Throughout your life, you are constantly going to be making plans, whether it’s for what you’re going to eat for breakfast, what you’re going to do this weekend, or what you are going to do with the rest of your life! Most of these decisions are trivial and easy to make, what do I want to eat right now? I’ll just open the fridge and grab the first thing I see that looks good, easy choice made. But some decisions become much harder, which of my friends should I be spending my time with? What should I do once I graduate high school? What should I dedicate my life to?
In the midst of all these decisions and plans we make in our lives, it can be so easy to forget about the presence of a God who sees it all, who knows you so well He already knows what you are going to decide long before you choose, and who loves you so much He wants the best for you. I don’t know about you, but I find myself time and time again making decisions about my life or trying to follow through on plans I’ve made without consulting God at all or inviting Him in on the plan. Often it’s not until those plans fall apart that I find myself falling back down before God and realizing my mistakes and my feeble attempts to make something of this life through my own strength and wit. Sometimes I find a plan that I thought God had led me to fall apart, and I find myself frustrated with God, wondering why He would sweep the rug out from under me like that.
The amazing thing is that God has been there the whole time, His love for me has not changed, and His wisdom has not failed. He has been weaving these plans I have made on my own into His grander plan the whole time, setting things in motion that I never considered, some I will come to see the fruit of later in life, and some I may never get to see, but all will work for His will and the good of His people.
Reflecting on the mysteries of God’s plans always has me thinking about the life of Paul. Back when Paul was still called Saul he had what he thought was a great plan, he was going to rid Jerusalem and the surrounding areas of this new group who claimed their leader had returned from the dead. God had other plans though! Not only did He speak directly to Saul and turn him into a disciple of Jesus (Acts 9), He used the persecution that Saul had put on the early Christians to further his work. Later in Acts 11 we find out that some of the people who ran away from Jerusalem because of Saul ended up starting a church in Antioch, and that church ends up sending missionaries to all parts of the ancient world. One of those missionaries was Paul himself!
For the rest of Paul’s life, we see him continue to have faith in God’s plans even as he sometimes ends up in terrible situations that he never would have envisioned for himself. I find myself asking, how can I have that kind of faith myself? There are a lot of practical ways to work toward that. Read stories from the Bible about disciples like Paul trusting God throughout their lives. Talk to and learn from faithful disciples in your community who have gone before you. Pray constantly for God to increase your faith. But the number one thing that I would say you must do is to fix your eyes on Jesus.
Different translations of Hebrews 12:2 use different terms to describe Jesus’ relationship to our faith. He is the pioneer, the founder, the champion, the author, and the perfecter of our faith. Only by looking to him can we run with endurance the race that is set before us’ (Hebrews 12:1). So I beg of you today, whatever state your plans are in right now, take some time to fix your eyes on Jesus today, and ask him for faith like Paul, to trust that the Lord will work things out better than you could ever imagine, and be with you in every decision, whether big or small.
In Christ’s Love,
Before you dig into God’s Word today, listen to Jesus Culture’s song “Here is My Heart” (Your Love Never Fails, 2008).
Read Genesis 1:27-28 and Psalm 8:3-5 in your Bible.
• Rewrite Genesis 1:27 in your own words. What does this tell you about God’s plan for people? His love for us?
• Focus on Psalm 8:5. What do you think it means that God crowned us with glory and honor? Explain.
The world we live in seems to say that souls vary in importance. God’s Word disagrees—all of humanity was created in His image. Every life has value and worth because it bears the image of God, the glory of God. However, sin marred that image and only Jesus’ death could restore it.
“We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” —2 Corinthians 3:18
Read 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Colossians 3:9-10 in your Bible and answer the following.
• In 2 Corinthians 3:18, did Paul describe this change as immediate or gradual? Explain.
• Reread the previous question. In your Bible, underline any key words that helped you determine your answer.
• Summarize Colossians 3:9-10 in your journal. Underneath, list some differences between the old and new self by making a column titled Old and one titled New. (See Eph. 4:22-24 for guidance.)
• According to Colossians 3:10, explain how we are renewed.
Glorifying God isn’t just about what you do, but who you are as His image bearer. The more time you spend with God, the more you will reflect Him in the way you live.
• In your journal, jot down some specific ways you notice God’s transformation in your own life.
• For further study on how God transforms lives, read Psalm 139:23-24 and Romans 12:1-2.
BEHIND THE STORY
God’s Word doesn’t specifically mention what imago Dei, or the image of God, refers to in relation to specific characteristics of people such as spirit, soul, and body. Therefore, Bible scholars suggest that the concept of the image of God must be considered as a whole. In other words, “The entire man, as a human being, images God.”(1)
Christ’s death on the cross restores our image and likeness of Him.
(1)Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 806-807.
