EVERYTHING over to God and trust Him to take care of all of it can we experience the true freedom that comes from following Jesus Christ.
FEBRUARY 07, 2021 SUNDAY
When Jesus preached in the temple, He said, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). The people listening that day had a difficult time understanding that He was talking about Himself. But it’s no wonder Jesus’ listeners were confused. He hadn’t yet died on the cross and risen from the grave. Yet here’s the unfortunate truth: Sometimes we’re just as confused, even though we know how the story ends.
It’s easy to forget God’s promise of abundant life in Him—a life liberated by His love—and to continue making choices that enslave us to sin. And at times these choices can have longstanding effects. The good news is that God’s offer of freedom is always available to us, no matter how far we stray. We simply need to stop and turn once again in His direction. Repentance is always the path to greater freedom.
THINK ABOUT IT
• What would turning once again in Jesus’ direction look like right now in your life? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything that’s getting in the way of your freedom in Christ. Whatever He shows you, confess it and ask Him to help you walk in repentance.
Of course, none of us wants to go through persecution, trials or tribulations, but when we do, we should try to look at the good God will work in us through it all, for He works all things for the good of those who love him. (“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 KJV) In our tribulations, we have hope and should just trust in Him. That doesn’t mean they’ll be fun or easy, but He will give us the strength to get through them, and it’ll all be worth it someday.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:3-9
FEBRUARY 06, 2021 SATURDAY
Harsh persecution for faith isn’t something most of us have been subjected to here in the United States. Perhaps we’ve been rejected, ridiculed, or treated unfairly, but at this point in history, physical suffering, imprisonment, or death haven’t been a typical experience. However, in other places around the globe, believers are severely oppressed for their faith.
But whatever negative treatment we may encounter, the Bible consistently recommends a response of patient endurance and joy in the Lord. Jesus said anyone mistreated for His sake is actually blessed (Luke 6:22-23), and Peter points out that from God’s point of view, such oppression is designed to prove our faith genuine (1 Peter 1:6-7). Whenever the church is persecuted, it is purified because those who remain are dedicated followers of Jesus.
Persecution can have a similar purifying effect on our personal life: Having comforts, pleasures, and idols of this world stripped away can drive us to the Lord for strength and grace. Then pride, self-centeredness, and self-confidence lose their grip, and in our weakness, we recognize God and His eternal inheritance as our only hope. Though oppression is certainly nothing you or I would want, we can take heart knowing that even in such extreme situations, there are blessings that lead to rejoicing in Christ.
After we’ve been saved, our goal should be to reach spiritual maturity. This isn’t something we can do of ourselves. It’s something that happens when we let the Holy Spirit work within our lives and mold us into the image of Jesus.
“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” -Galatians 3:3 KJV
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
FEBRUARY 05, 2021 FRIDAY
The Lord makes known His love for mankind in so many ways. Consider, for example, His providential care and kindness to all humanity, our beautiful planet filled with creation’s wonders, and the gift of eternal life to all who trust Christ as Savior. But have you ever recognized that God also shows love by transforming believers into the image of His Son?
Genesis 1:26 tells us that in the beginning, God created mankind in His likeness. Though that image was marred when Adam and Eve sinned, God’s purposes were not thwarted. Before He had created anything, the plan for mankind’s restoration was already in place (1 Peter 1:18-21).
God provided salvation through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Everyone who trusts in Jesus is forgiven, spiritually reborn, and adopted into the heavenly Father’s family. The Holy Spirit enters each new believer’s life and begins the process of molding the renewed heart and mind into Christlikeness. And ultimately the transformation will be completed when we are bodily resurrected and stand before our Father in our glorified state.
But even before we reach that perfected state, God is glorified through His followers—when the likeness of His Son is revealed in our character, conversation, and conduct to those around us.
Today’s devotional kind of ties in with yesterday’s. It’s hard to wait for answers. We want them now, but sometimes when God doesn’t answer prayers right away, we become discouraged and start to think that He doesn’t answer. However, that’s not true! God ALWAYS answers prayer, but He answers in His own time, and sometimes the answer is no. When the answer is no, we must be humble and obedient and trust that He knows what’s best for us. Oftentimes, when God says no it’s because a) what we’ve asked isn’t good for us, b) it doesn’t align with His will and/or c) He something better in store for us.
