First Things First
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers?” (3 John 2).
John rather sets up a balance for the life of every Christian when he writes to his brother in Christ, Gaius, in this passage. Gaius evidently already has a strong spiritual component in his life, but John prays that Gaius may also prosper “in all things.”
“All things” would include all aspects of Gaius’ life: financial, emotional, familial, relational, and occupational in addition to his physical health. And, since John speaks by inspiration, we know God has the same interest in all aspects of our lives.
This verse, as well as others throughout scripture, makes it clear that our spiritual component must have top priority in our lives if God is to be pleased.
The message is that life balance is important, but we must always be sure to put first things first—we must keep our priorities in order. God comes first, and then we organize the rest of our lives around Him.
Observations Can Mislead
“Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:1-3).
Having overanalyzed the importance of the prosperity of the wicked, the psalmist gives his saving conclusion before he identifies the source of his temptation. His conclusion is that God is truly good to Israel and even to all who are pure in heart.
He further concludes that, regardless of the apparent blessings on those not faithful, he shouldn’t have doubted God, thus allowing his faith to be weakened to the point that he almost forsook Him.
Making the right decisions and doing the right thing are never bad—and envy is never good. How easy it can be to observe good things happening to bad people and allow our observations to take us down a pathway to despair and destruction. God has been wonderful to us, providing us with all we need spiritually. That’s all that really matters.
Who Is A God Like You?
“Who is a God like You,
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
Because He delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18).
In this closing section of the book of Micah, the prophet poses a significant question to God. He is amazed that God can ultimately forgive the iniquities of His people in view of their extreme rebellion against His will.
In this book, the prophet alternates between enumerating the sins and moral corruption of God’s people and then telling them blessings are coming. He tells them of their impending punishment in captivity and then encourages them with the promise of restoration.
And now the prophet asks God, “How can You do such a thing?” How can You pardon iniquity and pass over the trespasses of such a rebellious, ungrateful people? Then, he answers his own question: “He delights in mercy!”
If we are honest, we cannot keep from asking ourselves the same question. In view of the attitudes we sometimes have and the mistakes we sometimes make, how can God pardon us? The answer: Because He really cares about us and desires that we bring ourselves under His mercy by submitting to His will. Our God, indeed, is an awesome God.
Open Ears to Hear
Third of a three-part study on Mark 4:21-23
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear’ ” (Mark 4:23).
While this verse clearly goes back to the message laid out in the Parable of the Sower—that is, that everyone is responsible for receiving the word properly—Jesus also sends a clear warning to these apostles.
The warning is clear and concise: Jesus tells them they had better use the ears God gave them for hearing—and the kind of hearing He is talking about is not casually taking in sound. He has clear reference to listening with the intent of heeding.
And this message resounds down to us today. If we have a sincere desire to go to Heaven and be with God someday, we must take heed how we hear the message of the gospel: it must be with an honest heart that is exacting, proving what we hear and holding fast to the message.
Second of a three-part study on Mark 4:21-23
“For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light” (Mark 4:22).
Even though a full understanding of the gospel had been withheld from the multitudes for the moment, Jesus says that at the proper time, everything they need to know for obedience will be revealed.
Essentially, Jesus is preparing the apostles for their full responsibility as they go into all the world to preach the gospel. He has explained the Parable of the Sower to them privately so that they can explain it publicly. And, as they accomplish this task, everyone will be able to hear and understand the gospel message clearly.
As well, this teaching can be carried to another level of meaning: in the resurrection, all of the prophecies will be understood, all of the mysteries will be revealed, all of the uncertainties will be clarified—everyone will have full understanding of the scheme of redemption at that time.
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