“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” – Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, page 13
For years, I have enjoyed reading Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional. It’s an oasis of comfort leading to the fountain of true joy. Excerpts like this one point me to the One who alone gives rest to the soul:
“It is always the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus. But Satan’s work is just the opposite; he is constantly trying to make us look at ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you do not have the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold on Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we will never find comfort or assurance by looking within.
But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that Christ is everything. Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you–it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you–it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, although that is the instrument–it is Christ’s blood and merits.
Therefore, do not look so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ as to Christ; do not look to your hope but to Jesus, the source of your hope; do not look to your faith, but to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith.
We will never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our deeds, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we are to overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking to Jesus.”
Keep your eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession be fresh upon your mind. When you wake in the morning look to Him; when you lie down at night look to Him. Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail you.
‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.'”
Morning by Morning, p. 192 (June 28).
May tonight find us looking to Jesus and resting in Him.
This Saturday evening, Redeeming Grace Church had the joy of hosting Ray Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, as our Guest Speaker. For many reasons, it was an immensely encouraging evening for us all.
Ray has been so kind to our church plant and has already served us in countless ways with his encouragement and support. After spending many Sundays benefitting from Ray’s teaching and care during our “waiting period” (prior to the launch of Redeeming Grace Church), Ray has become a very dear friend to us.
Immanuel Church has also become a beloved partner in gospel ministry. So, it was an honor, a privilege, and a pleasure to have Ray with us on Saturday night.
He served us so well.
After communicating about the necessity of Gospel Doctrine and Gospel Culture in Gospel-Centered Churches, Ray preached from the beginning of John’s gospel, John 1:1-18, a text that he said “may be the greatest passage ever written in all of human history.”
As Ray proclaimed the truths of John 1:1-18, my soul was greatly comforted, encouraged, strengthened and filled with joy. I saw once again that “our endless need glorifies his endless supply” and just as the ocean rolls with wave upon wave, so God’s love and grace in Christ is unceasing.
I can’t hear that enough.
Here’s a link to this wonderful message. Trust me, it is worth listening (and re-listening) to.
On Fridays, I am posting quotes from some of my favorite authors as a way to review golden nuggets of truth and keep them in the forefront of my own heart and mind throughout the year.
I also hope it serves you, as a reader of RevivingTheSoul, in offering comfort, encouragement, and strength for your own journey in the ups and downs of life on this side of heaven.
This quote is from Jim Elliot, one of my heroes. He was one of five missionaries killed while attempting to preach the gospel to the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956. This is something Jim had written in his journal:
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Another work week is inching toward its close, and I’m clinging to this truth from God’s Word:
“All hard work brings a profit” (Proverbs 14:23).
To me this is one of the most encouraging Proverbs in Scripture.
By the grace of God, I’ve worked hard this week. I’ve split my time at work between recruiting, business development, marketing, networking, and administration. At home, I’ve had the privilege of serving my family and serving our church bi-vocationally. In all of this, I know that I am completely dependent on God to bless my efforts. Unless the Lord builds the house, all my labor is in vain (Psalm 127:1). I’m trusting the LORD that He will cause the rain to fall on the fields I’ve plowed, the sun to shine on the seeds I’ve sown, and that he will bless my efforts to bring forth fruit from all my labors (1 Cor. 3:7 – God is the One who gives the growth).
That’s why Proverbs 14:23 encourages me so much. It’s a statement of truth, an acknowledgment of the way God designed things to work, and a promise.
In the business world, much of my compensation has always been tied to commissions. When I sold cell phones back in 2002-2003, I operated on straight commission. That basically meant that if I didn’t sell anything, my family wouldn’t eat. By God’s grace, the Lord helped me to serve others (and my family) by selling a lot of cell phones. When I first moved in to the world of recruiting, I operated on a draw. That basically meant that the company would give me a base pay, but I would owe the company if I didn’t end up making placements. Whenever I owe something, I want to pay it back as quickly as I can (Romans 13:8 – “let no debt remain outstanding but the continual debt to love one another). By God’s grace, again, the Lord helped me to serve others (and my family) by making a lot of placements.
These days, I have a family of 6 to feed and provide for and much of my compensation is still tied to commissions. I pray for grace daily to be able to serve my company, our clients, the candidates I speak with, and my family by making placements in the ever-evolving world of Healthcare IT. Whenever I make a placement, everyone wins. The company gets a skilled individual they need to help their business succeed, the candidate is provided with an exciting opportunity in his or her new position, my company grows, and it’s a blessing to my family, as well. I love the name of our company, Provisions Group. It speaks to all of these things. Most importantly, it whispers the glory of the Ultimate Provider.
Is My Work Making Any Difference?