25 Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
3 Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
4 Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.
5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
6 Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.
8 Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
9 The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.
12 What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
13 His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.
14 The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.
15 Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.
18 Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
20 O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
22 Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.
FEBRUARY 04, 2021 THURSDAY
What are we to think when we have prayed but the Lord doesn’t answer? As creatures limited by time, we can find waiting very frustrating. However, God doesn’t perceive time as we do. He knows the end of a matter before it has even begun. His knowledge reaches from eternity past to eternity future, and nothing is hidden from His sight.
Furthermore, His compassion and lovingkindness surround those who belong to Him. He allows difficult circumstances in our life, not to destroy us but rather to build up our faith and bring us to spiritual maturity. Sometimes He withholds answers because they are not spiritually beneficial for us. Psalm 25:9-10 teaches that waiting on the Lord requires at least three things:
1. Instead of demanding that God do things our way, we must humble ourselves so He can teach us His ways.
2. We must trust the Lord’s leadership, knowing that all His paths are established on His lovingkindness and truth.
3. We must be obedient to Him—which sometimes requires waiting and trusting.
If God seems slow in answering your prayer, realize that He hasn’t left you but is redirecting you onto His path.
I’ve always been very healthy. Like, I was the type of person who rarely went to the doctor, and when I did, I had to be very hurting or sick. This past year, I had a lot of scary health things happen. I saw almost every type of specialist you can think of and underwent tons of tests. I went to the doctor more last year than I ever have in my entire life. I kept praying for answers that didn’t come. They couldn’t figure out what all was going on with me—though they knew there was definitely something going on.
I struggled with my faith throughout this time. I kept trying to trust in God, but those worrisome thoughts kept creeping into my head. I finally had to reach a point where I turned it all over to him and said, “You know best. If I live, I’ll live unto You. If I die, I’ll be with You and all my loved ones who’ve went on before me. Please help me have faith and courage.”
“For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:7-7, KJV
This verse greatly comforted me.
Only when I turned it all over to God and truly meant it did I start to get answers. I still don’t have all the answers, but we’re getting closer to discovering whatever is going on.
The point is this: Throughout all those terrifying health issues, I learned to trust God more. I believe he made me wait to increase my faith and trust in Him. Of course, I wish I didn’t have to go through all the pain I did, but if it brought me closer to Him, then it’s all worth it.
God uses all situations—good and bad—to draw His children closer to Him and teach them lessons. My lesson was in faith and trust. I still feel the cloud of worry and anxiety pass over me from time to time, but now instead of dwelling in it, I immediately say a prayer, reaffirm my trust in God and offer it all up to Him.
We’re not supposed to carry those heavy burdens of worry and anxiety. God is in control, and He will take care of us. We must trust Him at all times and rest in Him—in the peace that only He can give.
It can be hard to rest in the Lord and wait patiently, especially if you’re a worrier and prone to anxiety like me. However, sometimes God makes us wait to teach us patience and to increase our faith in Him. When we learn to wait, we learn to trust Him, that His timing is perfect. If God’s making you wait, it’s because He knows best and He wants to increase your faith and trust in Him.
FEBRUARY 03, 2021 WEDNESDAY
Nobody in our culture likes to wait. It’s easy to become impatient for the doctor to enter the exam room, the grocery cashier to work faster, or the website to load. Patience can even be elusive in our relationship with God if He doesn’t answer our prayer requests as soon as we want.
David, the author of today’s psalm, wrote often about the need to wait on the Lord. In the original language, this word means “to rest quietly” or “to quiet oneself.” Does that describe how you wait, or do you fret and worry?
The key to waiting quietly for the Lord is to maintain your hope in Him regardless of your situation. That’s how David was able to wait for God’s ordained time to become king. Although he was anointed as king in his youth, the promise wasn’t fulfilled until he was 30 years old. In those intervening years he suffered much hardship and unfairness, but he upheld his hope in the Lord.
Are you waiting today for God to change or accomplish something in your life? If so, follow David’s example: With awareness that the Lord is your refuge and strength, trust in both His timing and provision.