Posted in Boys, Devotions | Tagged Camp Ridgecrest Alumni and Friends, Camp Ridgecrest for Boys, Devotions, Reprinted from EC magazine. @ 2016 LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention | Leave a reply
YOU’RE WALKING DOWN THE HALL AT SCHOOL between classes and pass by two students laughing and speaking to each other in a language you don’t understand. What is the first thing that goes through your mind? Do you quickly assume they’re talking about you? Do you become angry? Do you smile and treat them with respect?
Read Deuteronomy 32:1-4 and check out the word picture of God in verse 4.
What words are used to describe God?
What does this say about God’s character?
What does it mean to say God is without prejudice?
What does that tell you about God’s view of prejudice in our lives?
What is your view of prejudice? Does it need to change? If so, how?
Do the words used to describe God’s character also describe your life? Explain. What needs to change so your attitude lines up with God’s?
In these verses, Moses was describing the character of God. He calls God “The Rock” and said His work is perfect, that God is just, righteous, and true. He even said that God is without prejudice. The point is that prejudice isn’t a part of God’s character. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a part of yours.
We live in a world that says racism and prejudice are wrong. And that’s true, they are. But you know why they are: because God is without prejudice. God loves all people, and the salvation He offers is for every last one of us. It’s easy to be uncomfortable or even dislike someone because he or she isn’t like you, but that’s not the kind of people believers are called to be. Our God loves all people and doesn’t judge us based on skin color, language, age, or disability. He just loves. Ask Him to help you see others with His eyes today. Then, let His point of view change yours.
IT’S NOT JUST about you. When was the last time you said those words? Maybe it was to a friend, a character in a movie, or to yourself. Think about that situation. What prompted you to remind yourself (or someone else) that it wasn’t just about them?
Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. What stands out to you about verse 4?
According to these verses, why might times of trial not just be about you?
How can your trials and hard times help other people?
How have you seen this truth play out in your life or someone else’s life?
During your trials, do you look for ways to use them to help others?
Is it selfish to keep what you have learned from trials to yourself? Explain.
Are you willing to suffer so others will not have to? Why or why not?
If the goal of the Christian life is to become more like Christ (which it is), then we must also face trials. Jesus did. He endured various trials, temptations, and hard times, even the cross. Yet, it was for the benefit of others. Because of His willingness to endure those trials, we have salvation and forgiveness. We also have the assurance that because Jesus was here and faced tough times, He knows how we feel. He understands us.
A key point of Paul’s words in today’s passage is that the trials we face aren’t necessarily just about us. Instead, the things we learn can help us reach out to others and minister to them—all because of what we’ve learned during the tough times.
THINK ABOUT A TIME when you were wrong about someone. You thought that girl was shallow and stuck-up. Maybe you thought that guy was very mean because he kept getting you out in four-square. Whoever it was, at some later point you discovered that your assumption was wrong. That the idea you had about that person wasn’t actually built on truth.
Have you ever realized you’ve done the same thing to God? That you’ve chosen to believe things about Him or His character that in time proved to be false?
Read James 1:16-18 and contemplate verse 17.
Why do you think James wrote, “Don’t be deceived”?
What does verse 17 tell you about God’s character?
When have you doubted this truth about God? Why?
Why is it important to understand that all good things come from God?
What does it mean that there is no variation in God?
Does God provide us what we want or what He wills? Explain.
What do these verses teach you about God’s character?
James’ point is clear: God is good. It is His very nature, and God does not change. He has been good, is good, and will always be good. There is no variation or change in His goodness. Therefore, anything that is good begins with God and comes from God.
We also have to remember that life can hurt. And in the middle of that hurting, it’s easy to get some ideas about God that aren’t quite right, like the idea that He likes watching us suffer through life’s trials. The point is that trials aren’t necessarily good, but they can be used for good by a good God.
THINK ABOUT YOUR LAST bad day. Maybe it started when you got to school and one of your friends said something hurtful. Maybe someone you respected embarrassed you in front of everyone. Maybe everything that could go wrong did. And then, finally, tired of it all, you smarted off to your parents. When confronted about it, you said, “I just had a bad day.”
Does a bad day justify bad behavior? No. But, when we go through trials, it is easy to blame God, get mad at Him, or even justify sinful behavior simply because we’re going through a hard time.
Read James 1:12-15, focusing on verse 13.
What did James mean when he said, “Blessed is a man who endures trials”?
Why do we tend to blame God for bad things that happen?
According to these verses, does God ever tempt us to sin? Explain.
What is the promise in these verses for those who endure trials?
You’ve heard it a bunch over the past few week’s devotions: tough times will come your way. But today’s Scripture passage makes it clear that hard times never justify sinful behavior. In fact, trials never produce sinful behavior. It is our reaction to the trials that can lead us to sin. By blaming God, we are simply trying to justify our sinful actions.
God doesn’t tempt us. And while He doesn’t cause every trial that comes our way, He can use them as an opportunity for our growth.