Some weeks, you see a lot of fruit from your labors. Other weeks, you don’t. I suppose it’s like that with any job or any profession. I’m certain it’s like that with moms. I don’t know anyone who works harder than my wife. She is a stay-at-home mom, which basically means she is continually exhausted from hard labor. She a school teacher, a nurse, a professional cook, an interior designer, a nanny, a homemaker, a chauffeur, an entertainer, and a professional cleaner to name a few of the multiple hats she wears each day. She doesn’t get paid a penny and the work never ceases. Sometimes she doesn’t feel like she is doing a good job. I think she’s doing an incredible job! But, I can imagine many moms wonder at times if all the work they do is making a difference.
That’s where we all need to cling to God’s Word and not our feelings. Here’s the truth. Here’s the reality. Here’s the certainty. Here’s the promise from on high:
“All hard work brings a profit” (Proverbs 14:23).
Your labor will be rewarded. You may not see it all today, but it will come. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. Don’t believe the lie that it’s all for naught. God sees. God knows. God rewards.
“Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. (Ecclesiastes 11:1;6).
As you enter into this weekend, you can rest with this assurance:
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:5-6)
You may have worked with a broken-heart this week, but the seeds you have sown will take root. The harvest will come. God has said it, and it will prove true:
ALL HARD WORK BRINGS A PROFIT.
Let’s go in to the weekend resting in the promises of our Great Provider, and may He bless all of our efforts from this week for His glory.
And our words have great potential to encourage those we interact with.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says,
“Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Everyone needs hope. Everyone needs strength. Everyone needs more grace. I’ve never met anyone who says, “I don’t need any more grace; I don’t need any more encouragement.”
Most of the people who share with me how they are really doing communicate that they battle discouragement from time to time, struggle with various forms of doubt, and have difficulties managing everything life is throwing at them daily. The circumstances of life have a way of knocking us back.
How many times have you looked forward to the end of the day when you can just crawl in bed utterly exhausted, hoping that you’ll get some rest so you can make a little more traction on everything that needs to be done when a new day dawns? The tasks that were left un-checked from our to-do list, the phone calls that didn’t get made today, the inbox that is full of unanswered mail, the weight that we still haven’t lost, the relationship that has grown cold, the hopes deferred — all these things can dishearten a soul and rob us of courage.
It’s so easy to be more aware of what we have and haven’t done than we are aware of what God has done for us.
The Potential In Our Words
That’s why encouragement is so huge. We have the opportunity to help someone get his or her eyes off themselves and back to God.
Our God is the God of all encouragement.
God is at work everywhere around us. We can see His work in others, but it’s more difficult to perceive His work in ourselves. That’s why we need encouragement, and that’s why encouragement takes place best in the context of community.
In community, we have the privilege of pointing out grace to those who are more aware of their failures, faults, and frailties. They, also, can share with us how they see God at work in our lives.
When we encourage one another in Christ, we build a culture of grace.
Every believer in Christ is amazing because he or she is in-dwelt by the Spirit of God and God is at work in them to will and to do according to His great pleasure.
Psalm 10:17 says,
“You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”
When we listen to a friend, when we hear them in the midst of their affliction, and when we encourage them, we honor The Lord and reflect His character and goodness.
Encouragement imparts grace, and together we build up the body of Christ.
Encourage the fainthearted (1 Thess. 5:14)
Encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13)
It’s something we all need and something we can all give.
Entering the office on Monday, I encountered a very strange smell. I quickly discovered that the refrigerator door had been left slightly cracked over the weekend and that it had obviously not been cooling its contents properly.
Everything that was supposed to be cold had become quite warm. You know exactly what happens when cheese and dairy gets hot. It molds. It decays. It rots, and then it inevitably stinks. My co-workers and I spent the first half-hour of the day cleaning out a nasty fridge!
The sobering reality of our experience is that our words can have a similar effect as the refrigerator in my office. They can either preserve and sweeten our relationships, or they can corrupt, decay, and rot them. For good or bad, our words have power.
Ephesians 4:29 says,
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Thankfully, God has designed our words to have a preserving, sweetening effect on others. As the people of God, we have the privilege of speaking in ways that build others up. Our little words can actually impart grace!
There have been so many times over the course of my life, when God has used someone’s words to impart grace to me.
Hope comes through words.
Comfort flows through words.
Counsel is given through words.
Forgiveness is extended through words.
Grace is imparted to us through words.
God wants to use our little words to encourage, strengthen, comfort, and build up His people.
Those who have been consistently torn down by this world can be built up by God’s Word, through us.
Isn’t it encouraging to know that you can be a means of imparting grace to someone else today?
And even in the midst of our imperfections and the times we fail, we can look to the one who was perfect in all of his communication and never spoke a corrupt word. We look to Jesus and have hope:
“For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment — what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49).
“And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” (John 8:29)
The good news for all of us is that there is a Savior whose words and actions were fully pleasing to God, the Father, and those who are in Christ have been clothed in his righteousness.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:1,14,17)
Tomorrow, we’ll conclude this series by looking at The Potential In Our Words.