So many Christians think they have to do something after they’ve been saved. They have to keep improving upon themselves. While it’s great to serve the Lord (and we should do good works), we must be careful that we don’t get into a “works” frame of mind, thinking that our works somehow make us better or warrant us anything. We must always realize that we cannot improve ourselves of ourselves. It is only by allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us that we can grow in the spirit.
3 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
FEBRUARY 02, 2021 TUESDAY
Many years ago I learned a valuable lesson from a missionary who had spent 40 years in China. I told her about a struggle I was having, and I’ve never forgotten her reply. She said, “Charles, you won’t ever be any better than you are, but the Holy Spirit who lives inside you will enable you. You can’t improve your flesh.”
Until then, I’d always thought that if I worked hard enough, I would be a better person. It was an eye-opener to realize that our heavenly Father does not want or need our self-efforts. They can neither earn us salvation nor enable us to live the Christian life. In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul said basically the same thing when he wrote, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3).
In our own strength, we are unable to do anything of eternal value. To become the person God wants us to be and to accomplish His will in our life, we must totally rely upon His Spirit. But it’s important to remember that dependence is not inaction. Paul described it this way: “I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col. 1:29). Depending fully on the Holy Spirit is how our Father wants us to serve Him.
Even after we’ve accepted Jesus Christ, we’ll struggle with sin because we still live in the flesh. Only when we get our glorified bodies will all sin go away from us. However, when we keep our faith in Christ and what He did for us at the Cross, we give the Holy Spirit latitude to work without our lives and help us to not sin.
This doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll never sin again—because we will. Can you really stop every negative thought from entering your mind? No. But when you do sin, you can repent. (This doesn’t mean this gives us a free pass to sin as much as we want, thinking, “I’ll just ask for forgiveness later.”)
We’re still to try our best to live righteously, but even our best is as filthy rags before the Father (“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” – Isaiah 64:6), which is why we must have the blood of Jesus Christ to atone for our sins.
However, instead of getting caught up in rules and the laws of the Old Testament, we’re to live by the New Covenant, which is grace. When you constantly keep your eyes on the Cross, you’ll obey the commandments as a loving response to our Savior, and you’ll actually hold to an even higher standard, such as forgiving others who’ve wronged you and exhibiting the same mercy our Savior does.
We’re all a work in progress, and it might take time for the Holy Spirit to mold us into who He wants us to be. Jesus serves as our mediator, asking the father for grace and mercy when we fail. None of us can keep the law flawlessly. If we could, there would have been no need for Jesus to come. He is the only one who ever lived perfectly. It is only with the help of the Holy Spirit that we can truly live righteously and experience spiritual success.
4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.
17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:4-18 KJV
FEBRUARY 01, 2021 MONDAY
It’s easy to become discouraged in the Christian life because of our struggle with sin. Even though we want to walk obediently before the Lord, we often find ourselves thinking sinful thoughts, adopting worldly attitudes, speaking rashly, and acting in ways that are anything but Christlike.
Whenever you feel defeated, remember this: As believers, we have all the power needed to live as God desires, because He has given us His Holy Spirit (John 14:17). So, although you may never achieve success as the world measures it, God’s Spirit is always working towards your spiritual success by …
Illuminating your mind to know the truth. Then you can grow in the knowledge of God and His Word (1 Corinthians 2:12).
Transforming your character. He produces His spiritual fruit within you, making you more like Christ (Gal. 5:22-23).
Aligning your desires with God’s will. He works to help you yearn for the things God wants (Phil. 2:12-13).
Strengthening you. He enables you both to endure hardship and to serve God (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).
Human strength and willpower fall short, but the Lord promises to complete the good work He began in us. And He will not fail.
All believers have different gifts. Some are called to preach or teach whereas others have the gift of a servant’s heart and still others a gift for music. You might think your gift is small or insignificant, but it can make a huge impact on someone’s life. Once you accept Jesus into your life, you become a part of the Church (not a physical building but the Church—Christ’s Church), the body of Christ. Everyone has a job to do, and God can take gifts you previously didn’t use for His purpose and use them for His intended purpose. For instance, if you’re a writer or a speaker, He can use your gifts to get His message out. If you have a gift for cooking, He can use your cooking as a way to serve others and feed the poor and hungry. There’s no job too big or too small. It’s all important to God. You are important to Him, and you have a role to play. When you submit your will to God’s will, you’ll truly be able to fly and experience the fullness of joy He has meant for you.