THERE IS ONE QUALITY many people lack that keeps them from living life to the fullest: trust. We have lost trust in each other. Politicians are caught in lies. Athletes are cheating. Churches are full of hypocrites. Friends betray us. Parents disappoint us. Whom can you trust anymore?
Most of us will give the church answer: “You can always trust God!” But do you? When your life is crashing down around you, do you trust God?
Read Ephesians 1:15-19 and think hard about verse 17.
What did Paul say he was praying for in the Ephesians’ lives?
What does it mean to have a spirit of wisdom?
What does it mean to grow in knowledge of God?
Would you describe yourself as having a spirit of wisdom or growing in knowledge of God? Why or why not?
How easy is it to trust God when everything is going well?
How easy is it to trust God when everything is falling apart?
Why can you trust God even when you don’t understand what is happening?
Trust in God comes from having a relationship with Him. That was what Paul said he was praying for in today’s Scripture passage. He wanted the Ephesians to grow in their knowledge of and relationship with God. He wanted them to know the overwhelming power and wisdom that only God can give.
The more you know God and His character, the more you can trust Him. If you know God is good, then you can trust that He is going to do what is good for you. If you know God is sovereign, then you can trust that He is in complete control. Theologian Charles Spurgeon once said, “When you cannot trace God’s hand, trust His heart.”
Whom are you trusting today?
THERE ARE MANY THINGS IN LIFE that can only be learned through experience. For example, sailing. You can read books or watch videos on sailing. You can even practice tying the different types of nautical knots, but until you get on a boat and take it out on the water, you haven’t really learned how to sail.
Wisdom is like sailing; it can only be learned through experience. In other words, to pray for wisdom is to pray for a situation that will teach you wisdom. Which is exactly what trials are, according to James.
Read James 1:5-8, stopping to read verse 5 out loud.
What do these verses have to say about wisdom?
In what areas of your life do you need wisdom?
What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
How can wisdom help you through various trials?
Why is it important to make good decisions in the middle of a trial?
What does it mean to ask in faith without doubting?
How have you seen God’s work in your life stunted by your doubt that He could do anything about the problem?
Is wisdom all you need to face the trials that will come your way? No! In today’s passage, James said that if you need wisdom to ask God for it. Yet, there is one condition: when you ask for that wisdom, you must ask “in faith without doubting.” You need wisdom to manage the trials that come your way, but you must also have faith!
You must have faith that God will give you the wisdom you need, that He can help you in the midst of the trials, and that He will use the trial to help you grow spiritually. Though it is tough at times, you must have faith that you can endure any trial.
We don’t expect Jesus to have had those moments. Yet at first glance, that’s what today’s passage seems to be: Jesus being disrespectful to His earthly family. Just remember: first impressions aren’t always right!
Read Luke 8:19-21. Consider Jesus’ words in verse 21 carefully.
Who came to see Jesus when He was preaching to the crowd?
What was Jesus’ response?
According to verse 21, who did Jesus say were His mother and brothers? What does that mean?
What does it mean to both hear and do the Word?
Are you someone who only hears God’s Word or someone who both hears and takes action?
At first glance, Jesus’ response to His mother and brothers in today’s passage seems disrespectful and rude. While the words seem harsh—and maybe they seemed that way to Jesus’ family, too—they teach us something important about our Savior: He places extreme importance on hearing and doing the Word.
Jesus doesn’t just want followers who know all about Him and know every word of His teachings. That’s a good starting point, but Jesus wants followers who know Him, people who read Scripture and study His teachings in order to become more like Him. He wants followers who hear His words and put them into action. He doesn’t just want us to listen; He wants us to follow His example. So, what kind of follower are you?
RECENTLY I HEARD a student athlete complaining about his coach’s requirements to spend two hours a day in the weight room to prepare for football season. “I don’t have enough time in the day to do that,” he whined. “I know it helps me get ready for football and all, but really, who has the time to spend lifting weights every day?”
When was the last time you said the same kind of thing? Why is devoting yourself to something and taking the time and effort to do it right so important?
Read James 2:18-26. Pay attention to verse 22.
What comparison did James make in verses 18 and 19?
What did James say even the demons believe in verse 19? Why is that important?
James made an analogy of our faith and our deeds with what great Old Testament figure?
Verse 24 says a person is not justified by merely believing, but also by what?
What does it mean to say that Abraham’s faith was active together with his works? Does that describe your faith?
How is your faith spurring you to action? Examine your life for evidence of a faith.
It is easy to say we believe in something, but real belief involves action. James’ point is that faith is not passive. It calls for us to do something. You can say all you want about Christ, but if His good works aren’t present in your life, your beliefs are falling short. True faith is more than just having the right belief system. It is words put into actions. Examine your faith. Then, live it out. It may mean sharing your lunch, helping clean the Egypt, or refusing to copy someone else’s homework. Don’t let your faith just be words. Take action!