JANUARY 31, 2021 SUNDAY
The flying trapeze is one of the most thrilling acts at the circus. With faces turned skyward, we watch with a sense of awe as fliers somersault, twist, and glide across the arena into the arms of a catcher, then return to their perch in triumph.
What we don’t see are the hours of grueling practice. Trapeze artists need to build trust with one another, if they ever want to move together with grace and beauty. It is only through mutual submission that they are free to attain something greater than they ever could alone.
Believers can experience a similar joy. Paul emphasized the importance of differences and gifts, describing us this way in 1 Corinthians 12:19-20: “If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.” Yes, we are each uniquely designed. Yet in Christ, we discover our fullest, truest selves by working together as one, surrendering ourselves to each other in love.
Think about it
• Describe the joy that comes with being part of Christ’s body. If you haven’t experienced it, how might you pursue it?
• To what specific task in the body are you called? How can you exercise your gift more fully at church, home, or work?
It’s so important to read the Bible for ourselves to ensure we know God’s Word for ourselves. It can be too easy to accept statements from ministers as facts, but if what they’re preaching doesn’t align with the gospel, it’s false doctrine. Our ancestors fought for the right to read the Bible, and so often we take this precious gift for granted. God anoints ministers to lead and teach us, but we must be wary of false doctrine. Nothing can take the place of reading the Bible for yourself, for it is through it that God will reveal His true character to you. When you become familiar with scripture yourself, you’ll be able to discern what is false and what is truth.
16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.
2 Timothy 2:16-21 KJV
JANUARY 30, 2021 SATURDAY
Ever since the beginning of church history, believers have been in a battle for the truth. That’s why, in today’s reading, Paul admonished Timothy to be faithful—not only in preaching God’s Word but also in refuting false doctrines. Both types of instruction are necessary for the health of a local congregation. False teaching …
• Leads to further ungodliness (2 Timothy 2:16). A false teacher’s words may sound religious, but something counterfeit can never make a person righteous. Apart from the true Word of God (John 17:17), no one can grow in holiness.
• Spreads like gangrene (2 Timothy 2:17). Once deceitful ideas infiltrate a church and are accepted by a few, contagion can ultimately make the entire congregation spiritually sick and prone to ignore the Spirit’s power.
• Overthrows the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:18-19). The church as a whole loses effectiveness when individual members turn away from Christ to embrace error. If we’re firmly grounded in the Scriptures, we can more easily recognize and flee from seductive ideas that would lead us astray. Accurate knowledge of God’s Word is our best protection.
Just like with any other book, the Bible must be read in the right context. It can be easy to pick one scripture and apply it wrongly. Usually, if you’ll read the surrounding scriptures or chapters, you’ll be able to able to discern the true meaning of a verse—what it’s talking about, the context it’s used in. Maybe you have trouble understanding the Bible in general. I think we all do from time to time, but it’s important that we don’t give up. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s Word to you. You’ll be amazed just how much He’ll reveal to you.
JANUARY 29, 2021 FRIDAY
The Bible is an amazing book because it is God’s words given to mankind in written form. Yet many people misinterpret it. Instead of diligently studying Scripture to discover what God means and how He wants us to live, some people search the Bible to find passages to support their preconceived ideas or preferred lifestyles.
Today’s passage was written to a young pastor named Timothy. Of all the duties a pastor has, the central one is to present the Word of God accurately to the church. But that doesn’t mean nobody else can—knowing how to properly interpret the Bible is a skill every believer should develop. Consider the diligence of the Bereans, who were commended for examining Scripture regularly to gauge the truth of messages preached to them (Acts 17:10-11).
We aren’t free to interpret the Bible any way we want. The goal is to discover what God meant rather than to find a meaning we like. Remember, it’s our Father’s approval we are seeking—not our own or that of others. Therefore, let’s devote time to studying Scripture, use our resources to learn about context, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth.